So with the dogs safely in the back of the van and the radio to sing along to I headed up the road in the direction of the M6 motorway. At that time in the morning there wasn't much traffic about and it was an easy drive up to junction 36, where I turned off onto the A590. From there I had two ways of getting to Eskdale - the shorter route took me up past Windermere then over the Cumbrian Mountains by way of Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass, which was a narrow single-track road with steep hairpin bends and sharp drops in various places and not for the faint-hearted, and the longer route which meandered along near the coast. Playing it safe and deciding that I wanted to keep the van, the dogs and myself intact I chose the longer route - and was quite surprised that what is actually classed as an A road is really nothing more than a B road with a few wider stretches along it. The drive was very pleasant, albeit very long, and I was just beginning to think I would never get to where I was going when I finally saw a sign for Eskdale, pointing the way down a narrow country lane. Another few miles brought me to the site itself, and as I drove in through the entrance I saw Colin and Joan, who I had got to know through UKCS and who I was meeting up with, waving to me from outside their tent. After booking in at reception and being shown to my pitch I went across and joined them for a much-needed coffee and a bacon sandwich, then took the dogs on a quick exploration of the site before setting up my tent. The sun was quite hot, and though I had started out in tracksuit pants and trainers the effort of setting up the tent and my gear in the sunshine made me so warm that I ended up in cycling shorts and beach sandals. If this was going to be the weekend's weather then I wasn't complaining!
With the tent and everything else finally set up, and eager to take some photos, I grabbed my camera, clipped the leads on the dogs, and set off to explore my surroundings. The site itself was lovely - a narrow roadway cut through the centre from the entrance up to the reception and facilities block, with grass pitches on each side. The pitches on both sides were backed by a line of tall trees; at the end was a group of wooden camping pods and behind the trees on the right a stream ran through the site. And the whole place was surrounded by mountains and lovely scenery - certainly worth the long drive to get there.
A few hundred yards back down the lane from the site entrance was Dalegarth Station, where the Eskdale/Ravenglass miniature railway started from. I had every intention of experiencing a train ride at some point during my weekend so I headed down there to have a look round and pick up a timetable. There was a nice cafe and gift shop there, and looking round inside my eye was caught by a small brightly patterned bag which would just fit my camera, money,keys and phone while I was out on my wanderings - the price was quite reasonable too, so once I had finished looking round outside I went back and treated myself before making my way back to the camp site.
Back at the site I put the dogs in the shade of the van then went across to chat to Eileen, another UKCS member, and her family, then spent some time with Colin and Joan and their friends Lance and Dave. Sugar must have been feeling rather left out back at the van as she started barking and wouldn't quieten down - very unusual for her as she is normally very quiet - so as I didn't want her to annoy other campers I ended up taking her and Sophie for another walk off site. From the entrance I walked a little way up the lane in the opposite direction to earlier and took a few photos, then went back past the camp site and followed a footpath which led to the village.
The village of Boot is a lovely little place consisting of one lane with no more than a dozen cottages and a pub, a very narrow pack horse bridge over the river and an old water mill at the end. It was a pity that both the side of the pub and one of the cottages had scaffolding up as it rather spoiled what would otherwise have been a lovely photo. The water mill was attended by one of the villagers and was actually working, and for a small donation he would have shown me round, but I didn't have any money with me just then so I had to be content with just looking round the adjoining shop. And what a quaint, old fashioned place it was - one corner served as the village library, while the rest was given over to a hotch-potch of old and second-hand items with a few new information leaflets and jars of home-made jam thrown in. It was a fascinating place and I could quite easily have spent some time browsing round but I had left the dogs outside so I didn't stay long.
From there I went back across the bridge, stopping to take a couple of photos of the river as it flowed down past the mill, then finding a footpath off the lane I wound my way uphill where the river tumbled down over the many rocks and boulders in its path, and eventually arrived at the top end of the camp site where I made my way back down to my tent.
Back at base I made a couple of sandwiches and a brew and spent some time relaxing with a magazine before going across to join Colin and Joan. They were going to the pub later on and invited me to join them; at first I said no, but Colin assured me that the dogs would be made welcome if I wanted to take them, and also the landlord was originally from my home town, so eventually I agreed. We set off just before the light faded, with Colin and Joan taking their own dog Meg; when we arrived at the pub Colin introduced me to the very friendly landlord, Shaun, and we passed a very pleasant couple of hours over a few drinks - well, Coke in my case. When we finally got back to the camp site we said our goodnights, and after settling Sophie and Sugar on their beds in their side of the tent I snuggled into mine. It had been a lovely first day in a lovely place, made even better by the fantastic weather, and most definitely well worth the long drive to get there.