Backpack for sale

Castlerigg from the bus

Having checked the weather forecast the night before I was surprised to see that the sun was shining when I first looked out of the window.

A ‘yard’ in Kendal

I took the bus to Keswick but by the time I reached Lake Windermere it was not only pouring down but a strong wind was driving the rain horizontal. Lots of people were in the streets, all wearing suitable clothing for the weather – colourful kagools, boots and sporting bright umbrellas. The bus was surprisingly full, all retirees. It’s hard for me to accept that I’m one of these! I observed the people in the 90 minute journey. A couple my age never spoke to each other once. I was the only woman travelling alone.

Open top bus

Despite the weather I wanted to explore Keswick’s lake, Derwentwater, and I soon saw a footpath sign to Friar’s Crag. Suddenly bells were ringing in my head. I remember my mum talking about Friar’s Crag.

Ambleside from the bus

It’s a promontory on the lake, famous for its view of the lake and its islands. Streams of rain were falling as waterfalls from the rain-soaked branches as I followed the path, first through a colourful garden, and then continued through the trees, as the wind blew even more water at me which it had gathered from the lake.

Friar’s Crag and Derwent Water

I reached the Crag and its strategically placed bench. I wonder how many people get to be here without hoards of tourists. I only had a share my view with a raven! I climbed a small hill and discovered a monolith with a sculpture of Ruskin and a comment from his diary – that his first ever memory was a trip to Friar’s Crag with his nurse.

Derwent Water from Friar’s Crag

Back in the centre of town I was ready for a coffee but I wanted to people watch too so I wandered around the central square and eventually found a coffee shop with some outside tables facing the Moot Hall. A couple of people were already sitting on the only umbrella covered table but a few chairs were covered in blankets and after I’d wiped as much rain off the chair as I could it provided me with the best seat in town!

Outdoor coffee break with the Moot Hall

I needed to keep my eye on the time. The Moot Hall clock was showing 5 minutes past 1. My bus to Grasmere left at 1:30. Must hurry with my coffee. For a few moments I focused on watching the brightly coloured kagools shop window gazing, many pulling ragged, smelly dogs along – or ragged, less smelly children. I checked the time. Well, time passes slowly in these northern towns. The clock seemed to still be showing 1:05. Time’s probably passing slowly because I’ve been on the go non-stop for three days, I explained to myself. I checked the clock again. Yep. 1:05. I checked my watch – 1:20. The moot hall clock was stopped – and I’d missed my bus.

I had an hour to wait for the next one. I’d noticed that the Moot Hall was advertising an art exhibition so this seemed to be the perfect plan B.There were several items I’d like to have taken home with me: Ceramic sculptured brooches of faces, ceramic wall plaques with knitters.

Surprisingly I fell in love with a large – 3 ft wooden sculpture of an alien. Not my thing at all, but I really liked it. I could imagine it standing in a corner of my living room and the sort of comments it would generate at my At Homes. I told the gallery volunteer that I’d take the alien home with me if I had come by car. “Take him home on the train” she said. “Just imagine the comments you’d get!” Next to the exhibition was the visitors’ centre which told the story of the moot hall – and how it’s famous for its clock having only one hand. Ah, 1:05.

Grasmere church

Now onto the 2:30 bus to Grasmere my first decision was where to find some lunch. The wind and rain hadn’t let up in the slightest, and I found a creperie on my way down to the lake shore. I ordered an Indian spice crepe, which was basically a veggie curry in a pancake. Nice one. I passed the church where lots of members of William Wordsworth’s family are buried. Adjacent is a daffodil garden – minus daffodils, of course, at this time of the year. But it was a lovely, quiet (very wet) spot and thought of the reading of Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ that we had selected for my mum’s funeral service. The church had a tower that was unusual in that it is painted cream. The interior is surprising too, in that it had all its roof timber exposed and looks more like a medieval manor house than a church.

In Wordsworth’s daffodil garden

I had chosen the River Walk and again, I had the path all to myself. There were lots of little bridges crossing back and forth over the little stream and the entire walk was lined with big trees overhanging the river – but it felt more like a stream than a river to me. Again the fells above me were ‘obscured by clouds’ – cue the Pink Floyd soundtrack. Pictures of my walk in Grasmere:

Back in the village I popped into the famous Gingerbread Shop where two servers dressed in maid’s outfits were busy serving a constant stream of customers – well, more like a river, actually – in the tiny 8′ x 6′ shop. Only 4 customers could fit in the buildings at once and despite the weather there was quite a queue outside waiting to get into this famous shop. The smell of the freshly made gingerbread was wonderful.

The gingerbread shop

My bus back to Windermere was an open top affair though the weather was too wet to sit in an open air seat. Then I changed buses at Windermere to a regular bus and, of course, at that point the sun came out and as we approached Kendal a slight rainbow was visible over the town.

Rainbow over Kendal

It was 5:30 when I got back and I opted for a Thai takeaway on the recommendation of my concierge. I spent the evening writing my journal and then watched two history programs on the TV in the lounge – one about Mary Queen of Scots, and the other about the archaeological finds at Sutton Hoo – while the only other guest played with the hostel kitty.