Do you remember the first time?

A dozen and a half experienced hill people, a mixture of TAC readers and irregulars, were asked to write something about the first hill they ever climbed, however small, however obscure, however long ago. Here and on the following pages are their recollections.

Tom Waghorn

3 NOVEMBER 1948. Captain Landon P Tanner drops the nose of his giant B-29 Superfortress through the clouds to check his position … and ploughs into Bleaklow’s Shelf Moor above the Snake Pass in the Peak District.

All 13 American crew members die as flames engulf the shattered aircraft. Their bodies are found by members of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service who climb on to the mist-shrouded moor. It was the time of the Berlin airlift, when photo-reconnaissance planes such as the B-29 were used to spy on the Russians. But the four-engined Superfortress — named Over Exposed, the same type of plane used to drop the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki — was on a routine flight from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire to Burtonwood, near Warrington, when it crashed.

I remember the bodies being brought down by stretcher to the top of the Snake Pass and the rumour sweeping Glossop that the payroll for the huge American Air Force base at Burtonwood was lost on Bleaklow. And so Bleaklow Head at 2077ft became my first hill in a mixture of horror, tragedy and pure farce.

A day or so after the crash, a small group of us boys combed the moor, looking for the Burtonwood payroll. We didn’t find it, of course — the bag containing $7000 had been quickly recovered. But I do remember picking up a heavy aerial camera and humping it down the Doctor’s Gate track to Glossop.

I was 15 at the time. With all the brashness of youth, I took the camera into Glossop grammar school next day. The physics master was less than pleased and I was instructed to return it. I walked the six miles back to the wreckage and buried the camera in the peat nearby.

Ever since, the wreckage has been a place of pilgrimage for me. Sixty years afterwards, I can still remember the acrid smell of smoke as I walked through the debris, scattered over 200 square yards of peaty moorland just to the east of the trig point at Higher Shelf Stones. For some weeks after the crash, the tailplane reared 20ft into the air like a giant finger of fate. A rescue Jeep had been abandoned in Crooked Clough, below the site, and it lay there, rusting and forgotten, for years.

An American demolition team eventually blew up the bigger sections of the wreck, but much of it is still there today. Four engines, part of a wing and the landing wheels are morbid reminders of that fateful November day. Some of the metal is still as shiny bright as when the B-29 was built.

Thousands of hillwalkers and a few aviation enthusiasts visit the site. Everyone who goes there reflects on one simple point. Another 50ft or so higher and Over Exposed would have skimmed clear of the moor and completed its journey safely. And the ultimate irony was that the crew had just finished their tour of duty overseas and were due to fly back to the States in three days’ time.

Peat has a habit of revealing its secrets. Has any TAC reader ever found that camera?

Miles Hutchinson

STANDING WELL AWAY from the foothills of the Wolds, Church Hill (aka Holme Beacon) rises above the level plain of the Vale of York at the East Yorkshire village of Holme-on-Spalding Moor. This is the hill of my childhood, easily accessed from our home about a mile away. Church attendance wouldn’t count as an ascent, for the summit area is a little higher, a grass field ringed by a 40m contour shown on Landranger 106.

My first ascent, probably in the early 1930s, would have been on a family picnic, perhaps walking only from the church car park. I was so impressed that I could clearly see Goole docks about ten miles distant. Because of the hill’s isolation, the views are extensive despite its modest altitude. With more independence in later years, I can recall fast downhill cycle runs (no spills that I can remember) and in winter great sledging (spills galore). Holme Church Hill has always drawn me back when revisiting my former home village. For me, it is truly a hill for all seasons of life.

Richard Webb

I GREW UP under the dip slope of High Vinnalls, in Herefordshire. In 1965, my great-grandfather died, and in the subsequent upheaval and property sales my great-uncle, who farmed the smallholding attached to the house, retired to a cottage on the forest edge. I then started walking with him and we explored the forest. It would probably have been 1966 when I first visited the summit. I remember it being my second walk in the forest.

