Series 2 – 05: Torver to Goatswater

To my surprise, this second uphill ‘stock walk’ had slipped my memory, even though I included a piece on the waterfall into Banishead Quarry in the first series. But the narrow upland valley in which the wild Tarn of Goatswater lay, beneath the giant, black cliffs of Dow Crag was very much a favourite destination.
There was a false start to begin with. Along the Broughton-Coniston road, on the way into the village, were separate signposted paths towards Coniston Old Man, and on a sunny day in 1966, with just the four of us, we set off up one. It lead nowhere, petered out on featureless slopes, and somehow we found our way back into the Village.
Mam waited with us children, in the baking heat, whilst Dad walked back alone to fetch the car. I still recall a group of lads walking up the road from the Lake, happily singing the Lovin’ Spoonful’s big smash, “Daydream”.
Did that little expedition prompt Dad to start buying the Wainwrights? (for they were his, not his brothers, and mine after his death, though I had no control over them until I began walking alone). No way of knowing now, but later that year, with my Uncle restored to the group, we set off from a bend in the road near to Torver, halfway down the Lake and back to Broughton, following another sign – Coniston Old Man 4 miles. But this path was in The Southern Fells, and those nearer the Village were not.
A farm road led to a steadily ascending path through woods, and there was the quarry with its spectacular falls, an obvious subject for Dad’s camera. And unknown too, then as now.
Above, a steep path on grass demanded effort, but led quickly to a crossroads with a major footpath at 90 degrees. This was the Walna Scar Road, leading towards the Pass of the same name, but we crossed it, climbing across an angled moor beneath the great sweep of the Old Man’s south ridge and the half-hidden crags of the Dow: a place where, a decade earlier, a Coniston schoolboy had taken photos of a UFO, and looking down on the lake where, less than a year later, Donald Campbell’s Bluebird would lift from the waters and somersault to oblivion.
Above the Moor, a long path trailed the rocks of the South Ridge, before rising to turn into the narrow basin between the two fells, and the path’s end at grey Goatswater.
We never went further. The path vanished, but it would have been easy to parallel the tarn’s shore and ascend to the rim of the hollow, but no-one else wanted to think of it. Dad and my Uncle would study the crags through their binoculars, dreaming of a world outside their reach, then perhaps one would scramble up the somewhat easier and smaller rocks on our side of the cove, and throw down a climbing rope that would be tied round my sister or I, as we practised the most basic and totally safe of rock-climbing.
One time, Dad filmed us with his cine-camera. I overheard him praising my sister for the careful, professional way she cleaned the dirt out of her handholds, and when my turn came, envious of her, I spent so much time cleaning out the handhold that the film ran out before I moved upwards.
We came here often, including one occasion when we set off from the roadhead above the Village to walk Walna Scar Pass, but, on a hot day, broke off at the crossroads to trace our way into the sheltered hollow of the Tarn.
I’ve never been back. Twice, once in each direction, I’ve crossed Goat’s Hause, with the tarn beneath me under afternoon suns, and on Cup Final Day in 1998, avoiding a game in which I couldn’t stomach seeing either Manager succeed, I crossed the moor to Walna Scar Pass, pottered on the Outlying Fells beyond it, and on a scorching afternoon of partial sight – one contact lens simply dried out beyond any hope of popping it back in and my glasses were left in the car – I returned by Banishead Quarry, taking a squinting look at an old haunt unseen in almost a quarter century, and unchanged in every respect.
These places, these walks, and a couple of other spots, are where I cannot help but be close to a family that no longer exists.
The picture is of the classic first sight we always had of Goatswater, rounding the edge of the mouth of the cove, with Dow Crag as an exciting and forbidding backdrop.

The Beiderbecke Trilogy – Part 1

It’s over twenty five years ago now, but one January Sunday evening, at the unusual hour of 8.15pm, we (being my mother, my sister and I) sat down to watch a new comedy thriller on ITV. It had had a positive, but not detailed write-up, in the papers, and something in the description of the quirky ‘crime’ that was about to be investigated by a pair of Leeds schoolteachers triggered my instinct that this would be something worth watching.

