Manicured lawns, crocket hoops , mist lifting from a forested hillside. Last days of the Raj? Well, no: a wet weekend in the Lake District. The formal gardens belong to Rydal Hall, which we had walked to from our temporary residence at the Traveller’s Rest just outside Grasmere. ‘We’ was a motley collection of old friends, getting together for what is becoming a fixture in our calendar – the Adults Only Weekend. Not as racy as it sounds, just that for this weekend we palm our kids off on grandparents, whereas our Christmas Youth Hostel Party, Spring Bank Holiday Camping Weekend and LLyn Peninsula Holiday ,which are all also annual traditions, are decidedly family affairs.
We’d left the Traveller’s Rest in rain and our route had taken us steeply up to a misty Alcock Tarn and along the corpse road from White Moss to Rydal. It was still raining when we reached Rydal Hall and thanks to my leaky coat I was thoroughly soaked. I was happy to repair to the cafe there, which has had a makeover since my last visit, for tea, cake and delicious soup.
When we came out of the cafe it was possible to imagine that the forecast afternoon improvement in the weather was finally beginning to materialise, and since visitors seem to be welcome to wander around, we did exactly that. Rydal Hall is a Christian retreat and conference centre, belonging to the diocese of Carlisle. The house is 19th Century and is listed, but it was the gardens which intrigued me. They were designed, in 1909, by Thomas Mawson who seems to have crept up on me over a long period of time and has lodged himself in my consciousness.
There’s a fine Georgian building almost across the road from where I work which has a small green plaque alerting the passing pedestrian that the building once housed the offices of Thomas Mawson. Mawson also designed other lake District gardens which we’ve visited in the past: Holehird, Brockholes and Holker Hall. The garden at Hazelwood Hall in Silverdale is another of his designs.
Rydal beck, very full of water on this occasion…
…races through the grounds of the hall and past the formal gardens to…
…the Lower Falls which have apparently been the subject of paintings by both John Constable and Joseph Wright of Derby. The little stone building is ‘The Grot’ built in 1694 and one of the viewing stations built to provide a frame around a picturesque view for tourists when visiting this area was becoming fashionable.
The Shandy Sherpa and GM had already abandoned us long before to sample the delights of scrambling in a beck in spate, now TBH and JS formed another splinter group taking on the tat shops of Grasmere. After carefully explaining the route to them, I watched them head off in the direction of Ambleside before reluctantly handing them my map.
This left The Adopted Yorkshire Man in charge of the navigation and, true to form, he found the steepest hillside he could to drag us up. I suppose I should just be grateful that there was almost a hint of a path through the shoulder-high dripping-wet bracken.
At least things were at last genuinely beginning to brighten up…
An apparent clump of white flowers on the slope ahead…
…turned out to be grass thoroughly decorated with water-droplets.
Any excuse now to stop for a photograph was gratefully received, I think that these colourful seeds belong to a rush, but further than that I couldn’t speculate.
An old bomber thundered overhead and soon after we had reached a small top with expansive views.
Nab Scar and Heron Pike.
Tea and butties on Lanty Scar.
From Lanty Scar it was a surprisingly long walk to the top of Loughrigg, although I suppose we didn’t take the most direct route. Loughrigg is a relatively small hill, not even as high as Alcock tarn where we had been earlier.
From the top…
..most of the party made a fairly hasty retreat, but the AYM and I lingered, despite the chilly breeze, to play name that peak and to watch the play of light across the hills and valleys.
We doubled back down Loughrigg terrace so that we could pick-up the lake-shore path. I was surprised to see that the yellow saxifrage which TBH and I saw earlier in the year, was still flowering. From there it was an easy stroll, in the last of the light, back to the pub.