W3C Wasdale Head in "Auld Will" Ritson's Time GARN YAM

By George Seatree

In olden times the lowland plains and valleys of Cumberland and Westmorland, with their numerous abbeys, castles, feudal halls, and manorial strongholds, had their share of the fierce internecine struggles to which our country was subjected. But according to the annals - or rather the lack of annals - the more remote mountain dales of Lakeland appear to have escaped active participation in most of the bloodstained movements which through the centuries devastated so large a portion of England, Wales and Scotland. The tide of war and of civil and ecclesiastical strife surged around and near. Happily they left our mountain valleys in quiet isolation and peace. Even the swash-bucklering rievers from across the border spared the homes of Lakeland vales from their foraging attention - though it is to be feared more likely because of the probable lack of booty than through love for the inhabitants or regard for the scenery.'

Very little is known of the history of the out-of-the-way valleys of Lakeland. May we not therefore gladly assume that no records are good records? Even the local county histories give us but slight insight into the life and customs of the inhabitants of our dales during those dark mediaeval times. The now famous valley of Wasdale is no exception to the general rule, and indeed one can well understand how its remote, secluded situation, and the difficulty of access in those days of slow pack-horse travelling ensured its isolation and quietude.'

The following paragraph from Hutchinson's history of Cumberland, published in 1794, takes us perhaps as far back as any authentic annals now obtainable:-"Wasdale Head is supposed to be part of the Manor of Eskdale, and Nether Wasdale is a distinct manor in itself. Above Irton in the fell and mountains lies a waste forest ground, full of red deer, which was called the Wastedale, now Wasdale, the inheritance of the Earl of Northumberland, and before the Lucy lands being a parcel of their third part of the Barony of Egremont, which Thomas Lucy got with his wife Margaret, one of the daughters and co-heirs of John Moulton last of that name, Baron of Egremont."'

Hutchinson also states that at the period of which he was writing, the dale was infested by wild cats, foxes, martins, and eagles. What anxious times there must have been in farmers ' poultry-runs! The number of inhabitants appears to have varied little during the last century. In the early part of that era there were eight families, three being landowners or 'statesmen', four farmers and one labourer, in all thirty-five persons. It is recorded that the Fletcher family has been amongst the 'statesmen' of the dale for over seven hundred years. Coming to comparatively modern times one turns in vain to the early Lake District guide-book writers for any but the scantiest information. In describing an excursion to the Buttermere district, Mr. West in his guide-book (1778 and 1780 editions) gives only the following bald and vague reference to Wasdale: "When the roads to Ennerdale and West-Water are improved they may be taken in this morning's ride." Robinson's guide-book (1819), referring to the scenery of Sty Head Pass, says: "The scenery around this place is calculated to inspire emotions of the most awful kind, but on reaching the brow on the opposite (Wasdale) side of Sty Head a most delightful view opens to the eye... But however charming and extensive the scenery is, the idea of its beauty is almost immediately lost in the overpowering sensation of danger which seizes the mind when contemplating the path to be descended." In the first edition of Wordsworth's guide-book (1810) we obtain a higher note of appreciation: ”Wasdale is well worth the notice of the traveller who is not afraid of fatigue; no part of the country is more distinguished by sublimity." Otley's guide-book, published in 1844, by which time a considerable stream of tourists and mountaineers must have begun to cross the passes and visit the dale, contains the following note: ”Wasdale Head consists of about half-a-dozen dwellings sheltered BY trees, and a small chapel in the midst of an area of arable land encircled by the loftiest mountains. A public-house is much wanted, the kind hospitality of the inhabitants being not infrequently drawn upon by strangers, but it is expected that a licence to entertain travellers will shortly be obtained by one of the householders." Coming to a later period, in fact to our own time, that energetic pedestrian and mountaineer, the late H. I. Jenkinson, was perhaps the first to realise the potentialities and true character of the famous climbing centre. After many visits he wrote, in the first edition of his practical guide-book (1873): "Wasdale Head lies secluded at the foot of the most wild and lofty mountains. It is a favourite retreat of the lover of mountaineering. Here he may remain for weeks and still find plenty of work." How well Jenkinson's observation has been justified is evidenced by the thousands of enthusiasts who now frequent the birth-place of British rock-climbing. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century the advent and development of modern mountaineering brought the dale into great prominence, and, though threatened, it has not so far lost the charmful physical character of its old-time seclusion and restfulness. The few available annals of Wasdale Head during the middle decades of that century are closely associated with the personality of William Ritson "Auld Will," as he came in his later years to be familiarly termed ; and as the home of this typical Cumbrian dalesman,  'statesman' and wit, the valley during that long period derived much significance. The climbing men who knew Will Ritson intimately are now few and far between, and in response to the call of the Editor the few records and recollections of the Wasdale worthy at my disposal are readily given to the readers of this journal. Today,  "Auld Will" may be regarded as a somewhat mythical figure. To such may I say, he was anything but mythical to the small community inhabiting the wild and lonely valley during his best days. Very little is known or at least recorded of his father, John Ritson, except that he was provided with an annuity out of the estate when the property was left to Will by his grandfather. Judging from the following incident, however, the son must have been somewhat of a  "chip of the old block." In Will's young days father and son had occasion to visit Loweswater. On arriving at the Kirk Stile Inn, refreshment was found desirable. The younger man helped himself and proceeded to charge his father's glass, saying "Thoo mun say when, fadder." Old John was silent, and Will filled the glass until it began to overflow, whereupon he remarked, "Thoo niwer said when, fadder."  "Nea, Will," said John,  "a lucky man may mak his fortun be hoddin his tongue." The subject of these lines was born in 1808 at Row Foot, Wasdale Head, then a small farmstead, which he afterwards inherited from his grandfather ”a Bill Ritson ”the property having originally come into the family by purchase from the Tysons. Ritson used to say he could remember being christened, and this might be quite true; for in those days of periodical christening services, it was not uncommon for children to be several years old when baptised. It is on record that when the time came for taking him to church he had bolted, had to be hunted for and run down; also that when the parson did the sprinkling the boy responded with remarks which were much more personal than courteous or respectful. Of Ritson's early youthful days not very much is to be gleaned, but he grew into a fine type of dalesman, tall, muscular, heavy boned, and athletic. In the wrestling rings of West Cumberland he was known as a powerful local champion and exponent of the ever popular Cumberland and Westmorland sport. His prowess had to be reckoned with in many a doughty tussle. His favourite pastime was undoubtedly hunting, of which he was passionately fond. At a comparatively early age he was appointed huntsman to Mr. Rawson, of Wasdale Hall, and subsequently to Mr. Huddleston, of Gosforth, both gentlemen renowned for their love and enthusiasm for the local chase. Later in life, when Ritson entered on the duties of landlord of the Huntsman's Inn, he was a keen enough hunter to form and maintain an effective pack of fox hounds of his own, and never were mountain hounds more deftly handled than were his. Even on his death-bed he expressed a wish to get up and see a run by the Blackcoombe Beagles, then hunting in the locality. Ritson's hunting proclivities and experiences gave him a complete knowledge of the West Cumberland fells and foothills ” a knowledge which in later years he turned to excellent account, for he became one of the most trusted and popular guides in the district. His services and good company were eagerly sought for by the few tourists who pioneered the passes and peaks in the days when mountaineering as a pastime was in the first stages of its infancy. As a 'statesman' farming his own land, he had the reputation of being a shrewd and industrious manager and worker, ever foremost in all weathers to take his share of the arduous fell shepherding, or the easier but equally necessary home work of his dale-head holding. Interesting and creditable as are the foregoing brief details of the famous dalesman's youthful career, it is his later records as landlord of the Huntsman's Inn, afterwards the Wastwater Hotel, which has caused his memory to be treasured and will keep it green to posterity. Prior to Row Foot becoming a licensed house (about 1856) the building was small and very primitive. When Ritson, who had by this time married his wife Dinah ”one of the Fletchers of Nether Wasdale” conceived the idea of supplying tourists with ham and eggs, etc., he built at the south end of the farm a small wing, which, he believed would provide ample accommodation for all the tourists and travellers ever likely to come his way. He had now reached a mature age, and with the assistance of his hardworking help-mate the Inn rapidly grew in custom and popularity. Several of the Lake Poets and other eminent men of letters, students, etc., found Wasdale to be an unspoiled place in a situation of uncommon grandeur. They took delight in the old-time primitive methods of the people. They revisited the valley many times, and in Ritson always found a willing aider and abetter of their sports and frolics. Amongst the dalesfolk he held the sway almost of a local potentate. He was looked up to as their philosopher. Never was he at a loss when appealed to on any conceivable subject. Be the topic under discussion agricultural, sporting, or political, the landlord was ever ready with the last word, which was given at times with perhaps a little more emphasis than authenticity. The old, quaint, wooden benched kitchen of the Inn was a popular rendezvous of farmers, shepherds, guides and stray wayfarers, and not infrequently of the local parson. Here in the broadest sou'-west Cumbrian dialect the topics of the day, local and general, were discussed. Ritson reigned supreme. He was landlord, waiter, and customer by turns. As the nights wore on the fun became fast and furious, the company being kept in fits of laughter by his quick-witted jokes, banter and racy stories. It was on such an occasion I first beheld Auld Will, and well I remember his characteristic reply to an inquiry anent the crags on Great Gable: "What's makk'n ye chaps fash ye'r sels' seah mich aboo't crags noo' adays, isn't t' fells gud eneuf for ye?" He was then well up in years, it is true, but hale and active, full of fun, and the faculty for creating it when in the humour, but brusque, blunt and even uncouth enough when out of it. During the last six or eight years of his occupancy it was my good fortune to visit the inn frequently. On those occasions we had many interesting  'cracks' together. More than once out of the season we appeared to have the house to ourselves, save for old Dinah, who went quietly about her work and said nothing. Many of Ritson's best stories were not original, and therefore cannot be ascribed to him, or quoted as such, but the inimitable way in which he related them in the pure local vernacular, his smart repartee and his sly sallies were entirely Ritsonian, and never failed to bring down the house. My recollection of Ritson's own yarns or  'lees' ¯ is that they were of a very harmless type, much more calculated to astonish and amuse than to deceive. Nothing suited him better than to  "take down" anyone who tried to presume upon his own credulity. The following lines by Richardson are founded upon an actual incident of the kind:'