Television programmes that united the whole family were rare, my tastes usually differing from those shared by my mother and sister (I was ‘weird’, you see). But all three of us found it hilarious, and glued ourselves to the box for the next five Sundays, with much regret that there were only six episodes.

The Beiderbecke Affair was written by veteran television writer Alan Plater, and starred James Bolam and Barbara Flynn as, respectively, Mr Trevor Chaplin, expatriate Geordie, jazz and football fan, and woodwork teacher at ‘San Quentin’ High School, and Mrs Jill Swinburne, politically active conservationist, radical and English teacher at the said establishment.

When the series began, it was two years and four months since Mrs Swinburne threw out her worthless husband and Mr Chaplin began offering her lifts to school in his little yellow former Post Office van. And the following day, it would be exactly two years since Mrs Swinburne, after consuming a generous share of a bottle of Frascati, dragged Mr Chaplin into bed. Mr Chaplin wished to commemorate the event in some vaguely appropriate fashion involving Frascati, Mrs Swinburne preferred to commemorate it by having him help her deliver leaflets announcing her candidacy as a Conservation Party representative in the forthcoming Council By-Election.

Mr Chaplin elected to stay at home, listening to jazz in his rudimentary top floor flat but, still under the influence of the anniversary, confided in Mrs Swinburne his long held fantasy of being alone in his flat, listening to jazz, when there’s a knock on the door and there stands a dazzingly beautiful platinum blonde.

Mrs Swinburne was suitably scathing but, that evening, as Mr Chaplin relaxed at home, listening to (yes) jazz, there was a knock on the door. There stood a dazzingly beautiful platinum blonde. She was selling mail order, door to door, on behalf of the local Cubs football team, and had a Barnsley accent.

(Personally, I am hooked by this point, and we still haven’t got as far as the plot.)

Mr Chaplin placed an order, for a four LP set (LPs were like frisbees, only flat, and were what we used to play mp3s on) of the complete works of the legendary Bix Beiderbecke, jazz cornettist, whose playing sounded like “bullets shot from a bell”. What was actually delivered consisted of four of the world’s saddest and most unwanted collections of alleged music ever. When Mr Chaplin went to the address on his receipt, he finds it to be a demolished street.

Alone, but for Mrs Swinburne reluctantly at his side, and undaunted, he would venture into the dark underbelly of the moonstruck outer limits of Leeds, in pursuit of the right LPs.

I ask you, how could you not love a series that started like that?

The Beiderbecke Affair was a tremendous success, including a successful novelisation by Plater himself (his first venture into prose), and spawned two sequels, and a consistently successful DVD compilation, which I have recently purchased. The Beiderbecke Trilogy DVD includes six discs, four devoted to the Trilogy itself, one a CD compilation of the original music composed for the series by Frank Ricottit, on which Kenny Bake plays trumpet, and the last featuring a four part series entitled Get Lost!, also written by Plater and featuring two Leeds schoolteachers, this time played by Bridget Turner and Alun Armstrong.

A satisfyingly comprehensive accompanying booklet explained that Get Lost! was produced in 1981, being an idea by Plater that he put forward after signing to adapt J B Priestley’s The Good Companions as a thirteen part TV series, but convincing his employers that the book would work far better in nine parts (it wasn’t much cop at either length, though it beat the abysmal adaptation of Priestley’s later Lost Empires into the proverbial cocked hat). Get Lost! replaced the other four episodes.

I wasn’t previously aware that The Beiderbecke Affair was originally planned and written as a sequel to Get Lost!Get Lost Revisited – and had gone a long way into development before it was determined that Armstrong would be unavailable to reprise his role, at which point the script was revised to feature Mrs Swinburne and Mr Chaplin, a slightly different back-story, and a slightly different approach to the whole idea.

Before reviewing the Trilogy, let’s look first at this unexpected, lost (sorry), prequel.

