Alfred Wainwright has undoubtedly done more than anyone to popularise the joys of the Lake District. He first clapped eyes on Windermere in 1930 and that was to provide the inspiration for his wonderful guides which have enthralled generations and very probably encouraged many of the 15 million people who pour into the area each year. Windermere is the largest of the lakes and attracts the biggest numbers of visitors attracted by the beauty, the easy lakeside walks and the majesty of the surrounding fells. It is also easy to explore from the lake itself from one of the wonderful steamers sailing between Waterhead, close to Ambleside, at its northern end, Bowness-on-Windermere in the middle and Newby Bridge in the south. Boat trips are available on three other lakes as well: Ullswater, the second largest lake in the Lake District and for many people the most beautiful, Coniston Water where John Ruskin lived at Brantwood and where Donald Campbell died whilst attempting a world speed record and Derwentwater, beside Keswick. There are no steamers on Wastwater in the west but the lake, with its dramatic scree slopes, did receive the accolade of Britain’s Favourite View in a competition run by ITV in 2007. Wastwater is also England’s deepest lake and close to Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. And it’s the Lakeland fells – Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Blencathra, Fairfield, Haystacks, Harrison Stickle, Black Combe, Great Gable, Great Cockup, Coniston Old Man, Pillar and many, many others – which can make the spirits soar as much as the lakes. Many famous people have had their own favourite corner of Cumbria. Wordsworth loved the Duddon Valley, writer Norman Nicholson belonged to Millom, Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, spent childhood holidays at Coniston Water and of all the fells which Alfred Wainwright walked and climbed in research for his famous guides, Haystacks was closest to his heart. The wonder of Lakeland is that even with so many visitors there are more than enough beauty spots to go around. As ever Wainwright sums the area up beautifully when he wrote
“No day in the Lake District needs be wasted because of inclement weather. The mountains are inhospitable in bad weather….the friendly passes offer the perfect answer. You’ll still get wet, of course, and despair at the shroud of mist that masks the beauty all around, but the exercise will do you good and after a rousing supper in dry clothes you will vote the day a very satisfactory one after all.”
So there you are wise words from the master.