It’s Summer 1980 and Bodie and Doyle of Professionals fame are stalking out potential bandits.
OK, so I’m five-years-old and with my Dad but we’re armed with cap guns and we mean business. My job is to run across the path and up to the rock before giving my Dad the signal. Panting, I reach my goal and look down the trail. To my delight three elderly tourists are out for a Sunday walk, I calculate my Dad’s flight path and make the sign, dissolving into fits of laughter when the elderly trio scream in horror as a wild-eyed 30-year-old man crashes out of the bushes holding a gun.
When not plagued by crime-fighting duos, Tarn Hows, which is pretty much halfway between Coniston and Hawkshead, is one of the most beautiful and serene places on earth. On a Summer’s day you feel like you’re on top of the world, with the Lakeland fells stretching out as far as the eye can see, Coniston Old Man standing guard and, a little further away, the famous Langdale Pikes. When the snow falls in Winter and the tarns freeze, you can sledge all the way onto the ice. Watch your coccyx though, otherwise you could be in danger of embarrassing your teenage son with a gut-wrenching howl as you hit the deck. Thanks Mum.
Of all the natural beauty on offer in the Lakes, I have to admit that my favourite place is man-made. Initially three small tarns – Low Tarn, Middle Tarn and High Tarn – in the mid 19th century when tourism in the Lake District went bananas, they were combined to create the beauty spot I know and love today (a tarn is a small mountain lake).
I grew up in Coniston. Whenever we had visitors, Tarn Hows was a favourite destination. If you have an hour or so to spare, there’s a lovely walk around the tarn and it’s an easy route, all of which means that you’ve earned an ice cream but aren’t too exhausted to go to the pub later. One of the best and modern additions to the tarns is the option to borrow a Tramper mobility scooter which means that anyone with a taste for the outdoors can enjoy the area.
If walking isn’t your thing, then park up and five minutes along the level footpath to the right is a bench which looks out over the fells. You can sit there with your Wordsworth poems or Beatrix Potter compendium and take in the atmosphere. You could even treat yourself to a picnic. If it’s raining (surely not) you can, in grand British tradition, eat your butties in the car all the while taking in the views.
And keep your eyes peeled for the Belted Galloway cows. I’m not the type to go gooey over animals but they are seriously cute, all big stripes and curly fringes. However, be wary of the Canada Goose contingent. They are regular migrants and can be vicious if you get too close.
Is there a downside to this romantic idyll? Only that the world and his wife is a fan. Tarn Hows is one of the most popular places in the Lake District and in high season can become a driver’s nightmare. The best time to visit in the Summer is just before dusk; with most of the tourists gone, it’s so quiet up that you can literally hear a pin drop.
By Chris Park
Photos by Rob Irwin