I’m sat writing this in Mathelides a cool, airy Nordic cafe in Grasmere, with views over to Helm Crag. I had lunch here on my very first week in the Lake District back in April, and as I sit here and type, I’m reflecting on how incredible the last 3 months have been, and how much lighter and happier I feel as a person. And June? June was one of the best.
It was one of those months where everything just felt right – I’d settled into my work, we had new staff and volunteers arrive which gave the whole team a lift and I began to explore a little bit more, push myself a little bit more physically.
As a little reminder to myself, and to catch up with you guys as my social media has been left a little empty – here are my highlights from a truly memorable month.
After a busy few weeks trotting off to the Midlands, down to London for Chelsea Flower Show and a mini-adventure over in Northumberland, my first days off in June were kept local.
A 15-minute bus ride from Keswick is Whinlatter Forest Park, England’s only true ‘mountain’ forest and one of my go-to places for a bit of quiet solitude. The forest has a host of both easy and more challenging walking paths, as well as mountain biking tracks.
I took the time to slow down, noticing the new growth on the pines which created the most striking of contrasts. I ended my chilled out day treating myself to the Veggie Chilli at Fellpack in Keswick. Opened by a group of passionate fell runners, it’s the little touches I love about this place – their story printed in little books on all the tables, OS maps and hiking books, an eclectic, ever-changing menu.
When I came up for my interview to Keswick in March, I sheltered here from the pouring rain and had one of those moments when you know a town or place is going to be significant in your life.
I discovered the old railway track footpath which runs towards Threlkeld, through the trees, and over the river, collecting a little posy of summer wildflowers, to put in an old jam jar for my bedroom window.
One evening after work, instead of curling up in my bedroom armchair, where I can often be found after a busy shift, I took a walk up to the Castlerigg Stone Circle.
The last time I was here was my first week in Keswick, a snowy April day, quite the contrast to the blue sky summer evening. I continued on to Tewet Tarn, with views over to Blencathra and found a cute little chapel at St John’s in the Vale to round off a lush solo evening.
A Saturday night trip to the cute Alhambra cinema in Keswick for the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival – some serious outdoor inspiration – from climbers in the Antarctica, to a Welsh guys journey undertaking the challenging 5 day Dragonback mountain race to a guy running a mile every hour alongside ticking off his DIY to-do list; the night set alight my inspiration to do something cool again – along the lines of my crazy hitchhike from London to Morocco.
My next set of days off started with a lazy Sunday walk around Derwentwater towards Borrowdale for a geocaching adventure up to Cat Ghyll and Walla Crag and finally down to Ashness Bridge, before dashing back to catch up with a few of the team.
We abandoned ideas for the pub and instead headed down to the lake for life stories, lake paddles and Fleetwood Mac on the stereo as we watched the sun melt behind the fells.
The next day, I took the bus down to Buttermere for a solo hike up to Haystacks, a tough climb for unbalanced legs – and one which required a little bit of scrambling. I got a little bit scared at one point and almost turned back but pushed on and was pretty proud of myself when I got to the top!
The famous hillwalker Alfred Wainwrights ashes were scattered at the top of Haystacks, and you get incredible 360 views of the Lake District. I was elated. One the way back down, I also found a mountain bothy you can stay in for the night – a potential summer adventure on the cards!
In the evening, my workplace had been gifted tickets to the theatre – which was quite a new experience for me!
I went to see The Rise and Fall of Little Voice with my housemate – and loved the intimacy and drama of almost feeling like you were in the production. The theatre is right next to Derwentwater, and during the interval, we popped outside and traced the names of the fells in the golden evening light.
This day was everything I love about living in Keswick – during the day I’m within reach of hikes and hills and lakes, but at night I can also catch a little dose of culture – and neither require long journeys on buses!
A team afternoon had been planned for canoeing, but sadly the strong winds and rain cancelled the plans, and instead, we ended up taking a trip to the Pencil Museum! Due to the graphite mining in the area, Keswick used to be a hub for pencil making, and we were tasked with a mini quiz and drawing competition before coffee & cake before returning to work for the evening shift. We also managed to snap a cheeky team photo, minus two of the team.
The next Saturday night, one of those impromptu nights when the stars align and turned into one of my favourite nights of the year. It was simple but beautiful – a few of the crew heading down to the lake, where we built a fire from foraged wood, drank red wine straight out the bottle and toasted marshmallows in the flames to sandwich together with chocolate and biscuits for s’ mores.
Laughter, stories and a spectacular sunset over the lake and the fells, it will live long in my Lake District memory. As we walked back by moonlight, we paused by the lake and listened to Fever to the Form by Nick Mulvey, my body tingling with joy.
Mid-June day off adventures. One day into Borrowdale, this time a mini-hike stopping for paddles in the stream, to Wansfell Tarn amongst the stunning foxgloves and waterfalls – a changeable day of weather, ending up a misty, drizzly walk back along the lake back home.
And the next day, another Wainwright to tick off – this time to Helm Crag at the head of Grasmere – a pretty straight forward route with a nice cheeky geocache and views back down to Ambleside.
I adore solstice nights – both long and short, it’s a time to pause and reflect on how the last 6 months have gone. Luckily, I had the evening off and we were blessed with blue skies, so I took a little hike up to Latrigg, which is the nearest hill to where I live to watch the sun dip over the lakes on the longest day.
When I got back to my place, my housemates had also finished work, and we took a short walk to Castlewood viewpoint, to watch the horizon line glow on until midnight.
Another day off, another Wainwright! Summiting Lougrigg from Ambleside and dropping back into Rydal before hopping on the bus home.
A chilled out day off over in Langdale, for some peace, quiet and book reading at Blea Tarn.
Last summer when I was living in North Devon, I started the running app programme of Couch to 5K, but gave up when the heat wave hit, slow and unmotivated!
Living with crazy fell runners, and living a bit more of an outdoor life has inspired me to restart the programme – with the aim of doing my first Parkrun around the end of August! On a hot day, I went for an icy, refreshing post-run dip in the river Greta next to where I live and work!
June ended in Manchester, where I spent the weekend catching up with my family before flying to Northern Ireland for my summer holiday – stay tuned for the blog post!
And that was June. I love typing out these little updated, to remind myself of all those small moments of joy. Looking back, there were all relatively small adventures compared to the big highlights of the winter in South America.
But in a funny little way, these little memories felt so much deeper, so much more personal.
After many months of moving around, a place to settle for a while, to grow into being the person I always wanted to be.