Ellie’s first Wainwrights
Aged 8, I read the book Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. It made me fall in love with a place I’d never been to. In fact, at that time I’d probably never even seen a photo of the Lakes, but I still knew I’d love it there. Unfortunately it took me another 23 years before I actually made it to the Lake District, which is quite embarrassing. However, it proved to be well worth the wait.
We decided to make the most of a bank holiday weekend and hopped on a train to Penrith, armed with a Two Together railcard. A short bus ride later we arrived at Patterdale, where we pitched up at Side Farm campsite for the night. I don’t think the beauty of the Lakes can be truly captured with anything but your own eyes and from my very first glimpse of Ullswater, I knew my instincts about the place as a child had been right.
The following day we packed up, stocked up on supplies from the little village store (perhaps, in hindsight, with slightly over-reaching ambition – it turns out you can have too much booze when you have to carry it up and over numerous fells) and headed for the hills. The aim was to walk our own version of the Fairfield Horseshoe. The sun was shining and the skies were blue as we started the climb up St Sunday Crag. The views were incredible.
Our route took us up over Fairfield, Hart Crag and Dove Crag. There we went in search of the famous cave, Priest’s Hole, where we planned to spend the night. The cave is a little off the beaten track and we weren’t sure how easy it would be to find, so we were pleased with ourselves when after a little searching, we spotted the little track that leads up to it. Less pleasing was that lots of other people had evidently already hatched the same plan (thanks Secret Britain!) and the cave was full. The inhabitants kindly offered us a small spot in the corner, but after a pause to sit and take in the views, we decided to head on and find a more solitary place to spend the night. Luckily, like all good wild campers, we’d packed a lightweight tent just in case we couldn’t find the cave, or if it turned out to be full.
We walked for another two miles or so, which felt harder than usual, as we’d already covered a fair amount of ground, carrying a lot of weight, and hadn’t planned for the extra distance that evening. But it was well worth it as we reached a tiny tarn and what became one of my favourite wild camp spots of all time. We pitched ‘little green’, our trusty Terra Nova Superlight Voyager tent, and rewarded ourselves with two camping mugs of wine and a tasty camp dinner, followed by a good half-bottle of Cap’n Morgan spiced rum…
The next morning we braved a quick dip in the tarn, ostensibly to have a wash, although in reality we came out muddier than we went in. Still, it was a good start to a hot day. Our second day of walking took us up and over Red Screes before descending to the Kirkstone Pass, where we eagerly awaited the pub opening so we could top up our water and enjoy a quick pint.
The day got hotter and hotter and the walking harder as we climbed Stony Cove Pike, High Street and the Knott, but we were rewarded with absolutely stunning vistas. We followed the path down to Angle Tarn, where we set up camp for our second night in the hills, on the southern edge of the water. There were a few other tents across the tarn but it still made for a peaceful spot. We spent the evening gazing at the night sky and watching ripples on the surface of the tarn as little brown trout rose to the surface.
The following day we were a little reluctant to make the descent back to Patterdale. I would have much preferred to continue ticking off Wainwrights. Still, bagging eight on my first visit felt like a great introduction to the Lakes, and I knew I’d definitely be back. Plus I did really need to wash my hair.