Series 2 – 18: 1986 and all that – Part 1

At the start of each holiday year, I would grab the cricket fixture list and count off how many days I would need for Roses Matches, home and away, Test Matches, One-Day Internationals etc. I could then plan my Lakes holidays around what was left: one before and one after the high season that would see the guesthouses and the fells ‘wick w’foak’, and that might clash with my colleagues.
There was a lot of cricket in 1986, and in order to claw back an extra day, I took my first break in April, over Easter – an early Easter from a late winter, with snow still enhancing the image of the fells, but not their accessibility: not when it was as low as 1,600′!
I managed one full walk, along the Forestry Commission valley of Aiken Beck, headed by Lord’s Seat, and returning along its northern skyline. Lord’s Seat was a matter of concern, clinging to snow for its final 200′, and me with no winter equipment.
This was more of a snag the following day, when I sought to climb Pavey Ark, of the Langdale Pikes, by the North Rake.
Don’t be mistaken: this is not the infamous Jack’s Rake, technically a rock climb, hung diagonally across the face of the Ark, but an unexpected straight grass breach in the rim of the cliffs, an easy way for walkers to approach. Not, however, in snow from about 400′ feet below the unseen summit.
I started up in confidence, which I determinedly displayed once I reached the snowline, progressing steadily, testing each step for what lay hidden beneath the white blanket. It all seemed familiar: it should: I’d been like this descending Brim Fell.
Oh yes, the same concentration, the same intense focus on every single step I took, the same awareness at every instant of the possible need to react at speed. Sure, I could reach the top, but whilst it was one thing to drain yourself of energy in Boulder Valley, with a level path and a downhill road to negotiate, it was entirely another to be drained on the summit of Pavey Ark, with 400′ of snow to get down through before reaching the steep and arduous way down Mill Gill.
I’d never done this before, because I’d never needed to but I had to accept that safety demanded I give up and turn back. It was a bitter disappointment, and one I fought against, but going on would have been foolhardy, and I couldn’t get myself to ignore that.
So I turned back, only to be met, within two minutes, by a party charging up the North Rake with a fine disregard for the conditions. As well they might, they being a group of soldiers, in battlegear. A little shamefacedly, I admitted I was turning back – better a coward who could come back another time, I said – and they did nothing to rub it in.
They reminded me of a long ago day in Langdale, back to the car in the New Hotel Car Park, when a truck pulled out, a platoon leapt out and proceeded to swarm straight up the fellside – not Mill Gill, not by any paths, just straight up – with a speed and stamina and agility that left all of us gaping in awe. They’re not like us, you know.
That was it for the week. The snow wasn’t going to just melt and vanish for my convenience, and there weren’t enough fells below 1,600′ to take up my time, not that could be strung together into expeditions that might last longer than a couple of hours at any rate.
But the week wasn’t a dead loss. One night I sat down with pen and paper and wrote maybe 1,000 – 1,500 words, cannibalising my experiences at the beginning of the week into a piece of fiction. I don’t recall the purpose, nor what it was meant to lead to, and I never came close to any workable idea about where to take it. The paper was lost, years ago, though the words stayed in my mind, available to be recited internally, whenever I felt like it, undeveloped and undeveloping.
Thirteen years later, in completely different conditions and completely different circumstances, I got back to Lord’s Seat from Aiken Beck. This time the words came out differently, from the first moment I began to roll them out in my head. Fifty-two days later, they were a 72,000 word novel.
The picture is of Aiken Beck, seen from the north ridge of the valley, showing the narrow break in the surrounding fells where the beck turns south to escape from its hidden fold.