Auld Will was famous at a crack;
An' thowt 'at nin could tell
A better teal or bigger lee,
Nor he could deu his-sel '.

Ya day, a stuck-up chap com in,
'At thowt Auld Will to jeer;
He sed he'd been to Manchester,
An' telt what he'd seen theer.

Aboot their butchin' swine, he talk't,
Three hundred in a day,
An' yan could druss them off, as fast,
As two could tak away.

Says Will,  "It 's wonderful, neah doot,
Sec butchin' feats thoo's seen;
Bit in that granary loft, oot theer,
We hev a queer machine.

 "Thoo sees t ' auld sewe, on t' midden theer,
I'll bet a pund, an' win,
If thoo'll just tak her to t' machine,
An' pop her nicely in ”

'An' give 't three turns aboot, she'll come
Oot bacon, nicely dry't,
Anudder turn, an't hams 'ill be
Weel boil't, an't flicks weel fry't.

"Weel mead aw t' sossiges 'll be,
Just by a turn o' t ' crank,
An't' brussels, min' 'ill come oot ten,
Good brushes riddy shank't."

T' chap glowered at Will, an' then he sed,
 "Oh, what a horrid lee,"

Says Will,  "Does thoo think i'd be bangt
Wi' sec a thing as thee?"'

The late Dr. A. C. Gibson told a story which Ritson heard, appropriated and gave with stolid gravity. After a dalesman in the kitchen had reeled off a  "thumper ¯ about an enormous vegetable he had read of in an East Cumberland newspaper, the host gravely chimed in:  "O, that was nowte tull a crop o'turmets at was grown abeun twenty year sen be Clem Mossop o'Prior Skeal, nar Co'der Brig. It's guddish grund theer, and what wid that, and heavy muckin an' wide thinnin oot, he rais't sec turmets as niver was heerd tell on ayder afooar or sen they wer' sa big."

'Fwoke com fray o' parts to leuk at them; an' aboot Martimas a young bull fairly eat his way intul yan o ' them, as a moose mud intul a cheese, an bead theer. They thowt t' beast was lost till a while efter Kermas, when he woak't oot on t' a gat bit fatter ner he went in. Clem was sa plees't 't he hed t ' skell o ' t ' turmet carriet yam, an't mead a famish hen hull ”t ' hens o' sat in't at neet ”while next winter, an ' than it sofien't an' fell to gidder efter a hard frost."'

The following interesting description of Ritson and the doings in Wasdale at the period under review is from the pen of the late Edwin Waugh, who along with a friend undertook an autumnal pedestrian tour to the seaside lakes and mountains of Cumberland in 1859. The party struck a spell of Wasdale's worst weather, and were storm-bound at the inn for two days. The dialect parts are a blend of Mr. Waugh's Lancashire and Ritson's Cumbrian:

"To ourselves it was a disappointment to be pent up in the heart of that sublime group of mountains, Yewbarrow, Pillar, Great Gable, Kirkfell, Lingmell, and Scafell and yet unable to behold them. But it was something to feel that, although unseen, they were standing awfully around us in the tempestuous gloom. Our little parlour faced the storm; and we had a bright area in it. There was an accordion and a few books in the window-sill; and we got through the wild day very well. On the previous night Ritson had spoken doubtfully of the weather, and he had advised us not to attempt the ascent of Scafell. All chance of climbing that mountain during our visit was now gone, and we made the best of the matter.'

In the course of the day I went into the kitchen now and then, to talk with the company there. Ritson was Master of tales of the mountains. Speaking of the wild crag which gives name to Pillar, the great mountain between Wasdale Head and Ennerdale Head, he said there was a bottle deposited upon it, containing some half-dozen names of people who had climbed to the top of it. The last man who ascended it was Baumgarten. 'Before Baumgarten set oot,' said Ritson, 'he left his watch an' his purse an' a note, an' he said 'at if he never cam back again a' would be mine. Aa went a lang way up with him,' continued he,  ˜but aa tell't him aa wadn't gan to t' top. Aa knew t ' way varra weel; but aa didn't like to engage it again. So he axed me what were f reason, an' aa tell't him aa'd mair nor mysel' to think on now, an' it was ower big a risk. Bud, nowt wad sarra, bud he must gan up ; so he shook hands wi' me, an' aa gev him t' best instructions aa could, an' he went forret, and he was seen soon after sittin' stride-legs upo' t' edge o' t' rock, sheawtin' an' wavin' his hat. He left his neam i' t' bottle at top; an' a gay time we hed when he cam' down again safe and sound.''