The hill was very different then. Access was discouraged; there were no signs, but I remember being taught some of the stealth techniques that would be so useful elsewhere later. Until the late 1970s you would never meet anyone in the forest. The summit was covered in Scots pine, and Haye Park was a farm. Now the farm has gone, and you will find real Get Off My Land signs on any part of the forest not owned by the Forestry Commision. This polarisation of access in recent years is a sad development.

Other memories are of meeting new wildlife, not seen so much in the farmland of the valley. Willow warblers, jays, buzzards and the fallow deer were all encountered for the first time on High Vinnalls.

I was soon almost a weekly visitor to the forest, a very useful extension to my education.

Perkin Warbeck

MY FIRST HILL was Reres Hill in Broughty Ferry. You could walk to it from home, and although it was along a main road, we had such licence back then. I was seven when we pitched up in the Ferry, earlier childhood having been spent in Irvine and Anstruther where my dad looked after spies — another story. In Anstruther my brother and I explored the beach aged three and two respectively, and in Irvine my younger brother got lost wandering on a moor while the unfenced banks of the River Irvine loitered nearby. Cotton-wool-wrapped we weren’t.

So, aged seven, I could pretty much explore the Ferry to my heart’s content; crossing the railway line to save a detour on the way to the putting, wandering its two piers with the currents of the Tay foaming beneath. Reres Hill had no real dangers, however, and we built dens and played variants of hide and seek. We did occasionally reach the summit but it meant little. Exploration was more the order. Later we took to plundering — this was our somewhat grandiose name for what Albion types call scrumping.

Between Reres Hill and the bordering houses were huge walls (or at least they seemed huge) and we had just re-scaled one such, jumpers stuffed with inedible fruit, when suddenly we had all the time in the world to descend because the flashlights of the polis were waiting. Unserendipitously, we’d been plundering a colleague of my dad’s — which didn’t help the reception back home.

From the top of Reres Hill (towering 38m above the Tay) there is a rewarding view over Fife and the estuary. We used to try to see “The Bar” which my dad always described as a maelstrom where the North Sea and the Tay outflow meet.

Later I wandered the Sidlaws, and 20 years later Bruach na Frithe — my actual introduction to hillwalking. But Reres Hill, for what it’s worth, was the first.

Footnote: Googling reveals a song called Reres Hill by the Old Blind Dogs. Like two-thirds of folk songs it involves a guy having his way with his maid on the eponymous slopes. I’d like to make it clear that no such activities were involved.

Ian R Mitchell

THE FIRST HILL I ever summited was Beinn a’Bhuird, 51 years ago when I was 11 years old. I know kids of 15 have done ’em all nowadays, but then that was quite an adventurous start at such an early age.

It could have been much more adventurous, in fact it could have been a disaster. There was a group of about 30 kids, none with any hill experience, led by two teachers, equally without that quality. We were given no instructions about clothing, footwear or food, and the assembled company wore gym shoes, or day shoes, and between them had not a stitch of mountain gear. Few had any supplies of food bar crisps and lemonade.

The teachers at least had a map and were able to lead this puny party on a round trip of well over 15 miles from the road at Invercauld to the north and then south summits of the mountain, and back to the bus. All through the trip kids fell behind and were left to their own devices, after being bawled at by the teachers for failure to keep up. Luckily it was a fine May day, otherwise I am certain there would have been casualties, and this trip would not simply be a footnote in TAC but a chapter in a book of Cairngorm Mountain Disasters.

People lament “over-regulation” nowadays, but subsequent to my 1958 trip there was more than one comparable expedition that ended in a real disaster, and regulation is a price well worth paying for the avoidance of any repetition of the same.

So I didn’t become a statistic in the SMC mountain accidents list, and have revisited Beinn a’Bhuird many times since — indeed it is one of my favourite handful of mountains. But had there been sudden bad weather that day, my first mountain could have been my last.

Val Hamilton

FIRST HILL? Although I’ve always said this was Shutlingsloe, Matterhorn of the Peak, that first ascent has not left any impression. But in explication of the “first hill” concept, the Ed had said, “the first time you were aware of being up higher than normal”, and suddenly I had a vision of a very steep slope falling away beneath my feet, the thrill of gaining height and leaving the fields below being instantly replaced by freezing fear and the frightening question: how was I going to get down?

