Mistress Agnes takes a train

By this stage, we are no longer taking any notice of the weather forecast. I would like to place on record however that no Carol, we did not experience the best day of the week with sunshine everywhere. We leave the van promptly and head back across Wrynose Pass and continue on to the Hardknott Pass. There are various notices warning us that this is pretty much unsuitable for almost any form of traffic but it sounds like fun. A very narrow winding road with hairpin bends at a gradient of 1:3; who needs theme parks? I can’t help wondering how long it must have taken to build all the miles of drystone walls that we see and how long they have been there.

On the way to Hardknott Pass

Chris is dressed for the weather forecast, a mistake. I have been a little more cautious but I soon change my mind about getting out of the car to look at the remains of the Roman bathhouse that was attached to a fort in the middle of the pass. This ‘unmissable’ site will have to remain missed, or at least only viewed from a distance. Apart from the drizzle, there is a very keen wind making the conditions raw. One can only have sympathy for the Roman soldiers, fresh from Mediterranean climes, who were stationed at what is believed to have been called Mediobogdum. The Romans were allegedly responsible for this road, which connected their fort at Ambleside to the coast at Ravenglass. The twists and turns are certainly not reminiscent of the Romans.

With perfect timing, we arrive at the prosaically named Boot to board a train at Dalegarth Station. This is the terminus of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway. Always a sucker for a preserved railway, we plan to take the return trip to Ravenglass, the only coastal town in the National Park. A three foot gauge railway was built on this route in 1875, primarily to carry iron ore. This short-lived line was replaced by a 15 inch railway in 1913. It is one of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in the world. As predicted by the timetable, our outward journey is by diesel locomotive. We can choose between an open carriage, a fully enclosed option or an open carriage with a roof. With an eye on the darkening clouds, we opt for the roofed open carriage. Chris is finding this a tad chilly but I am putting on a brave face and wishing I hadn’t left my 1646 spun and knitted hat in the van. I am pleased that our return journey is accomplished courtesy of a steam engine, the River Irt. Built in 1894, this engine is the oldest narrow gauge engine in the world. This time we succumb to the luxuries of first class; padded seats and an enclosed carriage.

Back at Boot, we drive across Eskdale to Wast Water, another on the ‘unmissable’ list and billed as ‘Britain’s favourite view’. From here we can see Scafell, if only we could work out which of several peaks it is. Chris braves the elements in his three quarter length walking trousers to help a damsel in distress who is unable to lift her bike over the stile. Despite the weather conditions, there are several divers in Wast Water. There is also a line of orange floats, which look like something out of an extreme challenge. No one is trying to cross the lake by leaping from float to float though. It turns out that these are to facilitate getting an electric cable across the lake.

We drive back out to the coast, head northwards and return to the van in a large clockwise sweep, taking us past Helvellyn, also not identifiable, Grasmere, famous for Wordsworth and Ambleside.

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