In 2007 I attended a Desert survival course (1 & 2) and visited Morocco (1 & 2). While there I met Jon Mallet. He wasn’t from the usual bushcraft/survival family, and it turned out, that he worked in London for a bank.
I could tell straight away that he was resourceful and adaptable, and since he’d travelled extensively before, he’d be fine on a “rough it” trip like this one.
Short story long, was that we hit it off straight away, and we’ve been good friends ever since (he often travels all the way from London to join in my birthday celebration).
This year, he couldn’t make it, due to family commitments, so we decided we’d meet up and go to the lakes and he would bring some of this friends from London along with him.
Our transportation would be provided by Jon’s Landrover Discovery.
Jon and his 2 friends (both called James) arrived on Thursday night (they would be staying over in Chester, so we could get an early start).
I set everyone up with a bed of some kind, then we went out to a couple of pubs in town. The lads seemed to enjoy my choice of pubs, and we rounded of the evening with a visit to Asia fusion, where previously the famous the original “dizzy” Dave bought everyone’s curry by accidentally getting his arm burned.
We set of early in the morning. Everyone was in high spirits. The Landrover was really comfortable, compared to many of the vehicles I’ve previously travelled in to the lakes.
Our base would be Ambleside, and we’d be staying over for the next 2 nights.
One thing I realised early on (and should have been obvious, had I thought about it) is that Londoners have a lot further to travel when visiting the lake district. For this reason, Friday wasn’t going to be our setup day, we were actually going to walk Friday and Saturday, and travel home on Sunday.
Before we headed for the Fairfield Horseshoe we stopped to get some breakfast from a nice cafe in the centre of Ambleside. Everyone else had a full English, but I went for scrambled eggs. Made with free range, it was (after Bills in Sydney) the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever eaten so I thought it deserved to be photographed.
We set of walking and passed by Rydal. We passed a campsite there, and I saw some camping pods (idea for a future trip).
While walking, we got chatting, and it was interesting to see the difference in culture (I’m from the North and they’r from the South.
Earlier, we stopped the car to get some equipment. I was concious that the car behind us was waiting on us, and that we should move urgently.
Jon said simply “we wont be long, he can wait”. That’s when I saw the London side of this crew. Yes, Londoners have a reputation for a southern chill and perhaps not being as friendly as people in the north. That said, they live and work in a massive capital city. Its just not practical to act like the district nurse in an environment like that all the time.
Overall, I felt the London banker set, were typically British. Very decent people who know how to relax, but are clear in their mind about where their going and what they want.
It took some getting used too, when we went out for meals, and were asked by the staff if we enjoyed them. Jon would simply reply no. Then after a pause he’d say it was excellent, and everyone would start laughing.
I’m not very good with names, but I decided that one of Jon’s friends reminded me of Catweazle, and the other looked like Mat Damon. Mat and Cat, that would be easy to remember.
We finally get into the hills.
The view from the first peak of the Horshoe, Low Pike was pretty cool.
The walk is 16 killometres, and crosses 8 fells.
Sections of the hill were very steep in parts. As sometimes happens on walks like this, we split up and regroup on the peaks.
I was really impressed with Jon’s fitness. I walk most weekends no and I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. I was no match for Jon, he flew up every hill.
We carried on, and reached the mouth of the horseshoe at Fairfield.
From here we started to head downhill. The weather was foul, but the last section of the walk had a dry stone wall, which we followed back to Ambleside.
We headed to our accommodation. Ambleside YHA is one of the largest youth hostels in the country.
It features a tv room, self catering kitchen, lounge , cafe and bar. The full time staff there were friendly and knowledgeable and best of all there was a chippy next door.
I know some people prefer smaller more intimate accommodation, but I prefer anonymity. I even bought a copy of Tubular Fell picture while I was there.
Our room worked out at £25 per person per night for a private room, with 5 beds. It was nice and warm at night, and we had our own sink for washing (just a small thing, but it means your not wandering around the corridor at night, when you want to brush your teeth.
I read that the hostel was going to be re-furbished in a few months.
Think is, doesn’t that defeat the object. I mean the idea of hostels is cheap, basic clean accommodation. That way either:
a, people who couldn’t otherwise afford it, can get away for a few days.
b, people who could afford to spend more, can choose spend less and get out more often.