I had set off on an solo expedition from the campsite at Dowel Hall, near Longnor, south of Buxton. I don’t recall much about the climb, nor can I be sure that I reached the top, but I’ve definitely not forgotten that moment when I realised I was stuck.

Although my ascent and subsequent rescue by my father is part of family mythology, identifying this significant summit required research. I dug out the White Peak map and found some photos on walking blogs. My father pinned down the timing to spring 1967 by knowing what car we had (Vauxhall Victor, registration 7014 ED, big bench front seat), and between us we agreed that it was most likely to have been Glutton Hill (Landranger 119, SK081673) outlier of the more impressive Parkhouse Hill. It and neighbouring Chrome Hill have surprisingly steep profiles, and have been described as “not for vertigo sufferers”.

It’s the only time I’ve had to be rescued and is probably the source of my aversion to slippery ball-bearing gravel slopes.

Ed. — Oddly, my own first hill experience is very similar to this, both in type and location. My first summit was almost certainly Crich Stand: 286m, LR119, SK344554, on the ridge dividing the Derwent and Amber valleys in Derbyshire and a strong candidate for “last hill in the Pennines”. This was visited repeatedly during my boyhood and I’ve been back numerous times since. But the first real sense of steep ground, and of self-inflicted peril, came during a camping holiday with a kind family called the Kirklands in, I think, June 1974 when I would have been 12. (What lets me nail the date with reasonable confidence is a memory of hearing the Scotland–Yugoslavia World Cup game on a radio in the tent.) We were pitched at Newhaven, where Via Gellia meets the Ashbourne–Buxton road, and a day was had in Dove Dale. For the most part we ambled along the valley floor, but I became curious about the rock arch of Reynard’s Cave and climbed a steep, bare and loose side-slope — what I would in later life come to recognise as a rather unpleasant scree. Up I went — wearing inappropriate schoolboy shoes no doubt — and, like VH ten miles to the north on Glutton Hill, I got stuck and got scared. Tears were shed. My friends duly coaxed and cajoled me back down. The rest of the memory has gone; but that initial feeling of loose ground falling away beneath me, and of not knowing how to cope with it, has remained. Had someone asked me there and then whether I ever wanted to climb a hill-slope again, I would surely have said no.

Russ Clare

EVEN IN EARLY CHILDHOOD, I had an inkling of something worth exploring over the horizon of 1930s semis in suburban Birmingham. A feeling perhaps invoked by family jaunts to the Lickey Hills above the Longbridge car plant — modest ascents measured in tens of feet, but big from boyhood perspective.

Confirmation came some years later, after a chance encounter led to my joining the Scouts aged 12. In July, a sun-drenched camp below Pontesford Hill in Shropshire revealed a heaven-on-earth of greens and browns and greys, of rivers, valleys … and hills. Hills on which ever-expanding views and the summit thrill were ample rewards for modest youthful effort.

A week of adventures was crowned by a day’s hike to the Devil’s Chair, a quartzite tor on the Stiperstones hills. At 530m, it hardly qualifies as a mountain, but after half-a-dozen miles of paths through woods and meadows it certainly loomed large in the summer haze. Besides, the craggy ridge offered precarious summit scrambles, and so, as far as I was concerned, it was my first mountain.

The Peak District and Kinder, Wales and Snowdon followed in successive years in what turned out to be that never-ending journey so familiar to readers of these pages. Forty-six years later, youthful excitement may have been tempered by experience, but the solace and sense of completeness of a day in the hills remains undimmed.

Now, so many of those days are just hazy recollections. But that first mountain? Etched in fine detail as if it were yesterday.

Robin N Campbell

WOULD IT HAVE BEEN Spion Kop, the summit of Craigie Hill Golf Club, or Kinnoull Hill, a pleasant suicide resort, both in Perth? Perhaps, but if Munros are meant, across the void of 50 years and more my recollection is so unreliable that I can hardly tell. I remember walking from Lix to climb Ben More and Stob Binnein on a late spring day, camping, then traversing Beinn a’Chroin and An Caisteal on the following day — golden days in snow and sunshine. On another more wintry day, the snail-like progress of the mail-bus to Bridge of Balgie and a traverse of the Lawers range ended in a short-trouser-shredding descent of icy An Stuc, since we possessed no axes.

