It’s definitely autumn. Some days we’ve woken to a heavy frost, and the roofs have stayed white until well into the morning and the car has told me it’s only 2 degrees (celsius), though I don’t know how accurate it is. The trees are still green but browns and yellows are creeping in here and there, and leaves have started to float to the ground, showing their peers the way. We’ve even turned the heating on.
It was thus with some trepidation that I agreed to go swimming – no, I lie, I suggested that a group of us went swimming – in Grasmere. At least it seemed certain there would be no worries about social distancing – surely nobody else would be out swimming now, although the September non-school-holiday walkers would be out and about?
The weather earlier in the day was not particularly great, but as the afternoon progressed and by the time we all met at the White Moss car parks, it was a lovely sunny autumnal late afternoon. I was still convinced that I’d probably dip my toes in the water, decide it was too cold, and get straight out again. Two swimmers were already in the water when we got there, which gave me some comfort – and as it turned out I was the first out of our group into the water and it wasn’t quite as bad as I had feared. Chilly, but with a wetsuit, gloves and neoprene shoes, OK. I swam back and forth a few times before deciding I didn’t want to risk being a long way out and getting colder than I realised and not being able to get back – my biggest fear is of being out in the middle of a lake somewhere and just not having the energy, for one reason or another, to get back to shallow water.
The others stayed in longer than me – I got back in after taking the photos of them, but not for long – but it was lovely sitting there and admiring the surroundings. Grasmere is gorgeous – I really wished I had a GoPro to take a video at ducks-eye level. One day. And one summer day, when the water’s warmer, I will go back and swim to the island and back.
Two other swimmers had got in further up on the northern shore while we were in, but didn’t stay in for long. But as we got out a woman from North Lincolnshire got in, with only a wetsuit (no gloves or footwear). She did a strong front crawl out into the middle of the lake and up to the island, some way away. She looked like a good swimmer but it was a bit unnerving not to be able to see her initially as she came back: her husband seemed rather perturbed as well. Eventually we saw her, but she seemed to be doing a slow breaststroke. I’m sure she got back to shore all right, but I hope she wasn’t struggling with the cold.
On Sunday I felt like going out on my bike rather than running, and looked through various maps and so forth to find out a new route. I drove to Wetheral, walked over the river alongside the railway bridge (people jump off here – I find it quite unnerving and also desperately sad to look down into the rocky, crashing river below – you’d have to be so totally, deeply unhappy to want to throw yourself into that and risk horrendous injuries) and then cycled up towards Cumwhitton. The route took me down the eastern side of the river Eden, though you don’t actually get to see the river much – especially not at the moment when the trees are still in leaf and the undergrowth is verdant.
There were more uphills than I’d expected and also some quite steep downhills – I really noticed the difference between my ‘normal’ bike brakes on my triathlon bike (now about 18 years old) and the disc brakes on my newer road bike. I’d expected the hill down through Kirkoswald to be one of the scariest and in fact it wasn’t, but even so as I tried to get my foot out of the pedal to stop near the church, I failed – and fell off.
Kirkoswald is one of my favourite villages, certainly in the Eden valley. It has a pretty main village street, which rises up the hill from the river, past the church and former castle towards the vicarage, then rises further up a hill lined by old houses and three (!) pubs before dividing in two (with in fact a smaller third road also going back down the hill). One way goes towards Armathwaite (where I had just come from) and a right angled corner takes you on up towards Croglin and Newbiggin higher up on the fells, and ultimately to Brampton.
After stopping by means of falling off, I took a photo of the gatehouse to the former castle then got back on and pedalled on down to cross the river over the lovely packhorse bridge between Kirksowald and Lazonby. This again is a favourite spot – the river meanders between stony beaches and sheep graze in the fields: I always think ‘sheep may safely graze’.
From Lazonby I zigzagged over and under the railway – the romantic, scenic, Carlisle – Settle line, saved from closure not so many years ago (and a slow-ish but lovely way to get to Skipton and Leeds) and back to Armathwaite. From there back to Wetheral was undulating, with wide open views to the fells and to the Solway. When I got back I felt gently tired in a satisfied way: and very hungry.
I love cycling.