Friday, July 24

Lake District ferns and fells

Last summer I spent a bit of time in the Lake District. The dramatic wild beauty of this piece of the north west seems almost unrelated to the England I'm familiar with - an army of neat three bed semis patrolling a patchwork quilt of tidy fields. Though the lakes themselves are relatively placid (fun fact: there is actually only one 'lake' in the Lake District - Bassenthwaite - the rest are 'waters', 'tarns' or 'meres'), they sit always in the rugged dark presence of the surrounding fells. These fells are both sinister and stunning. The terrain feels very old; once you get walking all signs of modern day civilisation are replaced by a sense that this environment belongs to another age. Then you reach a summit and see the land spread out all around, and if southern England is a patchwork quilt, the Lake District is that same quilt thrown over some slumbering gargantuan, ancient beast.

Not all walks have to conquer summits though. There is a walk where you zigzag your way from Stair to Buttermere, following a narrow path which skirts along the sides of fells. In and out you walk, tracing their bulky diameter. The fells rise sharply up one side of you and fall away the other, down to streaks of water which slip under and over the land. You wade through ferns and purple heather, jump across waterfalls, disturb the peace of the sheep who call these hillsides home, and descend through woods, past a churning ravine. The finish line is the pub in Buttermere.


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