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My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Friday, 23 February 2018

The secret crag

Thursday 22nd. February 2018 - Thursday  walk with Pete

Back in the sixties and my early climbing days there were often  rumours of prominent climbers of the day working on a "secret crag." And even the populated ones were unofficially claimed by a particular doyen as their personal territory for the working of first ascents - Alan Austin and Langdale, and I think White Ghyll in particular, is one example. I will come back to that shortly.

Over the last year or so my Thursday walks with Pete have been restricted to Tarmac only, and as much as possible level walking, and under three miles, in consideration of Pete's advancing years and his rheumatoid arthritis, although the latter is now pretty well controlled with a shed-load of pills. But since my knee op I have been restricted to similar parameters so we are now more equally matched.

We start from the attractive village of Bouth where a Tarmac cul-de-sac road leads for  a mile or so to finish at Hay Bridge Nature Reserve . This road is quite undulating with several fairly steep uphill and downhill sections, and I feel a bit guilty having sandbagged Pete into something a bit more arduous, but he seems to cope well and most of the time he is walking better than  me, especially on the downhill sections. I don't understand the internal mechanics of the knee, but I imagine when walking downhill the joint is allowed to dangle and this seems to cause more pain than walking uphill when the action, in my mind, is more consolidated.

The road is often unfenced which gives an air of freedom, and a less successful attempt at conquering nature. The views down to the Rusland valley to the west and the hummocky hills rising to the east make for attractive walking. We pass a small wooded tarn on the right with a hide being part of the nature reserve, and then a larger and much prettier one on the left - there is a grebe, head erect, traversing quite rapidly.

Harking back to my climbing days I  always had a sort of fantasy of discovering a secret crag, and although I know this is quite unrealistic, especially these days, I can't help being on the lookout, and as we walk down the road I spot one such possibility high on the skyline to the west and manage to get a zoom photo. Looking at that photo now it is difficult to assess the scale, but the crag looks as though it could give a bit of entertainment on a sunny summer afternoon, but all is a bit dingy today, which is demonstrated by the dull quality of the photos on this post, but either you get those photos or nothing at all. The map shows there is a footpath going close to that crag and although it is not access land there are no field boundaries between path and crag so I might have a walk up there one day to have a closer look, but today it would be too much for Pete.

Our outward walk terminates at Low Hay Bridge House where there is also a converted barn being the headquarters of the Hay Bridge Nature Reserve with free access and a wealth of information for nature lovers, and all facilities for meetings and the like.

Total distance there and back 2.84miles.



The secret crag


  1. Conrad - I remember those days of secret crags particularly the story of Les Brown (of The Nazgul and Sidewalk fame) who told competitors for new routes that he was off exploring Far East Buzzard Crag which was fictitious. Other climbers spent time trying to locate the Crag while Les claimed yet more first ascents on well known crags!

    I had the pleasure of meeting Les many years ago while working at ICI Grangemouth for the summer prior to going to university. I wanted to do The Nazgul but never found a partner willing to try it with me. A lovely chap who provided lots of info about the route.

  2. Sorry Conrad - meant to add that the crag in your photo looks very interesting and worth a look.

  3. afoot - Hi Gibson. Those climbs are beyond the grades I climbed at. We generally climbed up to HVS. I did do close to Side Walk Eliminate A which was one of my most enjoyable routes. Your Nazgul, according to my research, goes up close to Central Buttress, and I think shares the top pitch, but I understand a huge part of CB fell off involving a fatal accident. Has that affected Nazgul I wonder?

    1. Conrad - yes it does go close to CB but whether it’s been affected by the collapse of a part of CB - the flake I think - I can’t say. In any case whether The Nazgul was within my reach all these years ago or not (brash youthful confidence?) it certainly isn’t now. I know Les used one or two points of aid on the first ascent but it was freed many years ago at E3 I think.

  4. You've let the secret out now!
    It's not listed on the UK Climbing data base which suggests it may be too small. But could be OK for bouldering on, ?later in the year. Is it limestone?
    I've come across a few places whilst out walking only to find they are already known.

  5. bowlandclimber - I don't think there will be rush to do all the first ascents. It's ironic that I've harboured the fantasy of finding a secret crag for years, and now that I have I'm way past my climbing use-by-date.

  6. It’s a good area for day walking. I enjoy it round there. A nice pub in Bouth too. My climbing instructor Ralph Blain used to “claim” crags to and I New of quite a few on private land that only he had permission to access.

  7. Alan R - There are still many less frequented and un-scarred parts of the Lake District if you set your sights away from the main hills.

  8. I always think that Hay Bridge is almost a secret Nature Reserve. It's always very quiet. It can be hard to string paths together in that area to make a walk, but it's well worth the effort.

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  10. Beating the bounds - Hi Mark, Have you ever posted about it? I do like the area and may contrive another (number 3) walk around there.

  11. Yes twice that I can remember: