I studied abroad in Grantham, England for a semester in the spring of 2010. Start from the first blog post to follow my adventures throughout Europe!

The Lake District

With weekend after weekend spent in cities, I got a break from urban life and spent a weekend in a rural—and by rural, I mean RURAL—area. It was an absolute blast and so so nice to be outside all weekend.

Our weekend began on Thursday night when the school trip left. Going on the school trip meant our transportation and lodging was provided, and activities in this case. We arrived at our Lake District Hostel (where author Francis Brett Young lived—it’s okay, I have no idea who he is either) around 11 that night and got settled in our rooms. I was in a room with seven other girls: Chelsea, Molly, Sara, Ali, Jessi, Alex and Susan. So we stayed up late talking and hanging out which was a fun time.

The next morning we walked about a mile to the nearest tiny town called Hawskhead—if you say it really fast you can pretend you’re going to get a butterbear at the Hog’s Head in Hogsmead! (Please excuse my Harry Potter references.) Of course we were delayed when on the way into town we spotted a fenced in area of sheep and lambs. And, let me tell you, tiny little lambs with their knobby knees and innocent faces are one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen in my life. Each time we walked past (at least six times) we stopped and stared for a minimum of 10 minutes and contemplated the best way to steal a baby.

We checked out an outdoor sport store that was actually quite inexpensive, so I purchased a nice, warm hat and a new khaki colored jacket. We explored the area and discovered that where we were is where Beatrix Potter wrote Peter Rabbit. How neat! We dropped our new outdoor purchases off at the hostel, grabbed our sack lunches and headed back to Hawkshead to eat lunch outside and catch the town bus to Ambleside, which is a bigger, more active town in the area. We were hoping to do some kind of extreme outdoor activity like rope climbing or boat sailing, but all the places were closed on Fridays this early in the season. So instead we found a tour boat on Windimiere Lake, so all 11 of us (Alex, Susan, Chelsea, Ali, Sara, Molly, Sarah, Jessi, Whitney, Clay and I) hopped on the boat and spent about an hour and a half on the water. We had about a 30 minute break in another dock town, where Molly had the time of her life trying to touch a swan on the butt. It was hilarious to watch and luckily my camera is attached to my hand so I caught it all in pictures. There were birds and swans all over the place!

Our tour ended at 3:45 and we had to catch the bus back to Hawkshead at 4:05—meaning we had 20 minutes to go about a mile. Which seems like plenty of time until you don’t get off the boat until 3:50 and 11 people are running through the streets of an unknown place. We literally ran back to the bus stop, only to find we had looked at the schedule wrong and had to wait on our bus. But, better safe than sorry! We popped back into Hawkshead where Sarah, Clay, Molly and I bought some ingredients for dinner. We walked back to our hostel (stopping to look at the sheep, of course) and searched for the kitchen.

We couldn’t find the place, so we asked at the front desk and discovered it was actually in a separate building up a little hill and we were amazed when we found it—it was huge! Apparently the hostel and its facilities are used for a summer camp for kids, so it would make sense. But anything and everything we could have needed was there—plates, silverware, pots, pans, oven mittens, a microwave, hot water for the free tea that was there and an oven. We toasted two loaves of garlic bread, boiled some noodles and covered them in a creamy white sauce mixed with ham, and dug into one of my favorite meals of the semester. We were the only four in the kitchen and it was really nice to listen to Brett Dennen on my iPhone in the background, eat a meal we prepared ourselves, and just talk and laugh.

The hostel had a rule that you had to be inside by 11:30 or you would be locked out, so we ended up getting to bed fairly early Friday night. Saturday morning our group ate breakfast at 8 (which was pretty decent and filling) and left for our group activities in Ambleside at 9. This day was so much fun! We started out rock climbing, which I had never done before. It was a lot harder than I expected it to be! They had us all hooked, harnessed and helmeted up, so I wasn’t afraid of falling and the height didn’t scare me. It was just the actual activity that was a challenge, but it was fun! I mostly just watched people climb and enjoyed the beautiful mountains and green scenery surrounding us. It felt wonderful to be outside in sweatpants and a tshirt!

