By the Photographer’s Assistant
The Assistant is standing in Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. She is beyond excitement. Some dear friends have invited her and the Photographer to stay with them in the Lake District. She has always had an ambition to learn more of the great A.W. ( Alfred Wainwright ) Here she is at a whole exhibition about him. He was the big figure in the encouragement of fell walking. Here, you can touch the suit that he walked in and stand under a bus stop that he will have used to get to the start of his walk. There is an enormous map of the Lake District on the floor. You can walk on it and see all those famous walks. You can read his school report and see some of his drawings. As many of you will know, his books are full of information and details. They are exquisite and even if you can’t walk, you can go with him in his writings and drawings. Indeed, unable to find a companion or a way of walking Hadrian’s Wall complete, the Assistant has bought his guide and will sit in front of her Moorland winter fire engrossed in vicariously doing just this.
The dreadful bonus of this trip has been to see the endeavours of Jo Tasker and Pete Bordman repeated in an adjoining room. She had met their climbs before in an all encompassing exhibition of mountaineering in Scotland, and The Photographer, who was born the same year as Tasker, had followed their exploits whilst they were alive, with enthusiasm and admiration. These two amazing pioneering climbers forced out the boundaries of Alpine style climbing. Tasker had taken a decision as a young man not to become a priest, but to climb instead. Both men perished on Everest in 1982. Their bodies have never been found. Tasker’s camera was found and the film had been developed. Other bits and pieces turn up from time to time. There are postcards to his parents. The exhibition is too evocative and heartbreaking. You long to go back to that mountain and help these two to continue, but it is this impossibility that is so cruel!
Well, you can’t just go to the exhibition and sit and have an Eccles cake, you’ve now got to do some fell walking yourself. The Photographer, the Assistant, and John, their experienced friend, set off to “do” Catbells, one of Wainwright’s easier walks. The Assistant is thrilled to have such companions and takes an extra puff of medication so as not to let them down! What wonderful views await the three. A walk not too long, but just right, the beauty of which is so incandescent, you wonder that Alfred ever returned to his day job. He must have sat on that bus, puffing on his pipe with great satisfaction.
Before reaching the Lake District, the two had visited the Brecon Beacons, where they painfully knocked off a few of the highest Beacons. Having previously used a less well known route to climb Pen Y Fan, the mountain, now famous for killing some soldiers shortly after their own climb in 2013, the two decided to deal with unfinished business on the slopes by taking the less risky but most used route. This was a mistake. A path had been installed by the National Trust which was so uncomfortable that the two found little enjoyment in it. The car park for the hill was packed and the toilets were deplorable. The only salvation was a tea van!
Sitting in their remote cottage that evening, the two decided that they would tackle a less well known slope next, Sugar Loaf. On the map this climb looked a sheer delight of boundless scenery for very little effort. The following day, the two found a deserted car park and no tourists at the chosen start point above Abergavenny. They became quite cocky. You couldn’t see Sugar Loaf from the car park and they almost decided not to wear boots, but casual shoes. This would not have been a good decision. On rounding a bend at the foot of Sugar Loaf, they were presented with a very steep climb. They were a little tired, but neither wanted to let the other down, so they continued. The climb was much steeper though lower than any other on the trip, and they wondered if it was worth it. Worth it? The views were amazing with no mist and a perfectly clear day and flocks of sand martins swooping around the peak. We would go back to it again any day. Just to top it all, while the two were standing there, a power glider flew over and saluted them!
Here we are now back on the Moor, having had a thoroughly enjoyable trip, which was far more adventurous than we thought it would be and feeling all the better for that. To come down to earth, we are now wedding cake baking again. The morning’s effort has sunk again! The Photographer is now viewing this as a scientific challenge and has a major weapon in the form of a meat thermometer. He is not thinking of joining Paul Hollywood on The Great Bake In.
By the time of the next blog all wedding preparations will be at the hysterical phase, though it must be said that the bride and groom are not worried. Should the wedding give cause for alarm, they have now booked a honeymoon well away from the experiments, which constitute their wedding. After all, they are doing the cooking at Christmas, and have that to look forward to!
Wishing you all well, now that we can all enjoy fresh apples and pears from the orchard, and the beautiful autumn mists which presently surround us.
Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental
Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford