Today was like a walk down memory lane as the Great Langdale Valley is one of my favourites. From early days camping at the head of the valley, long hot summer days circling the fell tops, hours on the crags and leisurely pints in the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub – it all came flooding back. I’m sure that Sir Hugh and my reminisces would have been utterly boring to most of you.
What has changed over the years is the amount of traffic and people. Every car park and grass verge was full of vehicles and the villages packed with tourists. AW was complaining about the crowds back in his day and advised going out of season, the season now apparently extends throughout the year.
In Grasmere, we joined the throngs of people on a Wordsworth pilgrimage. Sir Hugh headed straight to Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread shop which has been trading since 1854, the shop was previously a small school where incidentally the Wordsworths had taught in the early 19th century
Alongside is the parish church and in the graveyard are buried William Wordsworth and his family under the shade of a yew tree, one of eight planted by William,
Our thoughts were now on the fells and the steep climb above us to reach the summit of Silver How. AW devotes a chapter to ‘a delightful’ fell in his Central Fells, Book Three of the Pictorial Guides. [my 1969 copy cost 15/-]
The path is well-trodden and goes through bracken and then a band of twisted juniper trees.
There are ample opportunities to rest and admire the views down into Grasmere, with Helm Crag and the Grisedale fells of yesterday in the background. A scramble into and out of a miniature rocky gill leads to the summit cone, there are more walkers approaching from several directions.
The blue sky from this morning has dulled and the sun disappeared but the views south over Grasmere, Rydal Water and Windermere and then round to the Lakeland Fells are outstanding.
It’s too cold to linger on the summit so we set off, rather too hastily, on our descent. This whole upland area is a confusion of humps and bumps with paths in all directions, we were not taking the long high-level route but the valley alternative suggested in the Wainwright Way guide. Nick Burton’s instructions, normally very clear and accurate, are a little vague and in the mist would be useless. Before long we had lost the path supposed to be besides Megs Gill and were on a compass bearing down a steep rocky hillside to pick up the path going into Langdale. The views up the valley with the Langdale Pikes were appreciated more once we were back on the way.
As I said our attention was taken by the climbing venues above, tales of past climbs from years ago were related and no doubt repeated. Raven Crag Walthwaite, Scout Crags, White Ghyll, Pavey Arc, East Raven Crags, Raven Crag, Middle Fell Buttress, Gimmer and Bowlell all were revisited.
To cap it off we popped into the Climbers Bar at The Old Dungeon Ghyll for a drink. Not much has changed in this room with its warming open range and wood-panelled walls. We were envious of two climbers just setting off for a couple of routes on Raven Crag directly above the pub.
The drive home through Ambleside and Windermere will be glossed over – there is no ‘out of season’ anymore.