Thursday, 21 May 2009

About This Blog

Margaret Watkins was a very special person who lost her battle against Breast Cancer in December 2008. She loved to walk the Lake District Hills with her husband Mike, so I decided to walk all 214 'Wainwrights' - in two months - in her memory, to raise money for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, based at The Royal Preston Hospital. Margaret's husband Mike kept me company on much of the walk, which we did between 9 March and 2 May 2009, starting with Great Mell Fell and finishing on Loughrigg. The total amount raised now exceeds £8,500, and when all the money is in and Gift Aid is added I am hoping we may go over the £10,000 mark.

The Rosemere Cancer Foundation relies entirely upon charitable donations, receiving nothing from the NHS, and yet manages to be of great benefit to cancer patients throughout Lancs and S Lakes as well as sponsoring cancer research.

If reading this blog inspires you to want to help the fight against cancer, you can make a donation by going to

Friday, 8 May 2009

Fund Raising Update & Other Matters

Less than a week since the end of the walk and sponsorship money is still coming in, with the total now over £6,800, which will gross up to almost £8,000 with Gift Aid. Thanks must go to the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times for their continued support and publicity, with a great article this week. More funds are promised so we haven't finished yet!!

In Lakeland, the Westmorland Gazette will also feature an article either this week or next, and I had a nice email from John Burland, editor of The Wainwright Society's quarterly magazine 'Footsteps', telling me that he thought my round of all 214 in 55 days was the fastest by an 'ordinary fell-walker' (by the way, Joss Naylor's time was actually 6 days 23 hours and 11 minutes apparently) - and the next edition in September will contain a full-page article on the challenge, with another opportunity to publicise the Rosemere Cancer Foundation.

Now don't laugh, but tomorrow Val and I are off to Scotland to walk the West Highland Way - it's only 97 miles and not too hilly, so it should be like having a nice rest!!

Monday, 4 May 2009

A Few Notes In Conclusion

My little ‘speech’ on the green at Elterwater, as far as I can recall:-

It’s eight weeks since we started on Great Mell Fell, and at the very beginning I was in deep depression – as we got out of the car to put on our boots the heavens opened, and before we were ready to go I was already wet through and my fingers were cold and white. That’s when I thought we’d never really get started, never mind finished.

Yesterday the rain came down in truly Biblical proportions but we felt we had to go out and get those penultimate fells done, as it would have been such an anti-climax to have all our friends present on Saturday without it really being THE END.

And here we are, with all 214 tops completed in 39 walking days, 55 days total. The idea of this walk was to do something in memory of Margaret Watkins and raise some money for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation who helped her so much. And I’d do all 214 again if it would bring Margaret back, but that’s not to be. So far the total amount raised is approaching £6,000: I’m very grateful to all those who have donated so generously, and I hope those people who haven’t yet donated will do so soon.

This challenge was not a solo effort – these things never are – their success depends on many people. I want to thank all of them, but if I mention everyone we’ll never get home, so I hope you won’t be offended if I miss you out.

Mike Watkins – who agreed to me doing this, and ended up doing 136 fells with me, with 99% faultless navigation and no shortage of conversation, not all of which I could hear on windy days with my balaclava on, but it didn’t seem to make too much difference.

Robert and Margaret Berry for generously allowing us to stay in their Lake District home, and Allan and Sandra Boardman for providing fantastic digs in Cockermouth – without them the cost of accommodation would have been prohibitive.

The Parkinsons for allowing me to gatecrash their Easter party at the Buttermere Climbing Hut, which was such a great weekend.

All the people who have joined the walk – too numerous to mention, but just special thanks to Ian Hardy – and Carol for being so understanding – Ian turned out on some days when it would otherwise have been difficult solo, and also in some of the worst weather we’ve had (until yesterday!), even though Margaret up there obviously did her best to organise some great weather.

To Val, of course, for food, washing clothes, having to sleep on her own which she hates – I suppose the only way she’s able to put up with me is if Im not at home too much. And to everyone who’s given practical and moral support, and all those who have donated so generously to the Rosemere, all of which has kept me going.

So before I rabbit on for too long, let’s all just raise our glasses to the inspiration behind all this – the exuberant Margaret.

