I said in yesterdays blog how Covid has done me a favour by allowing me time to walk 5-10 miles a day, therefore building up my fitness. I also mentioned the seed of an idea of walking up Walls Cragg once more, something I thought I would never do again. But after the effort of having to climb Cat Bells for my paraglide, the seed was beginning to flourish and the possibility a reality. The one thing I had to have was the same map as me and Sylvia used to use when we climbed.
It was years old so I wasn’t sure I would find it. I scoured the shops the day before. All I could find at first was updated versions which took you the other way round and it didn’t make sense to me. I needed the bright cheerful yellow one that told me to look out for landmarks….I’d almost given up when I went into a newsagents and there they were. The Original pack of 5 and the one I wanted tucked nicely inside.
Now I had no excuse not to try 🤩
The morning arrived after weird dreams of decorating Appletrees for Christmas 😳🤣. I never sleep well while I’m away; different bed, different sounds all contributing to me waking every few minutes, or that’s what it feels like 🙄 But finally pulling my curtains back made up for it and filled me with enthusiasm for the day
Map in hand I set off straight after breakfast. The town is relatively quiet at this time as I started at Moot Hall, just as the instructions said and made my way up towards the church and the first right hand turn. It wasn’t long before I became disorientated; these once familiar roads now reducing my sense of direction to confusion. But as I looked across the field I could see the familiar snaking path of Cat Bells in the distance giving me a sense of comfort
Already I needed help by the map as I reached two forks in the path. It told me to head for the gate that would lead into the wood, passing by the familiar farm hut where an image appeared of me and Sylvia sat having an ice cream outside.
The route becoming familiar with each word I read on the bright yellow map.
“With the stream on the left hand side, follow the stony path up to the landmark transmitter”
The reason I like this map is it tells me the sounds and sights to look out for – landmarks I can identify and follow. The sound of water in my left ear as I climbed the ever increasingly steep slope through the wood
The stream wasn’t visible but clearly audible, every now and then a clearing revealing the stream below, twisting and winding down the hill. I don’t remember such sheer drops but probably the ground has eroded, so extra care had to be taken and my eyes firmly on my boots in some areas.
The path got steeper, strategic gaps allowing me to see Derwentwater below and also the opportunity to catch my breathe.
Many would say, what’s the big deal? It’s an easy walk and I used to think that but hopefully not say it 🤔 I hadn’t realised how unfit I was before Covid. I thought I couldn’t do certain things for other reasons. I’d never experienced being unfit in my life before so I didn’t know what it felt like. I didn’t associate not being able to do certain things, like climb Walls Crag, with being unfit. Dementia had convinced me I couldn’t or I shouldn’t and wasn’t capable anymore. I might become disoriented or get lost it told me. But now I’ve got the upper edge since lockdown made me fitter. Before I’d try, fail and not bother trying which ended up with me not being fit; a vicious circle until Covid came along.
I can often hear voices, blowing across the fells in the wind. I’m never sure if they’re real or not but they’re not frightening. It’s a comfort to know there maybe people nearby. All I’d seen so far are fell runners storming down the rocky paths.
My own sense of direction used to take me along the right path automatically but as I look around I’m lost again, no sense of where I am or which direction to head. I felt a bit lost on the map when suddenly I saw some people in the distance and decided to follow them.
They soon went out of sight, much quicker than me, but a man was coming up behind me, so I decided to let him pass and follow him. And so it went on until I found my place on the map again.
This continual incline was becoming to tell on my legs and my breathing was getting harder. I had to resort to counting 50 steps, then taking a rest allowing my breathe to slow down once more.
I found the swing gate identified on the map and turned in. I hadn’t reached the summit yet but the views were spectacular
The steeper it got, my counting reduced to 20 steps, then taking a break. Rocky footpaths banked by swathes of purple heather. Once again the path seemed narrower and the edge to my right revealing the sheer drop beneath. Over one hump, thinking I was there only to find another steep climb ahead 😳….
The continual uphill walk had now reduced me to a snails pace, but I was sure it wasn’t far to go now. I could see and hear people on the summit ahead of me
As I began to climb the last few rugged rocks, now on all fours, my stick hanging from my wrist and clattering at my side, I suddenly lost my footing. A sharp sting to my cheek and arm as I clutched my camera with my left hand. I’ve fallen into the jagged rocks. My arm taking the brunt of the fall, my face following behind as I tried to protect my camera 🙄🤣🤪. Luckily my camera was fine 🥵….which is more than could be said for my face and arm 🙄
My heart was racing and I stopped a moment for it to regain its composure – shaken and very much stirred.. Out of the silence came more voices, this time from people at the top. Just a few more steps and I was there. Pain forgotten, I climbed up the last few steps. I’d done it 🤩 As I stood looking at the view, my heart calmed immediately. I found the rock I always sit on and studied the view
And what a view…..
A kind man took a photo of me to celebrate the moment. He was with his wife and children and had just asked a man before me to do the same.
As I looked at the instructions I began to feel confused as they didn’t make sense. They spoke of taking me back to the car park below, but I wanted to go to Ashness Bridge. I realised the map was only to Walla Crag. Whether me and Sylvia had simply known the way before, I’m not sure. I could see the family going down the hill and decided to follow them in the hope of not losing them
The path, in fact was clearly marked in the main and I could see roughly where I was heading so I felt confident enough to pass them by as they pointed out Cat Bells to the children
The views continue to be wonderful.
Eventually I could hear the water running under Ashness Bridge. This idyllic little bridge with so many memories
I crossed the narrow road and stood on the bridge watching the water tumbling down the rocks
Then headed down underneath to watch it coming through the opening
Heading down the steep hill down to the main road, I felt the sweat dripping down my face. It was at this point an imagine popped into my head of a present Pip had bought me – a roll up water bottle, that I said I would bring with me to make sure I drank on long walks. Very good idea, but only if you remember to pack it 🙄….sorry Pip 🙈
As I reached the main road, crossed and went down the steps towards the lake, I suddenly felt disorientated again. I needed to go the wrong way round the lake. I always go the other way when I’m walking round it and now it felt all wrong and unfamiliar
I reasoned with myself that if I kept the lake on my left I’d get there eventually. The distraction of seeing mummy duck and her two ducklings took my mind off the disorientation. Not what I was expecting to see 😂
I just couldn’t get my sense of where I was. Through woods with enormous ancient trees reaching for the sky….
…..I needed to find a landmark and within 20 minutes or so, there it was, Milenium stone and further round, through the trees, Millennium bench
Now I relaxed as I knew where I was. About 45 -60 minutes before I’d be back in my room having a well earned cuppa tea…..
Today I learnt that dementia can play tricks with your confidence. It truly convinced me I could no longer climb my favourite fells and by doing so convinced me ‘I couldn’t’. It also convinced me I could no longer walk into town or to Folley lake at home. But luckily Covid came along, gave me time to improve my fitness and now I CAN do all 3……….Wendy 1 Dementia 0 🙌