"Thus the talk wandered on, quaint and simple, from one thing to another, on that stormy day. The chapel at Wasdale Head is one of the smallest in England. Ritson told us of an old parson of Wasdale who kept a churn-ful of sermons, which he used to preach down to the bottom, then turn over and begin again.  ˜Yan Sunday,' said he, 'when t' aad priest cam to t' forenoon sarvice, what should he see but Birkett, t' clerk, straddle't upo' t' chapel riggin' with a girt hammer in his hand.  ˜Why, Birkett,' says he, 'whatever are yed doing there?' 'Well, ' says Birkett, 'ye see, sic a yan hes borrowed t' bell-raap, to leaad hay wi', sea aa's cum up a-ringing t ' sarvice in wi' t' coal-hammer."'

"Ritson told of a parson in a little Cumberland village, who, finding one Sunday forenoon that his whole congregation consisted of three of his intimate neighbours, hesitated before beginning the service, and said to them, 'What think ye three men if we all go up to t' Mortal Man' public-house, an ' hev a pint of ale a-piece?" I was most interested in Ritson's anecdotes of famous men who had visited Wasdale. He had wandered many a day with Professor Wilson, Wordsworth, Professor Sedgwick, De Quincey, and others. Ritson had been a famous wrestler in his youth, and had won many a country belt in Cumberland. He once wrestled with Wilson, and threw him twice out of three falls. But he owned that the Professor was 'a verra bad un to lick '. Wilson beat him at jumping. He could jump twelve 2 yards in three jumps, with a great stone in each hand. Ritson could only manage eleven and three-quarters;  'T' first time at Professor Wilson cam' to Wasdale Head,' said Ritson,  'he hed a tent set up in a field, an' he gat it weel stock't wi' bread, an ' beef, an' cheese ' an ' rum, an' ale, an' sic like. Then he gidder't up my grandfather, an' Thomas Tyson, an' Isaac Fletcher, an' Joseph Stable, an' aad Robert Grave, and some mair; an' there was gay deed amang 'em. Then, iiowt would sarra bud he would hev a boat, and they must all hev a sail. Well, when they gat into t' boat, he tell't em to be partickler careful, for he was liable to git giddy i' t' head; an' if yan ov his giddy fits sud chance to cum on, he mud happen tummle into t ' waiter. Well, that pleased 'em all gaily weel, an' they said they'd tak varra girt care on him. Then he leaned back an' called oot that they must pull quicker. So they did; and what does Wilson do then but topples ower eb'm ov his back i' t' watter, with a splash. Then there was a girt cry. ”'Eh, Mr. Wilson's i' t' watter, Mr. Wilson's i' t' watter,' an yan click't, an' anudder click't, but nean o' them could get hod on him, and there was sek a scrowe as nivver. At last, yan o' them gat him round t ' neck as he popped up at teal o' t' boat, an ' Wilson taad him to kep a good hpd, for he mud happen slip him agean. But what, it was nowt but yan ov his bits o' pranks ”he was smurkin' an' laughin' all t' time. Wilson was a fine, gay, girt-hearted fellow, as strang as a lion, and as lish as a trout, an' he hed sek antics as niwer man hed. Whatiwer ye sed tull him ye'd get your change back for it gaily soon... Aa remember, there was a'murry neet at Wasdale Head that verra time, an' Wilson an' t' aad Parson was there amang t ' rest. When they'd gotten a bit on, Wilson med a sang aboot t' parson. He med it reight off o' t' stick end. He began wi' t' parson first, then he gat to t ' Pope, and then he turned it to t ' devil, an ' sic like, till he hed "em fallin' off their cheers wi' fun. T' parson was quite astonished, an' rayder vext an ' all, but at last he brust oot laughin' wi' th' rest. He was like. Naabody could stand it... T ' seam neet there was ya' heam, an' she was rayder ower strang i' t' tung wi' him afore t' heal company. Well, he took it all i' good pairt, but, as he went away, he shouted oot to t' aad minister, 'Od dang ye, parson, it wor ye at teed us two tegidder.'... It was a' life an' murth amang us as lang as Professor Wilson was at Wasdale Head." An amusing sidelight is thrown on Auld Will's character in the following incident. During a visit to Keswick in his later days he called upon an eminent Lake District photographer, and whilst sitting for his portrait looked very serious and glum.  "Now then, Will," said the artist, "let me see you smile, it's not a funeral, you know." "Smile," replied the sitter, "hoo can a fellow smile when he's nobbut gitten a beuk to leuk at? Noo if thoo'll fetch ma a mug o' yal ah'll smile for tha reet eneuf." The photographer departed for the desired stimulant, and on his return Auld Will's countenance brightened up wonderfully and the smile was duly  "taken" before being buried in the mug. In the evening, when the plate was developed, it was found to be all fogged. During the artist's absence Auld Will had opened the dark slide and laughingly boasted afterwards that "it was a gey good jwoke for't likeness takker hed lost beath his beer and my smile." Auld Will and Dinah retired from active business in 1879, and the inn was let to the late Daniel Tyson. One of the last sad duties of Ritson as landlord was to give evidence at the inquest held after the fatal accident to the Rev. James Jackson. After their retirement the aged couple took up their residence at Nicol Ground, Nether Wasdale, and there spent the remainder of their lives in quietude and rest. The old warrior died in 1890, and was interred in Nether Wasdale churchyard, the faithful companion of his life having been taken about twelve months earlier. They had two sons, but both predeceased them, leaving four grandchildren, one of whom, Mr  William Ritson, of Liverpool, is the present owner of the Wastwater Hotel, whilst Miss Ritson and Mr. J. Ritson Whiting, both relations, are the occupants.'

Though twenty years have come and gone since this remarkable local worthy passed away from the scenes of his strenuous career, his life and character are not forgotten, and the memory of him still clings to, and will long remain a kindly asset of the wild mountain glen.'

The grand dale head is little changed since those days.'

In the forty years I have known it there have been very few alterations. The narrow lanes and byways, the wide heaped up cobble dikes separating the few level meadows, the quaint little old church and burial ground nestling within their border of stunted firs are all just as of yore. The old inn is now but a diminutive annexe to the commodious extension built about twenty-four years ago, and renamed the Wastwater Hotel. A new vicarage has been erected, and that is all. The jerry-braider has found no footing in the dale, and the other builders have, let us hope, been busy elsewhere. Thus the old-time secluded and restful character of the hamlet, with its many happy memories, is still retained, so that the Wasdale Head which attracted Wordsworth, Professor Wilson, De Quincey ”aye, and Auld Will Ritson” and their contemporaries is yet unspoiled, and the favourite haunt of another and vastly increased generation of mountain lovers. Long may it so remain.'


