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Sunday, 18 May 2014

Mellbreak and Blake Fell (two Marilyns)

I met Mick and Gayle on my LEJOG walk in 2008. I have gained a reputation with them for more than my share of good fortune in  receiving cups of tea, cake, permission to camp in gardens, and chauffeuring from campsite to pub amongst many other kindnesses.

Yesterday the road to climb Mellbreak became a cul-de-sac at Low Park with two or three cottages. I thought there was no way I would be allowed to park in this private enclosure, nor for a considerable way back up the very narrow lane I had driven down.  An elderly gent appeared and I asked humbly and politely if I may park, and there was no hesitation in his affirmative reply.

On returning after my ascent I was offered tea and sat in the cottage with the gent, who is a retired clergyman, and his wife. They are both in their eighties, and they were a delight of interesting conversation making me feel so comfortable and welcomed. I was reminded of the early pioneers staying at the post office in Glenbrittle in an an atmosphere of gentility, and  similar accounts of the old days at Wasdale Head and The Old Dungeon Ghyll. I lingered half an hour or so before driving off to take in Blake Fell, my second Marilyn for the day.

Mellbreak proved to be a real mountainy mountain. I ascended by the steep northern ridge with much loose rock and scree  and scrambly bits, and I lost the path finding myself ascending by a scree filled gully which was, albeit inadvertent, a more interesting route. In retrospect I wish I had continued from the summit down the southern end to return by Mosedale but I returned by the same way I had come.

Blake Fell was approached from  Lamplugh by the Cogra Moss reservoir which is an attractive trout fishing venue. Further on I met a guy trailing a sack on a rope along the ground laying a hound trail. If you have never been to one I recommend it highly. Below is a description I wrote way back.

The photos show a glorious day, but the wind was overpowering. I tried to find a geocache on the summit, but when I followed the clue: "25 metres NW from the summit under a small rock", GPS was showing a different location SE of the summit, and there was no small rock, and I could hardly stand up or prevent the paper notes and map being ripped from my hands by the ferocious wind, so I aborted to complete the horseshoe of the Lamplugh Fell area returning by the south western shores of Cogra Moss.


 On a family holiday with the caravan at Consiton we saw an advert in a shop window for a hound trail.
We found the location  at the end of a track up in the hills above the village. A collection of ramshackle cars, vans and pick-ups used by farmers and shepherds to transport the hounds, and the lack of tourist cars indicated this is predominantly a local pursuit.
Bags soaked in aniseed are dragged cross-country for several miles for the hounds to follow as a race. 
There was an air of tension around the starting area and an informal system of betting was under way. Chatting to onlookers we learned that hounds are starved before the race, but get a meal at the finish – they only have to compete once for that knowledge to be embedded, so they are all barking and straining at the leash  and the clamour combined with the excitement of the betting creates a lively atmosphere before the hounds are released.

The course is laid out so that action can be seen for a large part of the race. As the return of the hounds is anticipated the biggest drama unfolds. All the owners gather at the finishing line with bowls of food which they bang and rattle, at the same time shouting and bawling encouragement to their hounds who, as they approach, are making even more noise in full cry. The food is consumed in a matter of seconds with  frightening voraciousness.

Low Park. My host's cottage on right and Mellbreak above

Mellbreak. Another Marilyn

The scree filled gully of my ascent and distant Loweswater

Loweswater from Mellbreak summit

Northern end of Buttermere with Grassmoor. The steepness of the descent can be seen from the foreground

Blake Fell. Taken from south western shore of Cogra Moss on my return

South from Blake Fell summit

Zoom from same view as previous pic. Head of Buttermere and Fleetwith Pike


afootinthehills said...

When I moved back to Scotland (from Essex) my boss at the new company was a Cumbrian whose favourite hill was Mellbreak. About 18 months later he left to return to his beloved fells and asked me to join him at his new organisation. I didn't but often walked in the Lakes with him enjoying a wonderful day on Mellbreak in June 1979, although I can't remember our line of ascent being such a long time ago.

I have little doubt that had I moved to the Lakes all those years ago I would never have left.

mike M said...

That looks like serious climbing...good photos. I recently looked up "red herring" to find its origins. Some lexies say the phrase derives from a practice of dragging the strongly scented fish across a primary scent trail, to confuse the dogs. I didn't gather whether this act of treachery was within the rules or known to all the dog owners. As money and pride are involved it's easy to imagine an owner teaching his own dog an aversion to fish, then slinking about on the eve of a race, dragging the fish.

Sir Hugh said...

Afoot - Although I live on the edge of The Lakes, and have never lived more than an hour or so drive away I have still only climbed about half of The Wainwrights - I have never consciously set myself to complete them, being more interested in rock climbing, and latterly completing The Munros and long distance backpacking, I reckon it is not a bad thing to still have plenty to go at on an occasional basis, although these hills are more tame than your Scottish ones. I have been ambitious to tick off the Lake District Marilyns and now only have four left to do. Mellbreak is definitely near the top of my Lakes list now.


Mike M - I had a look at Wikipedia and came up with the explanation you quote, but as a secondary theory something which I much more applaud:

"...however, modern linguistic research suggests that the term was probably invented in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, referring to one occasion on which he had supposedly used a kipper to divert hounds from chasing a hare..."

Hound trails are a commendable alternative to dressing up in silly clothes and chasing wildlife across the countryside with a pack of dogs.

Roderick Robinson said...

"... still have plenty to do."

A distressing allusion as if they're all written out ahead in a diary, measured in firkins and pennyweights. Grist for a mindset that concludes: that's another done, instead of, perhaps, that's another enjoyed. Isn't the real test for a love of the countryside the ability to extract enjoyment from a route that is notionally repeated but is actually nothing of the sort: depending as it does on the weather, seasonal differences in what one sees, the state of one's digestion, the equivocal experience of meeting or not meeting people, and - most important but hardest to organise - a modified sense of exploration which has more to do with self than with the landscape.

Once upon a time "having things to do" used to result in peak-bagging. This was generally regarded as a term of contempt but, as usual, it was necessary to go behind the scenes. Peak-bagging was what those who could do did, those who couldn't (ie, me and others) were forced to turn their minds to some form of abuse.

Ruskin's greasy pole brought up to date.

MikeM is referring to Cobbett's Rural Rides, a book which presented father with a serious politico-intellectual problem: "Wrote well about the country if one ignored the political stuff." I see Cobbett is referred to as a polemicist; think of this as a contemporary Tory euphemism for those who worried about the conditions of the rural poor.

Sir Hugh said...

RR -Reading that comment in isolation may lead one to the conclusions you define but my blog and my record on the whole belie that entirely. I see no reason why one should not be, at the same time, a peak bagger and an appreciator of the incredible diversification, and as you say, ever changing sights, sounds and aromas of nature.

Mike M did not refer to Corbett by name - he was mentioned in the quote I lifted from Wikipedia in my reply to Mike M. I can imagine Father having reservations about Corbett's anti-hunting stance.

Coincidentally another Corbett created his eponymous list of 221 mountains in Scotland between 2500ft and 3000ft back in the Twenties. A quick look at William C in Wikipedia motivates me to investigate further - looks like an interesting character.

Roderick Robinson said...

Cobbett not Corbett.

Sir Hugh said...

RR - Oh dear! I think I'd better claim dyslexia. I now recognise that name as well known in our heritage even though I knew little about him.

mike M said...

If I referenced Cobbett it was accidental and once removed. I'd never heard of him until today.