Lost and Found in the Lakes

“IT’S YOUR FAULT WE’RE LOST…TURN BACK,” was just some of the irate lingo bawled out at me when things started to go wrong. And, because of my noticeable driving gaffe, it was certain that ample more tongue-lashings would soon follow.

Having previously travelled the same road, to the market town of Keswick, I decided, somewhat haphazardly, to try to discover a more scenic route – if that’s possible in the Lakes – and as a result took a wrong turn, which lead us up a long, narrow, hilly road.

About halfway up this incline the obligatory family moaning got started. “Oh my fault,” I snapped, “I thought it would be, it always is…now stop whining, I know where I’m going.” But, it was obvious to all, including me, that I didn’t.

Sweaty palms, heart pounding, I was as nervous as a novice driver in his first Dakar Rally. Dodging potholes, rabbits, pheasants and sheep (alive and squashed) and being forced off the road by approaching tractors were just some of the hazards I had to contend with. The road, like some forgotten jungle track ascending to a lost escarpment in an Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novel, seemed to get narrower and steeper as we climbed. My old car, like me, had about enough, black smoke belched from the exhaust; my wife berated me yet again, “didn’t get it serviced, did you.”

Worse to come!

SPLAT! A perfect shot from my two-year old granddaughter, her projectile vomit penetrated my headrest, hitting me square in the neck. Great in-car family entertainment, they rolled about laughing at the know-it-all who said he knew where he was going.

Their laughter was broken.

“OH MY GOD WE’RE GONNA DIE,” shrieked the wife, as I slammed on the brakes.

Thankfully, we didn’t and nor did the roe deer. It sidestepped my car, a brown blur with thrashing hat-rack antlers and wild doe-eyes, causing me to swerve, hitting a rock. Unharmed, he skipped off with another that had traversed the road with him, and in the safety of a shaded glade, a terror sweat steamed from his hide as if he were a living venison barbeque. My car steamed too and came off second-best with a ding to radiator grill and a flat tyre, which took an age to change on the incline of the hill.
Underway, with an inch long gash in my thumb (wheel-brace accident) and stinking of beef-broth baby sick, the nagging started again, and, like everything else, the deer incident was my fault too. How concerned they all were for “Bambi” (yes, they named him) and hoped he was okay. I had obviously been driving too fast (20mph) and should have concentrated more on the road. I just sighed and shook my head as blood seeped through my makeshift dressing of paper tissues, tied up with my granddaughter’s spare hair-band.

Reaching the top of the hill the bickering intensified then suddenly stopped.
There was then a moment of silence, which my wife broke with a single word, “unbelievable.” And it was, for spread out before us was the Troutbeck Valley.

Situated between Windermere and Ambleside, this South Lakes region is riddled with a labyrinth of footpaths and bridleways, linking scattered settlements, pastures, woodlands and rolling fells. Cracking countryside for casual walkers, serious hikers and day-trippers – even lost ones!

Between the miles of undulating, lichen-clad dry-stone-walls, Herdwick sheep, the Lake District’s gardeners, travelled in unison, like organic lawnmowers, as they chomped on a patchwork quilt of fell and meadow grass. Their distinctive course, grey wool resembled discarded, dirt encrusted cotton-pad-balls against the verdant backdrop.

Troutbeck Village is as eye-catching as the topography that surrounds it. Flanked by the slopes Wansfell and Applethwaite Common, this rural community, a collection of tiny hamlets strung out along the old valley road, still retains its original individuality and charm and is much the same today as it ever was. Buildings, some still with their original spinning galleries and oak mullioned windows, are stone-built from rock cleaved from the local landscape; crow-stepped, craggy slate roofs and conical chimneys give a metamorphic, Stone Age feel to many of the whitewashed dwellings.

“There you go,” I said smugly, “I told you I knew where I was going.”

“Yeah, right dad”, replied my daughter, “of course you did.”

Author and fell-walker Alfred Wainwright listed Troutbeck Tongue Ridge in the valley as one of his favourite Lakeland locations; we now also list it as one of ours too.

Incidentally, we never did get to Keswick.

J Burrell

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