Sunday, 4 September 2016

Piers Ghyll and the rescue of Edward Cornelius Crump

There is no more magnificent feature in the landscape of lakeland than Piers Ghyll (or Gill) with it's deep ravine which walkers traverse the very head of when walking The Corridor Route from Styhead Tarn to the summit of England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike. The other route to the pike is the direct route from Wasdale Head, which itself provides two fast options of Lingmell Coll or Mickledore. Most never venture for another option to the summit which is via Piers Ghyll. The path is marked on the OS 1:25,000 and it is a great path to the summit, much less walked than all the others on the northern face, yet needs treated with some caution and respect. Initially walk it in company on a dry day until you get used to it and it's closeness to the edge of the ravine; there is one crag face to negotiate which is a short scramble.

Piers Ghyll from Styhead

Looking from the mouth of the Ghyll towards Great Gable and The Needle.
Looking into the ravine

Climbing the crag below Middleboot |Knotts
Looking back down the lower section of the ghyll

Piers Ghyll from The Corridor Route
Edward Cornelius Crump was a 50 year old Stockbrokers Clerk who was holidaying in the Lake District and had based himself at Tilberthwaite. He was the brother of a Mrs Swithernbath who was the wife of the Superintendent Wesleyan Minister at Ulverston.  On 21 June 1921 he set off from Tilberthwaite to walk to Crummock Water; his route was to be via Bowfell, Scafell and Wasdale; he never arrived at Crummock Water.
The police were contacted and a search commenced for him. Although he was missing hopes must have been initially high at a successful outcome to the search, he was described as 50 yrs of age, 5ft 5ins tall, of stout build and was wearing boots, a tweed suit, a Mackintosh, a knapsack over his shoulders and was carrying a sleeping suit and a guide to the Lake District; most likely this was Henry Irwin Jenkinson's definitive guide book. There were also sightings, one in Buttermere on 25th; but as these were checked they were found not to be Mr Crump. This was reported in the newspapers on 6 July, he had now been missing for 17 days with no success in locating any trace of him. Although it was summer, such a period to be missing for does not bode well for a successful ending. Where would search parties begin to look? In modern measurements this is a 40km, 3,000m total ascent walk and bearing in mind his build and age, all that was known was he would be staying at The Wasdale Hotel, yet he had not made it to there. Such a search would be a challenge to modern mountain rescue units today without more detail. One missed turn and no matter how well checked his route was by searchers, they could be miles off his location; he could and most probably was, already dead by this time; if not, why had he not managed to get to a valley floor in three weeks? The searchers, mountaineers of the lakes, did not give up and persisted in all weathers, combing the fells and crags. These were the forerunners of the modern rescue teams and with equal determination of these MRT's of today, they were determined to secure a result, whether he was dead or alive, they would conclude the matter.
On Saturday 9th July two notable Keswick climbers, A.R. Thompson of Portinscale and Mr William Alexander Wilson of Braithwaite, were setting out to search in the region of Piers Ghyll which cuts from the Corridor route to the base of Great Gable and the Wasdale Valley. This region, albeit lower on the ghyll, had been searched the previous Sunday, by Mr Crump's family with a negative result, but these climbers were rechecking the terrain. They came upon Mr Crump, he was alive. He was on a ledge part way down the ravine and after lowering him by rope to the base of the ghyll, they carried him to The Wasdale Hotel where he was medically treated. They got a telegram sent immediately to his distressed sister at Tilberthwaite and it was later said that a second telegram had arrived from Wallasey, Cheshire saying that a dead body had been found at that location and that it also was Mr Crump!

A possible contender for his break of fall?
Following an interview with him when he began to recover he had been caught in rain and mist on the summit of Scafell Pike and when making his way down had sprained his ankle which caused him to fall down the Ghyll, landing on the ledge which divided two water courses, the area is known as Bridge Fall. He could neither go up nor down and was stuck on the ledge. The deep ravine had managed to keep the sun from bearing down on him during his period of tribulation. He had been in such a delirious state that he had no recollection of his rescuers and being lowered by ropes when he gave a broken account to his sister on her arrival at Wasdale. It was fortunate that he was wearing his mackintosh coat when he fell as this helped protect him from the elements. He survived for 19 days on water and one final piece of cake which he decided to eek out over a six day period.
The rescue is the longest I have researched in the lakes which concludes in a successful outcome and owes a lot to the determined mountaineers of the area who searched the fells to rescue like minded walkers or climbers through the bond of love of the fells.

