I love Cornwall, period. I am a born and bred Cornish woman whose whole life has been about this small but mighty county to which I adore everything about; the coastline, the countryside, the culture, the heritage, the pasties, the accents, the beaches, the towns, the people, the ice cream…everything. So when I was asked to send across my first blog adventure for The Outdoor Guide website, I was almost certain I would begin with an adventure I’d had in Cornwall. However, after literally getting back from The Lake District yesterday, I thought I’d shake it up a little and decided my first adventure would start there.
The first time I made the 420-mile trip to The Lakes was in June 2016 and it was then that I completely lost my heart to the mountains. For four days I walked around with my mouth wide open, eyes staring in absolute wonder, feet itching to get out there and touch every mountain I could see – what a sight I must have been. But I didn’t care one bit because I was too busy having my own private love affair with The Lake District to worry about the blank expression plastered across my overwhelmed face.
“Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again.” Beatrix Potter
I have always been an advocate for Cornwall and will continuously rave about my love for my home county at every given opportunity, whether it be on social media or to a stranger I met in a coffee shop. But it was as Sade’s ‘By Your Side’ was blasting out of the car stereo and I glanced longingly at the mountains as they whizzed on by, and then proceeded to burst into tears as I drove out of Cumbria for the second time this year, when I realised I had developed a serious issue: I was madly in love!
Being brought up in the countryside and only a stone's throw from the coast, I have always craved open spaces. I enjoy visiting cities but after a few days I start experiencing shaky knees and an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia sets in which can only be treated by running through a field, arms splayed whilst gasping in large mouthfuls of clean air like a goldfish breathing through the water.
I had always longed to visit The Lake District after seeing pictures in books and, of course, watching Wainwright Walks with Julia Bradbury nearly nine years ago (where it all began eh Bradders!). So when I got the opportunity to go again in August 2016, a mere month and a bit after my first trip to Cumbria, I snapped it up in a heartbeat. After talking about it non-stop to everyone I knew for the last three months I was finally packing up my car and making my way to Hassness House, Buttermere on behalf of The Ramblers Worldwide Holidays.
As soon as I saw the gargantuan shadowy mountains in the distance, I knew I was driving towards familiarity; a home away from home. I got an exciting feeling right in the pit of my stomach which caused rapid blinking and the need to swallow twice as much to try and hold all the happiness from pouring out and exploding all over the car. I even let out a whoop and cheer when I saw the sign for The Lakes; the only time I ever do this is when I drive past the nearly home trees (Cornish folks will understand this reference) and the "Welcome to Cornwall" sign.
After feeling two seconds of remorse for cheating on Cornwall with The Lakes, I proceeded to turn up the music, open the windows and let myself enjoy the feeling of being happy. However, the nerves set in the closer I got to Buttermere. For the first time in my 30 years of existence, I was holidaying all on my own and about to partake in an activity/walking holiday where I spent seven days in The Lake District with a group of women I had never met.
Fast forward to arriving and meeting everyone, and my nerves had soon flown out the window. Not only was the location like something out of a movie, but the friendliness that radiated through the door as I walked through was overwhelming. I met a couple of the ladies - one who already had a glass of red wine in her hand which immediately put me at ease - before being shown to my room. The first thing I did after star-fishing across the bed was to open the window and take in a deep breath of mountain fresh air. Cue my jaw dropping to the floor as I realise the view from my window is breathtaking; I overlooked Buttermere lake and the stunning Red Pike and High Stile mountains. What a view to wake up to every morning whilst sipping my peppermint tea.
The following seven days went by in a blur of laughing, walking, swimming, climbing and overcoming fears. We had no access to TV, radio or WiFi in any of our bedrooms and although at the start I was a little jittery about the lack of social media, by the end of the week I realised I hadn’t missed it one iota. Getting to know the 17 ladies I was spending the week with was more important than catching up on The Great British Bake-Off.
Sitting together in the communal lounge talking and laughing with the occasional glass of wine was magical and these are the memories I will treasure more so than scrolling through endless claptrap on Facebook. Hearing snippets of a stranger’s life at the beginning of the week to becoming friends with these beautiful souls by the end is an experience I will never forget. Spending our days walking miles across the vast city of mountains and around the twinkling lakes, occasionally stopping to stare in wonder at the views with all of us appreciating the same thing; the majestic beauty of The Lake District. I certainly wasn’t alone in my love affair of The Lakes and could see my fellow walkers falling in love, even those of us who had a fear of heights! But who could blame us?