By Dr. John Mason

Weel, I'se nut so fond o' climmin' t' fells as sum fwolk is. What, yan noo-a-deas sees a terble lot o' quality o' ya mack or anudther on t' fells whedther wet or fine. Ther was ya dae t' last back-end or mebbe at t' forend o' September, an' a terble het an an' oa, I was at Wy'burn, an' ther was iwer so many traps an' ewoaches theer; an' t' fell was fair black wi' fwolk. I says to Jimmy Thwaites 'at was sittin' whiet in t' shade again t' hoose side, "Noo, Jimmy, where 's yours?" "Oa the're scratten up aback o' t' woa theer is mine." An' theer they war, varra nigh a scoor on 'em nobbut meaken a varra modtherate job on it, wi' parasols an' baskets an' sick like, sum on 'em wi' ther cwoats off, an' wi' t' handkerchers oot moppin' awae iwry minnit. Weel, I thowt, if I ga up t' fell ov a het foorneun it 'll likely be to kit summat, an' nut fer pleasure. But I was mistean; fer nobbut this year I was at t' Girsmer spworts, an' efther sittin' a bit I slipt away an' thowt I wad just ga up to f flag whoar f fellers ga i' t' fell reace. My sarvice, it was a job l What it was that brant yan med ha' rowlt fra f top to f boddom, that is if yan heddn't brokken to peeses afoor yan gat theer. An' to see them chaps cum up efther! What they fairly ran meast o' t' wae, an' what's mair they lowpt doon that fast ye waddn't believe! An' they whemmelt ower scoors o' times till yan wad ha' thowt they wad ha' brokken ther necks. But they geddthered thersells up, an' off agean as if t' diwel was efther them. I niwer hard tell wheddther on 'em wun t' reace, but I thowt aboot what auld Josy Dickison used to say when t' lads wer for iwer toaken aboot this footba'. He says, "It's a queer thing ther's neabody leammed at this footba' wi' that many 'at's killed at it!" But than I'se gitten auld an' mebbe a bit soft. '



W. P. Haskett Smith

The task of finding anything either new or interesting to say on the subject of the Napes Needle is one which is vastly easier for a light-hearted editor to set than for an unhappy contributor to perform. Walter Parry Haskett Smith in 1936, at the time of his 50th anniversary ascent of Napes Needle (FRCC Collection) ever since its bold outlines began to stare at us on every railway platform and the newspapers realised that however poorly reproduced its form could never be mistaken for anything else, the British public has been open to listen to the little that can be said about it, and consequently that little has been said over and over again. However, as was observed by some philosopher whose system made no allowance for trifles like radium and marconigrams: "There is nothing New except the Very Old" - and my only chance will be to dive back into the dark ages, the dim and distant days when the Needle had never been climbed, or even noticed. One day in the early eighties the weather was beginning to clear after two or three days of southerly gale. Masses of cloud surged up the valley, but after a forenoon of heavy rain were driven from the centre of the dale and clung tightly to the sides of the hills. After luncheon we ventured on a walk to the neighbourhood of Piers Gill, believing that the shelter of Lingmell would give us less wind and less cloud there. Above Burnthwaite we lingered awhile, watching a curious cloud-eddy at the entrance of Mosedale causing that valley, though sheltered from the wind, to become tightly packed with the backwash at the very time when the main valley was gradually clearing. As we mounted into the great recess of Greta Force we were almost free from the drift and even got an occasional gleam of sunshine, but across the path to Sty Head only the lower screes were visible and Great Gable was completely concealed. Suddenly, however, the mist grew thinner, and it became just possible to locate the Napes. Then they were swallowed up again, but a moment later the outermost curtain of mist seemed to be drawn aside and one of the fitful gleams of sunshine fell on a slender pinnacle of rock, standing out against the background of cloud without a sign of any other rock near it and appearing to shoot up for 200-300 feet. The vision did not last more than a minute or two and we all thought that our eyes had been tricked, as indeed to a certain extent they had been, but resolved to take an early opportunity of hunting down the mysterious rock. In those days climbers had never really looked at the Napes. The vast slopes of cruel scree below them not only kept explorers away, but gave the impression that the whole mass was dangerously rotten. The fine cairn built by the brothers Westmoreland to mark a point of view led people to imagine that they had put it up to mark a climb of great severity and it was further supposed that the cliff below that cairn was the only piece of sound rock on that side of the mountain. We made one attempt a few days later to find our rock and did in fact get to it, but it was a dreadfully thick, dark day, and we were by no means sure of its identity or of its precise position. I did not return to Wastdale till 1884, and one of my pleasantest memories of the Needle hangs on the fact that my next sight of it was enjoyed in the company of John Robinson and during the very first climb that he and I ever had together. Petty had made a remarkable recovery from his terrible accident on Mickledore a fortnight before and was considered well enough to be taken home. It was no easy job, however, to get him down from Burnthwaite to the road where the carriage was waiting for him below the inn. Robinson, good fellow that he was, walked over from Lorton to help and, by means of a rough handbarrow, he and I carried the invalid the whole way. To me it seemed terribly hard work, but the sturdy dalesman's hornier hands stood the strain very much better than mine and, as soon as our farewells had been said and Petty started down the valley, the next question was: where should we go for a climb? Mr. Bowring, who had been the means of bringing us together, wanted for some reason to take the direction of Sty Head and it was arranged that we should all three go together as far as the great scree funnel at the east end of the Napes known as Hell Gate, though I believe that the maps call it Deep Gill. Here there was at that time a curiosity in the way of climbs. From the stream of scree rises a small island of rock forming a very narrow ridge. The actual crest of this ridge then consisted of a line of sharp triangular blocks all severed from the mother rock but resting pretty firmly on it, owing to their bases being flat though extremely narrow. The problem of passing along them from end to end (which could only be done astride) was delicate enough, but when it came to crossing the gap left by the only block which had fallen, without pulling over either the block you were leaving or that to which you were seeking to transfer your weight, it made all ordinary conjuring tricks seem clumsy by comparison. After many struggles Robinson had to confess defeat by stepping into the gap; but the next man I brought there did far worse, for he pulled two of the tallest blocks over and at my last visit nothing remained of that once exciting problem. Our next business was to hunt for my elusive pinnacle and make an examination of the Napes as we went. With this object we climbed up at once and then began a traverse across the face, keeping a rough level of perhaps 100 feet above the foot of the rocks. It was a jolly climb and before long we came rather suddenly into full view of the rock which we were seeking. Robinson's delight was unbounded, and he eagerly inquired whether any Swiss guide would be ready to tackle such a thing. We did not go down to it, but continued our course to the gap between it and the main rock, turned up the Needle Ridge for a few yards, and crossed it into the Needle Gully, which we followed to the top. Two years later some friends who had been climbing with me were to leave by way of Drigg and we arranged to start a couple of hours earlier than would otherwise have been needful in order that I might help them along with their sacks, have a farewell climb with them on Buckbarrow, and then return to Tyson's. We rose very early, but some of the party were slow in getting off and we had to hurry. The result was that the long walk in a hot sun left me with a headache by the time I got back to the Inn. The afternoon was cooler, and it occurred to me to stroll over into the head of Ennerdale and have a look at the cliffs on that face of Gable. These had never been climbed at any point, though Cookson and I had made a horizontal route across them about half-way up. The marks of a recent stonefall drew my attention to a part of the cliff where I found a very fine gully and climbed it, not without difficulty, being impeded by a long fell-pole. Coming out on the top of the mountain I thought of the ridge beside which Robinson and I had come up two years before and made for it, intending to follow the edge down as strictly as might be. This proved to be quite feasible, though at one point my pole gave me a lot of trouble by dropping down a deep and narrow crevice. However, the ridge was so steep at that spot that some 20 feet below, on peering into the crack, I espied my stick stuck upright, and by thrusting my arm in was at length able to reach it with my fingertips and finally to draw it out. Continuing down into the gap and now warmed by exertion, I forgot my headache and began to examine the Needle itself. A deep crack offered a very obvious route for the first stage, but the middle portion of this crack was decidedly difficult, being at that time blocked with stones and turf, all of which has since been cleared away. Many capable climbers were afterwards turned back when trying to make the second ascent not by the sensational upper part but by this lower and (under present conditions) very simple piece. From the top of the crack there is no trouble to reach the shoulder, whence the final stage may be studied at ease. The summit is near, being as they say in Transatlantic cities "only two blocks away", but those same blocks are set one upon the other and the stability of the top one looks very doubtful. My first care was to get two or three stones and test the flatness of the summit by seeing whether anything thrown-up could be induced to lodge. If it did, that would be an indication of a moderately flat top, and would hold out hopes of the edge being found not too much rounded to afford a good grip for the fingers. Out of three an early photograph of Napes Needle (Abraham Collection) missiles one consented to stay, and thereby encouraged me to start, feeling as small as a mouse climbing a milestone. Between the upper and lower blocks, about five feet up, there is a ragged horizontal chink large enough to admit the toes, but the trouble is to raise the body without intermediate footholds. It seemed best to work up at the extreme right, where the corner projects a little, though the fact that you are hanging over the deep gap makes it rather a "nervy" proceeding. For anyone in a standing position at the corner it is easy to shuffle the feet sideways to the other end of the chink, where it is found that the side of the top block facing outwards is decidedly less vertical. Moreover, at the foot of this side there appeared to my great joy a protuberance which, being covered with a lichenous growth, looked as if it might prove slippery, but was placed in the precise spot where it would be most useful in shortening the formidable stretch up to the top edge. Gently and cautiously transferring my weight, I reached up with my right hand and at last was able to feel the edge and prove it to be, not smooth and rounded as it might have been, but a flat and satisfactory grip. My first thought on reaching the top was one of regret that my friends should have missed by a few hours such a day's climbing, three new things, and all good; my next was one of wonder whether getting down again would not prove far more awkward than getting up! Hanging by the hands and feeling with the toes for the protuberance provided an anxious moment, but the rest went easily enough, though it must be confessed that it was an undoubted satisfaction to stand once more on solid ground below and look up at my handkerchief fluttering in the breeze.'

