I was pleasantly surprised; I suppose I shouldn’t have been – after planning our route and studying the map – but I was. Just one Wainwright today, that’s all. Just a little hill, nestling between St. John’s in the Vale and the one kilometre dual carriageway to Keswick, that instantly turns languid travellers into Formula One racing drivers. High Rigg narrowly breaks through the 1,000 foot mark (357m) and, at just over two miles long, has all the makings of a casual and enjoyable day’s walk.
Hannah brings a friend, and Mark joins us again. We have a team of four – a nice change, welcome company. Georgia doesn’t do much walking, or at least not onto the high mountains, so she should manage High Rigg quite comfortably and find it enjoyable.
Trafficking in Bosnia
Climbing to the summit of Wren Crag, my mind keeps playing back images from the film I watched last night. The film about human trafficking in Bosnia, tells the true story of girls tricked into slavery, working in remote bars, in terrible conditions. “The Whistleblower” starred Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Weisz and Monica Bellucci and reminded me of how much evil there is in the world, and how blasé and ignorant we can become about these things until the work by people in the media and NGOs bring it into the light. Other films have also affected me in similar ways. “I am Slave” is a film about a Sudanese girl who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, and working for a family in London. Then, in 2013, “12 Years a Slave” which won three oscars and many awards, depicted the terrible conditions of slavery in the pre-Civil War United States.
Thankfully, these images drift away as we stop to take in the panorama around us. I was amazed that, from such a small hill, the views could be so stunning. Hannah and Georgia wander off to swing from the trees, while we study the map, trying to identify all the mountains. To the south, the Helvellyn range, covered in fresh snow, looks inviting, but we both know of the hazards on those slopes, from ice which has thawed and frozen again. We gaze along the ridge, over Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watson’s Dodd and Great Dodd, and both wish we were walking along those ridges right now.
Scrambling and climbing
Hannah and Georgia come back from the trees. They have finished playing monkeys, and we now continue our walk. The true summit of High Rigg lies directly ahead, on the righthand edge of the mountain. There are plenty of opportunities for scrambling. Hannah manages to find scrambles on the most inconspicuous outcrops, although she can’t get up them all. Grazed knees and plasters later, I think.
We, inadvertently, get involved in a bit of geocaching, because, in an outcrop, which the girls named ‘The Tooth’ – they find a small plastic box, hidden in a crevice. Geocaching uses GPS technology to locate caches on a wide variety of locations. Presently there are 2,575,695 geocaches around the world. The fell is also used for orienteering, evidenced by the number of flags we saw. The two activities are not dissimilar.
We hang from rocks, climb up slabs, scramble over boulders and manage to avoid many outcrops where a fall would have serious consequences. Many times it is not the height of the crag that is the problem, but what lies below it. Boulders and sharp jagged rocks, only a few feet below your feet, can easily result in broken ankles or worse. The third snack stop has finished, and the girls have expended most of their energy.
We reach the summit of High Rigg just as the sun comes out; it feels gloriously warm. We spend quite a bit of time looking at the mountains surrounding us, and planning routes for future days. The girls sit happily in the sun, eating their lunch. I am surprised that they have anything left after all the stops.
After about fifteen minutes we start our descent along the wide green path to the youth hostel and the picturesque little church of St. John’s in the Vale. The present building dates from 1845, but there have been other buildings on the site, the earliest reference being in 1554. I was particularly struck by a gravestone which listed the local men who had fallen during the First World War. In such a small community, the loss of six or so young men, all about 20 years old, must have been quite devastating.
To the rear of the church is a small well. A newly erected wooden sign reads, ‘Holy Well of St. John the Baptist’. Daffodils carpet the ground. Their yellow heads expectant, waiting for the warmth of the sun; the first signs of spring, and new life. In the field opposite, lambs run around, exploring, cautious, bold, ready to dash back to their mothers. In a few weeks it will be Easter, for Christians this event celebrates the beginning of a new life in Christ; it’s up for grabs, for anyone who asks, God’s free gift.
I look around, at the daffodils, crocuses, lambs and green fields, and yearn for the warmer days. Mark talks about wandering around the fells in t-shirt and shorts. Warm spring sunshine is certainly making inroads into the cold winter winds. Although later, as we pull in for some petrol on the way home, I notice a newspaper headline which indicates that Siberian weather is on its way. I hope they’re wrong.
We wind around the base of High Rigg and head south along the edge of the valley. It is a delightful route. The path climbs and dips around the hillside. We are tempted to stop for ice cream and tea at Low Bridge End Farm. In fact, because of the shouts from the girls, as they notice the sign, it was hard not to, but we resist – they’ve eaten enough. The sign on the window reads, ‘Self Service Today’. Maybe the owners are out, or having a rest. I expect that there is a box to leave your money.
After just over five hours we return to the car. It was a change to go on a walk without any time restraints. This must be the first walk we have done with about ten lunch stops and climbs on nearly every outcrop, but it has been great fun. The mountain surprised us all, the views were tremendous. It is definitely a walk that will linger in my memory for a long time. Next weekend, we’re back to the big hills and a handful of Wainwrights, I hope.