The Lakes…. bless ’em. They have a tough time. Like the attractive celebrity couple who receive the persistent attention of voyeuristic public and paparazzi alike, this National Park draws the hoards daily, from all over the globe, to leer at its double act of lakes and mountains. It feels that no part of the region is immune from touristy scrutiny, exploitation, and commodification. I blame Wordsworth.
“a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy” (William Wordsworth, 1835)
At least W.H. Auden exercised a subtlety when romanticising his favourite region (more on that tomorrow… I bet you can’t wait…)
I know, I know: I’m one of them. But I wanted my presence here to be a fleeting, appreciative, and non-intrusive one. It took some effort to feel I was achieving that.
Firstly it means getting off the beaten track. This requires going the extra mile. Literally. In order to avoid the clogged arteries that feed the area’s industry you do really clock up some circuitous mileage. As the crow flies, the distance between my overnight stays wasn’t that great, but taking in some decent climbing whilst avoiding the manically busy B roads and passes, upon whom notoriety has been bestowed by Fred Whitton-eers and others of their ilk (don’t even get me started on the sportive phenomena) required some off-piste imagination (i.e. getting lost). This was often simply a result of some creative junction guesswork or carrying on down a road just because it felt nice. But isn’t that why most of us started cycling? An escape, an improvised journey of exploration?
The results were satisfying, though bloody hard. Furthermore, I was rewarded with traffic-free roads, and chance encounters with other kindred spirits in which our two-wheeled conversations elicited the same response: uncertainty prevailing when asked, “which way have you come?”, or “have you been far?”. It seems we were all winging it together.
And we didn’t need a T-shirt or to fork out £££ to do so…
Sorry. (Not sorry)