This blog, you may have noticed in the header, is “about walking, thinking about walking, reading about walking…..and maybe other stuff”. Well, regrettably, and perhaps inevitably, I do a great deal more ‘thinking about walking’ and ‘reading about walking’ than I do actual walking. And having fairly recently completed a mismatched, more-than-slightly dog-eared, second-hand collection of Wainwright’s ‘Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells’ – which is frustrating, since I see that you can now pick-up a brand spanking new set for a mere £20 – I’ve been perusing those from time to time, and thinking too about the whole business of ‘Wainwright bagging’.
Cat Bells from High Crags.
Now – before anybody gets upset – I’m not against bagging: admittedly, I got stalled with the Munros long ago, and my progress with the Birketts and the Wainwrights are both painfully slow, but I love a good tick list. As well as Wainright’s guidebooks and Birkett’s ‘Complete Lakeland Fells’ and several books about the Munros, I have the Marilyns book, and the Nuttalls’ books both of hills and of Lakeland tarns and even, optimistically, a compendium about the Alpine 4000m peaks. I may not be a very successful bagger in the flesh, but from my armchair I’m a fell-tiger.
Thinking specifically about Wainwrights however, and Wainwright’s books: because the books are organised into chapters each of which focuses on a separate fell, it’s easy to think of them as essentially a list with added maps, panoramas and route details. But they aren’t: Wainwright wasn’t ticking the fells off. He was exploring them thoroughly; investigating possible routes of ascent and onward ridge routes, and, judging by some of the sketches, venturing far from some of those routes to take a gander at prominent features – crags, mines, boulders, waterfalls and such like.
Bull Crag from High Crag.
In other words, we’re doing Wainwright a disservice when we’re too single-minded about arriving at a summit, and don’t worry too much about how we get there. If I’ve learned one thing from tackling some of Birkett’s routes, it’s that, whilst some of the apparently insignificant knobbles in his list turn out to be just that – insignificant knobbles – others are superb view-points well worth an effort to seek out.
Hindscarth and Robinson from High Crag.
The photographs, in case you were wondering, are from our November get-together at Little Town, in the Newlands Valley. On the Saturday morning the consensus view was that we should climb Maiden Moor. We could have taken the obvious route, via the path to Hause Gate between Cat Bells and Maiden Moor and then along the broad ridge, but I noticed on the OS 1:25,000 a path marked, leaving the Hause Gate path, climbing into Yewthwaite Comb and then apparently petering out for no obvious reason. I guessed, since it stopped so abruptly, that it was an old track, perhaps associated with former mine-workings or quarrying. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it turned out to be a well-made path, a real delight to follow, and it took us most of the way up to High Crags.
The Hard-man and The Adopted Yorkshire Woman arriving on High Crags.
A conflab on High Crags.
High Crags has a spot height of 412m. It also has some pretty good views of the Newlands Valley and the hills which surround it. Next time, whenever that might be, I think I might attempt a more direct approach via Knott End, which towers over Little Town. We continued our walk by climbing Bull Crag – if you scroll back up to the photo above you can see that it doesn’t really have much in the way of actual crags.
Cat Bells and Derwent Water from the slopes of Bull Crag.
On Bull Crag we found a superbly sheltered spot to enjoy a first brew-stop of the day. By the time we’d supped our teas however, we’d been engulfed by cloud and didn’t have any further views, either from Maiden Moor or from High Spy.
Due to some serendipitous navigational muppetry, we didn’t turn down to Dalehead Tarn as planned, but instead dropped out of the cloud to an unexpected view down Tongue Gill and into Borrowdale. Our original plan had been to continue up Dale Head, but given that the weather was not panning-out as forecast we decided instead to drop down to Borrowdale.
Rigghead Quarries were interesting and I was surprised that none of the more adventurous (i.e. loopy) members of our party didn’t venture into any of the levels for a look-see.
Late lunch/afternoon tea stop.
Most of us climbed Castle Crag, which probably yielded the best views of the day…
…although this doesn’t really do it justice.
The walk up Borrowdale in the gathering gloom was very enjoyable. By the time we began to climb toward Hause Gate to return to the Newlands Valley, it was almost dark. In fact that climb, with views over Derwent Water to the lights of Keswick was also surprisingly enjoyable. Arriving back at our digs in darkness is something of a tradition for this weekend anyway.
We were still back in plenty of time for a celebratory meal of wonderfully tender Lamb-shanks, washed down with a few pints – Littletown Farm Guesthouse comes highly recommended by the way.