Series 2 – 17: Great Gable

I have always walked within my limits. For a fellwalker alone, going into isolated places, that’s the only sensible policy, but if you don’t, from time to time, test your limits, you will never really know where they lie.
Scafell Pike at the end of three days walking should have gotten rid of my delusions about not being able to walk consecutive days, but there was no sign of improvement in September when I only managed three expeditions out of five days available. This was not entirely down to me: Monday was lost to lowering clouds, putting the fells out of bounds, and I’d decided in advance to take a day out to travel east and north, crossing the Pennines to visit Hadrian’s wall for a first time.
The capstone of my week was to be the ascent of Great Gable: after the highest fell in Lakeland, the most famous, the symbolic fell. And I planned to ascend it from the summit of Honister Pass, giving me an immediate 1190’ start on climbing, as well as enabling me to collect a number of lesser tops, lying between Gable and Honister. To take advantage of this advantage, I would park my car in the valley at Seathwaite, walk back to the main road and catch the Mountain Goat Bus Service to the top of Honister.
Plan A foundered on application to Keswick Bus Station for timetables: there was no Mountain Goat over Honister. My alternative was simple: I parked at Seathwaite, walked back down a summer morning lane to the main road, and stuck out my thumb.
A half hour passed. Several drivers treated me to a smile and half-nod, indicating their willingness to give me a lift if it wasn’t for that darned old family filling the car. Those who had space kept their eyes virtuously fixed to the road in approved Ministry of Transport manner. Plan B was not working and good walking time was being wasted. It was either Plan C – walk the Pass or Plan D – give up and go home.
So I trudged up the Pass, steep tarmac under hot sun, a hazy day already. It wasn’t the expenditure of energy I minded so much as the expenditure of time which, given the walking ahead when I actually got off the road, was likely to keep me from reaching Gable. After all, it was 12.30pm when (refreshed by a Coke from the Honister Mine Shop), I started up the steep track of the old tramway, leaning to the old Drumhouse that dragged wagons of ore up and down the slope. A high fell, obviously far out of reach, looked over the skyline but, when I got onto the moorland above, it turned out to be Pillar. Great Gable loomed, black against the sun, a rounded dome looking formidable.
But if I was here, I could at least climb a subsidiary fell or two. The path peeled away across the open land, hugging the flank of the ridge, and it was no real trouble to ascend into an area of outcrops and identify which was the summit of Grey Knotts. From here to Brandreth, next on the ridge was half a mile along the fence and 100’ of climbing: I could at least do that. From Brandreth to Green Gable, my first object of desire, was another mile and 450’: I could do at least that. And whilst on the neat, clean summit, looking up at the towering cliffs of Great Gable’s northern slopes, it was no more than half a mile, and 500’ of climbing. If I were that close…
So by committing myself only to a single other stage each time, I tricked myself into an assault on Gable from Windy Gap. It’s a steep, stony route, as are they all, a fine ascent but still feeling like some kind of back door approach to the most prestigious of summits.
I stayed a while, relishing my success, gazing onto the western wall of the Scafell massif. The air was getting thicker and heavier and the haze showing signs of becoming something more substantial. So I retraced my steps to Windy Gap. My route of retreat was to Seathwaite, not Honister, via Base Brown, but there seemed no need to force myself back up Green Gable when I could contour on trackless, steep-sided but level grass around the fell on the Sty Head flank, and resume the ridge with a minimum of climbing and a minimum of ascent to my fifth and final fell of the day. Then it was back to the col, and turning down into the upper valley of Gillercomb, the path tracking Base Brown’s flank before petering out on the last approach to the rim of the valley.
The rain I had suspected on Gable was now inevitable, and indeed was only minutes away. I pulled on kagoul and waterproof trousers but, for some inexplicable reason, left my hood down, exposing myself to rain that, within a few moments, became substantial. The walk was over, the holiday was over, I was on the way back: in some manner it seemed proper to remain accessible to the elements. I let the rain pour on me, head soaked, hair soaked, glasses soaked, streaming down in darkness as I descended by Sour Milk Gill above Seathwaite and my car. The path had been relaid by the National Trust, the first such example I had seen. It provided good footing, though I instinctively loathed it as an imposition on the wildness. It shone in the rain as it twisted back and forth beneath me and I dubbed it Spiral Crazy Paving.
Eventually, with a feeling of glorious satisfaction, I reached the valley floor and strode back down the lane to my car, stripping off kagoul and waterproofs before slipping inside and procuring a towel to get the worst of the soak out of my hair. Somehow the rain, or rather my openness to it, was cathartic, and I returned to Keswick aching but content.
The picture is of Gable Crag, the northern crags guarding the summit, the aspect of the fell that is visible on ascents from Honister.

