Boot Beer Festival 2006

...or Six do silly things in The Lakes.

When my friend Steve suggested that he would like to do something for his fortieth birthday I naturally said I would join him whatever it was and, to be honest, I didn't research the planned activity too closely - friends and beer had been mentioned in the same sentence so that was enough for me. I was happy to leave the planning to him.

In fact I didn't even know where we were going by the time we were finally on our way - after one change of vehicle - five men our size can't fit in a Mazda 3 it turns out - and one change of tea-shirt. We must have managed to go all of twenty yards before Dylan had a lucozade related accident. That's the problem with married men when they're let off the leash, they just go wild.

Now I have to admit that, until this trip, I had always been a little sceptical about mini-MPVs, but I have to say that I was extremely impressed with the Megane Scenic. It was the perfect way to enjoy the views of Lake Windermere as we trundled along its shores to Ambleside, where we stopped to browse amongst the camping, walking and climbing equipment shops (Where do the good people of Ambleside go when they want to buy food?) . By now pieces of the plan were starting to leak out and it appeared that there was something of a walk involved. There was talk of returning in the dark, so I bought a torch.

The car and Martin, our driver, coped admirably with the Hard Knott Pass and we spent some time wandering around the remains of the Roman fort at the top, wondering what life might have been like for the occupants. Ian had waxed poetic on the subject of this site and, although it only looked like a dry-stone wall from a distance, I think we all realised why once we reached it.

Roman fort

The Roman fort

We then spent some time wandering over the moors wondering where my mobile phone was, until Steve found it in the car.

We passed the pubs in Boot on the way to the place where we were staying and, although we were admiring the impressive scenery, conversation amongst the members of the group started to turn towards wondering about the feasibility of Steve's idea of walking to the Festival from Wasdale Head. It's fair to say that, as we looked at the hills and rocky outcrops all around us, there was a degree of scepticism, and possibly some dissent.

Once checked into the Wasdale Head Inn however, and with a good meal and a couple of practice pints inside us, we (those of us who didn't disappear as far as they could up the nearest hill, that is) recce'ed the route, whilst admiring Wast Water in the evening sunlight, and it started to seem less mad. We also found out that the Inn shut its doors at midnight so there would be no late tramp across the moors if we wanted to sleep in beds on Saturday night. A few stones were thrown into the water of course, some of us may be forty but there's something about men of any age and water it seems that makes this seem necessary. Beautiful as all it was though, if I had a criticism it would be about the lack of pebbles suitable for skimming.

It was full English breakfasts all round the following morning, in preparation for the walk ahead, and then off along the interestingly named Coffin (or Corpse) Road, over Eskdale Moor, to Boot.

Wasdale Head

The Wasdale Head Inn, as seen from afar

A word needs to be said at this point on the subject of this 'Road'. Three possibilities exist. Firstly, and most likely, we didn't manage to follow it all the way. Secondly, things have changed and thirdly, there are quite a few people buried on the moor, rather than in the church-yard ... it's a bit boggy.

We did eventually find Burnmoor Tarn at the top...

Burnmoor Tarn

Burnmoor Tarn

...and then it was down hill all the way until we arrived in the first pub - just in time for a drink!

For the next few hours there was some drinking, some eating and some watching England play their first tentative World Cup match. It has to be said that I at least was considerably more entertained by the display of morris dancing by the Hebden Bridge Hill Millies.

The Hebden Bridge Hill Millies

The Hebden Bridge Hill Millies

They literally stopped the traffic...

The Hebden Bridge Hill Millies

...traffic stopped

(These photographs appear by kind permission of The Hebden Bridge Hill Millies)

From here there was a bit of a walk...

Near Boot
Near Boot 2
Near Boot 3
Near Boot 4
Near Boot 5

...and then there was some lying on the grass in the garden of The Woolpack, whilst watching the morris dancing again. Ian and John were dragged in, and did surprisingly well I thought. Given my inability to string two steps together, even without the effects of alcohol, I demurred. I was content just to watch. Don't leave your drink on the grass though, dogs don't understand about not spilling a fellow's pint, I found out.

There were a few wobbles, but in the end it only took us two hours to walk back, although we nearly lost Steve to the swamp, and were back at the Inn in time for another drink. Mine was a pint of Coke.

So, to summarise, it was a weekend of spectacular views, excellent beer/food, and friendly people. I can recommend it.

Cheers Lads!

Two foot-notes:

The photgraphs for this article were taken using a Rollei 35 LED, a 35mm compact camera. I have been playing with it recently, and thought it would be ideal for this event. For all that I use a DSLR for most of my photography, I enjoyed returning to basics - sometimes it's good not to rely on batteries for everything.

For anyone who says that the Sunbeam Alpine was never a real sportscar, I can say that, as a passenger, I think you're wrong - thanks John.

Near Boot