Eskdale is quiet. Even for the Lake district. I’ve been midweek to various parts of the Lakes and never found such wonderfully deserted countryside. The air was not rent with the shouts of walkers after their dogs or children asking whether they are at the top yet. Barely a sheep groaned in the distance. This made it absolutely perfect for long walks along the fells, unspoilt views and secluded dips in tarns.
It took my dad and I almost all day to travel by train from London through Lancaster and along the coast. We passed stunning views of the sea, whilst the couple behind talked of death by quicksand, towards Ravenglass.
From there, we took the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway up the valley. Originally constructed to transport iron ore from the mines in 1845 and, later, granite, it was closed twice as each export failed to be economically viable. These days, it serves to transport tourists and walkers like us. The railway is only 15 inch gauge and I could not help feeling that we were inside a tiny Victorian model train set. The train coming into Ravenglass had been damaged by a sheep no less and the workmen seemed alarmingly large in comparison to the engine.
We decided to stay at the appropriately walker-themed, Boot Inn to make a change from my usual youth hosteling. It had a charming pub downstairs but we decided to take advantage of the sun and head up the hill towards Blea Tarn. There are three Blea Tarns in the Lake District, but this experience was my favourite.
The climb wasn’t too heavy, but gently wended its way skywards and I discovered some abandoned, stone farmhouses where a small wren resided. The surrounding mountains, Slight Side and Sca fell, were bathed in the warm afternoon sunlight.
From the highest point, I could glimpse the corner of the tarn and, in the distance, the faint blue of the sea. It is bizarre to see the sea from not-right-next-to-the-sea. It appeared almost to be higher than the mountains and did not fit with my understanding of how sea should look. But it was spectacular nonetheless. The tarn looked almost like an infinity pool.
I made my way down to Blea Tarn (otherwise known as Dark Blue Tarn) and had a quick dip. Once the horrendous, stabbing cold had lessened, I was able to be mindful of my surroundings. It took my breath away, both literally and because of the soft sunlight and piercing silence when I paused. The Autumn coloured bracken made the mountains appear warm and rosy.
Once I could sense the impending hypothermia looming, I jumped out and continued on the trail. From there, it was all downhill to a hot shower, beer and a cheese and onion pie. Bliss.