Saturday, 25 August 2012

Drawing inspiration from the telly

There is no getting away from it. This year the  Lakeland fells have been quieter than normal. Only just last week, in the middle of the holiday season,  I set off down the Langdale Valley and actually managed to walk from Side House to Elterwater without meeting another person. True, it was raining, but this is the Cumbria Way, after all, and there is usually someone about, even if it is only a local walking their dog.

Lingmoor was also eerily quiet, although it is not unusual to have the fell all to oneself. But looking down the valley from Side Pike I was struck by just how quiet it was. Through the mist I could make out the outline of one solitary walker plodding up Mickleden, and wondered whether he or she was heading for Bowfell, or going over the the pass towards Borrowdale. The rain had stopped, the mist was clearing, and there were plenty of cars on the road, but walkers were in short supply.

Actually, as I tucked into my apricot jam and sausage sandwich (don't ask!) I started to imagine that the silence of the fells was a result of something I had missed. Everyone was, I decided, somewhere else. Somewhere that I should also have been, attending an event I had forgotten. Trouble was, I couldn't remember what it was. But I started to become convinced that over the fell in Borrowdale, hundreds of walkers were gathering to celebrate the majesty of the Lakeland Fells at a walkers convention that I knew nothing about.

It was a logical explanation, and as I plodded down towards the camp site I had almost convinced myself that I was right. Until, after 4 hours on the fell, I met a couple going the other way. They were not tourists out for a walk, but fellwalkers pursuing their love of walking. Both are commonplace, but you can tell the difference. Fellwalkers don't tend to be wearing new gear, and they carry maps and compasses. Actually, some  tourists don't wear any proper walking gear at all, as anyone associated with the Mountain Rescue service will tell you.  However, I digress.

I stopped to pass the time of day, as you do, and during the course of the conversation a theory as to why the fells were quieter than normal this year was put forward. Quite apart from the rain, the recession and a certain sporting event taking place elsewhere, the lack of people on the fells could also be put down to the Julia Factor, or rather the lack of it.

The Julia to which I am referring is, of course, Julia Bradbury. She still adorns our television screens on a regular basis, but not walking around the Lake District. And there is no doubt whatsoever that being featured on mainstream television does have an effect on the numbers of people taking to the fells. I well remember walking up Castle Crag the week after that fell had been featured on "Wainwright's Walks". OK, I will admit that it was a nice day, but even so I was surprised to find well over forty people on the summit enjoying the sunshine and views. Not only that but there was a steady stream of people heading up the fell as we were heading back down. By contrast, Catbells, which is normally very popular, but had not been featured on the telly the week before, was strangely deserted.

Coincidence? I don't think so. Just look at the effect that the Olympics has had. The Saturday after the games ended sports clubs up and down the country reported an  increase in the number of people wanting to join. They'd watched the games on the telly. Now they wanted to get involved. And whilst some will no doubt give up as soon as they get out of breath, others will go on to become future champions.

In the nineteen thirties Alfred Wainwright was inspired to walk the fells after climbing Orrest Head and seeing the whole of the Lake District laid out before him. In 1970 I was inspired to walk the fells after climbing Pike O' Blisco, via the shorter route from Wrynose Pass, and discovering that "another world", one that could not be reached by road, lay on the other side of the mountain.

Nowadays, it seems, hundreds of people get their inspiration by tuning in to BBC4 of a Friday night.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Nuneaton here I come!!!!

The news last week that Nuneaton is now part of the Lake District gave me good cheer. I've got relatives who live in Nuneaton. I can visit them of a Sunday afternoon now that it is a stone's throw from Windermere.

For those slightly confused by the above, allow me to explain. Last week, that esteemed travel web site "Trip Advisor" made a bit of a mistake with one of it's maps and gave the impression that Nuneaton was in fact, the gateway to the Lakes. It's an easy mistake to make, after all, there are huge similarities between the two. Both are quite close to the M6 and both have hills, although it is a fact that the hills in Nuneaton are not very high, or topped by cairns, but who cares about a mere technicalty like that?

Nuneaton also has 18 lakes. That's 17 more than the Lake District. And they are surrounded by trees, contain fish, and you can hire a rowing boat. Unfortunately, they are a bit short of Meres, Tarns, and Waters, but you can't have everythng.

It has a rich literary history though. George Eliot was from Nuneaton. And he was a lady, just like our very own Beatrix Potter, who may have actually been to Nuneaton, but nobody really knows for sure.

The town has several other famous sons. Like Ken Loach, the film director and Larry Grayson, who never shut that door on the town.

Now, the Lake District Hospitality Association, another esteemed organisation, has joined in by granting Nuneaton honorary Lake District Town status, thereby making the repositioning of Nuneaton official. It is no longer an Internet gaffe. It is now part of the Lake District. Evidently, someone in Nuneaton held a party to celebrate.

It would seem that quite a few people who live in Nuneaton have actually been to the Lake District on holiday. Now they won't have to. They can stay at home, enjoy the wonderful scenery and then truthfully tell their friends that they holidayed in the Lakes. And those of us that live in the Lakes can pop over to Nuneaton to do a bit of shopping, so watch out Kendal and Penrith, there's a new kid on the block.

It is also good news for house owners in Nuneaton, as prices are set to soar with new buyers flooding into the town to buy up cottages as second homes. This will also have a positive effect on the town's traffic problems, reducing the number of cars on the road and thereby doing away with the need to upgrade the one way system. And Christmas shopping in Nuneaton will now be a doddle as all the tourists will have gone home.

Nuneaton's tourist attraction will also find itself extremely busy as bus loads of Japanese descend on the town to photograph it from every angle. The Nuneaton Post Card Emporium will be taking on extra staff shortly.

Yes, it is good news all round for Nuneaton, in all but one respect. The good people of that fine old Warwickshire town are going to have to get used to the rain. And if they think that this year has been wet, they are in for a surprise when they experience a really good Lake District Summer.

And now I need to buy a new map, and get to work planning next years edition of "Walks around Nuneaton"

Watch this space!!