The woman queuing at the bar in the Masons Arms is from Los Angeles. I can tell she�s not from Cumbria, because I�m the only other customer waiting for a drink, and she is queuing behind me. Queuing � in Britain! How dumb can you get?
The woman doesn�t know her taproom etiquette, but she does know what she likes. �You can keep your London Tower and your Stratford-in-Avon,� she blurts out suddenly and with feeling, to nobody in particular. �To me, this is the real heritage of England: typical country taverns like this one, going back thousands of years��
Well, maybe not thousands, but the LA lady has a point. Even though the Masons Arms isn�t wholly typical (it sells damson-flavoured beer, for example, and has a urinal flanked by dry-stone walls), it is proving one heck of a place to hole up on a wintry weekend break in the Lakes. All the requisites are here: a widescreen wood-burner that takes up half a wall, a blackboard full of top-class comfort food, and more ancient beams that the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
It is February outside, and I�m afraid I�ve had two damson ales. I won�t be walking far. But that�s all right, because I�ve spotted a very promising fell right on the doorstep. It�s called Gummer�s How, and on the map it looks nothing fancy � a lumpen little hill craning above the southern tip of Windermere, roughly the same shape as its namesake, Sir Geoffrey. But I�ve a vague idea that if I get to the top, I�ll see things.
This is one of those crisp, crystalline afternoons that can make February the best month of the year. Frost is crimping the gorse bushes, and some winter pixie has been out flinging glitter over every sheep and dry-stone wall. I am in the Lake District and I want toget myself a big, spiky lungful of mountain air � but I don�t want to work too hard for it.
I stroll the sleeping road downhill from Strawberry Bank, where the pub stands, to Astley�s Plantation, and turn right onto a thin, brackeny track towards the Gummer�s How summit. There is nobody else about. It is a sharp climb, but short, and in no time at all I find myself 1,000ft above Windermere, clinging for dear life to the chimney-stack trig point on top of the fell and shouting ecstatic expletives into the wind.
Blimey it�s blustery up here, and I can�t believe the gift I�ve got for an hour of easy-going exertion � a million-mile panorama of England�s most beautiful mountainscape. I romp about for 20 minutes or so, just inhaling it all. Windermere glints flintily at my feet, the bottlebrush pines of Grizedale Froest tickle the Old Man of Coniston�s armpits, the Langdale Pikes shoulder-barge along the horizon, and the sun prepares to dunk itself in Morecambe Bay.
I�d like to tell you more about the view, but my glasses have blown away.
The ascent of Gummer�s How is a simple there-and-back from Astley�s Plantation car park, half a mile north-east of Fell Foot Park, at the southern end of Windermere (take OS Explorer map OL7).
The Masons Arms (015395 68486, masonsarmsstrawberrybank.co.uk) is two milesfurther on via the same road, and serves Cartmel duck sausage with spring-onion mash for �12.95. You�ve climbed a fell � you deserve it.
Vincent Crump is the editor of Country Walking magazine and a regular contributor to the Sunday Times Travel section.