New Thing 9: Blencathra

Our garden bath tub hut was looking out over Blencathra so I felt like we should probably hike up it. With shaky legs after the Via Ferrata the day before and being headache drunk at midnight I was pretty skeptical I would make it up the 860m height mountain the next day.

It made it to the list so I obviously did manage but only because:

– I ate a lot of sweets

– I complained a lot

– I used those hiking sticks popular with retired people to drag myself up

– I drove down the road to an easy starting spot as I was too scared to do either of the two ridges

In my defence of the last point nine people have died walking Sharp Edge and I am aware how clumsy I am.

Taking the less dangerous route up (starting just left of the pub in Scales) was an acceptable amount of views versus risk. We had a picnic overlooking a tarn which was beautifully clear but really fucking cold.

Then at the top my hiking buddy went far too close to the edge for my comfort level to get some photos like this (whilst I sat somewhere safe and tried to not have a nervous meltdown about the death risk).

But then we had saved some coffee and fudge and sat well away from the edge and I felt better.

By the time we started to head down it was pouring with rain so we only got some sheep photos as any view further was just cloud.

(my photo)

(not my photo)

Despite the rain and shaky legs and death fear it was fun. 8 out of 10.

New Thing 4: Via Ferrata

A Via Ferrata is a series of iron rods stapled onto the (almost vertical) mountain side to climb over. You still get the climbers harness and carabiners (metal climbers clips) to clip on with, but it is more similar to a weirdly placed ladder than actual gripping onto the rock face.

This is good as you don’t need experience but you can go straight onto a really high up mountain and get amazing views.

It is a bit of a faff getting the carabiners on and off every rungs but you get in the swing of it.

We started off fairly high and then climbed down a vertical rock face and skirted across the mountain side. At one point there was a ‘Burma Bridge’ across a gorge with a wire to balance on and two wires to hold on to. With a 1,000 foot drop straight down to the rocky valley it was surprisingly not scary.

We did the extreme package for three hours so after this we climbed a huge net over a stretch of mountain which was the hardest bit.

When we finished we ended up on the old paths the slate miners used with low tunnels running through the mountain and then out along the edge with sheer drops down.

Along the route were abandoned slate buildings a metre or so from the edge. This must have been 1,500 feet up from the valley floor and even in May it was bloody cold and windy. We were told that the miners would live in them for four weeks at a time taking children up from seven years old.

I can’t imagine how horrible that would be in winter with just heavy woollen clothes and nothing waterproof.

The guide then took us to the summit of Fleetwith Pike which is 2,100 feet tall with views across to Scotland.

The afternoon itself was really fun. I wasn’t sure if I would have a panic about the height and ruin it. At the start one couple took a look at the route and went straight back which did not help my nerves. But by the end I was feeling quite proud of myself for doing something a bit scary.

Fun factor : 8 out of 10

Fear level : 7 out of 10

New Thing 2: Garden Bath

Imagine we are friends and I invite you to my house. You expect coffee, maybe a brownie, and to sit on the sofa fully clothed and that is completely socially acceptable to everyone.

Alternatively what if I told you I’d left my bath water in for a few days. Suggested we take our clothes off, get in together in our underwear and I’ll throw in a little cap of bleach and some more hot water to sanitise it. Then once we are in I leave the vacuum running in the hall for some background noise so we have to shout a little bit to hear each other.

Sounds shit.

That is how I feel about hot tubs. The thought of being outside in hot water is a nice idea but the reality of it is actually all a bit gross and socially awkward.

Now I understand that there is always the option of only using hot tubs with someone you are quite happy being naked with anyway and the option of only using a freshly cleaned hot tub of clean water. But I have trust issues.

Does every self catering holiday let offering two night stays bother taking half an hour to empty it, faff around cleaning it, four hours filling it and another four hours heating it in between check out at 11am and check in at 4pm? Do they commit to the effort of doing this every other day? I’m skeptical.

Now some places probably do, for example look at this fancy set up with an outdoor hot tub which I would absolutely get in.

If I had £850 to spend on one nights accommodation.

Which I do not.

However I found this cool little hut with an outdoor bath. A log burner powered outdoor bath with a field of sheep looking on. So rustic, so nostalgic, this is definitely how Cumbrian sheep farmers have kept clean and relaxed for centuries. I was very excited.

You can see from the image the lovely clean, non-chemical, water we put in ourselves.

The water goes in cold and the log burner had a little inlet to let the water circulate through to heat and go back into the tub so it stays hot as long as the log burner keeps running.

There is quite a lot of very cold water in the tub there. The guide says the tub takes “two hours” to heat up so as soon as we arrived at 6.30 we got it heating straight away. We nipped out to get some fish and chips, got the fire pit on and enjoyed some champagne in the sun and it was gorgeous:

I got a little bit drunk and left my guy that I am seeing to be the responsible fire manager. Not that I can’t work a log burner but purely because I am a lazy drunk and preferred to get settled with a blanket and demand chocolates and prosecco be brought to me instead.

After two hours the top two inches were appropriately warm and everything below was bloody freezing.

After four hours it was warm enough to get in but we had to huddle around the water outlet flow to stay warm. It took another hour before it was hot enough to lie back and relax by which point it was nearly bedtime.

I did get a nice bit of chilling out looking at the stars time. But also the post prosecco regret then kicked in and I started to get a bit headachey.

Was it worth it?

The novelty factor of being tipsy in an outdoor tub with little lambs playing in the background was fun. On the basis of someone else doing all the work while I got drunk, yes it was worth the almost no effort I put in. However the second night we definitely could not be bothered with doing it again.

Fun factor 10/10 for the ten minutes of enough warmth when I could lie back and managed to spot a shooting star which made it pretty special

Effort factor 7/10 lots and lots of (someone else) adding logs to the tiny log burner to try and get the fire hot enough

(we stayed at The Stag booked through Canopy and Stars, it was gorgeous – more photos below. The £850 place is Gilpin Lodge, also in The Lakes)