The first time I went to the Lake District with my husband I arrived in plimsolls and insisted they were fine for walking. I was stunned when he pointed at the mountain opposite the house where we were staying and said: “We’ll climb that one tomorrow.” At the time my idea of a walk was a gentle stroll through Battersea Park so Cat Bells and Maiden Moor looked like Mount Everest to me.
Before we set off on that first walk we drove to George Fisher in Keswick, a much-loved emporium that sells everything from wet weather gear to rucksacks and tents. I was a reporter on the Evening Standard in those days and prided myself on my sense of style so I was distinctly unimpressed when my husband picked out a pair of sturdy lace-up walking boots and urged me to try them on.
Fast forward 30 years and I absolutely love my walking boots – and I absolutely love climbing Cat Bells (although my husband still regards it as very tame and undemanding). My boots are the most comfortable footwear I own and putting them on feels like being reunited with an old friend. The only downside of the Lake District is that it always rains – except last week it didn’t. We had a few days in the Newlands Valley in glorious sunshine and it was complete heaven.
We trekked up Cat Bells and had a picnic (hot cheese and tomato rolls with mustard, a family favourite invented by my mum) overlooking Derwentwater. It’s the perfect place to stop for lunch – you’ve got that stunning view to gaze at and you feel that with all that climbing you’ve earned your picnic.
On the way home from Cumbria we stopped in Leeds, where my husband had a business meeting. He mentioned in passing that he had just been in the Lakes and was asked which mountains he’d climbed. “Er, Cat Bells,” he began and their faces fell. Veterans of Skiddaw and Helvellyn, they weren’t impressed at all.
As we drove south we argued about what to listen to. We both like The World At One (new presenter Sarah Montague is doing a sterling job) and PM but we can’t agree on anything else. My husband likes Wagner and intellectual podcasts and I’m a fan of London Grammar and Any Questions. Then I remembered that I’d downloaded the new Cormoran Strike novel before we set off and suggested that. All I can say is that Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) saved the day. We were both completely gripped for the rest of the journey. I loved the three previous Cormoran Strike books but I can honestly say that the fourth is even better.