I visited Wasdale last week, so officially, I have seen the highest mountain and the deepest lake, and I have seen all the lakes in the Lake District. It took me six years to do it! I went to Wasdale this time with two friends from church, who have never done any serious walking on mountain terrain therefore haven’t got proper waterproof shoes or comfortable rucksacks. To save money, we carried heavy bags with three days’ supply of food and to get some photos, two bulky DSLRs. Because none of us is able to drive in this beautiful but foreign country, we naturally opted for the train. However, the train doesn’t reach Wasdale. When the girls saw the Eskdale steam train (aka The Ravenglass and Eskdale Rail) and fell in love with it at first sight, we decided to walk the last leg of the journey to our youth hostel instead of taking a taxi. And it proved to be a wrong decision. So the sub-title of this post will be:
How (not) to get in and out of Wasdale without a car
And to make matters worse, I was appointed the map-reader and navigator because my husband, the usual navigator was not here. So the worst case scenario, three girls would get lost and exhausted in Miterdale Forest (with plenty food fortunately), wouldn’t arrive at the youth hostel before it got dark, would be swallowed alive by monsters and never to be found again…
So here’s the adventure.
We collected the tickets and set off from Newcastle Central Station with a vague anxious feeling after seeing the size of each other’s bags. But the next three hours or so was a bliss – the trains on a Wednesday morning towards the west were half empty; the sky got increasingly clear and blue along the way; three girls chatted and snacked non-stop. The word “holiday” was in the air and on our foreheads.
We arrived midday at Ravenglass feeling fresh, excited and ready (for lunch). We went into the ticket office and asked about the train tickets and the cost of a taxi. The main issue with steam train + walking was our bags were too heavy (plus the minor issue of my navigation skills). Having decided to think about the options over lunch, here came the turning point: with a turn of the heads, a cute green steam train glided into the station. The decision was instantly made.
After 20 minutes’ of oohing and aahing on the narrow track rail, we landed on The Green Station platform. After waving off the whole train of smiling passengers and faffing about with our bags for another 10 minutes, we crossed the train track and headed north with soaring spirit. The first cloud of baby blue hydrangea greeted us. Wefies and selfies. After reaching our first hill, I pointed left and charged down. The girls trotted along behind. And what exactly is that? A line snaking in the tall grass. It was the same narrow train track we just left behind. So we retraced our steps to the same hill, seeing the same hydrangea with less enthusiasm.
Thankfully, that was the only error of my navigation. I soon restored my confidence and reputation. To be honest, the whole route was pretty easy with gentle ascent. The problems were the girls’ shoes not being able to cope with any marsh or mud and more seriously, our heavy bags. Our food wouldn’t be such a burden if they were carried in proper rucksacks. But only I had a walking rucksack, the girls’ were literally carrying school rucksacks and a tote bag each on one shoulder. Their shoulders soon started to hurt and tote bags had to be held with both hands at the front. We tried to solve this problem by eating all the bananas pretty early on in the trip…
We met a couple of fellow walkers on the way. All of them had literally no bags and strolled as if this was their back garden. I somehow felt encouraged and discouraged at the same time.
With a sigh of relief (about four hours since we left The Green Station), we reached the shoulder of Irton Fell where we had the first exciting glimpse of Wast Water. With the destination in sight, we threw our bags on the ground and relaxed a bit. The high spirit returned enough that we had a photo shoot right there in a field of chopped down silvery wood and pink foxgloves (photos to come!!).
Almost rolling all the way down the steep slope of Irton Fell, we had the first glimpse of Whin Rigg, Illgill Head and the impressive Screes. we reached the broard River Irt on Lund Bridge. It was about the golden hour in the evening, Wast Water unfolded in front of our eyes with a blue and gold hue, heartbreakingly beautiful and peaceful. Our excitement was in a hushed tone. All the effort was worth it. I guess it wouldn’t feel like such a reward if we took the taxi.
The girls gave Whin Rigg and Illgill Head a pass the second day and we walked along the north bank of Wast Water where we had some more interesting encounters and adventures, which is for another blog post.
Although we contemplated the idea of walking back to The Green Station on the day home, the girls were still recovering from the struggle in sinking marsh and mud so we voted for taxi. There was absolutely no signal in the area. I had to call husband on a (really quite expensive) pay phone and booked a taxi to take us back to Ravenglass. I guess taking a taxi in and walking out is the sensible option, but what would I do next time I’m not sure. Walking for absolutely no specific reason but to see the landscape is a crazy idea for local shepherds anyway (according to the author of The Shepherd’s Life). So I guess choosing the insensible route wouldn’t be much worse :)
Photo credit: The cover photo is taken by Tiffany Hsieh. All the rest of the photos are taken by Rong Fu.