09:25. We arrive at the farm, Stool End, just as the farmer is moving a herd of sheep from the barn to a field. Even though the public footpath gives us right-of-way, I always feel a bit intrusive crossing the farmer’s fields, or in this case right through the middle of their yard between the house and barns, especially as they are going about the business of their day, trying to get some work done. The etiquette seems to be to ignore each other, to maintain a wall of privacy where we do not actually exist in their world, nor they in ours. My instinct, however, is to smile and look conciliatory.
We continue past the farm, alongside Oxendale Beck (which doesn’t have much water in it now), across the new bridge, and begin the long slog up the reconstructed footpath. I prefer the levelness of the stone steps (and appreciate the effort made by those people who did all the work), but it does make the hike seem like a workout on the world’s tallest StairMaster.
10:25. We reach Brown Howe and the path begins a more gradual ascent. We stop for a snack of gingerbread and SAM, looking at Great Knott above us, says he wants the room key so he can go back. The worst is behind us, I tell him. “Are we going up there?” He points to Great Knott. Considerably higher than that, it turns out. At least we don’t go over Great Knott, but behind it.
The fells fold here and the dropoff from the path into Browney Gill far below reminds me of something from George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. We stop at one waterfall for one of our frequent rests. I insisted from the outset that I planned to make plenty of stops to look at scenery. I’m no fell runner. I prefer to amble.
Above and beyond the waterfall we see where our path intersects with the larger and more travelled path coming over Pike o’ Blisco. We see people for the first time on this hike, spaced out in twos and threes. This is the greatest number of people we’ve seen together all trip. I’d feared the fells would be packed given this is peak season (when the British schools are out). If other people are vacationing in the Lake District, I guess they’re all conglomerating around Ambleside and Windermere.
Noon siesta a bit further up. I’m not actually sleeping. I’m drinking in Pike o’ Blisco and Windermere and beyond.
13:00. We went over the first small crag. SAM has reversed modes and is now racing ahead rather than lagging behind. The result is that he takes the easy route to the left rather than the route AJM and Richard had planned up the Bad Step to Long Top. When AJM and I get to up the steepest part of the climb, I sit to catch my breath while AJM chases after SAM. I think he’ll be back for the camera, but soon I see him above me at the summit and so follow after.
I insist on at least half an hour up here to store memories. The little orange arrow marks the spot on the trail where SAM wanted to turn back.
The hike is all downhill now. (If we were keen hikers, we could have continued up to Bowfell.) Instead we take the long, easy stroll down The Band to Stool End Farm. We’re not even halfway down before clouds begin to roll over the Crinkle Crags. Our timing was perfect. When we were at the summit we could see to the sea.
17:00. Unlike Wainwrights, the Walker’s Bar at the Old Dungeon Ghyll doesn’t begin serving food until 6PM. We’re hungry now. So we drive up the road to the Stickle Barn and order our Guinness and shepherds pie. And sticky toffee pudding, of course.