Tuesday, May 13, 2008
A baking hot May Day Bank Holiday saw us break out the shorts, packed lunches, Norwegian walking poles, Kendal mint cake and my AA Book of Country Walks, (bought in 1975 and never actually used – until now).
Yes, Team Alfie was off on a scenic yomp – up to the Lake District – the place which bearded mountaineer, Chris Bonnington once described as the most magical landscape in the whole world....
And it certainly is – forget the Norwegian Fjords and their designer Slartibartfast - for true artistic interpretation of what God’s own country looks like, it has to be the Lake District.
But where to go?
Leafing through the book of walks, we hit the Lake District section. Shall we go there? Or there? The choice is so fulsome, so hard – it’s like trying to decide whether to have the chocolate truffle or the caramel cream...... but this being the Lake District, there are no nougat slices or nut cracknels. Every single walk is a piece of choccy heaven.
Not being fell-walkers, mountaineers, ramblers or even fit, we opt for a nice and easy traipse. An amble around Grassmere is our walk of choice. Four miles of landscaped gorgeousness in the seat of Englishness – and the haunt of Wordsworth..... Fantastic.
We arrive. Last time I was here it was raining stair rods, cats, and dogs. Come to think of it, virtually every time I’ve been here I’ve got soaked – but not today. Today it’s wall to wall sunshine.
Of course, with the Sun, comes the crowds – and this being a Bank Holiday means half the population of the country is here – all trying to recite Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ poem; all trying to feel ‘lonely’; all trying to rediscover an England of a bygone time.
We meandered around the Mere and into Grassmere village. It was like a Chinese route march – there were bloody millions of us, all wishing that we too could live here full time..... If only we could win the lottery, Aston Martin Vanquish, pads in New York, St Moritz and Sydney harbour....... and an idyllic waterside choccy box cottage in the Lake District.
This time, we gave Dove Cottage, the home of Double-Dubya for around 10 years, a miss. We’ve been there before – to be honest it’s always been a way to get out of the rain – the place is dank, dark and depressing – somehow, Dickensian..... Well, I suppose it would be....
We had a look around the little parish church of St Oswald’s in the middle of the village. This drab church with its odd finish of grey pebble dash render to the outside wall looked somehow out of place against the majestic backdrop of the natural amphitheatre of the southern lakes. Apparently, it’s a Grade 1 listed building –and that puts it into the same league as Salisbury Cathedral. Whilst the outside looks like the finish on a post war prefab, the inside is totally different. Simple, early medieval – it has retained the rustic honesty of a house of God, built circa 13th century.
In the graveyard, we found the Wordsworth plot. In the centre of a host of leaden headstones was the great man himself. Having scribed for England, Double-Dubbya, sheathed his quill pen for the final time in 1850. Around him, basking in the reflected glory of the great Wordsworthsmith lay his extended family.... They only just fit – the plot is crammed fit to busting with Wordsworths - shoved in so tightly they must all have been on a diet of Victorian gruel and a slice of breeze block bread. A simple iron fence is all that separates the unread masses from the master of the written word – you could reach forward and touch the tombstone – no formality, no queuing management systems, no Jobsworth telling you not to touch the Wordsworth.
We ambled back to the car – and the regulation 2 hour queue to the motorway, but it didn’t matter. It had been a bloody great day spent in a bloody great part of England. We vowed to return, someday to have a go at another Lakeland walk - and next time, we wouldn't leave it another 30 years......