Where is my compass when I need it? I’m stood on top of Rusland Heights, 244m, which is in the middle of nowhere, see the map below. I’ve arrived here by extending one of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells walks, Finsthwaite Heights, one that strangely didn’t actually reach those heights. So from the Low and High Dams, he described I’ve struggled through bog and rough pathless ground over Finsthwaite Heights, c230m, and up to the highest point around here. Having emerged from the trees there is, at last, a view, the Coniston Fells, a distant Windermere and the Leven’s Estuary. My way off is complicated and I realise that compass is still in my other rucksack which I haven’t unpacked since arriving home. This is where the 1:25000 OS maps come into their own – marked walls, hillocks, streams and woods all were navigational aids to see me safely to Boretree Tarn and then down to the road. This whole area would make a tricky orienteering course even with a compass. Not many people come up here though it is marked as Open Access, a new idea since Wainwright’s days.
There have been other changes since the ’70s, the start of the walk up Summer House Knotts goes through woods managed by the Woodland Trust who allow good access. The Tower on the summit, 185m, is now surrounded by mature trees and there were no worthwhile views. The inscription on a high tablet gave me thought as the political battle, lies and disinformation commence as to our status and future in the European Community.
Erected to honour the officers, seamen and marines of the Royal Navy whose matchless conduct and irresistible valour decisively defeated the fleets of France, Spain and Holland and preserved and protected liberty and commerce. 1799
The hamlet of Finsthwaite, with its squat church, was visited and I wished I’d had a look at the nearby bobbin mill for which the dams were constructed. An inscription in the car park was evocative of another era – This is the water that turns the wheel, that spins the lathe, that shapes the wood, to make the bobbin, to wind the thread, that wove the wealth of Lancashire. These are the trees, that cut by men will sprout again, to make the bobbins, to earn the pay, that fed the folk of Finsthwaite.
Wainwright wrote “but this is not fell walking” – well today it was.