Note: This remarkable solo first ascent of Napes Needle took place on either the 27th or 30th June 1886 and is generally reckoned to mark the foundation of rock-climbing as a sport in its own right, ie distinct from mountaineering. The route is graded Hard Severe today.'



Fell-walkers who are geologists, landscape sketchers and the like, with an eye for natural form, must often wonder at the queer facts they meet with. Our hills are full of details that can't have been shaped by erosion or any straightforward act of Nature, though we begin by fancying that everything is wild and primeval, untouched by man and his sophistications. When we were very young we rejoiced in the notion that God made the country by himself, whoever built the nasty town we had come from. But when we grow up, we find everything mixed, at any rate in the Lake District. We can't escape from the works of man; and, after a while, we learn that much of the romance of the fells means that men have been there before; that this is no undiscovered country, and that we are not the first who ever burst into the silence. Perhaps the oddest instance of this is Ruskin's favourite seat at Beck Leven. He used to say, that if a single chimney of the Barrow ironworks appeared in the outlook from his rural retreat, he should never take joy in it more: and choosing the most retired spot for contemplation of its charms, what should he do but sit on a slag-heap, among the ruins of an iron-furnace, ancient, it is true, and overgrown, but none the less, the scene of once grimy, smoky industry. And there is Peel Island almost in view, the loveliest spot on the lake, so peaceful and idyllic in its pure retirement, without even a nettle to betray the presence of an invader! Thorstein of the Mere is pure fancy, and Swallows and Amazons, which, I hope, every lake-lover has taken to his heart, describes it, too, though cunningly camouflaged (I trust I am not letting cats out of bags). Well, you have picnicked there, but did you ever spot the ancient quarry at the harbour where you built your campfire? That was where Adam of Beaumont and his outlaws, in 1346, or certainly somebody of that time, got the stones to build their Peel castlet, to be a plague to the neighbours. That is romance of history. Now in the fells ”even in the high fells ”these surprises happen in unlikely places. I pass the barrows, perhaps thousands of years old, the circles and dykes, all of which nobody has yet thoroughly examined, and many traces or sites of ancient strongholds, very little known, to come to a time much later, though old enough to be romantic. For the sake of sparing your patience, I shall confine myself to Coniston fells, and I think you will find some surprises even there. The German miners, as must be pretty well known from Elizabethan Keswick and Lake District History came in Elizabeth's reign, to Keswick, at first, in 1565, and then to Coniston in 1599. The business headquarters were in Augsburg, but many of the men were Tirolese. At first there was opposition; but as they brought employment and money to the district, and married Cumberland girls, they soon became friendly with our natives; indeed, the industry was a great blessing at a time when the dissolution of the abbeys had left the dales-folk very poor. Many thousands of pounds came from Germany and went into English pockets; perhaps, the fact is a surprise in itself to some. They began work by digging down upon any outcrops they found. They complained bitterly of the wet; no wonder: and spent a good deal in bailing it out. Then they took to driving levels to drain these trenches, which were sometimes huge. The tunnels were as small as they could make them, for they had not tumbled to the notion of using a jumper and gunpowder for blasting rock, and the Coniston stratum of rock in which the copper usually lies is about the hardest known. It had to be picked out, bit by bit, with various devices of wedges and with softening by fire, all very tedious. And the result was the coffin-shaped holes, just big enough for a man to squeeze through. When these levels are found here they mean the workings of the German miners, and they are usually just beneath the great trenches, which were the real mines, in their early form. The mining monopoly ceased with the outbreak of the Civil Wars so that, in the Coniston fells, work would be from 1600 to 1650; and, of course, the original holes and heaps are weathered and defaced. Also, in many cases, later work was restarted on the same spot; so that the actual relics are not always easy to distinguish. But we have descriptions dating 285 from 1600 onwards, and with these in hand, Major Oscar Gnosspelius has worked out the ancient sites which I will describe. The list I can give is rather better than the one printed three years ago in the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society, for it gives additional information contributed by Mr. John Shaw, foreman to Mr. Gnosspelius, and an authority on local mining traditions. The earliest were those called (1) the Low Work; (2) the White Work, and (3) Tongue Brow, within half-a-mile north of die present mines buildings and up Red Dell. In looking for them care must be taken, for later operations have enormously enlarged the underground excavations and in one place, at Tongue Brow, there is a gaping hole, fenced, but not to be played with. Forty years ago, when the pump was still going, one could go by the rotten and ricketty ladders and gangways, smothered in a cobweb growth of ghastly gray fungus, down far below sea-level, to 255 fathoms, more than 1,500 feet beneath the surface. But since the great water-wheel was demolished, water has partly filled the abyss, and the fate of anyone who fell into these black depths would be irretrievable perdition. But the German trenches are there, as the old plan shows, and visible enough if you know where to look. The Low Work is at the foot of Rough Gill, just east of Red Dell or Thriddle Beck, below the cart track and above Taylor's Level, as marked on the 6-in. map. The White Work is on the west of the beck ”an east-and-west trench almost continuing the Low Work; and Tongue Brow workings run E.S.E. and W.N.W to the west of the last under Kernel (i.e., the crenellated) Crag. Enough ore was taken out in the first few years to make it worth while to build a stamp-house for crushing it before it was sent, on pack-horses, to Keswick, in its prepared state for smelting. Documents at Rydal Hall show that in 1620 the farmers downstream complained of the sand so created, which over-ran and spoiled their land, until the course of the beck was straightened so as to carry it off. That beck is now known as the Church Beck, but was then called St. Martin's, obviously from the chapel built in 1586. It is unfortunate that the name was lost. There was no tradition of St Martin at Coniston when the present church was restored and named St. Andrew's by Bishop Goodwin; and it is only recently that I found the solitary deed that preserves the interesting name. Several papers give the old workings; the most complete is in an article of the year 1700, in the PktlosopMcal Transactions of the Royal Society, which repeats lists drawn up for Sir Daniel Fleming. As owner of the estate as well as antiquary, he had a direct interest in Coniston mines and made some attempt to revive them, though without success. From these we learn that the German digging before the Civil Wars was at ten sites, of which the three already named were the first. I will go on from these to the rest.(4) At the Red Dell or Thurdle or Thriddle Head they found a promising spot, five-sixths of a mile north of the last named. Indeed, it was supposed that this was going to be a gold mine, just as Sir Walter Raleigh and other explorers of the age were always taken in by a glitter in the minerals they found, and jumped to the conclusion that their fortune was made. Some small amount of gold is, indeed, present in the ore: more silver: but when Queen Elizabeth's charter claimed in addition any "precious stones or pearl" that turned up, it was no more than a quaint manner of speaking. This mine, its pious founders called "God's Blessing," just as they called the rich deposit in Newlands "Gottesgab" or "God's Gift," corrupted by the natives to "Gowdscope" whence "Goldscope". There, too, you find the great open trenches and levels still to be seen.(5) Hen Crag, really on Swallow Scar, at 1,800 feet above sea-level, half-a-mile due east of the last, is another German working; which shows how thoroughly they explored the high places in the old days.(6) The "Semy" Work, by which I understand Seamy, because it was in a number of separate seams, on the south-east shore of Levers-Water, was started early by Fabian Erhart (who had been foreman at Caldbeck) and six others, where trenches are now disguised by later workings. About these, it was said that  "if the Tarn were drained, it's thought that all these seven would come into one, and that it would be the best work that ever was seen in these parts." In the nineteenth century the forecast was justified by work done under the tarn, which the Germans were unable to tackle. The great artificial chasm, called Simon Nick, shows how rich the place was. I suppose Simon Puchberger was the hero, one of a large family at Coniston. By the legends he died tragically; they say the devil, who had been his accomplice, turned on him at last; but not before he had made his fortune: for he was buried in Hawkshead Church, not in the churchyard, and by that token must have been a rich man. (7) Gray Crag beck. One end of Puddingstone cove is filled with the outcast from the Paddy End mines. Most of this is later work and the original German digging has been obscured. But the place has been so disturbed, all the way up to the waterfall, that it looks like a patch of volcanic eruption.(8) "Brumfel ¯, as Brimfell was formerly called, is the crag between Paddy End and Low-water fall. You see a later level at the foot of the cliff; but higher up, and only to be reached by climbing, is the ancient John Dixon's work. (9) The Wide Work, or Thomas Hirn's, is described as "wrought to sixty fathoms and over twenty-six inches wide.... from the last about two miles." I thought once that it was the old working you find between Great and Little How crags (as they are called on the Ordnance map); but the distance better fits a site of old digging north of Wetherlam cove, near the Haystack. (10) Finally Tilberthwaite. The Three Kings ”no doubt Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, which were all names of German miners and their favourite saints, though the Germans were Protestants ”was the name they gave the mines above and in Micklegill. In 1600 they were given up for a time because the ore did not turn out well in the smelting. But later, they were worked again to advantage. Some of the holes and trenches seem to be ancient, but I can't identify the St Edward's stollen, or tunnel, mentioned in 1600. So much for Coniston. To treat the rest of the Lake district even in this sketchy way, would make a long story ”Newlands and Borrowdale, Grasmere, Butternere and Eskdale, and Uttle unsuspected diggings in various out-of-the-way places, not to say the whole of the Caldbeck area, at the back of Skiddaw; I don't pretend to know them all so intimately. But one point emerges. When the Germans were at work, there was bitter opposition, for one reason or other. Where is it now? And some day, Nature will have got the better of all the builders and engineers, and Lakeland will be itself again. But meanwhile?'



