This post is really about why I go walking at all. Like many people these days I spend my working days at a desk, in an office, in front of a computer screen. However it wasn’t always that way. I was brought up in rural Northumberland surrounded by the pennines. Hadrian’s wall was just another wall at the top of the hill. Like most people I didn’t take that much notice of what was on my door step. In those days going for a walk didn’t involve forward planning or driving for several hours. It just required putting on a coat and walking out the door. The coat was compulsory, it rains a lot in the North, the rest I made up as I went along.
I spend far too much time tearing around like a blue-arsed fly trying to fit in the many trials and tribulations of modern life. The run up to Christmas has been no different and I hadn’t been out for far too long until recently. Just like everyone else I have many demands on my time, some of them very pleasant, some less so. I called this blog takingmytime for a reason, hill time is my time. I’m more than happy to share that time with anyone who wants to come along but if no-one wants to come with me then I’ll quite happily go on my own. It’s in my bones and if I don’t get a regular hill fix then I’m not a happy soul.
My partner and I headed to the lake district for a New Year break in Eskdale. We knew the weather for the first day was lousy so we holed up in front of the fire in the Brookhouse Inn where we were staying and wiled away the day reading books with good beer and good food. A highly recommended pass time and one of my favourite hostelries if you happen to be in the area but not what we went for. With New Year’s eve promising yet more rain and Claire losing an argument with a fry up I decided that I was heading out no matter what. With the high fells well clagged in and looking likely to stay that way I decided to follow the River Esk as far as the edge of Great Moss below the Scafells and see what happened by the time I got there. There’s a track that takes you straight from the front door of the pub to join the river so off I went.
On reaching the river I turned upstream and crossed the first available footbridge to follow the far bank of the river as far as Wha House bridge. As I followed the track east the jumble of hills around the head of Eskdale kept calling me forward. Hills have a habit of doing that I find.
The road over Hard Knott pass goes over those hills but I wasn’t heading that way today. At Wha House I crossed back to the North/East side of the river. After all the recent rain I didn’t fancy my chances of crossing the river higher up and this would put me on the right side to turn for home later.
Upper Eskdale is an area I’ve never really explored before. Like a lot of hill country it turns out there is a lot of land folded into a small area up there. I barely scratched the surface on this trip and there are enough knolls and hollows to fill several more trips. The trail starts of as a land rover track and gets steadily narrower as you go further up the valley. The ground along the river bank was completely waterlogged which seem to have been a recurring theme of late.
The one good thing about all this rain is that the waterfalls are in full flow and we do like a good waterfall round here. Around the time I reached Lingcove bridge the rain started in earnest. Unfortunately that meant it was too wet to take any photos from the path the clings to the hillside above the gorge that holds the River Esk. Yet another excuse to go back in the summer I suppose. Even in the rain it’s a lovely spot.
As you reach the top of the gorge you emerge onto the edge of Great Moss. I’ve camped out there in the past but I wouldn’t fancy it today. It would be like sleeping in a full bath of cold water. The Scafells are somewhere is the cloud to the left of the picture below. No point in heading up there today. I’ve been before and there will always be another day. Outside the shelter of the gorge it was blowing a hoolie across the moss so I found myself a good sized boulder to hide behind for lunch.
With the boulder cutting off the worst of the wind and head-to-toe gore-tex keeping out the wet I found a few moments of perfect calm. Staring into the mist I didn’t care that that it was raining or that not even waterproof boots will stand up to being repeatedly plunged in bog water indefinitely. For a brief moment in time nothing else mattered but here and now. England’s green and pleasant land comes in many shapes and sizes and this was my time.
Eventually I shook myself out of quiet contemplation, assisted by the wind chill and the lack of feeling in my fingers, and turned for home. I headed over the high ground above the path and skirted around the toes of Scafell before picking up another path that wended it’s way across the fell to eventually take me back to the road at Wha House. From there it was a short spell of tarmac bashing dodging the puddles back to Boot. By the time I made it back to the pub water was starting to creep in around the edges and pretty much everything was deposited in the hotel drying room.
After a hot shower, an excellent meal and an extensive survey of the whisky menu New Year’s eve finally ended in the wee small hours of New Year’s day but that’s another story. Two weeks later my boots have just about dried out and my feet are starting to itch.