Keep The Red Flag Flying – Lake District Trip

It was with heavy hearts that we made lunches and prepared ourselves for our 1st days walking in the Lakes. We had arrived full of optimism, full of the hope that we could at least say goodbye to this coalition, even if it meant replacing it with another. We went to bed with Labour 3-0 up and at that stage it was a formality. Imagine our surprise when we woke up the score being 248-210 to the blues; this was not in the script. It was only going to get worse as the day progressed and at this rate we would need a plan.

First up though was a small matter of a walk to Borrowdale Hostel, approx. 10 miles away. Having opted to walk to the foot of Catbells we were soon envious of those who had chosen to take the Keswick Launch; the view across the lake was stunning. This would be the theme of this weekend, gorgeous views wherever we looked, regardless of the weather. We did have Paul, our trusted weather god, with us and this weekend would be a real test for him; we were hoping he could hold his seat long enough to keep us dry. After a small scramble up Catbells we were high up enough for a phone signal and news began to filter through, mostly bad & getting worse. The one shining light was that whilst all around us were losing theirs, we had at least managed to keep our leaders….

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At this point the group separated into two and as our group reached our lunch spot we realised that we could see the Promised Land of Scotland from the top of High Spy and it looked just as yellow as the polls had predicted. This was where we started to formulate the plan….

The downhill to the hostel was pretty hairy, the heavens opened just in time and we had to negotiate a steep slate quarry in the wet. Paul’s excuse was that he was already indoors so had no control over the clouds. The evening meal was to the usual high standards, the well-oiled RR machine springing into action to do what it does best – dinner & pudding! The Borrowdale hostel’s white wine wasn’t bad either, although a few bottles were required just to be sure. There was some debate about whether we paid for the 3rd bottle but hey….

Saturday morning came and the mood was no better really as we came to terms with five years of tory rule; plans were afoot though – we were not going to take this lying down. Yesterday we had a glimpse of freedom and we wanted more. I also noticed that some of our food supplies were dwindling more quickly than usual – almost like they were being stashed away for something??

Today we were heading to Honister and then depending on whether the weather god decided to end his work to rule, we would choose our walk from there. We had a gorgeous valley walk to the slate museum & café where we over-indulged on local carrot cake & homemade lentil soup whilst one of our party tried to sort out the luggage transfer – some people just don’t understand what it means to travel light. Next year we have got to bring less food.

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Whilst one group headed through the valley we decide to bite the bullet and go over the top, and we needed to escape from the helicopter overhead; we weren’t sure whether it was friend or foe, although at one stage I swear I saw Nicola beckoning us aboard. The weather wasn’t entirely on our side but again we didn’t have the god with us. We did however, have the Red Rope choir on hand and we were treated to renditions of various socialist songs, although with the weather we were having you could have flown any colour flag, it wouldn’t have mattered.

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While the choir sang on my time was spent struggling to make notes for the trip report, not helped by the tools provided by Red Rope which were not fit for purpose! I even wondered if I might need my union rep. (If there were still unions).

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The plan was to conquer Robinson today & I was very excited about this, I was even more excited at the top as we could definitely make out a path to the North from here. We started to plan our escape from the impending cuts to everything but in the end we decided to stick it out for one more day & go back to the others; it wouldn’t be fair to go without them (plus they had all the food). We were rewarded for our loyalty by another scrumptious meal back at the hostel. It was just as well that we ate when we did because there was a small kitchen-army preparing a malt loaf mountain and the smell alone was enough to put you off food for a month. The next morning it became clear what the food mountain was for; 2000 lycra-clad cyclists descended on the hostel looking for the toilets, malt loaf & bananas. It made a pleasant change to see men queuing for not-enough toilets!

It was also clear that the election result had upset Paul more than most as he was on strike while it was still legal to do so and we headed out in torrential rain & gale force winds. We’d opted for a lower level walk today and stayed in the valley which made a difference. It meant you were only blown off your feet when there was a gap in the hills. You know it’s bad when even the sheep have abandoned the fold and gone indoors. Still, at least it meant we could have a semi-sheltered lunch.

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There was something of a divide as we ate lunch & it seemed that some of our party may have been plotting something? We didn’t stop for long and we were soon back on low ground. The rest of the walk was less windswept and we headed to Derwent Water to catch the launch back to Keswick. It soon became obvious that the launch wasn’t coming as the lake was too choppy, although we heard later that the boats had been stolen & taken to Berwick to ferry the hundreds of people across the Tweed who had gathered there. The only other option was the bus so we trudged back up the hill and waited….. and waited…. and yes, there was a bus – phew!! Back at the hostel we realised that our day had been fairly uneventful compared to Gill & Adrian’s. Undeterred by the conditions Adrian had decided to swim for freedom and was carried away downstream by savage currents, he was expertly rescued by Gill who risked getting her map wet to save him – at least that’s what the grapevine said…
Dinner was expertly prepared as usual and we enjoyed a relaxed evening and planned the next day’s excursions. There were a couple of options – a morning walk, a launch trip on the lake or gear shopping – it was a tough choice and in the end we all decided on a mixture of all three. On Monday morning we packed ourselves a lunch and headed down to Keswick, although some people did seem to be carrying more food than others; our launch was definitely below the waterline.

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The trip across the lake was breathtaking, giving a different perspective of what we had previously climbed. As we reached the 1st drop-off some of our group were fidgety and very soon we realised why; they had decided to make a  break for it. We understood their reasons and knew they were heading for a better life in the North; we knew Nicola would take care of them. It also explained the squirreling away of food all weekend – I’m pretty sure that I saw malt loaf in Joanna’s rucksack. We waved them goodbye and wished them luck, we would miss them but we couldn’t blame them. They would be free there to visit libraries….

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As we headed back for coffee and the long drive home, it bought to an end yet another successful Red Rope trip. Once again we were spoiled with wonderful scenery at every turn, and overall we were very lucky with the weather, (thanks Paul). We had challenged ourselves with some of the toughest fells, and enjoyed the peace that these remote peaks offered. We managed some tough descents and rewarded ourselves with the usual high standard of food. And we managed all of this in the face of adversity, in the knowledge that we would go home to five years of austerity and change; we’d already heard that they were slashing weather-god funding.

What doesn’t change is the organisation of these trips, huge thanks go to Paul & Steve for ensuring the weekend ran smoothly, Naomi for organising the luggage transfer, Bob for being a very vigilant H & S rep (although the pencil was really heavy!) & of course to Gill for organising and providing the meals to energise us.