Scores of people are making farewell visits this summer to Haweswater, passing along the sweet little valley to the quaint and tiny church and to the Dun Bull Hotel beneath the great screes of Harter Fell. Some of us admit that we have paid more than four final visits, and each week-end we find that the roar of engines never ceases on the rough worn road, and that parties of walking folk come over the tracks from Shap, Ullswater and Windermere. Few, however, except persons of local residence or origin, recall that the tragedy of Haweswater, condemned to make a reservoir of Manchester water, involves the destruction of Longsleddale, down which the new pipe-line must be laid. This description was written before the engineers attacked the old dales road. The guide books have little to say about this southern dale. It is the Long Whindale of Mrs. Humphry Ward's novel of clerical life, Robert Elsmere, and that is all. The guide-maps are usually erratic, or at least uncertain, about a place so far from the great lakes. The other day I had the pleasure of introducing a veteran rambler, whose knowledge of the Lake country, Wales, Derbyshire and Yorkshire is profound, to a fresh countryside, and he pronounced it good ”yes, very good. We started from Rendal, but the Snap road was humming with motors so an escape was made into the lanes at Mint Bridge. Here, for a mile, we tramped between hedgerows lit up with wild roses and trailed with honeysuckle. At an old bobbin-mill (now a factory of pick-axe shafts) we joined the little River Sprint which drains Longsleddale to the Rent above Rendal. A more conscientious start would have brought us to Burneside Station, and then past the ruined pele tower, partly a white-washed farm (where the film of Owd Bob, a story of sheep-dog life, was mainly shot), past the thin shell of "George Fox's Oak" at the cross-roads to Sprint Bridge, and so by footpath up the riverside to Oak Bank mill. From Oak Bank the path bumps along drought-hardened river-banks and meadows, with here and there a glimpse into the clear low pools of the Sprint. At one place we watched a crayfish grope and hunt along the rock floor. For ten minutes it was easily visible, then it passed out of sight beneath some trembling water. Above the farm of Bethom Bank, there is a fine little view; one is conscious that the stream comes through a deep gorge between the hills. Beyond Gurnal Bridge, the direct route upstream is uncertain. On the right side (or left bank) there is a long coppice wood through which campers and angling folk have worn a path. This leads to a most delightful bathing pool, a great rock-basin overhung by feathery birch and rowan, with larches and great masses of sycamores. The water is deep, and one sees shoals of trout cruising at all levels. There were one or two fine chaps to attract the covetous, but in clear waters of summer, only night-fishing has the slightest chance of success. These giants, such as they are, represent the survival of many  "Attest". Going forward, the route is either coppice wood or rocky pasture, where little damage can be done by the wanderer. One prefers to climb out of the gorge to the Burneside road, crossing by the rocks above the little force and cutting up the coppice. The rights of way hereabout are somewhat hazy, but many a year ago there was a definite but perhaps only neighbourly short cut across to the Shap road which saved considerable distance on the way to Whinfell and Grayrigg. The situation of Garnett Bridge, as seen from the Burneside road, is interesting. The little tangle of old mills and cottages seem to spill across the gorge, and really the place is worth a glance. A generation ago there was a bobbin mill as well as the corn mill and the joiner's shop, and one heard that in still earlier times there was a mill for local wool, and a great shed where the coppice fellers sorted out their bark. The old cobbler at Garnett Bridge was a famous tanner-of cow hides and a sportsman with rod and gun. The shop has long been removed to the Shap road, an isolated cottage where the worker depends on trade from ploughmen and shepherds and farmers who believe  "there 's nowt like leather". We tramp the old ways in new crepe rubbers. The Sprint comes through Garnett Bridge by a deep gorge cut in rock. There is a clean green pool below the two mill spouts, and the stones are cupped and worn into smooth shoots and gentle curves. Here we enter Longsleddale proper, a dale in which for fifty years no new house was built. In the prosperous times when old Mrs. Howard was owner of Levens Hall, she had farms rebuilt even on the outlying estates, and to keep them in countenance she rebuilt the church and school and added a vast parsonage. I don't know what the vicar's stipend is worth to-day, but it would take £1,000 a year to keep the house and grounds in the worthiest order. Just above Gamett Bridge is the ruin of another bobbin mill, that of Cocks Close, so long out of service that I doubt whether more than one man lives who worked at its lathes. The ramshackle wooden footbridge has gone, doubtless jerked away by some flood. Forty years ago it was so staggery that one used it with caution. There is memory of a step, one stormy night, with the torrent roaring below, through a gap in its structure, and a wild half-second before descent was pulled up. Dalefoot, half-a-mile beyond, has its porch overtumbled with roses. Now for a couple of miles one walks a road through scenes almost as beautiful as those between Brothers Water and Patterdale village. This is a cameo of true Lakeland, the last outpost of beauty toward the tamer Pennine dales. One cannot write of it without enthusiasm, though caution is always preached. Who can fail to find joy in the land of his fathers, in looking at sheep walk and hillside where they worked, at white-walled cottages and farms where they lived? However, one's pride is soon tumbled into the dust. Right in the old dale is a squat, cement built garage with the inscription in raised letters, "HaHa, Beloved Ones. There is record of the mileage to London, Yarmouth and Edinburgh for the practical, and signs of the Zodiac to suit the mystic” and the infernal smell of the place is none the less because it provokes sulphurous language from the passer-by who has known, loved, aye and respected this dale. Anyway, roll on, Manchester, with the pipe-line; if the scheme does nothing more it will wipe out this haoht of vandals who can live in a dale and yet not give it proper respect. Longsleddale rises in four or five benches; the narrows at the church mark one, and there is peaty meadow and shingly marsh above. There is another narrow near Li'le Lunnon, where one farm is all that remains of a most stirring community which kept the lime-kilns burning in the hillside and knapped, from the Stockdak grits, the finest whetstones known to the scythemen of many dales. Longsleddale is now a mere rift in the mountain head for half-a-mile, until we reach the hamlet of Sacgill, with two empty steadings and the farm over which Mrs. Fishwick used to preside. Nowadays, the house does not cater for casual strangers, but one recalls those pre-war times when 250 persons might drive or walk up from Kendal and Staveley, and be sure of lavish supplies of food and drink. Now we are within half-a-dozen miles of the Dun Bull inn at Mardale with a cart-track winding into the gap between Gray Crag and Hatter Fell on its way to Gatescarth pass. This is a fine walk though the slate sleds have cut up the going. The open dale head is striking, though in dry weather its feature of dashing water is not visible. The Sprint beck has been trickling gently over mossy stones, now near, now across die dale, and at Sacgill there was die music, thin and hushed, of a beating cataract. Under Goat Scar there is a shingly level where die streams wander any way, and then the rivulet is lost in a deep rock cleft. In a normal summer there is vision of tossing white waters, of broken spray blinking in the sunshine, but to-day the springs are almost dry, and we see sun-dried rocks where usually there are cascades. When the path begins its steep ascent, Gray Crag seems almost to overhang and to threaten with loose blocks. That pile of debris to the right is famous Buckbarrow earth. When hounds are out in the dale, a good deal of "stopping" is necessary and, more than that, the shepherds take up posts waiting with any stray hounds which they slip when Reynard makes a burst to get to an impregnable haunt. Often enough the redskin is turned into die jaws of the chasing pack. Among these fells, die fox is a terror, and every hunt aims at a kill. For half-an-hour, the gritty steep track takes up most attention. The rugged front of Goat Scar is well seen in profile behind; so are the crumbly spires of Gray Crag. The rivulet is now a mere spout among die stones, often hidden, and never gready in evidence. In time of storm, however, every yard of rock hereabouts seems to give off die thunder of waters. But here ends die joy of die dale. Just as die pass seems about to ascend a final ladder and become a second Stye Head, we enter a dull, boggy, grassy basin: in a hundred yards we pass from the Lake Country to disappointing Pennine scenery. We are out of Longsleddale before the scene is redeemed and we can look over the deep trough of Mardale, over die rocks of Riggindale to shapely Kidsty Pike. Nature has played a trick on us in that last bit of Longsleddale after promising so much. Worst of all, Manchester's new water scheme will not alter this blighted picture.'



