Thursday, May 03, 2012

Walking with coffins

I finished the first round of edits last night and sent them back to the publisher; they'll look them over and no doubt send me a 'second round' to get my teeth into but that will take a day or two so today I was actually free. In the meantime, Dave has also been working all the hours God gave, but he'd also reached a natural break in his work, so we decided to take the day off.

This morning we set off for the little village of Grasmere, which we haven't visited since an incredibly wet walk over a year ago. We could just have parked in one of the village car parks and stomped round the shops, but decided to be a bit more enterprising by dumping the car at White Moss and finding part of the old Corpse Road from Ambleside to Grasmere.

This isn't quite as ghoulish as it sounds. In Medieval times Ambleside had no church of its own, which meant no consecrated ground for burials. So every time anyone in the village died, their coffin had to be taken, by horse and cart or more usually by man-power alone, to the nearest church for proper Christian burial. In time, people found the best routes - compromising between distance and gradient - and the corpse or coffin routes were born.

At first we thought we'd taken a wrong turning since the path from the car park headed straight uphill at an alarming degree of steepness. Eventually, though, after much puffing past a waterfall and a gang of men repairing a dry-stone wall, we hit the coffin route proper. Neither of us had ever walked this way before, and discovered a whole new fascinating world, from White Moss Tarn which used to be used for washing wool, to the 'coffin resting stone' by the side of the track, where the men used to pause before the final, steep slope down into Grasmere. Add to that some lovely old farms and cottages, stunning views of the fells, and pretty woodland to boot, and it was a simply beautiful walk. We'll definitely be doing this one, or variations thereof, again.

Oh - and having a coffee sitting outdoors on a riverside terrace in Grasmere, watching the old church, with small birds zizzing this way and that after crumbs, was an added bonus.

And here's a picture of the coffin resting stone, just to prove I'm not making it up!


Sharon.M.Bidwell said...

We didn't get to do much walking for our first visit to the Lakes -- having never been before we found so many things to look at the time went so fast -- but if we ever make it up that way again, it will be on our list of must-dos. This sounds like the best of both worlds, a good walk and a bit of local history. And a great setting for a story. LOL.

Fiona Glass said...

It's one of the things I love most about the area, that there is so much hidden history. Old packhorse roads and bridges, mine tracks, coffin routes... it's all there if you know where to look.

And yes, you must come back and you must try some of the walks. We'll have you at the top of Scafell Pike yet. :D