It does not augur well as we step off the train in Windermere in torrential rain, me in my summer sandals! The rain continues into day one of our long weekend; our friends John and Hilary had wisely brought forward our Sunday lunch reservation at the Michelin star-winning L’Enclume in Cartmel, so we decide to go for a cultural visit to Brantwood House on the way.
Brantwood was John Ruskin’s home for 28 years and is a shrine to his brilliance. He bought the house as a cottage and added on the grand dining room and terrace, plus a wonderful little turret tower where he sat and thought. He even designed the wall paper, which remains today, albeit a copy. We wander round the rooms marvelling at the creativity of this polymath.
Then to L’Enclume, Simon Rogan’s Lake District flagship, where we had the most delicious meal, a surprise seven-course lunch, exquisitely-plated and meticulously served by a jolly bunch of staff. The rain held off a little so we wander round Cartmel Abbey, whose foundations go back 800 years.
Sunday is much better; Hilary and I set of for Silver How and John and Ross go for a much longer three-Wainwright-bagging walk, via Brothers Water to Heartsop Dodd, Little Heart Crag and Heartsop-over-How, which includes an interesting off-piste section only suitable for the most hardy, verging on rock-climbers!
For us it’s about three and half hours, not too much ascent and some great views over to Coniston to the right of the ridge, and Grasmere, Rydal and Windermere over to the left. The sun shines progressively although there is quite a brisk breeze. When we come back we calculate we have covered about 10 kms.
We wake on Monday to clear blue skies and warm sun shine. Because of my leg my maximum walk is about three hours and 10kms, so we opt for the spectacular Cat Bells walk from the Keswick end. In my Heinemann days we would start at Dale Head, continue to Maiden Moor and descend Cat Bells before taking the lake launch to have tea at Grange. But we were younger and fitter then.
It’s a good hour up, quite steep with gorgeous views over Derwenwater and, on the right-hand side, Causey Pike, Grasmoor, Grisedale, Hindscarth, Dale Head and Robinson, all peaks we used to climb in the day. We wander along the saddle for a bit and then descend along a pretty path, lined with wild digitalis – and where we see a stonechat in breeding plumage – towards Grange where Hil and I have a rest while the boys run 4 kms back to the car.
After lunch we drop by Seatoller House, scene of our historic Heinemann Lake District trips. Forty of us would trek up there, walk 6 hours a day in all weathers, and then have evenings in a traditional roster – first night Riverside Bar, second night The Fish at Buttermere and the third night in Alan Hill’s marvellous house in Rosthwaite, where we played parlour games like Squeak Piggy Squeak and Blindman’s Bluff. Those were the days, my friend…
Hilary and John’s cottage, Glen View, is rented most of the year round, but this year they are there for the whole of June. It is a glorious spot for looking out up the valley to Easedale and Helm Crag or a quick stroll to Grasmere to look at the Wordsworths’ graves or visit the pub! Thank you for a fabulous weekend – and for L’Enclume!