On yet another equally wintry day, we sought Easy Gully but found Collie’s Route on the Buachaille instead. Defeated by ice and ignorance, and finding our thumbsticks and shepherd’s crooks inadequate, we decided to return to our camp at Loch Tulla by way of Creise, the bogs of Ba, and the dead of night: I never thought to see my mother again.

These were expeditions fit for boys blessed with a mort of luck, and for no other manner of men.

Chris Tyler

MY FIRST PROPER HILL … well, I was brought up in Essex, and in fact lived on just about the only hill in Essex, Danbury Hill, 350ft. The first proper hill I climbed was Snowdon; can’t remember the details, but I know we climbed it up mountain paths and descended beside the railway. We got into such a rhythm walking down the sleepers that when a rock protruded I couldn’t alter my stride (though I could see it coming) and duly tripped over it.

First Scottish hill? Marsco. First Munro? Am Basteir. First Scottish hill off Skye? The Saddle … slushy snow, no one wearing crampons, though we all had them. Up the Forcan Ridge, summited … a great glissade to the bottom of the corrie, then as we were traversing a slope I hit a patch of ice … and off I went!

Tried to get the axe in but it bounced out … and, being on a lanyard, proceeded to beat me round the head; I simply put my big leather gloves over my face and awaited events. I remember thinking something along the lines of “Oh fuck, I’ve done it this time…”.

There followed a series of bangs and crashes, then a curious silence. When I removed my gloves from my face I was looking back up the slope, where I could see my companions all putting on crampons and shouting “Don’t move!” They sportingly took my rucksack and I was able to hobble down. I just had a massive bruise on my thigh; I’d hit a couple of boulders, which had prevented me from shooting over a cliff on to a big boulder slope…

My only other serious mainland hill was Beinn a’Ghlo, years ago, after absconding from a stultifyingly dull session at a Reforesting Scotland conference. Oh, come to think of it, when I was recovering from a nasty bout of non-infective TB, the Ed did coax me, wheezing and gasping, up Sgorr Dhearg at Ballachulish … then led me into a labyrinth of forestry for a nice two-hour struggle to get back down.

Don’t get up many hills these days … unless I visit the Ed, who welcomes you with a cup of tea followed by a route-march to the top of Dumyat.

Lynne Clare

I HAD NEVER BEEN to North Wales, so was enticed by the prospect of a few days’ walking — with the added attraction of a traditional music scene in the evenings. I readily agreed to a long weekend away with my new partner.

We camped in woodland, waking to birdsong on a bright May morning, with a heron breakfasting in the stream a few metres from the tent.

My walking experience had been of long days on footpaths and country lanes, equipped with sketchbook, binoculars and nature guides. Here, on my first day in the mountains, I was uncertain of what lay ahead, but the beauty of the valleys and surrounding hills drew me in.

When our path ended at some craggy blocks, I was bemused to find that we were going to clamber up the rock — I was intrigued. Manoeuvring myself upward was an unexpected pleasure, redolent of school gymnastics. It was with awe and astonishment that I emerged into an unfolding “other world” of peaks, crags and ridges. Exhilarated and enthralled, we rested on the top of, as I then learnt, Crib Goch. It was a wonderful day’s outing around the Snowdon Horseshoe, with Russ acquainting me with territory so familiar to him.

The following month we were on top of Sgurr na Ciche. Three months later we trekked to Nanga Parbat base camp. My new life in the hills had begun.

Adam Watson

THE FIRST HILL I climbed was Sgor Mor in Glen Dee when nine years old in July 1939. My parents, brother and I were staying at Ballater on holiday, and one rainy day I looked at magazines in a summer house. There I saw Seton Gordon’s book The Cairngorm Hills of Scotland, and opening it changed my life. Often had I been in Deeside, but now saw the Cairngorms with a new eye. I wanted to be there and persuaded my father to take me.