Series 2 – 16: Scafell Pike

Sooner or later – and it takes a true disciplinarian to postpone something like this – every fellwalker wants to climb Scafell Pike. And why not? It’s a serious and demanding ascent from all points of the compass, it’s at the heart of magnificent mountain territory, and it’s the highest of the lot. To adapt George Mallory – it’s There.
By May 1985 I was forging a pleasant routine for my holidays: drive up Sunday, return leisurely on Friday, Ambleside for the southern Lakes, Keswick for the northern, two nights in one place, three in the other. It was a plan still undergoing refinement, but I’d already determined that I would end each week with a Big Walk: a major expedition to a fell of high renown. This time it was going to be the Pike.
Unfortunately, it was unremittingly wet for the first two days, and the clouds threatened even more on Tuesday but, in driving south over Dunmail Raise, I discovered an opening of clear sky above the Vale of Grasmere, enough for a two fell wander along the lower part of the ridge between Grasmere and Great Langdale.
Though I was playing squash every week, and five a side five weeks out of six, I still had the idea that I wasn’t up to walking better than every other day. But with so much walking time lost already, I took advantage of a sunny day to pay a first visit to secluded Longsleddale, and collect two more tops off the ridge bordering Kentmere.
Which meant that Scafell Pike was out of the question for my last day and I was doomed to a flat ending, and the day was so sunny, the air so clear, so inviting a walking day… oh, soddit!
A quick scramble for sandwiches and drink, cursing the time already spent in not recognising the inevitable, the long drive to Eskdale and struggling into my boots at 11.30am, at least an hour later than I should have been doing.
As far as the base of Cam Spout Crag, whichever route I chose would be over ground familiar from the old days. But the choice was obvious: from Taw House Farm to the Cowcove Zigzags, and above and beyond that upland vale of wind and silence and utter loneliness, removed from the mundane world until Scafell Pike and Ill Crag draw themselves above the low horizon, a sight of great awe. The walker who can tire of this is dull indeed.
A hand and foot scramble, comfortable but steep, got me up above the falls, though the prospect of returning was nervy: I would much rather go up things like that twice in a day than down them once! A narrow gateway led into the upper valley, long and narrow, steep and eroding, shimmering under the growing sun. It looked hard going.
A bunch of lads, probably between 5-7 years younger than me, were taking a breather by the Beck.  It was a good place to stop, and when they moved on, I fell in with their party, determined to keep up and not show signs of struggle, and their company got me up to below the wall of Mickledore Ridge far easier than I’d have done alone.
They went on towards Wasdale, I took one of dozens of little, slidy, scree paths, crossing at a diagonal to the highest part of Mickledore, below the Pike. In a strange way, in so busy a place, I felt as if I approached alone. A pilgrim crossing the cap of stones on paths marked only by boot-scratches. It has been this way every time: I approach alone, as if in ritual observance.
The summit is far from empty, however. I suspect that if I were to set off at midnight and arrive in darkness, I would still have no more than a 50/50 chance of being there alone. Though on this first visit I had no problems, it can sometimes be difficult to reach the cairn, built on a bulky rock platform, for the obstruction of non-fellwalkers preening themselves at being above everybody in England.
The view, of course, was superb in all directions, except where Scafell closed out the horizon to the south, and even there the crags are spellbinding. From here, everywhere is down. Bowfell twists away, embarrassed at being overlooked. The air was soft and fine. But that softness was a hint not to linger. The edge was out of the day, it was 3.30pm, and there were long miles back to my car, and longer ones to Ambleside, a shower, grub and pub.
So I came down, via Mickledore and that rapidly falling valley, by Cam Spout Crag with care and down to Sampson’s Bratful, in the astonishingly vast upper valley of the Esk. Amazingly, it was only then that I thought to cross the River and pick about for the winding path on the fringes of Great Moss, to find my way back on the truly old way from Throstlegarth to Brotherilkeld and the main Eskdale road. I’d climbed Scafell Pike, a thing I would never have done but for Dad and Mam forcing my feet into those first boots nearly two decades ago, and I paid honour to them, unconsciously, in following one of their routes home.
It was after 6.30pm by now, and I can think of only one other instance where I’ve left the fells so late. There was a mile plus to go to my car, but in cheek and hopefulness I stuck out a thumb and got a ride over that last distance.
I’d been to the top. There was nowhere higher to go from here. What was there left for me but to go everywhere? Scafell Pike was my 28th summit: Wainwright recorded 214. Very well, then.
The picture, with no apologies, is the same one I used to kick off this series when there was no thought of it being a series. Scafell Pike and Ill Crag towering over Upper Eskdale: what more?

Beware Rip-Off Merchants – Bow Media

Just a friendly word of warning.

Whilst browsing on Amazon this evening, I discovered that a friend of mine, who also publishes through, had a hardback available through On a whim, I searched my own name and found that, aside from those books available for the Kindle, every book available through Lulu was also being offered for sale – at prices in excess of £100!

The culprits are the above named Bow Media, whose only existence seems to be on Facebook. It seems they have set themselves up to try to rip the public off by giving the appearance they are selling incredibly rare and valuable books, with a delivery time that means that, if anyone bites, they just get a copy printed off Lulu and sent out to the buyer, leaving them with an undeserved £105.00 or so mark-up.

I doubt it will work in my case – if people aren’t buying for £5.99 and postage, I don’t see them forking out three figures for my books. But I’m obviously just one of their intended victims, and I’d like to see the bastards exposed in case they start making rip-off money off the back of someone who’s actually popular.

So watch out for these chancers and pass the word around not to fall for their tricks.

Not when you can get these high-priced “rareties” for a much more modest price, any time you want.

