Dove Crag summit
Dove Crag Summit © David Hall

Dove Crag

Dove Crag

Dove Crage covered in snow Dove Crag hiding under a carpet of snow © unknown

"Yer Daft Bugger!"

Dove Crag is a 'mountain' of contrasts. On the eastern side is the crag itself, towering and overhanging slightly above the valley of Dovedale, the other side that is above Rydal Park consists of gentle grassy slopes, which fall away to the valley floor. Originally the name Dove Crag referred to the cliff, and the summit of today was unknown, but when the Ordinance Survey charted the area they named the whole area Dove Crag (according to Wainwright's, The Eastern Fells, 1992). It is a mountain I know well.'

* * *

We left home well before dawn that morning, taking the track that led past the Coniston kennels but today was not a day of following them, this was a day with the Ullswater Foxhounds. Dawn saw us on the slopes of High Pike, I remember as we climbed the light becoming brighter, illuminating the fell tops and then slowly moving down the fell side to throw its light on the valley floor.'

The wall on our left led to the top of High Pike and continued its slow ascent towards the summit of Dove Crag, five long miles from Ambleside; a few minutes and we were there, sitting down on the pile of stones that mark the summit. It wasn't a bad morning weather wise but there was a cold wind blowing which made you not want to linger.'

Leaving the summit we struck off to the right, looking for the rocks that mark the large drop that is the top of Dove Crag. From here you can look down Deepdale to the Kirkstone road as it descends towards Patterdale.'

We found a sheltered spot just above the drop and settled down to wait and watch; on the road below a line of cars began to arrive and park. The hounds were released into the woods above Brotherswater Lake and began to work through the fell side on Hartsop above How towards the fell head; occasionally the cry of the huntsman and the crack of his whip carried up on the increasingly strong wind to where we sat a thousand feet above.'

My dad reached in his pocket and took out the flask. This flask was quite old and had been a good friend, five days each week it accompanied my father to work and at the weekend we took it with us when we went on the hill, in summer it provided a cold drink and in winter a warm one. "Here," said dad as he passed it to me. I took it and opened it, pouring a small cup of coffee into the top, which came with it. Replacing the stopper I put the flask down on a tussock of grass and returned my attention to the hunt below. Suddenly the damn thing began to roll gradually gaining speed and before either of us could do anything it disappeared over the crag and out of sight.'

Now my father was a genial man, in all my years I cannot recall him ever once using a four-letter word in my presence, but he knew others and he gave full range to his vocabulary in my direction. "You daft bugger," he raged. I will not continue, you probably get the picture.'

It wasn't a good day at all, my ears stung for ages after and the hounds found and went to Helvellyn in totally the opposite direction to where we sat. The flask was easily replaced but it was never the same again; for a few days I swear he went through the grieving process so attached was he to the bloody thing.'

From then on I never poured another drink whilst on the fell and it became something of a joke, but there again coffee always tastes better when somebody else makes it and better still when somebody else carries the flask.'

* * *

This is my all abiding memory of Dove Crag (to me it is called Dovey). I have walked over it, run over it and climbed on it, hunted on it and watched terrier work in the big dangerous borran at the base, I know it well and it features high in the hunting history of the Coniston and Ullswater fell packs.'

No photograph really does it justice, the sheer scale of the place, coupled with the overhang of the face, sod off in stone. '

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