Although the Mr Crump was fortuitously found, the same good fortune did not always shine on Mr Wilson. On 23rd June 1923 he set off alone to climb Eagle Crag at Stonethwaite, but did not return. Search parties were sent out and Dr Arthur Wakefield, a member of the first  Everest party expedition of 1922, found his body near a gully, having fallen a distance of sixty feet. He had been a retired Land Agent and had lived his life to the full. At the inquest it was noted that he had been one of the men who had rescued Edward Cornelius Crump, a worthy feat he was always be remembered for.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Despair on Bowscale Fell.

The summit cairn on Bowscale Fell, looking to Blencathra.

The Lakeland fells are renowned for their beauty as a means of enriching the souls of the viewer or participator of some activity associated with them. Some souls feel however that they are beyond enriching and the fells can be places of desolation, like some souls.

To mention Bowscale Fell and what it is well known for would be to conjure up tales of immortal or undying fish rolled into the folklore of the fell and its namesake tarn; also tales of The Shepherd Lord, mentioned in William Wordsworth's poem 'Song at The Feast of Brougham Castle Upon the Restoration of Lord Clifford' (War of the Roses). There is a darker yet not as well known tale for the fell, one that leaves an impression, but an uncomfortable one; still, history is history and can't be undone.
Bowscale Fell with Blencathra at the back, viewed from Carrock Fell.
In August of 1912 Thomas Williamson, a shepherd from the hamlet of Bowscale itself, was tending his flock on the high reaches of Bowscale Fell  when he saw something unusual on ground very near the summit. He went to investigate and was horrified to find a decomposed body which had clearly been there for a period of some months. The decomposition was to such an extent that it was little more than skeletal remains which the police, after being notified, attended and brought the remains down in a basket. An inquest was held at Mungrisedale by the East Cumberland Coroner on Friday 16 August where evidence was given that the body, which was of a man, was found fully clothed in a dark grey suit, a blue striped shirt, brown socks and strong laced boots. The dead man was  lying face down and when moved, underneath it was a blood stained knife. The head was separated from the body but this was believed to be as a result of decay, not a foul act. When the pockets were checked a folding road map of Scotland was found. Superintendent Barron of Penrith gave evidence that written on the map was the following harrowing words:

'Premeditated! Burn my body. I was a mean man, a wicked sinner and a disgrace to my country. All through drink and bad company'.

The only real clue to any identity was the 'signature' R. J., nothing else. A Dr Haswell who gave evidence at the inquest stated that the male would be have been aged between 30 to 40 years of age.
The verdict at the inquest was an unsurprising one of suicide and the identity of 'R. J.' remains a mystery to this day and will now never be discovered. I cannot discover whether he received his dying wish of cremation as opposed to the much more common burial of those times.
 The death gives an insight into the life of the fell with just over 100 years separating the event from the present time; could you for instance imagine how long it would take before the body would be found if it occurred now, especially in August? The probability would be within say an hour if in daytime and the next morning if it occurred at night; no later.
Next time you ascend the gradual slopes of Bowscale to spend a leisurely walk here and view the Back O Skiddaw, stop a while and give a sympathetic thought to 'R. J.', whoever he was.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Langstrath Beck Rigby Memorial bridge at Low Ghyll Pot

