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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Beautiful. And we never burnt anyone at the stake

So the Lake District is a “supermarket for walking” is it? At least, that’s the verdict of a tourist officer for some long-forgotten corner of Lancashire.

“What we’ve got here in Pendle is more of a corner-shop version, something that appeals to people who don’t want to follow the crowds,” says Mike Williams, desperately trying to fire up some backhanded publicity for his area.

I grew up in Manchester, I worked and lived in Preston and I’ve been to Pendle.

I wouldn’t go back.

It’s tucked away near those industrial beauty spots that bloomed when cotton was king – the unholy trinity of Burnley, Nelson and Colne.

There’s actually no such place as Pendle, just a hill and a 400-year-old history of 10 local people put to death after being accused of witchcraft.

It’s a day trip to walk across gently rolling countryside that’s easy on the eye, but doesn’t offer anything to stun, amaze, intrigue or inspire.

Sure the Lakes gets busy – just like the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, the Great Barrier Reef or Empire State Building.

There’s a very good reason why these places are popular, which even Mr Williams could work out.

I spent Father’s Day slogging up Great and Green Gables (it seemed appropriate).

When I reached the top of Great Gable, a glowering grey cloud slipped onto its peak like a Marigold glove.

I could barely see five metres. It was a bit spooky and I sat tight, cursing my luck. Five minutes later, the cloud peeled off and allowed me a glimpse of heaven.

In one direction, the Langdales and far-off Windermere; the other way lay the awesome ridge of Scafell; over there, the Ennerdale Valley and further round, Haystacks, High Crag and Buttermere.

The valley from Seathwaite that I’d walked up stretched away like toy town.

Yes, there were several groups of people striding, slogging and panting their way up but you can lose yourself in your own time and space in the hills.

Mr Williams has a slight point: Ambleside and Keswick and their surrounding hills can be awful places in high summer.

But Cumbria has much more to offer than that.

I know a few places hereabouts and thereabouts where I could have gone, climbed a hill, dipped in a tarn or a lake, enjoyed a view and not seen anyone. Or hardly anyone.

There are still quiet parts of our county to be enjoyed.

But there’s one particular reason why so many people strap on their boots and waterproofs and head for Cumbria.

Unlike Pendle, it truly is magical.

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