“Tt’s lovely!” she said, the pretty girl at the railway station. I was at Lancaster University, it was summer, and I decided spontaneously I had to see the Lake District. On a clear day I could see the beginning of the mountains from my lounge window, across distant Morecambe Bay. My inspiration for the trip was a battered old ten pence book with beautiful photographs.
I took my bicycle on the train travelling up the north west coast, stopping at Ravenglass then taking the miniature steam train into Eskdale. She was at the station referring to Stanley Ghyll waterfall: “It’s lovely!”
I chose Eskdale because it was described as quiet and remote, which it is, and because of the little steam train which is fun. It’s an unusual introduction to the Lake District. I think most people first go to the Windermere, Ambleside or Keswick areas, or possibly Grasmere or Coniston. I went to the Lakes again with my parents then when I graduated, still in Lancaster, I went to see Keswick, Derwent Water and Catbells with a friend – again because the north Lakes were described as more quiet.
I cycled down the Eskdale valley without knowing how to enjoy the place. I hauled my bike a little way up a hillside going for a rough ride which today would be normal but at a time when mountain biking didn’t exist. I was a road and transport cyclist and should have locked up my bike and gone for a walk. I did that however at the Stanley Ghyll waterfall and I’ve been back there multiple times since.
It’s a stunning immersive place where you are surrounded by the dense lush green of ferns, trees, and moss. The stream at the base of the track turns the green into liquid – at one place only – then you climb gently to reach the waterfall. It is possible to climb beyond it despite the warning sign, leading up to open fields, although it’s very slippery and precarious.
The longer walk is not especially rewarding so now when I visit I stop at the waterfall, feeling myself dissolve into this beautiful green ethos space.