A Mini Trip To The Lake District In Mini Homer...Ready For The Final Durham Goodbye

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Friday 8 July 2016

A Mini Trip To The Lake District In Mini Homer...Ready For The Final Durham Goodbye

We've been in Durham quite a lot longer than we originally anticipated for various reasons, mainly getting rid of old stuff. The idea had seemed so easy when we were in Spain. Just go home and get rid of it...simple. But when we had been confronted by our old lives, old things and old friends our return to Durham turned out to be a much more emotional event than we had expected. Suddenly letting go  of our 'old life in Durham' was a little more challenging. Also, having returned to Durham as very different people from the tired, stressed-out pair that ran away two years ago we found ourselves appreciating Durham in a new light. Things we had grown used to, or perhaps never appreciated in the first place, we found ourselves noticing and enjoying. Essentially, for a variety of reasons, we discovered it was very easy to get a quite comfortable even though we had originally planned just a short and practical visit.

WRITTEN 17th JUNE 2016 - bit behind with posting ;-)

Yet, as the weeks passed and clearing out took longer than we'd hoped we did start to feel a little bit trapped. As some of our 'traveler' mindset faded it became harder and harder to make some of the needed decisions to get rid of old, sentimental and nostalgic things. This also started to cause some tension between the two of us as well because, as I will write about soon, our experiences of clearing out were very different as individuals who had very different opinions about what was and wasn't important.

So it was that last week, as our planned final leaving date from Durham approached, we realised that what we really needed was to take a break from boxes, sorting and freecycling and get some air and and just remember what it was like to feel being surrounded by nature. Plus, with our beloved Lake District just a couple of hours away and having not been now for over 2 years we didn't want to miss the chance. So, hiring the van that would ultimately take us and our remaining possessions south a little early (which we immediately named Mini-Homer) we set off west to the Lakes.

Day 1 - Napping By The Lake
Crossing the border into Cumbria, after more than 2 and half years since our last visit, felt like a homecoming.  Cruising into and then among the fells and crags of the Lake District in our temporary, mini-Homer felt so natural it was almost a non-event. So normal. Had we ever really been away from this stunning part of Britain that had been such a frequent escape just a handful of years ago when we were such different people living such a different life? Following the A66 westwards towards Cockermouth we then then turned south to make our way to the banks of one of our old favourites, Crummock Water. On previous visits we had walked a loop of Crummock and Buttermere and tagged on a climb up and down Haystacks as well to form a mammoth hike, but not today.

This time after all of the busyness of the previous weeks we were content to rest our tired bodies and sit peacefully on a handy bench just a few hundred metres from our parking and just look, doze and read to each other as the afternoon passed by. In total we spent over three hours in the warm, damp afternoon looking over Crummock Water and the rolling fells beyond but it felt like a lot less (not just because I was snoring for around an hour of that on the grass). In the end it was only the onset of an  afternoon shower that shifted us back to mini-Homer and a small dinner in the dry before an evening drive through Buttermere, along the Newlands Valley and over the Whinlatter pass to make our way to our overnight Travelodge base in Cockermouth. Now, as I sit making these notes and looking over the green distant fells and enjoying the rainbow that has just formed with the sound of a hot bath running behind me I can say in all sincerity, it really is good to be back.

Day 2 - Thank Goodness For Gore-tex
Waking far more rested and relaxed in the peaceful Cockermouth Travelodge we decided to take as much time as possible to enjoy our room, with an idea in the back of our mind that we'd be camping tonight. Heading out just after lunch to an intermittent drizzle our spirits were still high and we both decided that a little rain wasn't going to put us off our planned walk, an easy stroll around Derwent Water. We parked at the foot of Catbells and set off, wearing our waterproofs already as we expected a few more showers. What we didn't expect was the sudden onset of an incessant power shower drenching which after almost an hour with no let up did eventually beat us back.

Not that it had stopped us enjoying our stroll on the shores of Derwent, we had and it was great simply to be outside in the Lakes once more with the wind on our faces. We'd also especially enjoyed the flock of sheep trying to share the shelter of a single hollowed out tree trunk. But as water continued to cascade in torrents out of the sky we also felt that to continue anyway as a touch masochistic given we were still tired from the past few weeks events and so conceded to the weather and headed back. By now it was late afternoon and since the prospect of our first night under canvas in more almost a year in such a downpour was also a little daunting we threaded our back down the A66 to Penrith Travelodge instead for another peaceful evening. The weather did clear a little, allowing for a very pleasant evening drive along the shores of nearby Ullswater for some stone skimming master classes followed by another much needed early night.


Day 3 - Part 1 - Back On The Fells
Sunny skies greeted us this morning and after 2 good nights sleep the prospect of our first real hike was on the cards. We didn't want to drive too far so we decided to get back to Ullswater shortly after midday and try one of our old favourites, Place Fell. At just 600 or so metres high this was the first Lake District walk we'd done together after we'd moved to Durham many years ago and always remained special to us. The sun was hot as we set off on the initial climb to Boredale Hause, with incredible views along the valley to the Kirkstone Pass and the surrounding tops (Hellvellyn, St Sunday's Crag, Raise etc.).