The head of The Langstrath Valley, Looking to Esk Pike

 Near the head of the Langstrath (Long Broad) Valley there is a bridge used by many walkers to cross Langstrath Beck at (what used to be known as) Low Ghyll Pot, or as marked on the OS maps, Tray Dub. Nothing is marked on the bridge, nothing denotes it as anything other than a crossing on a public footpath on the Stake Pass route from Langdale to Stonethwaite, yet the bridge is a memorial bridge to a man who passed away, not by some ill-fated error on the fells, but in service to his country.
I first became aware of the bridge's significance through a discussion with Tanya Oliver of the Fix The Fells Project and writer of the lovely book 'From High Heels to High Hills' and blogger . The discussion started me off researching this to try and find other details and to that end I will try and give as full an account here for the bridge, though full acknowledgement has to be attributed to Tanya.
On 31 July 1942 a Lockheed Hudson took off from RAF Stornoway taking a route over North Minch near North Harris. It appears that the conditions were misty, the aircraft descended too low and flew into the mountain at Fiar-Chreag at roughly map reference NB364075, south of Loch Sealg on the east of the island. There were three crew members and the pilot was a F/O John Derek (Derry) Brearley Rigby, aged 22yrs, of 500 Squadron, RAFVR. I remember reading an account where the plane was not immediately located but after requests for other aircraft to keep observations, the plane was eventually spotted, but due to the isolated location and poor weather, the bodies remained at the scene of the impact for a period of weeks and it was only the protests of local people that finally led to their recovery for a humane burial. I add caution in that this information I cannot now locate, but recall reading it.
Rigby and P/O Frank Richard Hancock are buried at Sandwick Cemetery and Sgt Bernard Frederick Charles Rixon is buried at Hoddesdon Cemetery, Hertfordshire.
The remote crash site
Returning back to the Langstrath bridge, John Rigby's home was at Croston Towers, Cheshire, the family house. In January 1945 John's father, Mr J. Kay Rigby erected the bridge at Low Ghyll Pot in memory of his son who loved the lake district, spending whatever time he could among the fells. This bridge acted as a replacement for one recently washed away from Blackmoor Pot, or what is now referred to as Black Moss Pot, further down Langstrath Beck.

Blackmoor or Black Moss Pot, the site of the original bridge, looking into the Langstrath Valley.
View of the bridge on the approach from Stake Pass and The Langdale Valley
The bridge was sited and the work arranged by Ashley Abraham of Keswick; it was erected in the face of great transport and weather difficulties, by Harvey Usher a joiner from Keswick, himself a keen climber and fell walker who had roamed the hills with his brother Dunbar Usher. In a very fitting and symbolic ceremony the first to cross it was a young Flying Officer. Mr and Mrs Rigby then presented the bridge to the English Lake District Association.

Many walk this beautiful valley, either directly along the Stake Pass or as a circular valley route from Stonethwaite. They virtually all cross the bridge, yet very few, if any, know of its story. If they read this, any crossing can in future be a tribute to John 'Derry' Rigby's memory.

The Langstrath Valley Hallworth Memorial bridge.

The Langstrath Valley is a beautiful and tranquil valley with its namesake beck  joining Greenup Gill below Eagle Crag, both then becoming Stonethwaite Beck which goes on to join the fledgling River Derwent near Rossthwaite, before this in turn enters Derwentwater.  The gills, becks and rivers flow through the high cragged valleys where the water runs off the fells creating torrents in minutes, where babbling brooks once ebbed and flowed. A lot of the footpaths go through these gills and in the main can be crossed in safety and dryness; but not all the time. There is therefor a need for safe crossing by bridges across these minor waters, once mere planks of wood or a few boards cobbled together. As the tourism trade began to burgeon the need for more robust bridges became ever more evident, yet even this was usually through a grim realisation following events that should never have occurred.
One such bridge is the one that spans Greenup Gill below Eagle Crag at the end of the Langstrath Valley. Half way over the bridge there is a plaque on the east facing rail which reads:
The Hallworth Bridge Plaque at Greenup Gill.

Although the bridge is well documented, little or nothing exists on the internet to explain the circumstances of its presence and significance in the valley. This is that account, largely obtained from evidence given at the inquest of Gordon Frank Hallworth, which took place at Rossthwaite on Monday 9 January 1939.

The bridge viewed from the Greenup Gill track

A similar but higher view showing where all three would have stood on the opposite bank when they realised no bridge existed to cross Greenup Gill.

