Sunday, 20 May 2012

Derwent & Catbells

Twice I’ve set off with the intention of walking around Derwent and twice I’ve got distracted and done something else.  I hope it’s not the sort of lake which takes that kind of thing personally.  The truth is Dewent and Catbells have great personal significance for me as that’s where my love affair with the Lake District fells began.

Back in August 2010 we visited Grange (in Borrowdale) as part of an extended tour of the north in our trusty campervan Delores.  By January 2011 I’d found a new job and we moved up here, though still in Delores as we hadn’t quite managed to find a house at that stage.  Steve had grown up in the area but amazingly that was my first ever visit.  During that first visit I also discovered my alarming magnetic attraction for the fells.

We’d parked up in Grange and decided that after lunch we’d take a walk around the lake with a break at Keswick for a spot of dinner – perfect plan.  So off we set along the west side of the lake, but it wasn’t long before something rather odd began to happen.  Try as I might I couldn’t walk in a straight line.  However hard I tried to point my boots towards Keswick they insisted on veering off left towards Catbells.  We made it as far as Derwent Bay before the boots won and up we went.

I’ll be honest; I had no map, no compass and no food.  We were massively underprepared but it was a clear, sunny day and Catbells had her very best “come hither” look, so who was I to argue?  We started on the lower path but impatience got the better of me and when we reached Skelgill Bank we switched to the vertical option.  I’d like to tell you how when we reached the summit we admired Skiddaw and Blencathra, but the truth is I had no idea what the fells were called, I just knew they’d been added to my list.

So what about the second time I tried to walk around Derwent?  Well that was yesterday and this time I’m blaming Chris Bonington for my failure to make it round.  We were headed for Keswick Mountain Festival and, knowing there would be little parking in town, parked up under Walla Crag.  This time we were planning to take the lakeside route to Keswick for a spot of lunch, tootle around the festival for a while then complete a lap of the lake, but when we got there there was so much to do that we soon became very distracted.

There was a huge array of tents selling everything the outdoors enthusiast could ever need – including hot pork sandwiches so that was lunch sorted.  Next we got distracted by the Berghaus tent where Silva were giving free navigation courses.  Since I’ve always taken charge of the map and compass I thought it was about Steve got to grips with it all and, seeing as how he was never going to listen to me, this seemed perfect.  90 minutes of tuition in the lovely Castlehead Wood and he was sorted.  And hooked.  I may never see my compass again.

Returning to the Berghaus tent I spotted one of my heroes; Chris Bonington.  Whilst I’m new to the Lakes I’m not new to the outdoors and have been an avid reader and collector of mountaineering books for many years.  I’m a particular fan of early explorers, adventurers and people who are more interested in forging new routes than simply following what others before them have done.  Luckily Chris Bonington was utterly charming and happily posed for a photo with me, even giving me a bit of a hug.  I’d like to say that I took the opportunity to express my deep admiration of all that he has achieved but the reality is I babbled like an excited schoolgirl and probably said something inane.  Perhaps seeing I was somewhat over excited by this encounter the lovely Matt (Berghaus marketing supremo) thrust a bottle of Berghaus brew into my hands and I retired to a small grassy knoll to recover with Steve and a large bag of Ritz crackers.

By the time I returned to my senses and we’d taken another tour of the field – this time discovering the outdoor swimming group which I’m now determined to join – it was getting late and we noticed the last speaker of the day in the Berghaus tent was Gordon Stainforth talking about Adventure and his new book Fiva “An adventure that went wrong.”, a phrase which could also be used to describe my second failed attempt to circle Derwent.  Next time I promise I’ll make it the whole way around; well, maybe…

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