Read What Where – The Lake District
From Wordsworth’s dancing daffodils, to Ruskin’s romantic musings and the wonderful walking Wainwright, the Lake District has inspired great works of literature for centuries. When I travelled to the Lakes over the bank holiday weekend, I knew that thoughtful book choices would enliven my experience.
Firstly, I had to get practical. We were staying in Bouth, in the far south of the park and I knew that our nearest high fells were those around the town of Coniston. What to do when faced with hundreds of possible fell walks on a beautiful, bank holiday Saturday? Turn to Alfred Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells: Book Four: The Southern Fells. Published originally between 1955 and 1966, these essential guides have been continuously in print since. The unbelievable thing about the pictorial guides (other than the fact that Wainwright trekked every single route of nearly every single fell in Lakeland) is that they are reproductions of the author’s handwritten pages and illustrations. His maps, illustrations and descriptions are exacting enough for the walker to use (with an OS Survey map in hand of course) nearly 70 years later.
For our first fell walk, we chose to get some perspective from the top of Coniston’s most famous resident, the Old Man. We took in great scenery at Goat’s Tarn, observed the brave climbers on Dow Crag, and realized we were not as fit as we thought when we reached the summit completely out of breath. After enjoying the view of Coniston Water over a picnic lunch, we scrambled our way down the east face, past the rather sinister but intriguing remains of largescale slate mining on the Old Man, past grazing sheep and finally into the shade of the beech and oak trees on the path back to town. We enjoyed a well-earned Calippo before retreating to our cottage for reading by the fire.
Many people would agree that Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons is their definition of childhood adventure, imagination and friendship. Originally published in 1930, this classic follows John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker as they embark on an epic journey to unknown lands in their faithful vessel, the Swallow. In reality, the four siblings gain permission to sail their dinghy across Coniston Water to an island to camp for the rest of the summer. But in their minds the ordinary takes on extraordinary proportions as they battle with the Amazons, uncover buried treasure and do their best to avoid being “duffers”.
For our final day in the Lake District, we needed one more iconic fell walk. Returning again to Wainwright, we knew we couldn’t go wrong with one of his “finest half-dozen fells”. Partly due to proximity, but mostly because of its name, we chose to summit the five Crinkle Crags.
High above a valley where Little Langdale nestles, a single-track road climbs to Wrynose Pass. We did an elaborate dance with other cars as we wound our way to the pass, backing up into tiny pull-offs, scraping past stone walls with a mm to spare and generally praying that we wouldn’t go rolling off the cliff.
On our walk to Crinkle Crag, sheep accompanied us the whole way. Whether camouflaged as rocks, staring warily as we approached or calling mournfully for their lambs, the sheep of the lakes are the true fell walkers of Lakeland. It was the perfect opportunity to read the Illustrated Hardwick Shepherd by James Rebanks to learn more about the life and times of a Lakes Shepherd. Lavishly illustrated and filled with poetic musings on life among hardy sheep and steep fells, the Hardwick Shepherd gives a glimpse of a difficult but rewarding and beautiful life.