If you do the place up, make it really nice and up your prices, then you’ve just created another hotel, and there are thousands of those already !.
We retired for the evening to the Royal Oak, which became our local throughout the trip.
I was introduced to the 5th member of our band, Jon (sat on Jon’s left). He and his wife Rachel had given up the city life, move to the lakes, run a smallholding and live the simple life.
It certainly seemed like a busy life. Everyone morning, he arrived after mucking out sheep, and each evening had to head back to do something in the garden. I was looking forward to seeing this project for myself.
I was also fascinated to hear that he and Rachel were both members of the Antarctica exploration society (I’d visited the Antarctic exploration museum while in Cambridge with work, and I found it fascinating.
Its interesting to see how the town has changed over the years. A building that has been an off license, picture shop, and kebab shop was now an Italian restaurant. We decided to pop in for dinner. It was really nice.
End of a long day, off home to bed.
In the morning, full English breakfast for another day on the hill.
While people were getting ready, I saw by the lake with some hot chocolate.
I was delighted to see that you could rent canoes and I wished I’d had more time, so I could have a go.
I came upon this sign.
And literally seconds after reading it, these 2 mentalist came charging down the jetty in shorts and jumped into the freezing water.
The peace of the morning is broken, and we head off.
Today we would walk from Ambleside to Langdale and the Old Dungion Ghyll.
Less steep, the walked snakd across the lakes and the environment was constantly changing.
Catweazle had a dodgy leg so decided to have a lie down. The remaining 4 of us plodded on.
As we wander, we discuss the classic live to work/work to live debate and seem to conclude that neither absolute extreme is desirable.
We headed up some steep hills then dropped down on teh flat and wandered through another campsite.
We saw some caravans and Mat started to tell me about the one he owns. I was fascinated to hear, that it had a remote control.
Literally, you unhook the caravan from the car, then you can “drive” and “steer” it into its designated spot by remote control. Caravans have come a long way, from the ones mum used to take us to in Wales when I was a child.
Even though I’d only known Jon’s friends for 2 days, we had gelled really well.
As we stop for a break, I pose in front of the highest dry stone wall in the lake district.
After they photo is taken, they all start laughing. They’ve made the whole thing up, and apart from it being quite tall, have absolutely no knowledge of it and have seen it for the first time 3 minutes before.
Its a nice wall anyway, so I’ve put the photo up.
We arrive at the bus stop next to the ODG.
We would have got this bus, but cw was driving over to pick us up.
I really enjoyed this walk, and I’m determined to do it again.
Once inside it was a bit drab (certainly not as alluring as their website lead me to believe) and the guy serving certainly wasnt putting himself out.
Still, the walk was complete, and had to be finished off with a pint (as god intended) so I waited my turn for slow-motion-man to service me.
As I sat with the lads enjoying my pint and sea salt crisps, I realised the walking part of the trip was over. Catweazle wasn’t around, and I was a bit worried (whether he was ok, and more importantly, how the hell we were going to get back to Ambleside).
As I’ve seen happen a couple of times recently on walks, we had no signal, but we were sure our rescuer did. Back to slow-motion-man to save the day, as he produces a landline. We wake up cw, get picked up and its back to civilisation.
That evening, I dine on fish and chips on a bench next to the lake. I walk into town for a few pints at the Royal Oak, happy in the company of good friends.
In the morning we rise early.
No cafe this morning, were visting Jon & Rachel at their freehold for breakfast.
They have everything here, lambs, chickens, goats for milk and an extensive garden and greenhouse.
The place obviously requires hours of work to keep it running, but must be incredibly rewarding and the rest of the lakes are just on the doorstep.
We enjoy a full English breakfast out in the garden with copious amounts of tea and toast.
I’m used to eating food that’s locally sourced, but in this case, it was within 30 feet of where I was sitting.
Jon finishes off the morning with an impromptu Freddy Mercury impression.
Back in the car, and I’m home 2hrs later.
Overall, I spent a bit more than I expected on the trip, but why not, it was a fantastic weekend.
Thanks to Jon for being a great mate, just like he’s always been. Hi to Mat and Cat who’s company and conversation I came to enjoy greatly.
Finally a very special thanks to Jon and Rachel. They hardly know me, but welcomed me into their home, which I found interesting and inspiring.