W3C Dow Crag - Coniston MEMORIES

The putt putt of Bill’s little BSA Bantam grew louder the higher up the road we went. I’d already had a walk and by the sound of the engine I’d be doing some more and pretty soon. This was how we began many of our climbing adventures. Two of us with a rucksack full of climbing gear on a little 125.cc motorcycle; as soon as the gradient steepened I walked, and in Lakeland I walked a lot.

The bike struggled on to its destination, the junction of the Walna Scar road and the start of the Dow Crag track; we shouldered our packs and set off in the direction of the crag. Never spoke much in those days just got into a rhythm and walked, this gave you plenty of time to look around and think.

As the crag came into view my thoughts turned to the stories I had heard about the place. In the 1930’s it was home to the Coniston Tigers' climbing club whose exploits are well documented by the late Harry Griffin in his bookConiston Tigers. The crag is a pretty formidable looking place at the best of times and this morning the low cloud and light rain only enhanced that reputation. We passed Charmers grave (see below) and soon were at the base of the crag where we sat and uncoiled the rope and got out the slings and runners we would use on the climb. Roped up, Bill led on, upwards into the murk.

Over 40 years later I cannot recall the route we climbed (one of the buttress routes) but I remember the damp wet rock and the increasingly heavy hemp rope we climbed on which became like a hawser as the morning wore on. We climbed in boots and my strongest memory of the day is sitting on the belay half way up, feet dangling over the void, paying out the rope as Bill climbed, and being amazed at how quickly the rope disappeared into the clag above.

Eventually we reached the top and coiled the rope, it was too wet to sit and no view to look at anyway because of the low cloud and mist. Slipping and sliding on the sodden grass and rock, we descended to the waiting motorcycle. The beauty was, there was little walking on the way home as most of it was downhill.

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Not only has Dow Crag a place in rock climbing history, it also features in the history of the Fell Packs, below using sources written at the time is a portion of that history.

 Coniston Foxhounds – On Monday these hounds met at Blawith. A drag was struck on Blawith Fell, which led to Pull Scar, where a fox of the old fashioned sort was unkennelled. Crossing the railway line, he made straight for the high fell with ten couples of eager hounds close in his wake. Crossing by Brocklebank Ground, over Torver Common, they went by Walna Scar and Dow Crags to Seathwaite Tarn. Owing (no doubt to the strong west wind) they turned right handed coming in by Buckbarrow and Brim Fell, over the top of Coniston Old Man, to Cove Quarries, where the fox “binked”. Hounds were soon on the spot, and putting him away again turned in by Gates Hause, back over the Old Man and down to Levers Water. Finding all his pursuers unpleasantly neat him, he ran all the quarry rubbish heaps, but it was all in vain, for hounds, getting a view of him, rolled him over in the road under Low Quarry - a dog fox of 17lbs. The run lasted four hours, and was one of the best these hounds have had this season. There were a very large number of followers, including Messers. George Chapman (huntsman) J. F. Woodburne (Thurstonville), J. Gunson, J Machell, H. P and J. May, W. Inman, A. Kellet, J. Robinson (huntsman Furness Beagles) Neddy Swainson and many others. SAUNTERER

Westmorland Gazette 15th January 1910

Crag-Fast Thrilling Experience

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS - This week George Chapman and the Coniston Foxhounds have been hunting in the Coniston neighbourhood, and on Tuesday and Wednesday had a thrilling experience. In running their fox through Dow Crags on Tuesday afternoon, seven of the hounds became crag fast in a very difficult place and things looked very black against them being rescued. Three men, however, were let down the face of the crag with ropes, and each hound was separately roped and hauled into safety. The difficult and dangerous task was accomplished by the following afternoon.

 Lakes Herald 24th March 1911

Another Promising Hound Dashed To Death

CONISTON FOXHOUNDS - As was recorded in last week’s issue, the above hounds had a thrilling experience on Dow Crags at Coniston, seven of them being crag fast and not rescued for about 24 hours. Unfortunately one of the hounds, the promising young bitch Charmer, appeared to have stolen back on a fresh hunt, and got crag fast in the same place. But this was not discovered till later. On Sunday she was heard howling, and a rescue party tried to reach her, but before they could get there Charmer had fallen down the crag and was dashed to death.

 Lakes Herald 31st March 1911

The first two days for the Coniston were both disappointing. Starting from Heathwaite on Tuesday, hounds scoured Threddale, Gladstone End and Wetherlam Breast without finding, and when they did strike a hunt at Tilberthwaite Ghyll, the fox had gone for some time. They took the line over Wetherlam and across Threddale for Coniston Old Man quarries, but at Dow Crag hounds gave it up.

22nd November 1957

The Tuesday meet was the last at Woodland and the fox killed was marked to ground in Bridge End Intake to be bolted and overtaken after a sharp hunt. The pack had a good hunt afterwards, though it is believed they had changed foxes. After putting one off at Pull Scar, they ran across the railway towards Troughton Hall, turned back for Woodland Fell, on by Stable Harvey and Wool knots into Woodland. It was slow back to Pull Scar but improved – probably a fresh fox – to go in by Torver and then out by Dickinson’s Wood for Dow Crags and the high fell, with the result unknown.

28th February 1958

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