Friday, 17 August 2018

Theme Park or National Park?

In among all the anger and doom and gloom surrounding the steady but relentless limiting of access to the hills for the less well off, and of course the drive to turn our National Parks into cash generating theme parks, I learnt a new word today after sharing these images on Twitter and highlighting how wonderful the woods where I live smelled in the rain. The person commenting said “Petrichor is a wonderful thing”.  Petrichor incidentally is the pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long spell of dry weather.  

That morning while standing in the pouring rain, the sights, sounds, and smells of those woods were indeed a wonderful thing. I don’t have a single word to describe those feelings, but they are with me now as I look at the images. They remind me how lucky I am to be able to enjoy the outdoors without needing to be enticed out there.

Do you feel anything?

Perhaps a bit deep for some, but enjoying the outdoors is so much more than just looking at the view. If you don’t immerse yourself in the landscape and feel it with all your senses, you are merely an observer.  If you don’t have any spiritual connection to the landscape and it’s not a part of your very soul, then you may never understand how much it means to enjoy the outdoors regardless of how well off you are.  Perhaps it is that lack of empathy that explains in part why some folk only see the monetary value in such places and have no problem with theme park developments, or  the notion of paying for access.

Sadly for some people the choice is now becoming head to the hills, or spend money in local businesses.  Certainly for my own well-being the choice must be the hills…. at least it will be until I am priced out too.  I would prefer it otherwise but there you go.

Talking of the olfactory senses, after all those years of hard won protections and freedoms to enjoy our landscapes, over in the Lake District we now have the repulsive stench of corporate greed to contend with. Its pervasive odour, often disguised as promoting and even conserving the landscape has now found its way onto the boards of our National Parks.  Perhaps it has always been there and people like me have been naive in thinking otherwise.  In the Lake District the battle lines have been drawn yet again and after the fight to save the area around Thirlmere, we now face another to fight, this time the cable car plans which threaten to overwhelm the quaint village of Braithwaite. 

Theme Park, or National Park, that’s the choice now, so if you are sitting on the fence it really is time to wake up and decide which you prefer.  

The hills above Braithwaite.  Is it just a view to you, or does it run deeper?

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

More Wainwright Bagging – Bowscale Fell, Bannerdale Crags and Souther Fell.

Due to an enforced layoff from mountains due to re-occurring problems with plantar fasciitis, Moira and I were keen to get back to the Lakes again and enjoy a few more Wainwright’s.

We needed something that wasn’t too taxing and the area to the west of Mungrisdale looked like it would fit the bill as there were a couple of hills there, namely Bowscale Fell (702m) and Souther Fell (522m) we had not climbed. Set between these two hills was Bannerdale Crags (683m), a hill we had previously climbed back in 1999.  It would certainly be no hardship to do this again and after a look at the map we soon came up with a pleasant route that would take them all in. 

An 8.00am start saw us making our way out of the village of Mungrisdale to take the track beside the river Glendermackin up to a flood damaged area by a bridge. Here the path splits with one bearing left to follow the river and the other continuing along the southerly flank of the Tongue.    Taking the right hand path we had good views of the east ridge of Bannerdale Crags.  

Bannerdale Crags and its east ridge.

At this point we had a bit of a "wish we had chosen the east ridge moment", as the rocky nature of the upper section looked like it would make a nice scramble towards the top.  Unfortunately it would mean a long down and up from here, so we mentally added it to our ever increasing list of routes to do and plodded on.

It’s a bit of a long pull up to the col between Bowscale Fell and Bannerdale Crags, but in the cool of the morning it was no hardship, especially so given the great views back down the valley.  Once at the broad grassy col we headed north to the summit of Bowscale Fell. 

A welcome cup of coffee in the summit shelter

We couldn't leave without a quick detour to the north top of Bowscale Fell

Backtracking to the coll we then headed up to Bannerdale Crags.  Staying close to the craggy escarpment gave us good views down into Bannerdale and beyond to the North Pennines where Cross Fell and the Dun Fells could be seen despite some haze.

