“Who goes to the Lake District in November?” was the question we asked ourselves as we drove through torrential rains, got soaked hiking and went through a couple of bottles of wine in lack of a better plan for early sunsets. Turns out there is a reason accommodation there is cheaper in November and weather channels did not exaggerate those flooding warnings.
Top tip? Check the weather forecast. And take it seriously. We knew it’d be wet. Abigail was scheduled to hit and Barney to follow, but we would not change our plans and back out last minute because of some drizzle. Instead, we got a lot of waterproof gear. That in itself was a mission because most practical clothing for women look like bin bags. And one more piece of advice – water resistant does not equal water proof. Barney made sure I learnt that.
White Moss walk
All geared-up, we set off on our first walk near Rydal, where we stayed on the first night. There is a number of hiking routes in the White Moss Common, and we took the one recommended by locals. It run from the lodge, down by the lake at the feet of stunning maroon hills. It was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever done, despite the sky being grey and cloudy.
“It’s gorgeous in any weather,” the local couple told us and they were right – overcast and gloomy, the landscape was still picturesque.
Copper hills, dark lake, fluffy sheep. Following a random path, we walked through a forest, then down the hills near the water. We strolled past a herd of smelly cows and spotted mini waterfalls hiding in the thicket. It was early morning and there was no one else in sight. It was so pretty.
Threlkeld was a friend’s recommendation. It’s a lovely little village, so little, in fact, that it only has one information sign – for a phone booth. There’s a pub or two. The nearest shop is in Keswick, about ten minutes away by car. At night, you can see the stars. You can’t hear any traffic. It’s weird at first, then just wonderful.
Threlkeld is not located near any lake – it’s right at the feet of some smaller mountains and makes for a good starting point for hikes. As soon as we arrived, we headed out for a quick stroll to catch some good views before sunset. After about 20 minutes of deep mud and damp meadows, we were stopped by a stream and waterfall running across the path. Although waterproof, our boots were not tall enough to survive this.
We watched the water go, wondering whether we should turn around and find another path or just go for it and keep walking with wet feet. Then another hiking couple appeared on the other side and – without hesitation – crossed the stream at a military pace. Their secret? Gaiters. I felt like the biggest hiking amateur ever.
Soaked on Blencathra
Our big hike was going to be Blencathra, a reasonable target of 868 metres and one of the most northerly mountains in the Lake District. It was pretty clear in the morning and we decided to ignore pessimistic weather forecasts. You don’t really go to the lakes for the weather anyway.
The first hour and a half were a bliss. We followed a path up the mountain and with every step we could see more and more of the valley, other hills and actual lakes. It was stunning and refreshing, and we stopped a lot just to take in the views.
I’m not sure at what point exactly we realised we could see less and less, and the path got steeper and steeper, but first doubts startled when we could no longer spot any hill edges where we were, only the path and a few feet of the ground around. We still hoped it would clear up and we’d be rewarded with awesome views, so – a bit slower – we kept climbing up.
It was somewhat colder and more humid, and we had no idea how much longer it would take to reach the top as our preparations did not include bringing a map. To our surprise, the feeble path we had been following was marked on Google Maps. We had one mile left to the top and Google reckoned it’d take 54 minutes.
That didn’t sound bad at all so we kept going. Then all of a sudden the wind picked up, the fog thickened and it started to rain. It was just white all around. Definitely time to call it a day (and the top), and head back. We could barely even see each other and for the first time I realised how worryingly unprepared we were.
By the time we were halfway down the mountain, the rain got real and my water-resistant trousers held on until we reached the bottom of the hill. Then I just got soaked through. But it was worth it. And it definitely granted me the right to devour a massive chicken burger and chips at the local pub.
Perhaps November is not the perfect month if you want to hit the Lake District. Maybe water resistant is inferior to waterproof. And maybe printing out a map before heading into the unknown is a good idea. But the lack of other lake view-hungry people, dramatically autumnal landscapes and the cosy feeling warming up by the fire after a long drizzly hike make autumn in the Lake District an epic adventure.
Rydal: Rydal Lodge is a traditional B&B, very comfortable and the hosts are lovely. We had a great breakfast there and it’s near the lakes and many beautiful walks.
Threlkeld: Cherry Pip Cottage is a cosy, self-catered little house with one bedroom. For payment prepare cash (the nearest ATM is in Keswick).