His most energetic sport had been golf, but now he drove past the Linn of Dee to the White Bridge, and he, my 12 year-old brother and I climbed north. When we reached the horizon, another appeared beyond, then another, and another. The boggy slope seemed endless. We became tired, and I wished I had longer legs, but my father and brother also took rests. Finally there came the summit tors, where a dense haze augmented the impression of a vast wild landscape. As we walked back, I recall picking out stretches of short grass and running down them, until we reached the car and looked back at the great Sgor Mor. I wanted more and more.

Paul Hesp

FIRST HILL EVER: A dune known locally as “de Grote Berg” (the big mountain), Bilthoven, Netherlands, 1949. Halfway between home and St Theresia primary school. The highest point was about level with the roof of the vicarage, which stood between the 5m and 7.5m contour lines and had an upper floor and attic. So 15m above sea level would not be far off. Well over 1000 ascents while in primary school. De Grote Berg can no longer be climbed, as it was used to fill a gravel pit across the bicycle track.

First hill in Britain: Parliament Hill, London, December 1967.

First real hill in Britain: Hatterrall Hill, Black Mountains, Wales, summer 1973. On my first long walk in Britain, Chepstow–Bala Lake

First Munro: Lochnagar, August 1978. On my first long walk in Scotland, Blairgowrie–Aviemore–Pitlochry. During this, after a night at Corrour bothy and lunch at the Sinclair hut, by late afternoon I reached the Glenmore hostel. Beastly weather all day. When I arrived, the warden was telling two Israelis who had come by car that there was no room at the inn. They left, and I rather dejectedly asked the man where I could go. He beamed: “There’s always a bed for a walker.” So there was. I found it in a steaming jungle of wet hillwalkers’ gear.

First Munro not bagged: Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn), summer 1974. Went up the left flank of Coire Buidhe by mistake – I wanted the track up the left flank of Glen Vorlich. Somewhere near the 2500ft contour I realised something was wrong. Went over to the east flank of the hill and slithered down.

Irvine Butterfield

Even the stalwarts showed were reluctant to move on to that grey expanse of waterlogged hillside. More enthusiastic members of the party provoked a response by negotiating a roaring torrent, before climbing through sodden bracken towards the first fingers of mist. This heralded the first traces of hard snow underfoot, larger rocks appearing as phantoms in the murk.

I soon fell behid the main party, with Jimmy and another senior member of the club remaining to give help and encouragement. Rain, a precursor to driving sleet, stung our faces before trickling through outer clothing to chill protesting limbs. Hail pounded the barren earth of an unreal world. Suspended in the middle of nowhere, in a barrage of the elements, all that remained was to leave this abominable place in the shortest possible time and by the safest possible route.

I had cramp in both legs, and the best chance of quitting the ridge lay in a descent to the Allt Cruachan. I could barely move, but somehow Jimmy coaxed me across a small top before safe descent could begin.

Down in the corrie, the brackish waters of a thousand tiny pools bore testament to the deluge above. Further down the glen, more bedraggled figures emerged from the mist and hurried on towards the lip of the corrie.

Our arrival at the meet bus was the subject of some concern. My red anorak dye had run considerably. Had I fallen?, someone asked. No, I replied, but I didn't look a pretty sight, red from head to foot. "You certainly had a baptism of fire today," said Alec from an adjacent seat. "Maybe you'll try and climb more Munros." Curiously enough, the anorak saw other more balmy hill days, and even though replaced by better kit in later years it stayed the course to be on the last Munro.

where I could go. He beamed: “There’s always a bed for a walker.” So there was. I found it in a steaming jungle of wet hillwalkers’ gear.

Irvine Butterfield

EVEN THE STALWARTS were reluctant to move on to that grey expanse of waterlogged hillside. More enthusiastic members of the party provoked a response by negotiating a roaring torrent, before climbing through sodden bracken towards the first fingers of mist. This heralded the first traces of hard snow underfoot, larger rocks appearing as phantoms in the murk.

