I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Love's A Rocky Road

I have a confession to make. I've been having a passionate love affair for many years and it looks like continuing for a long time yet. What is more, I rather fear it's been going on with the full knowledge of my wife. Sometimes I hardly get to see the object of my desire from one year to the next; yet she's always tucked away somewhere in my heart. Though shapely and rounded, curvaceously bosomy even, she can also, at times, be rough, spiky and a wee bit dangerous. But mostly she welcomes you with open arms, and is as soft and playful as a spring lamb gambolling on new spring turf. I'm talking, of course, about the English Lake District and her fells.

These peaks have not the awe-inspiring height and grandeur and hazardousness of the Alps, or even the Pyrenees. They are friendlier and generally more accessible than the mountains of Scotland and Wales. In fact, never were hills more 'doable' and forgiving. Yet they must not be underestimated: each icy winter there's a toll of hillwalking injuries, even deaths; and there are certain loose gullies and steeply-inclined rakes which are interesting to say the least.

I was visiting Lakeland in my imagination long before I ever went there in person, and  did this mainly through A Pictorial Guide To The Lakeland Fells: that immortal seven-volume work by the retiring English accountant, felllwalker, guidebook writer and curmudgeon, Alfred Wainwright, known affectionately by the fellwalking fraternity as simply 'AW'. AW worked on his painstakingly detailed manuscripts from the early 1950s until the mid 1960s, completing one page a night. These manuscripts were reproduced in book form just as he'd created them: pen and ink drawings of the fells and their paths, executed with outstanding draughtsmanship and accompanied by a quirkily beguiling text written in a tiny hand.
There are two hundred and fourteen fells lovingly listed, described and illustrated in AW's masterwork - all except one (Castle Crag in Borrowdale) over a thousand feet in height. These fells are now known eponymously as the 'Wainwrights', and it's the ambition of many high level ramblers to climb each and every one, myself included. Although I wouldn't call myself an assiduous peak bagger, I calculated the other day how many peaks I'd already bagged, and decided I would make it a lifetime goal to do the lot. My total so far is thirty-eight. By my reckoning that makes one hundred and seventy six to go. So, if I suddenly start writing starry-eyed and giddily romantic posts from Kendal or Keswick or Crummock Water in the near future, you'll know what I'm up to ...

(The first photo was taken a few years ago on Scafell  - at 3163 ft the second highest fell in the Lake District. The second  is of Pillar Rock, which lies just below the 2927 ft summit of Pillar. Pillar Rock is really a climbers-only ascent. It was far too scary for me to attempt.)

13 comments:

George said...

If I lived in your vicinity of the woods, I would join you in the conquest of all 214 fells listed by Wainwright. The first five days of my C2C were in the fells of the Lake District and the experience left me with a strong feeling that I could live in that area for the remainder of my life and never want to go anywhere else. Have you thought about walking Wainwright's Coast to Coast Path?

Good luck, Robert. This is definitely an affair that should be pursued with passion.

Ruth said...

She is awfully comely, Robert. I can't say I blame you. But as you climb her curves and get wounded by her spikes, I will picture myself more like Miss Eliza Bennet who visited this country with her beloved aunt and uncle, standing on rocks in her bonnet, boots and long dress whipped by the wind. Do be careful. I admire your determination and fitness, as I am still sore after just a wee run-walk in the meadow and woods . . .

Cheers!

Grizz………… said...

What splendid country! A lovely landscape of modest scale and challenging complexity. I can see why you've fallen in love, and understand the compulsion of wanting to explore each rocky path. I would, too! I hope you post of each individual fell—with ample photos!—as you check off your list.

Tramp said...

An admirable goal, excellent self-realisation. Keep us informed.
...Tramp

Gail said...

YOur pictures are amazing as are your words that speak of matters of the heart. I thoroughly enjoyed your vision and desires
Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Alive said...

A journey to behold, what a delight for your mind, body and spirit.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I have friends lucky enough to live in Windermere and to also like walking the fells - they rang me yesterday from the top of one - just to say - we can't believe we actually live here.

The Solitary Walker said...

George - I would be happy to climb with you, George. I'll walk the C to C one day.

After my South West Coast Path walk last year, Ruth, my fitness levels have dropped enormously. So, like you, I've been 'training' with some run-walks early every morning to get myself back into some sort of shape. I've discovered the book 'ChiRunning' by Danny Dreyer which is about the zen of running and is full of great techniques and advice.

Should be going up to the Lakes sometime this spring, Grizz ... and Tramp, Gail, Alive and Pat: thanks for your visit and comments!

pilgrimpace said...

enjoyed the post Robert. I've only been in the Lakes a couple of times, and never for serious walking. It remains...

I've got a week walking and camping coming up, but somewhere quite different.

Thanks for the aperitif,

Andy

Amanda said...

i've been to this region once, but clearly have not seen it to the depth to which you share here. what a fantastic place you describe. thank you for this peek into the heart of your forbidden love ;-)

Grace said...

You say that they lack the awe-inspiring height and grandeur of the Alps etc, but I still went "Wow" I saw the first picture. Climbing them all seems like a worthwhile challenge to me. And if I was your wife, I'd be awefully jealous . . . I'd want to get in on that action!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Andy, for your visit. Wonder where you're off to?

Amanda - forbidden love, the sweetest love?

And Grace - the Lake District fells do make the most of what they've got, and, I agree, seem much bigger and bolder than they actually are. But they are quite magnificent.

Dominic Rivron said...

Walking there only the other week - on Blawith Fell at the South end of Coniston. Had intended to climb Scafell Pike, but it was Bank Holiday weekend and didn't fancy traipsing up in a queue. There are areas I've not visited yet: Ennerdale (I've stood on the edge, by Haystacks) and Pillar, for instance.