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Buttermere Wild Camp

What can I say about my Friday night this week? Well, it was far afield from my usual evening spent in the pub or in front of the TV. For starters, I used leaves as toilet paper and ate a travel sachet of pasta Bolognese - in that order.

My day began with an early start. At 7am sharp I sprung out of bed with an eagerness never before seen on a usual working day. After the usual hearty breakfast of Marmite on toast and a cup of tea, I set off down the road towards Lancaster Bus Station. The only weight on my shoulders was the 40L rucksack carrying my food, drink, spare undies and bed for the night.

At 8:15am the 555 pulled out of the stalls and the baking tarmac of the M6 lay ahead. After a short stop in Kendal, I was on my way to Keswick where I would have to change buses for Buttermere.

On arriving in Keswick, one thing became clear. Every family and their dog were going to be in the lakes this weekend. I had 30 minutes to kill before the 77 would take me on to Buttermere. I grabbed a bottle of water from the carnage of Booths and headed back to the bus stop. It was only 11am but the sun was already beating down and I was hit with that warm wall of air that you get when walking out of an air-conditioned supermarket in a foreign country.

After a short wait in the shade of the bus shelter, a little old Stagecoach pulled up that read: “Buttermere (via Honnister Pass)”. I’d never heard of the place we’d be driving through, and little did I know what a treat I was in for.

The 77 bus ride from Keswick to Buttermere is probably the most scenic journey I've ever been on. The struggling diesel engine drags the bus uphill through the winding roads, before meandering down Honnister Pass. A one-track serpentine with endless spectacular views on either side.

After an hour on the bus, I was happy to say thanks to the driver and use my legs. I'd been told earlier by a bloke that Buttermere would be busy, and it was. Nowhere near as bad as Keswick though, luckily. I had a quick look at the Welcome sign. Bleaberry Tarn - that's where I decided to head to. Hopefully there weren't going to be many people up there. I followed the path which took me past the stony beaches of the lake, before turning off into the woods and up a stone-stepped trail. A welcome bit of shade.

After a sweaty and intense leg workout (my rucksack felt very heavy at this point), I was out of the woods and in the sun. I contemplated heading back down and cooling off in the lake. But no, Bleaberry Tarn would surely be a better swim. As the path got steeper, the views of Buttermere and Crummock Water were worth nearly over-heating for. I sheltered under an overhanging boulder and sipped my at my now-warm water from my metal bottle.

After a five-minute rest I was on the move again, and bumped into a couple who were on their way back down. I asked how much further to the tarn and was told I still had a 'fair climb' to go, but the lady's hair was wet, so I thought it must be close.

Once I got over the brow of the hill I could see what looked like nature's own Mount Rushmore, with gigantic green bulges sticking out of the earth like faces. A short walk further and I was on the banks of the tarn. Just as I'd hoped, I was completely alone. It was close to 30 degrees so I didn't wait in throwing my shoes off and dipping my feet in. After a few minutes of sitting on a rock and resting my legs, it was time for a swim (and a wash). The water was crystal clear and pretty chilly. It took my breath away as it rose up past my waist, and was just what I needed.

Being in this beautifully clean and remote water made it easy to understand why people go wild swimming. The only audible sounds were a few distant bleats of sheep. Apart from that, silence. That was until four fighter jets shot up from the valley below and over my head, trailing the loudest noise I've ever heard and sending me in to a near state of shock.

I eventually started to feel cold so navigated my way out of the tarn over an extremely slippery set of rocks and sat to dry off. Looking up at the peak of Red Pike, I was tempted. However, I didn't fancy what looked like a steep scramble as the path winded out of sight towards the top. Not whilst it was so hot. I headed back down and took in the same views I enjoyed on the ascent. My mind now was on something to eat, and somewhere to sleep.

Once back down I enjoyed the shade of the woods whilst looking for a couple of nicely spaced trees. After an hour or so of trying not to break my ankles on the various animal holes and loose rocks, I found a pair. Within 10 minutes my hammock was set up.

Tea time was a simple affair. A sachet of pasta barely touched the sides, followed by a second course of tinned sweetcorn. Home Bargains' finest £1 Chorley Cakes completed the meal. At this point I was absolutely knackered.

After eating I decided to have a wander back up the hill to catch the sunset. A very short but steep climb rewarded me with expansive views of Lake Buttermere as the sun was setting. I sat on a rock and watched as the light faded over the lake.

Whilst it was barely even 9pm, I was happy to start getting ready for bed. The combination of thirty-degree heat and an overload of stunning scenery had truly knackered me. I clambered back down the hill and upon arriving back at my hammock, realised I'd left my lamp up the hill, on the rock I was just sat on.

This was my first time hammock camping, and I was excited to see just how comfy my night would be, as I'd heard lots about how much better people sleep in a hammock than in a tent. As the final light faded, I fell asleep as easily as I would've done in my own bed. However, I did get very cold at one point and had to climb out to put on another jumper. My forgotten lamp would've made this ten-times easier.

Although sunrise was at 5am, I didn't wake properly until 9. I was so comfy I felt like I could've stayed in bed all day, but as I started to move around the heat hit me.

I'd had a bit of trouble with the two-zip system of the bug net when trying to get out of the hammock in the night, but had managed to wiggle it open. This morning however, the two zips were completely blocking each other and no matter how I manipulated them I couldn't get them loose. The last thing I wanted to do was rip myself out, but after over half an hour of trying to unzip it I was still trapped. I was getting hotter, hungrier and more agitated with each try, so eventually I tore the thin mesh with my hands.

Broken hammock after being stuck inside.

The previous night's dessert was the next morning's breakfast. Chorley cakes are very versatile I have to say. Feeling fresh as a daisy I walked back up the hill to catch a view of Buttermere in the morning sunshine (and to retrieve my forgotten lamp).

Back down at my camp, I was pretty pissed off about having to rip my hammock. However, the ease of which I was able to pack it all away meant I was able to forget about it in no time. After ten minutes the spot was left just as I found it, and I scrambled down the hill towards the lake.

Headed down to lake for swim

Walked back to get some food

Bus back to keswick and later Lancaster

back in civilisation


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