Good Friends And Fellowship In The Fells

Day 39 – the final day – Saturday 2 May, after 54 days one I wasn’t always sure would arrive! But here we were, ready to tackle the easy round of Holme Fell and Black Fell with the grand finale on Loughrigg Fell. Various friends had come to the car park at Tom Gill to join us for the full day – Tony & Alison Spencer, John & Catherine Taylor, Frank & Bernadette Brown, Michael & Liz Parkinson, David & Dorothy Hepworth, Simon Clarke, Ian Hardy, Roger Dugdale, and of course Val, making a party of 16, with more to join later on at Skelwith Bridge. And today the weather was perfect.

It was an easy climb through woodland to the little rocky top of Holme Fell (1040’), from where the route undulated along the north ridge to cross the Coniston Road, where much amusement was caused by the bus stop sign.

We passed a picturesque small tarn with bog beans, lilies and damselflies, through a larch plantation followed by a bit of a drama crossing a wall before joining the good track which leads to the summit of Black Fell (1056’), where we realised we were running a little late for our rendezvous with the other friends who would be joining us. With hotels, bars and cafes there was little point worrying about how they would pass the time…

Progress remained necessarily slow as we dropped down steeply into boggy woodland, where paths were non-existent. Finally we arrived at Skelwith Bridge and just about found time to have a (very) small amount of liquid refreshment, before our party grew with the addition of Gordon Smith, Howard & Gillian Spensley, Allan Boardman, Trevor Watkins plus James and Harry, Carol Hardy plus Sarah & Katie. John & Rose Whitehead had set off early (a bit too early as it happened!) expecting us to catch them before we reached the top of Loughrigg Fell (1101’) and were left with a chilly wait. Other non-walking friends were there too, making it a social affair indeed.

We followed the track around Loughrigg Tarn and then followed the steep pitched path to the summit. And there we were at last – in under two months, after 55 days (39 walking days), here was the 214th and last top, and the whole situation – weather, company – couldn’t have been better. It now became apparent that a few heroic individuals had been carrying bottles of champagne and wine up to the top, as a cork popped and the bubbly was poured – by Simon Clarke, who I think was worried that I might emulate a Grand Prix finish and leave everyone feeling a bit sticky on the way to Elterwater! Ian Hardy surprised me by presenting a £1000 cheque for £the Rosemere Cancer Foundation from Clitheroe Round Table, which was very gratefully received.

Someone mentioned that before we left the summit Chris Smith, former Labour Minister of Culture and well-known Munro-bagger, turned up and I imagine he can onlyl have been rather bemused at the goings-on. The route back to Elterwater was a little less than straightforward but didn’t take long. Meeting us half a mile from the village along the river path were Robert & Margaret, John & Joan Myers, and Janet & John Spedding. John has Multiple Sclerosis and his positive attitude is an inspiration to all those who find themselves in his situation: it was typical of him to make the effort to come and greet us.

The Britannia was already full before we arrived to swell the numbers even further, but the green outside was the perfect place to gather and reflect on the previous eight weeks, say our thank-yous (there were many) and drink a final toast to Margaret, the inspiration behind the whole Challenge, before saying our final good-byes.

Well, in many cases not so final – several of us were staying over in Bowness and we’d booked an evening meal at the absolutely excellent Rastelli’s Italian Restaurant. Sunday was to be a rest day around Bowness and Ambleside, perhaps to include a boat trip on the Lake, mainly because no one dares suggest GOING FOR A WALK!!

Photos: 1. Morning meeting at Tom Gill; 2. Click to enlarge if you want to appreciate this (non) bus stop; 3. Striding out on the last lap; 4. A welcome handshake from Gordon Smith as Mike looks on.

I Never Knew It Could Rain So Much!

Day 38 – Friday 1 May. With a late start already decided upon the previous evening, Mike and I got up late (7.45) to find a sunny, bright morning with Carol Kirkwood promising rain mid-morning until early evening. Realising our change of plan had been a bad decision (and that I should have peeped out of the window at 6 o’clock) we hurried our breakfast and set off to at least start in the dry.

We left our car at the Old Dungeon Ghyll and were taken up to Wrynose Pass by Robert and Margaret, where we set off at a brisk pace for Cold Pike (2259’). So far so good, but before we reached Crinkle Crags the rain started and it was on with waterproofs, balaclava, two pairs of gloves, the works! Despite the rain, we kept fairly clear conditions to the summit (the second Crinkle) at 2816’, and buoyed up by munching pork pies we continued the rocky, undulating traverse. Soon the cloud dropped lower and the rain got heavier. And heavier, and heavier, until it seemed to have reached proportions of a Biblical scale. What height is Mount Ararat, I wonder?