We were soon down to t-shirts only and as we reached the Hause we took a pause to revel in just how good it felt to be back in this beautiful place again after so long away. A short while later we were off again towards the summit of Place Fell, reaching the top in what seemed like no time at all. With such clear air and few clouds the view was stunning, with the tail of Ullswater just visible to the east and the distant central Fells peeking out beyond the closer summits. Wonderful. So wonderful that we decided that it was the perfect place for a snooze just away to the side of the summit cairn. Many times in the past we had pushed on along the ridge eastwards to descend to the shores of Ullswater before completing this walk as a loop, but today it was enough to just sit and enjoy the peace and tranquillity. The air was so still and with just a few other visitors we pretty much had the place to ourselves. I think we must have been stretched out for a good hour or so. When we did head down we'd definitely caught some sun and with the warmth it was as though the hiking energy was suffusing our legs, so much so we almost did push on. But instead we had other plans....

Day 3 - Part 2 - A Night In The Hills
Having enjoyed our walk so much and with such good weather we decided that conditions were ideal to try our first night wild camping in almost 3 years. So after a brief stop at mini-Homer 2 to pack up our overnight bags (and a visit to Patterdale Youth Hostel so that I could irrigate) we set off back to Boredale Hause. By now it was about 7.30pm so we had the trail entirely to ourselves and even though we'd already come this way once today the novelty hadn't worn off at all. Arriving at Boredale Hause we soon found a nice quiet and flat spot away from the main trail to pitch our tent and start getting ready for the night. Any concerns we'd had about being rusty making camp were unfounded as we found our muscle memory easily popping up the tent, unpacking and making our nest in double quick time. Having eaten there wasn't much else to do except enjoy the sunset until the sun dipped below the distant tops and it started to cool and we retired to bed. What an amazing day.



Day 4 - Hills To Hawkshead
I love camping and sleeping in the hills but hand on heart my first night on an airbed in a tent after so long is always a little restless, even though I know after a few nights getting used to it I'd be sleeping like a baby. I'd dropped off easily enough but with such light skies had struggled to sleep after 3 a.m. Yet for me sleeping in the hills is so invigorating I was still bounding with energy when it was time to get up soon after 6. Esther had also had a slightly unsettled night, but by the time the tent was down and we were all packed up we decided in the crisp, still morning we decided it was a perfect time for another hike to enjoy the stillness. Also, since Boredale Hause was such an ideal starting point to revisit another one of our old favourites, Angle Tarn, it would have seemed a shame not to walk the loop past Angle Tarn and Hayeswater back to our car near Brother Water car park. As we traversed the empty trails, high above the mist formed in the valley below we could easily have been the only inhabitants on another planet. It was fantastic and we took our time.

Around midday we were back in the car and driving over the Kirkstone Pass headed to Ambleside. We'd arranged to meet up with a family we'd met touring in France the previous summer who lived in a part of the Lakes we'd never been to before, Hawkshead between Windermere and Coniston. However, as were running a little early we decided to find a quiet spot for lunch on Esthwaite Water, the lake over which Beatrix Potter's Hilltop farm overlooked. Parking mini-Homer by the water's edge and picnicking to the sound of ducks and raindrops it was a truly idyllic spot. There was also a nearby cafe with a display of Beatrix Potter's still life drawings on display, which were fantastically detailed.

By 4 p.m. we headed over to meet our friends to find a very warm reception. Mike, Claire, Aaron and May had been such a wonderful family when we'd met them in France the previous year and being guests in their home for an evening was a real privilege. Having both grown up close to cities, getting an insight into their family life among the Lakes and Fells was a wonderful experience for both of us and the energy and laughter in their home was very uplifting. We even got a second hike in by joining Mike and May on a short walk to Latterbarrow before Esther got to feed the chickens at the local school with Claire.

By the time the children were in bed and we'd had a good long talk with Mike and Claire it was hard to believe 11pm had already passed. Having woken on the fells in the early hours and now almost 20 hours later to still be awake and full of energy is something I can only put down to the magic of the Lake District.

Day 5 - Homeward Bound With A Fresh Resolve
Waking up in Mike and Claire's living room in time to enjoy breakfast together, including flying a model airplane on the green outside their house before school, we were both a little sad to know we were heading back to Durham. Our time in the Lakes had been such a nice mixture of rest and activity it felt like we had rediscovered ourselves again. Our visit to the Lakes had been short, incredibly varied and unplanned in many ways it also exactly what we had needed. From the two tired people arriving, struggling slightly with the prospect of finally letting go of our Durham base and the work needed to do the final packing we'd found a new energy and enthusiasm to start the next stage of our adventures.

Having set off feeling a bit clouded and uncertain and, frankly, a little sick of sorting things out we now just wanted to go home and jettison the final few 'nostalgic' possessions as the responsibility of ownership and duty of care etc. just doesn't match with the simplistic way of life that we had reminded ourselves we infinitely preferred. Even packing for the Lake District had made us realise how much we missed a motorhome as in just the few months in the UK extra clothes had crept into our wardrobes meaning we had a little more stuff and it meant extra decisions to make that we didn't have to make when we'd lived in Homer.

Driving back across the A66 we realised we had renewed our incitement to complete the building of our simple, lightweight lifestyle so we didn't have to waste energy making daily decisions about possessions we don't really need anyway (where is it, should I pack this etc.) and just enjoy life without the unnecessary holding plans and decision in our heads any more.

WRITTEN 17th JUNE 2016

Click here for other photos from our Lakes trip

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