Series 2 – 15: Causey Pike

My family, as I may have mentioned, was very conservative about walking. Wainwright divided the Lakes into seven areas and seven books, but our walking was almost exclusively confined to the Western and Southern Fells. When we escaped, it was not far: a half-hearted attempt on the Langdale Pikes, a successful ascent of Loughrigg Fell, directly north of Ambleside, but at least within the Central Fells. Our last, Ullswater, holiday, forced them to open the Eastern and Far Eastern Fells, and my demanding ascent of Binsey entered the previously virginal territory of the Northern Fells.
That left only the North Western Fells.
They lie between the Vale of Lorton and the Buttermere Valley in the west and the Vale of Keswick and Borrowdale in the east. Wainwright held them in great affection for their clean lines and close-hemmed profusion, high crests and scarped arêtes, and I can’t beat that. Overall, this is my favourite area: last book begun, first book completed.
Geologically, they are a long tongue of slate intruding into the common volcanic ash, less rugged in appearance, less porous (in the whole area there is only one Tarn, close to the region’s only connection with other high ground, at its southern extremity, Honister Pass).
My first attraction was Causey Pike, a knobbled summit echoed by a sea-serpent wriggle of mini-tops, a distinctive feature in all views of Keswick and Newlands. Here, though, was my first real chance to plan a walk in the manner that I would follow until all the Wainwrights had been climbed: a circle, bringing me round from car to car, up one ridge, down another.
It wasn’t as pure a circle as I would have liked, but it was a start.  Causey was the termination of a ridge that could be followed over Scar Crags and Sail to Eel Crag, the hub of the Coledale Horseshoe. This was a bit beyond me at this stage, so after Scar Crags I would drop down via Sail Pass, to gain access to the subsidiary ridge of Outerside, Stile End and Barrow, the lower, inner wall of Coledale. A purist would have rejected it for artificiality, given that the two ridges were not geographically linked, but something like that was never going to stop me if it promised to go where I wanted.
I started later than I should, and with heavy legs, though the weight was soon walked off. There was an immediate choice of routes, an easy, well-graded, grassy but ultimately timid path to Sleet Hause, or a more demanding, steeper, rougher alternative to scramble up Rowling End. The challenge mattered: given the option, I would always go for the harder, more exciting route, forever justifying my right to think of myself as a fellwalker. No doubt, unconsciously, I wanted to prove myself worthy to my Dad.
Beyond the delightful summit of Causey, the ridge swelled towards the higher but lesser Scar Crags, a gentle whaleback. I didn’t pause: clouds were building, rain seemed likely and there was no shelter, nor anything of interest, to be frank.
But the rain was holding off, so I stuck to my plan of linking the two ridges, pausing on my descent of the narrow Stoneycroft Gill valley to seek out the best pathless access to Outerside: crossing, carefully, the drained tarn-bed of High Moss and contouring up the steep flank to its neat, sharp top. It was growing ever darker, but there was time for a steep descent of the eastern ridge, to bypass Stile End – it was not a separate fell in Wainwright, I didn’t have to exhaust myself further by ascending it – and the final green rise to Barrow’s summit.
Its long north ridge looked an ideal, well-graded descent (which it is) but that would land me in Braithwaite, two miles from my car, and threatening a soaking before I sore-footed back. Hence a return to the ridge, and an angled descent into Stoneycroft Gill, the heavens finally opening as I got down to the old mine road and doubled back on myself to get back.
Ah yes, I had begun. I can’t recall if, at that point, there was any fixed idea that I would do all the Wainwrights, but I had settled upon how it would be approached, by circles devised and planned, forever seeking out the more demanding alternates. In this I further alienated myself from my family’s method, in which it was tabu to so much as suggest a possible destination for tomorrow, at least not until you were about to get into the car. I had all the fun of anticipation to preface the fun of achievement.
In this magnificent picture, Causey Pike is the central peak, with Rowling End thrusting forward in front of it. Scar Crags is the undistinguished lump to its immediate left, and Outerside is seen above the extent of Stonycroft Gill, the mine road the scar along its right flank. The rest of the fells in sight are also great to walk.

