Way back in the dim and distant past, Wifey and I were working our way through the list of Lakeland peaks described so beautifully in the famous pictorial guides. We were reasonably accomplished in this despite distance, lack of money, shortage of time and the easy proximity of the North York Moors to our then home in Stockton-on-tees.
Almost every holiday involved a visit to Cumbria, invariably camping near Keswick. We were particularly fond of the north-western fells so often photographed from Friar’s Crag across Derwentwater, and the brutal rocky peaks of the Langdales and, best of all, the Scafell group. Teetering on the precipitous edge of Piers Gill below Broad Crag on our honeymoon, Wifey threatened me with early divorce ... but (happily I must say) the moment passed without consequence.
Obviously, we didn’t always get suitable weather for mountain excursions, and so reluctantly, we were occasionally forced to stay on lower ground. When this occurred, seeking out old packhorse bridges, visiting remote little churches, and researching the products of the traditional craft brewer filled our days.
But, most of all, we walked around lakes. Unfortunately many of my memories of early lake visits are, dare I say, clouded with thoughts of wet feet, leaking kagoules and soaked equipment. One such day involved walking from Buttermere village to Scale Force on Crummock Water through soaked meadows and squelching mire, returning to a damp steamed-up old Ford Anglia with dubious road-handling qualities.
Such experiences affect you for years and I have never wanted to go back, which is a shame as it is a beautiful place, but damp ground means it remains one for a dry day. Last Tuesday, we parked our car in Lanthwaite wood (National Trust pay and display) and strolled down to the glorious shingle beach shores of Crummock Water, the mill pond calm waters instantly trashed by Monty as he plunged in for a dip.
The easy path follows the western shore giving superb views across to Grasmoor, Whiteless Pike and Rannerdale Knotts. Halfway up the shore the odd soft bit is encountered unfortunately and progress can be slow, but the rewards are bountiful as Haystacks and dramatic Fleetwith Pike beyond Buttermere come into view. It is a peaceful place for lovers of solitude and silence, a far cry from the tea rooms of Keswick. At the top (south) end of the lake a good track leads to Buttermere village with a cafe and two pubs, most visitors here seeking refreshment and/or a walk round the easier much smaller lake of Buttermere.
The return walk along Crummock Water is facilitated by using paths through National Trust land as well as public paths but to avoid a bit of road walking we briefly left the lake shore to walk up Rannerdale, before retuning once more to the permissive lake shore paths and, ultimately, the car.
Crummock Water has had a long wait to see us return, but in dry weather it really is a gem. Most paths are good, but there are some squelchy bits here and there. After rain Scale Force is dramatic, but personally, I prefer to compromise on this and settle for drier paths throughout. I will go back, perhaps soon, maybe after a freeze, but be assured it will not be on a rainy day.