Supporting a local legend on his Wainwrights Round – Chapter 5

Wearily I start the van up and head off to Martindale. I want to find somewhere with a warm bed to curl up in and sleep for a week but that is not an option. I head back towards Kirkstone Pass driving on roads I’ve driven on several times today, past the Kirkstone Inn yet again and on towards the view I saw this morning, the one that reminded me of nirvana although this time it’s different now with the sun shining but still magical.

I drive towards Patterdale and then it happens. I fall asleep at the wheel. Only for a split second but long enough to make me realise I’m in a worse way than I thought I was. Martindale is still some way off but I’m hoping I can get there without having to stop and then I can have a sleep. But it doesn’t happen. I keep driving and keep falling asleep for what seems like a split second every time. I realise it’s getting dangerous now. I’m following traffic doing at least 40mph and I realise I’m going to have to pull over and get some rest or something bad will happen. I’m not sure how many more times it is I fall asleep before I pull over but it’s too many. I finally find a layby a couple of miles outside Pooley Bridge and pull into it, grab my energy drink, and relax. Someone must be watching over me, I think to myself. How I’m still alive is beyond me… I spend about 15 minutes in the layby gathering myself together before I setoff for Martindale again driving round Ullswater. It’s not too far now and I can sleep when I get there.

I manage to stay awake and alert for the rest of the journey and arrive at Martindale tired but in once piece. Martindale seems to be a church with a carpark, so I park up and go for a walk up Hallin Fell before I have a sleep. As fells go this one seems a small one but the views over Ullswater, Gowbarrow Fell, Matterdale Common and behind me Martindale Common are breath taking from the summit. I can everything for miles and it is too much to take in. fell after fell going on forever in every direction each with its own story to tell, interspersed with lakes and meres all connecting with each other by paths and trails to tell the story of the Lakes and the people, animals, plants, and everything else that lives here and passes through here. It is an awe-inspiring thought to take all this in, in one moment, all the history laid out before me.

I head back to the van taking it steady as the grass is wet. I get off Hallin Fell with no problems and soon I’m sleeping in the van. I’m the only one parked here now so I’m looking forward to a quiet sleep before my alarm goes off.

I wake to the sound of voices before my alarm goes off. I try to get back to sleep but the sound of the voices reverberates around the van so I lay there hoping they will go and let me sleep some more. Then I hear a voice say,

‘I got this hoodie in Hebden Bridge’

and realise that these must be the next lot of support runners for Dougie and I’ve no chance of getting anymore sleep. Reluctantly I get out of the van to be greeted by the sight of Tim Brooks making cuppas for everyone out of the back of his campervan. Soon we are joined by Carolyn and Lee, Luke Meleschko and a few others and there is quite a few of us in the carpark at Martindale.

Someone decides it will be a good idea to have a look inside the church and we all pour in and have a look around. It’s a nice church, small but well maintained with all the modern touches that we take for granted now. For some inexplicable reason I go to the pulpit and decide it’s a good idea to do a salute to the faithful that turns out looking more like a Nazi salute! Lee takes a photo, and we all go outside to wait for Dougie and the others to arrive.

Dougie and the others arrive and go straight up Hallin Fell to tick it off the list. Back down we’re all having a laugh at Paul Haigh and how many times he’s fallen over in his super grippy VJ’s, 7, 8, 9? It increases every time the tale is told! Dougie has a nap in the van for an hour or so before setting off over to Patterdale where he and the others will descend down Place Fell before meeting us in the carpark at Patterdale Hotel.

It is dark when I set off to Patterdale, following Lee and Carolyn round Ullswater until they turn off for their campsite and still managing to drive through Patterdale and missing the hotel carpark before turning round and finding it down a small, muddy slip road. I park up beside Tom’s van and get out to take in the night air.

It’s a beautiful, still, warm night. I look up at Place Fell where Dougie and the others will be coming down later and it looks magnificent, a big black monolith standing tall and proud above Patterdale. Tom wakes up about an hour later and we get everything sorted ready for the runners. The smell of weed flows over on the night air from Patterdale Hotel as we stand around talking. A friend of Dougie’s who lives in Patterdale turns up with his pizza oven in the back of his Freelander ready for when everyone comes in. it’s quite a surreal sight to see pizza’s being made in the middle of the night in a hotel carpark.

Headtorches appear at the top of Place Fell and start the long descent into Patterdale. Dougie’s mate fires up the oven ready for when they arrive and I walk a bit further up from the hotel to where the runners will come in. I’m stood here mesmerised by the headtorches when a voice out of nowhere asks,

‘what’s happening’?

I explain that Dougie is running all the Wainwrights in one go and that the others are supporting him. The guy says he saw the lights and was worried that someone had got into trouble on the fell. I reassure him that everyone is fine and that they are all experienced fell runners and know what they’re doing. He then explains to me that he’s been out drinking all night and is now enjoying a spliff at 3am before he goes to bed. It’s another surreal moment for me and the guy seems to be ok and just enjoying the night. He then explains how he nearly broke his leg coming down the fell after a 6-hour drinking session! He watches the runners come in with me and I set off back to the carpark leaving him to enjoy his night time spliff.

Back at the carpark the oven is red hot now and everyone is enjoying a well-earned pizza. Soon the pizzas are gone, and the oven is cooling down. Everyone seems to be in good spirits and before I know it they’ve all gone. Some going home, others back to Martindale to pick up their cars, others supporting Dougie as he runs over more Wainwrights through the night and into the early hours of the morning. I watch the sun come up over Ullswater before making the short drive to Glenridding my next stop. The sun is up now and is glinting off the damp grass. Nab Crag looks stunning in the morning sun, and I wish I had the time and energy to walk up it but I have neither so instead I settle down for another couple of hours sleep before everyone arrives.

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