87 Fellbarrow – Taking Life for Granted

10 Weeks Look but Don’t Touch!

It was half-term, 19 February 2020 when I was last in the hills on Sale Fell with Christine.  A lot has happened since then and we have talked of nothing else. “Coronavirus”. We stayed at home.  Not such a chore when the sun was shining and the garden was ready for some attention, but the hills were always calling and freedom to chose where and for how long we could drink in the fresh air and stunning views a constant thought in the back of our minds.

After 10 weeks of almost permanent sun we worried it may disappear on the day we headed out to the hills for the first time in a while.  Thankfully the heat remained unseasonally hot for our first gentle ascent of Fellbarrow.  Not a long drive from home and not a difficult climb, mindful that I did not want to be the one to put the Mountain rescue and our already stretched health services under any further duress it was a great place for a come-back.

My son could not understand my joy at  breathing-in the new views, which to his teenage brain looked just as green and blue as the ones at home.  I could feel the energy returning to my veins and was thankful for my daily 2.5 mile walk for the past 10 weeks, meaning at least my lungs and heart could cope even if my uphill leg muscles might be sore the next day.


On the summit we met Jason and Adam who in accordance with current practice kept their distance but enjoyed the spectacle of a spinner on the summit. Meeting them helped my confidence in feeling that it was somehow “wrong” to be in the hills again.  Bheinn carried out a social distanced signing of the wheel, by writing Adam and Jason’s names for them, and at that moment I felt I was starting to return to some sort of normal.  My mind was racing forward to plans for my next mountains.  I was truly “excited”.  A feeling we do not always identify when life is too busy.  10 weeks in lockdown and I realised that the freedoms we enjoy in our lives and the spectacular county we live in can easily be overlooked.

A post lockdown resolution – not to take anything for granted ever again!

77 Dodd

We were optimistic that Mark would make it up Dodd but still the recovery from illness is slow. Walking from the Sawmill Tea Room direct to the summit Mark turned back 1/3 of the way up.  After 2/3rds at the bench the view was just about visible and then we disappeared into the cloud.  We seemed to be the only people out without a dog, so had a few confused conversations as we described people we had seen with dogs.

I spun alone on the summit (save 1 man and 2 dogs) and on the way down again engaged in conversation with old friends who had seen me “knitting” on  Lattrigg. They knew about the Castle Crag Race and commented that the cakes and tea at the Youth Hostel were as much fun as the race itself and hoped they could increase their “spinner-spotting” to 3 in the near future. We could not wait until next week for coffee and cakes and enjoyed our fair share at the cosy and welcoming Sawmill Tea room.


72 Little Mell Fell

As winter sets in, my aim is to pick off the smaller Wainwrights as they present themselves.  Every month I attend a Spinning and Weaving Guild meeting in Mungrisedale and can see Little and Great Mell Fell as I turn off the A66 so after a day of spinning, chatting, eating great cakes and learning about natural dyeing at Acorn Bank I took the opportunity of a very quick sprint up Little Mell Fell.  I felt terribly rebellious not changing from my jeans into proper walking trousers, but I was perhaps warmer than in my skin tight lycra. No views and a wheel covered in peat happy in the knowledge I was over 1/3 of the way and a bonus that the Eden Valley Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers had chosen to support The Calvert Trust for their Christmas Charity.

58 Melbreak another Waynwright Day

Plastic Prohibition and the Time machine.

My enjoyment for doing crazy things on mountains had got me noticed and I had been approached by a climate change awareness campaign to be an ambassador for their day of  activities on the Wainwrights.

The day was called “Another Waynwright day” – https://www.another-way.org.uk/another-waynwright/ and on my 51st birthday I committed to spin on Melbreak and help raise awareness of the effects of climate change and the scourge of plastic pollution.

I had intended to walk over Hencombe, but I woke up to driving rain and initially thought I might have to just spend the day in The Kirkstile pub – spinning – of course.

Finally at noon I was able to walk out, but missed the deadline for sending pictures at 1pm from the summit.  It was wet and  windy, but a pleasant, easy walk from home on a bridleway. I found the perfect location for taking photos of The Wild Wool Barn in autumn when the leaves are no longer on the trees.