On Saturday 7 January 1939 a group of 19 Manchester University Mountaineering Club students were on a weekend break, staying at Rossthwaite, Borrowdale. The weather had recently been snow, followed by heavy rain, making the fell conditions arduous and the becks and gills were in spate.  Three of the group set off that afternoon to walk the Glaramara ridge, taking in that fell and Allen Crags, culminating at the farthest planned location, Esk Hause, before a journey back down the Langstrath Valley. The three members were: bothers Douglas and Michael Boyle, of Disley, Cheshire, both of whom were medical students, and Gordon Frank Hallworth 21 years of age, of Hale Cheshire. They planned their trip to last until 5:30 pm and everything went well and on time. It was said by Douglas that Gordon Hallworth had seemed fitter than the brothers, stopping frequently while they caught up and him asking if they were ok? It is not clear what there exact route down into the Langstrath Valley was, but it put them on the Eagle Crag side of Langstrath Beck, heading for its junction with Greenup Gill, both then becoming Stonethwaite Beck; here they intended to cross the bridge over Greenup Gill, this being marked on the Ordnance Survey map, albeit it was out of date. Unknown to the party of three the bridge had been washed away some years previously; one account states 5 years, another 40 years. To anyone who knows the area, this should not have caused a problem to the party as just quarter of a mile further back along their path, there was a further bridge marked that crosses Langstrath Beck and gives just as good a safe route to Stonethwaite. The problem of the outdated map was now compounded by the failure of the torch they carried and they did not spot this second bridge. It would be dark at this time in the sheltered valley and they saw no other course of action than to climb along the side of Eagle Crag, heading up Greenup Gill, looking for a safe crossing.

The second bridge over Langstrath Beck, looking over to the path where the three companions walked by.
It was now, when half way up their altered route, that Gordon Hallworth showed signs of fatigue and distress, the Boyle brothers put their arms around him, then physically carried him up the fell. They stopped frequently, needing to huddle together to fend off the increasing cold and inevitable hypothermia. When they were much higher up the gill they attempted to ford it with the aid of a long stick, the Boyle brothers assisting Gordon. Unfortunately he fell in the Gill and was helped out by Michael, but this added to Gordon's hypothermic condition. In an act of self sacrifice, Gordon repeatedly told his aids to leave him as he was holding them back, but they would hear nothing of it, cheering him with talks of the fine supper they would have back at Rossthwaite village. Inevitably  they were reduced to making little progress and it became obvious that in order to reach the valley bottom they needed to bring urgent assistance from Stonethwaite. Both brothers found shelter for Gordon behind a boulder and they continued on hurriedly for others to assist in the rescue. Even here, Michael Boyle had reached his limits of endurance and he also collapsed, leaving only Douglas to seek ever more urgent help. He made it to Stonethwaite but was unable to raise anyone, having to then continue to seek the aid of their other companions, who were in their beds there; by now it was 1:30am, a full seven hours after their intended end time and in the dead of a cold January night.
 Once the alarm was raised a party quickly hurried back to Greenup Gill, finding Michael Boyle still greatly fatigued; some assisted him down while others, which included Douglas Boyle, continued on for Gordon's much needed aid. Gordon had by this time succumbed to the cold; one of the party was a doctor and they tried resuscitation for three quarters of an hour, but to no avail, Gordon was dead.
The corner questioned the decision to walk in such weather, he himself was a walker, but stated he would not do so in such fell conditions that were present on the Saturday. He pointed out that this was the second tragedy under similar circumstances, the first occurring approximately four years previously. Douglas Boyle replied to the Coroner saying that all had gone to plan and they would easily have kept to their schedule, but for the missing bridge. A verdict of 'Death from exposure to exhaustion and cold' was recorded.

The view of Eagle Crag from Stonethwaite showing how close the three were to safety.

On 4 June 1939 there was an official opening ceremony for a new bridge commissioned by Frank Hallworth, Gordon's father. The ceremony was attended by 40 people consisting of fellow climbers and local people and the opening was performed by Mr G. A. Sutherland, the ex-president of the Manchester University Mountaineering Club, who noted the June tranquillity and commented that it was difficult to imagine how such a tragedy could occur.  He also commented that the bridge would serve a useful purpose and make it impossible for such a tragic event to re-occur. The plaque referred to earlier was fixed to the bridge and a similar plaque was fixed to the boulder up Greenup Gill, near the place where Gordon Frank Hallworth passed away on that freezing January night. So it is that a tragedy led to the re-erection of a bridge and it stands to this day, over 75 years later, giving the safe passage that was not afforded to Gordon and his two companions.

**ADDITION 17.04.2016**

A re-visit the day after I put this account on the internet located the second plaque, which is on the gill side of the footpath at map reference NY279125, for those not conversant with references, on the path below Long Band on the Ullscarf fell. (I now recall I have noticed this before but prior to any local history interest.)  On the pictures below note the wall line and the view of the higher moraines and Lining Crag.

