“The fells are never twice alike.” – Beatrix Potter, from a February 28, 1938 letter to Josephine Banner
One of the loveliest ways to spend a day – or many days – in the English Lakes is to hike, and the beautiful places to hike are nearly endless.
The photo above is from a hike above Ambleside, at the north tip of Lake Windermere, up to High Sweden Bridge – a charming stone arch that was originally a packhorse bridge. (Sweden doesn’t have anything to do with the country, but instead appears to have come from “swithen,” which in Cumbrian dialect meant land cleared by burning.) In the fall, the bracken here is a gorgeous red.
Another hike heads out from near Troutbeck village through Beatrix Potter’s Troutbeck farm, where she and shepherd Tom Story raised her prize-winning Herdwick sheep. Potter would show up in her Herdwick tweed suit and brown felt hat at the judging pens of agricultural shows. Her sheep, including her famous “Water Lily,” took top prizes for decades.
The Lake District has been mapped in detail by Alfred Wainwright in his seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, first published in the 1950s and 1960s. A fabulous hike up Orrest Head – which allows a view of many of the Lake District peaks – was his first. In Memoirs of a Fellwalker, Wainwright says of his first trek to this peak with a cousin, “quite suddenly, we emerged from the shadows of trees, and … as though a curtain had dramatically been torn aside, beheld a truly magnificent view. It was a moment of magic … I felt I was some other person; this was not me … Those few hours on Orrest Head cast a spell that changed my life.”