Jet on Silver How Christmas Day 2019. Taken 25/12/2019 at 2:12pm.
Jet in her new home of Grasmere. Taken 1st October 2016 at 12:37pm.
Jet was a long haired Border Collie and her father had been a working farm dog. When she was just a pup, off the lead in Little Langdale, just has John Birkett (farmer) was passing in his Landrover she nipped under the gate into the field and headed for the Herdwicks. John’s Herdwicks. The Landrover stopped beside me and I feared the worst. But he just laughed and said don’t worry Bill: “It’s alus the mischievous one’s that make the best dogs”. Now there’s a farmer who knows his Collies.
Officially recognised as being amongst the brightest of all animals one Collie, called Betsy, being studied at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, had a vocabulary of some 340 words. But the thing is with Collies , they don’t just listen and understand commands they evaluate them and make their own decisions. We’ve all watched the “One Man and His Dog” sheepdog trials on TV and marvelled at how responsive to commands these dogs are. At rounding up sheep in a field and putting them in a pen.
But when ‘gathering’ sheep out on the fell things are a lot more complex than that simple field and pen situation. And, for those of us fortunate to live among the fells, the heightening sound, usually ending in a string of highly personal expletives, of an increasingly irate shepherd directing commands at his or her Collie are common enough. They shouldn’t worry, it’s just that the dog has taken the initiative and is way ahead of them. All will be well and the sheep will be gathered. Maybe just a little differently than the shepherd fist envisaged!
And that was Jet. On her last walk, around High Tongue in the Duddon, suffering from the final throws of lymphatic cancer and with back legs severely disabled by arthritis I scrambled some 15ft up a rocky knoll and gave her strict instruction not even to attempt it. Of course the next I know, after I lowering the camera having taken the photograph I wanted, she’s there by side. No use in shouting. She’d evaluated the situation, knew she could do it safely, and there she was. Mischievous, brilliant, beautiful, master of the fells and loving to the end.
I know that animals all have a spirit, something that will live forever, but that still doesn’t stop the pain when you lose one so close.
My feelings are best summed up by W.H.Auden’s poem “Stop All The Clocks” first published in 1936:
“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.”
TO ALCOCK TARN NEW YEARS EVE 31/12/20
There had been snow during the night and it was an inch thick in the village of Grasmere. But oh, what a dull, dark, morning of thick mist. Then, as we drank tea, plotting around the kitchen table, there seemed to be a hint of blue glimmering through the clag. So we set out towards little Alcock Tarn not expecting very much.There had been snow during the night and it was an inch thick in the village of Grasmere. But oh, what a dull, dark, morning of thick mist. Then, as we drank tea, plotting around the kitchen table, there seemed to be a hint of blue glimmering through the clag. So we set out towards little Alcock Tarn not expecting very much.
In fact we stumbled into a winters day of ever-changing light and were to enjoy a visual experience of winter that would surpass any other I’ve had in the Lakeland Fells. Grasmere to Alcock Tarn on New Year’s Eve – I don’t expect I’ll ever see its like again. Sometimes miracles do happen!
The images here capture the essence of just how exciting a single day in the fells can be. I’ve divided the walk into four stages because conditions were markedly different on each stage. Firstly, came the traverse above Forest Side. Here we were sometimes in and sometimes out of the mist, striking a line that ran along the top edge of the thick cloud that filled the valley bottom. Secondly we began to make ascent up the well-defined track rising first to Butter Crags and then Alcock Tarn. On this section we looked out over a sea of cloud through crystal clear air, and over a complexity of cloud formations, to the distant Southern and Western Fells. Thirdly around the ice covered tarn itself. Someone had broken the ice and took to the water. Brave or foolhardy?
Finally, we descended in bright sunshine. Pure unblemished white snow underfoot contrasting with a sky of blue. And even more markedly with the golden red-brown carpet of bare bracken opposite – over on the far side of the deep, dark, Greenhead Gill. You couldn’t imagine such a day.
Cluster of snow crystals on a bracken stem, It’s been so cold and windless that snowflakes which settled on this precarious landing, have locked together and stayed. Taken at 2:47pm.
ROCKS ON THE SIDE PIKE 28th December 2020
It was Tom Clare, one time Cumbria County Archeologist who first drew my attention to the ‘cup markings’ on the shoulder before the final summit dome of Side Pike. They are to be found immediately beside the path but I shouldn’t think that many people even notice them. Who can blame them – the wider views around the head of Great Langdale are magnificent. Whether these rock features have been enhanced by the hand pf prehistoric man I couldn’t say, but, fundamentally, I have always thought that these particular ‘markings’ are a natural part of the composition of the rhyolite rocks here.It was Tom Clare, one time Cumbria County Archeologist who first drew my attention to the ‘cup markings’ on the shoulder before the final summit dome of Side Pike. They are to be found immediately beside the path but I shouldn’t think that many people even notice them. Who can blame them – the wider views around the head of Great Langdale are magnificent. Whether these rock features have been enhanced by the hand pf prehistoric man I couldn’t say, but, fundamentally, I have always thought that these particular ‘markings’ are a natural part of the composition of the rhyolite rocks here.
