I don’t often stand on the summit of Parlick Pike. If I’m heading up to Fairsnape and beyond, I take the easier traversing path bypassing it to the west, overlooking Bleasdale. But today I’m following another of Mark Sutcliffe’s walks from his Cicerone guide. I’m having a lazy week and doing walks without any planning on my part, just follow the guide step by step. Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman and scholar. His extensive writings showed learning and eloquence and the term Cicerone, to guide and explain, came to be. Hence, the name of the guidebook dynasty started by Walt Unsworth and Brian Evans.
So I’m stood on the pike, 432m, the wind is trying to blow me off it, but the sky is clear, and the sun is bright. A perfect Spring day. The hard work is done, I can enjoy the rest of the afternoon on one of my favourite walks. This circuit used to be my once a week fell run years ago, I’m just pleased that I arrived here today without stopping, well apart from those sneaky photo stops. Strangely, I nearly always did it the other way around – I’ve looked into the reasons for choice of route recently.
Down into the dip and then a choice of routes either side of the wall, dogs one side and not the other, but I never understood which or why. The wall is a masterpiece of construction, stretching up towards the summit of Fairsnape. I remember once seeing a squirrel running along the top of it, bound for Fiensdale?, there is not a tree in sight along the ridge. These walls and fences are excellent handrails when the fell is in thick mist, which it often is. The wind is too strong for the parapenters or gliders, so I have the space and the views down into the bowl of Bleasdale to myself.
The grass has taken on that dry straw colour regularly seen after the winter months when the sun shines on the steep slopes. I was so taken by it a few years ago that I asked a local artist, Rebecca Wilmer, if she could interpret it on canvas. She knew exactly what I meant, and in fact had some slides she had taken of the very hillside matching mine. A commission was agreed, and I proudly have the painting in my living room, not everyone sees it in my eyes or the artist’s, but I saw it up here today.
There is a distant haze from the summit of Fairsnape, 510m, but I know where Blackpool Tower, Morecambe Power Station, the Isle of Man and Black Coombe should be, so I don’t have to linger in the biting wind. Shapes emerge from the summit shelter, where they have been enjoying a sheltered lunch. I was last up here in June last year, when I spent a cold night bivvying near the cairn. But of course this is not ‘the summit’, to visit it you have to run the gauntlet of the local peat bogs in an easterly direction until some stone flags appear leading you to the highest point, 520m. Since my last visit, a large cairn has been built and there is a board telling you how efforts are being made to stabilise the peat hags and reduce the water run off.
It’s all downhill, literally, from here. A good manufactured path leads to a fence from where sunken tracks head on down Saddle Side. I pass the ruin with a tragic history. It is good to be out of the wind, skylarks are singing and once the fields are reached the sound of curlews and lapwings stir strong memories of the upland countryside of my youth. A dip into the valley of Chipping Brook and then the Wolfen estate road leads me back to my car. Wolfen Hall lies below Wolf Fell – possibly the last stronghold of wolves into the C15th.
I followed Cicerone’s guide easily, but I had to branch off to visit the highest point. Mark does not include this in his instructions, but his map does. Ah well, people will find their own way.