Starting a steady climb up the fell and feeling the first tweaking complaints from my hamstring, I found myself pondering the intransigence of this long-standing injury. It’s been with me for over a year having started just before I ran from John O’Groats.
It’s an unusual injury in that it is acknowledge that rest is absolutely the wrong thing to do for it as it becomes more painful; sitting and stretching are also bad. It’s important to keep moving, and running is ok so long as I don’t run uphill or fast (no chance of that!) In addition I developed an ankle problem on the same side in May which has also persisted. Despite treatment and complying with rehab advice it now feels like I’m taking two steps forward and three steps back. Nothing seems to help so I’m just continuing with slow, steady maintenance activity to try and retain some level of fitness; easy runs, short hikes on the fells with a bit of climbing and some gentle cycling.
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My partner does some volunteering on the fells and occasionally if I’m free then I cadge a lift as he’s often headed to parts of the Lake District that I’ve not been. This week he was at Three Shire Stone and as I’ve not explored from there I went along. As he and his socially-distanced chums left to head up to Crinkle Crags, I followed a finger post to a footpath in the opposite direction towards the Coniston range. The weather was poor as predicted and clag shrouded the mountain tops. It started raining heavily as I climbed higher and I met a cold wind whipping up the valley. A great day to test my waterproof gear and I suspected I wouldn’t see too many others out today.
It’s challenging to navigate when I can only see a few yards around me yet I found the little used trod I needed to take me to Grey Friar only to have it fade out after a short distance. Continuing on in the same direction I met and followed the main path to the top where, apart from the summit cairn, there wasn’t much to see.
I carry a flask of hot chocolate in cold conditions and enjoyed some of this before retracing my steps this time staying on the main path and heading for Swirl How where again the extent of the view was the cairn itself.
The weather was now behaving exactly as the forecast icon predicted with its two heavy raindrops battering me as the wind gusted haphazardly from all directions. My feet were quite wet but warm in my merino wool-lined socks. The rest of me was dry and I felt I probably deserved further punishment testing the waterproof layers so it was off to Brim Fell. As I plodded across Swirl Band ridge the wind suddenly parted the cloud affording a vista of Seathwaite Tarn to my west. This was originally a small tarn but was enlarged in 1904 and a dam constructed at that time. History has it that some of the workforce rioted and damaged local buildings resulting in them being shot at and one losing his life.
Vision at Brim Fell cairn was almost as obscured as the other tops but the precipitation had eased back on the gas and life was becoming distinctly more pleassant. As I returned along the ridge, the foggy veil that had so far blemished my wanderings lifted and Levers Water and Coniston village beyond appeared. This tarn was dammed in the early 18th century to provide water for the local copper mines and for Coniston itself.
My only companions today had been sheep sporting a variety of colours and who for the most part ignored me although one or two were happy to pose for a photograph.
I judged that the volunteers would not stay long at their work and chose to head back to the car taking in another top, Great Carrs, on the way. Just before the top I came across a memorial which I might have missed if the cloud hadn’t lifted.
Eight RAF airmen had lost their lives when a Halifax bomber had crashed on the fell here on the 22nd October 1944, coincidentally I just happened to be here on the 76th anniversary of that tragedy. I took some time in sombre thought. They had been on a night navigation exercise from Topcliffe in Yorkshire but had become hopelessly lost in the clag and crashed. The plane’s landing gear remains at the memorial cairn along with a plaque recording their names.
Continuing to muse over the loss of those young men’s lives, I wandered to the Great Carrs cairn where this time the valley stretched out before me below the clouds.
The rain had now ceased completely and I made a quick visit to Little Carrs before descending back to Three Shire Stone. Doing so I could see the volunteers on the other side of the valley and we arrived back at the vehicles as if watches had been synchronised. Timing is rarely that accurate. A good morning’s walk, a little history learned and a sad anniversary observed, if only by me. And my waterproofs had lived up to their name.
Some of my companions:
The end goal is a bonus - it's the journey that changes us