The plated boulder where Gordon Hallworth was leant against by his companions

The plaque from his companions on that fateful walk

Note the plate, the wall line above, the moraines and Lining Crag in sight.

A check of mapping systems plots the distance from where the brothers rested Gordon Hallworth against the boulder, to Stonethwaite, is a distance of 2.3kms; to continue on to Rossthwaite makes it a 4km journey for Douglas Boyle. In complete darkness this will have been at least an hour's journey, to then rouse his companions and set off back uphill, again in darkness, Gordon Hallworth must have been on his own for two hours minimum, perhaps three. It is little wonder that already past his limit of endurance and frozen to the bone, having then fallen in the gill and remained motionless on the fell for those hours, that he died where he lay.

This is one of two memorial bridges in the valley, a further write-up is to follow on the second.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Haweswater, the Wilkinson and Ashworth Tragedy of 1874


On 10 July 1874 Robert Noble Wilkinson (15 years) of Wet Sleddale and his cousin George Ashworth (18 years) of Manchester, visited their relatives house, Anne and William Noble of Littlewater, near Haweswater. At 5:30 pm they said they were going to the foot of Haweswater to bathe. Robert returned for a towel and said they may or may not bathe. Some time later, George's mother, who was also staying at their house, became concerned at the length of the boys absence and at 8:30 pm she and Anne Noble  went in search of them, but found no trace. They returned and alerted the men of the family who then went in search, finding their clothing placed on some stones on the north side of the lake, but no sign of the boys. They got a boat and entered the water and with the assistance of Mr Thomas Kitchen of Measand, using lights and boat hooks, they found the body of George in six feet of water, 30 yards from the shore.  Robert's body was recovered a further ten yards from his cousin.

On the afternoon of Saturday 11 July, an inquest was held at the home of William Noble. The above circumstances were given and of evidential value in the cause of death it was also noted that George Ashworth had been taking swimming lessons in the public baths at Manchester; it was believed that one of the boys had got into difficulties and the other went to assist, resulting in the double tragedy. (For anyone interested further I have the names of the jury members, one being a John Greenhow and I know my ancestors were from the east of the lake district.)
Some time after the tragedy a memorial stone was erected near the scene, yet the valley was then flooded in 1930's and the monument was then moved higher to prevent it's complete loss to the new reservoir which was built to quench the insatiable thirst of Manchester's growing population and industrial expansion.
I became aware of this memorial stone whilst researching other some Mardale matters, in particular, the Greenhow's of Goosemire, the ruins just below the old corpse road. No picture seemed to exist for the memorial, which was puzzling and suggested it no longer existed as modern photography and the internet access makes such knowledge easily available to the tourist/walker. I walked the northern side of the lake shore from the car park at the head of the valley in search of this as far as Measand Beck, to no avail, but some later checks by my wife (my top none paid researcher) suggested it was near the village of Burnbanks. This was built for the workforce when the dam was constructed and originally consisted of  66 properties. There are now only 16 and not the original ones which had cast iron panels! Again, nothing was apparent but local checks revealed why this was the case and explains why the memorial has never been within common knowledge as it was on the reservoir side of the wall, which is generally regarded as beyond public access. We again set out along the Burnbanks path to discover it's location and eventually found it.
The gate for access (the latch opens to allow entry under the deer fence).

This gate is located along the Burnbanks to Measand Beck track and is the first one you come to along the wall. It is located at NY501160 as a map reference, near where the 'Homestead' is marked, for those who struggle with map references.

The replacement memorial stone, flanked by the two carved natural boulders.

 This memorial replaces the original which had unfortunately split in two across it's width. It was stapled together but has clearly since been replaced, I believe with the same inscription. I have recently seen a newspaper cutting showing the original stone, both intact and later stapled, but don't have a hard copy.
The wall that can be seen is the boundary wall that separates the path from the reservoir.

The carved 'Ashworth' boulder on the left

The replacement memorial stone
The carved 'Wilkinson' stone on the right.
 Checks had shown that Robert N. Wilkinson had been buried at St. Michael's Church at Shap and a visit revealed the headstone. This notes both boys and it appears both boys are buried together, although a check of burial records would need to be viewed to confirm this.
The headstone at St. Michael's Church, Shap.
 The headstone inscription reads:
In Affectionate
Remembrance Of
Robert Noble Wilkinson
Of Sleddale
Aged 15 years
George Ashworth
Of Manchester
Aged 18 Years
 who were drowned whilst bathing in
 Lake Haweswater
 July 10th 1874.
A sudden change we in a moment fell,
We had not time to bid our friends farewell,
It is nothing strange death happens unto all,
It was our lot that day tomorrow you may fall.

