At the start of July we spent a week in the Lake District. “We” being Chris (DH) and Rory (our extremely adorable and spoilt cocker spaniel). And me, obviously.
Chris had taken his bike and one day he set off to ride the Fred Whitton route. So Rory and I set off to do a spot of hill running.
I am not really a hill runner. I joined the Ochil Hill Runners last year and did one hill race, but it’s not a sport I have really pursued. But I have read Feet in the Clouds. Twice. So the opportunity to go hill running in the Lake District could not be passed up.
We were staying near Bassenthwaite, so I dropped Chris off in Keswick and negotiated some very narrow roads to Little Town (which is not even really a little town – it’s basically a farm and a couple of cottages). If you drive through Little Town and down the hill, there is a car park – just a lay-by, really – just before the bridge by the chapel. It costs £3 to park and there is an honesty box. Please be honest and pay your local friendly farmer! Hill farming is not exactly an easy or lucrative occupation.
After chatting to some people who arrived over the bridge from the other direction (with some difficulty – their 4×4 only just fit over the bridge) Rory and I set off. It was a short, sharp ascent to the top of Catbells.
At the top of Catbells, with Hindscarth and Robinson behind.
Then it was a glorious run along a wide ridge. I was actually laughing out loud and telling Rory “this is what hill running is all about!”
It was a bit of a slog up to the top of Maiden Moor and I was needing to share my water with Rory as it was such a hot day and there wasn’t much water to be found. Even though I’d taken a full Platypus I was concerned I’d run out, but once we got to the top of Maiden Moor there was a pool that Rory plunged into happily. I applied Compeed to my blisters (it had been a while since I’d pulled on my Mudclaws) and carried on.
It was a fairly easy run to High Spy, and then the steep climb up to Dale Head reared up ahead of us. Needless to say, I did not run up Dale Head! I may even have stopped for a rest and a bite to eat.
The view from Dale Head was just stunning. The whole of the Newlands Valley laid out on one side and Honister on the other. There was a friendly older chap with a battered copy of Wainwright sitting beneath the impressive summit cairn and we had a chat about hill walking in Scotland.
Dale Head now firmly enshrined as my favourite Lake District hill, I set off for Hindscarth. By this point I was tired, and decided not to go for the full round (which involves doubling back from the summit of Hindscarth to finish with a descent via Robinson). Also, the chap with the battered Wainwright had told me that the descent off Hindscarth was easier, and Rory has a tendency to pull me down hills in a slightly perilous fashion.
It seemed like a long descent, and slow, because I’m not great at running downhill at the best of times and it’s even harder with 17kg of spaniel pulling me along. By the time I got to the valley bottom I was fantasising about an ice cream in the tea room at the farm I’d spotted back in Little Town. But I was still running and it was a short run back to the village, where I gratefully slurped a Coke and a fabulous ice cream (“thunder and lightning” flavour, which is vanilla with chocolate and honeycomb).
Rory and I went back to Keswick to wait for Chris, and spent a very pleasant afternoon lying in the park (me reading while Rory snoozed in the sun). Eventually I was summoned to collect Chris, who had ridden 100 miles and wisely decided that he really didn’t need to ride the final 10 miles along the A66 at rush hour.
Despite the fact that he had ridden all the Lake District passes (Hardknott was described as “horrible”) and I had run a mere 8 miles, he was fine the next day and I could barely walk! Another reason to limit my hill running – it kills my quads.
All in all a very memorable day, and actually my first solo foray into the hills. Not sure I’d dare do similar in Scotland – one reason I love the Lakes so much is that the hills are, frankly, less terrifying than the ones in Scotland!