A Lake District walk from the Masons Arms, or how I fell in love with England all over again

We’d had a tough few months. Our move to London was not without its strife, mainly when it came to where we were living and how much it cost. We were so convinced that zone 2 living was imperative to our hapiness that our gorgeous 100+ year old conversion rental ate up our monthly take home and kept us from enjoying everything that London living has to offer. Especially for a couple of travel-philes like us who love taking weekends away in quieter climes.

So as our Los Angeles move was looming, we were both a bit exhausted from our London life, promising never to live there again. Is it true that once you tire of London, you tire of life?

Not until you’ve had a chance to be outside of London do you realize that that statement is bollocks. There is so much life outside of London, from the rolling hills and sleepy lanes, to meandering canals and michelin starred pubs set in handsome isolation to bustling outdoor markets and fish & chips at the seaside. It’s a slower pace, a quieter life.

And it was getting out of London to the Lakes that I learned to love England all over again. And I don’t mind saying that right now, I’m a little obsessed. On the TV as we speak is a Lake District “Escape to the Country” where they just did a little fell running in Borrowdale, the location of a previous walk, and took a tour of Keswick and Derwentwater. I might have a bit of a problem.

And so we begin our easy to follow walk from Masons Arms.

An excellent varied walk through the peaceful countryside around Cartmel Fell. Superb views toward the fells and sheltered walking in pastureland and woods. May be a little muddy in places so boots are advised but not essential. Allow three hours of continuous walking.

First step is to take a left from the pub and head down the narrow lane towards the Hollins Farm and Hartbarrow Lane, conveniently signposted as most walks are in the Lakes.

Bear right at the junction, walking down the public bridleway.

And enter the ground at The Hollins, passing through the gate and down the driveway.

Pass by an old farmhouse on your left and exit the yard via a large gate…

A quick turn around to capture the view from the Hollins farm.

Once you are through the gate, follow the grassy track…

… and continue straight ahead on a path bordered by fence and walls until you arrive at a small gate.

Don’t forget to take a few photographs of the well maintained farms… and the local fauna.

And try not to bother the local livestock either…

Though they might find you to be more interesting than you think.

At this point you cross into the centre of the field and head for a gap in the wall (not photographed – I was too busy with the sheep!) In the next field (through the gap, if I recall correctly) walk along the left hand wall to reach a gate by the side of a lane. At some point we crossed this babbling stream.

Here we are, walking along that left side wall…

And taking photographs of just about everything around us.

That concludes the first hour of our walk through Winster. In the next installment expect some roads, forests and a view of Lake Windermere.

Quite a way to spend the 1st of May, don’t you think?

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Back to Storybrooke Bridge

On our first night in the Lakes, we found ourselves romping around Ashness Bridge, just above Derwentwater and north of our old school “luxury” hotel, The Lodore Falls. We loved it so much, that we promised a second trip with our cameras to capture the beauty and tranquil charm of what I’ve decided to call Storybrooke Bridge.

It’s no wonder we were wowed by this beautiful location. The original stone bridge really is out of a fairy tale story, don’t you think? And the sounds of rushing water from the drenched mountains above has surely captured many an imagination. Case in point:

The pancake lens on my EP-1 is pretty wide, and I was so pleased to find in the upper right corner of the landscape, the Derwentwater.

What a treat to revisit this little spot. I recommend, should you travel to Ashness Bridge, that you pack a picnic lunch, complete with red and white check blanket, a lovely wine, baguette, some local cheese and cured meats. Then your story will be complete.

A church, a tarn and a stone circle; or our real-life escape to the country, Part 3.

We’ve walked to and explored the church, skirted the tarn surrounded by flocks of fluffy huggable sheep and now we have to figure out how to get to the stone circle. We have a book, with a map – surely it can’t be that difficult?

Getting to where we are now has been fairly easy. Well trodden trails to follow and obvious stiles to cross. Here’s a reminder of what we just came from:

And they kindly provide us signs to where we’re going.

Now, it may not look like it, because of that road above, but it gets a bit confusing from here. We know we have to get to a road, but we encounter a muddy, rocky field where there’s no visible path through. When in doubt? Stay close to the wall.

And head for the nearest gate. Not all entry ways will have lovely little stone or wooden stiles to scale. And there are many, many types of gates to figure out how to open. Well maintained ones with latches, heavy ones to lift and push, and nasty, rusty ones with barely a string to hold it together. I can only imagine that after thousands of trampers come stomping through their fields, manhandling their gates that making it shiny and pretty is low on the totem.

Signs of civilisation.

But none pointing us to the stone circle.

We knew we had to go over a bridge and then take a left through a field. And so we did.

I have some fantastic video of these little guys frolicking around. I’ll have to dig it out later and post it for your enjoyment.

This is where things get a weird. We have to go through a field. But there are so many fields. We have to stay close to the wall. But which wall? And what happens when the sheep are hugging the wall? Farmers don’t want us bothering their animals, but if they are in our way… what then?

We chose to go around them, and I think we ended up in a field that we were not supposed to be in. We began opening gates, hoping one of them would lead us to another footpath this way sign or at least a yellow arrow pointing the way. We weren’t lost. I mean, we knew how to get to the nearest road, we knew that Keswick was 3 miles that way. But to be diligent and stay on the walk proposed, we didn’t want to go somewhere and trample something that was never meant to have hiking boots all over it. When going on an outdoors type holiday such as this, one wants to take the most care with one’s environment. I wish more people felt like this.

