This Autumn I wanted to strike out and go on another Vinnie Adventure before Winter truly arrived. Over the summer various friends had been up to Cumbria, the Peak District and into the Lakes and I began to feel the beginnings of a plan being hatched.
Being fuelled by the attraction of discovering new places and walking on new ground – well for me at least – I found myself checking out some new spots around Windermere. A big lover of my name-sake Miss Beatrix Potter, there was a natural pull to visit Hill Top and remind myself of all the ground breaking things this extraordinary lady did in her time. Back then women were not championed in carving their own path, they were expected to stay home, choose a husband and marry ‘well’ (whatever that means), and fall into what society expected of them. But Miss Potter was different – she had a love of nature, drawing, and painting, and she had a vivid imagination that conjured up the most amazing stories like ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, ‘The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck’, ‘The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin’ and many more.
I’m not too sure why I’m sharing this now – but I guess I’ve just noticed a synchronicity that it was Barbara Hepworth that inspired my trip down to Cornwall, and it was Miss Potter that inspired my trip to the Lakes. Both extraordinary women do extraordinary things.
If it was not for Potters imagination, her following her passion, and writing her wonderful books that I loved as a child – we may not have been able to enjoy the Lake District as we are able to today. She preserved the landscape, the geography of the land, and in doing so, has enabled thousands, in fact more like millions of people to enjoy this luscious, mountainous, and adventurous part of our country.
So, whilst many politicians are busy knocking the great out of Great Britain, I wanted to experience something that is truly great about Britain – and for me, that’s the landscape in the Lake District.
Borrowdale and Honister Pass – exploring new territory
The last time I was in the Lakes was about seven or eight years ago over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Back then I’d joined a lovely guy I was dating at the time on a walking weekend near Windermere and we’d all stayed in a beautiful youth hostel. For this autumnal trip it was the middle of November, and it was a particularly soggy week, so I got online to check out which YHAs naturally caught my attention as I figured I may want alternative accommodation to Vinnie – my van. It was Borrowdale YHA that immediately jumped out and caught my attention. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it initially, but on arrival I think it was its remoteness as it literally is in the middle of nowhere, and only a few kilometres from Honister Pass – a cheeky little number I had in mind to cycle over.
Following my motto of ‘seize the day’ on arrival I took the decision to get into my lycra and set off on a two-wheeled adventure. Typical of me, I’d read a little (but not enough to put me off). So, 5 km into my ride I found myself going up Honister Pass! For those that don’t know, this is a long drag of a hill, that ramps fairly swiftly up to 25% and more. Laying as flat as possible over my handlebars to stop my front wheel bouncing off the tarmac as I continued to ride, I soon rose through the mist and arrived at the summit of the climb. Even in the wet, soggy, grey mist it was a beautiful, panoramic view.
What also became quickly apparent was the acute drop the other side! Not only was it narrow, wet and slippery, it was 26% and more, but this time downhill. Too steep to whizz down without touching my brakes, and watching the time as I wanted to get back to Borrowdale YHA before nightfall, I slowly set off with my brakes musically echoing around the hills.
My cycle ride took me all around the rolling lanes and after 60km or so I cycled through Keswick and then back to my home for the evening. As the rain drilled down and wind whirled through the trees, I was relieved and pleased that I’d had the foresight to book myself a little wooden cabin. Nestled in the green entrance to Borrowdale these basic yet cosy pods sleep two, they have no running water or the convenience of a loo, but they are warm, comfortable and quiet which made me feel more up close and personal with Mother Nature. Not only that, I was able to enjoy the heat of a roaring log fire in the communal area of the hostel and chat with fellow adventurers before I retired for the evening, and to what turned into a 12-hour sleep.
Friendship, laughter and play – a hat-trick of happiness!
Going up ‘North’ also gave me the opportunity to catch up with a couple of lovely girlfriends I’ve known for many years but have not seen for some time. At the beginning of my trip, I caught up with Fiona. I met Fi, at University in Nottingham where we were both studying Textile Design – Fi focused on construction in ‘knit’, and I focused on surface pattern in ‘print’. We studied together for three years and also lived together for two and a half years. In that time, we made hundreds of amazing memories, laughed lots, skied lots, drank lots, and danced lots. This time round it was a little calmer as our time was quite compact and it was wonderful to sit down for dinner, catch up on many of the incredible life events that have happened in the time we’d not connected, and it felt like no time had lapsed at all.
On the tail end of my trip, I caught up with Heather, a fabulous and vivacious young lady that I met doing my one and only ski season in 1999-2000. Both finding ourselves in Courchevel 1850, in the Haute Savoire region in France, we worked for different ski companies, yet we bonded over drinks and playing games in the Jump Bar, chatting about boys that had caught our attention, and enjoyed many swooshes down the slopes over our five months in our snow bubble. In the 21 years that have passed we’ve lived in different places, worked different jobs, enjoyed several beach adventures on the south coast, and now I’m getting to join her husband and her family of three wonderful boys in the gorgeous home in countryside. From collecting the boys from school and walking in the woods, to creating pirate ships out of lounge room furniture and exploring new villages – it was a blissful, whistle stop tour and I loved every second.
What was wonderful about seeing both of these brilliant ladies was that it seemed like only yesterday since I’d seen them last. There’s a saying I heard, I can’t remember when, but it’s about friendship – it’s either for a reason, a season, or a lifetime – I’m very happy to say that both Fi and Heather are ‘lifetime’.
The seasons are changing, a new chapter awaits!
As we pass the winter solstice – the day with the fewest hours of daylight – we move into a new chapter. With everyday there will be a glow on the horizon as the days slowly lengthen and we move towards the new year, then springtime. I did have plans to watch the solstice sunrise but for one reason or another (Covid) I was unable to be outside. So, as the new year begins to unfold, I’ll be making an extra special effort to enjoy many a sunrise – be that near my home in south London, or further afield on more adventures in Vinnie. I’m excited to see what the new year has in store for me.
No doubt there will be much laughter, love and enjoyment of this beautiful journey we call ‘life’. Let also the new year be a celebration of doing things differently and carving my own path.
‘IF’ – The poem in the slate
This state stone has the word ‘IF’ carved into it, it’s located at the top of Honister Pass. For those that don’t know, ‘IF’ is a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling. The slate captures the first two sections only, so I’ve captured the full poem below.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)