Hardknott Pass, steepest road in England,

Hardknott Pass and Wast Water


Family Holiday in the Lake District

Driving Through the Steepest Pass in England

Hardknott Pass, steepest road in England,

Hardknott Pass

We had a lazy start to the day (some family members had a very lazy start to the day).

We set off for a drive through Hardknott Pass, which is the steepest road in England. The pass goes between Eskdale and the Duddon Valley. It was originally built by the Romans, but then, like so much clever stuff built by the Romans, it was left to disintegrate. There was lots of talk about repairing the route and making it a proper road (I am sensing committees) but nothing happened. The pass was suitable for donkeys, and not much more.

Then, during World War Two, the area was used for tank training. The tanks pretty much decimated the pony track. After the war, the damage was repaired, and tarmac laid, and it became a ‘proper’ road.

We set off, excited to drive along a pass the had a camber of 1 in 3, and promised beautiful views. We passed Scafell Pike, which is the tallest mountain in England.

The pass was beautiful, but I was glad to be in a four-wheel drive, and especially glad that I wasn’t driving. The road was single track, with passing places, and it meandered down to the valley, with hair-pin bends and steep, steep slopes. I don’t expect many local people use the pass, and it has become a tourist spot—and you could tell which tourists were more used to wide roads and driving on the right by their terrified faces!

At one point we came down a slope to see a stationary car facing a small herd of cows. The cows were staring at the car with interest, and seemed especially pleased when the driver honked the horn. They were not planning on going anywhere. The cows were beautiful, a mix of ages—some looked only a few weeks old, others were full-grown, including at least one very large bull. They had long shaggy coats, and were clearly interested by the car hooting at them, but looked docile. We arrived on the other side of the herd. They were not moving. I am used to cows (spent two years researching different herds before writing Ploughing Through Rainbows and Sowing Promises) and they didn’t look aggressive, so I got out of the car and sort of swooshed them back onto the verge. The pale-faced man in the other car drove through the gap looking terrified (I wonder how many days he had been waiting there for). We waited until he had passed, and then continued on our way. As we drove, the herd wandered back onto the road, like the Red Sea closing behind the Israelites, waiting for the next driver to sit and honk at them.

Hardknott Roman Fort

Helpful signs at the Roman fort.

We stopped at Hardknott Roman Fort. This is a wonderful location, surrounded by mountains, looking down into the valley. The remains of the walls were still there (some rebuilt, I think) and there were helpful signs explaining what the buildings had been in Roman times. However, the best bit was the view, and the sheep—who wandered over the remains and settled into sheltered corners to sleep. The sheep here are wonderful, they mostly have grey wool, and each ewe has one black lamb with the sweetest white face you have ever seen.

Hardknott Roman Fort

Sheep nestle amongst the remains of the fort.

Wast Water

View of Wast Water

We finished the drive at Wast Water. In the past, this has been voted the prettiest place in England, and it’s not hard to see why. It is perfect. There are mountains of scree (2,000 feet high) on one side, and the opposite bank has little gravel beaches, and tiny islands you can wade to, and sheep-nibbled grass, reeds, marshes, and the standard lumps of granite standing tall. I found a lump of granite to sit and write on, while family members strolled (noisily) round the lake, or waded to an island.

We returned to the car, Jay emptied all the water out of his wellies (so much I am not writing here) and we drove back to the cottage.

Sausage and chips for dinner, then we played games (loudly) until bedtime. Another happy day in the Lake District.

I hope you have a happy day too. Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Coniston Water

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The Old Man of Coniston

Holiday in The Lake District 2020


Walk to Goat’s Water

The Old Man of Coniston

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Wednesday

Didn’t go for a morning run—trying to save energy for a long walk later.

Family eventually appeared, everyone made their own picnic, and we set off about 11:30. We walked up the hill behind the cottage, to Goat’s Water. This is a pool, high in the hills of The Old Man of Coniston (the mountain that looms above the little village of Coniston).

