and a new challenge (or two)
“What run shall we do next?” and “so what’s your next challenge?” were questions running around in my head unanswered. That’s the trouble when you’ve achieved a goal: it can be a bit of an anti-climax, like the weird time after exams when all of a sudden there’s extra time and you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself.
Fortunately with ‘exercise’ type goals there doesn’t ever seem to be an end. Even for ultra-marathoners there’s always that new race to do or a set-back such as an injury or illness can mean going back a few steps and having to start again. So it wasn’t long before – almost accidentally – a couple of new challenges popped their heads up.
One of the challenges to decide on is for the year I turn 60. The year I turned 50 I had a baby, and so the following year I attempted Kielder marathon (having said I’d never run a marathon), just after I turned 51. For my 60th birthday I was recently reading something which gave me the idea for a cycling and walking challenge – but it’s still more than two years away and so far it’s only an initial idea, so I won’t say any more here and now.
But back to the Lakes. Penny wanted to go for a run, as did I. She’d been on holiday with her husband and then to Lundy for a weekend with a friend, and in between the two her mother had died. She’d done very little running but also, I sensed, needed to get up into the hills for a run. I made a few suggestions based around the fact that at some point we both want to run the entire length of High Street, from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside (c. 23 miles ‘from Fort to Fort’). Penny pointed out that Askham Fell would be really wet, so we opted to drive down to the car park at Brotherswater, just south of Patterdale, and run from Hartsop and up past to Hayeswater to High Street and then back down.
The track goes uphill from the beginning, alongside the Gill which splashes down in leaps and small waterfalls from the lake, which is at 425m (1,400 ft). Towards the top just before we met the lake, there was a small pool which, had the weather been warmer, would have been tempting to splash or swim in.
Whilst we were warm from ascending the track (at a walk rather than a run I must add!), there was a strong wind and I was beginning to wonder about the advisability of going up on to High Street, which we could see ahead of us and which would be very exposed. We’d been through one rain shower already, you hear frequently on the local news about the unwary being caught out and about people being blown off hilltop ridges, and all the people we met were going in the other direction to us – i.e. downhill. It may have been my imagination but I got the impression that they thought we were nuts, if not even totally irresponsible, to be out on the hills in running gear when the weather was so changeable.
The lake itself is beautiful: the slopes plunge down into it in a way reminiscent but not as grey or threatening as Wastwater – the scree is surrounded by grass, giving the valley a softer impression than Wastwater. The wind was rushing through the valley and we headed to where we thought there was a bridge over the stream, which showed that there was then a clear route up to Great Knott and High Street. Although the Gill looked ford-able at this point, we decided that today was not really a day for getting soaking wet (i.e. accidentally falling in), and instead turned back a short way to a foot bridge. Having been reading up about Hayeswater in order to write this post, it seems that when United Utilities stopped using Hayeswater as a reservoir, the National Trust took over and installed a micro hydro-electric scheme and carried out repairs to the footbridge and tracks. The scheme is not visible: photos on the National Trust webpage show a small powerhouse looking like a traditional barn.
From the footbridge we could see some walkers coming down from the High Street direction, and we followed a slightly indistinct grassy path uphill towards them, before joining a better path higher up. The wind had not lessened, and Penny pointed out another track to our left, heading in a northerly direction. We passed this and went higher up – stunning views of Hayeswater and a brief lull in the wind meant we were able to open the map. Deciding being safe was better than going up on to High Street, which would be exposed on both sides, we turned a few yards back to this other path.
This was a joy to run on. A stony path headed downhill, clearly manmade, and continued to undulate over the hills to Angle Tarn, splashing occasionally through some small becks. The wind was still strong – I had to borrow Penny’s buff as I couldn’t see for my swirling hair – and pushed us against the hill, but it at least meant that the rainclouds which we could see in the west got blown away over us without us getting wet.
Neither of us had been along this track before and we were both enjoying it. At Angle Tarn we spotted a little red tent and we both commented on what a lovely place it would to camp; the Tarn itself looked gorgeous on this sunny blustery day, its wiggly edges surrounding a few islets. Somewhere else to go wild swimming when it’s warmer.
From here the path wound its way up and round until suddenly a wide grassy pass opened out before us: my first thoughts were ‘the promised land’. I could imagine being a weary foot traveller, slogging through the mountains, to suddenly come out on these verdant meadows, still high enough for spectacular views towards the separate ends of Ullswater, but with a less wild, isolated and rugged feeling than previously. Perhaps not surprisingly we came out on to a small level area where there were signs of industry – there had clearly once been a power supply or something here, and there was further evidence of this as we descended a stony and initially steep track down towards Patterdale and the valley floor.
We ignored the track which went down into Patterdale itself and instead headed in a southerly direction down and back towards Hartsop, passing Hartsop Fold holiday lodges (I commented how much nicer these looked than those green plasticky ones you see so often around the Lake District). A short jog back along the road and we were at the car, talking about doing the run again but taking the route we had originally intended; debating how far it was along High Street Roman Road; and commenting on how this was a potential ‘bonus lake’, reiterating how lovely it was, and how lovely to see bits of the Lake District we hadn’t before. The comment ‘this is why we live here’ is one which we’ve both stated plenty of times while out running. There is little that can beat being out exploring this gorgeous landscape under your own steam: in all weathers, but especially when the weather is good.
We had covered about 6.4 miles but as we headed towards the bar of the hotel in Glenridding for a quick drink before going home, we also discovered and agreed on our next challenge: to try, each time we go running in the Lake District, to run (off-road) routes that we haven’t run before.
I think we’ll have a lot of options!