A wider angle.

A sad tale, but these are what record the history of the valleys of Lakeland. People stop off at the Gough memorial stone on Helvellyn, the crash site of the Halifax LL505 on Great Carrs and the white cross to Fanny Mercer on Fleetwith Pike, yet no-one stops at this site. The people of the valley erected the memorial so that they would be remembered; it would be a fitting tribute for like visitors to the valley to do so, now the location is hopefully more widely known.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Caudale Moor, Kirkstone Inn, and the Atkinson Monument.

For the beginning of a walk there is perhaps no better location than the summit of Kirkstone Pass with its tremendous views on either raise to the top while you drive up this iconic pass hause from Ambleside or Patterdale. To get out of your vehicle and take in the view is to sense a firm taste of the views to come as you choose to ascend by walking either Red Screes to the northern side of this pass, or Caudale Moor on its southern flank. You will however firstly gaze upon the famous haven to former travellers this being The Kirkstone Inn, or formerly the aptly named Travellers Rest. It is the start of a walk and also a very apt end, with a beer to be drank sat outside on the benches that adorn the roadside. There is history to these old coaching houses and they have at some time been owned or managed by characters who leave their mark on the building or local landscape, entering into the folklore of the premise. William Ritson is synonymous with The Wasdale Head Hotel, Mary Robinson with the Fish Inn at Buttermere and Mark Atkinson with The Kirkstone Inn, leaving his mark, high toward the summit of Caudale Moor, in the form of a crossed cairn. 

The Kirstone Pass Inn with St. Raven's Edge behind, leading to Caudale Moor and the Atkinson Monument.
On Saturday 14 June 1930 Mark Atkinson, the landlord of The Travellers Rest, (the Kirkstone Inn), accompanied by his wife and son Ion, had been visiting Howtown before moving on to his native Penrith where he had indulged in a game of Putting on the Castle Park Recreational Ground; he was in excellent spirits having won the game. With his wife and son he purchased some newspapers and returned to the family car at the station gates. He sat in the back with his wife and passed a remark about the papers he had just purchased; Ion was then about to start the car when his father leaned back and suddenly died at his wife's side. A doctor was called but there was nothing that could be done to resuscitate him and the car was driven to the Police Station in Penrith where the body was transferred to a hearse and conveyed to The Travellers Rest at the head of Kirkstone Pass. En-route they would pass on the right, the inn at Kirkstone Foot (now The Brothers Water Inn) and Caudale Beck Farm; both of these were also owned by Mr Atkinson. He had suffered from a heart condition, which he was treated for but it had caused no great worry previously.
He was the son of a farmer who had farmed at Littlebeck, then Guard House Farm near Threlkeld until 1916 when he became the licensed Victualler at Kirkstone. He was twice married and the father of a son, Ion and two daughters. One of these daughters was Irene, known locally as the 'Maid of the Mountains' due to her intrepid horseback rides to Ambleside in all weathers.
Mark Atkinson had made a will in which he stated he wished to be cremated:

'... and my ashes enclosed in a box and buried on the top of Caudale Moor, facing the Kirkstone Inn, and a cairn of stones and a cross erected at the place of burial.'

In order for the body to be cremated it had to be transported to Manchester for the cremation. On the afternoon of Saturday 21 June 1930 a procession set out from The Kirkstone Inn and headed up Caudale Moor. This procession was to honour the wishes of Mr Atkinson, expressed in his will, with reference to the committal of his ashes which were in a copper casket, itself encased in oak. Present in this procession was his son Ion who was leading out Billy, the deceased's 28 year old pony which was loaded with the materials with which to erect the memorial. Irene was present with her husband Robert McLaren Lees, a Glasgow University Lecturer who had met her when he used to spend his vacations at the inn. The Reverend C.T. Phillips from Troutbeck attended and read the committal rites and the casket was then interred by the mourners, building a cairn over it, picked from the local rock laying around on this, Mr Atkinson's land. It was crowned with a prepared cross, as Mr Atkinson had stipulated and a  plaque of green lakeland stone was set in the cairn bearing the words:


The Atkinson Monument, Red Screes as the backdrop
It was noted at the time as being the highest grave in England, standing above the pass of Kirkstone and the Inn at a height of 2,500 feet above sea level. ('Hic Jacet' meaning 'An Epitaph'.)

