Cumbria Way Introduction

Published 30 August 2009

Ulverston train station's platforms

I think it’s fair to say the whole thing got off to a slightly dodgy start. Getting travel sick on the train. That just doesn’t happen to me.

I was on one of the Virgin Pendalinos. I’ve been on them loads of times but that day I just felt dreadful.

I wasn’t the only one. The two women opposite – one returning home to Glasgow, another heading for a walking holiday in Derwent Water – were also struggling as the train bounced around on its way up the West Coast Mainline.

All in all, I was rather happy to get off at Lancaster, so I could change to the slightly more sedate journey on the branch line to Ulverston.

Why Ulverston? Ah well. That’s where the story really begins. And it’s why, on a Saturday night towards the end of August, I found myself writing the beginning of the tale in a small notebook in the 16th century Rose and Crown inn, wondering why they hadn’t realised that the Lilly Allen CD they were playing, was already on its second way through.

Wooden sign saying 'Welcome to Ulverston'

I’d bought an extra week of leave from work, cos, frankly, five weeks leave is just never enough. For a small financial sacrifice, I could go up to six.

But once I’d bought it, I’d realised I hadn’t any idea what to do with it.

So I decided to go away and do something. By myself. Actually I’m 31 (nearly 32) and I’ve never been on holiday by myself. With parents, with friends, with school. Yes. Alone. No. Never needed to. There was always someone around.

The more I thought about it, the bigger a deal it seemed to be, and the more I wanted to put off doing something with this weeks leave. It seemed daunting.

I mean, people go off on holidays by themselves all the time. But we as a society have some sort of cultural aversion to it. When I mentioned to my mum I was going off, she said “Did Catherine not want to go?”

Well yes, I’m sure she would. But then she’s got other things to do.

Say you’re out walking by yourself and some people then look at you as if you’re bonkers.

“Don’t you think it’s dangerous?”

“Well if you’re in the mood to attack someone, why would you hang around a remote moor, in the hope that someone with a big rucksack just happens to pop by? Surely you’d be better off standing around the pub in a town centre instead?”

Slate sign on gate saying 'Cumbria Way'

Yet still there was something still making me prevaricate. So sometimes you have to grasp the bull by the horns. So after much prevarication, I sat at home one evening and did a mass hostel booking session. I’d decided to go off and so some walking and as I wanted to get out of the South East of England, I opted for the Cumbria Way – a five day hike to Carlisle. A trip to the North West was therefore in order.

And that’s where Ulverston came in. It’s the start of the Cumbria Way, and where I needed to begin. And hence why I was sat with a notebook and a “Gammon Jamboree” in a busy town centre pub, the night before setting off wondering how it would all go. Would I attract all the solitary nutters in the hostel (well probably). Would I begin to look like those nutters myself (hmm… high probability.) And would I be kept awake all night in hostel dorms by people snoring (100% guarantee mate.)

I supped my beer, the selection of was rather appropriate given it was Hartley’s “Cumbria Way”.

Here’s to five and a half days of nothing but hills, and my own mind then. Oh and maybe another pint. Well it is Saturday night.

Oh. They’ve changed the CD. Thank goodness for that…

Postscript: for those wondering, a “Gammon Jamboree” is, according to the Rose and Crown, two large gammon steaks with mushrooms and covered in melted cheese. It is served with chips, and if you’re arteries are beginning to feel rather clogged at the thought of it already, a salad that includes mixed pulses, celery, lettuce, pepper, cucumber and more.

It costs £9.99. And people think London is expensive for pub food. Pah. It’s everywhere dudes, it’s everywhere!

I also couldn’t help but wonder if writing and eating at the same time, makes people think I’m some sort of pub inspector… Well if I was, I’d give the Rose and Crown a good rating…

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