On this day I stumbled on another set of markings which are similar and, I believe, wholly formed within the geological processes that have been at work. How they were actually formed is still something of a geological puzzle. Are they pyroclastic bombs that have been fired into a molten mix and subsequently changed mineralogically (like a shell or living creature that has subsequently become fossilized and its original chemical composition replaced by mineralization)? Or perhaps they originated from a gas bubble that somehow formed a hard crust and a softer centre. I know not but here’s a few photographs showing how things are on the flanks of Side Pike.
Pike O’Stickle, Gimmer Crag and Loft Crag – The Langdale Pikes – seen from Side Pike. Awesome.
Taken 28/12/20 at 2:40pm.
OVER SILVER HOW 7th December 2020
Managed to get out over Silver How from Grasmere today. Pretty quiet, Lakeland at its best. An off path ascent up the northern rib and over Wray Beck veering across to the Great Langdale flanks before heading back to the summit. Descent down the stepped rake on the Grasmere face proved very interesting before following the regular path down to the Langdale Road from Grasmere at Wray Bridge. Missed Jet enormously but managed to find umpteen piles of stones and secretive structures I hadn’t seen before and get some great images. Pics too late for “The Grasmere Yearbook “ but maybe they will make the 2nd Edition.
Evening light over Grasmere. Seat Sandal in the background and Allan Bank in the foreground. Taken on 7/12/20 at 3:03 pm.
A tarnlet with Lang How beyond.
This little fell is an official Birkett.
Taken on 7/12/20 at 1:50 pm.
Herdwick above ‘Langel’. “Where’s Jet” she’s asking. “Couldn’t bring her today lass” I reply.
Taken on 7/12/20 at 1:26 pm.
A glimpse to Harrison Stickle from the upper northern flanks of Silver How. I once took Jet up the steep gully, left of centre, leading virtually to the summit. On the steep, rocky, top section it involved reaching down and lifting her up above my head to the next little ledge or flat spot. What larks. Never a whimper. The heart of a lion, the eye of a tiger. On slackening ground she was off beating me to the summit cairn as always.
Taken on 7/12/20 at 1:04 pm.m.
View through a wall gap to Grasmere lake and island. Easy to repair it’s not done a bad job – it’s been standing intact, through all weathers and seasons, for at least a few hundred years.
Taken on 7/12/20 at 12:40 pm.
Looking to Fairfield over the vale of Grasmere. The parallel stone walls over the high shoulder which runs above Allan Bank are known as an “Ootgang” or “Ingang” and were once for keeping the sheep from farm to fell, or vice versa , from the field enclosures. These seen here lead nowhere now, ending in the once-private grounds of Allan Bank constructed at the beginning of the 19th century. Who knows when these wall acted as a sheep highway? Quite likely they were originally built in the 12th century. Still standing – so quite a job then!
Taken on 7/12/20 at 12:39 pm.
UP LANGSTRATH 20/12/20
Really heavy rain today and the previous evening, Water, water everywhere (and not a drop to drink). Set off from Syonethwaite and headed up wonderfully wild Langstrath. Only Deborah and I and Pooks out walking. Langstrath Beck in full force. Once after climbing Sergeant Crag Gully with Cliff Brown, up the steep crag above in soaking wet conditions, we were so wet, we just jumped in the river here to be carried down with the torrent. The glorious madness of youth. D and I only managed to get just above Blackmoss Pot, to look at the ruinous Viking Longhouse, before it started sleeting and we headed back. Caught in very heavy rain from Johnny House back to Stonethwaite. Pooks wet-through and rather fed up by the end – not surprising those Border Terriers are pretty near to ground level.
A rowan stands above the rock slides, downstream of Black Moss Pot in Langstrath.
The falls above Smithymire photographed as the light fails and the rain cascades down.
FIRST SNOWS 5th December 2020
The sun was out and the fells looked magnificent so I I had a whizz out on my motorbike. Thankfully the roads were clear and temperatures above freezing. For any fellow bikers reading this – it’s a Triumph Tiger 800 XCX (in XA spec). I’ve been around Spain, in deep winter snow over high mountain passes (pretty scary) and over mountain trails in the Costa Blanca, and from one end of the UK to the other on it. And of course I was at the last Isle of Man TT in 2019. With its superb inline three cylinder engine, perhaps the finest motorcycle engine ever produced, the biggest problem with the Tiger is once you’ve ridden one you don’t want to change it for anything else. Quite simply it’s the best! Interestingly Triumph have stood the test of time and risen from the ashes of Britain’s economic decline of the late 1960’s to become one of the biggest players in the world yet again. What a triumph – a firm first started in Coventry by a brilliant German Engineer, Siegfried Bettmann, around the start of the 20th, still prospering today thanks to Jack Bloor.