Mark Atkinson Plaque
Mark Atkinson must have had some concerns for the well-being of his son Ion for he placed a section in the will further stipulating:

'It is my express wish that my son Ion shall desist from motor-cycling.'

Ion was a young man and must have enjoyed this exhilarating method of travel in such beautiful surroundings of lakeland, yet it is reported he kept to his fathers wishes. He was to shortly meet a Miss Elizabeth Renee Flithers of Windermere and after a whirlwind courtship of three weeks they were married at Troutbeck Church on Thursday 1 January 1931 and took a motoring holiday in the south of England (one presumes a car).
Ion took over the public house from his father and in February 1933 he was elected as the annual 'Hunt Mayor' of Troutbeck, nominated by the retiring Mayor, Mr Adam Blades. The duties came with none of the civic responsibilities of local government and mainly consisted of organising an annual hunt followed by a dinner and concert, which culminated in the election of the next Hunt Mayor. It had been a tradition that had an unbroken line of over 160 such functions and the honour was later bestowed on Renee Atkinson on 26 February 1937.

The Atkinson Monument

The plaque on the Atkinson Monument to Ion Atkinson
As the above photograph shows, the monument was added to with a plaque to (William) Ion Atkinson; one presumes, due to the inscription, that Ion's ashes are also laid to rest within the monument cairn.

And so this marked cairn entered onto the OS maps marked 'Monument' and is sought out by knowledgeable walkers who know of it, but not really how it came to be and what it really is. It is a family grave, the highest in England. 

Authors note:- My thanks to Maggie Allan who I have never met, but am in contact with on social media. Due to a foot operation I have been unable to visit the site to obtain specific photographs of the cairn and plaques. When requested, she gave her kind permission to use her pictures.


Monday, 28 December 2015

Hindscarth, a gentleman of Keswick and Mount Pisgah

People love journeying to the lake district for a fell walk, this usually entails an exerting walk up a ridge, hopefully taking in the views of the surrounding fells and lakes. Some ridges are sought out for the exhilaration and perception of danger, Striding Edge, Swirral Edge, Sharp Edge, or Hall's Fell Ridge, these being the popular iconic ridge routes. Other ridges are more rounded and one can spend greater time in the company of companions, walking and viewing the area with little risk of a serious fall, yet beautiful in its opening vistas. One such ridge among others, is the footpath from Little Town to the summit of Hindscarth, especially so if walked in autumn when the fell is clothed in the deep purple haze of the heather. This fell has the added advantage of a view into Goldscope mine, where the early German miners cut into the mineral vein for its rich deposits of copper and lead.

The vein of Goldscope Mine, Hindscarth

You can branch off and walk into the mine. It is dark, but relatively safe with no drops or branch-offs, (though do your internet research) but you will need a torch. If you carry on up the ridge it is initially steep but flattens in places to make a reasonably hard walk with excellent views of Keswick when you turn round to monitor your progress.
Goldscope (Scope End) Ridge, the first cairn just in view

The view back down Scope End ridge, looking to Keswick
 Above my wife is beginning the last push to the first cairn which Wainwright refers to in book six as:
 'a big circular cairn of some antiquity, the Ordnance Survey maps giving it distinction by the use of the lettering reserved for objects of historic interest. This is the cairn predominantly seen from Newlands and it commands the finest view from the mountain.'