Kia watched us leave, and I felt guilty (but her old legs wouldn’t make it). Feels wrong to walk without a dog. Bea and Gee are both working in the cottage, so she had company, but I still felt guilty.

This was our second attempt to walk to Goats Water (gave up last time when I gave Husband feedback about steep hills and being tired and unprepared). This time I wore walking boots, which made walking up rocks much easier, but walking through streams rather wet. We seemed to walk along a lot of footpaths that closely resembled streams, but after my grumpy complaints last time, I didn’t think I should ask whether Husband had muddled footpaths with rivers on the map.

We walked on, mainly up, through ferns with sheep hiding in them, while waterfalls rumbled next to us. We passed the flooded quarry, and saw the little stone bridge where we turned around last time. Started to clamber up the steeper part of the hill. There were views of Morecombe Bay on the horizon, the sunlight glinting on the water, framed by rolling green hills.

Picture of the Lake District

Several other people were also walking up to Goats Water—including one couple who were arguing. There was a man carrying climbing ropes, and a woman who stopped every few minutes to shout at him. I feel they weren’t very well-matched.

We arrived at Goats Water and settled down to have our picnic. The water looked like an average-sized pool, until you realised that the people on the far shore were small, and up at the rim, high above us, there were tiny silhouettes. The water was held in a basin-shaped dip in the rock, made by a glacier. While we ate, the sounds floated across the water of the couple we had followed up the hillside. The man was now striding up the rock face, intent on climbing, while his wife (who was probably not his wife) trailed behind and shouted abuse at random intervals.

We walked back down towards our cottage. Emm, Aitch and Jay detoured to walk along a river. Emm had a soaked foot for the rest of the walk, but Aitch and Jay were suitably sympathetic. Husband then wanted to investigate the top of the quarry waterfall, and the others all went with him while I continued down the hill. It was a bit lonely, but very peaceful.

Aching legs made it back over the last stile and into the cottage. We ate apple pie and cream with a hot cup of tea. Perfect.

We decided to go out for dinner. This is the first time we’ve eaten out since the start of lockdown, so we were interested to see what changes were in place. We decided to eat in Torver (nothing to do with the fact that it was near enough to walk there, so no one had to drive). We walked to The Wilsons Arms pub.

There was a sign on the door, with Covid related instructions, including a request to sanitize hands before entering. We did. We had prebooked (and they took our contact number and checked we were all the same family group/bubble).

The table was clean, and we saw the staff clean each table as they were vacated. However, they did not clean the salt, pepper, vinegar pots, which stayed on the table for multiple customers.

We were given paper menus. My understanding was that pubs would have paper menus so they could be disposed of between customers. However, our menus were passed from table to table.

The staff took our order at the table, and delivered our food. None were wearing masks or gloves, and they needed to come within one metre to place our food on the table. (This has to be risky for them, as they will be in contact with multiple customers every evening.)

I’m not sure if the number had been reduced, but the tables were still fairly close to each other. We had a table behind us, and they were very close (though back-to-back, which perhaps makes a difference).

In conclusion, I’m really not sure how ‘Covid-safe’ this pub experience was. I am simply hoping that the reduced numbers of cases in the UK mean that the chances of catching it were very slight–both for us and for the serving staff. If Covid wasn’t a thing then I would be telling you how friendly the staff were, and that my dinner was a perfect belly of pork with mash and veg, all delivered to the table piping hot, followed by a delicious sticky toffee pudding and washed down with a cold glass of sauvignon blanc. If you ever visit the Lake District, this is a nice place to eat (but maybe don’t visit during a pandemic!)

I hope you have a few perfect moments today. Thank you for reading.
Take care,
Love, Anne x

Coniston Water

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Hills of the Lake District

A Wet Day in the Lake District


A Trip to Windermere

Hills of the Lake District

Went for a run (using term loosely) along footpath towards Coniston. We saw lots of sheep, including two in the road. Nice run.

