By now I’m sure regular readers of this blog will know that during the course of 2016 I’ve visited the summits of 539 Birketts – Lakeland summits over 1,000′ – plus 2 ‘Wainwrights’. This has involved 85 days of walking – almost 750 miles (the same as Land’s End to John o’ Groats and then back to Fort William – as the crow flies) and over 42 MILES of ascent – equivalent to climbing Mount Everest from base camp 19 times! (or Blackpool Tower 418 times!)
And now, on day 86, the final day, the final summit, has arrived. I guessed a few friends might want to come with me on this last one, so some time ago identified Carron Crag as a suitable ‘candidate’ – not too high, not too far, not too difficult – and by starting and finishing at the Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre we could even be sure of some civilised facilities, including a cafe, at the finish!
I didn’t quite expect so many people to turn out! Not just friends and family, but also the man who wrote the Complete Guide to the Lakeland Fells and gave his name to them – Mr Bill Birkett, and the author of the best series of detailed Lakeland guidebooks since A W Wainwright, Mr Fellranger himself, Mark Richards (though this would be his first visit to the top of Carron Crag). Also present were several walkers whom I’d never met before, but who, during the course of the year, had found and returned some of the cards I’ve left at each summit. It was really good of them all to come.
Sadly, the weather hadn’t made such an effort. The clouds were low and a light drizzle was in the air. But there was little or no wind and it wasn’t cold – so it could have been much worse!
After assembling outside the Visitor Centre toilets (where else?!) around sixty of us set off along the Forestry Commission’s waymarked track, climbing and twisting through the forest, with much conversation and throwing sticks for various dogs, until we reached the summit of Carron Crag (1,030’, 314 m). It’s a surprisingly rocky top, very slippy on a wet day, having been polished by thousands of boots over the years.
Many in the party quite sensibly stayed on the path just below the summit, while the ‘peak-baggers’ carefully tiptoed to the trigpoint at the very top. marked as a ‘viewpoint’ on Ordnance Survey maps but with no views in today’s murky weather!
Some alcohol appeared! A couple of tots of cherry brandy (I think) followed by a bottle of champagne which magically appeared from the rucksack of David Evans – and was quickly opened and shared around.
I left my final summit card – suitably personalised to show this was the final summit – and then we all headed off along the footpath to make our way down again. A piece of woodland sculpture formed a nice backdrop for a photo of me and Val with Ian and Carol Hardy. Ian has been a great help, accompanying me on several walks and chauffeuring me to and from the Lake District.
I thought we’d all arrived safely back at the Visitor Centre, and didn’t realise that some walkers (including, ironically, Mark Richards!) had been so busy talking they’d missed a turning and ended up doing a bit of a detour. So as we gathered in The Yan centre for some welcome coffee and cakes (generously provided by the Centre Cafe – thank you!) this small (but lucky?) band missed my short speech.
In a day or two I’ll also publish a few ‘Notes in Conclusion’, which will include some thank-yous to a number of people and organisations who have helped the successful completion of this Big Challenge. And I think my great nephew Dylan will be producing another video. In the meantime that’s it folks! The show’s over!
Except… let’s not forget WHY I decided to do this Big Challenge in the first place. The idea is to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research – and I’ve been amazed and humbled by the number of donations and pledges.
So now the time’s come to empty those collection tins and donate the money! If we’re going to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer then we need the money to fund all the work being done by organisations like Cancer Research UK. So PLEASE have a look at ‘How to Donate’ and MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Thank you!