LEJOG Virtual Challenge, Mile 677: Just northeast of the Lake District

Spring is springing here in Chicago which has made it possible to commute more easily on my bike as well as take some longer walks, either while on my birding excursions or with Banita and Denali. Though the virtual trip doesn’t have me going through the Lake District I thought I’d take you on a little detour as Banita and I had a one day excurision to the area while in England for Steve’s memorial service.

Lake District National Park

Though the National Park designation didn’t happen until 1951, the Lake District had been popular for travelers ever since the poet William Wordsworth (‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’) popularized the Lakes in his poetry and a guide book, A Guide to the Lakes. He, along with artist, John Ruskin, thought this area of outstanding natural beauty should be protected so everyone could enjoy. Last year was the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth but unfortunately Covid struck. Banita and I were able to do a walk around Dove Cottage, which was being renovated at the time, in the small village of Grasmere. This is where Wordsworth wrote most of his most beloved poems.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud 

BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Lake Windemere is the largest natural lake in England and is the likely the stepping off point for most travellers to the District ever since the railroad was completed there in 1847. Banita and I took the train from Lancaster, just over an hours journey and took a ferry to the village of Ambleside and then made our way to Grasmere.

As well as being known for Wordsworth, Grasmere is also known for the Grasemere Gingerbread Shop, trademarkeed since 1854 and the recipe is a well guarded secret. Luckily I was able to enjoy a couple back in Lancaster. Denali, however, enjoyed an entire bag she snagged off the counter when we were back in Chicago! The village is also a great base for getting into the fells.

Speaking of fells (mountains), I can’t leave the Lake District without mentioning Alfred Wainwright. His series of guidebooks of the Lake District fells continues to be used and inspire walkers today. His seven volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells is so well beloved that it’s 214 peaks are collectively known as the Wainwrights. My goal is to get back to the Lake District, rent a cottage, and spend some time walking some of these fells.

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