After the steep bouldery climb in almost nil visibility from the Three Tarns col we summited Bowfell (2960’), then took the path to Ore Gap. From here the route down to Angle Tarn resembled a river bed more than a path, and ribbons of white water rushed down the hillsides everywhere. A short re-ascent took in the last top of the day, Rossett Pike (2106’), before we headed down Rossett Gill – another river bed at this stage.

For the whole two mile walk along Mickleden the wind drove the rain into our faces, from where nothing could stop it running down inside our waterproofs, leaving us absolutely soaked to the skin. Once inside the Old Dungeon Ghyll we stripped off our waterproofs, ordered a pint and stood in front of the fire, steaming enough almost to form our own personal rainbows. There was one note of satisfaction though – we were still bang on schedule and with only the final day’s three fells to go, tomorrow WOULD be the last day.

Satisfied or not, I got a bit grumpy with Val (sorry!) when she wasn’t on time to pick me up from the Lodge to take me to the cottage which we had rented for the weekend with the Browns, Spencers and Taylors, but it’s difficult to be cheerful when you’re cold and wet through. And apologies to Roger Dugdale, who had to miss out on the day because of all the uncertainties the day before – but perhaps he wasn’t too disappointed at missing a 5-hour cold bath!

Photos: 1. Robert sets us off from Wrynose Pass; 2. Red Tarn, The Crinkles and Bowfell while the weather holds; 3. Cold Pike summit, Crinkles and Bowfell behind; 4. The top of Crinkle Crags with Bowfell in the background. No photos possible once the rain started!

The Grey Friar Captured At Last

Day 37 – Thursday 30 April – Thursday, a rainy day, should have been a day off, but the forecast for Friday looked so bad I decided we might be better starting at dawn the following day to get as much as possible done before we got soaked. Which meant going to Bowness today, giving us the chance to climb Grey Friar (2536’) – the mountain we missed on the Coniston Round four weeks ago - in the evening, weather permitting.

As we arrived at Wrynose Pass at 5.15 pm it was still cloudy and misty but the rain had stopped, so we set off up to Wet Side Ridge in hope, and as we reached Fairfield Col between Great Carrs and Grey Friar the cloud lifted, allowing us to see our objective at last, as well as the surrounding Coniston Fells. Although the mist came back at the top, the weather cleared completely on the descent and we were treated to glorious evening sunshine.

My fitness must be improving (at last!) – 65 mins up, 70 mins down, hardly any difference.

Back at Robert & Margaret’s lodge in Bowness we phoned for the latest Lakes forecast, which gave heavy rain from early morning, clearing early afternoon, and changed our plan from a dawn start to perhaps a 1pm start and a late finish – a decision we were later to regret, and from which flowed a long series of mutual recriminations (in good humour, of course!).

Two more days and seven fells to go, but with Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, still two big hills tomorrow.
Photos: 1. Grey Friar emerges from the mist; 2. Finally on the summit!
of our elusive fell!; 3. Looking towards Elterwater in the evening sun; 4. Pike o'Blisco.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Arrangements for Saturday 2 May

As promised (see earlier post re Final Day) here is my best estimate for times / distances / meeting points for Saturday:

Start: Tom Gill National Trust Car Park (pay & display unless you are an NT member) on the main Ambleside – Coniston road (usual way to Tarn Hows), MR 322999. Starting at 10.00 and climbing Holme Fell (1040’)

From the summit of Holme Fell we go roughly NE along the ridge and rejoin the main road at Oxen Fell High Cross (MR 328018). We should be here around 11.15 but if you are planning on joining here please (a) be sure to let me know and (b) be there early, in case we are ahead of schedule.

Next we climb Black Fell (1056’) and then go along the north ridge to Skelwith Bridge, arriving around 12.45. Those joining here should arrive by 12.30 and loiter around the road junction to Great Langdale / Elterwater / Raw Head – no doubt you will meet other members of the afternoon party!

On to Loughrigg (1101’) involving a climb of around 1000’, after which the paln is to walk to Elterwater, where I expect we should arrive at The Britannia around 3.00.

I hope the above is clear. I am now planning to return to Lakeland this afternoon (Thursday) to do Grey Friar and get a dawn start tomorrow before the bad weather comes in, so if you are unsure of any details you can ring me on my mobile, or if I am unavailable Howard Spensley has agreed to take questions (!). I can’t really put mobile numbers on the Blog so if you don’t know them, apologies but you should have been in touch earlier. Those people who have been in touch will get an email with these details.