Asked family to help create a shopping list of food we needed. Wrote down some of their suggestions. Drove to Windermere. This is the home of Lakeland, which is one of the few shops I actually enjoy (you know when you have reached a certain age, when the Lakeland catalogue is something you enjoy!) Decided it would be rude to visit Windermere and not pop into Lakeland.

We followed signs, and parked in the big car park outside. Queued to get inside, carefully socially distanced, while a lady with a clicker allowed us into the shop as people left. There was a man, standing in the window, making a phone call the entire time we queued outside. Husband said I should not approach him and suggest he could make his call outside, so that someone else could take his place in the shop.

After reading about other European countries, who seem to be handling Covid better than the UK, I decided that I would wear a face mask whenever inside a public space. This made the trip much less fun, as it is very hot and airless inside a mask, and my glasses were perpetually steamed up. When finally allowed inside the shop, I wandered around, in baking tin Heaven, trying to remember what things I actually needed. I bought a small saucepan for making cheese sauces, as the one I bought in 1988 has a dodgy handle. I bought a lot of other things, but I can justify the saucepan.

Walked to Booths, which seems to be the largest supermarket within an hour of the cottage. Queued to get in. I find it very difficult to social distance inside a supermarket—I am focussed on hot mask, steamed up glasses, shopping list, and trying to find the correct items. Not walking too close to the slow man staring dumbly at the sour cream seems low priority—but I tried.

Put shopping in the car, and realised a high percentage was alcohol and snacks—hope this doesn’t represent a normal week’s supplies for my family.

Lunch in cottage again. It is pouring with rain. Some of the family went to The Ship Inn in Coniston, and sent cheery photos of pints of beer. Late afternoon, we walked to the pub with Kia. There was another pretty footpath, through fields of sheep, under dripping trees, alongside streams. When we arrived at the pub, the drinkers were happily still drinking, so we left them there.

I made veggie chilli for dinner.

Went for an evening walk, and saw a beheaded rabbit and escaped sheep and a noisy cow. The day has been lazy, and wet, but I think on a holiday in the Lake District you have to expect at least a couple of wet days. It’s still pretty.

Hope you have a nice day, whatever the weather. Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Coniston Water

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Hills of the Lake District

Trip to the Lake District 2020


Little Arrow, Near Coniston

Family Holiday: Monday

Went to sleep last night listening to the rain. It rains a lot here, and it’s cold. We knew this before we came, so packed all our autumn clothes. We are all now looking forward to Christmas (Summer 2020 was in April, so no complaints).

I wrote, while the family gradually emerged from their rooms, made toast, or porridge with cinnamon and honey, or sipped coffee until they looked human again. Husband took Kia for a walk.

The Sarcastic Mother's Holiday Diary

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We had sandwiches and leftovers for lunch. It was very noisy. Husband tried to make a plan, but Emm formed a union in protest. Nothing was decided.

We walked to Coniston Water (big lake).  This holiday feels weird because every long walk, we leave Kia at home. Strange to go on a long walk without a dog, but she’s too old to cope with more than an hour of exercise. We passed several ramblers, some had wet Labradors (you can’t keep a Labrador out of a lake). We in turn we were passed (surprisingly) by several older men who were running round the lake. They had strong legs and intense faces. I assume running round the lakes must be a thing.

We strolled along the shore line, avoiding knotty roots of trees clinging to the hillside, looking at moss-covered rocks, large ferns, stepping over streams bubbling down the bank towards the lake. It was wonderfully green. It was improved considerably by people having loud sword fights with fallen logs and daring each other to climb onto the branches that overhung the water, and generally being noisy.

Not the fence you were possibly hoping for. . .

We abandoned Bea and Gee at a little jetty (she hurt her knee). Emm, Aitch and Jay were then distracted by a derelict house at the top of a hill (which I’m pretty sure was just a lump of granite but they scrambled up to investigate) so we abandoned them too. Volume of walk decreased.

