Ullswater, May 2018

Given that I think almost nothing about jumping in the car and driving 500 miles to the Cairngorms or to Aberdeen for the Shetland ferry, it really is a bit off to claim that it’s a long way to the Lake District.  But that is just how it feels sometimes, and I’ve said in the past (when I’ve tried to explain why I don’t get to the Lakes very often) once I’ve driven three hundred miles to get to the Lakes and might as well do the whole thing and pitch up in the Scottish mountains.

So, I was pleased when the news got out that the John Muir Trust was taking out a three year lease on Glenridding Common (and Helvellyn) and that their annual Gathering was going to be at the Glenridding Village Hall at the south end of Ullswater, which meant I had the excuse to spend couple of days exploring Ullswater.  I really can’t remember if I’ve been to Ullswater before - but if I have it was a long time ago.

My initial reaction on arriving was the logistical similarity to some of the Alpine Lakes I’ve visited - for example the Achensee.  In both cases the lake is a long thin ribbon, with a circular walk around the lake of about 20 miles - and if you get tired there are regular steamer services to get you back to where you started.   Around Ullswater the path is referred to as the Ullswater Way - and over the course of the weekend I walked three chunks of the Way, as well as attended various talks and presentations at the John Muir Trust Gathering. 

My first stop was at Pooley Bridge at the northern end of Ullswater (about 6 or 7 miles from Junction 40 on the M6) - and despite being a grey overcast day with a slightly dodgy weather forecast I did manage a dry walk.

Overcast at the Pooley Bridge, Pier

My recollections of being around the Lake District in years gone by is of weather at two extremes - either bright, sunny and clear, or torrential rain.   My suspicions for the weekend was that it could go in either direction, and heavy overnight rain suggested that we might have been heading for the latter.

However, Saturday morning was beautifully clear and still - and it took a long time to drive the few miles down to Glenridding for my meetings (I felt the need to stop in pretty much every lay-by for another set of pictures) — and I did rather feel that it was a day to be out taking pictures rather than sitting inside. 

Still Ullswater - before the boats start running
Still Ullswater

The Gathering sessions were useful - and added a bit more detail around the Trusts current and planned activities for the next few years - it’s good to see words like “repair” and “rewild” being used together - particularly in the context of the challenges being taken on in the Lake District.  Glenridding Common is going to be a very different challenge for the Trust alongside the more remote sites they manage in the far north of Scotland.  

One of the features that always gets me in the Lake District is the sheer volume of people that can turn up on any given day.   There are huge amounts of car parking space at Glenridding, but by 9:00 AM on a sunny Saturday morning it was pretty hard work hunting for a space.  The rep from the Lake District National Park said, in their welcome chat, that 10M people live within an hours drive of the National Park - but on a sunny weekend in May, it feels as if they might all be there.

Having spent the morning inside, the next item of business was heading to Glenridding pier to catch one of the Ullswater Steamers up to Aira Force.  I spent a couple of hours around the various waterfalls before following a chunk of the Ullswater Way back along the lakeside to Glenridding. Within a few minutes of getting back the skies had clouded over an rain had starting falling - just a 30 minute reminder of how all that water gets into the Lakes.

Ullswater Steamer at Glenridding Pier
Aira Force

Sunday started almost as clear as Saturday so I made time to walk another chunk of lakeside before heading off to join the crowds on the M6 heading south. 

Ullswater Marina 
South end of Ullswater

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