Ambleside in the Lake District was the first stop on this year’s British trip. We spent two nights there and did some walking in rather poor weather.
May 11, 2013
Our Air Transat flight left Vancouver at 6 pm yesterday and arrived in Manchester a bit ahead of schedule, at about 11 am today. We had a fairly good sleep and so we weren’t tired when we arrived. Several months earlier we had booked train tickets which took us to Windermere with two changes of train at 12:29 pm, but when we got through immigration and over to the train station we found there was actually a direct train leaving at noon. Fortunately we found out that our tickets would allow us on any route to Windermere, so we hurried over to platform 2A to catch the direct train.
The trip went through several towns, both large and small, and soon we were in Windermere. The weather was mostly cloudy with rain showers, but we weren’t surprised by that because it had been like that in the Lake District for weeks. But the skies were getting brighter so we were optimistic that we might have good weather. Outside the station the #599 bus for Grasmere was waiting, so we jumped aboard and off it went. It took about 15 minutes to Ambleside, where we got off at the Market Square in Kelsick Road. After a couple of wrong turns we finally found Amboseli Lodge, the B&B where we would be staying.
Our hosts Reg and Gwen were very welcoming and surprised that we had made such good time from Manchester. After a very welcome cup of tea we sorted out our packs and then decided to go for a walk. Gwen brought us a leaflet on a path around Loughrigg Fell, which would take us to Grasmere, so we decided to do that.
The path was reasonably easy to follow and took us around the fell rather than over the top. The weather was pretty good (i.e. not raining) so we had great views of Windermere and Helm Crag, and we saw a lot of small lambs frolicking in the pastures. But as we reached the shore of Grasmere Lake we realized we would have to leave the loop path so we could actually go into the village of Grasmere. Our goal was the famous gingerbread shop, but we knew it closed at 5:30 pm so we had to get going. So we set off at a fast pace towards the village and all the way through it to the far side. As we arrived at the shop the clock was striking half-past five and the girl was just popping out to take down the “Open” sign. “Let us in, let us in!” we pleaded. “Well, all right, but be quick” she replied. We knew exactly what we wanted so we were in and out in less than two minutes.
Job done, so then we went in search of a reasonably-priced restaurant for dinner. This was hard to come by in Grasmere, since it mostly had tea shops (no dinner) and hotels (expensive dinner). We finally found a pub offering fish and chips for £9.95, so in we went. We had thought of sitting outside to eat, but as we were placing the order a huge grey cloud came over, so we moved inside. The meal was okay, definitely not the best fish and chips we had had, but we were both very hungry so it was fine.
We had thought of taking the Coffin Route back to Ambleside, but we couldn’t find where it started in Grasmere so we headed back to the path around Loughrigg Fell. We made it back to the B&B about 8:15 pm with no rain en route.
May 12, 2013
After a good night’s sleep we woke up at 8 am and went down to breakfast. We were back to the land of the Full English Breakfast, with eggs, beans, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, and sausages. The sausages were too heavily laden with sage but everything else was very good. After breakfast we sat talking with another couple who had walked the Fairfield Horseshoe yesterday, so they gave us some advice on the trail.
First stop was at the deli just around the corner, which surprisingly was open on a Sunday morning. Here we got thick freshly-made sandwiches for our lunch at a very reasonable price. After picking up some Mars bars from Tesco we headed out of town and along the road towards Grasmere. After crossing Scandale Bridge we couldn’t find the path we were supposed to take, but then we saw another couple reading their guidebook and looking equally confused. So we teamed up with them and eventually we found a faded “Public Right of Way” sign hidden in a tree. It turned out that the paved road which we thought was someone’s driveway was the path we were supposed to follow.
This path was actually the Coffin Route, which we had failed to find yesterday in Grasmere, and now that we knew it was a road we could see why we failed. Anyway it led us to Rydal Hall, a large 15th-century mansion which is nowadays used as a Christian conference centre. It was a very lovely place with well-maintained gardens. From here our route went very steeply up the hill to join a footpath which would take us up Nab Scar.
So far the views were good, but the clouds seemed to be getting lower on the ridges. By the time we got to Nab Scar the wind had picked up and the rain showers were closer together, so we stopped by a stone wall to put on our rain gear. We were dubious about carrying on in the rain with no views, but it was still too early to quit. So we continued onwards and upwards, going by Lord Crag and Heron Pike. By now we were walking in the clouds with strong winds and rain which at times felt like hail. We soldiered on until we were near the top of Great Rigg, the next peak on the trail, and there we stopped to have a snack and discuss what to do next.
We could push on and do the rest of the Horseshoe in rain and mist, or we could turn around and go back. Going back might be almost as far as carrying on, but we weren’t really sure about that. But going back had less elevation gain. So eventually we decided to turn back. We still hadn’t had lunch, but we postponed that until we were back at Rydal Hall. The trail by now was very wet and the bogs we had walked around on the way up were a lot bigger on the way down.
It was about 4:15 pm when we got back to Rydal Hall. We sat by the beck and ate our sandwiches, which were very welcome and very tasty. We also had a flask of tea which Reg had made for us that morning. Once back in Ambleside we headed straight back to the B&B to get things dried off. Rosemary’s pack cover from MEC hadn’t worked properly, so the bottom of her pack and the things in it were quite wet. And Paul’s Gore-Tex shell hadn’t quite worked right either, as there were puddles of water in the pockets.
Neither of us was especially hungry at this point, so we just went over to Tesco and bought some bananas to eat for our dinner.
May 13, 2013
Today we were planning to head down to Ulverston about mid-day, so we had a morning to fill in. We started out with a short walk up to Stockghyll Force. It was a lovely walk through a beech forest with bluebells and wild garlic just starting to bloom. Daffodils and narcissus were still in bloom because of the late cold spring. And the river was rushing along so that when we got to the waterfalls they were spectacular. The weather was very changeable while we were walking, sometimes blue sky and sunshine and then the next moment we would be pelted by hail.
The trail was not very long, so we were soon back in town, where we decided to look in the shops. Ambleside is well supplied with outdoor stores, and many of them were having sales. The first one we found had 50% off most items, so in we went. We bought a new Karrimor pack cover to replace Rosemary’s suspect MEC cover, on sale for £4.99. We also bought the Ordnance Survey OL-5 map, which we hadn’t brought from home, and a proper plastic case to carry Ordnance Survey maps in.
Once our shopping was done we decided to walk down to Rothay Park and look around. There was still alternating spells of hail and sunshine, so fairly soon we headed back to buy some lunch—two sausage rolls for Rosemary and beef-and-kidney pie for Paul. After sitting on a bench and eating them while watching three men on the sodden lawn-bowling pitch, we collected our bags from the B&B and went over to the Market Square to wait for the bus.