We go every year at least once if we can. We spend half of the week dreaming about potential career options that could allow us to live there, and then the second part of the week lowering our expectations again for the return trip to our hill-less home. We never learn.
It was rather a tricky visit last summer. With a bump the size of a beach ball it was surprisingly difficult for me to find manageable
1. In the first few days of our holiday I have rarely seen so much rain, so we donned our wellies and went for a short wander along the Greater Langdale Beck (map) to see the fast flowing river and the roaring weir, which had more water running over it than normal. This was a really exciting experience for Culturebaby, who loved being carried around in her Baby Bjorn (under a brolly of course), taking in the sights, sounds and smells of nature all around her. The air is different up there and there is so much wildlife that it was a really new sensory experience wandering under the trees in the rain.
2. A couple of days later the sun (finally) came out in force, it was absolutely stunning and clear, and we made our annual pilgrimage up the Langdale Pikes. The walk is quite hard work, with sections that need to be scrambled up, but Culturedad managed admirably with the Baby Bjorn. We passed a surprising amount of families with young children, sporting a bewildering array of baby backpack carriers (next on our wish list). This walk really has it all and Culturebaby seemed to love it - a river and sections of waterfall, a good climb (ensuring you really feel like you've achieved something), stunning views all the way up, and a tarn half way which transports you right to Middleearth (you half expect to stumble across the the door to the mines of Moria round the corner).We only made it to Stickle Tarn this time (enough...) but it's a fabulous walk if you want to go further. For the pre-history buffs amongst you it is also a hugely important heritage site: the Langdale Axe Factory (see map). In the Neolithic period, the 'new stone age' (from 10,000 years ago), people were beginning to learn to farm and stone tools were needed to exploit the land or clear areas of forest. Early Cumbrians mined the hard greenstone in the remote volcanic rocks of Langdale to produce axes, and the evidence can still be found today (though despite being an archaeologist I have sadly never yet spotted an axe as I've treked the pikes). It is unclear whether these particular axes were used for work or whether they had a more ritual significance (they seem at least to have been exported out of Cumbria), but if the latter, it does make sense to me. You can clearly see as you gaze from the mountains across the panorama of the heart of the Lakes below, that this is truly an extraordinary, even otherworldy place. The climb back down always seems a little longer, but there's the promise of a pint or a cuppa at the bottom. The National Trust has recently taken over The Sticklebarn pub at the base of the pikes. It's friendly and and you know your money goes towards caring for the local environment.
|The Potter family at Wray Castle www.vam.ac.uk|
We then walked the 4 miles from Wray to the Ferry House. This was a pretty gentle stroll, with the exception of the rough road which was at times tricky with the pram (prams with small wheels need not apply...). It took a couple of hours. At times there were great views of the lake and, at others, a shaded forest walk. We then (just!) caught the last boat from Ferry House, changing at Bowness (enough time to pick up an ice cream) and returned to Ambleside about 5 hours after we began. The openair journey and views from the various ferry routes were wonderful, and Culturebaby loved it all - and for those of us actually walking it was an ideal combination of sights and exercise!
The Lakes was a new experience with a baby (for a start the local pub at night was out), but it was also completely wonderful. We found ourselves thinking about the many fabulous memories we both have of visiting the Lakes from childhood onwards and getting excited about our daughter growing up there each year too. CultureGrandad's favourite childhood book was Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, set around Coniston. I loved the '70's film as a child too. Nothing captures childhood innocence like this adventure book, and I very much hope my daughter experiences something of this too in her trips to the Lakes - and that she too will have the opportunity to have that sort of old-school, dam-building, boat-sailing, hill-climbing, nature-loving, camp-building authentic childhood.