Breakfast was served in the large dining hall at the hostel, consisting of toast, cereal, coffee and of course, all of the elements of an English breakfast. We slowly mustered our way through the small number of showers and congregated outside the front of the hostel for our first activity. My first activity was the so-called “Historic Walk”, to which myself and the number of people joining me mused about the name. Would we be walking around historic sights, or would we literally be making history with the walk that we were about to embark upon. It turned out to be neither. We caught the coach a short distance out of Ambleside to a smaller lake called Rydal Water. Our bus dropped us off, and our guide, Colin, ran up the trail to ensure that everything was set up. Unfortunately, this took quite awhile, and we stood waiting for what seemed an eternity. When he returned, we were divided into groups of about six, and set of in a staggered pattern.
The first part of the walk traced through woodland, until we reached a stream crossed by a bridge and a ford. Running straight through the ford, I missed the first clue, a sign had been posted on the bridge which captured a snapshot of early English history, with a pub-quiz style question at the bottom and a point for discussion for the next part of the walk. There were about twenty of these signs as we would walk around, covering the history of England from the Bronze age through the Norman Conquest, the dissolution of the monasteries, the Cromwell Rebellion, Imperialism, the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial Revolution, the World Wars, the Thatcher Years, New Labour and the recent Conservative government. Topics for discussion ranged from how do we manage teaching of history in a post-colonial era to should we modify our genome to select for non-life threatening traits.
Our walk took us through the forest, and then through a gate into some fields which hugged the hillside along the lake. In every direction we were greeted with fantastic views over the lake and to the mountains beyond. About a mile or so down the path, we skirted upwards on a return leg. This took us higher on the hillside to even more majestic views. But of particular interest here was the two caves which dented into the hillside. The entrance to the first, required a short but steep rock scramble down and up across a small gorge. The base of the cave was filled with uneven stones which stuck out from a watery floor. Only a couple in our group went across, due to the scramble. But the second cave was at the same level as the trail. This one had a large but shallow water in the entire cavern, so there were a series of stepping stones to get in. Unfortunately, the jumping across the stones caused a phone to fall from the pocket of a passing father with a child, to which the rest of us yelled to point it out.
The return walk was back down the hill and through the forest again. We waited at the bus for the final groups to return, and then drove back to the hostel for lunch: baguettes, chips and fruit. We stayed for longer than expected because the bus returning from our next activity was delayed..
At about half past one, we again congregated out the front of the hostel to go to our afternoon activities. I would be rock climbing, so we took the bus out deeper into the national park. We met up with two guides, who were accompanied by two rather energetic dogs, which greatly amused some of our group. We walked along a narrow country lane and up a steep slope to get to the site. There were four climbing ropes set up on a cliff face about 15m high. We were given helmets and harnesses, and one by one attempted each of the climbs. Between climbs, we would assist those who were climbing.
The first ascent I tried was the one on the far left. This was the easiest of the four ascents. Beyond here, the rock blended back into the hillscape so was rather angled with plenty of hand and foot holds. There was a section halfway up where it was difficult to find the next hand hold, but with enough attempt I eventually found it and was able to continue to the top.
The second ascent was on the second left rope. More difficult, it required climbing up to the side and then moving back across to follow up a crack in the rock. I missed my grip in this move and came off, but returned to complete it without any further issues. I managed to get to the top, which was guarded by a large tree stump which stuck profusely out from the rock face.
With only a short time remaining, I tried the one on the far right. This was harder still. The first portion of the climb was directly up a crevasse in the rock, which led directly to the top but was impassable halfway up, so one needed to clamber across the rock face to the right, and follow up the verge of the cliff. But crossing over there were hardly any footholds, at least for somebody without climbing shoes, so I had to stretch incredibly far much to the amusement of any onlookers. Also providing amusement was hearing the call from my belayer telling me that there was a foothold about “3 decimeters down”, which were some odd units to many of the onlookers. I made my way to the edge, but there was a stretch upwards which was just a little too far. I fell and tried again, but could not manage it and so was lowered back down.
We returned to the hostel in time for a shower before dinner. Dinner was again served in the dining hall and was a fantastic cottage pie. Afterwards, we were loaded onto the busses and drove to the nearby town of Windermere, which is slightly large than Ambleside. We congregated in the Windermere social club for a pub quiz. Our teams had been pre-assigned, so I met up with Eric, Peter and Paul, the latter being the current president of the council. All were American. The first round consisted of answers beginning in only the letters A, B or C. We found this the hardest round of the night, with some questions that we missed completely, but after much though Paul managed to recall Atlantis as the final space shuttle in the last few seconds. Our score was about 6/10. The second round was based on answers which had each of the numbers 1-10, appearing once and only once. We got our 3 and 5 mixed up, giving us a score of 8/10. Third was a bonus round. Each team needed to name as many capital cities of countries beginning with the letter S, listed in order such that any answers after the first incorrect answer were not included. We got down to business. Firstly the easy answers such as Spain, Madrid, Sweden, Stockholm and South Korea, Seoul. We carefully avoided the trick question that Johannesburg is not the capital of South Africa, to get onto the more difficult countries of the Pacific, East Africa and Caribbean. There were some to which we could name the country but had no idea on the capital, and there were a few that we tried hard to remember, but in the end failed, including Somalia, Mogadishu, Solomon Islands, Honiara and Samoa, Apia. In the end we settled for 16/27, a respectable score. But we later discovered that another table had gotten 24/27, thanks to a particularly well-knowleged team member. The fourth round was a picture round, a series of pictures with questions about them on it. This was our best round: we identified the outline of Senegal by the cutting in of the Gambia, and recognised a picture of 9 de Julio Avenue, Buenos Aries instead of the trick answers of the Champs Elysees, Paris or the Washington Monument. All up, we aced the round, scoring 10/10. The final round was rushed, on questions relating to Cambridge, scoring a respectable 4/5 to put us into second place overall. Our prize: Ferrero Rochers.