Quintessential English countryside

UK

We were super lucky to have the use of some family friends’ cottage in Troutbeck (near Windermere) in the Lakes District for three nights. If you’re familiar with England, you’ll know how popular the Lakes District is at this time of year.

Fortunately, Troutbeck is tucked away from the busy lakeside towns and hoards of holiday goers. The cottage itself is 300 years old and we could’ve quite happily stayed for weeks there. As you can imagine, it was a pleasant change to have the use of a house, and not a hostel. We loved the way the cottage has been kept really simple. Em found it novel washing her hair in a bath for the first time since she was a kid. I found it novel banging my head on the doorway every time I walked through it (seriously – did it 5 times, but luckily don’t need the brain cells for the next few months).

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Unfortunately, the rain started when we arrived and didn’t stop until we left. But this added to the charm. Driving along the narrow lanes lined with old stone walls, you often feel as if you’re on the set of an old movie. I can’t think of a good example, but this is Postman Pat territory.

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We often comment how the landscape is so similar to NZ. The difference for me is that the manmade additions (houses, walls, bridges etc) in the English landscape generally blend better with the natural landscape because everything is so time-worn and the building materials were originally sourced from what was available all those centuries ago. For the most part, the present-day locals in these parts seem very keen to preserve the history and natural beauty around them.

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Night one was spent down the road at the Mortal Man, a seriously cool pub established in sixteen-hundred-and-something. Being a Sunday, we couldn’t go past the Sunday roast. Sunday night meant the pub was full and the floor was dotted with sleeping pooches, exhausted from a day walking the hills. Live folk music (which got better as the night went on) started from nine. Splashed out on sticky toffee pudding. We knew we would have to come back there.

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Spent the next day catching up on some chores (laundromat in Ambleside with soaked campers trying to dry their stuff) and wandering around some of the towns, before we had enough of the rain and sought refuge at the movies. Movies are always better when seen in small cinemas in small towns. Plus we thought Ambleside would be a safe place to watch Dark Knight Rises.

That night we tried the other pub/hotel down the road in Troutbeck, The Queen’s Head. Slightly flasher than the Mortal Man, but with plenty of character and excellent food. Budget broken again. Fish pie was fantastic (picture below). Nothing better than a comfortable pub with a local Cumbrian Ale and a hearty pub meal when it’s dark and raining outside.

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Next day I had planned to do a free guided walk (avoiding the need to get out a map and compass). Thinking it started at 10:30 instead of 10:20 and that the meeting point was closer than it actually was, I totally stuffed this up and we arrived at the meeting point 20 minutes late with all our gear and packed lunch etc, ready for a seven hour hike. Needless to say, we missed it. Lucky it was free.

So we drove home and studied the walking books on the bookshelf. Couldn't go past one of the books on "pub walks" and planned a shorter (4 hour) circular route from home to Ambleside, finishing at the Mortal Man.

Still raining, this turned out to be an excellent walk through a mixture of hillside track overlooking picturesque Lake Windermere, and forest. In this photo, I have just spotted a vampire from Twilight in the forest and Em was getting very excited about this.

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Em dressed as Batman after seeing the movie

The climax of the hike was climbing to the top of Wansfell Pike (straight up, no stuffing around zigzagging). Em was like a mountain goat (but prettier). I am NOT an athlete anymore. On a clear day, this is the view we would’ve had from the summit.

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This was the view we had instead, so we used our imaginations (again) as to what the view would be (I swear we weren’t smoking anything except fresh air).

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We did see some great views lower down.

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Finished up at the Mortal Man for a few Sally Birkett’s ales. After the hike, any pub meal would’ve been good, but the chef outdid himself tonight and served up a hearty bangers and mash. This wasn’t any ordinary bangers and mash – the sausage of the week was pheasant, honey and mustard. Delicious.

Could’ve certainly spent lots more time in this part of England. If I ever wanted to write a book, I’d do it there. It’s not surprising that Wordsworth lived there and wrote most of his masterful poetry. Very grateful to our family friends for their generosity in letting us use the cottage. A great few days.

Have just arrived in Scotland and spending the night in the small town of Killin (North East of Loch Lomond) in another pub / hotel.

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