Saturday, 5 September 2015

Scouting out Watendlath

While on that last visit to the hamlet when the Old Bat and I stayed at the farm, we sought out a suitable camp site.  I was then running a Scout troop and the plan was to camp that summer in the Lake District.  Although I was the only leader at the time, my brother had volunteered his services.  between us we would drive a minibus (for the scouts) and a van (for the gear) from the Sussex coast to the Lake District.  My brother was working in Coventry, about half way between the start and the destination, and he arranged that we could bed down on the floor of a Scout hut in the city to break the journey.

Anyway, the Old Bat and I found a suitable spot for the camp.  It was in a field strewn with lumps of granite so we would have to pitch the tents in free spaces, and there was a stream running through the middle of the field.  Quite a fast-running stream, I might add.  This provided great amusement to the Scouts, who organised races between metal plates rather along the lines of Pooh sticks.  I wish I could remember just where that camp site was.
Click to enlarge

Much of the week was spent hiking on the fells.  I remember one particular hike quite well.  We had driven to the head of Borrowdale, to a spot where the valley forked into two.  From there we would head up to Styhead Pass, then round past Sprinkling Tarn to meet Grains Gill and follow the stream back off the fells.  When we were part way round - we had past Sprinkling Tarn and were approaching Grains Gill - the mist descended as it does sometimes in that part of the world.  We were well prepared with maps and compasses and we had suitable footwear, unlike so many others on the hills that day.  We heard one man, wearing sandals, complain about the lack of signposts!  As we descended the gill, we noticed that another group, unsuitably clad and probably lacking the basics such as a map, had tagged on behind.  It seemed obvious to us that they were expecting - hoping! - that we would lead them to safety.

Then one afternoon we hiked over the fells to Watendlath.  I had arranged with Mrs Tyson at the farm that she would provide tea for us, including Cumberland rum butter: "a lightly spiced butter, laced with dark rum - this traditional old recipe originates from the county of Cumberland in the Lake District of Northern England. In Cumberland, rum butter served with oatcakes or buttermilk scones were given to friends who called at the house to see a new baby. In turn they would leave a silver coin, and on the day of the christening, when the butter bowl was empty, the coins were placed in it. A sticky bowl, with plenty of coins sticking to it, meant that the child would never be wanting. The saying goes...... “Butter symbolizes the richness of life, sugar the sweetness of life and rum, the spirit of life.”"

Watendlath Farm in 2007

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