So since we weren’t convinced we were on the right path, we did the sensible thing and headed to the road again, up a hill and through a field with cows on one side and mud on the other. Mud. Lots of it. Right in front of the gate. Tied up with string.

No yelling, no sirens, just peace and quiet as we walked up the road in the direction of the stone circle. And soon we came upon parked cars and an ice cream van. Eureka!

We knew we’d found the Castlerigg Stone Circle.

According to Keswick.org:

It is composed of 38 free standing stones, some up to 3 metres (10 feet) high. It is one of Britain’s earliest stone circles dating back to the Neolithic period 4000 to 5000 years ago.

The purpose of the stone circle, like most ancient stone circles, is largely unknown. Perhaps a place of worship, a trading post, a calendar? We may never know the answers to these questions.

It’s a stunning site, 360 degree views of the surrounding fells, white fluffy sheep dotting the landscape, keeping this plateau’s lawn well manicured. Having walked about 3 miles to get here, it’s a welcome sight.

A beautiful end of April day. Blue skies. Ancient stones. And promises of pints in our future.

Time to get walking!

Welcome to your Lake District holiday!

Into the woods we go again, we have to every now and then.

-Stephen Sondheim

I underestimated how much I was going to love the Lakes.

A quick rewind to what prompted this trip. The boy, a tall and manly Brit, has not yet been to Scotland. Now this isn’t exactly surprising, considering how many Americans I know who don’t own passports. Or haven’t been to Florida. Why holiday in Florida when you can go to the Bahamas? Well, the same could be said for Scotland. Why go there, if you live in England, it’s actually quicker and likely cheaper to go to France.

So when it was discovered we had to up sticks and shift our life back to southern California, it seemed obvious that we needed to go to Scotland asap. And after a good friend’s recommendation of Loch Ness and whiskey tastings, well, it was full speed ahead holiday planning.

And that’s how we ended up in the Lakes. It’s on the way to Scotland – a great place to spend 2 or 3 nights and then, by my plan, head over to Hadrian’s Wall (specifically to the big tree in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), then Glasgow, then a self catering cottage by the banks of Loch Ness where much walking, pubbing and fireplace sitting would occur. With books.

Everything was booked (and refundable), so at the end of day 2, we both decided that we didn’t want to drive anymore. That this pastoral landscape, this home for hobbits, was going to be our only stop.

And with that walk down memory lane we’re back. Scene continues at the Lodore Falls Hotel. It’s raining. It’s grey. It’s foggy. And the front desk has a book of local walks. What are we waiting for???

We donned our waterproofiest of clothing and parked up at our walk location. And once we saw how much the parking was (I think it may have been £6!) we turned ourselves right back around and took a left on the first single track we came across. After all, the walk we were to go on goes up this way, maybe there is some free-er parking up there?:

We were headed to Ashness Bridge. A traditional stone built bridge over a beautiful hilly waterfall. Only we did not yet know how beautiful it was. We were concentrating on not messing up the rental on the narrow road, complete with livestock grates…

I’m glad to say we didn’t have this problem on the drive up:

**Image temporarily out of service**

Driving to the bridge, we passed areas on the map with names like Scragga Coppice and Highclose Coppice. A coppice is an section of woodland that has been farmed for its wood. Because of the fairly quick regeneration of the trees, they will usually rotate coppices every 15 years or so. It’s actually quite smart. No need to decimate an entire forest all at once! Also this method keeps the local wildlife population happy. In Highate Woods in London, they block off the areas where they are coppicing in order to protect the local wildlife. I have much respect for coppicing.

Oh look – isn’t street view fun? Some ramblers smile for the cameras:

We continued on and parked up in a lot specifically for us hikers. And wouldn’t you know it, unlike the street view images above, we were the only soles in the area. Except for the lot security: the Guard Ducks.

Meet our Guard Ducks, who I have to rename to Simon and Penelope, since I cannot remember the names we gave them on the day. Si and Pen were diligent in their curiosity, checking out our vehicle to make sure no further damage came to them.

As they headed back to work, we headed into the woods.

You comin’? Let’s go!

All photographs are courtesy of DH, who brought more than just an iPhone 4 with us. I know, very bad, photograph’d. He put together some fantastic panoramas.

We played around the mossy, ancient wood, peering out to Derwentwater below.

The mountains in the distance, of which I believe might be the Skiddaw straight ahead, may be obscured by fog and rain, however the lushness of the countryside we were amongst breaks through in startling fashion. It is impossible to dial down the green. I wonder if those in the city suffer far more from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) than in the country? I welcome your thoughts.

Our last bit of business before heading down to the hotel for our cocktail and canapes followed by a three course meal… Ashness Bridge:

And in case you missed it, here is a little stone building. What is inside? I vote for magic!

Well, by this point I was enamoured with the whole affair. Fells, lakes, bridges, belted galloway cattle grazing nearby… I wanted so badly to disappear up the mountain, however my puffy north face was sodden, and we had relaxing pre-dinner by the fireplace to look forward to.

After all, that’s what you do out here in the Lakes.