As is often the way with a pleasant walk the rhythm of my steps and the fuggy cocoon of being wrapped up against the unseasonably wet weather my mind wandered to the purpose of being an ambassador for a cause.  In my life I have never been on any form of protest or activism.  I always worried that I might discover that afterall I don’t agree with everything the cause stands for.  Today I realised that all political groupings have different levels and areas where members’ beliefs will not be wholly represented. I understood I supported the cause in principal even if I did not agree with all the nuance of the argument.

I wanted to take part and show my comfortable level of involvement of concern for climate change for me and for my son who was of an age for me to need to show that I was capable of putting my money where my mouth is.

My concerns for being involved were that campaigns can often be black and white, or highlight just one argument for a cause. My personal worries were that “Plastic Prohibition” may be a red herring and that those campaigning for it have not fully thought about how we manage life without it.  Had they really thought through how life was 30-40 years ago and why we bought into the convenience of single use plastics.

So what had got our generation to the point that the next generation are angry at us for our lack of action or lack of care for the consequences of our action?

I am hearing a lot of (mostly young) activists, who suggest prohibition and removal of the conveniences that the use of single use plastics has created for us and I wonder if they realise it is my generation who have given them the power to speak out, who spent our working lives, banging on glass ceilings with “no-entry to females” written firmly on them.

The Growth of the Use of Plastic in my Lifetime

I grew up with the female work options of being a nurse or a spinster teacher, a lawyer, a doctor or a wife.  To speak when I was spoken to and to be pretty.  I learnt to type on a manual typewriter and have learnt and relearnt every incarnation of “Word Processing” and electronic communication over 40 years.  All my phones have been 2nd hand given to me  by well meaning friends who thought I ought to have one and I finally succumbed to a smart phone as an essential business need.  I have grown through such vast change.  We were the generation who went without, who made do and mended.  We had 1 tv in our household, and it was black and white when the rest of the world had colour.  I have friends who chose to walk, take the bus, cycle because is make economic and moral sense without the world telling them to do so.   Or others who did not own a fridge because they could not afford it.  Who went without.  Weddings were saved up for and 2 pairs of shoes was quite enough.  A foreign holiday was a once in a life-time event and you saved up for it.  A hen-do was a meal at the local Italian. We had lunch boxes and flasks and we had a biscuit tin not individually wrapped snack packs.  I certainly did not ask for all this single use convenience, but it has arrived as a natural need for progress, as the scaffold for equality and stops me going insane with exhaustion, while I try and define myself by my career, be at home and at work and at school for my child. Cook, shop, clean and own, afford and maintain a house and be seen to be having the most fulfilling life which has to be reported in all its shininess on social media.

What do we really need to do?

I wonder how many activists have considered that convenience in the form of plastic is not a question of irresponsibility but  is a response to equality, equal opportunities and the social pressure to have and be seen to be having everything.  So if we want to save the planet we need to save ourselves.  We need to sit down and not say I am going to do without this plastic , but ask ourselves why do I need it and how am I going to create the time to cope without it? What do I have to change in my lifestyle to find time to be able to work without the conveniences.    The changes we need to make are surprising and are considerably greater than buying a reusable water bottle.  Considerations like 2 parents working full time with 3 cars on the drive and 3 foreign holidays a year will have to be ditched.  If 2 parents are working full time with children, who does the shopping and cooking from scratch, hanging the washing out, walking to the shops?  Who is going to have time to do that?  Who will work part time?  We have to ask why have we had children if we really don’t have time to be with them (and I don’t mean ferrying them to afterschool clubs where somebody else parents them) or care about the quality of their life style ?And make those difficult changes.

The True Change to Save the Planet

In order to create a life-style that needs less convenience we need to slow down and possibly accept a lower income.  It is about balance, it is about re-balancing family life so that we have time to think and shop and be there for one another.  Only then will we have time to insulate our homes and buy our groceries from individual, local suppliers using our own reusable containers.  We need to put value on the home-maker so that we can walk our children to school and have time to hang our washing out when the sun is shining and not use a tumble drier.  These are the real changes we need to make before we have time to say I don’t need to buy my lunch in a plastic tub with it’s own fork from the convenience store. When I was growing up these everyday, “menial” duties were assumed the work of a woman.  Now we need to value everybody’s contribution to the healthy balance of a family. They are not menial they are valuable

I see this imbalance in our human value system as the main reason we have come to a climate crisis,   We have lost sight of what really matters.

