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Part 7: Our Man from the Roannais in the Lake District by Brian Franklin

In our latest part of ‘Our Man from the Roannais in England’ series we reach new heights of adventure and discovery in the marvellous Lake District.

Jean-Marc is treated to a traditional ‘fish n’ chips’ supper, and continues to consume even greater quantities of traditional English ale with great enthusiasm ( Well, you need to after all the rambling about we were doing !)

To set the scene a little, The Lake District, also known as The Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes and its mountains (or fells), and its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth and the Lake Poets, along with the famous children’s story-book writer, Beatrix Potter.

The central, and most visited, part of the area is contained in the Lake District National Park, the largest of fifteen National Parks in the United Kingdom. It lies entirely within Cumbria, and is one of England’s few mountainous regions. All the land in England higher than three thousand feet above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest lakes in England.

You can walk, cycle and splash about in the beautiful Lake District to your heart’s content. With more than 3,500 kilometres of rights of way and 12 of the largest lakes in England, there’s something for everyone! And we certainly did a lot of walking and climbing over the 3 days we were there.

We were based in Bowness-on-Windermere in a traditional, and somewhat qaint guesthouse called ‘Blenheim Lodge’. Comfortable and welcoming with a good hearty English breakfast every morning – you can’t beat it!

The aim here, of course, apart from enjoying the Lake district in its own right, was to explore some of its walks, and mountain scenery. And for me, it was an exceptional experience eyond the normal family visit to the region, and normally heavily visited touristic parts. I also wanted to show Jean-Marc another face of England – its rugged beauty amongst the lakes, valley’s, and mountains. He had always wanted to visit The Lake District, and go walking there – this is exactly what we did! He was a very, very happy man!

You cannot go walking on the fells of The Lake District without some recourse to ‘Wainwright’

Alfred (“A.W.”) Wainwright MBE (17 January 1907 – 20 January 1991) was a British fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator. His seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, published between 1955 and 1966 and consisting entirely of reproductions of his hand-written manuscript, has become the standard reference work to 214 of the fells of the English Lake District. Among his 40-odd other books is the first guide to the Coast to Coast Walk, a 192-mile long-distance footpath devised by Wainwright which remains popular today.

On one of our  gloriously sunny days Jean-Marc and I reached new pinnacles of personal achievement, and followed “A.W.” up to the top of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain at 3,210 ft (978 m)

There is no doubt that this part of our trip around England was the most awe-inspiring, and the stunning countryside and sunshine combined made the ‘outdoor’ experience one to remember forever. It certainly could not have been a better time for Jean-Marc to visit the natural wonders of this beautiful part of England.

Our experience was made even more enjoyable, because we also met up with my good friend, John Clough, another artist and lover of country walks.

We met up enroute and John stayed with us for a couple of days, and we had a great time together.

Our ramblings on the local country paths, through woodland, and over fells included a great journey around Grasmere, and a delightful walk around Coniston from Tarn Howes.

On our last day, Jean-Marc and I had decided to be even more adventurous, and go for the ‘Big One’. We aimed to climb the infamous Scafell Pike. In my view, a virtually life-changing experience ! The weather was perfect with clear blue sky, no wind, and we both felt energised after our previous walking expeditions – we were certainly ‘Up’ for it !

After a long, breathtaking, and somewhat scary drive over the Wrynose pass to our ‘base-camp’ at the seemingly massive and brooding mountain slopes of Scafell, we eventually started our ascent. We were guided by Wainright, along with a little help from some other climbers that we had befriended. Our ascent was from Wasdale Head, and we took the steep route through the Mickledore gap. It was a long, arduous, and very hot climb. There were several times when I thought we had taken on more than we could hack. However, the idea of achieving such a special climb to the top of the highest mountain in England kept us going, and the views around us, and the valleys below were absolutely mind-boggling. When we hit the snow-filled gullies and slopes higher up we felt like real mountaineers even though it wasn’t the Alps or Himalayas.

We certainly had to climb and scramble over this lump of Lakeland granite to get to its pinnacle, and the sense of achievement was remarkable – we felt like little heroes! We thoroughly deserved the picnic we had at the top. The descent was certainly no ‘picnic’ though, and in its own way was almost as difficult as going up. By the time we eventually got back to Bowness again we definitely needed a couple of well-deserved pints of real ale. Wow! What a day!! What a trip !

Part 8 :  The final part of  ‘Our Man from the Roannais in England’ series (I hear gasps of relief !) will follow shortly. This time a visit to Liverpool – the home of the Beatles!