Series 2 – 14: A Salutory Experience

Come September, I was back on the Coniston Range again, this time at the southern end of the massif. It was familiar territory from family days, but I was planning to climb both Dow Crag and, officially at last, the Old Man.
I left the car near the village, in the car park where the old Railway Station had stood, and started up the lane to the road-head at the foot of the Walna Scar Road and the Quarry Route (now being called the Tourist Route, it seems, making me feel old again.) My plan was to take the former to the Pass, to gain access to Dow Crag along the ridge.
Easy walking, and familiar, for a long way: level-going with moorland to the left and the bulk of the Old Man to the right, to the crossroads with the Goatswater path from Torver, of old memory indeed. Then, after Cove Bridge, a steady gain in height on an already eroded path to Walna Scar Pass, where the views open out round the the eastern wall of the Scafells..
It was great weather for walking: sun and high cloud, no haze to blur the views and enough breeze to move the air about on the tops. The subsidiary summits of Brown Pike and Buck Pike passed underfoot and the sidelong views of Dow Crag’s buttresses were fearsome at close range, and that before the little rock climb needed to touch the Dow’s highest point.
Lunch: then off around the broad ridge of Goat’s Hause, walking the skyline I’d often looked up to in envy and desire, a wide trek with no great gradients, the tarn clean and cowed in its basin, no longer so wild. And the long, slow, steady trudge up the wall of the Old Man, joining the ridge path a mere hundred yards north of the cairn, this time in the clear air, with a 360 degree sunshine panorama.
I can’t remember, so far on, whether the original plan was only to climb these two summits, or whether I had always intended to divert north to Brim Fell, the innocuous whaleback, welling a mere half mile upridge. Or was it just that time was still in my pocket, and the Brim so easy of access, and I chose to bag that too now I was here? It could have been either, but once I had completed the walk to its uninteresting summit, there came the matter of descent.
Purism demanded a descent off Brim Fell, and the pathless east ridge, broad of aspect, easy of gradient, descending to provide easy access to the shores of Low Water, cupped on the eastern face, was a clear invitation and one I negotiated without incident. Here though, I had a choice. It would be easy to cross the beck at its outflow, and join the Quarry Path downhill, turning aside to follow a gently diagonal path down into the Village, rather than the road. But that felt like cheating, crossing back onto the Old Man, and wouldn’t it be better to complete the descent on Brim Fell’s turf?
After all, my route down from Brim Fell was but the upper part of a direct ascent begun up that very slope below me, sanctioned by Wainwright, whose word was law in the fells.
Here I made my mistake. Had I dug out The Southern Fells from my rucksack, I would have reminded myself that he described this section of the route as rough, pathless and steep, but if you must go this way, the best ground was along the base of the cliffs to the left of my position. Oh, and Not Recommended for descent.
Not only did I set off in blithe ignorance, I compounded the error by deciding that the vanishing ground before me looked easier on the right, towards the rushing Low Water Beck. And, when it started to get not just steep but increasingly steeper, I even worked my way across the beck, onto its far bank.
The sensible thing was to go back. I looked upwards at the steepness behind me, some 200′ of climbing now, measured it against the ache in my legs at this late stage in the proceedings, and carried on. Boulder Valley, and level ground, was in clear sight, about 300′ below, and getting no nearer, or so it felt.
I proceeded with extreme care, two steps at a time, literally. I would scan the ground below me for two steps I could take safely, make them, and study intensely for the safest two steps from there. Over and over, concentrating only on ensuring that the boot that stepped down would stand firm, not slide, slither or slip from under me.
All told, it was probably not more than a half hour, until I reached the bottom of the slope, and even then I retained the nous to maintain that iron level of concentration over twenty yards of littered stone and rock, until I reached the sanctity of the path: I was too aware that if I let it go now, I would probably trip over a six inch rock and break my leg.
But when I let it go, it all went. Almost a physical draining, out of me from head to boots: all energy gone, and with two and a half miles still to the car.
Nothing for it but to trudge. I remember the mile from Boulder Valley to the roadhead as being level when it bloody well isn’t. But I was still conscious enough of fellwalker’s courtesy, when I reached the gate, to hold it open for two women in a car about to drive back to Coniston. And I was rewarded for it: after I slumped on the gate whilst holding it open, I was offered a lift downhill! It was two women walkers in their late forties/early fifties again, joking about whether they were safe from a young man like me, though I wasn’t joking when I said I was so exhausted there wasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of them being attacked!
I was lucky. I put myself in a dangerous situation, through ignorance and arrogance, and the fact that I got through it by myself, through my far-from-developed fellwalking abilities doesn’t excuse the fact that I had put myself in very avoidable trouble totally unnecessarily. Though it meant an over-cautious approach to my capabilities for the rest of the decade, I never did that again. Once was enough to learn the lesson indelibly.
It would be a dozen years before I sustained my first and last injury fellwalking.
The picture is of Low Water, looking down off the ascent to the Old Man, the grey, twisting line of which scratched on the landscape below. Apparently there’s a rudimentary path from the tarn to the ridge leading to Brim Fell, but even the recommended approach to my rough slope is still trackless.


Ironically, I was in Nottingham that day, visiting a friend with whom I’d worked when I lived there for two years. I’d arrived at lunchtime, spent a couple of hours visiting old haunts, and walked back up the hill to my car, to drive round to my friend’s for about 4.00pm.
The radio came on with the ignition, tuned to Radio 2 for the sport. Manchester United’s interest in the FA Cup had been ended by Forest a couple of weeks earlier, but as a true lover of the Cup, I had the urge to find out who would be contending the Final.

At the moment the radio came on, no-one was speaking. There was just crowd noise, and a horrible familiarity: something was very wrong. I recognised the sensation instantly: it was the same as four years earlier, when I’d casually switched on the European Cup Final from the Heysel Stadium, ten minutes into the game. It was as impossible to describe as it was impossible to mistake: the sound of horror and confusion and the world no longer making sense.

