The hills over the water………….by Liz Woodham……

The hills over the water

As you relax on the balcony of your Ross Bay Retreat, sipping the beverage of your choice, you may wonder about the Cumbrian hills visible over the Solway Firth. The hills you can see on a clear day (and we’ve had plenty of those this summer!) are the Northern, North Western and Western fells of the English Lake District. These categories were defined by Alfred Wainwright in his Pictorial Guides, which divided the district into seven areas comprising descriptions and hand drawn illustrations of walking routes to 214 summits in total.

The large fell which dominates the skyline on the left of your panorama is Skiddaw, at 3,054 feet the sixth highest mountain in England. Its smooth slopes have invited travellers and locals alike to climb it for centuries. Late eighteenth century visitors found the excursion a terrifying experience, describing shivering scree, vertiginous drops and storms on the summit. A hermit even dwelt on its lower slopes in the late nineteenth century. The mountain has come to be seen as a safe excursion, with ponies carrying earlier visitors to the summit and today’s walkers climbing it most frequently by the broad path which leads from the Keswick side of the mountain, passing its smaller relation Skiddaw Little Man on the way to the summit trig point. The views from here extend south to Morecambe Bay, west into the Yorkshire Dales and north over the Solway to Ross Bay and beyond. Closer at hand, Skiddaw presides over its forest to the east – which isn’t a forest at all, but a large, mostly treeless upland plateau. You may consider the Grand Tour of Skiddaw, a 44 mile ultra-marathon held in late August which takes in the summit. A cow bell has been placed there in previous years for all the participants to ring as they pass, with checkpoints en route providing refreshments. And you may conclude that you prefer to take in Skiddaw from your balcony, with the Ross Bay cattle in the foreground grazing contentedly untroubled by the ringing of cow bells and your refreshments within easy reach!