For those who have never hiked the mountains before, Helvellyn, with its rich history, exerts an atavistic attraction. It’s a summit fictionalized in haunting poetry by Walter Scott, and by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, both of whom lived in the shadow of the Wide Top Falls. The massif is also a place where elements of the wider Lake District heritage come to life. Beneath Helvellyn’s dark brow, the pastures are divided by characteristic slate stone walls, while the Herdwick sheep – hardy, spiky, and stormy gray – are cotton dots. In the intermediate spaces are sheepfolds, pack horse bridges and whitewashed cottages.
By the time we reached the top the summit plateau was busy with late afternoon hikers, couples holding hands and a group of guys in shorts pouring out cans of lager and toasting sausages on a disposable barbecue. Among the day trippers were tiny rock cairns, scree piles and a stone memorial to Charles Gough, a 21-year-old aspiring artist from the Romantic era who passed away in 1805.
The wind blew through our layers as we abruptly gazed at Red Tarn, a cradled lake where we can regularly see wild swimmers wielding an ax smashing thick ice to create the ultimate winter lido. Not many people know that the wreckage of a twin-engine Mosquito bomber is also hiding there, unrecovered after its crash in 1945.
In addition to the rare swimmers and the usual jumble of hikers and climbers, Fell Top Assessors also assist mountain bikers, trail runners, paragliders, off-piste ski hikers and horse riders, who use the trail. historic bridal party that weaves its way over Helvellyn Ridge. Poulton once even saw an amateur radio enthusiast, housed in a red bag, talking to someone in the Caribbean.
Finally, along the shoulder of the mountain, we stopped before our descent to Brown Cove, historically the last winter patch of snow in England every summer. It was a fitting end to our micro-adventure on the most magnificent mountain in the country. As with the light falling pure and still, the Fell Top Assessor now had his last report to write.
Hidden Britain is a BBC travel series that uncovers the most wonderful and inquisitive of what Britain has to offer, exploring quirky customs, feasting on unusual foods and uncovering mysteries of the past and the present.
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