Slowly the news began to filter through. The death toll was in the forties, but every time the estimate came back it was higher. I met my friend, we went out for the evening, and in the Sunday paper headline it was worse still.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a United fan. We have a deep rivalry with Liverpool, both as Reds and as Mancs, and it’s still there to this day and it won’t stop, but from the moment that radio came on, club loyalties have never been an issue with me. Football fans have more in common with each other than they do with non-fans: we understand in the brain and the bone. There was enough reported early on for me never to begin to think of blame, and to reject as horrific and inhuman and evil the lies in The Sun.

I didn’t even blame Liverpool for the Heysel. It didn’t happen because it was Liverpool, it happened because the conditions of neglect were there, and it was English fans, and something was going to go wrong: Liverpool were simply the poor bastards stood there when it did. And it was the same with Hillsborough: to be at the centre of both was an unbelievably horrific coincidence.

We’ve all of us, who know football, who know people, who have had eyes to see and ears to hear, we’ve always known but at long last it’s been Officially Pronounced: it wasn’t the fans. It never was. I’m far from being the only one whose heart goes out to them that at last a line has been passed and another stage of healing can begin. Truth has not only been done, it has been seen to be done, shouted out in the loudest possible way, and from here on in the slime who have pointed the finger all these years will stand naked and cowering, scumbags in front of everyone if they ever try to demean Liverpool’s people that way again.

What comes next is Justice: the pursuit and punishment of the guilty. There are things I’ve learned today that were brand new: taking blood samples from the dead in order to smear them as drunkards or criminals – even a 10-year-old boy! How can anyone capable of acting in that way ever think of themselves as human again? The public exposure of Kelvin McKenzie as what we have always known him to be. There will be a very visible backlash against any organisation that employs him after this.

Based on the evidence I’ve heard so far, I’m not going to say that the cover-up extended as far as Margaret Thatcher. But I remember the Eighties, and I remember her Government, and it’s already been reported that their major concern was for the Football Supporters Bill, and I remember early in 1990 suddenly having a hankering to go see United one Saturday and having to find out if I was allowed to. So I will say that I believe that it was absurdly easy to lie to her about what happened, because the lies were what she wanted to hear, and she wouldn’t have questioned them: during the Miner’s Strike, we saw ample evidence that she was willing to treat a section of the people that her Government were elected to represent as Enemies.

Twenty three years is twenty-three years too long. But the truth has finally been acknowledged, and if we as people don’t take this moment to work to change the rottenness in our country that produces these lies, then we have let down the 96 and their family and friends as badly as those who delayed this time for twenty-three years.

To those who have fought for this, may it bring even a small sense of peace, and may it renew your strength to do what else is needed to finally see Justice for you and your city.

