Every year Nike Werstroh and Jacint Mig look forward to the spring and summer months when they can camp and walk in one of their favourite places in England, the Lake District. Armed with Cicerone’s Lake District High Level and Fell Walks guide, they spent a Bank Holiday weekend exploring and trying to dodge the unseasonal weather.
The Lake District captivated us about five years ago when we first visited the area. Ever since, the myriad trails make us return year after year. We have explored many trails near Great Langdale and Ambleside and we are keen to try new walks in different parts of the Lake District. We have been lucky enough to have had clear weather on most of our visits and have been spoilt with the extensive views every time, so the Lake District has become one of our favourite places in England.
For the first Bank Holiday weekend in May we carefully selected three walks from the Lake District High Level and Fell Walks guidebook, as we wanted to do some that we hadn’t done before. We chose two walks in the Keswick area and one (for the last day) near Ullswater.
We wanted to make the most of the weekend, so we left early on Friday morning. We drove for hours under angry grey skies and it was only about 9°C when we stopped in Lancaster to meet Hannah from Cicerone Press for a coffee. It wasn’t exactly camping weather and it was hard to believe that only two weeks previously we had enjoyed a glorious Easter weekend in T-shirts in the Brecon Beacons.
On Friday afternoon we set up the tent and went to the Cicerone office in Kendal. It was inspiring to meet the people who see the plans become manuscripts and work hard to help manuscripts become real books. We spent some time talking about plans and books and then headed back to the campsite.
I was dreading the night as it was the first time that we were going to spend a night in a tent with night temperatures down to 1°C. In May! The campfire and some wine kept us warm in the evening and then we put a duvet on top of the sleeping bags and kept our woolly hats on during the night. Despite my initial fear I was not cold at all.
I was woken by happy bird song and sunshine on Saturday morning. It was cold and only the patches of bluebells and the fresh green leaves on the trees reminded us that it was spring in the campsite by Lake Windermere.
The Newlands Round
‘Look, there is some snow on the mountaintops!’ said Jacint, pointing towards the mountains near Keswick as we were driving from Ambleside to Skelgill on Saturday morning. I wasn’t sure if he was excited to see snow; I believe it was unseasonal even in the Lake District. Although I was grateful that it was dry and sunny.
It was hard to find somewhere to park near Skelgill as the sunny morning had lured lots of weekend walkers. We squeezed our car into the last spot by the road and started the 16km circular trail, the Newlands Round. We climbed the popular Cat Bells and were greeted with fine views towards Derwentwater. Just like a dusting of icing sugar on a warm cake, the thin patches of snow from the mountains near Keswick had melted in the sunshine by the time we reached the Cat Bells summit. But it was not warm; I kept my gloves and woolly hat on all day. However, many other walkers were a lot tougher than me, and were wearing shorts while I was wrapped up in several layers and a gilet.
The Newlands Round turned out to be a spectacular trail; we followed the ridge passing Maiden Moor, Dale Head and Hindscarth. The crisp weather allowed us to enjoy the extensive views of Newlands Valley and then towards the south to the Scafells and Great Gable. We then returned to the starting point via High Crags and Little Town. It was a full day’s walk, and we only stopped for two short picnics.
Sunday was equally cold and a bit less sunny as we drove to Braithwaite for the 15km Coledale Horseshoe trail. There were a number of people wandering on the fells and enjoying the dry weather.
It felt less cold on Monday morning as we packed up the tent in the sunshine. We chose to do a shorter walk from the hamlet of Hartsop, before the long drive home.
The trail started with a steep climb to Hartsop Dodd and even without my woolly hat and gilet, I felt warm in the pleasant sunshine. We followed the ridge with some great views. But soon the cold wind picked up and brought some grey clouds.
The visibility was still very good, so we saw the grey curtain of rain battering the neighbouring ridge and valley.
We hoped that it would pass quickly and without reaching the ridge that we were following. But soon the sleet shower reached our ridge and we had to put on our waterproof jackets.
The sleet shower passed quickly but it got noticeably colder when we reached Stony Cove Pike. We descended over wet rocks and then climbed to Thornthwaite Crag. We stopped to eat on some rocks, protected from the wind by the drystone wall, and then continued our walk. Dark clouds chased each other angrily and as we followed the ridge towards Hartsop we were caught up in another snow shower. However, a few showers didn’t stop us enjoying this fantastic trail. I would have preferred it if I could have worn fewer layers, but the great route and amazing views made up for a wintry May. During the long journey home we made plans for the next Bank Holiday weekend. There are many more routes in the guidebook for us to explore.