We recently had a very pleasant stay in the Lake District of England, perhaps one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen.
We were there on what the English call a “walking holiday.” We stayed at Monk Coniston, formerly a monastery and later part of the 4000 acre estate owned by Beatrix Potter, now a part of the National Trust domain. Here’s the view from our room.
Our holiday was hosted by HF Holidays, which operates many similar properties, mostly in the UK but in other countries as well. Each day, we were given a choice of an easier, medium or hard hike, each led by an experienced, essentially volunteer, guide. The easy walks were generally 5-6 miles, mostly through the valleys in the area, taking in villages, pastures and the intense greenery of the region. The medium walks were a bit longer with more elevation gain and the hard ones longer and tougher still.
Pictures really don’t capture the beauty of the Lake District. The hills (western Americans just can’t realistically call them mountains) present real hiking challenges that can include use of hands climbing and descending, but the view from the ridges is spectacular. In addition, walking is such a part of the culture in the UK that walking paths are a given – everywhere – on ridges, through pastures, towns, over hill and dale.
Brexit presents a serious problem for the region, since many of the farmers receive EU subsidies for their efforts (it’s tough, if not impossible to make a living there just raising sheep). There has recently been a World Heritage designation for the area, and that may ease the pressure a bit, but the housing is too expensive for most to survive on traditional livelihoods.
Two interesting side notes. Since there aren’t many fountains in the woods, folks pound copper (only) coins into fallen trees for luck.
Also, since most walks include crossing pastures containing sheep, gates are a necessity. The common type there (which I’d never seen elsewhere) is called a “kissing gate,” which will only allow one person through at a time.
Oh, and did I mention sheep?