There’s something about walking into the big wide open, knowing that your walk will last not just hours, but days. A certain feeling brought on, perhaps, by the rhythm of repeated footfall and the ever changing views, that softens the edges of thought, keens the senses, and deepens the pleasure of being outside.
It has become a tradition for us to pack up our camping gear and head out for a seven-day walk over midsummer, taking ourselves ever further from the predictable space of home. We love finding new ways through a land we know well: the Lake District may be our home, and a place we’ve walked in for more than thirty years, but there are always new things to discover.
Back in 2016, we took seven days to walk between seven ‘Long View’ trees on a route that covered 118.3km. This year our route connected not trees, but ‘treefolds’: three sculptures we created in 2017 as a legacy of The Long View and to mark the creation of a new UK Charter for Trees, Woods and People. The treefolds are dry stone circular structures, each containing a tree and inscribed with words – the phrases from the three treefolds connect to form a complete poem. It’s possible to drive between the sculptures, with short walks from the car to get to each one, but we wanted to get a feel for what lies between them, threading our way over open fell tops and along wide valleys, through ancient woodlands and across water.
As one treefold, and one verse, receded, the next became closer, and we discovered so much in between: our walk in the space of this short poem embraced limestone pavements, acres of heather, woodlands carpeted in moss, dense forest, lakes, tarns and rocky outcrops as well as quiet lanes, hamlets, villages and towns. As you might expect, there were a few boggy patches, but our feet stayed dry. We walked in mizzle, drizzle and rain, wind cold enough to make your teeth chatter, as well as sunshine, and on midsummer’s eve, beneath the surprise of a half-moon against the bruised blue of storm-heavy clouds.
We don’t walk particularly fast: slow steps come naturally when you’re carrying a heavy pack, and we stop frequently as we’re easily distracted. Wild flowers, breath taking views of distant fells, bees obsessed with nectar, abandoned sheep folds, or the sight of rarer birds like Sand Martins brings us to a stop. Our slow wandering lasted for between ten and twelve hours between our camping spots, and at the end of each day we shared the satisfaction of looking back over the land we’d walked through. We covered a total of 125km, a relatively short distance for our boots that will cover hundreds more, but enough for seven days, and just right for our dog, Guilly. The only downside of the walk was, well, that it had to come to an end. We’ve started dreaming up a route for a 7-day walk in winter.
The treefold poem:
in this circle of land’s bones, moments gather into wood
seeds, ideas, earth, light; elements entwine, a slow graft of time
roots deep, years weathered, taking the long view
Beginning at treefold: east on Little Asby Common, east of Orton, we passed through the Westmorland Dales to the eastern Lake District, stopping for the night in the meadows of High Borrowdale, and then above Staveley.
From there we picked up the Dales Way to Bowness, crossed the lake, and walked to treefold: centre in Grizedale Forest.
Our next night stop was Silver How above Grasmere, then we climbed over the Helvellyn Massive past Grisedale Tarn, and walked down to the Ullswater Valley and treefold: north in Glencoyne Park. The last day’s trail took us along the Old Coach Road on Matterdale Common and on to the flanks of Blencathra, where we finished up with a presentation and a gathering of friends.
Rob wore: a new pair of Meindl Montalin GTX boot. Lightweight velour/mesh Gore-Tex lined uppers on a Meindl Multigrip 3 Vibram sole.
Harriet wore: a new pair of Meindl Kansas Lady GTX boot. Durable nubuck leather and Gore-Tex lined uppers set on a grippy Meindl Multigrip sole.
More about this walk and our experiences along the way in our blog at www.somewhere-nowhere.com.
Images, Rob Fraser. Words, Harriet Fraser