I soon fell behind the main party, with Jimmy and another senior member of the club remaining to give help and encouragement. Rain, a precursor to driving sleet, stung our faces before trickling through outer clothing to chill protesting limbs. Hail pounded the barren earth of an unreal world. Suspended in the middle of nowhere, in a barrage of the elements, all that remained was to leave this abominable place in the shortest possible time and by the safest possible route.

I had cramp in both legs, and the best chance of quitting the ridge lay in a descent to the Allt Cruachan. I could barely move, but somehow Jimmy coaxed me across a small top before safe descent could begin.

Down in the corrie, the brackish waters of a thousand tiny pools bore testament to the deluge above. Further down the glen, more bedraggled figures emerged from the mist and hurried on towards the lip of the corrie.

Our arrival at the meet bus was the subject of some concern. My red anorak dye had run considerably. Had I fallen?, someone asked. No, I replied, but I didn’t look a pretty sight, red from head to foot. “You certainly had a baptism of fire today,” said Alec from an adjacent seat. “Maybe you’ll try and climb more Munros.”

The anorak saw other more balmy hill days, and even though replaced by better kit in later years it stayed the course to be on the last Munro.

Mick Furey

MY FIRST HILLseems about as far back in time as my first tooth. I don’t know if Hoad Hill at Ulverston will count as a hill hill, but it sure made an impression on me. While the rest of the lads from the convalescent home were pointing to Blackpool Tower (or where it would be if you could see through the haze), little Michael was wondering what those jaggedy things were in the opposite direction. They were even more impressive than the distant loom of Moel Famau as seen from the top of Everton Brow.

That first sight gave a 13-year old a curiosity that lasted for 60 years. Less than a year later I was at the top of Tryfan, triumphant. That solo expedition with a cheap cotton tent was punishment when I wasn’t on the hill, but it was pure magic. That’s it; I was under a spell. Why didn’t I think of that before? It’s not my fault after all; I don’t have to struggle to explain why I like hills.

David McVey

A BOYS’ BRIGADE Junior Section weekend away, May 1969, at the Dounans Centre, Aberfoyle (we weren’t like the Scouts: we liked beds and roofs and toilets and stuff). Dounans was fascinating, surrounded by forest with a clean hill burn running through. That was the weekend I discovered midges.

On the Saturday afternoon we all put on stout shoes and followed forest tracks to the summit of what I now know was Lime Craig, with its little radio hut. My Silent-on-a-Peak-in-Darien moment came on a steep slope just before the summit; to the north I remember seeing some distant, gleaming blue lochs set among great green wooded hills, a location for Last of the Mohicans. I lingered behind, I was so lost in wonder, and had to be called back to the group.

All the same, it was another seven years before I climbed another hill (Ben Lomond). I’ve since returned, several times, to Lime Craig but have never found that view again. Perhaps it had been amplified in my head, perhaps it’s now obscured by trees. The sense of wonder remains, though, and at some level I suppose the need to re-experience it is why I keep climbing hills.

Robert Dawson Scott

WE USED TO GO on holiday to the north coast of Cornwall, so I became accustomed to wandering about close to the edge of what seemed enormous cliffs (but which were in fact probably never more than 100 metres high) from an early age. I was also taken skiing in Switzerland at the age of six, so the first proper mountain I reached the top of was the

Weißhorn in Arosa at 2653m (not the famous Weißhorn, one of the Swiss 4000m monsters and a near-neighbour of the Matterhorn; I guess White Peak probably has to do service for quite a few mountains in the German-speaking world). But that was by cable car, so doesn’t really count in this context.

So the first hill I properly climbed was the Worcestershire Beacon, above Great Malvern in what was then the perfectly sensible county of Worcestershire and is now the botched merger of Hereford and Worcester. Great Malvern has four claims to fame: Malvern Water, which comes out of a spring halfway up the hills and was respectable long before all these French interlopers; the Royal Radar Establishment, which was where a lot of Britain’s rapid advances in radar technology during world war two were developed; a weird concentration of private schools; and the hills, which run roughly in a north–south line 13km from North Hill to British Camp, or the Hereford Beacon.

