It's been a pretty tough start to the year over at Ward-Marsden HQ. We've both been extremely busy with work and with training since the start of the year and neither of us has had the opportunity for some proper rest and relaxation. So when we both saw a gap in the diary in early March we decided we would get the time booked off and find somewhere to go and relax. We decided we wanted to stay in the UK too given how much of a faff going abroad last minute can be, so instead we decided we'd head to the Lake District for a week. Most of us can recall that over Christmas the Lake district was pretty badly hit by flooding and a lot of places badly damaged so to most people it might seem like an odd choice of destination. However for us it's the perfect destination. Okay, so there might be some flood damage and a few road closures but the fundamental natural beauty of the lakes, lanes and mountains were all still there and thats why we would be going anyway.
Sarah was in charge of booking the retreat as I'm too indecisive and would end up booking a cave or something. Thankfully Sarah found us a nice bed and breakfast in Bowness on Windermere for our holiday. It's a cosy little place and ticked all the right boxes - full English on the menu with real sausages, wifi in the room and a cosy bed. Realistically it's all we were going to need anyway; we're outdoor folk that can't sit still for longer than five minutes so a swanky four star hotel would be wasted on us!
Bowness was a perfect little base for us right on the edge of Lake Windermere and only a minute from the main road through the Lakes that would get you to almost any destination. Oh, and it was definitely open for business. As we found the only issue that could possible stop us was that the A591 was closed north of Grasmere but there are plenty of pretty alternative routes.
As I mention above we're pretty active but also extreme cake lovers so we would be guaranteed to make our way around the Lakes either running or riding over the week. So first things first I headed off around Windermere for a leisurely evening ride taking in a little clockwise route as the sun set behind the surrounding mountains. At 27 miles for the loop it wasn't the longest ride i'll ever do but the lake edge was beautiful and showed no signs of flooding. In fact, as I rolled back into Ambleside and stopped for a photo it couldn't feel any further from the chaos of Christmas, or infact our own life away from work.
Obviously I'd worked up an appetite on the ride so we hunted down some good local food and found a little place just a few miles away called 'The Watermill Inn and Brewery'. Yes, you read right - a pub with it's own brewery! That's a win straight away for us, but what was even better was the food. I had a steak and ale pie using the in-house beer and Sarah had the beer battered fish and chips. It was amazing. So much so that we went back there on our final night in the Lakes to sample more beer and food. It's well worth a visit that's for sure.
Second day in the Lakes was our only rainy day of the whole week - definitely a oddity in the Lakes but we weren't going to complain. Given it was a little wet we decided to continue our culinary tour of the Lakes in style so headed up the valley to Grasmere to find the infamous Grasmere Gingerbread shop - so tasty! So fuelled on gingerbread and with our boots on and jackets zipped we decided to do what everyone in the Lakes does and walk. Not just in a random direction but up Helm Cragg to a beautiful view over the village. It was only four miles long but it's a Wainwright walk and thats all that matters. Once again a massive appetite worked up we headed to Ambleside to the burger restaurant for some homemade burgers and stuffed ourselves silly!
Wednesday came around far too quickly and was big ride day at last. I decided to meander up and down the valley rather than tackle any serious passes as I needed to save my legs for racing rather than punish myself. I accidentally discovered Duddon Valley which is just amazing but also means you can cheekily pop out in-between Hardknott and Wrynose to avoid the brutal climbs. Perfect. The rest of the ride was mainly rolling around the lakes again on pretty peaceful roads. In March the roads are quiet as everyone forgets that places can be beautiful outside of summer. The food in the evening wasn't one to shout about so I won't.
Thursday was our final day in the Lakes so we swapped valley and dropped into Coniston so that Sarah could do a recovery run and myself a recovery ride. Only 18 miles around the Lake but on the eastern shore there is a little jetty which walks you out into the Lake and it truly a beautiful place to see the Lakes regardless how much you want to keep on riding. We stopped for some lunch in one of the little cafes and suddenly forgot about recovery so decided to walk up some of Old Man Coniston. It was 2pm and we swiftly realised the entire climb was a little bit more than a few hours in the afternoon no matter how fast we ran up hill. Oh well, the view from half way up was still fantastic. The climb started on a road called Walna Scar Road - more than 33% steep but definitely a challenge for any cyclists - are you tough enough?
So there we have it; the Lakes are definitely open for business and we've not had a single problem across the week. It's out of season so not every restaurant and shop is open but the ones that are seemed to be running like clockwork and happy to see some customers walking through the door. So if you're looking for a short break in the UK why not pop to the Lakes? They're calm, quiet and beautiful and realistically no more than a few hours drive from most people.
Rest week over. Back to the daily grind!