In my new roll I was now clocking up a few miles. As such Paul kindly volunteered to do the driving for our trip to The Lakes. Stu and I had been round at Richard and Nuela’s the night before (sampling Richard’s home brew) and had only arrived home some time after twelve. With Stu and I nursing slight hangovers the result was a pretty quiet trip north. We simply left Paul to it until our arrival in Keswick. We weren’t the only ones out and about that morning. There had been an old car rally the day before and several old (1930’s) open top relics could be heard spluttering around the narrow streets. They were absolutely caked in mud and looked like for once they’d been used for the purpose they’d been designed. As well as the old cars there was another gathering due in this corner of the Lakes. The annual ten mile race around Derwent Water was scheduled for today and for that reason we expected plenty of congestion and a struggle to find a parking place. We needn’t have worried a free parking spot was found (courtesy of Mark’s National Trust membership) and a short walk was made to the jetty at Ladore.
In peak season this place would no doubt be heaving, however on a November day in overcast conditions we had the place top ourselves. The launch arrived and the four of us doubled its occupancy. A couple of stops later we arrived at the base of Cats Bells. Courtesy of Mark’s suggestion a few years ago I’d done this very same walk with Shirl. On that occasion it was Shirl who huffed and puffed her way on the zig zag path up this ridge whereas today it would be my lack of fitness would really show. Even early on as we ambled through the autumn woodlands I could feel a sense of lethargy. I suppose when you work all day and without exercise it becomes inevitable that fitness levels will decline. As progress continued I could feel my legs aching more and more. It was as though I’d climbed several thousand feet rather than a few hundred. Thank god it would only be a short walk. After the views over Derwent water had come and gone a few times we arrived at the great little summit of Cat Bells. There seemed to be more people up there than virtually any other Lakeland hill I’d ever climbed. I suppose it was a Sunday, the hill was relatively low in altitude and reasonably close to Keswick.
On reaching this summit the mountain landscape suddenly opened up. A view North West would reveal the continuation of the ridge towards Maiden Moor and also views across towards Dale Head and Robinson. Just down from the summit by the col Mark noticed what looked like an old mine entrance. Sure enough we made our way to it and all four of us guided by Stu’s mobile phone light (this provided just enough light to illuminate our next step) somehow made our way through the dark, wet passage that had been bored into the rock all those years ago. I suppose with a proper light we could have continued for some distance. During our walk across Maiden Moor and High Spy there were very few highlights. Yes, we had occasional views down over Derwent Water, but they were hardly thrilling. The exceptions were the views around the base of Dale Head. Despite the low altitude of two thousand feet there was a real feeling of being out in the mountains. Not only that, but for the first time the sun was making an appearance.
From here the descent would take us through the old slate mines and give us further opportunities to crawl around on hands and knees in the old caverns. These were far better than the tunnel we’d been in earlier. Great caverns had been hacked out of the hillside and from within these there were passages leading off in all manner of directions. Unfortunately our lack of light cut short our fun. Perhaps this was a slice of good fortune. At the furthest point we all stood there squinting into what looked like great big black hole. For all we knew there was great shaft directly in front of us. Thankfully a modicum of common sense prevailed and we vowed to come back armed with a decent torch. With this old industrial architecture behind us we descended until we reached the Allerdale Ramble long distance path. For a brief moment (until it started raining) I considered climbing the small rocky lump of Castle Crag. Perhaps if I’d had a little more strength in my legs I might have done it regardless of the rain. Another three miles of pleasant walking would take us along the river, through a remote farm yard (with dogs locked up) and across the bog land until we reached Ladore.
The sequel to this day off occurred on Wednesday dinner time when I picked up a text from Paul. It read something like “got a sixty quid speeding fine on Sunday, am not driving anymore”. It transpired that he’d picked up this ticket whilst the other three of us were in a state of slumber dozing away the early morning trip to the Lakes. I suppose it looks like I’ll be driving next time!!