Many years ago I went up to Wastwater Youth Hostel with a friend of mine and fell in love with the place. It’s in a gorgeous valley that has Scafell Pike at one end, has the deepest lake in England on the doorstep and was built as someone’s fine country mansion, so I thought that it would be good to fill it with friends one day and make it our own country pile for a while.
It was also significant because it’s out of the way. One thing I think of when swimming at Tooting Bec Lido is that you meet the best of people when they’re willing to do something a little more difficult than usual to get where they’re going, so getting up to the West Lakes wasn’t going to be easy for many people meaning only those you’d want there would get there and that’s what happened.
It was touch and go the evening before we all set off. People had found cars and transport to get up country but the weather was closing in so much that we were being told that it might not be possible to get north of Watford. But on Friday morning the weather eased up enough for everyone to make their own way through the wind and rain, Terry and Jane with Ruby, Ben and Nicola stopping off in Oxford to pick up a busy Isis at home, Jeanne-Marie and Audley in the loving magically bus were magically loving on their way, Sarah with Jonathan and Vince with a car packed with guitars, Annie and David on the train which had only just resumed after the line had been repaired, Adrian and Jane with Rex, Ben and Ember in the Landrover Discovery came late in the day and Mark Dale the petrol man came the next day.
Vova and I met at St Pancras and travelled up beyond Nottingham where we picked up a lift with Clive where we nipped into the local Aldi for enough supplies to keep us going. Clive drove though the wind and rain, at one point passing a car where we saw a fellow looking at a map with a magnifying glass which was definitely a blast from the past. We were kept busy with our Google Maps and a grand bit of driving, whizzing around the dark roads of the western lakes listening to Clives rabid music CD as the landscape got more and more hilly, arriving late enough to find the fire going and smiling faces to greet us.
All of the couples managed to get a room to themselves with the rest of us in the large dorm room that was available, a few had double beds with the rest snuggling into bunk beds that were warm as the whole hostel was kept comfy even though not open to the public.
On Saturday morning many people went for a swim in the lake which was as chilly as it needed to be in February. In the afternoon we went for walks, Isis and Ruby leaving ahead of us as did Jonathan and Sarah, many following up the path by the lake later as the sun lit the whole valley and snow capped mountains ahead.
After we returned we had a meal made by the YHA staff, then everyone dressed up in their finery for a party around a big open fire. Vince, Jonathan, Ben, Isis and occasionally myself all played music, Clive recited poetry, Ruby danced, everyone talked into the early hours as well as grouped in the wonderful area outside the front door where we drank and smoked looking out upon the wintry dark lake.
I had a bottle of 7 year old Cuban Rum that I made Daiquiris with and sat for much of the time out in the smoking area with a few Cuban cigars that Julie had kindly brought me back from Cuba on her last visit. The cigars would last an hour or so and I was happy to see people going back and forth from the living room, some of them having a puff of cigar with a swig of Daiquiri. Those moments on the steps outside the hostel door, talking to people as a party around a warm fire went on were some of the best moments of my life. It was a party more like a family of people caring and respecting each other, people who are good at making the most of a difficult journey because there’s a wonderful place they’re arriving at. I don’t want to get too philosophical so let’s say it was a fine party.
The next morning many people left, leaving me getting all blubbery over an early glass of wine as I saw Isis disappear into the distance. I was told off for this and headed for bed to sleep off the night before. Clive and Vince headed up to the snow line for a photo shot, then we headed off later to the local pub for a pie that tasted as if it had been made by Mrs Miggins. We were lucky to get a lift back with Adrian in his Landrover as the walk there had been dark and it would have seemed further to get home.
So thanks everyone for a wonderful weekend, I’m sure we’ll head back to the lakes again, without Bob Dylan and perhaps next time with the summer sun allowing us to head up to the waterfalls, I know a few streams and ponds up in them hills.
Let’s take the rest of the Tooting Bec Lido gang with us next time!