Wild camping, skinny dipping & learning to run: 10 highlights from a heartfelt summer in the Lake District

HikingtoEnglandsHighestHostelSkiddawHouse3

HikingtoEnglandsHighestHostelSkiddawHouse3

This post has been sat in my draft folder since early September when the summer days were melting into autumn, and the evenings outside still beckoned. Somehow the weeks have slipped past and suddenly? Well, it’s almost Christmas. 

I had every intention of spending more time writing for my blog this summer, but I’ve found myself drawn to more personal writing, restarting my handwritten journal where I have been capturing my summer memories on pen and paper, easy to throw in my backpack and scribble away in at the top of a fell or by the lake.

But I still love having my memories in digital form, especially the one I did for June, which had so many dear highlights.

At the start of the year, back in those chaotic days backpacking in South America, I decided my ‘word’ for the year would be ‘connection’, and joyfully, I’ve been lucky enough to build a really strong connection with my work/housemates this summer, and instead I decided to prioritize spending time outdoors and in company of those which make me happy, rather than time spent writing on my laptop. 

So, on this grey November day, I thought I would give you a little insight into my summer – one of those glorious, long and memorable summers which will live long in my heart and memory.

 

1 Building campfires & wild camping on the shores of Derwentwater

Derwentwater Fire

Derwentwater Fire

Wild Camping Derwentwater

There is something beautifully simple about making a fire outdoors, something deeply basic and primal. Searching for suitable wood, gathering it together, keeping it alight, I think out of all my summer memories, the nights we spent by the lake, next to a fire, usually with wine in hand, sometimes with s’ mores, sharing life stories were amongst my most memorable.

I camped by the lake with friends twice, once in July under a clear night sky sipping whiskey and listening to Tash Sultana and the second time after finishing work at 11.30 pm on a calm August night.

And I love that feeling, waking up the next day, even though I’ve only camped half an hour from home, that feeling of being it a little bit more unlifted, that I’ve taken the time for adventures. And that makes my heart sing.

2. A mini adventure to Wasdale YHA to cover holiday

Hiking Lake district

Wastwater

Wast Water

In July, I was given to opportunity to go and work at Wasdale YHA to do holiday cover. Wasdale is in the remote western region of the Lake District, a popular place in which to climb Scarfell Pike.

With no public transport in this region, I challenged myself to hike from Borrowdale over to Styhead Tarn and then down to Wasdale Head. It was a roasting hot day, and I’d stupidly overpacked my backpack which made for an incredibly slow hike and a hitchhike along the road section to the opposite end of the lake where the hostel sits on its southern shore. 

I loved my 3 days in Wasdale – such a quieter, remote pace compared to Keswick and I enjoyed little runs in the woods and bagging another Wainwright up Whin Rigg, cooling off with dips in Wastwater. 

The hike back over to Keswick on a cool, overcast 7 am Saturday morning made for a more enjoyable return journey and I really taught me what my physical capabilities can be if I just put my mind to it.

3. Lake dips in Wastwater and Derwentwater

Wild Swimming Derwentwater

Wast Water

There is something wonderful about immersing yourself in cold water, especially after a hike or work shift.

My first dip of the summer was over at Wasdale, a post-work dip with the team, part of the ‘initiation’ of Wasdale life! Wastwater has such a stunningly dramatic feel, almost like a Norwegian fjord and is also the deepest lake in England. I went in all 3 days I worked there, including 20 minutes before the start of my shift after a hike up Whin Rigg!

I’ve also been in Derwentwater, my ‘home’ lake once on magic, midnight skinny dip during a wild camping trip, tracing the line of the fells in the darkness with stars up above. And once the morning after, in the warmth of the early morning light as the sun rose over Cat Bells. 

4. Hiking the Wainwrights and setting myself a new goal

Hallin Fell

HikingtoEnglandsHighestHostelSkiddawHouse

Bleaberry Fell

Outerside Fell

I’ve set myself the quiet goal of hiking all 214 Wainwrights by the time I’m 40 – which gives me around 5 and a half years!

The challenge has started gently – in the summer I’ve roughly tried to challenge myself to climb one a week – dropping to 1 a month in winter.

Amongst my faves so far – multiple hikes and runs up my home fell Latrigg, a snowy post-birthday ascent of Skiddaw, Place Fell in the thick summer mist and Hallin Fell partially barefoot! I’m looking forward to increasing my hikes next year now my fitness has improved from running. As of the end of November, I’ve climbed 22 so still some way to go!

