Lakeland fells shimmer in the heat haze: Country diary, 18 May 1970


THE LAKE DISTRICT: The easiest way up Great Gable for the infirm or lazy is from a parked car on top of Honister Pass – a gently undulating walk of about three miles, with less than two thousand feet of ascent and the reward of changing views every few hundred yards. The other day I passed an old gentleman of perhaps 80 pottering along quite comfortably in the sunshine and I’ve no doubt 4 year-olds – with the inducement of some small reward – could do it. It is, though, rather a dry walk on a warm day, with few sizeable becks and no opportunity for a quick bathe – unless you seek out the pools on Grey Knotts – so that the distant views of lakes and tarns are particularly tantalising.

A week ago there was a nice patch of old snow in a ravine on the side of Green Gable to provide a cool interlude but elsewhere, in one of the sunniest May weeks for years, it could have been a sultry day in high summer. The fells shimmered in the heat haze, insects whirred in the dry grass, dust rose from the scree runs, and the rocks were warm to the touch. On the top, people were dozing in the sunshine or looking with wonder across the trough of Wasdale to the snow on the Scafells. Windy Gap – a Piccadilly Circus of routes – had been populous but Beck Head was deserted and the dark carpet of conifers in Ennerdale seemed spread over an empty valley. I took the old track across the fells that the whisky smugglers, the wadd thieves, or the honest quarrymen once used, and sat in a corner of rock high above Moses’ Trod watching two climbers tackling the steep exposure of Engineer’s Slabs on the shadowed face of Gable Crag. Their confident voices came winging down into the combe, making me feel ashamed of my laziness.

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