Women’s Activity Week at Hassness with Ramblers Walking Holidays
As a woman who enjoys
mixed company, I’m always slightly wary of gatherings that exclude men. But as
the light fades over the Cumbrian fells beyond the window, I find I’m really
enjoying meeting my new female companions over dinner.
We’re about to spend a
week together at Hassness Country House, owned by Ramblers Walking Holidays and the
only property on the shores of beautiful Buttermere in the Western Lakes.
Beloved by Alfred Wainwright - commemorated in the tiny village church – this
is an area of unspoilt natural beauty and tranquillity, away from the hustle
and bustle of Lake District hubs like Windermere and Ambleside.
It’s my second time at
Hassness but my first since it reopened in spring this year after an
upgrade. Most of the 11 bedrooms are
now ensuite and the spacious lounge and cosy dining room have had a makeover too,
though I’m pleased to find that none of the atmosphere has been lost. If you can’t live without television, stop
reading now. There isn’t one. But I didn’t miss it one bit. Busy days in the fresh air meant for early
bedtimes with a book and soothing cuppa. And if – like me – you really must stay in touch, Hassness does have
WiFi, though as in many rural areas, it can be a temperamental.
I’m booked on a Women’s
Activity Week that offers a varied taste of what this spectacular landscape has
to offer. Hiking of course, but also an
introduction to Nordic Walking; taster sessions of Yoga and Pilates; and, new
this year, a morning’s kayaking. Plus
there’s the promise of delicious home-cooked food at breakfast and dinner;
picnic lunches; and the daily post-walk essential of freshly-baked cake!
This is no boot camp.
Everything is optional and if you want to skip an activity, that’s fine. I opt
out of 7am exercises by the lake in favour of drawing back the curtains and
just admiring the fells through the window as I catch up on a chapter or two in
bed. But I can’t resist the chance of my
first optional ‘wild swim’, a bracing post-hike dip in Buttermere amidst much
squealing and laughter. A real
We range in age from mid-40s
to a fabulously vibrant lady of undisclosed age who could certainly teach the
rest of us a thing or two about fitness in advancing years. Everyone does some kind of regular exercise
– walking, swimming, tennis – but I’m relieved to find that nobody is
dauntingly super-sporty. The thing that
clearly bonds us however is attitude. We are all up for exploring this glorious landscape in a safe, guided
environment. And whilst we don’t mind
how wet we get during the day (and sometimes we do – this is the Lakes in
August after all!), we all appreciate a hearty meal and a comfy bed at night.
Clare, our walk leader,
has been leading for Ramblers Walking Holidays for 20 years, and devised the
Women’s Activity Week programme four years ago. On the first evening, we each have a
confidential chat with her about any fitness issues we may have – a dodgy knee
or ancient shoulder injury, for instance – but every activity can be adapted to
Sunday sees us on a
gentle hike from base around neighbouring Crummock Water, a distance of some 10
miles. The path is largely level but
stony which keeps casual weekend walkers away, so we can really appreciate the
wild fells at leisure. We pass the
occasional swimmer, with and without clothes; meet intrepid competitors on a
run-and-swim race; and walk through fields of grey Herdwick sheep with their
cute black lambs and quizzical faces. I
start getting to know the other ladies as we fall into step and I begin an
emotional journey which is to give me glimpses into the often-inspiring lives
of some lovely fellow walkers.
Monday brings an
introduction to Nordic Walking, with much giggling as we learn the movements by
the lake shore. We test our skills on
the surfaced 4-mile path around Buttermere before that fabulous wild swim and
an hour of gentle Yoga from a local instructress. Next morning, we head to Whinlatter Forest
by minibus to stride out with our Nordic Walking poles up the broad forest
trails to a viewpoint above Keswick.
Wednesday is a free day
and those who arrived by public transport mostly take the bus into Keswick for
retail therapy and the famed Pencil Museum. With a car of our own, my friend and I drive 90 minutes through Grasmere
and Ambleside to Coniston where we visit Brantwood, home of 19th
century artist, author and humanitarian John Ruskin; take a stroll around Tarn
Hows; and visit the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead (National Trust). Rest day? No way!
Against a dramatic sky of
sunshine and summer showers, we set off for Crummock Water again on Thursday
and a short but steep climb up Rannerdale Knotts, where I’m thrilled to capture
photos looking down on a rainbow. Back
at Hassness, an hour of Pilates stretches out tired muscles and prepares me for
the last adventure on Friday, a morning’s kayaking on Derwentwater. It’s my first time in a solo craft and I
feel quietly chuffed as I pull the kayak onto the beach of St Hubert’s Island
at the centre of the lake. A real
Swallows & Amazons moment.
We head back down the
eastern shore of Derwentwater on foot, stopping to smile at ‘The Bear in the
Window’, a cute teddy looking out from a shed beside the trail and surrounded
by letters from fans, young and old. Then it’s time for the last group dinner, reminiscing over the week and
swopping contact details. It’s been a
physically and emotionally uplifting week with a sense of camaraderie and
openness that I hadn’t anticipated. Sure, I was lucky with the group, but I also think that the magic
atmosphere of Buttermere and Hassness Country House can take much of the
The Women’s Activity Week
runs in July, August and September, and costs from £585 per person, including
accommodation, meals and activities, but there are themed weeks at Hassness all
year round from Navigation and Hill Skills to Mindfullness in the Mountains,
and the leisurely Lakeland Explorer.
Visit www.ramblersholidays.co.uk for more details.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Ramblers Walking