When I finally got up properly Sophie and Sugar were ready to go out, so walking them was the first priority. I didn't go far, just round the site - a longer walk would come later - and when I got back to the tent I made breakfast of tea, toast and marmalade which I ate sitting in the sun outside the tent while the dogs lay in the shade of the van. Studying the timetable for the railway I decided I would get the 11.50 train, which would leave me plenty of time to look round more of the surrounding area first. Colin had previously told me about a footpath off the lane, which led to the river from where I could take another path which would bring me out a mile or so further up the lane, so after having a brief chat with him and Joan I collected the dogs and my camera and set off to explore.
The path Colin had mentioned was more of a farm track with some old barns converted into holiday lets, and once I was away from the main lane I was able to let the dogs off their leads so they could explore as they wanted. At the end of the lane was a lovely little church with a well kept graveyard, a small parking area just by the riverside, and a grassy bank full of daffodils bordering the dry stone wall. I lingered for a while by the river, but when the church bell began ringing for the 11am service I thought I had better make my way back to the campsite, not taking the path which Colin had suggested but another one which brought me back onto the lane not too far from where I had started.
Back at the tent I just had time to give the dogs a drink and grab some money before setting out on the ten minute walk along the lane to the station. There are four miniature steam locos currently in regular service and on this occasion it was the newest of these, the Northern Rock, which was waiting by the station platform. It's a very popular railway and all the open carriages were already full so I had to get into a covered one, but at least the dogs and I had it to ourselves. This was the dogs' first train journey and I wasn't sure how they would react but I needn't have worried - I fastened their leads to the seat to prevent them from jumping out of the open sides, and once they had got used to clattering noise and the rocking they soon settled down, Sugar up on the seat beside me and Sophie lying on the carriage floor in the sunshine.
The seven mile journey to Ravenglass was lovely, although a bit draughty when in the shade, and passed first through an area of woodland before hitting open countryside, then another wooded area where we stopped briefly to allow another train to pass, then finally the open land of tidal Barrow Marsh, before ending at Ravenglass station.
Just outside the station a sign pointed the way to the shore so I headed through the village in that direction. I don't know what I was expecting to see when I got there, but there wasn't really a lot. The village is set on a large estuary and the tide was out, so there was nothing more than a vast expanse of sand with a river running through the middle and a beached sailing catamaran and a couple fishing dinghies leaning crazily to one side. Up ahead the West Coast main rail line crossed over the estuary with a footbridge running alongside so I decided to go that way and walk a little way along the shore on the far side of the river. I hadn't gone far along the other side when I came to a caravan site and a lane leading up from the shore, so thinking to make a circular route back to the village I headed up there.......and walked, and walked, and walked. There was no turn off as I expected so I kept going till I reached the main coast road, and when I finally got there I was a long way from Ravenglass! Going back the way I had come seemed pretty pointless, so as time didn't really matter anyway I just set off along the road. And at least it did give me the opportunity to take a couple of photos en route, which I wouldn't otherwise have done.
The road back down into the village took me into the station at the opposite end to where I'd gone out, and as I approached the platform I caught sight of an old tractor behind the station buildings - closer inspection revealed an enclosed well-mown plot of land which housed what I took to be a private collection of vintage tractors and farm machinery. I would have loved to get in there and have a proper look at them all but I had to content myself with snapping a few photos through the trees - maybe if I go there again I'll see if I can find the owner and ask if I can look round.
My long walk in the hot sunshine had given me a raging thirst so I made my way over to the station cafe, got myself a coffee and a slice of fruit cake, and sat on a wall while I waited for the next train. This time I was able to get an open carriage, and with the dogs' leads again tied to the seat I settled back to enjoy the return ride to Eskdale. It was only 3.30pm by the time I got off the train back at Dalegarth station, and a long while till I got a proper meal - I was going to the pub later with Colin and Joan and the others - so as part of my 'eat my way round England' plan I went in the cafe and had another coffee and a delicious piece of toffee cake before going back to the camp site.
Back at the tent I put Sophie and Sugar on their beds in their side while I went for a chat with Colin and Joan - when I went back a while later to check on the dogs they were both absolutely dead to the world; the long walk must have really tired them out. Sugar was lying half on and half off her bed and she was so still I had to look twice to make sure she was still breathing!
It was just after 6pm when we all headed for the village pub and our evening meal - with seven adults, two kids and five dogs between us it crossed my mind that the locals might think they were being invaded! All the dogs and kids were very well behaved though and we had a very enjoyable meal - afterwards we all went outside and while the rest of the group sat round a table on the patio Colin and I went down to the play area with Ruth and James. At first I was just watching them playing but then some little invisible devil on my shoulder prompted me to join in - and so began one of the maddest half hours I've had in a long while. First I went up the climbing frame and down the slide, then I tried the mouse swing, the other slide and the rope swing and finally wriggled through the tunnel at almost ground level. Then it was the dogs' turn to go through the tunnel and down the slide sitting in Ruth's lap, and somewhere along the line I ended up with my head and hands in the stocks while Colin took a photo. Finally the kids and I did the egg and spoon race - the 'eggs' being pool balls - over an obstacle course which consisted of stepping through the swings, up the climbing frame and down the slide, and up and over several tables and benches. I don't know who won - I don't think anyone was really counting - but it was darned good fun. Now I've always said that having kids gives you an excuse to act like one, but as I don't have any young kids what's my excuse??
The daylight had faded by the time we left the pub and as there are no street lights in the village we had to walk back to the camp site by torch light. Back at the tent I fed the dogs and took them for a brief walk round the site, then put them on their beds in their side of the tent while I went across to join Colin and the other adults for a drink. The conversation started off on a normal level but as the evening progressed Dave's observational humour came to the fore and it wasn't long before there was more laughter than proper conversation. He's a very funny guy and would give many of today's comedians a run for their money - I haven't laughed so much in ages, and when the 'party' finally broke up I went back to my tent with my sides aching. I had enjoyed myself immensely and it had been a great end to a great day.