We ate a sack lunch provided by the hostel (minus the actual sack) and prepared for “ghyll scrambling.” I had never heard of this activity, but all our friends said it would be the most fun so I signed up for it. Only to discover it entails climbing a waterfall in the middle of March in England. Cold? Yes. But it was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever done! Some of it was similar to the rock climbing we always do in Gatlinburg, but a lot of it was pretty intense and you had to be really focused to not fall in the stream. Our guide Charlie was the absolute best and he helped us do all these awesome climbing tricks. One of the guys in our group, Corbe, fell into the same part of the water twice in a row, which was seriously hilarious. At the same spot, we were pressed flat against the side of the stream wall and I had a good handle on the wall, so I took a step to another rock, SLIPPED, and dropped into the water to my waist. It was so so cold. I just threw my hands in the air and Clay lifted my straight out and I found my bottom half soaked and numb. But I persevered! I guess that’s what I get for laughing so much at Corbe.

The grand finale of the trip was climbing a waterfall. Literally. Charlie hooked us up with ropes and we straight climbed a waterfall, 40 degree water from melted mountaintop snow splashing in our faces. I felt so awesome when I made it to the top! Our group (Ali, Jessi, Corbe, Matt, Susan, Alex, Clay and myself), led by Charlie was the best. On the way down, Charlie gave us the option of jumping into an area that was 6 or 7 feet deep. Yes, jumping into the freezing cold water in all our clothes for FUN. What kind of crazy person does that? I’ll tell you. My entire group. Then the group behind us. I was completely opposed to this idea as I had already been waist deep in what I could safely consider the Arctic Ocean, and had no desire to repeat the experience, adding my upper half. Susan, Clay, Chelsea and I were staying strong and refusing to do it. Then peer pressure broken Susan, then Chelsea, then Clay—so how could I not do it?! I had to. Clay, Chelsea and I were smart and took our outer layers off so we would have warmer clothes to put back on. But that’s the only way we were smart because jumping into that water is one of the dumbest decisions I’ve ever made! Nothing can prepare you for how ridiculously cold the water is. My body literally seized up once I was in the water (all the way in the water, my entire body and head) and I could hardly get my muscles to pull myself out, not to mention my shoe was falling off and I could barely get my lungs to expand enough to tell Charlie. He saved my shoe, however, and I somehow climbed out of the stream, truly blinded with cold. I can say I’m glad I did it now—how cool?!—but at the time, I was miserable!

We changed into our extra dry clothes we brought with us and got back on the bus to go to the hostel. Sarah and Molly stopped in Hawkshead to get more materials for dinner and Clay and I headed back. We had quite a bit of pasta left over from the night before, so we got another jar of sauce to add and FOUR loaves of bread this time, so we each had our own and you better believe we ate all of it. We each had a lemon cupcake too and I was so satisfied when we were finished. Yum!

The next morning we ate breakfast at 8:30 and left on our school coach at 10. We stopped in the town of Keswick, a neat little place in the Lake District. We checked out the lake area, which offered a beautiful view of the mountains in the distance. Then Sarah, Molly, Clay, Sara and I ate lunch at a tiny Italian place where Molly and I got virtually the same dinner we had had the two previous nights, but with bacon this time. It was equally as delicious, except some of that garlic bread would have been perfect. I bought a few postcards and we got back on the bus for our four hour ride home. We stopped in a truck stop (which are really nice and fancy in England) and I discovered an ice cream treat that combined ice cream, chocolate and Kit Kats, so I was basically in heaven.

We made it home Sunday evening in time for a delicious refectory meal (woo!). The weekend in the Lake District was awesome and I seriously loved it so much. But what weekend haven’t I loved? It’s an amazing life here and I couldn’t be more blessed—I’m having the experience of a lifetime and a slew of family and friends to support me. I miss you all, but know I’m surrounding by so many amazing people at Harlaxton and I’m as happy as can be :)

Katie Knecht3 Comments