Sometimes we read something and for one reason or another it really resonates. We read it at just the right moment, when we are most receptive to the message or the mood it conveys. Perhaps it articulates a thought which has been stirring in our own minds, just waiting for a nudge to bring it into the spotlight of our attention. Andy Stothert’s article in the July TGO did something like that for me. As I was reading it and chuckling along, a little chap in the brain department was jigging about, hand in the air, trying to draw my attention: “Hey, hey, that’s what we were telling X-Ray about last time we were out!”

Remember the numskulls? In….the Beano or the Dandy? I have a terrible memory….

The article, stated baldly, is about how walking with a dog changed Stothert’s approach to hill-walking so that rather than following a predetermined route he simply followed the dog, and about the joys of that unplanned approach, of stravaiging. Which wasn’t quite what I was telling X-Ray about – or perhaps it was and I just didn’t realise that fact at the time.

A couple of local walks from last week have passed without commentThe photographs here are drawn from those outings.Firstly, an insect which B found. He is fascinated by creepy-crawlies and has a knack of finding and catching them. I have no idea what this is.

During the course of our walk I bombarded X-Ray with suggestions for other routes we could be taking, or of routes nearby I’ve followed in the past. From Arnison Crag I sketched out the possibility of contouring round below Birks to Coldcove Gill, to follow the gill to Gavel Moss and then to breakout up to the left to Lord’s Seat and what looked like a rather nice ridge onto Gavel Pike.


It did rain occasionally last week and I took this because of the raindrops, but then realised that I don’t know what kind of leaf this is. It was pretty large – too big (and too long) to be the hazel I initially took it for.

On St. Sunday Crag I regaled X-Ray with stories of wandering around Ruthwaite Cove below Nethermost Pike looking for the diminutive Hard Tarn. I think I told him several times about the steep climb into Link Cove below Hart Crag and the rewards for attaining that unfrequented spot. When, with a bagger’s zeal, he asked about routes onto Angle Tarn Pikes, which we could see across the valley, I advocated Angletarn Beck – “not much of a scramble, but you’ll have it all to yourself”.


There’s a pair of jays somewhere above these hazel leaves – I could hear them, but only glimpsed them briefly.

In retrospect, much as I was enjoying the walk, I think I was also kicking against the tyranny of my current obsession with list-ticking and peak-bagging. I was remembering that sometimes less is more and that maybe one hill by a ridge less travelled might be as good or better than a nine-tick day, and that the freedom to decide to abandon a planned route to follow a stream which looks promising, or to seek out a secluded tarn, is an important part of why I head into the hills.

Flowers and seeds together on Sycamore.

Not that I’m intend to stop ticking off the Birketts – just that I should perhaps calm down a little bit – there’s no rush. And using the list is taking me to some slightly off the beaten track spots anyway: Arnison Crag doesn’t have a major highway up it like it’s loftier, Wainwright neighbours, the long, rough mostly pathless ridge between Harter Fell and the Hardknott Pass is one I probably wouldn’t have explored but for the two Birketts along it.

So – peak bagging with some stravaiging thrown in. Might struggle to sell that to X-Ray though, he has his own ‘minimum effort’ philosophy which doesn’t sit well with that idea.


2 thoughts on “Stravaiging

  1. I’ve just enjoyed catching up with your last month’s postings, Mark. It’s incredibly difficult to ‘catch up’ with everyone after a period away.
    My postbox includes The Lakeland Fells Almanac.
    To tick?

  2. beatingthebounds says:

    Thanks for dropping by Martin. I have some catching-up of my own to do! I would have thought that you would have the Birketts ticked off in no time flat.

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