Penny had been on holiday to Cornwall with her husband to celebrate her 50th birthday. A teenager, busy on a mobile phone, hadn’t seen her and had knocked her off her bike. Several cracked ribs, a 7/8th broken elbow and various bruises later (just in time for the party with her twin sister) had set back the running a bit… but after a few weeks she felt well enough to give Buttermere and possibly Loweswater a go.
As my birthday is mid-September, I’d had a birthday dinner the night before and been up late drinking prosecco and chatting. I did not feel great the next morning. So there we were – one recuperating from injuries and one recuperating from a hangover.
We squeezed into what was almost the last space in the National Trust car park in Buttermere. I’m impressed by their new parking machines, where if you’re a member you can just scan your card and get a ticket: no having to find some cash and then get the money back. It was a bit drizzly and started raining properly as we headed towards the ‘start line’ at the north western end of the lake. As we ran along the southern side of the lake it got steadily heavier. It didn’t deter plenty of walkers though: at only about 4 miles round, and fairly level, it’s a popular route with those who don’t want to scramble over scree or get above the tree line.
The southern part of the lake wends its way through the trees, until you come out at the river crossing and a farm. The cows were looking as wet and bedraggled as we were. I did take a photo of one but the poor thing did not look particularly attractive, whereas Penny managed somehow not to look such a mess – probably because she’s got a hat on and her hair tied back, whereas the cow and I both had curly loose locks. It was warm however, which meant we got some strange looks from walkers wrapped up well against the elements – who were these strange women running along in t-shirts?
Probably the northern side of the lake is the more interesting, as not only do you get a variety of terrain but there is even a rock tunnel to run through. This was, apparently (according to the National Trust website), carved out by a Manchester Mill Owner. They don’t tell us why – presumably to continue the path. We arrived back at the village after 4.5 wet but pleasant miles, with, rewardingly, only a tiny bit on road. The rain, having drenched us, decided now to stop… typical!
Having completed a circuit of Crummock Water, the ‘twin’ lake to Buttermere just slightly further down the valley, earlier in the year, we headed now to Loweswater. This was a bit of an unknown quantity to us both – probably the last time either of us had been there was several years ago when we were doing a bike ride (I think it may even have been pre-child-no.3 so that’s 8 or 9 years ago at least). We decided to park in the lay-by where, all those years ago, we had stopped to get a photo of us with our bikes: it was about half way along what was potentially a road-based stretch of the circuit of the lake.
A short run along the road took us to a larger lay-by which was an official car park, where we turned off the road and ran down past some tents. What looked as if it was meant to be a bridle path the other side of a couple of fields turned out in fact to be a lane which rose quite steeply up the side of the hill at the western end of the lake. As we looked ahead I commented that it looked as if Loweswater was in the same valley as Crummock Water and Buttermere. This was confirmed when we looked at the map later, though the valley sort of turns a southerly corner from Loweswater round to Crummock Water.
The southern side of the lake provided a lovely run amongst the trees, and we also discovered a National Trust bothy. What an amazing place it would be to stay, particularly if it was a summer like we have had this year: kids could cycle in the woods, you could swim in the lake… though in fact in the height of summer you might not want to as Loweswater has particularly high nitrate levels and therefore a lot of blue green algae. No sign of that on this dull day though.
There seemed to be no option but to run along the road once we got to the car park at the eastern end of the lake, but then about a third of the way back along the northern shore there’s an old track signposted towards Mosser. This is presumably quite a historic route which might once have been quite popular, directly up over the hills instead of around them. We went up and up and I was beginning to wonder if we’d missed the turning to get back to the beginning. Eventually however a finger post directed us down a grassy track and past a farm and presently we were back at the car park, only 100m or so away from the lay-by the car was parked in.
And finally the weather had brightened up a bit, and my bedraggled locks were dry – just curlier than ever. We headed back towards Penrith, stopping en route at the Lakes Distillery for a well-deserved and extremely pleasant lunch. That’s what this is all about: celebrating the fantastic county we live in with its glorious scenery, great food and good friends!