Tuesday, July 01, 2014

notes from Pooley Bridge

If you take the high road, make sure you know where it joins the low road or you'll be in Scotland instead of at the Howtown dock, like you'd planned. Just sayin'.

One big problem with being in Europe is that the time difference does not permit  for easy conversation with your sweeties back home. I stayed up late last night connecting with various family members with issues they are facing even as I am galavanting over fell and dale, having a grand old time of it. Sweet, sweet Ed helped me and as always was rock solid in all sorts of ways I never adequately acknowledge here.

So it was a bit of a long evening, but eventually we all put worries aside and called it a day. At least I did. It wasn't quite the end of the day for those at the other side.

One commenter asked if I'm north enough to experience the true beauty of summer solstice and a white night. I have to say I am not. Where I am is like being in eastern Wisconsin (early sunrise) and western Michigan (late sunset) all at once. But it does get dark in between.

When I told my hosts that Pooley Bridge is the plum place to visit in the high season (fewer people by far), they reminded me that it isn't fully high season as school term hasn't ended just yet. When I commented that there aren't the bed and breakfasts here to house more than a handful, they said that the British like to travel by caravan and there are caravan parks that will fill up mightily, come mid July.

How well I know the British caravan (or trailer, as we call it)! It can be found in every nook and alley of southern France! My hosts admitted to themselves being the caravan types and only recently did they discover the beauties of a bed and breakfast -- pretty much when they opened their own (two years ago). Their grown daughters told them they surely were having a midlife crisis.

The inn they run is, not surprisingly, immensely popular as it is low priced, immaculate and very fresh and well tended. But, they say that all their first years' profits went into renovation. Tomorrow morning I get to catch a free ride with them to Penrith because they are passing through there on the way to Keswick where they have to get permission to proceed with a window replacement without the need of a historical preservation certificate. They say that the pub owners who operate out of historical houses don't have it so easy. Each renovation is a major bureaucratic struggle. I thought it was slightly amusing that my innkeepers have to get permission to change windows without permission.

This morning, after a fitting breakfast which they modify for me, as I said no thanks to sausage or blood pudding (I get salmon instead; yum!), I speculated about my hike for the day. Since it's my last day here I want to keep it close to home. My hosts suggested the high road which follows the ridge line from Pooley Brisdge to Howtown (pronounced hoh-tn). From there I can walk the low road home or, if I'm less energetic, hop on the steamer back to Pooley Bridge.

I spent far too much time worrying about finding the trail leaving Pooley Bridge and too little time studying a map for the connection to the low road. As a result, by the time I reached the summit above Howtown, I had no choice but to scurry down like a limp sheep (I saw one of those so I can vouch for the accuracy of the comparison). The grade was far too steep for my ancient knees. I did make it down without wincing out loud, but if anyone has knee preserving exercises that they can recommend, I'm listening!

After three hours of climbing and then rapidly descending, the temptation to settle into a reclining position on the steamer was tremendous and so I took the boat home.

I felt that I had earned my cream tea.

And so in the afternoon, I settled in at Granny Dowbekin's Tearoom (there is a tea room at Pooley Bridge!) and indulged. Heaven.

And then, I made myself comfortable in the Guest House garden and Angela (my host) brought me fizzy water over lemon and ice and I was thinking that I could not be more comfortable. Dappled sunshine, flowers as only the British can do in a small garden -- a superb moment of peace and calm.

Tonight, I return to the Sun Pub. It won my heart that first night and I want to order fish and chips and theirs looked best.

It's too early for the football game (you know: the US v. Belgium one). But you get the sense that ever since the elimination of the English team from this year's World Cup, people here have lost interest. England was crossed off so unexpectedly, so early in the tournament, that many believe England should never again play as England. That it should bring in the best from countries that never compete in the World Cup: Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland and play as one United Kingdom. Though why Scotland should want this, given that they're scheduled to vote this September on their independence -- is beyond me.

The fish and chips plate is fine. I had the best fried fish ever this past June at my daughter's wedding so it is an unfair comparison, but I try to eat it with a different mind set here. Indeed, people come in and note that the smell of my fish and chips is earth shatteringly fantastic, or some such superlative. (By the way, did you know that Wisconsin is the only place that calls this a fish fry? Everywhere else it's 'fish and chips.')

So that's the text. Here are the photos:

breakfast in a sunny room

the ridge line of today's hike

buttercups: flowers of my childhood, growing along streams and riverbanks

approaching one of the summits

sheep, posing

most, but not all of Ullswater Lake

a selfie at the highest summit (I met no hikers to help me out here)

more distant views

lonely lamb

very black sheep

down in the valley

the steamer for the return ride

as viewed from the steamer

cream tea

sunlight in the Sun Pub

fish and chips and a pea mash

...and a good night to you all!