Perspective: Adventure

Clare Dyson

“What makes the Lake District a World Class Attraction?” 

“Bloody hell! I thought I was hallucinating!” The fell runner came over at a jog and stood and chatted. “I’ve never seen a horse up here in the fells before”. We all caught our breath and as he started his ascent onto High Stile we set off down from Scarth Gap north towards Buttermere where we hoped to find a field to spend the night.  

Since I was a child I have wanted to journey on horseback, stopping on the way to rest and camp and continuing through the landscape from place to place with my horse and dog. Last year this dream became a reality in no better place than in the Lake District where I live. I borrowed a pony from a friend and took the month of May off work and travelled over 250 miles with my dog around the Lakes on bridleways and old pack horse routes. 

Our small team was well made for this trip. My pony, a young lion hearted Fell native to this landscape and able to contend easily with the terrain. My dog a Collie x Australian Cattle dog bred for herding large animals and never happier than when running free in the fells and camping in wild places. Then me - a 30 something single woman with a lust for slow adventure and a background with horses and mountain craft. We were all in our natural habitat and never have I felt more content than I was on this journey.  

Our journey started at the foot of Windermere at Staveley in Cartmel and heading in a clockwise direction to Coniston, the Duddon Valley up through the western fells. At Buttermere we headed East towards Blencathra and then South over Helvellyn and along to High Street. The last part of the journey was through Ambleside to Langdale and back through Grizedale, Rusland and home.  

Despite having lived and worked in the Lake District for the past 17 years our journey enabled me to see the Lakes in a fresh light. It reinvigorated my love of the park and the people and reminded me of al the reasons I moved up here in the first place. By going on this kind of journey - one which was gentle in pace and on no particular schedule - we discovered new places, met wonderful people and absolutely revelled in being able to dwell in the beautiful places we travelled through and camped in. We connected deeply with the place I call home.

To me the Lake District is so special because of the variety and richness of the landscape, not just the mountain tops but more the valleys with all their different characters and full of gnarly crags, ancient woodland and crystal clear rivers. I am drawn to places on any map showing steep contours, woods and water, and the Lakes has these in spades. I suspect that this is in part because it means there will likely be more wildlife and plant life to enjoy. As well as the open fell our journey took us through the ancient woodlands of Rusland, wending along the River Esk and wild camping deep in Ennerdale and on many fell sides and meadows. We spent evenings watching red deer, barn owls, bats and badgers. It was May so the wild flowers were abundant. We took in bluebells, red campion, foxgloves and cotton grass. This was the Lake District at its very best and I am sure as a as a result so was I.

 

It’s also the link to our heritage and the feeling of walking in the steps of our ancestors that does it for me, From the back of a horse it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to conjure up images of romans or drovers and charcoal burners passing through these areas with animals and goods to trade or sell. And that to me adds a depth of connection that it is hard to put your finger on but feels important. 

And there’s the people. I often hear people who go off on travels around the world on their return nearly always regale that “the locals were so friendly”. And the same is true right here on our doorstep. I experienced the kindness of strangers who offered me fields for the night and hot showers and invitations to nights of music, food and storytelling. It’s the kind of place where if you’re a ‘good sort’ then people will even lend you a pony for a dream trip… If nothing else our journey was affirmation that the community I live in has a star quality which makes me enjoy living here even more.  

I came back from our month of slow travel rejuvenated and with a connection to the landscape that was down to my core. I explored unknown corners of the area and seen with fresh eyes all the things that this beautiful place can offer, as well as new friends and the affirmation that slow travel close to home is one of the simplest joys we can experience. I encourage anyone to slowly explore the quiet places in the Lake District and if at all possible to sit or sleep out in them and enjoy the peace of the beginnings and end of the days.