The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
A birthday is always a great occasion and what better place to celebrate it in than amidst the glorious landscape of the Lake District, the most scenic and inspiring of English counties. So earlier this month we headed north to our destination of Eskdale to celebrate Ali’s birthday and combine the festivities with some hiking. Our accommodation was Fisherground, a very large former farmhouse with a seemingly unlimited supply of bedrooms and beds and truly suitable for such a large gathering of well-wishers. By Saturday evening almost everyone had arrived from Essex, Cambridgeshire, Leicester and Sheffield. It was great to meet up in for a week of fun and hiking in such a lovely place. The farmhouse backs directly on to the slopes of the Eskdale hills and proved to be a great base for walks along the valley and up the high moors.
We celebrated Ali’s birthday on Monday evening at a pub along the valley which served a varied choice of nourishment. The previous evening over dinner there had been a wide-ranging, highly academic and very intense discussion about the history and evolution of black pudding, with special emphasis on the crème de la crème product supplied by Mr Charles MacLeod of Stornoway. Following this I was determined to sample as many varieties of black pudding as possible and was very pleased to have it both for my hors d’oeuvres and with my main dish. If anybody reading this is keen to try I would certainly recommend a ‘Cumbrian Black Pudding Tower’: truly a dish to satisfy even the most discerning of black pudding connoisseurs.
We walked every day following a variety of paths and routes. The rainfall before we arrived had been heavy over a period of days and so the streams and brooks were fast running and swollen. We mostly had reasonably dry weather, just one day forcing us to test heavily the resilience of our waterproofs. On occasions in the Lakes walking routes are full and there are usually other hikers winding their way. But our walks in Eskdale were largely solitary and we rarely saw other hikers. This was partly due to the time of year but more so I think because of the isolation of Eskdale. Lovely really as we spend so much of our lives in high-pressure jobs in busy environments, so it is such a welcome change to be far from the crowds.
The week allowed me to fulfil three ambitions. Firstly to walk down to Hardknott Roman fort from the heights of Hardknott pass. The restored ruins are in a spectacular setting and the view of the fort must have awed travellers and merchants as they walked or rode by. For soldiers returning from patrols in the windy hills the fort coming into view must have been a welcome sight. I thought of raw recruits from Dalmatia, plucked from their homes along the warm Adriatic and marched across Europe behind their standard and stern centurions, up to the scoured fells and soaring height of Hardknott to start their tour of duty at the fort. An epic odyssey for lads away from their homes for the first time.
I was delighted also to see the Roman baths at Ravenglass (second ambition) and to have my photo taken with Stan Laurel at Ulverston (third ambition).
A superb week which has been my highlight of 2018. Thank you to everyone for making it so enjoyable. Thanks too to Christine for our stay at the delightful Furnace Cottage at Ulverston at the end of the week.
Thank you to everyone who helped make our November trip to Eskdale so memorable. Most of you will know that this was timed to coincide with my 50th birthday. Along with all the general eating and drinking, on the day itself we climbed Harter Fell. This is a hill of great sentimental value for me, as 28 years ago it was my first hill over 2000ft and the first of (very) many mountains I’ve climbed with Dave P. Looking back at old photos, both Lorna and George were there 28 years ago, others like Tae, Fergus, Gerry and Tom featured on ascents in 2001 and 2010. We had quite a crowd this year, no doubt laying down memories for decades to come!
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