Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Loweswater Fell

Loweswater Fell is an area of high land marked on Landranger 89 to the south of Loweswater.  My interest in it was due to there being five Wainwrights near to each other that I hadn’t previously climbed.  And as I only had ten left to tick, the prospect of knocking half of them off in one walk was too good to turn down.

This particular group of hills is bounded by Loweswater in the north, Floutern Pass in the south, Crummock Water in the east and the national park boundary in the west.  None of it reaches 1900 feet, let alone 2000 feet, so it should lend itself to an easy day out but don’t let that seemingly innocuous statistic lull you into a false sense of security.

Easy tracks led to the screes of Mellbreak’s Raven Crag which petered out on the edge of an impressive precipice, dropping away into an other-worldly gully.  Further up on Dropping Crag were some super viewpoints looking up to the head of the Buttermere valley.

Fleetwith Pike and Buttermere
Two distinct cairns crowned the north top of Mellbreak but which marks was the true summit is open to debate.  Whichever it is, neither is the actual summit of the fell, that honour resting with a rather nondescript flat spot over half a mile away.  Although a little hazy, the views were good and hills as far away as Merrick could be seen across the Solway Firth.


I dropped into Mosedale, reluctantly losing the height already gained and rested at the Mosedale Holly Tree – the only tree in the Lake District named on an OS map.  It flourishes in the midst of some very boggy terrain.  I soon gained the bridleway and crossed the footbridge leading towards Floutern Pass but it was hard to take even a single step on dry ground, with the morass being home to common lizards of which I disturbed a couple.  The next dry ground was found only on the south ridge of Hen Comb.  Dropping from the summit, again losing hard-won height, soon found me battling boggy ground again, this time on Whiteoak Moss which was the wettest ground of the day.  Another ascent, although smaller this time, led to the top of Gavel Fell.  At least the boggy ground was behind me now and only a little more ascent was needed as I traversed the tops of Blake Fell (the day’s highpoint), Carling Knott (not a Wainwright but on the FRCC 244 list) and finally Burnbank Fell.  The views were clearer in the early evening sunshine with Criffel defining the horizon.

Loweswater - Millennium Sculpture


  The descent to Holme Wood and Loweswater
  gave good views of the west “face” of Grasmoor
  and the final plodding kilometre of roadwalking
  was only interrupted by a short diversion to the
  discretely impressive Millennium sculpture at
  Loweswater village hall.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Olympic Legacy

As the golden glow of the spectacular London Olympics fades and the Paralympics draws to a close, the focus turns to “legacy”.

Apart from the infrastructure legacy of the world-class sporting venues in the form of stadia, most commentators and politicians are talking about legacy in the terms of future sporting success.  The glut of gold medals combined with the feelgood factor of a home Olympics has got us in the mood for more.  It appears that the level of legacy delivered will be judged by the number of sportsmen and sportswomen who will be successful in the future, particularly in Olympic sports.

But there are other views to be considered.

During the Olympics, whilst he was working for the BBC as a swimming pundit, Australian 5-time gold medal winner Ian Thorpe visited Tooting Bec Lido to give swimming lessons to local children.  When interviewed, he said that getting people active in sport was a legacy in itself, by keeping people healthy and reducing the need for (and cost of) future healthcare.

Although sporting competition amongst children should be encouraged to enable them to cope with the day-to-day competition in adult life, winning should not necessarily be the ultimate focus.  In any Olympic event, there can only be one winner and then only every 4 years.  It should be recognised that not everybody can be a gold medal Olympian, but all children should be exposed to sport to give them a chance to reach this sporting pinnacle.  Only a few will win medals, a few more will compete at a national level for a place on the Olympic team, even more will compete at a local level but most sportspeople will simply participate for the love of their sport.

As they grow older, some children will recognise that sporting competition will not become a significant aspect of their life.  But a true legacy ought to address this circumstance.

I enjoyed the Olympics, with its spectacle and the success of Team GB (& Northen Ireland !).  Although future gold medals represent an important part of the legacy of the games, surely the true legacy ought to be judged by the number of children (and adults) who try some new sport, Olympic or otherwise, competitive or recreational, and get off the sofa and away from televisions and games consoles.

And this is where our hills and mountains can play a part.

There is a huge amount of countryside out there – cheaper than a gym membership and much more inspiring – ready to exercise and inspire a future generation.

It appears that parliament has started to do its bit following yesterday’s ascent of Snowdon by members of the All Party Parliamentary Mountaineering Group, accompanied by BMC and national mountain centre (Plas y Brenin) luminaries.  PyB is reporting an increase in the number of families booking on courses and a new campaign – “Britain on Foot” – is to be launched later in the year with the aim of promoting accessible walking for all.

That’s a small, but significant, start and now is the time for our schools, youth organisations, walking clubs, climbing clubs and national organisations such as the Ramblers and the British Mountaineering Council to grasp the opportunity that is legacy and carry it forward to light the beacon that is participation.