Bannerdale and the view out towards the Pennines

The summit Cairn of Bannerdale Crags

From the summit we headed northwest to the col between Blencathra and Bannerdale Crags itself.  This led us along the upper reaches of the River Glendermackin on an easy path that gave cracking views of Blencathra - particularly Sharp Edge.  It looked busy over there and even from down here we could see lots of little stick like figures making their way along the ridge.

Sharp Edge from the north

Looking back to sharp edge from the south
At the point where the river swung in a loop around the southerly nose of Bannerdale Crags, marked White Horse Bent on the map, we crossed over the river via a footbridge and then made our way up onto Souther Fell.  

Souther Fell (left)

Easy walking took us to the cairn Wainwright sketched for his books.  

Bannerdale Crags with Blencathra behind from Souther Fell

This is not the summit however, and after a quick photo we wandered over several high points until we reached the true summit at the northern end.  

With no sign of the ghostly “Spectral Army of Souter Fell” that is said to walk this ridge on certain days.  Click here for an account of the tale we made a steady decent down course grassy slopes to a point where the path skirts rightwards. Here the path led us through chest deep bracken to bring us out on the road above the in-bye land.  A short walk down the road brought us to our start point.  A nice pint in the Mill Inn rounded off a great days walking.

Distance 14k

96 to go.

© David Forster

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Parking Charges at Arrochar – The Outdoor Access Tax

There has quite rightly been outrage at the 800% rise in parking fees at Arrochar announced by Argyll and Bute council.  Such charges are nothing new if you live in the Lake District of course.  Here high charges are the norm and you won’t get much change from a tenner in the popular places.  Such charges in reality are nothing more than an access tax.

A few places in the Lakes still exist where parking is free but it only a matter of time before these too succumb to high parking charges. 

Paying such high fees to access the hills if you arrive by car is bad enough, but what has shocked me just as much is the gullibility of some outdoor users, either in accepting, or indeed supporting such charges. 

A common thread seems to be, it’s only fair we pay to access the hills to cover such things as the car parks themselves, path repairs, or make up the funding shortfall for councils and the national parks etc.  A few even seem happy with the notion of high prices reducing the number of people heading to the hills!

Reality Check
But hang on let’s just take a step back here.  Why on earth do some people think it is acceptable to pay a tax to park when we are already paying taxes?  Ahh I hear you say, what about funding cuts by the Government, the shortfall should be made up by outdoor users, it’s only fair surely?  After all there is no magic money tree, at least not according to the likes of Theresa May.

Well in short it seems to be down to priorities and the outdoors and the environment are sitting somewhere near the bottom of the list when it comes to government providing money.  At the other end of the spectrum of course, such places are top of the list when it comes to money making opportunities. 

Loads a Money.
Don’t be conned into thinking there isn’t enough money because this really does come down to priorities.  After all there was more than enough money to pay the DUP £1.5 billion to side with the Tories after the last election.  There is more than enough money to pay large subsidies to farmers and the renewables industry for example.  And, we certainly seem to be able to find plenty of money to fund wars and drop bombs on people.  When it comes to politicians themselves, many of which are among the richest people in our country, they have no problem in asking tax payers to fork out some £3.7 million for food and drink subsidies within the House of Commons.  These examples are just a tiny proportion compared to the Billions given to big businesses in the form of tax breaks of course.

Pulling the Conservation Trump Card
When it comes to arguments about why people should pay to park, the trump card seems to be the environment. Interestingly people conveniently forget about industries such as grouse shooting and renewables that really do cause some serious damage to our upland areas.  In fact it could be argued that grouse shooting and the renewables industry between them have a much greater impact than our boots will ever have.  Add in the fact that there are several groups using donations to repair footpaths all over the country and the argument for taxes to cover these costs seems much less compelling as well.

So let’s be blunt here, what governments really mean when they make cuts to national parks and local councils - is the environment is not a priority, what is a priority however is making money from the people who value it.

Given how important the outdoors is to the health and well-being of millions of people, surely instead of rolling over and paying, we should, along with the organisation that represent us, be lobbying governments harder to give more money to the National Parks and councils who provide parking.  One thing for certain we should not be picking up the shortfall willingly. 

© David Forster