Loughrigg Mon Amour
by Andy Carling
Why am I doing this? I will try to explain.
We all have some sort of sexual awakening, the first stirrings of something deep that we do not comprehend, yet form the foundation for our tastes and pleasures for the rest of our days. Unlike many, I was very fortunate indeed. When young, I felt no closeness to the other children, couldn’t take their noise, the busyness, their unpredictable nature. I was a quiet, shy kid, insecure and uncertain.
That changed one day as a young teen. My school had been sent into the country for a holiday, whether we wanted one or not. I managed to find myself a little freedom by wandering around the fields behind the farm outbuildings we were barracked in. One afternoon I went a little further down a winding country track over a rise and then I saw an iridescent field of hay. I didn’t think such a magical place could exist. With some trepidation I walked toward the gate, overwhelmed by the sight, then from nowhere, I found the courage to climb over the gate and jumped down.
Enveloped in a light sandy colour, turning honey brown, with the wind making it look alive, rippling and shimmering, I walked among the stalks, overcome by the sweet dry bakery smell, breathing in deeply, letting my lungs feel alive with the aroma. I fell to my knees and put my fingers in the rich soil. I ran around, crawled on the ground, rolled around, feeling like I was in a dream. Time stopped and I felt utterly magical. It must have been hours later that I noticed that the air had cooled. I remembered that I had to get back to the farm so I composed myself, walked slowly back, dazed and confused by what had happened.
I had fallen in love for the first time. Like all first loves, the intoxication damned the affair, as did a return to school, but I’ll always remember that field even though, to my shame, I never knew its name. I’d go back and visit, but it wouldn’t be the same; there’s probably a housing estate there now.
Since then, I’ve accepted that I’m not drawn to the sins of the flesh but the lure of the land. The only exception has been a drunken fumble with Windermere Train Station that left me feeling dirty. I’m ashamed of the incident, neither the station nor myself come out of it well.
I wandered round the Lakeland fells searching for love. Nothing quite satisfied. The Scafells looked jaded, Helvellyn too edgy, Wastwater too awkward, but when I set my sights lower, love came pounding after me. I shiver with delight and fright at her name now; Loughrigg. What a lovely bit of topography, with the higher mountains voyeuristically looking over her, this fell became my great love.
How I caressed her, stroked her and whispered sweet nothings into her bracken, her valleys and mounds. I explored her completely, every little track and trail. No hollow unexamined, no hillock unmounted. The richness of her boggy patches, the warm beauty of her lichen-pocked walls, their graceful lines and the stiles, oh my God, the stiles…
One Summer evening after a light rain shower, I could resist no more, overcome by the feel of her moss and lichen, the peaty aroma of her graceful, tiny streams, I climbed to her summit cairn, then shaking with nerves, walked straight down to Rydal Cave, where I went undressed, dived in the pool in her deepest, most secret place I surrendered my heart, body and soul and took her with passion and abandon.
After that, I began to spend more time with her, often sleeping rough on her yielding plateau, clutching her tightly when it rained, stroking her gently when the sun shone. I got to know her in all her moods and spent many nights talking, telling her my hopes, my dreams.
In Autumn I soothed her, in Winter I warmed her and promised that Spring would soon come, but by the next Summer it was very different. I slowly noticed that she became less responsive, less tender. Our sex life began to dwindle. I grew envious of all the others walking all over her, carelessly kicking her gentle ground, laughing as they treated her with disrespect, dirtying her with their poured out drinks on her hummocks, placing their crisp packets in her clefts, their incessant photography.
Sitting one evening on Todd Crag, watching the sunset, I noticed that she was paying more attention to Lake Windermere, laid out below us and I understood that she loved the lake, that I was only a substitute. It became more painful every day, until I could take it no longer, until one evening I found myself kneeling by Lily Tarn, unburdening my broken heart and told her it was over between us.
Since then I have had my flings, desperate short lived romances. Many a felltop campsite was chosen for sordid pleasures, my interest in mountain tarn swimming was not as pure as the waters, and my ghyll scrambling in a wetsuit was perverse, even by my standards. But I was always searching for that special place to settle down with. I almost eloped with Dungeon Ghyll but that was just lust and my guilt ruined our relationship. There was a long weekend with Ennerdale, but it wasn’t meant to last. My shameless promiscuity was the sign of someone lost, who needed a place to love and be loved.
There was only one option; internet dating. After many lonely nights with Google Earth, I found an isle that could be compatible with my needs, wants and desires. She’s a small uninhabited island in the Pacific. I’m going to protect her identity as I am a gentleman, but she’s the reason I’ve been taking sailing lessons and bought the yacht I’ve been restoring. I’ve got enough experience to have a good chance of making the voyage, supplies to keep me going and equipment to help me land on her sweet, virgin sod.
As you know by now, I’ve set sail. We all just want a place to put our hearts, that’s all. Wish me luck and fair winds if you can.
Andy has traveled and climbed in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He recently returned to the Lake District after being a journalist in Brussels.