Monday, 8 August 2011

Lake District: Days 1 - 3

Day 1
Yesterday I travelled up over the A595 from the Midlands to Santon Bridge.  You know you're in for a fun time when the A-road you're on roams and loops like a country lane, up over the passes with the Lakeland mountains to the right and the gleam of the sea on your left. But today, after an easy morning, we have gone out to Wastwater, the deepest of all England's lakes at 79ft.

Quick sketch of Great Gables from Wastwater
That said, it looks deceptively narrow when you gaze across it.  We paddled a bit, chasing tiny fish into herds, and watched brave folk on dingies and would-be swimmers mess about in the cold water.  We see dogs, a wedding, and a chance for a quick drawing with a 10-pack of petrol station colour pencils.  The shifting colours of the mountains are, naturally, impossible to get down no mtter how hard I try.
My youngest sister and I are living in a little side cottage while the rest of my family, including grandparents, take up the main house.  Fine by me as it puts us nearer to the walk that leads down to the green Santon river under the trees.  The holiday so far is beginning to take on a distinctly Roman-British feel with my current reading list including Rosemary Sutcliffe's The Eagle of the Ninth and The Lantern Bearers, a book on the geology and history of my home county East Anglia, of which the current chapter covers the rise and fall of Rome in Britain, Dad's recent return from walking Hadrian's wall with my uncle, and the prospect of Roman ruins later in the week.  It's all coming together.

Day 2
Another easy morning, then continued the Roman theme with a visit to the ruined Bath house at Ravenglass.  We tried walking out the paths of the soldiers from Hardknott Fort as they would have entered, changed in the sight of their statues and gods who niched in the walls, and sat around scraping the grime and sweat off themselves with thin metal strigils.  Strange to be standing in the same place of hundreds of men before us, tracing the paths of their ghosts going about their everyday patterns.  We are not so far apart from our past as we like to think we are.

Went on the little steam train through to Boot village and looked over the old mill there.  On the way my sister tried to take pictures of passing sheep while my Grandma told me about her two evacuations during the Second World War, when she was just a girl.  The first time she was sent away and then brought back, but in the final year of the war she was evacuated again.  It strikes me how lucky I am to be able to hear about these things first hand.

We ground flour with a millstone and turned the handles of mechanisms long lost to history, the mangle, the winnower.  I wonder what happens if we ever forget the old times, and how we used to be.  The people who worked these mills were us, just a little earlier, and yet it's so easy to forget they were ever part of our lives.  All the same, I feel somehow that as long as these little nooks in the hills survive, and there are quiet, wild places in the world some of it will get through, we might be alright.

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