I had completely forgotten that I had said I’d go running with my friend Penny on Friday 13th April – instead she stayed at work late and I went out drinking prosecco at another friend’s exhibition opening. As it turned out it was the right decision however, as Friday was rather a rainy day and Saturday 14th, when we ended up running, was glorious.
I hadn’t really been to Haweswater properly before. I’d driven as far as the hotel to fetch a soaking wet ex-husband (when he was still my husband) when he was training for the Lakeland 50; I’d cycled through nearby Bampton; and I’d read the novel about the building of the dam and flooding of the village of Mardale (and not really thought that much of it – the novel, that is). So this was the first time I’d actually seen the lake properly ‘up close and personal’ as it were.
I should perhaps explain why I was here, about to run 10 miles around a lake I hardly knew, and feeling a little the worse for wear from prosecco consumption. Penny turns 50 this year and wanted a challenge. After thinking about it for a while she decided that her challenge would be running round all 16 of the largest lake district lakes. As we’ve been running partners, on and off, for several years now – we became friends because we started going running together some work lunchtimes – I got roped in too. And actually to be honest I’d probably have been a bit disappointed if I hadn’t been, even though the longest run looks as if it’s going to be 40 miles around Windermere…
Hence the 2/16 in the title – Crummock Water was 1/16 when we did Buttermere Trail Race a couple of weeks ago (in fact Penny has also run Brotherswater recently so I suppose strictly this should be 3/16 but I think I’ll number them according to when I do them and write them up).
We parked at Burn Banks, a village which was built as a temporary village for dam workers. The temporary houses (which apparently had cast iron frames, which you’d imagine would go rusty) mostly look as they’ve now been replaced – either reclad or completely replaced – some in particular now providing rather fine residences. In some ways it would be a lovely place to live – in other ways it might be a bit too remote and potentially cut off in hard winters.
Burn Banks is at the north-east end of the lake, the end where the dam is and where the road heads out into ‘the rest of the world’ along a beautiful valley which the river Lowther flows through. The walk along this northern shore of the Lake is actually part of the Coast to Coast walk so it’s well-waymarked and easy to follow. You start running along by the trees – we thought we spotted a red squirrel though he was so still it was difficult to tell, but I don’t think it was just an overgrown pinecone. There’s a also a deer fence though we didn’t see any deer in this particular area of lakeshore.
There are absolutely loads of waterfalls and streams to cross over; as we’d had a fair amount of rain recently the rocks were a bit slippy in some places. The water was sparklingly clean; I would really like to have swum or paddled in some of it, though of course it would still be freezing cold at this time of year (there is still snow high up on the fells) and also you’re not allowed to as they try to prevent any type of dirt getting into the lake at all – obviously it means fewer chemicals needed to treat it for the folk in Manchester to drink if they don’t have too much contamination.
My overindulgence in prosecco had gone along with not having any supper, so I was beginning to feel a bit wobbly by here (already!). Hooray for raspberry flapjacks! Flapjacks and cheese bagels are probably my go-to food for long runs: if I eat too much I just end up feeling uncomfortable if not downright ill, but nor is running on a completely empty stomach (well, 2 coffees) much good either.
We met a few people coming in the other direction, mostly male. Penny commented that she felt she should carry a survey with her “are you single? do you live round here?” etc. – we both have estranged husbands and recovering broken hearts and it shows that it was a light-hearted happy sort of day that we were joking about how to find the next men in our lives… but this was the sort of day when people generally were in a good mood, so everyone we met had the potential to be a friend.
A lovely stony descent – my favourite sort of running as it’s about the only time I’m faster than Penny – and we came down to the southern end of Haweswater and our halfway mark. Here a path which we guessed might be quite an old path is marked by upright stones, and several small rivers flow into the lake. One had loads of tiny tadpoles spilling around the stones: I tried not to tread on any but it wasn’t that easy to miss them as you had to step into the water whether or not you wanted to. One of the rivers flows down from Blea Tarn which is in a corrie up towards High Street which looms in the background; one down from the quaintly-named Small Water.
We sat on some warm stones overlooking the popular car park, ate flapjack, drank water and watched cyclists coming down from the pass. Some had those motorbike-type tyres which must be a complete pain on the road; another had a self-built tricycle with the two wheels at the front rather than the back. We had a chat to him as we jogged past him, as he was putting his bike into the back of his car – but I’m still not totally clear why he wanted two wheels at the front rather than the back. He said he’d been working on the bike 5 hours a day, every day. It’ll be interesting to see if it makes it into the shops… I think he was pleased we showed some interest though, and he gave us a friendly wave when he passed us not long afterwards as we tried to find the path.
The map seemed to show a path along this other side of the lake, and we could see what looked like a path from the road. In the end we got off the road and tried to follow a trail, but it’s not to be recommended; it was on quite a camber when we could find it, had fallen away in places and then further along the lake was overgrown with brambles. However we did see a deer and there were daffodils and primroses popping up all over the place and in quite surprising places. It was no surprise finally to get to a gate and find there was a sign on it saying the path was closed for health and safety reasons! They could do with taking down the signage and the remains of footbridges though really so that idiots like Penny and I who spot what looks like a path from the road, are not tempted to try to follow it. It reminded me of when I was working in the Pyrenees and trying to find new routes for holiday makers – one time we got in a stream and followed it as the path had completely vanished.
The last few miles were on road – and downhill – so we were able to keep up a steady pace, though neither of us is a keen roadrunner and we would far prefer being on trails. As we ran through the trees back to the car park we met a (male) runner we had been past earlier – he had gone round the lake in the other direction to us, and taken the road for the first half (we recognised him because he had an orange top, his dog had a matching orange jacket, and he had a nice smile). “Oh yes”, he said “that path has been closed for two or three years”. It’s a pity as it would be lovely to be able to get around the entire lake without having to go on the road. You can just spot him in the photo below.
So there we were, finally back at the car after a ridiculously long amount of time, as we’d walked probably a good 4 miles or so of the run. But we could say we’d done it – we had run, or attempted to, round all of Haweswater. The first half would be a great run for the Head Torches bunch…
We celebrated by trying to go to the Mill Cafe at Morland for lunch, or whatever you call lunch when it’s almost tea-time, but they had stopped serving – so instead we went somewhere I have been meaning to go for ages, and which was absolutely stunning (though they were only serving drinks and cakes): Larch Cottage Nursery. The italio-phile in me absolutely loved it, and it was the perfect afternoon for lazing around having tea and cake and then doing a bit of window shopping. I shall be going there again…
And my mood of despondency which I’d woken up in had completely lifted. Hooray for running, friendship, nature, sunshine and cake!