THERE is nothing new in life, especially when it comes to proposals for commercial development in the Lake District.
I wonder what opponents of zip wires over Thirlmere and a proposed gondola at Whinlatter would have made of plans in 1882 to build what would have been one of the world’s most sensational railways, leading from Braithwaite to the top of Honister Pass.
The proposal by the Buttermere Green Slate Company, which wanted to expand from the horse and cart to the railway, was quickly quashed, the opposition led by Canon Rawnsley. The railway, running alongside Catbells, climbing above Grange and finishing high above Seatoller, remained nothing more than a line on a map.
A couple of weeks ago the Friends of the Lake District (Fold) held a rally on Latrigg to oppose the general commercial development of the national park as outlined in a draft review of the future of the area over the next decade. It would be disastrous if the essential beauty of the Lake District was to be seriously compromised and vigilant organisations like Fold have done a good job in seeing that the protection of the area is uppermost.
But in this modern world, there surely has to be a balance between the quiet reflection of walkers and the adventurous spirit of a younger generation of visitors.
I’m not sure that zip wires and gondolas are what’s required, but at the same time I don’t want to live in a museum. There has to be a balance between the conservative views of older people like me and the younger, future users of the Lake District that provides something extra without severely diminishing the natural attraction of the area.
Opponents of such schemes, most of them I suspect more my generation, have a point that we don’t need to provide extra attractions to bring tourists to the Lake District when it is packed out at peak times now.
During the recent hot weather, towns likes Keswick, Ambleside and Bowness have almost been too full of visitors for comfort. But tourism is no longer simply seasonal. I remember when Keswick shut down at the end of August, and reopened at Easter. Now people come year round for short breaks rather than the two-week annual holidays of yesteryear.
I’ve been privileged to enjoy the fells for most of my life. As a runner for more than 30 years. I used to do Skiddaw on average once a week — I’ve probably been up the mountain more than 800 times — and at weekends in summer I regularly followed the tracks to Scafell and Great Gable or Helvellyn and some of the remoter outlying fells.
Now Latrigg is about my limit. The knees have gone. Skiddaw, once a 90-minute dash, would represent an Everest-level expedition were I to attempt it now. I doubt I will get to Scafell again. Blencathra is just for looking at these days.
I’ve had my fun, but what about people with disabilities, those who perhaps can’t get to a fell top? My creaking joints make me sympathetic to people who don’t necessarily have the opportunity to savour the delights of an early morning on the hills.
Tell you what, zip wires aren’t my thing and railways up Newlands and Borrowdale will never get permission, but I rather fancy a cable car to the summit of Skiddaw.
NOT MY FAVOURITE FELL
SO, we have another English mountain. And it’s one of ours.
Miller Moss became the 446th official mountain in England and Wales after it was found to be 610.1m high rather than 609m. The discovery, made by independent surveyors, means it will now be included in The Mountains of England and Wales guide book.
I’ve been up it once, all of half a century ago. Much as I love the fells, once is enough in Miller Moss’s case. It was Christmas Day and my mate Dave turned up at the house. “Fancy a run,” he said. He’d already inveigled another runner, who claimed the know the back of Skiddaw like the back of his hand, to do the navigation.
The weather got steadily worse. We called in at the shooting hut on Lingy Hill. It was bouncing. A party of ramblers having Christmas lunch — jam sandwiches. After that the mist descended and it began snowing. And our know-all navigator turned to us with a plaintive “we’re probably lost”. We stumbled across Miller Moss for seemingly hours before descending an unfamiliar gill miles from where we thought we were. A long, cold stumble back in gathering darkness to the car, five miles away.
I never rubbish people whose idiocy gets them lost on the fells. We were never in danger, but we were lost and not that well-equipped if one of us had broken an ankle on tussocky, soggy Miller Moss.
The latest mountain? Miller Moss. You can keep it. Of all the tops in the Lakes, it’s the one I don’t mind never visiting again.
MAKING A FIST OF IT
AS a dinosaur from the shortly-to-become-extinct area of Jurassic Park, I am aware of becoming more testy in my old age.
The latest annoyance? The persistent urge of sportspeople to fist pump. Whether it’s tennis players at Wimbledon or cricketers out in the middle in Test matches.
How annoying it’s got. During Wimbledon the doubles tennis was spoilt by the need of players to touch knuckles after every serve and rally. And now batsmen — batters as we have to call them in this gender-neutral age — are the same, meeting in the middle of the wicket at the end of practically every over to fist pump. I’m sure the sports psychologists think it’s great. To me it’s like some childish need for reassurance.
IS SPEECH STILL FREE?
AS Foreign Secretary he was a disgrace. As Prime Minister he would be a disaster.
But, as a newspaper columnist, Boris Johnson has few equals. And, unlike many of his critics, including those in the tabloid press who went for the sensational reaction to his piece opposing a ban on face-covering, I’ve taken the trouble to read his Daily Telegraph article in full.
Contrary to what many of you may have been informed, it’s reasoned, reasonable, humane and, in typical Boris fashion, gets us talking. A former boss of mine once told me that the biggest crime as a columnist was not being right or wrong, but having no opinion.
There are many who wish to shout down discussion these days. Johnson’s piece was well-argued and it’s the reaction that is likely to create hysteria and hate. While making it clear he does not like face covering, he opposes banning the burqa like the Danes and the French have done.
All the outrage is an invention, a confected nonsense. What Boris wrote is there for all to read. An inquiry by the Conservative Party. Referring the article to the police. What crass nonsense.
If we are still a nation of free speech, then some will be offended. The question I have to ask is whether we are as free as we would like to think.
BANK ON THE MACHINES
POPPED into the Penrith branch of my bank the other day. They’ve replaced counters with a bank, pun unintended, of do-it-yourself machines.
Couldn’t help thinking of the resemblance to the betting shops with their rows of fixed odds betting terminals which, at some time in the future, will have stake money reduced to £2 a time to stop addicts stuffing in hundreds of pounds.
At least there still is a bank, but it’s another example of how businesses are gradually replacing the human hand with technology. No need to employ staff when the customers can do it themselves.
RAISE THE LIMIT
SOMETIMES, when covering a job, you know it’s not going to work out well. Such was my feeling 15 years ago when attending the cheque presentation at Armathwaite Hall to Britain’s youngest lottery winner, Callie Rogers.
She won £1.87 million. A ridiculous amount for a 16-year-old working in the local Co-op for £3.60 an hour. She admits she’s glad it’s all gone. The win caused endless problems in her life.
And yet the age limit remains 16. The Government is reviewing it, but can’t change it until the licence is reviewed in five years. Surely someone ought to show responsibility and raise the age limit now. Callie’s story is all the evidence required.