I am writing this in case you think I may have abandoned you for good.
I assure you that this is not the case even though at the moment Janis and I are enjoying a few days here in the Lake District, which is in another world from you.
I used to come here and enjoy it a lot in my younger days but she and I will be back on the waterways, in no time at all to continue our cruise with you and ‘Roots and Wings’…. in just a few days.
You perhaps feel as if there’s something a little odd with my behaviour at writing a letter to you, a manmade structure after all of steel and timber. But ever since living with you, I have felt your strong presence there, continuously with me, as if the very atoms of your existence contain some kind of consciousness or soul similar to that of we Humans, as well as the mere physical makeup of nuclei and electrons that give you your mass. I have felt this too on the other ships that I sailed on in my professional career. I am sure other colleagues have too.
If this is the case then this letter will not be in vain and you will understand as well as appreciate what I have said. However it’s no problem if I am wrong, as I will then have had a good practice at letter writing which is what I seriously lack anyway.
But I’ve missed you and just wanted to talk to you.
So let me tell you what we have been doing since we left.
We have hired a car for the duration and we loaded it up with just about everything we had aboard both ships. You’ll be aware that your fridge is switched off; there was no point in running the batteries down if the Sun didn’t come out to activate the panel while we were away.
And we set off.
We travelled up the busy M6, exiting at Junction 36 and visiting the National Trust property of Sizergh Castle, on the way to our cottage at Fornside in the Vale of St John, deep in the heart of the Lakes and snuggled beneath the steep mass of Great Dodd.
Sizergh Castle, Cumbria
Ladies Slipper Orchid at Sizergh Castle
Bee earning his nectar on the blue Iris
….and on the Thistle
It’s beautiful here and couldn’t be better situated to suit all our needs. As I look now out of the large, floor to ceiling lounge window that was once a barn door in the side of our well appointed grey stone cottage, I see in front of me about a mile away the steep slope at the other side of the valley, where a ridge interspersed with grey weathered crags and clothed with the light purple and green of young Heather and Bracken, contrasts boldly with the darker colours of a thick belt of Fir and then a mixture of Oak and Willow that shades the meandering St. John’s Beck.
View from our lounge window at Fornside
In front of this the local black and white Herdwick Sheep graze contentedly while their young gambol with each other and chase for no reason at all except for fun, healthy looking free range hens that feed at will amongst them. Meanwhile in the same scene two ponies crop the short turf contentedly in front of an ancient dry stone wall, happily oblivious to what else is going on in the meadow.
This surely is bliss.
Janis of course is like a young mountain Gazelle in this country while I have done my best to keep up with her. Though I’m not as fit as I once was I am most pleased with my performance so far. On the first day here she and I walked in beautiful weather up to the Castlerigg Stone Circle and back via the tiny St John’s Parish Church at the head of our valley. This journey was getting on for ten miles which I was very pleased about.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Tiny St John’s in the Vale Parish Church
Bramm Crag Bridge across St John’s Beck
Day number two took us by car, again in bright sunshine, to Buttermere from where we tackled the difficult track (in my terms anyway) up the southern slope of Warnscale Bottom and via Scarth Gap towards the summit of Haystacks sixteen hundred feet above us. I am sure that twenty years ago when I last did any serious climbing in these parts, this route would have been easy. But this time the path was steep and in a couple of sections just beneath the top I actually had to use rock climbing techniques that Janis assures me was only ‘rock scrambling’ really, but was certainly the most tricky bit of climbing I had ever had to perform in my whole life.
The ascent of Haystacks from Buttermere
The only way up
At the top
Blackbeck Tarn on the way down
The path down seen across Warnscale Bottom
We reached the summit eventually with its unique tarn, and scattered somewhere close by are the ashes of the renowned Lakes wanderer Alfred Wainright and I was happily satisfied with my performance. It was busy up there as we were not the only visitors. We ate our sandwiches and having asked someone else to take our photograph we began our descent via the Blackbeck Tarn and round the head of the valley close to the Honnister Slate Mine and down the other side of Warnscale Bottom back to the car.
It had been a long walk and I was tired as I removed my boots but very happy with my performance. Even Janis was feeling it a bit I think, since she was quiet after the arduous seven hour trudge.
On Saturday we were in Penrith shopping and meeting Raeleen, Janis’s elder sister from the train. She is staying with us here for a few days.
Yesterday, another beautiful day, (we have been so lucky with the weather) the three of us motored again to Buttermere and completed the walk around the lake, covering nearly seven miles altogether. Halfway round at Buttermere Village we were happy to refresh ourselves with a cup of tea.
Buttermere looking towards Fleetwith Pike
A foraging House Sparrow at the Café
The Tunnel at Buttermere
The girls have gone off today somewhere while I have a rest day writing to you. I have to admit that I’m very glad of the excuse to sit down for a change and think about other things other than where I am about to place my next foot.
I’ve enclosed some photos which I hope you approve of. I have taken lots altogether.
I hope all is well with you and that you don’t feel too abandoned. You do have your old friend ‘Roots and Wings’ snugly next to you so you shouldn’t be too lonely.
I am now looking forward to getting back to you and enfolding myself within your always and ever accommodating arms.
Old Salt, the Ancient Mariner. X