Monday, June 02, 2014

Upper Eskdale

Just back from a trip to Cumbria: a week with friends in upper Eskdale.  Lower Eskdale enjoys a sheltered climate: substantial nineteenth century villas, surrounded by lush rhododendrons and azaleas.  It's almost suburban, and very different to upper Eskdale, which is a place of rock and stone.

Our friends were intent on working their way through their Wainwrights - they have under twenty-five to go.  Almost everyone we met was also engaged on this quest.   Wainwright details 214 tops in his famous guides and the idea is to stand on the top of each one. Then you can tick it off your list, colour in the spot on your special map and log the details on the Harold Street website. You can record every detail of your walk, with photos, and GPS routes, sharing this on line.

 It's not required that you attempt every route to the top given by Wainwright, or that you climb each one separately from its base - Lakeland mountains are often in convenient "horseshoes" or spaced along one ridge,   Children of five or six have completed the challenge.  Josh Naylor, the famous fell-runner, ran up and down all 214 in three days.  But for the average middle-aged walker it is likely to take several years to complete.  Accessing the high tops often requires walking in through long valleys, tackling very steep ascents and scrambling up rocky outcrops - nothing like walking field-paths in Essex.

We are not fully committed to the task, but it has a persuasive allure.  For one thing, it provides an incentive to try different walks, and often of unfrequented areas.  This has to be a good thing, as some of the more popular walks are too heavily used for "Wandering, lonely as a cloud."  We like being able to name the tops we can see, based on previous walks of the area.  And we like the fact that we still have the health and strength to be able to climb fairly stiff ascents and negotiate over very rough terrain.

Upper Eskdale leads to Hardknott Pass, where a very challenging road winds up and over the gap in the mountain.  Less experienced drivers would find the hairpin bends and steep gradients either thrilling or terrifying, depending.

The road winds up past Hardknott Fort, where the Romans once had a commanding view of the valley right down to Ravenglass on the coast.  Excavations provided evidence that this fort was manned by legionaries from Dalmatia - presently Croatia.  This fact raises a number of questions for me about the organisation of the Roman occupying forces. At Maryport, just up the coast, the fort, Alauna, was manned by Spanish legions.  Of course, the commanders would all have communicated in Latin; maybe the foot-soldiers did not need to be able to speak the same language?  I realise how very little I know about the whole issue, beyond a book or two by Rosemary Sutcliffe.

1 comment:

Mary Lou said...

Oh, i loved Rosemary Sutcliffe books as a kid. They inspired to me to visit Hadrian's wall when my niece spent a year in Newcastle. There was a good BBC-In Our Time on Hadrian's Wall ( with discussion about languages they spoke, etc.