The Cumbria Way- Day 5: Borrowdale to Walla Crag

Langstrath-Borrowdale-Walla Crag-Castle Rigg

By early morning the wind was still buffeting the tent and the sky was obstinately grey. But a nights sleep and the prospect of an easier day hiking down through Borrowdale put a spring in our step.  We made tea and crunched granola in the lee of a large boulder before donning our waterproofs and setting off. The changeability of the weather was a real pain, veils of rain passed regularly, but after it cleared it was too hot walk in waterproofs, so we had to stop and start at lot for the first few miles.

The end of Langstrath was a delight, we walked by the gushing river among moist oak woods where redstarts sang in the branches and wood warblers flitted in the canopy.  Flying insects were out in force too and the swallows wove around us in a feeding frenzy. Into Borrowdale, the trail ran between old stone walls with pasture on either side, the air turned cold and we felt rain again, but we started to make good time, aiming for the shores of Derwent Water by lunchtime.

Cumbria Way 24

Barry negotiates Watendlath Beck above Lodore Falls. We crossed the beck too soon.

To spice things up a bit, and for the extra challenge, we decided to tackle the climb up and over the wooded crags on the eastern shore of Derwent water. This is an alternative given in the Cicerone guide, and we left the shoreline ‘crowds’ behind as we climbed the steep and stony paths, passing the cascades of Lodore Falls. With the hard work behind us, the path wound into the moist, cool shadows of the woods, occasional bird calls kept us company, and all would have been well had we not taken a wrong turn. The mistake was easily corrected, but glancing at the map I could see that we still had some way to go, including the climb over Walla Crag. I became anxious because we were becoming tired and I was responsible for taking us this way, but Barry was stoical, and we soon to emerged from the woods to views across Derwent Water to Keswick and Bassenthwaite beyond.

Cumbria Way 25

Looking north to Keswick across Derwent Water, the slopes of Skiddaw are shrouded in cloud.

Seeing Keswick seemed like quite a milestone as we remembered the trail unwinding all the way back to Ulverston. As we started the climb over Walla Crag, the light became more dramatic, beams of sliver sunlight swept across Derwent Water and the distant fells, splashing green Borrowdale with colour.

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The play of silver light across the water and fells was worthy reward for our climb to Walla Crag

After 10 hours of walking we descended to Castle Rigg campground in surprisingly good spirits, expecting a patch of grass to pitch the tent and not much more. We joked about beer and warm food without hope of finding any, so we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the on-site bistro with its Michelin trained chef!

This was truly a gift of the trail, one of those surprises that come along and are all the more appreciated for their unexpectedness. The ‘give’ and ‘take’ of the trail is a dynamic that challenges us to let go and take what comes. Tougher times are a counterbalance that make the good times even better.  Despite the poor night in Langstrath, and the grey, weather, I recalled the many gifts of the day, from Restarts singing in ancient oaks, and the light across the landscape,to lunch of tea and tortillas in a rare patch of sunlight. Sometimes, caught up in hiking and ‘needing to get somewhere’ I forget to appreciate these things and the fact that for us, they are what a hike is made of. The more we are open to what the trail brings, the more we will receive.

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