Grisedale Tarn; and Crummock Water re-visited

Whilst out running the other day it struck me that there are several different reasons – or motivations – for running. Some people do so just to keep fit; some people do so to get faster and go further. I started running in order to do triathlon; I then began to enjoy it, once I moved to Cumbria and there were plenty of trails (rather than roads); as I got more used to trail running it became an opportunity to enjoy the amazing scenery the county has to offer.

In terms of triathlon, running was always my weakest of the three disciplines. After having children there was less time to do triathlon, or even to do much in the way of keeping fit at all, which meant that running became the only of the three disciplines that I did even vaguely regularly. Even so I’d alternate between phases of feeling relatively OK running-wise and quite enjoying it, and phases of struggling.

Then came lockdown; and furlough; and working from home. For the past 5-6 months I have done as much exercise as I did before having the children. As a result I feel satisfyingly fitter now than I have for ages: and feeling stronger and fitter gives me the confidence to go out again, knowing that it will probably be enjoyable rather than just painful.

So my running is now for two reasons: runs on my own to try to improve my speed and my stamina/distance; and more sociable runs to enjoy the stunning scenery, ideally with friends. After running around the 16 lakes and realising we’d seen bits of the Lake District we’d never seen before, Penny and I decided we’d try to run as many new (to us) routes as possible.

The latest last week started at Glenridding. Arriving just after 4pm, the car park was beginning to become emptier and the people we passed were mostly coming down from the hills rather than heading up into them. We took the path to Lanty’s Tarn (there are two – we took the one which is slightly longer and not quite as steep and stony) and then ran on up the valley, to the north of the river. With the amount of rain we’ve had recently, the streams coming down the hillsides were loud with plentiful water: so different to June/July when after our prolonged period of warm, sunny weather, some streams had more or less dried up.

The Lakeland Trails series runs two races over a weekend in November: the Hevellyn or Glenridding trail race one day and the Ullswater trail race the following day. The race route for the former goes up this valley, turning to cross a footbridge before going back down into Glenridding. Today we carried on: we knew Grisedale Tarn was to the west in the hills, and could see the saddle where we thought the tarn would be.

We ran on past a hut belonging to the Outward Bound Trust, with a memorial plaque to some climbers; looking at the map I realise we were running around the slopes of Dollywagon Pike, a hill whose name I’ve always wondered about – apparently it could be from Old Norse for ‘lifted giant’ (or ‘lifted fiend’). The slope was now stony and in places slippery; it was tricky running at times but I felt sure the tarn was only just ahead. As so often with hills, there was an extra ‘up and down and up again’ before we actually got there, but finally – c.5km from Glenridding – I spotted the glint of water. A few more steps and there was Grisedale Tarn, looking absolutely gorgeous in the late afternoon sun.

Not for the first time we expressed how lucky we are to live here; and that we’d like to come back here to swim. There wasn’t time today and it was getting chilly, so after a Graze bar each and a drink of water we ran back down the hill, this time going down the other side of the beck. What I love about Grisedale Beck is that it has a bed of slate, which gives it a grey colour and makes it seem really clean.

As we ran down I thought about how different runs (and bike rides) have different characteristics. There were bike rides not so long ago when I was highly conscious of colour: predominantly yellow; later on in the year purple. Some runs are very much about feeling: running through woods on springy trails; some have the noise of skylarks, or – like on Talkin Fell – just the noises of nature as well as man (birds, cows, dogs, aeroplanes); today’s run was the noise of water. The beck fills the valley bottom but there are numerous streams falling in waterfalls down the hillsides; no sooner have you left one and run round a corner than you’re met by the noise of the next.

Plenty of famous writers and philosophers have written about the human relationship to water; despite its dangers we are fascinated by it and I think most of us have a compulsion to immerse ourselves in it – within reason. The swimming group I’m part of arranged to go to Crummock Water this weekend, as the weather forecast was meant to be good. We met at the lake at about 3.30pm, by which time most people were leaving, and ended up parking near Hause Point, with close access to a small stony beach and easy entry to the water. The water was cold but clean and inviting, and the slight chill in the air probably made the lakeside less crowded than it might otherwise have been.

It was a pity in a way that yesterday’s weather wasn’t as warm as today’s, which would have been perfect for swimming and picnics, but having done some decorating I decided that it was too good a day to waste: my bike was calling to me. I cycled more-or-less along the river Irthing through Lanercost, Low Row and Nether Denton to Gilsland, right on the Northumberland border. From there I turned back in a westerly direction, until just before West Hall I decided that I’d cycle past the ford (but not through it: the memory of falling in a ford in the Lake District in November lives on, and there’s quite a bit of water around at the moment). I felt that sense of freedom from being on my bike that I’ve expressed before, delighting in the wide open skies above me, the views of hills in the distance, and the layers and clusters of clouds: and I was home in time to have a chat with my sister before dinner.

