Back in Cumbria four years after visiting Shap quarry, I was walking the Coniston Coppermine Trail starting at the Youth Hostel, and walking up to Levers Water before returning to the village and my bus and trains back to Penrith where I was staying. It was a beautiful day in the height of summer and it was the first time I had ever ventured onto the Fells by myself. The Fells are a real treat when you live on the edge of the Fens, and I still maintain that three-dimensional scenery is balm for the soul.
I will remember many things about that day. Like the weather (which I have already mentioned), the stunning Lake District scenery, the views across to North Wales, the strenuous walk, the friendliness of fellow-travellers on the way there... We were all in holiday mood and British reserve had melted with the winter snows. I will remember a young Japanese woman in our impromptu group on the bus from Windermere to Coniston, talking excitedly about the riding lesson she had booked – it was something she would never get to do at home and she was really, really looking forward to it. I will remember the landscape-scale geology of the Borrowdale Volcanics, the adits cut into the mountainside, the mine dumps, and the few small glints of pyrites and chalcopyrites on pebbles. I will remember just how hot, tired and thirsty I was when I got to Levers Water and how I marvelled at the invention of the flask. Flasks are as good for keeping cool water cool as they are for keeping hot coffee hot. I will remember my picnic.
There is one other thing I will always remember, and it is a memory of pure surreal genius.South Lakeland DC’s Refuse Department used - or may still use, I haven’t been there for a while - the rather corny strapline, in capital letters, “OUR BUSINESS IS PICKING UP.” At the start of the Trail, someone had laboriously peeled off a number of the letters of said strapline from the side of a big grey dumpster. Those that remained now read:
<wait for it>
<wait for it>
“OUR SIN IS PINGU.”