After our mammoth efforts around Windermere we only had two more lakes to go of the list that Penny had set – though in fact if we chose to run around all the lakes, waters and tarns of Cumbria we should officially also run around Kielder Water (26 miles) and the list of small tarns is almost endless. As she had run around Brotherswater on her own at the very beginning of the challenge, when the opportunity arose for me to run around it, I decided it was time that I set out.
It was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon by the time I got to the car park at Cow Bridge, having left the children with David (my ex-husband) at Rheged. This Easter weekend had not only been sunny but warm, with almost summery temperatures, so the Lake District was busy and Edward had already been in the water at Pooley Bridge. I wasn’t sure there would be parking spaces available but in fact because it was later on in the afternoon and also because Brotherswater is a little off the beaten track, there were several spaces available and I parked easily.
The car park is on a corner of the road near an old bridge and an old road – presumably the route of the road was ‘improved’ at some point to make the corner less sharp and/or to put in a new bridge, and it created a piece of land with enough space for parking either side of the Goldrill Beck, which flows out of the lake. I was running clockwise around the lake as from what Penny had told me it sounded as if that would be the easier way to find the path, and I started out along the road which at that point has a pavement.
It wasn’t long before I noticed a pedestrian gate and a path running alongside a field. This meandered along next to the road but protected from it by a stone wall, and came out at Skyeside Campside. Penny said when she had run along here it had been overgrown and difficult to see the path, so fortunately it looked as if someone had done some maintenance. I stopped to check that I was on the right route at the campsite reception-cum-shop area: the public footpath goes straight across the campsite, which today was busy due not only to the long weekend but also to the glorious weather.
Going through a gate you run across National Trust land heading towards Hartsop Hall, a working farm and holiday cottages. The farm house is grade 1 listed and significant as being one of the earliest remaining farmhouses in the Lake District. The listing document describes it as a “typical larger Lakeland farmhouse in typically magnificent setting”, and provides the details that the original house dates from the 16th century with wings added in the 17th and 18th centuries. With the sun shining, spring bursting forth – lambs chasing each other around the fields while their mothers sat contentedly in the warmth – and the lake, it was indeed a beautiful setting and once more I was grateful for these runs and for the areas of the countryside I had seen which I hadn’t seen before.
A good public path then goes straight down the western side of the lake back to the car park, with plenty of alternative route options if you want to go further, perhaps exploring the woods or walking through to Patterdale. This side of the lake in particular was gorgeous. As I ran, thoughts and feelings spilled through my head: that when the weather is a beautiful as this I just want to stay outside for hours and hours, which is partly why the long runs are so great (the only thing I really hate is being wet, particularly if I’m cold as well); that I had driven past Brotherswater lots of times but this was the first time I’d actually stopped, slowed up and taken account of the actual lake and its surroundings, instead of hareing up the Kirkstone Pass; and most of all I felt a renewed love of Cumbria and of the Lake District in particular. When David and I moved to Cumbria it was because we loved the Lake District: frustrations at home, working in Newcastle and travelling around Northumberland and Yorkshire had made me wonder about moving to the North East or to Yorkshire. Running around Windermere and then Brotherswater confirmed to me that this is where my heart is. I’m not sure how accurate DNA ‘ancestry’ tests are but mine showed a strong Celtic heritage, including not only the west country but Wales and what is now Cumbria. Is there some sort of ‘tribal memory’ which sometimes means that you find yourself in a place where you just feel completely rooted; a part of the entire fabric of the place? Who knows.
I passed few people around Brotherswater despite the call to be outdoors; and I sat later in happy solitude by the beck and just soaked up the views and the sunshine. An undulating path lead a golden track up the hill behind Hartsop village and I wanted to follow it to discover where it went (up to High Street perhaps – a route I want to follow from end to end sometime) and what views there might be from the top. And I harked back to singing in Patterdale church, intending to concentrate on the conductor but instead finding my eyes constantly drawn through the church windows to the hills beyond: the very hills I was now looking at from a lake.
It was only a short run – disappointingly so for a day when I wanted just to sit outside until it grew dark and cold, when I had no pressing need to rush home – so after contemplating life for a while I went into Glenridding, bought myself a drink and sat and read my book in the early evening sun.