We returned to the cottage via a campsite, which wasn’t quite as pretty as fields of sheep, but was faster. Arrived back in time to put gammon joint into oven. Investigated potatoes for baking, and realised Tesco had delivered huge potatoes, the size of a boot. The oven was too small for boot-sized potatoes, so put them into aga to see what would happen. Three hours later, they were perfect.

We walked into Torver with Kia to see what the pub was like (family keen to eat there in future, but I’m sure that was not a reflection on my cooking skills). The pub said it was open, and there was a sign on the door with instructions about how they were coping with the Covid risk. It all looked very well organised, and there was a large garden, and Portaloos to allow social distancing. But it was shut, which rather spoiled the plan.

Returned to cottage and played ‘the saucepan game.’ (Everyone writes sixteen names on small pieces of paper and puts them in a saucepan. A timer is set for 30 seconds, and people take turns pulling out a name, and describing it to their team without saying the actual name.) It was fun, and there was lots of laughing, and I’m pretty sure Jay and Emm are psychic. There was also lots of opportunity to discuss the rules, which is something my family can do at length.

Went to bed. Slept well.

Thank you for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x

Have you enjoyed reading this? You can find more of our family escapades in The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary by Anne E. Thompson. Available from an Amazon near you (you can read it for free if you have a kindle).

The Sarcastic Mother's Holiday Diary

Now is an excellent time to read my travel book. Happy adventures from around the world.
Available from Amazon.

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Coniston Water

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Hills of the Lake District

Off to The Lakes. . . Second Day


Fell Cottage, Near Coniston

Fell Cottage, near Coniston.

Kia woke me to say she fancied going into the garden. Let her out, and woke Husband. Went for a quick run, down the road to Torver. We saw a Tesco delivery van, which I was sure must be the one due to arrive at our cottage, but he denied all knowledge. The run was mostly lovely, running down a hill, past fields of pretty cows, and streams, and trees, and low stone walls. The run back was not as easy, as it was mostly uphill. I am thinking of buying a defibrillator—must be able to buy a small portable one for hill running.

Sheep shearing.Took Kia for a walk. She’s too old now for a really long hike, so although we’d planned to walk in the afternoon, she would need to stay at the cottage. We took her along a disused railway, towards Lake Coniston. We passed sheep being sheared, and watched while a collie rounded them up and separated the herd. Kia was very attentive, and clearly wanted to join in/give advice. Kept her on the lead.

Walked to where we could see the lake, but not the entire way there as it was longer than we thought (and Kia is now quite old, with dodgy joints).

Lunch of left-over picnic from yesterday and new stuff that the Tesco man delivered. Husband tried to organise KitKat allocation. He failed.

At 2:30 (very precise time) we attempted to set off for our hike. Kia was left in the house, which caused some angst (but when I sneaked back to check, she was asleep, so she wasn’t worried for long). Bea appeared in a sparkly skirt and bare legs; decided her wellies would be uncomfortable and went to change. Emm appeared with no coat; decided it was colder than expected, and went to change. I felt I was in a time warp, and nothing much was different to twenty years ago, except now the clothing decisions were not mine and therefore it took longer before we were ready to leave. Said nothing.

We planned to walk up a hill (mountain) to Goat Water. I was told it would take about 2 hours (it didn’t).

Walked for several hours, mostly up. It was very beautiful (see previous description and add an abandoned quarry and piles of slate) but I was too tired and got cranky (I am now quite old, with dodgy joints). Bea complained about length/camber of walk, while Jay filled her hood with rocks (really, nothing changes). Husband eventually noticed I was staggering several miles behind everyone else, and decided to change the plan. We rested on a little stone bridge, and looked across the valley. Very beautiful.

