AW

So how many of the trods, mountain tops, tarns, and crags in this photo’ (taken from Kirk Fell) do you know ?

One winters day in my late teens i walked up Grisedale Pike from Braithwaite. Mother Nature had sprayed a depth of icing sugar across anything and everything the eye could see and topped them off with a bluebird sky. I sat a while on the summit looking SE and tried to identify the trods, tops, tarns and crags that were visible.

To my left were two gentlemen at least seven decades in to their innings. Dressed alike in cords, big socks and big boots, jumper, mackintosh, and a cap, they were admiring the view and drinking their tea. I asked one of them if he knew what a top was that i could see far to the South. The gentlemen replied ‘ang on a second lad’ and he put his flask down and stood up.

He then spent thirty minutes or more naming everything the eye could see. Trod, top, tarn, crag, village, beck, ruin, road, trig, byre, plantation, farmstead. He named the farmers, he named the quietest but best ways up each of the fells, he told me folklore and anecdote and daft stories, and he explained what the cairns or memorials on the tops were for. Three hundred and sixty degrees, and visibility of probably thirty miles. He asked me which ones i had been up, and told me which ones were his favourites. I was frozen cold by the time he had finished. He sat down and poured himself another cuppa.

I’ve no reason to believe that that was Alfred Wainwright. (I had no idea who he was in my late teens) although AW was still alive then. This chap was happily nattering away with his walking pal, and freely giving of his knowledge to some youth up a hill, neither of which were characteristics of AW. He was dressed the same as AW although most of his generation dressed that way on the fells back then.

Whoever it was i remain in awe of his knowledge of the Lakeland Fells, and i was reminded of that wonderful encounter yesterday as i tried to name what i could see from the shelter cairn on Kirk Fell ….

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