Our colleague, Anthea Yabsley, recently visited Hassness to join our Women’s Activity Week and had a wonderful time exploring the hills of the Lake District.
In the week UNESCO bestowed World Heritage status on The Lake District, recognising “the harmonious landscape in which the mountains are mirrored in the lakes” I joined a group of fellow female walkers for a Women’s Activity week on the shore of Buttermere, in the more remote northern part of The Lakes.
With expectations raised by this shiny new international accolade we set out to explore and on our very first 10 mile walk the landscape most definitely didn’t disappoint, displaying in all its mirror finished glory this natural phenomenon in the gin clear still waters of nearby Crummock Water.
As the group got to know one another on this first gently paced walk, amiably guided by our leader Clare, across streams and over gentle rocks; Linda, our equally lovely other leader, helping us to pick our way through the softer spots, whilst pointing out the rabbit tail tops of Bog Cotton and tiny pink dots of orchids poking out of mossy mounds.
Starting each day with some gentle pre-breakfast exercise the week-long holiday gave us a chance to try a variety of activities. For some it was our first introduction to Nordic Walking. With Clare, who’s a qualified British Nordic Walking instructor, as our teacher we worked through the first five steps of the ten-step learning process. To get the hang of it Clare suggested we begin by dragging our poles behind us and quite soon we were confidently marching along the shore of Buttermere, pushing our shoulders back, engaging our core and upper body, and using the long sticks to propel us forward.
With the basics under our belts we set out for a four-mile circumnavigation of Buttermere. Cutting through a nearby farm and passing curious Highland Cattle I couldn’t help thinking they were rather missing out on the most incredible countryside - if only they had been able to see through their rather unruly ginger forelocks.
Back at Hassness and fortified by Ruby’s home-made lemon drizzle cake we pushed back the furniture in the lounge for a strengthening yoga session with a local instructor, Jo, who tailored the session to work on our tired legs and feet.
The house itself is set in splendid isolation and provided the perfect base in which to relax at the end of each day. In addition to Ruby’s excellent cakes we were treated to a freshly prepared breakfast and three course dinner each evening (apart from one night when we decamped to the local pub restaurant in Buttermere). As the week went on a routine established and we’d retire after dinner to the lounge to reflect on the day, play games and swap walking tips. On one evening, we were treated to a fascinating talk by a member of the Cockermouth Mountain Rescue team.
Impressed by our first day’s training and to develop our Nordic walking skills further Clare took the group to Whinlatter Forest. Through the eerie mist of our only wet day we walked the hilly four-mile Seat How trail.
Wednesday was a free day on which some more experienced walkers opted the ascent of Wainwrights favourite ‘Haystacks’. Visible from many of the bedrooms and the lounge at Hassness there was much planning using map and compass (as well as a handy app) of the best route to the summit of the fell. Others opted for an easier hike, whilst I took the bus, which conveniently stopped at the end of the drive at Hassness, for the 50-minute journey into Keswick and a boat ride on Derwent Water followed by a trip to the Pencil Museum.
Leaving a little earlier than some of the group I missed the walk to Rannerdale Knotts and Stonethwaite. But as I peeled off from the group on my last day there was just time for one more walk around Buttermere. The sun shone, dark faced, Herdwick sheep sought the shade of the dry-stone wall and the Highland cows found their own way to cool off, wading knee deep in the cooling water and sending the perfectly mirrored water into a mass of tiny ripples.