Series 2 – 13: Three Fell Trick

It wasn’t always the same old routes in the Seventies. One time the family visited the side-valley of Tilberthwaite Gill, on the edge of the Coniston Range, to see the Falls. We ascended to the left of the Gill, followed the path into the ravine, criss-crossed on the footbridges and saw the water. It took ten minutes.
Even for the elders, this was disconcertingly short, and we retreated from the Gorge, took off our rucksacks and tried to think what to do next. Already restless, I explored under the bushes behind and found a secret path,snaking uphill under cover on the right of the Gill. Having been given permission to see where it led to, I had a great but all-too-short scramble and emerged on a broad, well-graded path, leading into the upper valley.
It being sunny, and our having only just started, my discovery was accepted. I led the way up, and we followed what was actually an old miner’s road, from the dwellings to the diggings, winding around a lonely upland valley to the long-closed mines.
A year later, we made the miner’s road an expedition in itself, finding its start behind some cottages, and going beyond its end to reach the valley head, just below Wetherlam Edge. I would have voted for carrying on, but if there had been a vote, I would have been alone, so we turned back again.
Twelve months after that holiday in which I had so nobly conquered Helm Crag and Binsey, I was back, boots in hand, and remembering the Tilberthwaite miner’s road as an easy, undemanding approach to the fells. The difference being that I would, this time, tackle Wetherlam Edge.
By the standards of later years, it was an easy scramble, but at the time Edge was certainly the word. There was no hard and fast path, but a choice of several lines, some of which took me close to the edge physically, and all of which kept me on edge mentally, concerned about placing myself in a spot from where I could neither advance nor retreat.
But my worries were unnecessary, and here was Wetherlam’s summit, and I was re-admitted to the high fells I’d left behind when I came down off Helvellyn.
I hadn’t planned, or even thought, beyond this point, but it was only 1.00pm, and sunny, with 2,500′ and the whole afternoon under my boots. The family would have turned round and gone home the way it came, but I was free and a Ridge Route beckoned me on.
So I descended to Levers Hause, at the head of Coppermines Valley, and up a rough path alongside the succession of rock towers that constituted the Prison Band, and emerged on Swirl How, the second-highest and, geographically most significant of the Coniston Fells. A second summit in the same day.
A third was easily at hand: Great Carrs, around the head of Greenburn: “a seven minute stroll” as Wainwright had it. So, checking my watch, I set off around the valley rim and, a dead seven minutes later, found myself at my third summit cairn. What now?
It was still relatively early in the evening, and Grey Friar, another of the Coniston Range, was in feasible reach, a shortish climb at the end of a long, slow, steady descent to a broad plateau. But none of this had been thought through, and I was in unknown territory so far as stamina went, and every step I took towards Grey Friar would be a step to be retraced when I finally decided to turn around. I was tempted, but I opted for caution, as I always would, and I turned back. The return to Swirl How wasn’t a seven minute stroll, not this way.
No true fellwalker objects to additional ascent in the later stages of the day if it’s to a new target, fresh ground, but no-one of any sense commits to extra climbing to cross ground already trodden, not if it can be avoided. I didn’t fancy descending Wetherlam Edge, not when I could divert down the Ladstones ridge to the Coniston-Tilberthwaite path at its foot. Nor need I force myself back up Wetherlam to its top to do so, not when I could step off the path and contour around the summit to strike the ridge without any unnecessary gain in height.
The ridge was pathless and alone, grassy under afternoon sun with Coniston Water spread before me in the valley: joyful walking. The ridge itself bent towards Coniston, rather than Tilberthwaite, so once the lonely path became visible, a level line, I angled down off the crest, picking a careful way down steeper slopes,aiming eventually for two walkers on the path, sat having a brew.
They were two ladies in their late forties/early fifties, kind enough to take pity on a hot, red-faced, thirsty walker who still had things to learn about gauging how much liquid he needed to carry. So the milk was curdling and there were bits floating in my flask-cup of lukewarm tea, I drank it gratefully, before following the path to its end, down the left bank of Tilberthwaite Gill, where I had parked my car.
That was the true beginning of my walking career. I had discovered the joy of always keeping new ground before you rather than repeating trodden ground, and my expeditions would be planned with this expectation in mind in future, especially so for walks of increasing length and ambition in the number of summits to be achieved.
The picture is of Wetherlam across Little Langdale, with Wetherlam Edge forming a seemingly innocuous ridge to the left of the shot. It’s not like that underfoot.

Series 2 – 12: Going It Alone

After Helvellyn, I didn’t climb another fell for eight years. The family continued to go on holidays without me, and without ever going near Ullswater again, whilst my time off was a week without them. I barely even saw the Lakes during those years: an alpine scene from the train to Carlisle for a job interview, a day trip with Mam, my sister and her future husband to Wasdale Head.
By that time, my sister’s defection had brought holiday’s to an end, although Mam kept pottering off to the Lakes, despite her deteriorating health, almost to her death. My Uncle, meanwhile, died in May 1982, a dozen years after his brother.
What held me back was the lack of transport. I did learn to drive in 1977, to enhance my chances of getting a start in my legal career, not that it helped. Nor did I acquire a car to go with the Licence until 1981, and that occasioned by my plan to attend the August 1981 Roses Match at Headingley: I was not prepared to pay three days bus and train fares to Leeds.
On impulse, in October, I took a short holiday on my own, back to the Lakes at last. My boots were in the boot but, between the late time of the year, and a restlessness on my part, I spent three days driving round, seeing different areas, and enjoying the priceless opportunity to learn the rhythm of country lane and fell road driving on almost empty roads.
For some reason, I didn’t go back for another eighteen months, a stolen week between the end of my first, crappy job and the start of my second, much much better one. Again, the key factor was restlessness, but on the second morning, en route from Ambleside to Keswick, I stopped in Grasmere, got out my boots and, with a strange trepidation, set out to climb the Lion and the Lamb.
It was only eight years since I’d last been on the fells, and I was in my prime at 27: a regular weekly squash player, a frequent five-a-side footballer. But it was a time of self-doubt, 27 and still unsure of myself in many ways, and uncertain about going out into the fells on my own: on my own from the start to the finish of the walk.
Helm Crag was not a difficult walk. A long walk, by road and country lane, out of the village, leading to a steep ascent up an eroding path to gain the ridge of the fell, with easy access to the summit. The steep section would be blocked off by the National Trust not many years later, to recover, and a new path was constructed but I walked it with difficulty, sweating and straining, and berating myself for struggling when, only eight years ago, I was charging up Helvellyn.
The summit ridge ran from the official summit – the head of the Lion visible from the Vale below – to the actual highest point, a black finger of rock known, for its appearance from afar, as the Howitzer. The Lion was easy to scale, though it needed care above a substantial drop but, like the noble Wainwright, I would never even try to climb the Howitzer. I would be hampered for years by a failure to realise my true abilities, but some limitations were not imposed by a lack of self-confidence.
Ahead lay a low ridge, and other summits in reasonable easy reach, but I had no plans, no food, and no route of return except to turn round and come back. So I came back, by the same route. It made for a ridiculously short expedition: by twelve-thirty I was lobbing my boots into the back and scrambling behind the wheel as the rains began to pour, unstoppably for the next day and a half.
I did manage another walk and another summit, a first trip into the alien pages of the Northern Fells. Binsey, a small, rounded outlier, north of Bassenthwaite Lake, was reputed to offer a superb view into Lakeland, that could be saved as a last moment surprise if approached from the back, a tiny little community that probably never saw visitors. It was a dull walk – there are better ways to approach Binsey as a walk – but the view made up for it, but once again I was back at the car with only the morning behind me.
A long, wide-ranging tour followed: lunch in a Cockermouth pub on strong red cheese sandwiches, a drive westwards, past Buttermere, Ennerdale and Wastwater with a thought of overnighting in Ravenglass. But I wasn’t keen on the cost of accommodation and drove on, relentlessly, to Coniston, with stomach pains starting, raging. In Coniston I booked myself into a small pub/hotel, got straight into bed and suffered a horrible night of nausea, sickness and sleeplessness. I blame it on the cheese.
A downbeat end to the holiday, But I’d survived by myself, I hadn’t been lonely, I’d gotten my boots back on at last, and a pattern was set for many years to come.
The picture is of the Howitzer, with people far more skilled and daring than I showing that it is possible to stand on the summit. I never will though.

