Travel: Seen the series? Now explore the scenery

SUNDAY WALK: Jimmy McGovern set his disturbing drama 'The Lakes' in Glenridding. Mark Rowe enjoys the reality behind the series

GLENRIDDING, if you watched last year's BBC drama The Lakes, is a Cumbrian village of intrigue, murder, sex, and more sex. Happily, I have visited it twice and have yet to see anything more licentious than an over-exuberant group of hikers out on the booze after climbing England's third highest mountain, Helvellyn.

A more topical reason for visiting the Lakes in 1998 is that it is the 200th anniversary of William Wordsworth's annus mirabilis; the publication in 1798 of his Lyrical Ballads.

It is perhaps because people are simply worn out after a hard day's slog up Helvellyn that Glenridding, with its idyllic location by Ullswater, is a tranquil village at night. But it is also a base for a more rarely trodden path, along Place Fell, the solid lump on the east side of Ullswater.

Place Fell rises dramatically from water level to 2,154ft within little more than half a mile. The initial ascent is deceptively steep: to be completely honest, it is a swine to climb. So much so that on our first attempt, begun one winter's midday, we used a brief smattering of rain as an excuse to retreat downhill.

The next day, however, we started early and found that, with time to spare, Place Fell is an unhurried delight that offers views as pleasant as those of its more illustrious neighbours in the Lake District. The round trip of eight miles, of which the last three-and-a-half are a pleasant amble along the side of the lake, should take around five hours.

The first leg took us south, out of Glenridding to the tiny hamlet of Patterdale. Here we turned right towards Side Farm and arrived at the foot of Place Fell, where the flat walking comes to an abrupt halt. We turned right to follow a signed footpath to Angle Tarn and Boredale Hause. The path is steep but straightforward and continues for half a mile, which was actually quite pleasant since we could see where it ended and that encouraged us to keep plodding along.

In next to no time we were well above Side Farm, with views emerging as we climbed higher. To the west was the brooding dark-green mass of Helvellyn with Striding Edge clearly visible, seemingly thin as a razor blade. To the south was Brothers Water, a small lake at the foot of the dramatic Kirkstone Pass, the only road south to Ambleside.

We arrived at Boredale Hause, once the meeting place for several pack horse trails. It is not a "house" at all, but simply a flat grassy coll: all that remains are a few stones of what is believed to have been a chapel.

Looking back along the path we had climbed, Patterdale and Glenridding seemed improbably distant. Far away, we spotted people walking on High Street, the old Roman way which runs like a Humpback whale's backbone along much of the eastern Lake District.

After we regained our breath we studied our map and were encouraged to find we only had another 800ft or so to climb. There is no clear route to begin with - we simply headed upwards and north but soon found an obvious path through scree which gave us views through the wild valley of Boredale. We came to Round How, a preliminary summit before striding up the last gentle stretch to the top.

The views were glorious; Helvellyn loomed large, and to the north we could see right along Ullswater. To the east was Martindale: come in the spring and you may be lucky enough to spot one of the golden eagles which nest near the adjacent Haweswater Reservoir. In times of drought, the reservoir level sinks to reveal a flooded village.

The evidence of our own eyes made the second half of the walk a pure joy. We gradually descended to the village of Sandwick. Here, you could make a small diversion to Howtown and take the boat back up the lake to Glenridding - but save it for another day: the walk along Ullswater's east side, with no cars and few people, is a delight. The route stays above the waterside land and there are several view-points at which you can sit, stare, and enjoy a picnic.

The path eventually returns to Side Farm, where there are refreshments. We then retraced our steps to Glenridding. As the dark winter's evening began to draw in, a mist hung above Birkhouse Moor below Helvellyn. Now that really is a suitable place to retell tales that will excite the imagination.

And despite Jimmy McGovern's tense television drama, the only thing I found frightening in Glenridding was the size of the cream teas.

8 The Ordnance Survey "Lake District Tourist Map" is adequate for this walk. The OS "Lake District Pathfinder Guide" provides a detailed description.

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