Westmorland: Rambling on

‘Like most walking expeditions, a trip to Westmorland’s heather-strewn moors and windswept coastline is cold, painful and regretted at the time, but leaving memories that are infinitely sweeter than the experience of actually being there.’

Whether they’re their tucking waterproof trousers into thick, woollen socks, being shot at by angry landowners, or methodically re-tucking those trousers, Westmorland folks live their lives in an aimless ramble. Their purposeless is a product of having nowhere to walk from, nowhere to walk to, and a great deal of nothing much in between.

An isolated and independent place, Westmorland prefers nature’s company, though nature itself has never been all that committed to the relationship. Happy to endure cruel winds and bitterly driving rain in their pursuit of returning to where they started, the county’s people covet little more than a pair of stout boots, a pack of clingfilmed beef paste sandwiches and a thermos with a screw-on cup in order to achieve what they consider true happiness.

Economic separation has been a major problem for Westmorland, though with the growth of tourism in the county residents’ aspirations to own a croft of their own are now within reach. Trips to nearby cities still remain rare, partly because there is little left to spend on the buzz and bright lights, and partly as it would take at least a double round of sandwiches to support the walk there.

Facts

  • AREA COMPARATIVE – Can be folded to fit into handy map pouch
  • HOUSEHOLD AMENITIES – Nice mossy rock to sit down on, groundsheet, pegs
  • POSSESSIONS – All in this here backpack
  • SIZE – Three, maybe four, good days walk
  • WHITE? – You betcha
  • CUISINE – Hearty dehydrated fare
  • HAZARDS – Chillblains, blisters, getting stuck with hikers in the pub

History

79 AD – With lots of tiles left and nowhere else left to mosaic, Roman armies build the pointless fort of Galava to the south of Ambleside to avoid carrying it any further.

7th Century – In their quest to find the perfect spot Kendal’s founders walk 15 miles across hilly ground, though later claim it is at least 25 miles.

1776 – Westmorland declares independence to see if anyone notices.

1845 – While being chased across a series of mountain peaks by a persistent swarm of mosquitos, Alfred Spinney invents the sport of fell-running.

1914 – Almost a tonne of Kendal Mint Cake is donated to Shackleton’s Transarctic expedition, with the resultant sugar rush helping the team to somersault and skip across fifty-five miles of the frozen ice-sheets in just three days.

1930 – On the his third speed record attempt, Sir Henry Segrave’s boat capsizes on Lake Windermere, killing him. Segrave was one of the few people in history to have held the world land speed, water speed, and for a few brief moments before his death, air speed records simultaneously.

Did You Know?

For Christmas, the must-have item on every Westmorland child’s list is the Wii Walking stick controller attachment.

The town of Kendal is best known for its mint cake, a sugary confectionery discovered accidentally by Joseph Wiper during his search for an imaginative way of making hill walking even less pleasant.

Snuff and tobacco manufacturers Samuel Gawith and Company hold the distinction of employing the oldest piece of industrial equipment still in production use in the world, a device manufactured in the 1750s which mechanically adds coolness to the act of smoking.

David Starkey is a well known and acerbic radio personality from Kendal, and a regular contributor to the BBC Radio 4 debate programme The Moral Maze. Starkey was born with two club feet, which he seeking to obscure by putting them in his mouth.

Kirkby Lonsdale is noted for the Devil’s Bridge over the River Lune. Legend says that the Devil once appeared to an old woman, promising to build a bridge in exchange for the first soul to cross over it. When the bridge was finished the woman threw bread over the bridge and her dog chased after it, tricking the Devil. Beelzebub went on to win the resulting fraud case and was awarded costs and damages.

Greendale, where Postman Pat is set, is based on the fetching valley of Longsleddale. Ironically, the frequency of postal services has declined dramatically in recent times, with many residents finding only ‘Sorry, we tried to deliver your parcel, but I was fired’ cards on their doormats.

The annual Appleby Horse Fair has been held regularly in early June since the 12th century, and brings Gypsies from all over Britain to the town to exchange stories, riding tips and any good curses they’ve heard lately.

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