A Walk in the Hills

(Map ref: SD402967) This is the first day of a short stay in Bowness on Windermere and the three of us are making our way down the lake to the car ferry which will take us to Sawrey, the first stage of our planned walk to Ambleside via Claife Heights, Wray and Clappersgate. Our boots specially cleaned and waxed for the occasion are squeaking in unison as we follow the footpath by the waters edge, we are prepared for any kind of weather but the forecast is good and there isn't a cloud in the sky. "This rucksack’s a bit heavy" I complain as the others start to leave me behind "What have you put in it?" "just the bare necessities, come on keep up" came the unsympathetic reply. As we pass the public slipway I linger whilst a family rig and launch their sailing dinghy, "not enough wind for good sailing today" I think as I suddenly realise I am alone, I break into a trot to catch up. As I walk round the bend in the road cars are queuing for the ferry which is still on the other side of the lake, Ann and Catherine are already at the landing stage buying ice cream from Joseph's van (SD396958). While waiting for the ferry a minibus arrives and unloads a party of excited Japanese ladies, I realise we are going to take part in what could only be described as the daily pilgrimage to the home of Squirrel Nutkin, Hilltop at Near Sawrey. The ferry arrives to take us across to the dark side.
The pedestrians stand aside as the vehicles leave the ferry then with a clear road ahead we stride out safe in the knowledge that there will be no traffic from behind until the next ferry arrives. Within fifteen minutes the crowd is strung out along the road and making good progress, because we are carrying maps the Japanese seem to assume we know the way and allow us to lead. By the time we are half way up the steep incline to Hawkrigg farm (SD382951) I have got my second wind and feeling full of the joys of spring, break out into a medley of songs from the trenches of the first world war. The ladies disown me and drop back into the ranks of the Japanese. Near the Cunsey road junction there is a path through the woods to Far Sawrey, we choose to stay on the road. We can't shake off the Japanese who are following dutifully, occasionally pausing to consult the guide book. We pass the Sawrey Hotel and begin to look for the bridle path on the right which will take us over Claife Heights to Wray, there is some confusion but we eventually find it and leave the road to begin the steady climb to Moss Eccles Tarn. (SD378956 - marked PO on the map, don’t turn off too soon). "I knew this would happen" said Ann looking back "the Japanese are following us like the children of Hamlin and the pied piper". In panic we stop to allow them to catch up. "You go to Hiw Top?" said a young lady as the first group approached, we direct them back to the road and point towards the next village. I sighed with relief as they understood and began to retrace their steps giggling and chattering like girls from St Trinians.

The footpath begins to get a bit rough in places, but its wide and safe except for the odd speeding mountain biker. We reach Moss Eccles Tarn and sit down to rest and admire the scenery (SD373968), I decide to put a film in the camera to capture the moment. Rummaging in the rucksack I find my fags and light one while the two little darlings are otherwise engaged making wonderful smells with bread, tea bags and cheese. The camera a Voigtlander bought in 1959 and my constant companion ever since, has a label inside "Foley and Scott, £21 12s 3d". Its in remarkable condition really considering I had to recover it from the river Tummel on my honeymoon when I fell in (I'm sure I fell in? mm! I could have been pushed). I look across at Ann who's passing out the Pringles...... No she wouldn't, anyway I did get out alive. Someone passes me some sandwiches and I realise I'm dreaming again, I put the film in and close the case and record some of the scenes before tucking in. We are reluctant to leave but we must press on if we are to make Ambleside in time to catch the steamer back to Bowness. Catherine takes the rucksack and sets off at a pace, leaving Ann and myself to struggle with the aches and pains and stiffness brought on by old age and intemperance. We follow the signs to Hawkshead and are soon passing Wise Een Tarn, eventually the Hawkshead signs start to point west, we continue following the signs to Wray. By mid afternoon we are back on the road at High Wray (SD373999) from now on its single file as the footpath alternates from tarmac to footpath and back again on both sides of the road. We stop at Clappersgate (NY367034) for a rest by now we are getting tired and gasping for another cup of tea, locals are fishing for trout in the river but the landing nets are still empty. Here it becomes apparent that Catherine has blisters and other imaginary foot problems, she talks at length about boots, socks and things, I switch off and brace myself for an imminent assault on the cheque book. We arrive in Ambleside (NY376046) out of food and hungry and consequently a bit tetchy, Ann causes a scene in Sheila's Pantry when we call for a cup of tea and scones. She storms out giving the proprietor a right dressing down, Catherine and I follow sheepishly reluctant to look up until we are well out into the street. We use the "Apple Pie Eating House" instead and refreshed set off for the pier at Waterhead (NY377031) hoping not to have missed the last steamer.

Back at the hotel after dinner we take some drinks on to the terrace overlooking the lake. It’s peaceful now the visitors have gone home, bats are flying erratically across the night sky in search of food, if there are magic moments this is it.

Ref: Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure 7 map, 1:25000. The English Lakes South Eastern Area.
Palfreyman 2003