Get Lost! June – July 1981

Plater wanted to write a detective story, set not in the traditional, romantic environs of Los Angeles, New York or the Lower East Side, but instead in the more down-to-earth setting of the suburbs of Leeds, as well as other parts of his native Yorkshire, with all the traditional elements of the detective story reinterpreted to reflect the setting. It was to be shot 100% on film, to give it a grainy look that is very LowDef to the modern eye. It was to be deliberately downbeat and non-glamorous, and star characters that were equally downbeat and non-glamorous.

The overall effect would look very old-fashioned, and very much a Seventies series in its in style and texture.

Plater originally wrote the parts of Judy Threadgold (married English teacher and socially aware activist) and Neville Keaton (expatriate jazz loving Geordie woodwork teacher) with Judi Dench and Tom Courtney in mind, but the roles went to Bridget Turner and Alun Armstrong.

The plot is simple. The half-term holiday at ‘Colditz’ Comprehensive has begun and Mr Keaton offers Mrs Threadgold her regular lift home, she being on a direct line from school to his flat. However, Mrs Threadgold unusually turns up at Mr Keaton’s flat in a mildly disturbed state: she has lost her husband.

Jim Threadgold, salesman in building supplies, has gone missing. Neville, flattered to be called upon, enthusiastic about investigating but bereft of ideas, recommended turning it over to the Police. But the dull and pedestrian DS Tomlin, based solely on Judy having turned to Neville in this ‘crisis’, suggests that maybe they have bumped off Jim, a suspicion he’s prepared to drop if they produce the missing husband.

The couple learned of a similar disappearance, affecting a Vicar and his Sunday School Teacher. The Vicar’s wife didn’t seem particularly bothered about it all, amused more than anything (she’s played by Kate Binchy, who had totally slipped my memory, but who was an actress I particularly liked, who made a memorable appearance in a BBC Christmas Ghost Story that is shortly to be released on DVD). Mrs Perry provided a link from her husband to Jim: both were members of a local Literary Society.

For the third episode, Judy and Neville followed a trail to a caravan holiday park on the North Sea coast, where they established that there was some sort of organisation assisting people to escape lives in which they feel trapped, and realise their dream: in Jim’s case, to work in a fish’n’chip shop. A gun was waved around, the dullard Tomlin was following the two ‘suspects’ and, when they found themselves trapped by fog, Judy and Neville spent the night in a caravan bed.

Finally, in a last episode entitled Not a Proper Ending, the two returned to Leeds, went back to marking their half-term homeworks (English essays, standard lamps), until their colleague Mr Meagan, a quasi-drunken cynic, identified the culprit behind this organisation as their Head of English, Miss Langley.

From here, in keeping with the episode title, the story resolved itself with Miss Langley and her young henchman leaving the area, Tomlin availing himself of their services, having gotten sick of being bullied by his Superintendent, Jim Threadgold effectively handing Judy over to Neville, behind her back, and the duo half deciding to continue their new ‘relationship’. Which, if Alun Armstrong hadn’t had other commitments,  would have led to Get Lost Revisited. I have to say I’m glad.

It’s impossible for me to judge Get Lost! on its own merits. I’ve only just seen it for the first time, having watched the Beiderbeckes a half dozen times previously. Just the fact of having different actors in all the recognisable roles creates a comparison fatal to this ‘prequel’. But overall, my most overwhelming impression reminds of when I first read Terry Pratchett.

I bought and read the first Discworld book, The Colour of Magic when it débuted in paperback, was mildly amused, and sold the book. Six months later, on holiday, having run out of books, I reluctantly bought the sequel, The Light Fantastic. I could at least rely upon it to amuse me for the evening, then I’d get rid again. But instead, I found loved it: it was as if Pratchett had  spent a long time analysing how TCOM hadn’t worked, and then gone out and done it right.

