“I’m doing the Wainwrights,” Catherine explains and points at her goal for today’s hike, a minor peak above Borrowdale. “Have you heard of them? That’s 214 peaks in the Lake District that Alfred Wainwright described in his hiking guides. I have only 27 left!” Of course we have read about the British fell walker Alfred Wainwright and also about the recent revival of Wainwright bagging, triggered by a BBC4 series called the Wainwright walks. Catherine and her friend live in the area, and they know dozens of people who have already done all the Wainwrights. We abstain from mentioning that the number is easy to remember as it’s the same as the 214 historical radicals in Japanese characters…
We went for a week to the English Lake District and got what we expected: rain.
The Lake District, and Borrowdale in particular, is the wettest area in England – not exactly known for a pleasantly dry climate anyway. While we are there it rains every day, and often is bucketing down for hours. Most of the time we walk in full rain gear with an additional umbrella and still get wet. The landscape is beautiful though, but mostly limited to 20 m of peat and rocks visible in the deep fog. In spite of the rain, a lot of people are out in the mountains, and everyone is in good spirits. “What beautiful views today,” comments an elderly woman who is drenched and walking in shorts.
A few days later, the clouds lift a little. “Oh, you survived the night,” the owner of the farm campsite observes. After two nights and a day of torrential downpours (not far from us, houses have been swept away), our tent is standing on a small gravel island on a now-deserted swampy field. The campsite’s waste container is full of tents that failed to impress their owners. We decide for a day trip on the picturesque Crinkle Crags (a Wainwright!) and actually get a nice clear view from the top, but – surprise! – in the evening it rains again.
Somewhat unexpectedly, we did like the Lake District very much. We will come back for sure and we even (very briefly, admittedly) thought about collecting Wainwrights – only 213 to go!