Lake District revisited
The time has come to remove myself from the routine of daily life and begin to turn my cycle trip blog into a book. A writing holiday is in order, to the Lake District. Ten days full of promise and hopefully a book at the end. Perhaps some Wordsworth inspiration will come.
The train hurtles through the English countryside, the dimensions growing in magnitude as I shake off the city. My bicycle is stowed along with the essentials for my retreat: laptop, slippers, camera, teabags and flask, with a hostel bed booked. The plan is to write, cycle and photograph the lakes.
Arriving in Windermere, a slow freewheel leads to the water’s edge. Boats lie hauled on the shingle while others bump gently against pontoons. The lake is grey under the dull March sky. I spend time photographing the swans then it’s a ten mile ride to the YHA at Hawkshead along quiet country lanes, passing by sheep-grazed hills that tumble towards tarns. The roads are edged with grey walls, the stones painstakingly and precisely stacked together, their dry bonds as strong as any cement.
On the first evening I take a walk down the lane in the pitch dark, my feet stumbling against exposed tree roots as I crane my neck to gaze upon the stars. Lights from a house on the hill shine across the valley.
The next day, a ride to Coniston Water takes me up into the trails of Grizedale forest, my first proper foray into mountain biking. Folk pass on their super-suspended, hi-tech contraptions, some with full-face helmets, knee pads and gloves. I’m wearing my wellies; my bicycle is embarrassingly clean. A hard bump upwards along technical terrain is followed by a squeal-inducing cater down a dry river bed, which turns out not to be dry around halfway down. With fingers clasping, tyres jumping and adrenaline pumping I reach the sweet relief of tarmac with sorrow that the fun is over. The road leads through the hills with snatched glittering views as I make my way alongside the lake, the Old Man standing above. Settling down in a tea room with my laptop, fingers tap and the story unfolds.
The sun has grown heavy as I make my way back to the hostel, its evening rouge settling over the fields. Smoke rises from chimneys; daffodils crowd the verges. Lambs canter in the fields though the trees remain bare. It’s a time of mixed seasons: with winter’s passing, spring has yet to fully arrive.
Next day I ride through the walker’s village of Ambleside and up The Struggle which will lead to the Kirkstone pass. The road is aptly named: it appears vertical, snaking through hills that hold up the ceiling of the sky. At the pass, the wind roams freely, snatching at my handlebars as the long freewheel to Ullswater unfolds. Another tea room, another lake to photograph.
It’s a 35 mile ride from Hawkshead to Buttermere where I will spend the next few days. Past Rydal Water and Grasmere I follow the long ‘A’ road through the Cumbrian mountains. Thirlmere stretches below with Helvellyn above. After Keswick I creep down to the moorings at Derwent Water, then it’s a tough road to Buttermere – not one of the famous passes, but steep enough to have to get off and push.
In the morning I take a walk while the world is still shaking off sleep, the sun lazy on the horizon and the early mist lingering on the water. The frosty remnants of dew sharpen the grass underfoot. The far shore is smudged, the colours indistinct, the pale water gently repeating the curve of the mountains.
Later in the day, Crummock Water bursts with colour. It’s peaceful here, isolated, with less passing traffic than other parts of the district, which has been perfect for contemplation and writing. The words flow well, but slowly – one writing holiday is not enough. I shall have to take another.