Walking in the Lake District

Trip Start Oct 17, 2011
Trip End May 22, 2012

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Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19, 2011 – January 4, 2012

I stopped off in Penrith for a few days on the way to the Walking Women holidays in the Lake District. There's a small but good museum at the tourist information centre, and the ruins of Penrith Castle are worth a look. Otherwise, I just strolled around the town, appreciating the many distinctive pub signs hanging from their iron posts and reading the historical plaques installed around the town centre.

Two buses got me to Grasmere, a perfect little Lake District village. Grasmere Gingerbread is famous worldwide, made from the same recipe and in the same location since the late 1800s. It's unlike any gingerbread I’m familiar with: a thick cookie, rather than cake or gingersnap cookie. It’s sold in slabs, not too sweet, vegan and very delicious.

William Wordsworth lived in the Lake District much of his life. He and his sister Dorothy spent several years at Dove Cottage, still standing today – I went on a short tour of it. Beside it is the Wordsworth Museum and Art Gallery, very interesting indeed. William, Dorothy and other family members are buried in the Grasmere village churchyard.

I had signed up for two five-day Walking Women holidays over Christmas and New Year’s. These are popular, and there were close to 30 women on each holiday. What a good exercise for my brain, learning 60 names! Our group took over a lodge and hired our own chef, all of us pitching in to prepare meals and clean up afterwards. The chef was a Winnipegger, but she has lived in England for over 20 years. There was one woman from Spain, me from Canada, one woman from Scotland, one from Wales, and the rest were from all over England.

There were three guides on each holiday, so each day we had a choice of three levels of walk – gentle, low-intermediate or high – and there were anywhere from four to 12 women in a group. One woman was in training for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in late February to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. As for me, I tend to choose the gentle walks; I don’t much like inclines (not since trekking in the Andes). In the second week I did a couple of the low-intermediate walks, and they were plenty steep enough for me.

Unfortunately, one woman broke an ankle, not on a hike but just slipping on the mud near the lodge. She had to end her vacation and fly home early.

Some of us attended the Christmas Eve service at the local St. Oswald’s Church, which was so well attended by locals and holidayers alike that it was standing-room-only.

It rained almost every day, sometimes hailed and was always muddy, but we didn’t care. We were dressed for the weather, and the scenery is beautiful: waterfalls, green fields, lakes, a skiff of snow on the distant hills. It was great fun, and I met lots of nice women. A few of us might meet up in London when I get there, some of us having discovered a common appreciation for craft beer. Our local in Grasmere became Tweedies Bar, where they offer nine different craft beers on tap.
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