Sunday, 15 June 2014

Well Mr Wainwright,that's one off the list!

Today I came down a mountain with a 77 year old man.At seventy he had walked all the Wainwrights and only two years ago he'd had a hip replacement! He told me how unbelievably lucky we are to live here and I'd agreed.

The route we took was the Walna Scar road an old quarry road between Coniston and the Duddon Valley.I'd climbed the road from Coniston before reaching a gate onto open fell and was amazed to find a car park! The route was gradual and wiggled up the hill by means of a gravel path.Never quite "too hard" but I had my moments wondering if it was too much for someone as unfit as me.

As I looked back down the valley towards Coniston Lake ( or Coniston water as it is properly called) I could see the extent of the lake and the wind turbines of kirkby moor in the distance. Reaching Walna scar I could see over into the Duddon valley,over to the Duddon estuary and across to Black Combe which I've yet to climb.

I followed the grassy ridge to White Maiden,a rocky summit looking down over Broughton moor and the quarry where I sat and ate sandwiches,away from the hardened climbers making their way up Brown Pike towards Goats Water.

It was at this point I decided to return the same way,  as my daughter was climbing in the Yewdale fells with a school party and we 'd agreed to meet at four. I'd intended to
Walk to Banishhead quarry but decided it was too far if we were to meet on time.

It was half way down when I met my old man with his walking companion who was accompanied by a hound.I jokingly advised him to keep it on a lead in case it decided to join the hound trail taking place that day and I discovered it was a retired trail hound.The man explained how a trail of aniseed was set by a person on foot who dragged a rag,covered with aniseed over the ground,topping it up at various intervals.He would wait until the hounds set off before completing the route.Meanwhile there were 'spotters' on the hills (and as he pointed them out to me I could see men situated at various points on the montain-side with their binoculars ,looking suspiciously like spies on the look out in a James Bond movie.)
Trail hounds differed from fox hounds apparently as fox hounds were stockier.

As we reached the car park at Fell gate I noticed that there were now far more off road vehicles than previously and various people were walking their hounds on leads in little quilted jackets, like something from Ascot in preparation for the first race.

It was a fascinating experience and one of those events when you realise once again just how much there is to learn by getting out of your armchair and setting off on a walk,however short or long it may be. That old man didn't realise it but I learned a lot about the lakes today and now have far more walks on my 'to do list' and I was able to share what I'd learned about trail hounds with my autistic son who hopefully one day in the future will feel able to accompany me in the fells! Never say never!

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