It was a dark, and not particularly stormy night when we five reached the old hall at Rydal.
There was not a soul in sight. Not even a mouse.
Only the wind in the trees that were probably not willows.
We appeared to be the first of the expedition to arrive. The scouting party in the MPV apparently having been... lost along the way.
After a moment's hesitation, we plunged into those shadowy grounds. Safe, we thought, in our enclosed automobile.
Our search was simple. Warm lodgings for the night. A place to lay our heads and sleep without fear. Surely such a goal was not outlandish, even in these parts.
Further we ventured. Our maps offering scarce clues as to the location of our target.
Eventually, we relented, and retreated to the entrance where we hoped other party members would emerge unscathed from the South road to aid us.
We didn’t have to wait long for... something to emerge.
It was Bronwen and company!
She checked us in at the hall and we had another look for the bunkhouse, eventually finding it in the dark on foot. It was surprisingly spacious inside with a fireplace, couches, even a table-tennis table. After a quick game, most of us went off to bed. Four lucky souls bagged the smallest bunkroom all to themselves, away from any potential snoring.
After a cool night, we awoke and planned our routes. Two groups ended up doing the Fairfield Horseshoe, though in opposite directions. Another group set off to do part of the Horseshoe then strike out for Helvellyn. There was even talk of a “swim” in the chilly lake after the walk.
No matter the route, all agreed that is was a stunning day for it. Blue skies with visibility out to the sea. It got a bit nippy in the wind up top, but was worth it for the colourful views. Those for whom this was their first hillwalking weekend (such as I, dear reader) were likely not as appreciative of this as those I heard had been there many times before, always in cloud.
It was late by the time all had safely returned to the bunkhouse. The ambitious group that had reached Helvellyn came in later than expected, and would have been later still if not for Paul Cook ferrying them in groups back in his car from where they were walking along the road. Thankfully they returned to a warm fire, good food, terrible singing, and some disturbing pumpkins carved by Danny Vagnozzi.
Sunday morn brought more good weather. For some the mountains called again. However, another group inspired by Lucy Johnson headed out for a different goal. The fabled Grasmere Gingerbread. This group of eight took a leisurely stroll around Rydal Water and Lake Grasmere, in gorgeous weather once more. Having braved the substantial queue for gingerbread, a pub was found for a merry lunch. The way back was simple but for the novice navigator (I must confess ‘twas I, dear reader) it still provided the opportunity for a couple of missed turns and a backtrack.
Once returned, a moments rest was had. Then cleaning and packing took over the bunkhouse, until the door was shut and all still once more. Farewell Rydal Hall.