Get Lost! feels like that. It achieves Plater’s aims, but it achieves them too well, and in doing so exposes the flaws in that approach. It’s based on a serious subject – a missing husband – but Judy  never shows any sign of caring, and with no emotional underpinning, the viewer is taught to regard the investigation as pointless from the outset: just a way of taking up time.

Though Jim will, at the end, describe the wife he’s abandoned as “bloody wonderful”, Turner’s performance offers no justification for that opinion. There’s nothing to suggest why she and Jim ever wanted to get married in the first place.

Indeed, both the principal actors are too downbeat, too uninvolved with what is happening, They have no commitment to what they’re doing, and the viewer consequently isn’t offered anything about which to care.

Judy’s lack of concern about her husband’s abrupt and cowardly departure might be possible to glide over, but the same thing happens between her and Neville.  They bicker and misunderstand in a way Mrs Swinburne and Mr Chaplin will repeat, but there’s no life to it. The only emotion revealed is a brief anger that prompts them to say offensive things about each other. Thus, when Judy drags Neville off to bed in the caravan, there is no genuine emotional or physical basis for the act. It happens because the cliché of the detective story requires it to happen.

And without wishing to criticise either actor, Dench and Courtney would have done all this much better. Not only are they better actors, but once you know they were in Plater’s mind, it becomes clear how much the writing is bent towards their strengths.

The series is funereally slow, and doesn’t benefit from being shot between mid-September and late January: the North Sea does not look good in winter.

It also suffers from looking cheap.  Yorkshire TV may have been one of the ‘Big Five’ of the former ITV Network, but in terms of resources, it was a poor relation to the giants of Granada and Thames. Far too many scenes are shot in close-up, on two characters unnaturally close to each other, confining the background to a narrow compass. The lack of space cramps everything and draws attention to itself.

It’s not all bad. This being Plater, and thus never less than professional, the series has its compensations. There are lines in there, good lines, belly laugh lines all the more welcome for their overall paucity, and there are good sequences that would be more than adequately funny if they were only played with a little energy. Not too much, that would be antithetical to Plater’s dry and laconic world where nothing much happens and it doesn’t surprise anyone. But the contrast between this lethargic effort and the forthcoming Beiderbecke Affair does point out the shortcomings of Get Lost!

It would be interesting to have seen the series re-made with the relevant Beiderbecke cast delivering the same lines, because I think Get Lost! could be a far better, far funnier series if approached in the revised manner that would be introduced with Bolam, Flynn and their superbly cast colleagues. As it is, Get Lost! is partly a sketch, an outline of what would go on to be a far more detailed work, and partly an off-Broadway run that identifies the tangles, loosenesses and flaws that need to be fixed before the show’s set for its real opening.