Many of us who visited Lakeland thirty years ago still have happy memories of dialect stories related either at the evening fireside in farm or cottage, or in the company of dalesfolk at a sheep shearing or a pig killing. The dalesman has few words for the stranger. A lady on her first visit to the head of Langdale valley met a shepherd and his dog coming down the road; she felt she must speak, and greeted him with, "Good morning; I am so charmed with this country of yours and these wonderful hills; how I envy you, for I know you must have climbed them every day." The shepherd replied:  "Dog hes," and walked on. One day in Borrowdale three climbers got back to the farm very proud of their first climb; the farm lad met the leader at the yard gate and said: "Are ye yan o' them dimmers?"  "Yes, we have climbed Cusf s Gully to-day." "Cusf s Gully! Why, ya don't caw that climmin? Ah'd tek a horse an' cart up theear!" During a dry spell of weather these enthusiasts asked a farmer if he knew Piers Ghyll. In a very grave and solemn voice he replied:  "Piers Ghyll, Piers Ghyll! Ah, it's a most tremendous queer spot." There is an old mine hut at the head of Ennerdale where one very wet day four climbers sought shelter on their way from Seatoller, intending to climb Pillar Rock. A shepherd who was also taking shelter with his two dogs made them welcome; he had come up that morning from his farm down at "Innerdle Brig", as he called it, to "leuk sheep". He rented 10,000 acres in Ennerdale at three farthings an acre and kept about 2,000 sheep. It was an entertainment to listen to his conversation; talking about hard work and long days, he said:  "Yan hes ta tee yans garters gay sune in a morning. Wet days, dud ya say? Ah why yan gits used to sich like; it's far warse i' winter. Doon at haam t'other neet my missus was sending oor li'le lad an arrand doon tat village; it was dark and black as a bull bide, rained and blew ter'ble; lad stood at dooar; Mother went to leuk oot and said: 'Ay, what a neet; come in, mi lad; it isn't fit ta turn a dog oot; thee father'U gang.' I hed ta gang." Someone suggested that instead of lunching in Great Doup and sitting on wet rocks we should have lunch in the hut. The shepherd had his snack at the same time; the two dogs got the scraps, after which pipes were filled. The rain kept coming down in torrents, clouds were lowering down Black Sail Pass, the beck was in flood. Somebody started singing  "Slattery 's Light Dragoons.” "We're not as brave as lions, But am brave nor a hen; He who fights and runs away Will live to fight agen." The kindly host warmed to the singing and would insist on "John Peel". How the rafters rang. Then he told this story: ” Years gone by, High Bank Farm had a very big hay-time before the days of mowing machines; all the grass had to be cut by the scythe, and this required many extra men. They worked hard, from early morning to long as they could see. Men would say, "Yans shoes is niwer caald". Old John of. High Bank was a fine type of yeoman, but Betsy, his wife, had the name of being very careful and not too lavish with meat. She would give the men dishes of curds and whey in place of more substantial food. Each day Old John would go up to see how the men were getting on with the haymaking. One morning he was very disgusted to find his men just dragging their scythes through the grass and chanting a very mournful dirge slowly:  "Curds and whey, iwery day; iwery day curds and whey." John went straight back to the farm and shouted:  "Betsy! Wheear is ta?"  "I 'se here; what's up noo?"  "What's up? Why, thoo's hungerin' them lads wi' thee curds and whey; they can hardly lift ther leighs [scythes], th'r that wake and faintly like. Noo, think on, thoo'l fry 'em a girt dish of ham and eggs for breakfast in f morning." Betsy said:  "We can't affoord it." John said: "Ay, but I'se maister here." So next morning the men were amazed when Betsy lifted a huge dish of fried ham and eggs on to the table. This put them in fine fettle for work, and when old John went up later to the hayfield he could hear a different tune; and, on looking over the wall, saw them working like steam engines and singing in very quick time : "Ham and eggs.' mind thee legs. Mind thee legs; ham and eggs." The clouds were lifting; Gable, Kirk Fell and Pillar were just discernible through the mist, our host talked of setting off home as he had to be back for milking time; but before leaving he told a story about a woman in Lorton Parish. A farmer's wife from a lonely house in the fells landed down at Cockermouth one dark winter's night to ask the doctor to come and see her husband who, she said, was "Varra bad". The doctor had been out all day and got wet through and didn't want to turn out again if it could be helped.  "Now, my good woman, just tell me what's the matter with your John." "Ay, Doctor, his heed's bad and he shivers frae head to foot."  "Well, Mrs, just go back home, get John to bed, give him a pint of gruel, take his temperature, and I'll look in and see him to-morrow." Next day the doctor walked into the farm kitchen and said to Mrs.: "Well, and how's John to-day?" "Oh, he's better," she exclaimed, ¯but I hed a terrible job wi' him. I gat him ta bed and, ay, he was stupid; then I hed a job to git that pint o' gruel intul him. I couldn't tak' his temperature, 'cos wi hevn't a thing to dew it, saa ah put barometer on his chest; pointer whizzed roond and roond, but it stopped at dry. Saa ah warmed him two mair pints o' gruel; then he gat ta sleep, and to-day he's better and gone up t ' fell ta leuk sheep." The rain had ceased; it was too late to start for Pillar, so, bidding the shepherd and his dogs good day, soon the steep sides of Haystacks were climbed, and by way of the Drum House and Honister, Seatoller was reached in time for tea. Those were the days when no sheets of zinc desecrated Honister Pass, no hoot of motor-wagon or smell of oil invaded the pure air. Now the din of machinery grinding stones and sawing slates is hideous; the once clear crystal stream is discoloured with by-products all the way to Gatesgarth. Bob, the old road man who had his stone heap near Seatoller, was a rare type. One remembers a story told of him. A quarryman passing on his way home about five o'clock stopped a moment to bid old Bob good day; he noticed a small bundle on the stone heap tied up in a red handkerchief.  "What hes ta int ' hankercher, Bob? ¯ Bob looked, scratched his head, then replied  "Damits mi dinner; ad fergitten it."¯


