Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood. This post is from Pete (pic shows High Street in the far distance, this is of Nell helping Pete warm up on Hallin Fell)
What have the Romans ever done for us? Well, as fans of Life of Brian will know, they did manage to build the original High Street at a height of more than 700 metres (or 2,500 feet), stretching for 30 kilometres across a set of huge mountains in the Lake District. These days a footpath follows the path of the old Roman road. Walking up from Pooley Bridge it’s fascinating to reflect that you are following the path of Roman Legions who used to trek between forts at Ambleside and Penrith, covering 20 miles every five hours across the mountains, before relaxing in a hot bath full of Roman Radox.
First there’s an intriguing detour to the Cockpit a Neolithic standing stone circle (or did the Romans put them there just to keep Time Team busy?) and then a yomp across boggy grass and sphagnum moss up to the mountain plateau. As my boots become saturated, even in July, you realize just how hard it must have been for Italian geezers in sandals longing for olive oil and sundried tomatoes. You can still see where the Romans used the gradient of the rock to facilitate their progress. As my boots sink in the peaty mulch once more you can see the attraction of a decent surface and camber.
Also in evidence is the Roman’s unsentimental approach to walking. The path skirts all the stunning views over Ullswater and sticks resolutely to the drab upland commons – although the views are much more spectacular near the High Street summit. It was a military road all about safe passage and concealment from hostile Scots, Cumbrians and Geordies; no time for Wainwright guidebooks here. After two and a half hours I make it across eroded peat and water pools to the summit of Loadpot Hill. The High Street path continues for another four miles to the summit of the mountain High Street (828 metres), a flat plateau where the locals held horse races 200 years ago. But for me it’s time to return for a pint at Pooley Bridge. Maybe it’s best the Romans left these shores some 1,600 years ago. Otherwise the M6 would be straight across Lakeland’s most loved peaks.