Series 2 – 04: Mill Gill to Stickle Tarn

Among our ‘stock’ walks, this was definitely an anomaly. It’s not a valley walk, it’s uphill all the way, and in places pretty steep too. Adding in my own experiences when walking solo, when I’ve climbed this route on three separate occasions, I have probably done this walk more often than any in the Lake District. Indeed, my history with Mill Gill goes back far enough that I have walked the long fenced-off western bank of the gill, where the path no longer exists except in First Edition Wainwrights.
And again I’m behind the times, as the Gill is now increasingly known as Stickle Gill (or Ghyll, for the pretentious, and to match the more famous neighbour, Dungeon Ghyll) for the Tarn from which it debouches. The internet certainly knows it better by this new name, but I will stick with what I’ve known for all my life.
Dungeon Ghyll is still the better known – the two Hotels in Great Langdale are named for it – but its cascades are concealed in deep folds of land, twisting and turning across the breast of Harrison Stickle, highest of the Langdale Pikes. Mill Gill has always been open, a fine sight in spate, catching the eye from the New Hotel car park below. I remember my Dad saying that he preferred it.
Though it was steep, and though the path on the eastern bank rapidly eroded, we would take that rocky stairway upwards, bound for the weir at Stickle Tarn, where my Dad and Uncle would train their binoculars on the face of Pavey Ark, following brightly coloured stick figures that had the strength, agility and nerve to tackle Jack’s Rake, angling across the face in a series of exposed grooves. But there were two kids in tow, one of them under ten: it would never be practical for years to come, and when the years came Dad would not be there to do it. I’d have gone with him, in a heartbeat, by then.
Nowadays, the eastern path has been completely relaid by the National Trust: spiral crazy paving I’ve called it, since I first encountered it, descending Sourmilk Gill into Seathwaite in the pouring rain. It’s safe, it’s secure. But it’s no longer natural.
On my last visit, over-familiar with the way, I spotted a track leading uphill to the right in the early stages. On impulse, I took it, and discovered a narrow, precarious but gloriously traffic-free parallel path, about fifty feet above the main drag, all the way to the basin just below the final pull up to the Tarn. A delight that, I hope, remains unknown to the marching masses.
The path along the eastern bank has stood alone for forty years and more, but when we first visited Langdale, and first set off towards Stickle Tarn, there were paths on both banks, and the eastern route was clearly the lesser, probably newer of the two. We walked the western path at least once,and once as an access to a direct route to Harrison Stickle that began in blazing sun and ended as a group sat below the Stickle’s top turret, watching waves of cloud flowing towards us from Windermere, until its refusal to relent forced us down.
Even then, the western path was badly eroded. On our next visit it was fenced off, to prevent further damage. It stayed fenced off to enable the land to recover. And it has recovered so well that no-one visiting Mill Gill today would suspect there had ever been a path there at all.
I’ve other reasons to recall Mill Gill. In 1971, we were on holiday in the week my O-level results were published. I’d left a postcard that the school would fill in and send so that it would be there when I got home. On Thursday, the day of the results, we set off for Mill Gill, only for me to fall ill: headaches and stomach upsets, less than halfway up. The walk had to be abandoned, and I was still unfit for walking on Friday.
Psychsomatic? My mother didn’t think so. We were staying in a new self-catering cottage and I was the only one to have been drinking the tapwater direct. That was enough for her. But there was a strange sequel two years later. We were again on holiday in the week of the O-level results, though I was concerned with A-levels, which I’d passed the Wednesday before, with the grades I needed for Uni. On the Thursday of our holiday, the day of the O-level results, we elected to climb Mill Gill. Curiously, I was ill, in the same manner, forcing the walk to be abandoned at pretty much the same point. I hadn’t been drinking the tapwater that year.
The picture is of the Langdale Pikes, from Lingmoor Fell, across Great Langdale. Mill Gill shows as a bright streak, lit by the sun as it tumbles down its stony, open channel.

Series 2 – 03: Brotherilkeld to Throstlegarth

Times change. I’m astonished to realise that it’s almost thirty years since I last passed through Throstlegarth, and that on the return from my first ascent of Scafell Pike, having ascended by the Cowcove Zigzags and that wonderful, lonely upland walk to Cam Spout, for Mickledore. On the way back, thirsting not to go over trodden ground, I picked a way across the infant, but broad Esk, rounded Great Moss and descended via Esk Gorge to Lingcove Bridge.
I touched on this walk in the final piece in Series 1. Nowadays, it seems the done thing is to divide the name in two, Throstle Garth, but Wainwright and I hold to the old practice of spelling it as a single word. It was always coupled with Brotherilkeld, and we walked several times from one to the other and back, except on one occasion when my Dad led the four of us up beside Esk Gorge, and far enough round to see Scafell Pike from a side I’d never seen before.
The farm was by the main road, just a few yards short of the foot of Hard Knott Pass, and we’d pass through the farmyard and out upon a gentle, slightly rising path, well above the river, guarded to its left by an accompanying wall that, after a rambling, undulating way, as long as the valley was wide about us, would guide us on.
Then, like the wall in Mickleden, it would abruptly turn a corner, turn downhill towards the river, leaving the path to gently decline, at an easy angle, to meet the rushing, bubbling Esk close to where the bluffs across the valley spread out. From there, the path accompanied the bank of the river through the narrowing confines, both sides closing in.
A waterfall became visible ahead, a sudden, steep wall closing off the valley, and as we grew nearer, the span of Lingcove Bridge was clear at the foot of the beck. Like the bridge at the head of Mickleden, this was our aim.
It always seemed obvious to me that the valley must go straight on, beside the open falls, but this was Lingcove Beck, springing from a hidden side-valley above. The Esk disappeared into its gorge, to the left. To carry on meant crossing the water and starting steeply up.
We only did that the once, my Uncle remaining by the bridge to rest. And, years later, I came down that way, fatigued legs eager for some level ground. I crossed the bridge and began the old march back to ‘Butterilket’. I remembered the steps and, when the valley widened and the wall corner appeared, I contoured left, even though the path seemed inclined to stick to the river, though I could have done without even that small climb. I was on old turf here, I knew where to go.
But it seems I didn’t. Once I passed through Brotherilkeld to the road I found a new path, signposted, between channelled fences, avoiding the farm, directed down towards the river. That’s where we go now, away from our old route.
The picture is of the approach to Throstlegarth, as the wall at the end of that part of Eskdale starts to loom, whilst the valley still retains a vestige of width

