There are some places you just return to time and time again, never tiring of them, appreciating the subtle changes that nature makes to your surroundings on each visit.
Today didn't quite fit that mold. Nature chose to unleash some of the toughest conditions underfoot that I have ever encountered, despite dozens of walks on the same route. Subtle didn't come in to it. Brutal, challenging, dangerous and slightly scary all featured at some point. Happily though, it was all worthwhile.
Our route began as is usual at the Country Cafe at Tockholes (teacake and pot of tea recommended this week). Unusually though, the car park, which was covered in sheet ice, set the tone for today's walk.
It must have taken a good 45 minutes to cover our first mile through the woods, treading carefully to avoid the icy main path en route to the stream that flows down to the reservoirs. Even the dog was sensible enough not to paddle today, knowing that he would live to regret it as we walked onwards towards the main road and over the the path up Great Hill.
Our walk up Great Hill was lonely, with swirling mist and frozen bog underfoot, but wonderful all the same. The highlight of the day was a good 15 minutes at the summit shelter eating pasty and bagels, having not seen a soul for a couple of hours.
Making the most of the daylight hours we took a circuitous route back through the woods where the ice had not really melted at all during our absence. Once again every step was carefully though out to avoid a painful fall before returning very wet, tired, but happy, to the car. If I took one lesson from today it was to invest in some ice grippers. To be honest, crampons wouldn't have been out of place in parts.
My second lesson was that close to home is good in bad weather. if it was this bad close to home then heaven knows what it would have been like if I'd fulfilled my original plans for the day, to walk round Rydal and perhaps a trip up Loughrigg.
All in all a fantastic day. One for the memory chest that will stay forever. Whilst nature might not have been subtle, it was great to see Tockholes and Great Hill in a new, albeit ruthless, light!