Robert was our driver for Monday morning. Nice guy, but not nearly so glamorous as Patricia from Tuscany. We made the short journey to the atmospheric Castlerigg Stone Circle constructed around 3000 BC. No-one truly knows why the stones were erected where they are. It could simply be for the view for they are totally surrounded by hills and mountains, dominated by Helvellyn and High Seat. One guy had been there since dawn hoping for that single great photograph. I took many less great snaps at this much more congenial time.
Tom was on great form. We set off on for our next destination. “Have you ever left anyone behind?” someone asked. “I’ve wanted to.” Somewhere near Threlkeld we passed a “Secret Nuclear Bunker” sticking out of a field. We learned how Southey and Wordsworth had climbed up Skiddaw to celebrate the victory at Waterloo and set off a cannon before consuming roast beef and plum pudding. The practice continues to this day.
We arrived at the quiet village of Dacre and visited the parish church of St Andrews where William Whitelaw was buried in 1999. A bright stained glass window has been designed in his memory. We were much excited by the four stone bears that punctuated each corner of the graveyard. “Why four bears?” was the inevitable question. “Because it’s forebears of course” one of our number instantly offered.
Next was an optional one mile walk to Dalemain Mansion, home to the Hasell-McCosh family for eleven generations. I think all our party opted for the walk. We stopped to admire the herd of Fallow Deer. Using our HHA card for admission, Jan and I were the first visitors of the day. Most of the others simply had coffee and something nice at the excellent tea shop, the admission charges being quite steep for the limited time we had available. The house was darker than Mirehouse, but will be remembered for the period charm of the housekeeper’s room and the priest hole behind the chimney. The gardens will linger longer in my memory. They won the HHA’s “Garden of the Year” award in 2013. A gardener was harvesting apples, all of which would be used in some form in the cafe. Lush autumn colour, scenic location and a ring of autumn crocus in the orchard. Gardeners’ bliss.
We ate our packed lunch at Pooley Bridge before embarking on an hour’s boat trip along the length of Ullswater on a boat designated a “steamer” for historic reasons, it being powered by a diesel engine. We had been graced by the sun throughout our two days and this continued on what can be a cold lake if the wind is up. The mountains and yachts made for a pleasant cruise. We had time enough for a drink at Glenridding where I spoke to Derek, another remarkable man. He fell off the summit of Striding Edge in 2006 falling some 300 feet. Here he was, in pain and struggling with his leg, but doing all the walks. He takes many holidays with HF.
We returned and I took a last opportunity to take photographs of Derwentwater. I bumped into Liz who, at the age of 82, was returning from the nearby marina where she had just booked a kayak canoe for her “free day” on Wednesday.
In the morning I was sad to be leaving the group who were to continue for the week. I was missing out big time. That very morning it was to be Carlisle, my home city, and the Solway Firth where I had also lived. Tulie House Museum where I studied for my A Levels was also on the list. In the unlikely event of the kindly Cumbrian weather letting you down, HF Holidays always has a contingency plan. There were to be visits to Caldbeck, Cockermouth, St Bees, Whitehaven, Brough, Buttermere … and I was going back to South Yorkshire.
“Is the report going to be positive then?” asked the tall walk leader over breakfast. “Of course, entirely positive, except for that bit about the tall, ugly walk leader.” Everyone laughed. We said our goodbyes.
He wasn’t ugly and the report is entirely positive. Cumbria had been my home for the first 21 years of my life. Two days had passed in a flash. And I had discovered the county all over again in the company of some new-found, delightful friends.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends HF Holidays