Sunday, 18th August 2002
We had a good breakfast at the Thistle Hotel (on the A591) before commencing the walk to Patterdale at 9.30 a.m. I tried to convince Pat and Mary that Wainwright said we should start the walk at the Mill Bridge on the A591 but they insisted that we should start near the Youth Hostel where they had finished the previous afternoon – fair enough, but it put an extra uphill mile on our journey. Nevertheless I admired them for their determination to be as precise as possible.
John and Penny Freer had advised us to take the right-hand path when we had a choice, where the streams met, and this would be easier than the other way. I am sure this was absolutely the correct advice as other walkers appeared to be doing the same but, nevertheless, it was arduous for an inexperienced old campaigner like me. Unfortunately the weather was awful with a persistent drizzle, which got heavier and heavier, and we could not clearly see the hills on the left of us called the “Great Tongue”. It was really miserable and we had to keep our heads down monitoring the underfoot conditions as it was very slippy on the loose stones.
It was a very long, hard climb towards the top of the ascent and, when we looked back, we realised how high we had climbed, although there was no danger and it was nothing compared with Haystacks, the memory of which will live with me forever. Just before we reached the top of the climb we were joined by two walkers who had caught us up, Tony (a teacher) and Kath (who works at an Early Learning Centre) from Urmston near Manchester. I shall be forever grateful to this charming couple who gave me enormous encouragement and help to get me through to Patterdale. John and Penny had advised us to take the central path (of three alternatives) to go through to the end of the day’s endeavours and this again proved to be sound advice and concurred with Tony and Kath’s objectives.
Tony told me that the range of mountains on the left, which we could barely see, was the side of Helvellyn and all I could think of was how our son Paul must have felt when he was climbing that mountain, as a Venture Scout, at the age of sixteen. Tony was a quick walker and went ahead with Pat, who likes to walk about 100 metres ahead, and we could just see them through the rain and mist. The descent was probably more difficult than normal because the persistent heavy drizzle had made the conditions very slippy underfoot and I was very conscious of the fact that I had had problems recently with my hamstrings and any slip could damage them again.
Mary is obviously very fit, walking regularly on the Moors at home, and she went slightly ahead of Kath and myself. I think the main reason was so that Kath could take the full brunt of my moaning. Tony came back to us as he could see that I was struggling with the descent and lent me his walking sticks which proved to be a great help. Kath and I kept chatting away and we called ourselves the ‘B’ team. I really liked Kath (who is celebrating her 35th Wedding Anniversary with Tony tomorrow) and our conversation meant that the time went quickly and all of a sudden we were going through gates and coming across civilisation as we entered Patterdale.
I was very grateful to Tony and Kath and we arranged to buy them drinks in the White Lion Inn, where we are staying, later that evening. We looked at our watches and I was very surprised to see that we had completed our walk at 2.30 p.m. This was earlier than we had expected, probably because we had very few ‘stops’ as a result of the dreadful weather.
When we reached the White Lion we discovered that Tina had only arrived five minutes earlier after taking advantage of the late check-out time at The Thistle and having a look around Grasmere. She had bought me some waterproofs and the man in the shop had told her that if I had climbed Haystacks I could do anything. This obviously impressed her but the only trouble was that she has started to give me encouragement and tell me to carry on doing this wretched walk – if I come across this awful man Wainwright in a future existence I shall certainly give him a piece of my mind.
Pat, Mary, Tina and myself had a bowl of soup/sandwiches in the bar before going to our rooms to rest prior to dinner at 7 p.m. Tony and Kath joined us for dinner and drinks and just as we finished our meal who should come into the bar but Roger, Audrey and Joyce, whom we had met two days earlier en route from Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite. They were joined by a walking friend of Joyce’s, two Australians whom they had met whilst walking and another associate (Dawn) whom they had met somewhere. We had a great evening, a lot of drinks, and when the drinks had flowed Audrey told Tina in no uncertain terms that I was continually moaning about one thing or another all the time we were walking. This didn’t go down too well with Tina who gave me a right lecture when we retired to our room and told me to shut up and get on with it – just what I needed!