The holidays were fast drawing to a close, school and September were looming and we still hadn’t arranged any kind of a holiday. Buying a house that (still) needs rewiring and a new boiler whilst living off one income has meant luxuries like holidays have had to take a rain check for the time being. Our year of scrimping and saving, going round Aldi with a carefully crafted shopping list and a calculator, has forced a reminder that the greatest luxuries come in forms other than consumables; time and good company can’t be bought but can usually be found and often be priceless. The eldest and I celebrated our frugality with a mini tour of the south eastern fells; on foot, under canvas and finally over water. We were rich in time, good weather and spent two days walking where we wanted at our own pace and eating like kings (albeit the types of kings that have live off instant mashed potato and veggie sausage rolls). After our recent sun scorched sleep out on the flanks of Blencathra, we arrived armed to the teeth with hats and sun cream, though the first hour was under the cool shade of trees and a stream that kept us well hydrated. We later left the woods to find ourselves walking into baking heat, the surrounding summits were clear and cloudless with enough hours in the day to take our time to reach the tops. The path was easy and for once involved little climbing giving us time to ease into our walk.Cumbria on a fine day is never likely to guarantee solitude, there were plenty of others out on the hills and quite a crowd had gathered around Low Water as we passed, however setting off in the late afternoon meant that we enjoyed some space as we were the only ones heading upwards after a certain time. We reached the summit of The Old Man of Coniston just as the evening began, the wind had picked up a little and blew his sun cream matted hair wildly around in the gusts, it was just still enough in the shelter of the cairn to brew up water for coffee and hot chocolate as a reward for the clamber to the top. The drinks warmed us up briefly but the sunshine which had made us glow us for much of the day had lost its heat and we dug out extra layers from our packs. We were joined by three border collies and a fell runner briefly, it’s always brief with fell runners, they don’t tend to stop long to chat as they get cold and restless, after they disappeared along a ridge we enjoyed the summit to ourselves. He scrambled to the top of the trig point after a few unsuccessful attempts and perched uncomfortably on its small square plateau for all of thirty seconds. We thought of climbing down to Goats Water to pitch our tent, it looked like a grand place to pitch but somehow losing the height felt like we undoing all of the hard work we had put in to climb so high, the valley to the north was more inviting and we walked for ten minutes before finding a place which was dry and flat enough to call home. We sat out on some rocks to eat even though the wind had become stronger, far off in the distance we watched a few head torches made their way over the summits before retreating to the tent for the night. The view we’d hoped to wake to was hidden behind low cloud and we opted for a lazy morning staying in our sleeping bags with the door unzipped to let the breeze in. The forecast promised another bright sunny day ahead and the canopy of cloud had already started to burn off by the time we left our sleeping spot behind, he kept his layers on and hood firmly up till we’d passed over Blind Tarn and Dow Crag. The going was pretty easy as nearly all of our climbing had been done yesterday, he chatted away about video games, Minecraft Mods and Terraria, leaving me feel old and like I was listening to another language, on the other hand talking seemed to distract him from how far he’d walked and how far we had to go so I nodded along and occasionally asked questions to keep him chattering away. The day grew hotter and brighter and bleached the landscape, leaving the footpath to cut out some distance brought me some relief as the marshland we found ourselves in soaked and cooled our feet, it brought him frustration and dismay that his boots weren’t quite as waterproof as he thought they were.
We returned to a car that had become an oven and our journey home was along winding narrow lanes that were likely to be choked with traffic. The contingency plan worked a treat, we drove to Coniston village seeking chips and ice creams and made for the water. In spite of full bellies with a little negotiation and improvisation we managed to squeeze into the packraft and set out to Fir Island and Peel Island. A jar of peanut butter doubled up as a figurehead and our lunch which we ate with crackers on a hidden island beach. After a swim we toured the length of lake stopping every few minutes to lay back in the sun trying to ignore the fact that the day would have to end at some point, the only break in the glassy waters came when the ferry passed by and rocked us with rippling waves.