Seriously, today, we have to be on our best behaviour – aren’t we always? A special person is joining us for a walk around the fells. After an early morning radio interview with Val Armstrong on Radio Cumbria – which seemed to go surprisingly well at 9-15 on Sunday morning – we opened the car door for Counc. Chris Hogg, the Mayor of Kendal, complete with boots, rucksack, waterproof and sandwiches for his journey.
Hannah asked him if he had brought his chain. Smiling, he produced the travel-light medallion version from his pocket. “This is what we take on short journeys,” he said. I’m not sure what he meant by short journeys. Did this include 1500ft ascents and 4 hour walks over the hills? Did he know what he was letting himself in for after kindly offering to support us in our venture to walk all 214 Wainwrights to help Tearfund prevent child trafficking. I needn’t have worried, as I drove he elucidated about the mountains he had walked and climbed before becoming involved in politics.
We wound through Ambleside and Langdale, narrowly avoiding an erratic white van that tried to push us through the wall of the Skelwith Bridge Hotel car park. Thankfully he missed us and raced down into Chapel Stile. Maybe he was late bringing the croissants for breakfast!
Hannah interviewed the Mayor about all things Mayoral and anything else that she could think off – makings of a politician, or journalist, maybe?
Walking through history
This short walk, which will take us on a picturesque circuit of Lingmoor Fell, gives fantastic views of the Langdale Pikes and is steeped in Lakeland history. Walking along the route is like stepping back in time. We visit a Viking meeting place and later walk over an ancient bridge, gaze upon a Stone Age axe factory and watch as climbers clamber up classic routes on Gimmer Crag and Raven Crag.
We left Blea Tarn car park just after 11am, a rare luxury for us, as we are usually on the hill by about 9am and having the first of Hannah’s many snack stops by now. In an anti-clockwise direction we head over Blea Moss and towards Castle Howe. The sunlight suddenly lit up the Pikes. Contrasted against the thunderous sky and dark, tree-lined foreground they took on an Alpine nature. Snapping on the large lens and resting it on the fence, I took only a few pictures before the sunlight raced away over Pavey Ark, dragging a curtain of shadow across the view and clouds once again blanketed the summit of Pike O’Stickle.
The Viking council chamber
Across the road from Castle Howe lies the Ting Mound, an ancient Viking settlement from the seventh century that once served as a meeting place for this area. It nestles comfortable alongside the modern buildings of Fell Foot Farm. We walk across the field to see it, something I had been wanting to do for many years, ever since first reading about it.
Quite appropriately, the Mayor, whose portfolio includes Heritage, Arts and Culture, was standing next to me. Although I couldn’t envisage him in Viking attire addressing a gathering of local chiefs from this vantage point, or maybe I could. Anyway, we moved on before I suggested it would be a good for a picture – the Mayor standing on the mound.
Not much now remains of the Ting, except a mound of soil covered by grass. But a plaque describes its history in great detail and an artist’s impression gives an idea of how it must have looked in its day. It was probably used well into the Medieval period before civilisation moved on and left it to blend back into the landscape.
It is quite unique. Usually these type of features are levelled over the years to make way for agriculture and buildings – this is one of the few that have survived in the English Lake District. Another Viking settlement once thrived at the foot of Rannerdale Knotts in Buttermere, but what stones remain of the buildings are now covered by bluebells.
The Three Shires, but no Hobbits
Slater Bridge is one of Lakeland’s ancient pedestrian bridges. It crosses the outflow (River Brathay) from Little Langdale Tarn and once connected the hamlet of Little Langdale with the slate quarries nearby. Over the years this bridge has featured on hundreds of postcards and calendars of the Lake District. Today, the lighting is flat, the bridge appears dreary, so I just take a picture for the sake of it, doubt I’ll ever use it though. The photograph of the Mayor walking over with Hannah that was much more colourful.
With great restraint we passed The Three Shires, the door was open, it was lunchtime and the thought of a pint by a warm fire drew us like a magnet until Hannah scowled at me and we reluctantly turned away. I can imagine a later conversation starting with, ‘Which hill did you go up with the Mayor?’ Answer: ‘None, we ended up in the pub . . . ‘ We are human, after all!
Shepherds and bracken
So begins our climb of Lingmoor Fell. Passing Dale End, we had sandwiches on the windy fell by the creaky gate instead of by the warm, pub fire. The whistling continued, at first I thought it was Hannah, or the wind. As a shepherd came crashing towards us through the knee-high bracken I knew what was going on. We stopped for a while as he, with a couple of sheepdogs, rounded up a small flock of sheep and guided them down the fell towards the farm.
It was great to watch, and Hannah grasped the opportunity, as usual, to have a rest from climbing along the narrow path through shoulder-high bracken. It’s amazing how quickly this stuff grows. Only last month there was hardly a sign of it and now it is everywhere. I suggested that next time I bring a machete; that didn’t go down to well, more weight to carry and anyway I can’t remember where I last put it.
No hills in Holland
We met a Dutch family on the way up. They had come over from Utrecht for a holiday, just after waving farewell to Le Tour as it sped of in a flash of colourful lycra on feather-weight bikes for a three week, 3.500km media-frenzied ride across France. I wondered what they made of our fells – coming from Holland, where hills are as in as much abundance as tulips are in the UK. I never asked them, although they did comment on the outstanding beauty of the Lake District and the fact that we are so lucky to be able to walk on the fells in a day, unlike the Alps which takes a few days at least. Just below the summit of Lingmoor Fell we waved them farewell and they descended along the path to Bleatarn House – perhaps they had had enough of their lung-stretching climb and decided to hit the flat roads again. It was really great to walk with them for a while and have a chat.
The summit of Lingmoor was not ready for us. It was still preparing its coat of heather. In a few weeks the hillside will be majestic in purple robes. The fell gets its name from the Old Norse word ‘lyng’ which means ‘heather covered’. The actual summit is named as Brown How on the OS Maps and along with Side Pike they give some of the best views of the Langdales and surrounding mountains.
The Mayor and a Wainwright
The clouds are breaking and sunlight is lighting up the fells as we stand by the cairn and pose for pictures with the Mayor. The medallion, which Hannah had inspected in the car, was produced and draped around his neck. Everything was ready for the official photograph. The sun obliged and we posed with the Langdale Pikes in the background. One for the scrapbook.
Scrambling over rocky steps we descend past Side Pike and on towards Blea Tarn. I was just about to step onto the road when a convoy of ‘Italian Job’ Minis sped past me. I jumped back into a bunch of nettles and winced. But it was worth it to watch these classic cars from the 70’s race over the top and down the other side towards Wall End before winding their way down into Great Langdale. I waited for the police cars chasing them but the fells were quiet once more. I tentatively placed one foot on the tarmac – reminiscent of a take from some comedy film – then the next, but all was quiet and briskly we followed the path back to Blea Tarn and the car park.
It has been a fantastic day and great to have had someone else to share our journey with. On the way down we talked to a couple who promised to sponsor us when they got back off holiday next week. We soon arrived in Kendal to bring the Mayor home in time for his Sunday lunch and us in time for ours.