The Angry Corrie 3: Sep-Oct 1991
Special Report: Lake District Expedition
In a concerted effort to be less parochial, TAC recently dispatched its most freshfaced cub reporter to the Lake District. The idea was to see for ourselves what exactly is being missed by those who restrict their walking activities to the experimental Government tax laboratory otherwise known as Scotland. After three weeks in psychotherapy our man
It starts as you drive down. The grim, foreboding legend "CARLISLE" edges towards the top of the road signs. After Beattock, the place names start anglicising themselves in an ominous way: Newton Wamphray and Carrutherstown lead on to Penrith and Keswick in a gentle, seamless manner and suddenly we are abroad.
My companions, bold lads from Glasgow's Southern General Hospital, are in festive mood - despite our getting lost due to every second placename ending in waite. Skiddaw (near Applethwaite, Great Crosthwaite and Ormathwaite) is reached via Keswick, a town whose most remarkable feature is the garish red white and blue Conservative Club - painted the way orange lodges are in Northern Ireland. Navigation on the hill isn't really a problem due to a dual carriageway landrover track of arrow-like straightness. At one point the path narrows to four feet wide with a fence on both sides. It is assumed that to climb the fence would result in instant arrest and deportation to the colonies.
Wainwright (who he? - Ed.) manages to write 27 pages about Skiddaw - but if you think that's excessive he then has another 20 about "Skiddaw Little Man", a slight bump on the way up. Despite meriting such close attention, the main path avoids the so-called "Little Man" completely, leaving it to a ten foot wide byroad, presumably reserved for the hardened walker. The summit trig point reveals no view due to the overcast nature of the day - or is it the radioactive smog from Sellafield? However, there is an unaccompanied woman and this prompts the lads into an Ambassadors-for-Scotland routine with much talk of the Kingshouse, the Clachaig and Glen Coe, which she really ought to visit. Can't help wishing myself on one of the Coe's summits at that moment.
Have I told you about the topology yet? Imagine Ben Lomond. Round off every corner, remove the crags, cover in slate chunks and stick in the middle a non-Nigel Kennedy Elgar album cover. (That's enough McSharkie-isms - Ed.)
Retire to Keswick to sample local culture in the form of beer gardens, open air markets etc. Sitting sipping pints of Sneck, Jennings Old Scrotum Drippings etc. and muttering "this is the life" when some of the lads pass by on the path just outside the beer garden, chomping on chicken suppers. (Surely it's called "chicken 'n' chips" down there? - Ed.) They dally to talk to us, but from nowhere mine host materialises shouting not "come on in brave sons of Caledonia and have some of my best bitter", but "get that food off my land". Lads are somewhat surprised as there is a fence between them and the beer garden. Transpires that mine host has built said plastic MFI fence slightly within his territorial boundary. Or maybe one of the longer chips has cut a vertical plane which includes the fence. (I look along the fence for a line judge with an arm in the air - it is Wimbledon fortnight after all.) At first it looks like the lads might contest the issue, but discretion wins the day. Mine host then stomps around for about ten minutes brandishing his beer belly to check they don't return. In the old days I guess we would have stolen his cattle, but all we do is mutter darkly and muse on the wonders of Scots law. Clearly any signs of Scotland changing to this type of mentality must be resisted with every last drop of our blood.
On the way home check Wainwright to see if we missed anything. Turns out there was a valley which "those steeped in Himalayan literature would take to be a Himalayan Gorge". Missed that somehow.