Twin Bleaks

With Sally’s weight problem sorted, and almost being in the vicinity, we felt a visit to the Lake District would be in order so a weekend at the Coniston Park Coppice site, on the shores of Lake Coniston (as the name suggests) was duly booked. 

It’s been a while since we’d last visited the Lakes and on the previous occasion one of the more memorable features, apart from the lakes, was the mountains. Unfortunately, due to the low cloud and incessant rain we could have been in Norfolk, as nothing above about 20 feet (6 metres for you Millennials amongst us) was actually visible. 

This was the case for pretty much all of the weekend. In a brief respite from the unending deluge we managed a quick walk along the lakeside where, bizarrely I bumped into an old friend who I haven’t seen for years! What are the chances? With contact details swapped we went our separate ways only to meet up again as we walked past their van on the way back. Serendipity is a strange thing indeed. 

Monday – the day we were leaving – dawned bright and sunny with a near cloudless blue sky affording several magnificent glimpses of the snow-capped peaks as we drove past. I am not a fan of winter sunshine when driving and heading south, with a low sun and wet roads made for extremely difficult driving conditions. 

Our next destination was Castleton in the Peak District where we’d booked a few nights stay. In the end, a relatively short (134 miles) journey took over four squinting hours to complete (note: “squinting” is not a euphemism!)

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Castleton village centre (before the snow)

Although the sun was still hanging low in the sky the darkness of the sky on the horizon alluded to the forthcoming weather and sure enough, overnight, the snow arrived. 

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Sally in the snow!

It was still snowing the following day when we headed into Castleton village less than a mile along the road. After a quick perusal of what the little village had to offer (not a great deal unless you were into all manner of trinkets fashioned out of stones from the nearby Blue John caves) and with the snow still falling fast, we were forced to take refuge in a rescue shelter (or pub as the locals call them) and spent a very cosy couple of hours – and pints – in front of a roaring fire. Now that’s what winter days are all about!

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The welcoming interior of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn rescue shelter
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Sustenance for a cold winter’s day!

Eventually, and with Jack’s fur approaching self-combustion, we donned fleeces, coats, hats, scarves, and gloves before heading out once again into the wilderness. 

One of the many things we love about Sally is the warmth and comfort once inside with the heater on. Although Wilma (the previous van if you’ve not been keeping up with past adventures) was great, winter would have been a whole different experience in her!

Although it snowed again overnight, the next day actually dawned bright and clear so a walk over the fields to the nearby village of Hope was planned. Good name, and one that was to prove quite salient. 

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The local cement factory on a wintry day

Due to the outside temperature (about minus three) the overnight snow had frozen and the previously muddy ground now had the appearance of solidified chocolate. Due to my complete stupidity when preparing for our walk across such terrain I opted for lightweight walking boots rather than the much more sensible, completely waterproof, fleece-lined and equally available Wellington boots!

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Snow-covered ground – for the moment!

Very little time had elapsed before my error of judgement surfaced. The previously solid snow and ice holding the solidified ground together was melting. Fast. Suddenly, we were wading through quagmires of liquid mud embellished with various flavours of similarly fluid excrement. The water-proofness of our boots was brought into question as another step plunged ankle-deep into the morass. 

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On the way to Hope – snow melting fast…

I was not a popular man, and Annie was not a happy bunny. 

“Hope” had now ceased to be a place but a state of mind as field after field presented another navigational challenge. Jack, as ever, was the only one in our party who had no problem with it. Now resembling a chocolate Labrador, he continued to plunge headlong into whatever bog was presented to him with the same gleeful appearance as bounding through a summer’s meadow. 

Eventually Hope arrived (as it had almost departed us) and a decision to take the roadway back was quickly agreed on, only stopping along the way to buy some homemade pork & leek sausages from a local farm shop. 

Another pretty bleak trip was saved by sausage, egg & chips for tea.

What simple souls we are really.