By Elizabeth Moore
After a short detour just to see what the other car park looked like (having brought the uncorrected grid reference), we were relieved to see well-known Manchester figures putting on their boots at the correct meeting point, the Thirlspot car park. We were all photographed by Nigel before the start, just in case anyone didn’t make it back, and then Ian Harford led us off up a steep hill towards Helvellyn. We reached the top sooner than I expected—usually the thing that looks like the top is only half-way. The views back over Thirlmere were lovely. The weather forecast was wrong as usual, with only a very small light shower blowing across, which fell as snow on us, appropriately. There was even a bit of snow left at the top, on a north-east-facing slope, but not enough to ski on. At the top we commandeered most of the stone cross-walled shelter at Helvellyn summit (950m) to sit and eat an early lunch out of the wind. It seemed a pity to miss the ridges, and I considered nipping down Swirral Edge and back up Striding Edge during the lunch stop, but thought better of it and had a pork pie instead.
After lunch the wind was fierce and bitterly cold, but at least no-one’s glasses blew off this year. We headed north on a clear path via Whiteside to Raise (883m) and stopped near the ski tow (no snow) to help Steve reduce the load of eccles cakes from his bulging rucksack. Turning left at Sticks Pass we headed down—gently at first, though Andrew was bounding down like a carefree tall mountain goat. The last steep section down alongside Stanah Gill turned my legs to jelly, but Derek still found the strength to heroically run back up (he said) to catch Steve’s dog Dolly who got anxious while her master was making a closer inspection of the gill and its facilities. We then followed a level contour south past picturesque Fisherplace Gill and back to the car park. I think everyone made it back down but nobody took a photo to compare with the start.
Ian & Lindsay Harford kindly welcomed us back to their cottage in Thornthwaite for crumpets and cake (including Helen’s delicious fruitcake) and plenty of tea. The bonus was a guided tour of their new belvedere, which is a very superior sort of garden shed, up steps made from reclaimed kerbstones, with a table on an elevated balcony where Ian can sit and gaze at the fine view.
Thank you to Ian for his well-planned and well-managed walk, and to Lindsay for a very welcome tea. It was well worth the long drive up from London (and even longer drive back).