Stage 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale (Rosthwaite)1
We are treated to Ennerdale Water (lake) which is one of the famous lakes in the lake region. The conversation always turns to the Loch Ness monster. If any body of water could produce Nessy, Ennerdale is the perfect place for the monster. The trail is sometimes shear and narrow but safe enough. The going is slow but the company is good. Gill hikes with us which is most pleasurable. It is just lovely to hear proper English!
Chris and I take a break at the youth hostel which is remarkably well provisioned and capable. Would you believe the warden is a bit of a chef and prepares three course dinners with wine and dessert, “sweets,” that is? And the “world famous,” Black Sail Youth Hostels Association (see inset of an example, the reward for hiking around, up and over Ennerdale water), which organization is responsible for these most affordable, well done trail stops. Which is all the more remarkable as it is really in the boonies. No doubt placed there of necessity; the trail proceeds to it up a sharp incline of loose rock shards which makes one ready to whet the whistle. The coal fired communal heater/stove is most appreciated. The terrain is a bit stark, rocky and with low vegetation, yet it is all invigorating. The sun is out and we are wearing gloves.
We must climb some of the most difficult fells, elevations which are not too difficult nor high but the wind threatens to topple the hiker. I remember getting into a pace and a rhythm, sometimes the only way to tackle the job, then stood up to peek at the scenery and was blown sideways so as having to take a step or two to regain the balance.
Sheep are everywhere when we break out of the Ennerdale lake region and crest the fell. Heavy woods begin and it is lambing season. The newborns and young lambs constantly bleat sounding very much like human babies. For me the novelty never wears off, it is just too bucolic to see sheep grazing and new lambs, minutes old, tormenting the ewes. We come upon one little guy on the stone wall near our next stile unable to figure out how he got there and still more perplexed about how to get down. The hike progresses to the east and cattle farming and hedge rows instead of stone for fencing and crops instead of sheep pasture which is another pleasant scene. There is feasting for all the senses especially the eyes.
We grow accustomed to the very nice habit of stopping for a chat at the mere pause or nod of the head as we pass. I wonder where that very civilized custom went in the new world. What a pity.
At day’s end, we have the Royal Oak Hotel, a new establishment at just about 400 years old. One of the stewards asks if I would like tea. I am still unused to the custom but learn that tea, and in this case, high tea, is part of the “package” and is never to be refused. Each establishment has its own take on tea which is much more than tea and a few cookies, properly called biscuits, to what we are about to receive. So, I say, “Yes.” of course In a few moments, I am served this grand and large silver tray with a scalding hot pot of tea brewing right next to a scalding pot of water to temper the tea to my taste. Two fresh scones split and slathered with fresh creamery butter. They are next to a pot of homemade large cut orange marmalade, there are many kinds of marmalade. There is milk, not cream, that is for coffee. And the sweetener is rum butter! I finish it all except the milk while in conversation with the guests who congregate at the very small check in desk. By the way the check in desk comes complete with a handsome selection of spirits and the local ale, pulled just for you of course.
The conversation is largely taken over by a couple and their Patterdale terriers. Brits are besotted with their dogs and their dogs them – they are together everywhere. The couple is middle aged. The Mr. Is celebrating his 56th birthday with the C-to-C and his striking Dutch wife is happy to oblige. The conversation is pleasant if not warm and personal. I am enjoying the whole thing, the rum butter tea, great stories about everything and nothing, dogs and the hubbub of a very old, efficient, gracious and busy B&B. As the conversation takes a break the Mrs., very straight forwardly and calmly, as if she does this every day, expresses the following:
Well, Danny. I have been thinking about your birthday present. Since I have been busy with this trip I haven’t gotten you a proper one. But all is not lost, I have just now decided what it is to be. (Pause for audience anticipation) I plan to give you my body. (Pause for effect) But please be a good boy and just pull me nighty down when you’ve done.
The Mr. took it with as straight a face as if such pronouncements were delivered routinely while absentmindedly petting the hound in his lap. We all looked at each other for the right response and couldn’t help bursting into a belly roll laughter at the Misses getting the upper hand; she never cracked even the faintest smile, as did the mister, through the whole thing though I thought I heard the dogs snicker. We had just been treated to the best of legendary British humor, dry as dry can be – exceptionally funny. Winston Churchill would approve. We spent a lot of time laughing and smiling wherever we were.
We had dinner at the Royal Oak as it is really a fine Rosthwaite eatery. The dinner bell rang, we had a seat, not a one to spare, and a procession of welcomed food came via most efficient wait staff. There was roast beef, veggies and desert. All good, all plentiful and the artesian bread spills from baskets on the serving line display. Naturally the ale was local, hand crafted and the height of the brewers art. Now I don’t mean to go on about the ale, but there is something just that much more refreshing about it at the end of a day’s hike. Again, we ate unabated till late and the bed was most comfy even though the three of us were crammed into the room and the baths were down the hall. Not a problem, no conflicts. This is the way to go hiking.
We are up at 0730 for a self-serve breakfast as the kitchen staff isn’t in till 0900. We Americans are peculiar and curious oddities by Europeans by our starting before dawn when we are on “vacation.” We were told the night before we were free to roam the kitchen at will to gather breakfast and provision for the trail, yet another gesture of hospitality since we wanted an early, for them, start. How civilized and neighborly. In fact, we are treated all the way like long-term and dear neighbors. And we are off.
1 As per the Steadman Coast-to-Coast Path guide book.