I love spending a little time towards the end of December to recall memories from the past year, reflecting on the good and the times when life has felt a little harder but more often than not taught me valuable lessons.
I remember making goals just before New Year’s Eve in 2020, dreams of 40 Wainwrights and 500 miles of running in 24 new places, wild and optimistic. Four days into the new year, the UK was placed back into lockdown, which remained by and large up until mid-April. Adventure was restricted to the local area and my goals suddenly looked a little lofty.
So I scaled back, and focused on what I could do locally and leaned into the tiny moments of joy.
This year, I’ve taken the time to reflect on my happy moments at the end of every week and month (using this Inspired Stories journal, not sponsored just love!) which I’ve really loved being able to look back on this overcast December day.
And so these are the moments that made my 2021, my second full year in the Lake District, the year I felt those roots were finally put down.
I’m going to open with this, as it is the memory I hold most dear….
The achievement I’m most proud of….Hiking the Ullswater Way solo over two days in late June
One of the things I really loved about this adventure was how spontaneous it was. It came off the back of a weekend of wild camping/swimming (see below) and wanting to do something solo to challenge myself.
I planned and booked the accommodation in an afternoon, and the next day I was on the trail.
There is something extra special about completing an outdoor challenge solo, learning to be self-reliant, learning to pick yourself up when you’ve hit the wall. I also really loved being able to go at my own pace and use my big old DSLR to document the hike which I’ve shared in this post here and all about my night in a shepherds hut here.
It was one of those beautiful times when the stars all aligned – I had good energy, time off work, the weather forecast was spot on. And on those days, you’ve got to get out there and enjoy life to the max.
My toughest adventure…. the Buttermere Ridge
By far my toughest adventure was doing the Buttermere ridge hike solo at the end of August. It was a hike of two halves, I loved going up towards Red Pike, but a difficult patch of scree towards the summit really knocked my confidence.
The walk along the ridge looks spectacular in the photos, but I really struggled to enjoy it as I knew I had another scree descent at the other end. I managed it fine, just bum shuffling some of it in the end!
Just as I began to enjoy the last bit of the hike, I realised I was cutting it fine to catch the last bus out of the Buttermere Valley. I missed the bus by minutes, I could see it going past. After sitting down and having a good old cry, I picked myself back up and threw caution to the wind and stuck my thumb out to hitchhike.
Remarkably, I got picked up by the loveliest couple from Cheltenham after only 10 minutes! They had never been to the Lakes before so I gave them the lowdown of all the places they needed to visit as they drove me back to Keswick to meet the last bus to Ambleside.
This was definitely a Type Two kind of fun day and made me reconsider the emergency kit to bring with me in future had I not been able to hitch out of the valley, and although was tough has given me the confidence that I can deal with hiccups.
My most memorable weekend
On a warm Saturday in mid-June, I hopped on the bus from Kendal to Sedbergh to meet my friend Amy at the foot of the Howgills for a wander around the bookshops, excellent wood-fired pizza from The Black Bull and a walk along the river to the cool art space at Fairfield Mill.
We ended up having a cheeky glass of wine/gin at The Thirsty Rambler and got chatting about wild camping.
Before we knew it, we had hatched a plan to wild camp that evening, drove back to the Lakes, consulted the OS map and hiked up towards Holme Fell to pitch up for the night.
It wasn’t the idyllic night we’d planned as we had to retreat into our tent to avoid the midges! But the next morning we headed down to the tarn for a swim and it was oh so magical to be in the water, surrounded by mountains.
I was absolutely buzzing and came home and planned to hike the Ullswater Way the next day!
Fave new places I visited in the Lake District in 2021
I didn’t get to as many new places this year as I’d liked due to the first quarter in lockdown and a crazy busy summer in my day job, but I still loved all the new places I visited. Even after living here for nearly 3 years now, I still feel so much joy in visiting new tarns or hills!
I had never heard of this tarn until S mentioned it, so in mid-March we packed up a picnic and homemade mushroom soup and took the bus to the bottom of Thirlmere and hiked up to this peaceful tarn in the mountains which overlooks the Helvellyn range.
I met up with Amy on a wet Sunday and we hiked from Tilberthwaite towards Little Langdale and detoured into the interlinked old quarries to visit this stunning main chamber known as Catherdral Cavern, humbling and moody on a damp day.
Lanty’s Tarn near Ullswater
At the end of March, the bus timetable switches to summer making Ullswater easier to access by bus from Winderemere – and we were straight on that bus over the valley! This tarn is a detour off one of the main paths to Helvellyn, a peaceful spot overlooking the Patterdale valley where we enjoyed more homemade (sweet potato) soup and having a chat with the sheep!
Windermere Jetty Museum
An offbeat choice after mainly outdoor highlights! The museum reopened in 2019 after extensive renovations and beautifully marries both traditional and modern architecture with environmental considerations.
I loved the sense of space that you very often get from galleries and museums in London and it almost made me crave the city slightly! The museum is set over 3 areas – the main site that details the significance of water and boats to the Lake District, the outdoor restoration shed where you can watch the boats being restored and an observation gallery of boats that have been restored.
Another highlight was the cafe which has stunning floor to ceiling windows with views over to Windermere and lovely homemade food – I think this is going to become a staple in 2022!
It’s really easy to remember the ‘big’ moments and achievements in the year, but I’ve really loved trying to remember and make time for ‘small moments’, pockets of time before or after work.