We used to be told, at one of those same private schools, to which it was my misfortune to be sent, that there was no higher ground eastward between the Malvern hills and the Urals. This seemed a touch fanciful considering that the Worcester Beacon only manages a modest 425m, but I suppose it is broadly on the same latitude as the North German and Polish plains, so maybe there’s some truth in it. It certainly felt there wasn’t much in the way of the east winds that used to cut through our ill-fitting windows and thin bed covering in the wintertime.

It’s not the most exciting hill in the world, a grassy convex mound crisscrossed with paths, but it is quite steep if you take it direct. Most people don’t, because you can drive almost to the top at the Wyche cutting and the hill is usually busy with children, dog-walkers and these days no doubt mountain bikers and similar hazards.

Typical English public school rules allowed us to go on the hills more or less ad lib if we had no other school commitments. I think this was more to do with muscular Christianity — the school was equally keen on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions in the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains, which were only a few hours away — than to give us a taste of freedom, though of course the privilege was widely abused for the consumption of tobacco and alcohol and, as time went on, illicit assignations with pupils of the other secondary schools, which were mostly for girls.

There is absolutely no doubt, though, that the full range of the hills — which were much emptier if you stayed away from the honeypots (is that what you called the girls? — Ed.) — gave me a latent taste for airy perches, big views and the changing seasons which finally found its full voice when I came to live in Scotland 25 years ago. The view to the east across the Vale of Evesham focused on Bredon Hill, celebrated by A E Houseman among others. I can still see it as clearly as ever in my mind’s eye.

Simon Blackett

I WAS A YOUNGSTER in Northumberland (nearly Scotland); my father and grandfather were great deer-stalking men, so we used to cover lots of Scottish hills looking for deer. It never occurred to us to go to the top of any hill, unless it happened to be on our route. In the army, I learnt to ski and again spent a lot of time on the hills, but again there was no need to get to the top. The view was fine from near the top or from where the lift stopped (or from where there was a bar).

Also in the army, I organised a trekking trip to the Pakistan Himalayas and there was little chance of getting to the top of any of them (our altitude meter ran off the clock while still on the train, but I think we got to around 15,000ft before we keeled over). Then I moved to Invercauld 16 years ago and bingo, the hills beckoned. I am not really a ticky person, but must admit that I have now been to the top of a few Munros!

Tessa Carroll

MY FIRST HILL was the one right behind the house I was lucky enough to grow up in, although it was not until the age of 11 that I made it to the top of Coniston Old Man — way past it by the standards of today’s youngest Wainwright completers. Easter 1971. A visit from one of my mother’s old university friends and her family gave us the motivation, and it must have been a Wednesday as that was the only day my father had off from his hotel job. Memories are mixed up with those of other family walks — hoping not to be spotted by schoolmates who would scoff at the itchy bobble hat and trousers-tucked-into-socks get-up; gagging for a drink in the days long before the obsession with keeping hydrated, when one large bottle of diluted orange squash had to go round six of us.

I think I escaped the bobble hat that day, as it was hot and sunny. Good job too, as someone ending up soaking wet was a regular feature of these walks. (I once fell in the mill race trying to get a drink, and one brother found out the hard way that ice melts in the sun). This time it was my middle brother’s turn. At almost seven, his liking for showing off for the girls was already evident. Shouting “Look at me, Alison!”, as he leapt from rock to rock, he suddenly disappeared into Goat’s Water, then emerged, yelling, with blood streaming from the back of his head. “Only a scalp wound” was the diagnosis, and he was re-kitted in an assortment of clothes pinched from other brothers and underpants fashioned from a J-cloth and safety pins (a few years too early for punk).

On we went. I don’t remember having to be dragged gibbering to the very top by my father, but I don’t doubt my mother’s word on this, as the trig point is right above an almost sheer drop to Low Water and it still takes me a big effort of will to look over the edge. But what a view — ridges in all directions, and far, far below, the lake, and the village where I lived. It’s the view of the village that has stayed with me — a familiar place magically transformed by height and distance; everyday life put literally into perspective.

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