The best thing about Lake District walking is the talking: OPINION

The Lake District. Steve Canavan conquered six of its fells in one day.
The Lake District. Steve Canavan conquered six of its fells in one day.
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I am writing this, physically exhausted and sobbing like a small child, after walking 14-and-a-half excruciating miles in the Lake District with a friend who told me we were going on ‘a gentle stroll’.

Nine hours later, as we were descending our umpteenth peak of the day, he admitted he had lied.

‘Why?’ I asked angrily.

'Because if I'd told you how far the walk actually was you wouldn't have come,' he said, as if this were a perfectly acceptable and reasonable explanation.

I thought about this for a moment and then punched him in the face.

Actually that's not true. I'm not a violent man – although I did once gesticulated fairy angrily at a car driver who pushed in front of me in the petrol station queue (I regretted this immediately when I saw he had fairly large biceps and a tattoo of Satan on his forearm) – and besides I was too shattered to even shake hands with anyone, let alone punch them.

I like my walking but I like it is short, sharp bursts. I like to climb a mountain and then come back down.

My mate, however, has a different attitude. He's not just content with the one. Once up, he likes to stroll along the tops and the ridges and take in several peaks.

This is annoying because when we reach the top – or summit, if you want me to get really technical – I like to lie back and take in the view, reaching into my rucksack for a sandwich and my carefully prepared flask of tea. For me, that's the reward for climbing a mountain.

My friend, however, gets to a summit, hurls a stone on the cairn, then turns and says, 'right, onto the next one' – as if he's a businessman rushing to his next important meeting of the day.

‘For god's sake,’ I'll say, ‘can we not just sit for a while and appreciate the beauty?’

He'll consider this and, to his credit, will sit down and try. But after 30 seconds he gets bored, jumps up and says, 'right, we need to get off now - sunset's at 19:03 and we've still got 23 miles to walk'.

It's infuriating.

And so it was the other day that he took me on this huge walk during which we climbed six – SIX -peaks. He is one of these folks doing the Wainwrights (the 214 peaks as described by the man himself in his famous guide to the Lakeland Fells, which he wrote over a decade or so in the 50s and 60s).

My mate has 12 left to complete and wants to complete as quickly as possible, hence us doing six in one go.

To say it was a tough day is an understatement. When I got home that evening - and after Mrs C had carried me from the car to the house – I spent a full hour with my right foot in the washing up bowl (just to be clear I’d taken the washing bowl out and put it on the floor – I wasn't doing some kind of weird elasticated yoga move with one foot dangling over the sink and into the washing bowl) in an attempt to soothe the pain from a blister so large it was halfway up my shin.

However, despite having a very sore right foot/shin and being physically shattered, I must admit that I enjoyed my day walking, mainly because we had met plenty of people and this is my single, most favourite thing about rambling in the countryside; those lovely little 30 second snippets of conversation you have when you pass someone.

A short distance into our walk, for example, we came across a couple who spoke with an American accent. I enquired where they were from and they told us Oregon.

We then had a very lively discussion about President Trump during which our new American friends described him as a 'cretin'. They actually used a very rude expletive before the word cretin –which was exciting as you don't hear much swearing while walking in the Lakes. Swearing while rambling is a bit like swearing at church or the first time you meet your girlfriend's mother – it's just not the done thing.

Political chat completed, we bade them farewell and went on our way.

A little further on I came across a woman slouched on a blanket, feeding her dog some biscuits.

She was dressed in an incredibly lurid-coloured Lycra outfit and sweating profusely. Put it this way, I could smell her from eight feet away.

‘Hello there,’ I said chirpily.

I always make the first move when I'm greeting someone while out walking, especially if I'm passing someone who looks a bit miserable. I want to force them to at least reply and acknowledge my existence.

'Hello', she said, a little reticently.

‘Your dog looks hungry,’ I added, because it's is among the Laws of Rambling (section 2, rule 4.1)  that you must, at all costs, try and come up with a vaguely witty/cheery comment while passing someone on a fell.

'Yes, he is,' she said. 'But then again he has just run 11 miles'.

She opened up then and told me she was a fell runner in the midst of a 30-mile training run and was having a brief break to give her dog some treats.

I've never understood fell running.

I get walking. You can amble along and take your time and look at the view and stop to have a wee against a dry stone wall and not rush.

But running seems absolutely exhausting and unenjoyable. You see them whizz past you on a mountain top looking absolutely knackered and as miserable as sin, breathing so heavily you have an urge to rush to the nearest shop and get them an inhaler. It looks like no fun at all.

Anyway my thoughts were cut short because she suddenly packed away her dog biscuits, said 'I must be off' and dashed into the distance, wheezing as she went.

I sat down some time later to eat a sandwich when a couple stopped to chat. They were called Colin and Margaret and were on holiday from Sussex.

Colin was in the midst of telling me about his job as an accountant when he suddenly stopped as if stunned by something, pointed at my sandwiches and said, 'are you eating all those?'

I had four sandwiches in my bag - tuna in case you're interested - and was munching on the first.

‘Erm, yes,’ I replied, ‘and these are my second lot - I ate the cheese ones earlier’.

He looked genuinely gobsmacked. 'Margaret and I have one bap,' he said. 'Between us.'

I'll be honest, I didn't know exactly how to respond to that, so I made a noise that could have meant anything and said, 'oh'.

He seem satisfied with my response for he continued talking and went on to tell me how Margaret and he had never been big eaters and didn't go out for meals because they always found restaurant portions ‘too much’.

And that is what I love about walking - despite the exhaustion and the blister, had I not been I'd have never met Colin and Margaret and learned about their eating habits, or running woman, or the Trump haters.

So the moral is, get yourself out for a ramble – you might make some new friends.