Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Visit to Lake Country

Whew, back in the land of internet connections. Elizabeth and Dad and Person as Yet Unnamed have just returned from a perfectly wonderful little holiday up in the Lake Country - that's a patch of glaciated highlands just south of Hadrian's Wall which is the most British place you can be. It's green green GREEN fields and forests under blue blue BLUE sky, all shoppes and sheeps (as I wrote to Ariel on my Tom Kitten postcard, which I purchased at the dear little Beatrix Potter museum in Hawkshead, near her home above Lake Windermere).

Go on, check the other 10 pictures. And, be sure to switch to "satellite" view when you look at the Google Earth images, to see the tire tracks of the Pleistocene glaciers. Note also the dandy fault scarp running along the east side of Lake Windermere.

We stayed at a lovely B&B in the village of Windermere, where the proprietor, a member of the Windermere and Ambleside Angling Association not only provided passes to fishing spots off limits to the public, but set us up with fly roads, boxes of flies, and a landing net (har har). Folks up there catch 2 and 3 pound brownies, and our host once brought in a 17 pound rainbow. It's all catch-and-release and the barbs on the hooks are bent down to make it easy for you (and/or the clever fish) to get the hook out.

Elizabeth and her passenger seemed to like walking, and I managed to keep up. The first day we ambled down to Bowness-on-Windermere where troops of big fat swans, standing in for Jemima Puddle Duck, go pit pat waddle pat in pursuit of tourist kids with swan chow. From here, a little ferry took us across Lake Windermere to meet a little bus which carried us up to Conington Water, stopping at some extremely quaint villages including Sawrey, where Beatrix actually lived at Hill Top House and raised a local breed of hairy sheep that look just like wolves. Next day, with fishing tackle, we went back to Sawrey and hiked up past cow byres and hayfields into the treeless rocky tops, where we fished at Moss Eccles Tarn. It was E's first experience with a fly rod so we got back on the grass and practised with just the line for a while. Our host had loaned me a Hardy's rod and reel, a thousand dollar outfit which felt alive in my hand, but E had to make do with an ordinary outfit. In return for this great favor, I had verified than an oval rock with a cracked crust that our host had picked up on a beach one summer, below exposures of the Lias formation, was really truly a dinosaur egg, and he was just as thrilled as I was.

The light in July lingers on and on and so did we, moving around the gorgeous tarn, with pines and clouds reflected in the glassy water, and having a great time but catching nothing at all. Most of the ripples were little diving ducks, but now and then a huge trout would throw itself out of the water for a hovering fly, whose likeness we palpably did not have on our lines. We didn't care. Elizabeth joyfully quoted Walt Whitman: "I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass." I tried the leaning and loafing bit, did quite well at it. The last cute little bus was long gone, and so was the cute little ferry, so at around 9 pm we started down the hill, our excellent topo map in hand, and after around two miles of paths by stone walls arrived at the car ferry, a mere 50p for pedestrians if they bothered to collect it, and so back to Bowness, an excellent Italian dinner, and a climb up the road to home.

Yesterday, after porridge -- yes! Real Brit porridge! Smooth and scrumptious! -- we took a taxi ($15) to Ghyll Head, a lovely reservoir south of Bowness (follow map to Storrs, and down to the southeast of that), also off limits to public but rather easier to get to, where Elizabeth CAUGHT A FISH. We have photographic proof which is attached. Mission accomplished! She is now a Fly Fishing Person, and none too soon! We released the monster with a mighty splash and staggered deliriously back across the fields, climbing walls and kicking sheeps out of the way, and called for a cab to come up the hill and carry us back to a Thai restaurant in triumph.

Now we are back at Basterfield House waiting for Chelsea, who is coming to dinner, and fantastic food smells are wafting up the stairs. Poor Elizabeth, she never gets to cook; Henrik just won't get out of the kitchen, ever. Never marry a Viking. Tony (Chelsea's gent) can't be here, and Enid had an unbreakable dinner date with the former head of the British Museum, but Elizabeth says never mind, we can deal with the extra food. Her little pal has a very big appetite. So do I. More later.