April 21, 2011

Hiking in the Lake District

We have just spent a week hiking in the Lake District, in very good weather!  What luck!  We were surprised by how the landscape can change from gentle-pastoral to rough, remote and rugged in a short distance.  Although the peaks don't have the immediate drama of the Canadian Rockies, they are still very impressive.

Another surprise - you don't have to do the biggest, highest fells (mountains) to have a varied and interesting hike.  There are three "levels" to the Lake District:  the valley floor, filled with farms; a mid-level that involves about 10-1200 ft of elevation gain, usually encompassing field, ghyll (ravine), beck (stream) and forest; and then the large, open broad slopes of the mountain tops that require 2-3000 feet of elevation gain.  These can be wonderful hikes in good weather.  The range is so small that a carefully chosen central hike often nets views of all the highest peaks:  Scafell Pike, Sca Fell and Hellvelyn.

We did one of these bigger hikes on a crystal clear day.  A hike on a long ridge that included Starling Dodd, Red Pike, High Stile and High Crag.  It was fabulous and also netted us our first views of red grouse and one of the most spectacular bird behaviours out there.  We witnessed sky larks singing for their mates - an energetic song, done on the wing, as they climb higher, and higher... and higher - until you can't see them anymore!  It's amazing, especially when it's unexpected.  We didn't know to look for it, but it happened right under our noses.

Red Pike from High Stile.  It looks like nothing, but it was a big climb to get there!

High Crag from High Stile.  Helvellyn is way off in the background.
We recommend the Lake District - in good weather.  April seems to be the month benefiting the most from climate change and we are almost glad that we have to take our vacation then.