Words by Geo. Basterfield

It's fine to be doin' wid nabbut wot
When I ga gadderin' sheap,
I gang aboot an caw ont dogs
Ta laet 'em 'oot ont steap.
There's chaps as cums ta Wasd'le 'ead,
Fer why I nivver cud tell,
Wid nivver a sheap ta coont, mi lads,
Tha' slidder aboot ont fell,
O wid nivver a sheap ta coont, mi lads,
Tha' slidder aboot ont fell.

Chorus :
Hi, hi, git awa', git awa', cum' ere Lassie and Jack,
Hi, hi, git awa', git awa', cum' ere git awa' back.

These climmin' chaps when tha' ga oot,
Reet oop tha rocks tha' graep,
There's nobbut van road oop tha' naas
Togidder, and teed wi raep
Tha' tuk mi fer a dimmer yance
On Scowfle top yan day,
Ah nivver owivver was I a cimmer
I wark it awe the way
Ah nivver owivver was a climmer
I wark it awe the way.

I watched 'em clim' a rock yan dav,
Reet oop on " ¯Gabble" side,
At last tha git oop prettv 'igh,
Wid niwer a spot ta bide;
An then I laffed ha!, ha, ha, ha!
By gok I 'ad sum fun,
A blidderin block was t'end ot rock,
An doon tha 'ad ta cum,
O, a blidderin block was t'end ot rock,
An doon tha' 'ad ta cum.

Tha ask ma t'rooed ta Gabble top
An ar' points 'em 'oop sty 'ead,
Then 'oop tha gar bie Gabble nees,
Tha knars tha wain't be sed.
Tha nobbut git reet 'oot 'ont fell,
Ta tak' tha shorter cut,
Wen tha awe lig doon arf deead tha knars,
Awe sweeat fra' 'ead ta foot,
O tha awe lig doon arf deead tha knars,
Awe sweeat fra' 'ead ta foot.

Av watched 'em traepsin oop ont fell,
Wid niwer a sheap ta coont,
Then awe cum moiderin doon agen,
As soon as iwer tha' moont,
Then back ta Wasd'le 'ead tha' ga'
Moowed oop wi faces red,
An awe o' a ledder an nowt but bledder,
Till we git them awe ta bed;
O, tha awe o' a ledder an nowt but bledder
Till wi git them awe ta bed.

Wen snars aboot tha' awe ga 'oot,
Wi axes lang an' sharp,
An' in yon gully on gert end
Tha' git thirsels ta wark,
Tha chop aboot ta git a odd
Thar anging on bit spike.
Wen thars warkin' awe tha' way, tha' knars,
Reet 'oop ta Scowfle Pike,
O thars warkin' awe tha way, tha ' kmars
Reet oop to Scofle Pike.

FRCC Journal 1930

Link to FFRC Journal


A cheery old tramper was resting
His limbs at the end of the day,
At peace and contentedly humming,
And this was the trend of his lay:
Get me boots, rope (pipe), map, compass and rucksack,
The best of companions to me,
And we're off to the heights and the moorlands,
We're off over fell, rock and scree.

We've known all the glorious mountains,
The lovely things seen from on high;
Valleys, seas, streams and peaks spread before us,
The sun and the clouds in the sky
Get me boots, rope, etc.

We've seen the great snows in their whiteness,
Kicked steps up their slopes in the ghylls;
The sparkle of sun on the tarn ice,
The silence of frost in the hills.
Get me boots, rope, etc.

We've known rainstorm and mist and cloud drenchings,
Faced all that the North wind may send,
And full many a hard day has brought us
To calm and blue sky at the end.
Get me boots, rope, etc.

We've loved stars and moon in the darkness,
The glamour of dusk on the fells,
The peace that comes over the valleys,
The twinkle of light in the dells.
Get me boots, rope, etc.

We've roamed all the free open spaces,
With companions now grave and now gay,
And the one priceless gift it has brought us,
Content at the end of each day.
Get me boots, rope, etc.



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