With much anticipation, the advanced party assembled inside the ugliest station in London. UCL Hiking Club was beginning its first residential trip of 2018. After everyone arrived at the station, the group made a frantic dash for the train, the Vice-President fumbled around with the hundreds of tickets, trying to work out which ones were needed to get on the train. After some negotiation with a conductor, a deal was struck and only rail cards needed to be shown. Hurrah, the party had made it onto the 09.43 service to Glasgow. Now begun the process of evicting those who’d made the unfortunate mistake of deciding to sit in our booked seats. This involved unseating OAPs, and felt very distressing at the time!
Once on the train we began the mammoth journey up to Windermere, which took us on a scenic route through the beautiful quaint villages of Birmingham, Preston and Wigan. Approaching midday, the team had made it up to Oxenholme and boarded the local train that took us over to Windermere. This afforded us a great introduction to the scenic Lake District for those who have not been before and gave us a first glimpse of the snow-capped fells in the distance. On arrival, the taxis we’d organised prior swiftly took us to our new home: a bunkhouse connected to the grand estate of Rydal Hall, located slap-bang in the middle of the Lake District. After arrival, the advance party quickly reorganised belongings and tested the stair lift for the disabled, in the knowledge that in the subsequent days the more frail amongst us would be able to get to their rooms OK.
By about 3pm the earlier group began the first day’s walk. The walk consisted of a simple introduction to the local area, involving a stroll from the hostel around Rydal Water to soak up the fantastic scenery. What made the walk even more special was the weather, which turned out to be the best of the four days, not to rub it in to the people who turned up late. Sunshine and fresh air, bliss away from London! After everyone had sorted their cover photos out for 2018 in the caves, which was a real surprise for many, the group made it back to the hostel for the evening.
Later on, the mass delivery of food parcels began and they were not delivered by the Red Cross. Tesco PLC managed to unload what must have been about 30-50 crates worth of food on our new doorstep. The scale of the operation and quantities involved were colossal. I have never seen so much bread in my entire life! After the food had eventually arrived and been unloaded, the party began the process of cooking dinner. Fortunately, due to the fact we had many international students, culinary excellence was not far away. After a couple of hours, the finished product arrived. At this point the later party turned up, much to the earlier party’s disappointment that they’d have to share the food. The Penne dish with salad went down very well. The rest of the evening was either spent in the pub or in single beds.
The following morning after what can best be described as a chilly night’s sleep, people awoke to find it was snowing heavily and that there were at least a few inches of snow on the ground already. This caused some panic amongst the chain of command. English people don’t know what to do when snow is on the ground. Fortunately, we had enough international students to calm our panic and show us that snow was not in fact a threat, it was our friend. After getting sound confirmation that the taxis were still in fact on their way, Alice managed to organise the rabble into coherent groups, whereupon the journey was begun to Elterwater, the starting point for Day 2’s walks. We successfully split into 3 groups and everyone put on their waterproofs or lack thereof.
The three groups Easy (led by Cameron), Moderate (led by Tassilo) and Harder (led by Alice) appeared to have varying experiences in how the day panned out. The Harder walk in particular appeared to run into some difficulties with regard to the conditions (in retrospect it did sound like it may have been the trickiest walk of the whole weekend, if one excludes the technical harder activities of Day 4). The Moderate group seemed to carry on their way without too much complaint, under the steadfast leadership of Tassilo. Meanwhile the Easy group had a breeze, stopping for lunch at a nice café for some Luncheon. However, what the Easy group had not appreciated was the depths the local English folk would sink into to be able to navigate in the snow. Someone cunning and devious had stolen our map. The map was nowhere to be found, and thus photos had to be taken of another map at the café to continue navigating.
One thing that must be said about these walks is the beauty of the scenery we encountered on the first day. Many people remarked to avoid the Lake District in winter and early February but it was well worth it. The snow created a picturesque dynamic, especially when combined with lakes and low lying cloud in the distance. In the afternoon after lunch, the Moderate and Harder groups decided to go straight back to Rydal, after a strenuous day’s walking. The Easy group on the other hand went into the lovely town of Ambleside, the main reason being to buy a map. Shortly after this, the decision was made to visit the local museum where we enhanced our education, growing many new brain cells. The President particularly enjoyed learning about Mycology (the study of fungi). Thereafter, on getting back to the hostel, all groups were somewhat tired but pleased with the day’s walk.
In the evening, the mass-catering operation began again, it was a sight to behold. Once again a fantastic Chilli Con Carne dish was conceived. Once all of the dishes were done, some of the party made their way down to the Badger Bar to find many stuffed badgers adorning the walls. The evening’s activities were organised by Clair who did a great job of finding and asking the quiz questions. We found out that no one could name a single member of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. After many hours, some take away beers were bought. What a novelty. After making it back to the hostel, discussions about political by-elections between the President and Vice-President continued into the early hours, much top-quality conversation was conceived…
The following morning (Sunday) the Harder group awoke at a slightly earlier time, adjusted to be able to catch the buses and taxis laid on to Keswick. All groups had left the hostel and were in Keswick/foot of Catbells by 10.15. The bus journey on route was again fantastic, opening up much of the scenery that the lakes had to offer. On arrival the Harder and Moderate groups began at a brisk pace in a general Southerly direction. On arriving at the foot of Catbells the group split once and then again after completing the first Catbell because the conditions were not particularly good. 6 members including the Vice-President continued through the tricky conditions up the very top of the other Catbell. After a couple of hours and detours, the groups resolved to meet somewhere at the foot of Lake Derwent water. On the break for lunch the conditions were magnificent and we could not think of a better setting. I have been reliably informed the first group had lunch in a hotel. In the afternoon the hikers began a very pleasant lakeside walk around the perimeter with some very good views looking back over what we had just climbed. By late afternoon most groups were back in Windermere, whereupon the nearest tearoom was found and a large amount of cake was consumed.
On arrival back at the hut, the group made a fine pasta dish. The food was very good throughout the trip! This evening’s activities consisted of playing a bit more of a game that captivated the members of the trip (it was successfully introduced by Antonin). The game involved the interpretation of pictures and phrases/stories being passed around many times, and everyone seemed to enjoy playing this game.
By the morning of Day 4 the weather had improved again and the groups began their walks after a brief breakfast. The harder walk involved taking a bus up to the pretty little village of Grasmere and then starting the walk up to Helm Crag. The Easy/Moderate groups completed walks in the local periphery again with a focus on ascending up to a tarn close to Nab Scar. Throughout the rest of the day the Harder group continued through some technical terrain and tricky conditions along a ridge completing a horseshoe walk in the process. Whilst most walkers agreed it was very cold, most agreed it was worth it based on the fantastic views we were afforded and the feeling that we were really connected to the wilderness. By late afternoon all groups were either back at Rydal or in Grasmere enjoying some afternoon tea. Swiftly, the taxis took us and our stuff from Rydal back to Windermere with an endless supply of bread and juice which was fought over briefly. Free Diet Coke was given to the local residents by Fritz, who tried to improve the perception of EU migrants which had come to settle in the UK.
Different groups split off in the evening for food where some went to the local Indian and others ended up going to the pub/Italian. The food was generally very good. By 8pm it was time to leave and board the two journeys that would take us back to London. I would like to think that many a good experience was had by all on this trip. Indeed, exposing people to the real wonders of UK scenery was a joy and pleasure for the committee.