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All in a day's work


Field Testing the Tour of the Lake District at the Keswick Mountain Festival, May 2007

By Sarah Spencer
Sales and Marketing Manager (and walker), Cicerone Press

Working in the Cicerone office can sometimes be a frustrating experience. I’m constantly surrounded by books about walking in the hills, but spend most of my time stuck behind a desk. So when the opportunity arose to join Jim Reid, author of the newly published Tour of the Lake District, on a guided walk at the Keswick Mountain Festival, I jumped at the chance.

However, the weather was not kind. As I stood at a bus stop with the rain coming down in stair rods I started to feel that maybe I wasn’t quite so lucky after all! Nevertheless, I was not alone… it was great to see so many other festival-goers braving the weather, waiting for various buses to take them off for their chosen activities.

 The walk – nearly 10 miles from Buttermere to Keswick – followed part of the route from Jim’s guidebook. His circular Tour starts in Windermere and covers 93 miles of some of the best Lakeland scenery. Jim’s route keeps mainly to valleys and passes, but offers high-level alternatives for the more adventurous, as well as some interesting day-walks from points along the route.  

We began with a short bus trip over to Buttermere, and as we wound our way past Keswick the clouds slowly lifted and the sun struggled through. By the time we had made our introductions and met Shaun from Keswick Rambles (our official guide for the day) the views across the Buttermere valley were starting to reveal themselves – much to our relief!

As we followed the route out of Buttermere and into an oak wood, heading for Rigg Beck, Jim and Shaun were able to tell us so much about the history and the geology of the countryside we were walking through, which really added to the enjoyment of the day. Jim knows the area well, having worked as a youth hostel warden in the Lakes for several years, and his book provides lots of fascinating background information on the region.

   I have walked quite a lot in the Buttermere area, but this gave me the opportunity to venture into a little-walked valley that I probably would never have considered. We had some spectacular views, and the landscape constantly changed from open moorland before dropping down into the more gentle Newlands valley.

The final part of the walk took us into the meadows alongside the River Derwent, with some great views of Skiddaw in front of us. It seemed quite strange to end up back at the hustle and bustle of Keswick after spending the whole day seeing virtually no one except our group.

After a whirlwind book-signing detour for Jim, I rounded up the day with a well-deserved (and enjoyed!) drink – why does it always taste so much better after a day out on the hill?

If you fancy tackling the Tour in its entirety (it would fit comfortably into a week’s holiday), or walking it in separate stages like I did, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Whether you are a seasoned Lake District walker or someone new to the fells, you will certainly come away with a rewarding experience.  

Buttermere to Keswick (9.5 miles, 3.5–4.5hrs, 450m of ascent) is Stage 8 of the Tour of the Lake District (2007) by Jim Reid

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