Postcards from the Lake District: Helvellyn YHA

The ride up from Glenridding was a slog. Coming at the end of a trying couple of hours tackling heavy rain and steep hills, it was surely put there to finish me off.

I’d gleefully turned into Greenside Road from the main drag of the village, but I knew from the contour lines on the map that a fairly sharp incline lay ahead. I barely made it to the pub halfway up the paved section before having to concede defeat, get off and push. I plopped down on a strategically placed bench and consulted the map some more, buying my tired legs some time, before using a second wind (Third? Fourth?) to round the next bend and pass the remaining houses of Greenside Road.

Where the houses stopped, so too did the Tarmac. From there on, the surface was rough gravel with the occasional teasing strip of ancient concrete. Where the road levelled out, I’d hop on my bicycle and pedal for a time, until having to get off and push once more.

I was well aware of the remoteness of the youth hostel I’d booked, located as it is not in the village but an hour or so into the walk to Helvellyn. But this didn’t comfort me much as I staggered on towards my home for the next few days. I was also struck by the realisation that the village would remain distant for the length of my stay, with this long track separating my bed from the nearest shops.

Reaching Helvellyn YHA was, therefore, a wonderful feeling. I found a pretty stone building set among trees, alongside a roaring beck. Inside, reception staff checked me in and I was quickly out of my soaked gear, and unpacking to find that the carrier-bagging of my luggage had paid off. My map was a little worse for wear – brand new a week ago and now rough and damp at the edges, already losing its shape as I’d re-folded it multiple times to follow my current route. Another mental note to only purchase laminated OS maps from now on: they’re worth the extra cost.

Having changed into warm, dry clothes and filled up on a decent enough meal at the hostel’s restaurant – maybe the remoteness of the shops would be less of an issue after all – I headed out for an exploratory wander.

The day’s showers had given way finally, leaving misty, wispy clouds hugging fellsides, and transforming becks and streams to roaring torrents as they tumbled down the valley to the lake.

All around me were signs of the area’s lead mining past – from small stone foundations and rough tracks to vast workings further up the valley. But these ghosts of opportunistic industry were all that was left to distract me from the remote nature of my base for the week.

That solemn, final trudge up Greenside Road had been worth it as I looked back down Glenridding Beck towards Ullswater: I’d paid for this sense of remoteness and, amid the silence, I was already very pleased that I had.

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