We had a wonderful night’s sleep after one of the best meals we have ever eaten: Stonethwaite is a tiny hamlet, but its one pub put on a friendly welcome and food that a two-hat restaurant would be proud of. Paula had seabass, on kumara chips, which was simple and beautifully cooked. I had a chorizo, chicken and leek pie, all local, rich with thyme — but how could such a tiny spot in Borrowdale have such great food.

Sleep was easy, although I stayed awake for an hour turning socks on the radiator. We wanted an early start, because we had a demanding walk to Grasmere, which we thought would take three hours, followed by another three or four to Patterdale.

The first hour was a glorious but not impossible gradient out of Borrowdale, following the beck. It was tempting to look over our shoulders at the glorious views, initially of the dale, but eventually right back over Derwent Water to the north. We admired the white-faced, black sheep — they were all over the fells, even at the highest points. We spotted soaring eagles and heard the roar of RAF jets screaming down the valleys, Tornados occasionally spotted flashing across the sky. We slogged and scrambled to the top, quite pleased with ourselves, but the downhill broke our hearts.

I think we now understand that it’s terrain, not distance or gradient, that governs your future, especially when you’re not at your fittest. The downhill demanded all our concentration — rock-strewn, sometimes boggy, slippery, winding and often quad-bendingly steep, we both ended up with sore joints from slips and twists. At Grasmere, amidst the beauty of the village and the hills, and the noise of the tourists, we called it quits, we just couldn’t do it all again to get to Patterdale safely or happily.

Decision made, we could relax and buy replacement poles for Paula. And then, one of the miracles that puts the lie to that version of the human story promulgated but extremists and bigots: Chris, the manager at the Cotswolds store did more than offer to ring a taxi. He offered to drive us over to Patterdale. We didn’t accept his offer, so generous we were embarrassed, but I was left feeling that all we could do was to resolve to pass that gift on to someone we met who needed a hand. France’s Spufforth’s short hand for original sin is “the human propensity to fuck up”. Well, here was evidence that Augustine may have not always been right. Chevalier says, ‘it is by the heart we are something.’ Too true.

A taxi across the “Struggle” brought us to the Old Water View, better than a B’n’B, or a restaurant, or a pub. Ian, the owner, dreamt of turning a private house into a proper pub, and then discovered that it had a century of history as a guest house, including a record of Mr Wainwright staying here (and Churchill amongst others). A good host, and some nice company over dinner. We will conquer tomorrow — because, once started, there is on going back.

Oddly, we are not downcast. Ian, our host, explained that 80% of coasters arrive by taxi. Better to enjoy the adventure, I think!

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