One of the memories I shall keep with me forever is the day some of us decided to swim in Buttermere Lake. Now, for me, this is a feat in itself for I am not the most confident in the water. But the sun was shining and I was drunk on love so thought, what the heck, and jumped straight in! Swimming across the crystal clear blue lake I lay on my back for a moment and stared up at the sky thinking how lucky I was to be experiencing this right now. It felt like the mountains were enveloping me, smiling down and enjoying our moment of glee alongside us. I’d never felt so alive and hearing my newfound friends laughing around me, I did think smugly to myself ‘does it really get any better than this?’
After spending the beginning of the week getting to know each other and taking part in various activities such as Nordic Walking, circuit training at 7 am, drinking pints of local ale in the pub, and swimming in Buttermere Lake, our wonderful walk leader, Clare mentioned that the Wednesday would be a ‘rest day’ where we could go off and do something not so strenuous.
Some decided to spend the Wednesday visiting Beatrix Potter’s first house in Hawkshead, whilst others went into Cockermouth to search for chicken baskets (don’t ask!). A few went for a casual stroll around Buttermere Lake and the rest of us decided against the rest day and proceeded to join Clare, her husband Ian and their dog Moss for a challenging 11-mile hike up the side of a waterfall along Langstrath Valley from Seathwaite in the Borrowdale Valley.
Did I regret this decision? As I scrambled up an almost sheer drop on my hands and knees towards the top with a waterfall gushing along beside me or whilst almost losing my boots in the craggy bog, yes I did regret this decision of denying myself a rest day!
But at the end, when we were all smiling through the aches and laughing at the point where Ian looked at us, then down at the sheer drop beside of us and said with a straight face ‘don’t fall down there, and how when I told my new walking buddy Kerry we had walked a staggering 11 miles and her response was just a casual ‘cool’ which ended up with us both keeling over with laughter, and how we all looked at each other thinking ‘we just did something momentous’, I knew it was all worth it and my answer would have to be a resounding no to having any regrets.
It was a tough challenge I’m glad I did and after my first visit to The Lake District in June 2016 where two of my friends and I took part in a mountain challenge that included reaching the summit of Scafell Pike, I knew I could conquer just about anything. Making it back to the car with the other ladies after conquering Langstrath Valley is another tick in the box for my Lake District Challenges.
“Getting to know new people and gaining new friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures. So conquer your fears and get out there.” – Tony Clark
One of the things I loved most about my time in The Lakes was not only the fantastic views, the crazy challenges or the hearty food we had cooked for us each night, but it was in meeting a wonderful group of women who came from near and far, and how quickly we all became one team. Never did you feel alone, even if you did travel by yourself as I and others did. Not once did I feel that I couldn’t do something that seemed out of my depth because I had 17 women behind pushing me on and telling one another you can do this or I’m right behind you.
The comradery between us all was uplifting and poignant. I remember looking up as one person struggled to make it up a steep climb, and all of the group ran without hesitation towards her with arms stretched out ready to catch or push; it was incredibly heart-warming how so many different women from all ages and backgrounds never felt they couldn’t ask for help or offer a hand.
Those that did come with someone didn’t shy away from the rest of us or stick together but merged into the team and forged friendships that I don’t think will ever be forgotten. In actual fact, two out of three sisters who were part of our group came from Cornwall too and on extracting more information, we came to realise my dad in fact had done some work for one.
*Addition from October 2020* Since this blog was written, two of these sisters have become regular ramblers with Cornish Ramblings!
“We only need to be one person. We only need to feel one existence. We don't have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite. While we are alive we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.” Matt Haig, The Midnight Library
This holiday was more than walking for me, it was about finding myself again and redefining my outlook in life. I realised quite quickly that if I set my mind to something, I can do it and it was thanks to those 17 wonderful ladies I realised how life is there to be lived and to be lived well. I know for sure that I will never forget any of the people I met on this trip and for me, The Lake District will be somewhere I’ll treasure for a lifetime. I will be back soon to create new memories and relive old ones but for now, I will reminisce through the pictures I took, the emails I send to those I met, the stories I tell my friends and family and the memories I hold in my heart.
“The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body.” The Great Alfred Wainwright
Find my blog over on the Ramblers Walking Holidays website!
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