The Future

But we are where we are at.  I doubt many people are going to sacrifice their comfortable life-styles and dual incomes, so that leaves us with the legacy of the plastic waste.  We need to be planning its reuse before we produce it.  The Plastic in itself is not evil, it is what we do or don’t do with it once we no longer have a use for it. But not to be overlooked is the fact that global warming is not the fault of plastic. Production of plastic accounts for just 15% of the use of oil.  Burning fuel for cars/ and home heating and manufacturing is responsible for the greater problems of global warming.  Plastic is making a mess and polluting the environment and needs a legacy plan, but the heating of the planet is the realm of burning fossil fuels.

Time to get insulating and building windmills.

Going Solo – Souther Fell and the Top of Honister

Souther Fell : No 23

On Saturday 15th June 2019,  after a wonderful morning learning how to blend wool on a blending board at Mungrisdale – a simple and most effective process making ammonite-like rolags for spinning – I set out alone for the first time with the wheel to head up Souther Fell looming above.

Although tempted to shin over the fence and head straight up the shoulder I feared the wrath of the land owner who had specified that walkers should not cross the fields.  The map gave no clue to the direct access so I took the cowards decision to walk the long route to the west of the mountain.  I had hoped to sweep up Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell on the return journey, but feeling my age, or just not having walked my mountain legs in yet, I fretted my indecision. Head down listening to my internal dialogue I caught up with 2 ladies I was a aware were walking in a more relaxed and carefree manner.  I commented on their laissez-faire demeanor and they confessed they were out for a wander, not sure where they were going and hoped their discussion about the reasons for choosing a termination had not disturbed me – one being a midwife.  I had not heard, the negative chatter being so loud in my head. I wondered what I was fretting about and I determined that I should enjoy every step or the journey was not worth it.  As we fell into step they noticed the pack and asked about its contents.  I had not considered that on the outside it looked anything out of the ordinary on the fell and again I marvelled that others took so much more notice of their surroundings with open interest, again I pushed the worries away.  I was experienced, equipped, although the wheel might cause a few scratched heads on a mountain rescue call out – the first spinning wheel to be rescured, I had map compass, safety gear, I was in the place I wanted to be, if I did not complete 3 mountains, “who cares” I will have competed 1.

Hitting the summit ridge and seeing how much time and expired as well as my food, I decided 1 was good.  On the summit of Souther Fell facing the next great challenges of the mighty Blencathra and the lesser known Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fells I formulated a plan to come back after the next spinning group in Mungrisedale and set out before and not after the class.  I took my first selfie dropping the camera many times before I caught anything usable and followed another couple with 2 dogs down the shoulder and circumnavigated the fields I could not cross to the back road and on to The Mill Inn for a well earned pint.

Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable and Base Brown 24-27. Sunday 16th June 2019

This is what it is all about!  My family together on an easy to reach round of high fells.  Using the English equivalent of a cable car in the form of the road to Honister Pass, to take the sting out of the climb, we headed out for a round of the “G’s” and the “B’s”  as my mind summarised them, Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable and Base Brown –  numbers 24-27.  I wondered at the 360 degree viewpoints as we sat on Brandreth and then Grey Knotts and I spun.  We could see almost to our house and understood why there are objections to the artificial nature of uniform trees planted after WWI in Ennerdale compared to the serene unspoilt landscape of Buttermere/Loweswater. I looked up to towering imposition of Scafell and Scafell Pike and identified peaks in the Langdales astounded that all this was on my doorstep.  Bheinn and I dodged the weather just receiving a passing shower as we descended together into Seathwaite.  Mark had retraced tracks over Green Gable to retrieve the car. Bheinn and I thought we had taken the easy route direct to Seathwaite. Unfortunately I forgot that the most direct is often the steepest route. The wheel learnt to scramble and free fall, and I spent a lot of time moaning about wet paths artificially made of rocks aimed forwards. Excellent for ascending, treacherous if you put your foot on a smooth rock on the way down as I discovered twice.  Needless to say Mark was waiting for us at the bottom having read quite few pages of his book and I vowed never to descend from Base Brown to Seathwaite by the direct path ever again.

Spin-A-Round is a challenge to Spin Herdwick Wool on the top of all the Wainwright Fells in the Lake District, Raising money for the Lake District Calvert Trust