…The bus departed for Penrith, and I turned round and headed in the opposite direction. With Cath now on her way home, here on in was a solo trip. The Western Fells were waiting.
The plan was much simpler than that for the Northern Fells – simply a two day walk from Buttermere to Cockermouth, picking off the 6 fells I had in my sights either side of Loweswater. The only complication being that buses weren’t yet running out to Buttermere, so I would first have to either walk all the way from Keswick or best case bus it out to Seatoller and walk over Honister Pass.
I chose the latter, aware that I probably didn’t have enough of the day left to walk all the way from Keswick. But first some shopping to be got in Keswick, and resupply to last me until Tuesday.
The bus took me out to Seatoller and I began the trudge along the road up to the mine. A nice afternoon after the mank of the previous couple of days. Behind me familiar fells looked inviting as I slogged my way towards the less familiar.
A couple of hours later I reached Buttermere and went to check in to the barn I’d booked. Finding no one at home, I simply entered the barn and made myself at home. It turned out that I had it to myself so I spread myself out a bit in the sleeping area and gave myself a double mattress.
A quick pop along to the Bridge for dinner, completely ignoring the fact I’d shopped and could have cooked. The Bridge is the scene of the greatest pub pie I ever had – well apart from the fact that the Plume of Feathers in Princetown recently topped it. I still well remember that day in September 2008, a frightening descent of Fleetwith Pike down the steep nose in big wind and rain, and the discovery of the most solidly-packed steak pie I’ve ever seen – it was virtually solid meat.
Sadly, tonight’s offering didn’t tempt me though. I got on the outside of bangers and mash and a rather nice pint of Dark Night from Strands Brewery, while I made use of the free wifi. After all of the usual social network catching up I remembered to check the weather forecast. I’m glad I did.
It seemed the apocalypse was coming, and coming soon. Tomorrow in fact. The more benign weather that forecasts had been previously showing for Monday and Tuesday had gone to be replaced by conditions I really didn’t fancy being on unfamiliar fells in. You know, stuff like 80-90 mph wind and a month’s rain. And it was due to be worst in the west. Where I was. Bollocks. I wished I’d checked the forecast when I was still in Keswick.
Quickly plans were rethought and I decided that the next day I’d walk back to Keswick. I’d rather do that than attempt the 6 Western Fells and end up leaving some stragglers. I could make them fit into the remaining trip I was planning before my final fell anyway. Far better to sort out Carrock Fell this time and avoid a special visit next time. I retired to the barn and the nocturnal noises of an old building that wasn’t quite wind-tight.
The new plan certainly hadn’t been changed again overnight. I awoke to the sound of air swirling at high speed around the barn, and rain crashing against the window. No hurry to get up.
I eventually made it out into the elements and had decided from the outset that I would simply take the shortest route to Keswick, which if the wind were really as bad as expected would also be the safest. The Queen’s Highway it was to be.
On what I expected to be a boring and lonely trudge, I sought the companionship of music, and entered the fray with headphones on and well-protected under my several layers of headgear.
The Beach Boys saw me most of the way up Newlands Hause, the total inappropriateness of this as a musical choice for the conditions very striking. Billy Idol saw me over the crest and then I was being blown from behind down the other side to the strains of Blondie and Blur.
In the valley proper, I worked my way through the Cs, Ds and Es. An attempt to cross the valley by Stair was thwarted by work being done on the bridge over Newlands Beck, and I found myself in the fields doing a big pointless loop before ending up back on the road I’d left much earlier. I got to Little Braithwaite still looking for an efficient route back across towards Portinscale and then realised I didn’t need to – I could simply get the bus from Braithwaite. A much better plan.
I arrived at the bus stop and a little while later was in Keswick. As it was quite early afternoon, I sought the shelter of a hostelry and today’s choice was the Golden Lion where all the guest ales were off and I was forced to reacquaint myself with Old Peculiar. Most successfully in fact. Despite suspicions about the standard of the food, I also found myself in possession of a much better than expected steak.
Now to see if I could get into the hostel a bit early. Another success, and no creepy bloke there either. I settled down for the final evening of the trip, doing most of my packing so that I could make a super-early getaway in the morning. There’s a fell with my name on it to bag before the train home…