Walked back (mostly down) and managed to somehow lose the path. This was in spite of the fact that Husband has downloaded a very detailed map from Ordinance Survey site, which showed is exactly where we were (so we did know we were on the wrong path). Found a way past the quarry without having to walk too near dangerous sheer drops. Saw a nearly naked man poised on a rack. Wondered if he needed help (of the psychological kind). He jumped. We hurried to see whether he was drowning, whilst not being entirely sure what we would do if he was. He was swimming. He was with a group of friends, and they were all taking turns to fling themselves into the water-filled old quarry. Each to his own. . .

Arrived at cottage 3 ¼ hours after we set off. Next time I will take water and snacks. Dog was asleep. Cottage wonderfully comfy. Had tea and played ‘Bananagrams.’

The power went off just as I was about to cook dinner, which added to the adventure. All the chip shops seemed to be shut on Sundays, and all the pubs were fully booked. Power came on. Cooked salmon in chilli sauce and heaps of mashed potato and slightly too mushy broccoli.

Spent the evening playing games and laughing.

Slept well.

Coniston Water-gsd-lake district

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Available from Amazon.

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Off to The Lakes


Fell Cottage, Near Coniston

The family decided to risk a holiday in the Lake District. We consulted maps and agendas, and booked a dog-friendly cottage near Coniston.

Saturday: Drove to Cambridge to collect Emm and Aitch. They had prepared a champagne breakfast, which made an excellent start to the holiday. Finished with coffee, which I was cautious about drinking too much of—would the service stations be open if I needed the loo??

Set off for the Lake District. Aitch informed us they are near Sheffield, so easy to find. Turns out the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales are all very near to Sheffield, so if you’re lost, follow signs to there. Luckily, we had a SatNav.

Stopped at services. Lots of people were there, but I was the only person wearing a mask. Washrooms had every other cubicle, sink, and dryer, blocked off as an attempt to prevent the spread of covid. But there were no obvious signs of them being cleaned.

Outside, there were picnic tables, and people were eating take-away food and picnics. I had prepared a picnic, and thought it would be nice to sit at a table, as the dog could be with us. But again, the tables weren’t cleaned between one family finishing their lunch, and the next one taking their place. I worried the we might take a table right after a Covid family, considered the possibility, decided that eating in the car would be more relaxing. Ate picnic in car.

Arrived at Little Arrow, near Coniston, in Lake District. The house is lovely, and has plenty of room for seven adults and a big dog. I discussed the possibility of living in the kitchen with the big dog. She informed me that she intended to live in the kitchen and the hall area where she could keep an eye on where everyone was. We compromised: I decided living in both the kitchen and the hall area was a good idea. Placed her bedding in the areas she indicated.

Went for a short walk up a hill. Beautiful views, roaring waterfall, moss-covered rocks, ferns and foxgloves bordering the pathway. It was raining, but not heavily—just enough for the ferns to brush against our legs and the water to seep through our jeans, but not enough to be dripping off our noses.

Returned to cottage, and Bea and Gee (The Bee Gees?) had arrived. They seemed happy enough with the room we’d left for them (all the rooms are pretty, though some are bigger than others. None have an en suite bathroom, but there were two bathrooms upstairs, and a shower room downstairs. One bathroom is a fancy wet room with exciting shower, the other is an old-style bathroom with a big free-standing bath. I was so delighted when a photo appeared on Messenger of all my three children, fully dressed, sitting in the bath tub. It is a very long time since all three were last in a bath together!

I washed the bath tub.

Cooking dinner was quite an adventure in a posh kitchen with fairly small saucepans. One cooker was an aga (no idea how to use that) the other cooker was a conduction hob, and kept flashing messages at me. Jay helped (with both vegetable chopping and cooker translation) and we eventually prepared pasta and veg for everyone to eat. Finished the champagne, and the world felt less stressful.

Went to bed. Slept well.

More tomorrow. . .

Thanks for reading. Have a fun day.

Love, Anne x

The Sarcastic Mother's Holiday Diary

Now is an excellent time to read my travel book. Happy adventures from around the world.
Available from Amazon.

Amazon Link Here

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