I only walk the Coffin Trail because it’s called the Coffin Trail

I only want to walk the Coffin Trail because it’s called the Coffin Trail.


Happily it’s not called the Coffin Trail for some disappointing mundane uncoffiny reason but because it is the ancient  route the coffin-bearers took  in order to bury their load in consecrated ground.


The start of the walk is quintessentially Lake District. This means saying ‘Fucking hell!’ too loudly in front of a prim pink faced family of five when looking at the prices to park your suddenly shabby looking car, being bemused at to why someone would pay those prices to throw a bag of used nappies by a lake and to wonder if the group of Asian tourists chattering excitedly and snapping everything (probably including the random picturesque  fly-tipping) with enormous Nikons have come straight out of the National Stereotype Annual.


Nevermind. I have read or at least thought happily about the dark atmosphere of the coffin trail, the sense of past and present drifting, ebbing, merging into that final dark grim walk into the black cold earth.


No Parking signs in Chinese don’t quite feature in this bleak fantasy but it’s cool. I close my eyes, start the steep descent up the coffin trail trying to ignore the constant  arrogant woosh of over confidently driven spotless 4 by 4s driven by people I hate without knowing.


About a metre up the coffin trail (and I do dislike walking ‘up’) I regret wearing a long white dress and flip flops as I repeatedly stop to pull over as a steady stream of octogenarians with gnarled brown legs and futuristic walking shoes overtake. I am an old shit cheap car on a busy A road not a mystic traveller into legend and darkness. Typical.


About a metre and 30 seconds up the coffin trail, I am sweating more than when I saw the car parking prices sign and wondering why the hell people bothered.


If I knew I might have to take a dear beloved person up this incline who is just sliding unhelpfully around in a box, possibly with the path less shingled and no booking at Zefferillis at 2pm in Ambleside to ease the pain because vegetarian Italian restaurants were thin on the ground back then- and I suspect Pinot Grigio at £7.40 a glass  and a meal primarily based on aubergine would not go down well with a sodden shattered grieving fellsman -I might feel somewhat short-changed. Literally.


About a metre and 35 seconds up the incline I am generally confused as to why people did not make their nearly dead family or friends walk themselves to Ambleside on  the pretext of a nice non aubergine based meal out and then leap out at them shouting ‘SURPRISE’ or ‘OH MY GOD, IS THAT THE GRIM REAPER STANDING OVER YOU JUST NOW?’ in the hope that Nature would take its course thus saving them a tiring slight incline.


Maybe just off the verges  by the start of the trail, there is a pile of annoyingly heavy bones chucked there centuries ago, like that bag of nappies and the coffin- bearers acted all innocently when they arrived fresh-faced and sweat-free in Ambleside. ‘Aye, she was on that new diet, that new fangled err Sticky Weed based one she read about in yon fashionable Almanac, looked good so she did apart when she died. Anyone for an overpriced Ploughmans? ‘


Maybe the second a portly but loved one started to slightly sicken or reach 30, the people around them thought of that incline and were all like ‘Mary, love, that’s quite enough pottage for you, have some nettle juice instead for the rest of your life, aye.’


Maybe that’s how MDF was invented.


I try desperately to dwell on death on a sweet early July morning but cheery walkers in sensible clothes keep ruining for me with their chirpy ‘hellos’ and the nervous etiquette that such things beget.


When does one say ‘hello’ first?

What if they don’t respond and you feel slighted by someone in too brightly coloured clothing that you never actually wanted to say hello to in the first place?

Do you say hello to all of the rusty retired healthy happy people in brightly coloured Gore Tex who live in pleasant tree lined streets in houses called ‘The Villa’ or ‘The Gables’ or just their amicable yet cold-eyed leader?


I am asked if I am allright by a concerned looking person a lot older than me as I slide down an embarrassingly small outcrop of pebble on my bum because I don’t trust my sandals or legs.


This is not walking a pilgrimage of the dead into the past.


All these stupid people people flocking somewhere beautiful and natural ruins it for someone like me trying to go somewhere beautiful and natural.


We walk to Hawkshead. A long winding road past  empty, whitewashed farmhouses with  old names etched recently in old font into modern slate outside to be clearly visible to the next booker. These farmhouses without farms, these houses without cats, dogs or chickens, these cottages with security alarms and pristine empty gardens, identikit windows with an identikit tasteful ornament in the middle, white curtains and a sign outside telling you how to book it.


Oh how we sneered at all the rural fakeness of it all when we arrived back at our pristine tasteful hotel.

It’s so easy to sneer. I think next time for authentic authenticity, I shall take the dead mouldering body of someone I love, scrabble desperately with it through mud, black and slime, my hands bleeding and calloused, my belly empty, my head fearful as I hear the hideous heavy thump of bones against wood roughly thwacking me off balance as my feet slide on some unholy slither as the woods creep slowly in and I don’t know if it is the the branches of a tree or something , something else clutching me as I fall.


I think this might be a unique marketing idea.


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