On Thursday I set off to see our honorary ‘4th CountryWife’, Nina. She is one of Grace, Ellie’s and my oldest friends and is preparing to open a B&B on the edge of Ennerdale Water, the smallest and most westerly of the lakes in Cumbria. I left my southerly home in a light sweater but my daughter pointed out that I was going north, and very north at that, so it was likely to be a lot cooler. So finally more suitably dressed I set off on my 5 hour train journey, saying goodbye to the sun at about Birmingham. As we hurtled north, the temperature dropped and the scenery changed dramatically. Apart from the lack of buildings and the abundance of sheep, it was so green and the land was less ordered with rolling pastures – one forgets how beautiful this country is. I was met at the small station of Penrith by Nina’s ex-husband, who had also travelled up to lend an extra pair of hands getting the B&B ready.
Nina’s house, Beckfoot, stands on the edge of the water, close to the town of Cockermouth. Around the lake there are only a handful of houses (probably 5), all simply designed but built to withstand the extreme weathers these parts can experience. We were met by our friend with the words, “It is so lovely to see you. Hope you have brought lots of warm clothes as the heating has blown.” This information did not dampen our spirits as the log burner was fired up and, with a hot cup of tea in our hands, we had a guided tour of her new home. It is a National Trust property that clearly has been lacking in love and attention but Nina is pumping it in by the lorry load. She has a loyal team of builders working long hours to get the place ready for her first paying guests at Easter. It presently has only one bathroom but she is installing three more with showers so that the house will be well prepared for weary walkers returning to Beckfoot.
The tea was quickly followed by a bottle of wine before we ventured out to find the local pub. We were warmly welcomed – they were short of customers as it was still out of season! Following a delicious meal, we returned home to a nightcap, a hot water bottle and a few electric blow heaters!
We woke on Friday morning to blue skies and a repaired heating system. After Nina practised her hearty B&B breakfast on us, for which she got full marks, we set off to walk the lake. Ennerdale is approximately 7.5 miles in circumference and is on the Wainwright’s coast to coast walk. A more peaceful place you could not find. Apart from our constant chatter there was not an unnatural sound to be heard. We followed the path, hopping from one stone to another as we crossed streams flowing into the lake. At one point our chat made us miss the path and we found ourselves standing at the top of a steep and narrow crevice down which we had to descend in order to find our way again! After over 3 hours of walking, climbing, slipping, sliding and jumping, we returned to lunch and crashed out on the sofa in the very warm and comfortable conservatory. However we woke to being given jobs. Nina’s ex-husband attacked the lawn with a mower and I started polishing furniture (both inherited and bought at local auction houses) and filling tea caddies with teabags and coffee pods for the in-room refreshments.
Chat continued as we reminisced about our past lives together. Friends who we had briefly forgotten were looked up on Facebook, where they looked so old and craggy it only served to remind us of our own soaring ages. I awoke the next morning with sore legs from the walk, but it was so worthwhile and, as the day looked very bleak, I was happy we had made the most of the previous sunny day. I left with heavy heart but plan to return when Nina is properly up and running. However, I can honestly say, if any of our readers were to find themselves in this neck of the woods they would receive a very warm welcome from Beckfoot’s hostess Nina (especially if you remember to mention you read about her B&B at CountryWives!).
For further info on Beckfoot click here