Looking back to Keswick, the first cairn (referred to as above by Wainwright), in view

It is at this point I have come across something to add to the knowledge of Hindscarth, which was always rather barren in historic references. It by no means clears up absolute facts, but certainly adds to its interest as a point of discussion and debate. 
The summit cairn
I came across a newspaper article from 1807 that mentions Hindscarth as follows (and I quote in full):
'Mount Pisgah - A gentleman now (and for a long time past) resident in Keswick, began a few years ago to erect a carrack, or pillar of stones (without masonry) on the summit of Hindscarth; a mountain well known to tourists, as well as the inhabitants of the neighbouring parts. This he undertook to rear a Monument of Esteem for the dwellers in the Vale of Newlands, with whom he had formerly lived with much comfort, whilst a boy. His mode of constructing it is singular. He devoted one day in each year, only to its elevation; when, being well respected by his neighbours, he has the assistance of as many of them as he thinks necessary.     
-The pillar (if it may be so called) is of a pyramidical form; and from the repeated annual accumulation of stones, it has now become a very prominent object, altering in some respect the appearance of the mountain; which is at the head of Newlands. It is now 40 feet in circumference, at the base; 15 feet in height; and is to have another days labour bestowed upon it. The founder (and builder) has denominated it Mount Pisgah, from the circumstance of his having it in view from the windows of his present residence - In other respects, Mount Pisgah commands a most delightful prospect of the Vale of Keswick and Under-Skiddaw.'
The perplexing aspect to this is that it throws up many other questions that may never be able to be answered:
  • Who was the unnamed Keswick gentleman resident?
  • If the first 'cairn of some antiquity' is the one referred to, it is not the summit, yet the best view from Keswick. It is certainly not now 40 feet in circumference and 15 feet high - if it is the one referred to.
  • If this is the cairn then why is there no debris field around the small hollow specimen that remains?
  • If it is the second cairn on the actual summit, is what lies strewn around a 'debris field' of the original and now only masses of grassed over boulders?
  • If either is correct, why was the cairn so comprehensively destroyed?
  • Who destroyed it?

A check of Cumbria Archives shows no early reference to Hindscarth or Pisgah, including this unknown reference to the Pisgah name or the known one on Pillar Rock.

The boulder field around the summit cairn

With reference to Pillar Rock in the Ennerdale valley, knowing the view from this and Hindscarth, the explanation contained within the below biblical quotation is obvious for their original source.
 "Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” (Deuteronomy 34:1-4;

See below for the 'whole of the land' view from Hindscarth.

The view down Scope End from the first cairn.
Perhaps a further explanation could be obtained from a close aerial photograph of this fell, a drone or microlight aerial view. By analysing these images we may see the trace of the original cairn, rather like hidden Roman forts or road systems buried in the landscape yet shown in relief in a low sun or drought. Such an image may show the scar or give clues to the destruction and laying waste to the original cairn, but sadly I cannot add to this any further; it is so close to any walker, under their nose, that I personally cannot see it, but it should be there. The boulder field at the actual summit has always struck me as not sitting entirely in a natural landscape with a sudden demarcation to pure grass; this seems too artificial a line; but is only my personal view. These boulders are well buried into the ground, but so is the white cross on Blencathra, and that has existed for less than a 100 years in the landscape.  If you visit Hindscarth in this new knowledge I would be happy to here your observations.
One aspect to the article is that it was not an old tale retold by the writer; the references to '.... it has now become ....' and '.... is to have another days labour bestowed upon it.' show it to be present at the time of the authors article. That it has now disappeared just raises a debate, namely the mystery of the lost cairn on 'Mount Pisgah'.

***02.01.2016 Update***

Following the publishing of this article on social media, Andy Beck (a knowledgeable person on The Lakes) put on a comment that he believed this to be the lower cairn which is marked on the OS maps and also pointed out my schoolboy error of referring to the circumference as the diameter(my old engineering foreman would have turned in his grave). I initially disagreed with Andy, yet on reflection I believe him now to be correct on the cairn's location and I thank him personally for moving the subject on.
 The one currently there would be about the right diameter, given that the initial writers may have exaggerated the cairn circumference, yet it won't be too far off the mark. The height I believe now to be much reduced as it was reported as '.... altering in some respect the appearance of the mountain' yet the current one is difficult to pick out from Keswick or Derwentwater and is hollowed as a shelter. The original height may again have been exaggerated, but as it was reported to be 15 feet high it should at least have been well over the height of a person and I would have expected at least twice a man's height. It may be it fell over with constant snow, or it may have been robbed to form the current cairn on the actual summit. However, since Pisgah is all about a view, this lower cairn location is THE view of Keswick from Hindscarth and not the actual summit. 
So it appears we know, with some informed speculation, what happened to it, why it was built and when; the question still arises as to 'who' built it. We are nearly there on this cairn, but not quite yet.