August 5th, 2013
Photo courtesy of The Quiet webSite – The site is not actually on the lake but it’s pretty isn’t it?
All along my way so far, I have been wild camping or staying at friends’ houses. One of the Wayfarer competition sponsors is Virgin Experience Days, and thanks to them, The Quiet Site in Ullswater was one of the prizes offered as a stopping place on my way, as well as a night in a yurt in Devon.
It was fortuitous that the location tied in well with my loose plans (i.e. ‘Somewhere in the Lake District in July’). Luckier still that it is a special place with sustainability genuinely at its heart, with such a loyal following that they don’t even need to signpost it from the road.
I was allowed to bring a friend, and we were to spend the night in a camping pod. I took my dear friend, artist and musician Eleanor Bennett and we spent the late afternoon drawing and getting happily lost down country lanes, enjoying the light of summer.
As the evening drew in its cloud blanket our car journey took us over the Kirkstone Pass, where we couldn’t resist but to stop for a spot of Cumberland sausage and mash at the Kirkstone Pass Inn – the highest inn in Cumbria. Finally we arrived at The Quiet Site in the darkness and were taken to our pod by a charming Frenchman called Florian. Apparently it has become something of a tradition for The Quiet Site to have French staff as they are keen to practice their English, so they make an effort to talk to guests every day. This, and the fact that 85% of guests are return visitors, made the place feel on its way to being a community.
We made our way to the bar, housed in a former Cumbrian long barn. And what a bar! The seats made of wooden barrels, every nook and cranny stuffed with one of my favourite things : random collections of beautiful objects. The walls lined with animal skulls, deer horns and various specimens of taxidermy, and cart wheels hanging from the ceiling. And local ales of course. And a piano – much to Eleanor’s delight.
Spot the wild woman, listening to our conversation…
Most powerful of all, was a small wild woman we noticed was drinking with us, sat quietly in an alcove. Once we noticed her she had my full attention, and I was intrigued as to who had made this creature.
First thing in the morning I am a little less full of beans…
After a very decent night’s sleep we enjoyed breakfast in the sun on the ‘terrace’ of our pod then I took advantage of the much welcomed solar showers. They were so good I had two! I met Daniel, the manager, and he proudly showed me around some of his sustainability projects. He waxed lyrical about the newly installed biomass boiler, fuelled by wood chip that all comes from within a 5 mile radius – so far in the form of free donations, as for some people wood chip is ‘waste’. In weather like this they hardly need the boiler, but in winter it will come into its own. Apparently the whole infrastructure will have paid itself off in 5 years.
Quiet Site manager Daniel with his new toy
I also had a delightful walk through a wildflower meadow to the reed bed system, which, as it was explained to me in such simple and eloquent terms by Daniel himself, you may hear from the horse’s mouth here (bit of an on the fly video – apologies for poor sound recording):
Daniel, though he will curse me for writing this as he does not want to be the centre of attention, is one of those managers who gets stuck in. He answered the phone when I rang late at night. He mowed the grass. He emptied the wood chip. He drove to get sausages from the local butcher for the wonderful campsite shop, with it’s own blue postbox. And he seemed to know his regulars by name. And this is just what I witnessed in 12 hours there, most of which was night! These are admirable qualities in a manager and I felt in very good hands.
Emptying wood chip into store
The shop, with fresh local produce
I am most grateful to Virgin for offering this opportunity and opening my eyes to a part of the Lake District I didn’t previously know. Also to Daniel and Florian for making our stay so comfortable and interesting. But most of all I am buzzing with gratitude for what happened next…As we were leaving Daniel said,
“So where are you going next?”
“I’m not sure. Somewhere good to wild camp.”
“But you must have a plan?”.
“You can’t have no plan!”
“I’m sure I will soon enough”.
[Daniel pulls out a map]
“Well look, you’ll want to get away from people, so go over here. There’s the oldest red deer heard in England and it’s pretty remote.”
“Thanks. Now I have a plan”.
And so we went into the delicious unknown, my friend Eleanor deciding to join me for the adventure. But that, dear readers, is another story…
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Sarah Thomas is Penguin's Wayfarer and she'll be walking and writing for us all summer. Follow her journey here!