Series 2 – 02: Mickleden by the Weir

Having thought over my reference to my family having a number of ‘stock’ walks, when I really turn my memory to it, there seem to have been fewer than I believed. Certainly, we walked from Brotherilkeld to Throstlegarth more than twice, and Mill Gill to Stickle Tarn a fair few times, but the one that we probably did the most was Mickleden, in Great Langdale.
The main reason was probably that it was easy and accessible, a factor to be borne in mind in the early days, when my sister was not much more than five. We began with three successive Passes, and didn’t climb a single fell until 1968, but in between, and around, our walks were mainly into valleys.
Mickleden lies at the end of Great Langdale, where the Band, descending from Bowfell like some great prow, divided the valley into two smaller dales. Oxendale lay behind the Band, and was very short, and lacking in easy destinations, but Mickleden laid itself out to be seen, and was airy, spacious and flat.
We first tried taking the little path above the intake walls from the New Hotel, beneath Mill Gill and the more famous, yet secretive Dungeon Ghyll. It was a third of a mile to the Old Hotel, and we were in shoes and sandals, and before we even reached the other hotel it had gotten too wet and soft underfoot to go further. When we came back, in boots, it was from the Old Hotel, and it was easy. A half-mile along the wall, narrow against the fellside, rising and falling, until the wall turned down towards the beck and we were in the open.
Mickleden is a big U-shaped valley whose beck runs straight and simple. Just above the wall was a low, wide weir across the beck, forming a partial dam that spread the water out in shallow flats, with shores copious with loosened stone for children to throw into the water, or even try vainly to throw across, There were grassy banks for parents to sprawl comfortably, brew tea on a CalorGas stove, break out cans of fizzy orange, look up at the steep, rocky lines of Pike O’Stickle.
Once, in my mid-teens, another party set up to rest above us. I pretended to use my binoculars to study the crags above, but in reality to focus on the legs of this 30ish woman, in very short shorts, who was reclining in the grass.
As my sister grew older, we’d move further on. The head of the valley lay less than a mile away, but it was a peculiar mile, with everything laid out to be seen and nothing but proximity, and steps to be retraced, to be gained. The valley floor was flat and green, the path wide and green, and unnecessary.
At the end, the ways diverged. The left fork crossed the bridge, aiming for the infamous Rossett Gill, the right turned uphill towards Stake Pass. One time, at the end of a long, late afternoon, Dad suggested he and I go up it. It was steep and strenuous, at least by my feeble standards of the time, a succession of measured zig-zags ripped through by steep and loose straight lines that Dad refused to follow, even though I could see they were shorter (I had not yet learned to equate zig-zags with easier gradients).
At the head of the rise, we found the summit of the Pass distant and out of sight over an undulating moorland, which we followed for a couple of minutes in the hope a cairn might soon be visible. It wasn’t, so we turned back. It would be a very long time, and after the Last Wainwright, before I came that way again and followed to the remote cairn.
Last time I was in Mickleden, the valley was scarred by a long, dirt-brown path from the foot of Stake, down the whole length of the valley. The National Trust had fully re-laid the loose and dangerous Rossett Gill, reinforcing the old and easy zig-zags, and the track was the unfortunate after-effect of the Land Rovers that carried the stone to the volunteers. Stake was untouched, still green, but the scars of the short-cuts had faded and were now invisible.
This picture is of Rossett Gill, taken from among the moraines at the head of Mickleden, with the slow fall of Bowfell to the left of the gill, and the deceptively peaked end of Rossett Fell to its right, a summit accessed with far greater ease than this image suggests.

