Starting at World’s End.
Tackling the 26 miles in one day is a challenge I had set myself since the Lakeside Way was opened in 2009. However, up to now even though my parents’ caravan has been located 17 strides from the Lakeside Way for 3 out of the past 4 years, I had chickened out. I had only completed half the trail in one day through use of the Osprey Ferry albeit numerous times. But I thought now at the age of 26 I was at the right age to complete the full 26 miles all in one go.
I was so determined that only one thing was going to stop me, well maybe slow me down, the world ending! And as luck would have it the night before setting off I thought that was exactly what was happening. Whilst conducting my customary mental preparations for a walk, in this case reading Dan Brown’s Inferno and going back to the future, I heard some strange bangs outside. Having tented at festivals I am used to hearing strange noises on a campsite but even these caught my attention. Naturally I ignored them for an hour thinking they’d go away but when they didn’t I decided to investigate. Opening the caravan door and pricking my ears they definitely sounded like explosions…..! Looking around the site I was expecting to see signs of panic people doing as I was doing getting out of their caravans to see what was going on. Then I remembered I was pretty much the only person on the site! Radio 5 live was my only source of information so when I didn’t hear any emergency transmissions I figured it was fine! Then it dawned on me Newcastle was in the direction the explosions were happening that explained everything…………………… For no reason other than that there is a military base that way where they usually have live firing and sometimes rocket launches (if you watch Top Gear)! So, reassured but not entirely convinced, I went to bed.
Waking up and realising I was still here I figured the world hadn’t ended, which meant I could crack on in tackling the Lakeside Way. It was always going to be a tall order and required a very early start. But as always my intention for an early start had been prevented by the comfiness of the bed and my preference for lie-ins. It didn’t delay me too much though and on the dot of 17 minutes past eight after a breakfast of crumpets with beans and cheese I was off.
After negotiating the 17 strides downhill from the caravan site to Leaplish Waterside Park with no problems aside from forgetting my bins I was treated with a view across to the north shore of Kielder Water. It didn’t seem all that far but then I remembered I wasn’t God, Jesus or Bruce Almighty and therefore did not possess the ability to walk on water. Also, my usual route i.e. the ferry did not set off for another 2 hours so the only way to get there was taking the Lakeside Way. So if I was going to complete the challenge, now seemed like the best time.
Having already decided to take the anti-clockwise route (the reason will be clear soon) I set off with gravel beneath my feet in direction of Kielder Dam. The wooded first half mile was interrupted by a sighting of a red squirrel, close to the appropriately named red squirrel hide. Forced out by the dominant grey squirrel in most parts of England, the red squirrel thrive in this area and this was my third sighting in three days. The sun made an appearance as I emerged from the trees and with a warm temperature and blue sky as far as the eye could see I took the unprecedented step of taking my t-shirt off?!?!? Not wishing to give anyone watching Google Earth at that point too much of a shock ten minutes later it was back on and you’ll be glad to hear stayed on for the remainder of the walk.
It was at this point that I passed Freya’s cabin. This is one of numerous sculptures on the route. This one faces across the water towards Robin’s hut on the other side. There is a love story which links the placing of the two structures but I have neither the time nor will power to tell you about it. Freya’s cabin itself marks the start of the aggressively named Bull Crag peninsula which as the name suggests used to strike fear into the hearts of all Lakeside Wayers. In the past the only way to negotiate the peninsula was to follow the shoreline path which although picturesque is long and arduous. Now, thankfully for most people, a shortcut has been created which leaves the shoreline and cuts across the peninsula shaving at least 2 miles off the length of the path. However, as I wanted the complete the Lakeside Way properly the shoreline path was my route. This was the reason I had started off in an anti-clockwise direction as I knew if I went the other way round and came to this point last I would definitely have taken the shortcut.
There isn’t much to say about tackling the peninsula, I knew this was going to be the most difficult part of the route and the task was just to put my head down and get through it which I did. My reward was a downhill hairpin bend section of the path which emerged at Cranecleugh Bridge. This has always been one of my favourite sections of the Lakeside Way and seemed the perfect place for my first rest and first drink.
Leaving Cranecleugh, Tower Knowe Visitor Centre wasn’t far away after passing the boats at Whickhope Anchorage. With tourist information, a café and that most important of feature some toilettes Tower Knowe, along with Leaplish and Kielder Castle is one of the more popular parts of the Water and there were indeed many cars in the car park but having enough provisions and info I pressed on. The DAM was the next landmark three quarters of mile further on and quite a landmark it is. According to my pre-determined schedule this was the stopping point for a banana, a Capri sun and a complete view down the length of Kielder Water. 8.5 miles completed 17.5 to go!