Over the years, Wifey and I, along with whichever dog happened to be incumbent at the time, have been frequent visitors to the Lake District.
With the combination of shapely, often rugged mountains, exquisite lakes and charming villages, it is an obvious magnet for the attention of any lover of the great outdoors.
Here in Burnley, the M65 and M6 give easy access to the area. In about one hour 20 minutes you can be looking down over Windermere. Another half hour, and Coniston, the Langdales, the Duddon Valley, Buttermere, Ullswater ... even Derwent Water are all achievable, making them suitable candidates for a day’s excursion.
The western fringe, however, while possible, means spending too long travelling in the car rather than being out there on the fells. Consequently, my trips to ruggedly beautiful Wast Water have been limited to perhaps half-a-dozen visits, Ennerdale only once, while Eskdale requires negotiating Hardknott Pass or traipsing down to Ravenglass, or burning up time driving over from Ulpha in the Duddon Valley.
Of these, it is Eskdale that has always appealed.
There are rugged mountains all around, lots of pubs for a break, a vast network of paths to explore, and while there is no lake, the river Esk busily tumbles along urgently racing towards the sea at Ravenglass, and of course there is the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (affectionately ‘Ratty’).
I was in west Cumbria recently and being close to Eskdale presented an opportunity to good to miss. I had nothing planned, and so parked at Dalegarth station near Boot, now closed for winter, for a quiet potter around the village, little more than a hamlet really.
I walked up the lane which became a track, which became a bridle path and then a faint path.
With no particular destination I just kept walking.
My sole companion was little Monty. I saw no other human.
In due course, I arrived at lonely Burnmoor Tarn, and the view opened up to Wasdale Head where old friends beckoned. Pillar, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, while up to my right Scafell. Wisps of mist garlanded the middle slopes. Scafell seemed to beckon me ever onward and upward. I was tempted.
Have I time? Thankfully, with only the clothes I was standing in, only two hours of daylight and no torch, reality kicked in, and I turned reluctantly for the return walk to Eskdale. As twilight drew in I was serenaded by the sound of a distant whistle. It couldn’t be, surely?
Sure enough, as I got back to the car a locomotive on Ratty appeared around a corner for a final highlight to my day.
I always enjoy steam engines, but while I enjoy being alone, the driver and guard, presumably on some maintenance run, were the first humans I’d seen all day. Come the New Year, I think it will be time for a longer return visit, this time maybe with Wifey in tow!