5 An evening walk to the Swinside Inn and a summer soundtrack of Test Match special for an amazing summer of cricket

Swindside Inn Lake District

Cat Bells Lake District

I’m newly self-confessed cricket geek – a recent passion having moved back home for a short while and joining my dad at Ashes matches and T20’s to watch our local club Nottinghamshire.

I couldn’t wait for this summer of cricket – the World Cup and the Ashes. Daytime shifts at work, trips to town and late afternoon in the staff house I could be found plugged into my headphones and listening to Test Match Special. It’s funny how you can mark events in your life, and match them with sporting events, and this summer truly was one of them.

I’ll also remember naughtily listening to the incredible Ben Stokes innings in the Ashes whilst at work, hiding in the kitchen and frantically trying to update the online feed on the crap hostel wifi.

Thanks to Channel 4, I spent most of a warm July day watching the Cricket World Cup Final against New Zealand. But I felt guilty for spending a beautiful day indoors, and with England looking dicey, I joined my pals on an evening walk to the Swindside Inn, a pub deep in the Newlands Valley surrounded by iconic fells. And unfortunately, limited phone signal.

With a little refreshing and phone waving to get signal, I eventually found out England won on a super over, to which I let out a little scream of excitement.

On our way home, we took a detour up the side of Cat Bells fell to watch the sunset, and I remember so clearly thinking what an incredible summer this was turning out to be.

6. Connecting with family and old friends in new Lake District places

Latrigg Friends
With my best friend of 31 years Vanessa on Latrigg!

 

Borrowdale
In Borrowdale with my French friend Cacao

Family

My dad, uncle and a family friend in Keswick

There is nothing like a visit from family or friends to remind you just how lucky you are to live in a truly stunning place. Little details and views which become everyday sights are breathtaking to those which don’t live surrounded by every day beauty. 

I was blessed to welcome my mum and her partner in May for a gorgeous drive up to Wasdale, my Dad and Uncle in September for a windy trip on Ullswater, my best friends and their little kiddos for a wet camping night in August (and a return visit with my best mate without the kids for wine, food and running!) and an old French friend (and her mum!) I met working in Scotland nearly 10 years ago for a memorable lunch at The Forest Side in Grasmere, plus hikes around Borrowdale.

8. A birthday hike & stay at Skiddaw House Hostel – the UK’s highest hostel

HikingtoEnglandsHighestHostelSkiddawHouse

HikingtoEnglandsHighestHostelSkiddawHouse3

HikingtoEnglandsHighestHostelSkiddawHouse3

One of my most memorable days of the year so far – Skiddaw House Hostel is one of those truly unique, special little places, with no electricity and all the social, old school joy of hostels from back in the day. 

I hiked from Keswick, along the Cumbria Way, making friends with a Dutch guy, spending the evening chatting to strangers around the fire, drinking whiskey amongst the chilly May evening light and the next day hiking up Skiddaw, England’s 6th highest mountain. One of my most perfect birthdays ever! 

You can read more about the adventure here.

9. Simple, everyday extraordinary ordinary

Sunset on Derwentwater

The big events will always stay long in the memory.

But it was also about the really small moments I absolutely loved about this summer. Cooking together in the staff house, spreading the map out on the floor and hearing about where a housemate has spent the day hiking/running, drinking wine on the veranda and singing along to old tunes, evening walks to the lake, movie nights with blankets and eating spoonfuls of nut butter.

Sometimes it’s the smallest of moments which can leave the deepest of impacts. 

10. Learning to run 

Latrigg Running

My proudest achievement of 2019 has been learning to run. I’m planning on writing about the full journey, with extracts from my personal diary and Strava over the winter – so look out for it soon!

In short, having spent the summer living and working with crazy fell runners, in June I began Couch to 5k again after not quite clicking with the program last summer in North Devon.

But this time, it clicked. And I stuck to the program – running 3 times a week every single week since June, by the river, by the lake on the roads of Keswick and achieved my goal of doing my first Parkrun (5k) at the end of August.

I could not be prouder.


Just before I wrote this piece, I looked back at the piece I wrote the week I arrived in the Lake District, on a snowy April day. It’s funny how I wrote that I planned to spend part of the time in Scotland or Yorkshire.

In reality, I’ve barely left the Lakes – an early summer trip to Northumberland, a few days in Northern Ireland and a trip down to Brighton for a family funeral. I’ve not felt the need to leave frequently – this places challenges me and gives me all that I need, right now. 

And that, I could not be happier about.

After years spend being a bit of a nomad, jumping from season to season, I think I may have found a place I’d like to call home. 

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