It’s the otters I really want to talk about – so much to say, so much frustration. So much obfuscation. But before I do, I should just mention the bluebells.
Because, whatever there is out there to make us angry or tired, or frustrated with ‘the system’, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – that can’t be made so much better by a Friday evening clamber over Rannerdale Knotts, above Crummock Water, soaking up the heady scent of bluebells and gorse as the sun and wind play fast and loose with your senses. (Hat on, hood up, hood down, hat off. Hat on, hood up, hood down, hat off…)
Looking back through my Wainwright ‘Walker’s Log Book’, it was 13 November 2011 when I first ventured up there alone (so no bluebells then), from Cinderdale Common via Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike. Even then, in late autumn, it was a stunning place to be, hidden away from the often-busy B5289, which meanders through from Lorton to the Buttermere honeypot. A ‘secret valley’.
Wainwright mused how passers-by might hurry past, en route to their goal of higher ground (despite, I might interject, a series of modest parking spots along the way, enticing those with a mind to pull in and wander here a while), ‘unsuspecting that these few acres, now peaceful pastures, were once a scene of violent strife’. Local folklore has it that the bluebells sprang from the blood of Norman invaders, ambushed and slain by the English on these very fields in the years after the Conquest. Whether this is true remains open to debate – and many have recorded it elsewhere – but it’s hard to believe now, that such a bloody battle might have been fought here, where only beauty remains.
This Friday evening, we’re not alone in seeking solace here. A gaggle of families tumble down the fells, all chattering children and scampering dogs; a pair of young lovers stride on ahead of us, hand-in-hand, as the ground rises up and round a corner, only to be discovered moments later, canoodling by the path; photographers twist and turn and squat, fiddle with shutter speeds and focal points (or was that just me?); a wren skitters out from the undergrowth in front of us, before disappearing over the dry stone wall; and, heralded by a cacophony of bleats and whistles, a farmer hurries his Herdie flock to higher ground along the path above us: the perfect photo opportunity.
All this, just twenty minutes drive out of Cockermouth: a therapeutic scene in blue and gold, with a smattering here and there of Herdwick. THIS is what I came here for. This is why I moved to Cumbria.