In the 53rd instalment of Caffeine Culture, John Deering takes us to England’s Lake District (with a side visit, while in the UK, to the secret highlands of Scotland).
England’s true mountain range
– By John Deering
Lakeland is better known for the delights it holds for walkers and climbers than cyclists. If you’re visiting for a few days or more, bring your boots to make the most of your stay.
You should beg or borrow one or more of Wainwright’s guides to the ‘fells’, the local dialect word for the low mountains of northern England. “AW”, as he is known, worked in local government in the Lancashire mill town of Blackburn but spent every spare moment riding a bus north into the Lakes and exploring the lonely peaks. His books, which began appearing in 1955 and have never been out of print since, meticulously detailed every route and path to each of the many high points packed into this relatively small geographic area. His painstaking line drawings and maps capture the surroundings in a way that far outranks any official map and remain remarkably true to the landscape 60 years on.
The bittersweet irony of AW’s lifework is that he single-handedly succeeded in bringing many thousands of visitors to the mountain tops that he so valued for their solitude.
The Fred Whitton Challenge’s early-May date isn’t at the season’s absolute highest point, but a visitor can expect the roads, towns, villages and indeed the mountain tracks and peaks themselves to be well populated. Midweek walkers will enjoy a good deal more space to themselves.
Enticing mountains as Skiddaw, Glaramara, Harrison’s Stickle and the regal Scafell Pike are not to be underestimated despite their unassuming altitudes. Some of the routes are hazardous to say the least and the grizzled old beardy mountain men that you will inevitably find yourself sharing a hostel with are only too happy to tell you about the moments they thought “it was all coming to a full stop” on Striding Edge or Lord’s Rake. The Lakeland Mountain Rescue is among the world’s busiest, and a huge amount of their time is spent finding visitors in unsuitable clothing and footwear without proper maps or compasses. This is no place for a pair of jandals.
Fred Whitton Challenge
Secret Highlands: Day 1
Secret Highlands: Day 2
Secret Highlands: Day 3
Secret Highlands: Day 4
Secret Highlands: Day 5