Nowhere in the UK has more of an established identity than the Lake District. Sure, it might not be as boisterous as Yorkshire, but the breath-taking landscapes fill you with a different kind of energy; an enthusiasm that feeds off your sense of wonder. Tucked away in a corner of the North West, it seems to comfortably exist within its own idyllic framework and away from the usual hubbub of day to day life, reacting nonchalantly to events in the rest of England. Even though it’s just off the M6, it seems quite isolated; and while that may be daunting and unfavorable for some, for me it creates the perfect environment for a good holiday.
My parents rented a cottage overlooking the village of Coniston last year, and as they were so enamored with the area and had so much still left to explore, they decided to return this summer. As I’d only gone for a weekend visit due to being on an internship at the time, this year was it for me- a proper rural retreat, the first chance in a long while to have nothing of importance to do. When you’re always busy, you forget the importance of just doing nothing, and switching off for a bit.
It’s fair to say the area is overflowing with pride for its local heritage, and why wouldn’t it be? It’s the Lake District. Even those who haven’t been there still go into a mesmeric trance as they ponder the peace and tranquility that makes the place seem so separated from the rest of the country. Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s countryside retreat, was a highlight for me- cosy and quaint but bursting with character, and I loved the fact that she used it as a setting for several of her stories. It’s a tiny cottage, but given the number of tourists who were trying to peak in, you’d think it was a palace.
We also decided to venture out to Cockermouth to take in William Wordsworth’s childhood home. Only the most naive and idealistic visitors would not be slightly skeptical about how much the house influenced Wordsworth’s work, but it still provided an intriguing insight into life in the 1770’s and a thorough dissecting of Wordsworth’s forming years. As a writer I could only envy the literature Potter and Wordsworth created, and a small part of me harbors an ambition to be renowned enough so that one day, my house is left to the National Trust. One can dream anyway.
But you can’t go to the Lake District without spending most of your time walking; it’s the best way to take in the scenery, one slow step at a time. It never fails to leave an impact, and even though you get used to it after a few days, you can’t help but marvel at it, even when you’re gawp at sheep standing in precariously perilous positions. Although the best views are to be found at the top, it was a gentle stroll along the banks of the Great Langdale valley that proved to be a highlight for me; it was so far removed from anything else that all forms of connection on my phone failed completely.
As our obsession for social media continues to thrive, it can feel like you are never truly immersed in what you are doing if you are constantly checking what everyone else is doing. Sure, you may want to share whatever you are doing with someone else, but can it really be THAT good if you’re able to tear your eyes away from it to add a filter? It’s amazing to consider it, but as my last bar of phone signal cut out and 3G seemed like a distant memory, I did not feel alone or out of touch in any way; if anything, I felt more relaxed, almost free of a burden. I mean imagine it, a life without a mobile phone? It doesn’t sound possible in this day and age.
I’m not the only one it seems. The acclaimed band Foals recently played a balloted show at Shoreditch’s Village Underground to showcase their new album “What Went Down,” where there was a strict “no mobile phone” policy; if you bring one along, you have to surrender it on the door. The few who ignored this and tried to grab a few snaps soon realized how seriously the band were taking this measure, as bouncers swooped throughout the set. It’s not so much as a way of encouraging fans to focus on the moment at hand, as laying down a new law and making their feelings on the matter clear.
But dare I say it, this could be a fantastic solution. Recently I watched a stream of a Disclosure set in Ibiza and considering how much emphasis dance music places on movement (not to mention the island’s reputation), the crowd was practically rigid. The drop came, and it barely registered. Really, why should phones be allowed? You wouldn’t send a Snapchat of a cinema trip or a West End show. Why should the standards be different for live music?
I’m not being some kind of culture snob either. I love sharing photos on Instagram and summarizing my weekend in 140 characters as much as the next social media addict. I just think you need to judge if the moment allows you the time to take a picture. After all, some of those who treasure the Lake District as a hill walker’s paradise will also love it for being perfect selfie fodder. But never underestimate the sense of freedom when you switch off. Sometimes, when the older generation say they don’t understand it, they don’t mean it simply from a technological point of view.