Tiny moments of joy in 2021
- Watching the sunset from the edge of Loughrigg in early January with the last of the mince pies
- A sunset trip to Dora’s Field near Rydal to see the wild daffodils in full bloom
- Wild dips and swims in Ullswater and Rydal and skinny dipping in the secret pools near Ambleside
- Breakfast/hot chocolates on the fells
- Watching England progress in Euro 2020 and watching games in the garden
My 5 favourite Wainwright walks of the year
I had an original goal to try and complete the Wainwrights before I’m 40 (in 3 years time), but by summer this year, I felt like I ‘should’ be doing Wainwrights on my days off every week to keep up with the goal.
It was beginning to feel a bit exhausting and stale so after hiking Troutbeck Tongue in July I decided to let go of the goal and simply enjoy completing the Wainwrights without a timeframe.
I’ve hiked 12 Wainwrights this year and these were my highlights:
Yoke – 50th Wainwright and topless fun!
After a long winter lockdown, Yoke which is on the Kentmere Horseshoe was my second Wainwright of 2021 in May and my 50th all together!
On a previous Wainwright hike with Amy, I joked I should do something to mark the occasion – and well – I kept my word! We managed this shot just in time before a bemused group of hikers joined us on the summit!
Now to think of something memorable to mark the 100th….
Grange Fell with S and Dark Room cookies
This was a gloriously warm day in May when we took the bus up to Keswick and into the Borrowdale valley, up to Grange Fell for EPIC cookies from the Dark Room in Keswick and hiked down to Watendlath Tarn before having to sprint it back to Keswick to make the last bus! (Yeah, there is a theme emerging here!! 😂)
Wet autumn adventure to Low Fell and Fellbarrow
A super wet day overlooking Crummock Water with the fading autumn colours, these are amongst the last of my small Wainwrights completed! I loved how many mushrooms there were nestled in the grass, and the flowly, grassy path between the summits was really fun despite the constant rain!
Chill Black Crag via Tarn Hows
Another chill Sunday this time in November taking the bus to Hawkshead Hill and hiking to Tarn Hows and up to the lovely easy summit of Black Crag with views back over to Windermere. I had planned to also do Holme Fell but ran out of light – one for 2022!
Steel Fell/Calf Crag on stunning winter November day
This was my favourite Wainwright hike of the year. I set off on crisp November day, chatted to lots of folk en route from Somerset to Cornwall, picnicked at the top, carried on to Calf Crag via a lot of bog hopping and witnessed an absolutely stunning sunset just before descending off the side of Helm Crag as darkness fell.
Fave running adventures of the year
2021 has felt a very topsy turvy year regarding running for me. After the thrill of completing Couch to 5k and building up to my first 10k race at Kendal Mountain Festival in 2019 and big running highlights in 2020, this year has looked a little tamer.
Truth be told, I dropped the running ball just before Christmas last year and have struggled to maintain much consistency mainly due to motivation, tiredness and a whole heap of other excuses. I have dipped back in and out of Couch to 5k again as I’d lost the fitness that I gained in 2020, so many of my runs have been shorter ones around Ambleside and Rydal.
There are two runs that really stand out though….
A first visit to the Howgills
In May, my old housemate from Keswick days came to visit, and we drove out to the Howgills on the Lake District/Yorkshire Dales border for a cracking morning hiking up past Cautley Spout Waterfall and then running across the tops to The Calf which was still dotted with snow before running a circular route across the fells and back down.
I love how grassy and open the Howgills are and I’m hoping to get back over in 2022!
Autumn Grasmere terrace
This was one of those glorious mornings where you only intend to go for a ‘short’ run by just keep on going. I love this terrace path which climbs high above Grasmere lake, drops down into Red Bank Woods and then meets the shore of the lake and heads into the village.
I finished with a warm cinnamon bun with Lucia’s before getting the bus back to Ambleside, happy as Larry.
I’ve really loved building a community around Look With New Eyes this year, especially on Instagram and getting to know so many people from around the world via comments and DM’s. It’s my absolute favourite way to share my adventures and stories and I will wholeheartedly continue this in 2022 – and thank you for being part of my community 🙂
I shifted the focus of my newsletter in the summer too, relaunching as Letters from the Lake District which has featured a monthly Q&A which I’ve really loved curating and being able to speak with many different people connected to the Lake District – from artists to runners, photographers to podcasters.
If you’d like to receive the newsletter in 2022, you can sign up here.
This year has also seen me dip my toe into freelance writing working with The Bath House on a series of blog posts. I’m really proud of this one about the healing power of the Lake District, quite a personal essay on how the fells helped me through a tough time.
My most exciting professional highlight came in November launching my new social media consultancy, Story and Wild which helps independent businesses to learn to tell their unique stories on social media to build an audience and community around their business.
I’m really excited to pour my heart into this in 2022 as it’s my dream to go full-time freelance so I can be doing work I really love in the place I really love, the Lake District.
My plans for 2022
Looking back over these highlights, I was struck by how many of them came from spontaneous choices. I have mixed feelings about setting goals/targets when it comes to my outdoors life.
On the one hand, I love being challenged and it’s a super feeling when you achieve. But more often than not, it can feel like a stick to beat myself with and it sets an expectation of how I would like life to be.
So, I’m choosing not to set goals of miles to run and Wainwrights to hike, and rather focus on a couple of loose goals rather than goals I feel like I need to continuously chase (which will obvs depend on me staying fit and injury free!).
My loose goals include….
- Taking part in a 10k race in the Lake District
- Hiking the Cumbria Way solo
A huge thank you again for being part of this community – all your comments, messages and support means the world to me. Wishing you the most amazing 2022!
You can read my previous reviews of my years here….
Not strictly an end of year review – but most of my highlights in 2019 were from the summer!