The best things in life…

About five and a half or six years ago, not long before David left, one of his friends said to me that from reading my blog you’d think I was happy whereas when you met me I was a miserable git (those weren’t his exact words, but close enough).

I’ve looked back at blogposts from around that time and in fact I wasn’t always that happy, but expressed that at times I felt low. But I also know that I have always found some solace in being out and about on my bike or running; with friends; in music. But when your heart feels completely and utterly broken and life seems black even these things are not a consolation.

I think it says something about my general state of mind, therefore, that despite having been desperately upset about the children last week, it didn’t take me long to bounce back and to have a brilliant weekend. Having reacted incredibly emotionally to something on Wednesday evening, by the time I’d had a huge amount of moral support from friends I felt calmer though still tearful on Thursday. The weekend – which, as I don’t have to go to Newcastle to work on Friday, starts for me on Thursday evening quite often – got better and better from there on in.

I went for a bike ride on Friday morning with one of the Claires (I have several friends called Clare or Claire). Her two children are the same age as two of mine, and we’ve been talking about going cycling together for ages. I got side-tracked doing something at home so she cycled to mine, I cycled back with her to her house and had a drink, flapjack and a chat, and I then cycled home again. I hadn’t cycled all of the route before so it was good to try something new, and I saw exactly what she meant as I cycled home – the view as you cycle away from Heads Nook (her village) with the Pennine Fells ahead of you is a lovely one.

Friday evening I very nearly backed out of going to a concert with two friends, Anne and Mark, but was really glad I did go. It would have been so easy to have said “I really don’t feel like it and I need some quiet time and to do my ironing”. We went down to Salkeld Dykes to see Kinfolk in concert in a barn which has been newly converted by Michael Sanderson and Katharine May to a music room, big enough to put on small concerts. Michael plays and sings with Kinfolk as well as being a classical musician – he and his wife Katharine are also Eden Music/Eden Baroque. Kinfolk was performing at Music on the Marr the following night, so it felt quite a privilege to be able to see them in this smaller and more intimate setting – and it was great to be able to chat to them later. I’m never sure whether I’m going to like a whole evening of ‘folk’ music but this was fantastic – I was tapping my foot and smiling for almost the entire evening.

The following afternoon I was singing at Lanercost Priory, with James Booth on guitar, as part of the celebrations for the Priory’s 850th anniversary. I was relieved that I sang far better than I had for the choir concerts back in May (back then being affected partly by nerves and partly as I was going down with a cold) and I’m really looking forward to singing some more with Jim on guitar. Mark and Anne had said the previous evening that they were going to Lanercost on the Saturday evening to see Jerry King’s ukelele band. By now I was on a roll… not at all sure what I’d think of an hour of ukelele music, I agreed to go and again had a brilliant time.

On the Sunday I had arranged to meet up with my sister as she was staying with a friend of hers in Cockermouth. We went to Crummock Water and swam, paddle boarded and kayaked. Not only do I now want a bass guitar for christmas (as a result of seeing Kinfolk) but also I now want an inflatable kayak. The water was beautifully clear – until you got into the deeper part of the lake you could see the rocks beneath you quite easily: completely unlike Keswick the weekend before, which had been muddy, weedy, opaque and disgusting!

Having had a good time splashing about in the lake, followed by a picnic lunch provided by Rachel’s friend Sara, I headed over the Newlands Pass and valley to meet Penny. We drove down to Grange and ran along by the river Derwent (very shallow at the moment due to lack of rain, but very pretty) through Rosthwaite to Seatoller, before turning to go uphill and head in a northerly direction back to Grange. It was about 7 miles in total and we were not particularly quick! However there were some great things along the way such as the metal chain pinned into the rocks just past the YHA at Seatoller – the rocks must be really slippery when it’s wet weather – and Castle Crag, which is stunning. The view of Castle Crag from a distance and at stream level I felt was an almost alpine one – but then I’ve often thought that about Keswick, and also sometimes about Penrith, when I’ve seen them in the snow with the fells behind them. This time was more the summer mountain pastures aspect and I guess if climate change continues the way it is so far then actually that won’t be so inaccurate.

I stopped off at Rheged on the way home to buy some dinner for myself (even the food in the petrol station at Rheged is of a quality you don’t normally find in such places – including some beautiful French-style patisserie, though I didn’t buy any of those on this day). I sang to myself up the motorway and thought how lucky I was. I had had a weekend which had included friends (and my sister, who it was great to see), music, running, swimming, cycling and the beautiful outdoors.

What could be better (other than perhaps my kids having come along too, and enjoyed themselves)?