Series 2 – 01: The Corney Fell Road

This is exactly the kind of photo I was looking for when I first wrote about the Duddon Valley. Indeed, I referred to this very view in that piece, so it’s a delight to find that someone else has spotted this superb scene, from the Corney Fell Road
This road is an example of how unadventurous my family were when it came to the Lakes. It sometimes seems that, once my sister and I were old enough for our first pair of boots, there were a handful of walks we had to do almost every holiday, which I intend to feature in this new series.
I, on the other hand (once I got over my resistance to walking uphill in boots), was always eager to go to new places. There were so many fells, so many routes, even so many Lakes I’d never seen, because my parents, and Dad’s older brother, were more familiar with, and clearly content with that arc of Lakeland from Windermere round to Wastwater.
The Corney Fell Road became something of a symbol of that. On the drive to Ravenglass, and Eskdale and Wasdale beyond, the main road from Broughton carried us over Duddon Bridge and through the Whicham Valley, in the shadow of Black Combe, to the coast road: long miles through rural countryside, long miles in sight of the shore, before we even saw as much as Muncaster Castle.
But at the corner after Duddon Bridge, where a good rev-up built momentum to take the climb out of the Estuary, a fell-road turned off right, signposted Corney, 7 miles. It took a massive chunk out of the journey, crossing the back of the Black Combe range, the third side of the triangle.
I don’t know how often I urged that we try that way, but I was always turned down. Maybe my Uncle  (who did the driving) was wise to avoid fell-roads. He always took pride in his cars, and, like my Dad, he was old enough to appreciate the limitations of such narrow, sometimes steep ways. Whatever his reason, we never went that way.
It’s not that I disliked the traditional route to the Ratty, but I wanted to see more than just the few, seen over and again, places we went.
I got my wish, once, after Dad had died and four of us went on holidays. I can’t remember the year, but it was as a gesture to me that once, without warning, we took that fell road, and I was able to see what I hadn’t seen before. The irony of the picture is that I didn’t suspect that view was there when I was given my treat: after Dad died, traditionally I sat in the front, which put me on the wrong side for views right and down.
Since I first started driving myself in the Lakes, the Corney road has become more familiar, especially this gorgeous, sweeping scene. But I will always remember the Corney road most for a Sunday trip, near the end of October, in one of those days of preternatural clarity, where the sun shines out of a cloudless sky, but there is no heat or haze to blur the view.
I was on my way to Wasdale, for Yewbarrow (though if I’d known just how clear it was going to be, I’d have been up two hours earlier and gone for the Pike instead). I took the Corney road to save time, when night would fall early, but when I reached the top of the road, and the Irish Sea exploded into my sight with an intense turquoise and a largeness I’ve never seen before or since, I nearly ran into the wall!
The Isle of Man was there, a sharp-edged silhouette looking larger and nearer than I’d ever seen: so close it was almost as if I could see the other half of the Irish Sea behind it. The seascape was vast, but further on up the coast was this circle of pure white, almost silver water, in among the turquoise, which puzzled me for a long minute or two. Until I realised that it was the Ravenglass Estuary, and that this was the river water, pouring into the Sea, a different colour to the sea water, unmerged.