Series 2 – 11: The Old Man in the Cloud

Dad’s death didn’t end holidays to the Lakes: my Uncle still did the driving, we still did the same sorts of things, only with four of us, not five. Only a month afterwards, we went back to Cumberland, an impromptu week at a farm not that far from Low Bleansley, for which my sister and I were let out of school, all of us in need of an escape for a week from the reality for the past two years.
It was a dull, dark, mostly wet week. We got into our boots on the Sunday, on the lowest foothills of the Scafell range, in Eskdale, with a tiny transistor radio in my anorak pocket, tuned to Radio 1 and the Top Thirty, much to my mother’s disgust. Other than that, I remember Ulverston in torrential rain, steaming waterproofs in the indoor market and buying what, ordinarily, would have been the last American superhero comics of my life.
Though we resumed our twice a year breaks, there were no more summits until 1973. To me, that demonstrates the loss of Dad’s influence: I cannot believe that, having begun to reach the tops, he would have just drifted back into walks without ambition. But, for the first time, I wonder if I see the beginning of my emergence as a substitute driving force? Without authority, without a say, but not without an effect?
In 1972 I took part in a School Sponsored Walk, along the Peak Forest Canal, from Dukinfield to Whaley Bridge. It was more or less flat, but it was officially 20km, and in reality somewhere between 20km and 20 miles.
It was the first time I was able to walk to my pace and not someone else’s, and I belted through it in four hours exactly, pulling my waterproofs on and off for showers without breaking stride, and eating my sandwiches on the move. I was spurred on by the threat of a mate who claimed he’d walk me off my feet, who started five minutes behind me, and wasn’t seen again until 45 minutes after I put my feet up by the canal basin at Whaley Bridge.
Suddenly, I was aware I could go much further, and faster, than the rest of my family. Not that it mattered, since I was still expected to go where I was told, do what I was told, and not speak up among adults. But then it would be years until I could disguise my frustration even partially, and did that drive the adults back towards the summits again?
In the next three years, we would go on to reach another nine summits, at first no more than a single one in a week, but in our last year we went hyper, climbing three summits in each week. At least, I did.
In May 1975, we set off towards Coniston Old Man, via the Quarry Route. There was low cloud about, descending and covering the summit, but the Quarry Route was so well-trodden, it would have taken an act of positive genius to lose it.
But after a long period in the gloom and chill of the cloud, disquiet grew, especially on the part of my little sister, and we halted, oblivious to where we might be. Seeing that I was chafing, I was sent on to scout for what might be seen. To my astonishment, the big bulky platform that supported the summit cairn was little more than a hundred yards away.
I hurried back with the glad tidings, only to find my family packing up to go. In vain, I pointed out how close we were to the top, how little time it would take: they’d had enough and wanted to go back. Dad would never have done that.
And that’s how, technically, I reached my first solo summit, though I still think that Helvellyn was the truer moment: I had to go for considerably more than 100 yards on almost level ground, and besides, that was the moment I finally broke with my family and never went walking with them again.
But on the Old Man, in the cloud, the seed was sewn. I was my Dad’s son in what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, but I had none of his influence, not if I couldn’t even get them to walk two level minutes to a summit.
The picture is of the Old Man, without cloud, seen above the village and Coppermines Valley. The summit is the highest point on the left of the photo, and the grey scar of the Quarry Route is visible leading up to it.