this week i went and camped up on top of harter fell in the duddon valley. in many ways an unspectacular mountain in terms of size, difficulty and reputation but it is still one of my favourites. i have memories of climbing this mountain with my dad and my brother from when i was little, it always seemed to be raining or just about to with thick low cloud all around. back then the mountains slopes were covered in trees and the paths up snaked in and around the dark dense undergrowth and tree roots, it has since been clear felled and the slopes now have a somewhat post apocalyptic feel to them. the paths are now rather confusing as they wind around trees that are no longer there and some have disappeared all together making most maps of the mountain pretty useless. the mountain is topped off with a trident like pinnacle of rocks with a sheltered area in the middle and good scrambling all around.
i set off from birks bridge at about five in the afternoon and ascended in the late summer sun with hardly any wind. once i reached the summit these conditions proved less idyllic and the midges descended to help me put up my tent. i got this done just in time as no sooner had the last peg gone down than it began to rain. it sounded pretty torrential as i sat in my tent eating my dinner and drinking ale but just before sunset it stopped allowing me to get out and take some pictures.
The following three images were taken that evening, night and morning;
looking to the future
this shot is taken from the top of harter fell looking west into the irish sea. the buildings you can see are the sellafield nuclear power station. cumbria has had a long and somewhat disastrous relationship with nuclear power. on 10 october 1957 reactor number one at the windscale nuclear plant caught fire resulting in britains worst ever nuclear disaster. it was ranked at level five on the seven point international nuclear event scale, dangerous amounts of iodine-131 were released into the atmosphere to which 240 cancer cases in the sparsely populated local area were attributed and millions of gallons of milk destroyed. after that it was decided that what the site needed was a new name so they decided to call it sellafield.
however cumbria has not just felt the effects of the nuclear power generated on its own door step; following the 1986 chenobyl accident the prevailing winds spread radioactive deposits across a number of upland areas in the british isles, west cumbria was one such area. these radioactive deposits combined with previous exposure from the windscale accident led to a restriction on the consumption of meat from the affected area, an estimated 500km², until 1994 and there is still some debate as to whether this should have been extended to 2024.
it is a pity that an area of such natural beauty and wonder has been subjected to this sub atomic contamination. out in the irish sea and across some of the lower hills wind farms are now being built, while not the prettiest looking structures, there is little chance of them endangering the local population or contaminating livestock and when a more economical and less visually obtrusive way of generating energy is found they can simply be dismantled and the sites can revert back to their original use. the same cannot be said for nuclear sites which will be contaminated and unusable for generations to come if not forever. i guess we need to think about short term gain and the effect this might have on our future. is it right to be playing around with anything that has the explosive potential to wipe out or irrevocably alter life on our planet?
i’ve always referred to this collection of stars as the saucepan, apparently it’s more commonly referred to as the plough or to give it its correct astronomical name ursa major. however it seems to have many names depending on where you are; hindu astronomy calls it sapta rishi or seven sages, in northern england it is sometimes referred to as the butchers clever or charles’ wain, wain meaning wagon, which is believed to have further derived from an even older name – odins wain. still whatever you want to call it its one of the most prominent constellations in our night sky and important navigationally as you can use it to find the north star.
this is my first real attempt at a mountain landscape, getting the light, the weather and the angle right is going to take many more shots. still there are some nice big mountains in this shot so i thought i’d post it anyway; from left to right in in the foreground of this pictures is scafell, scafell pike, broad crag, ill crag, great end, esk pike, bowfell and finally crinkle crags. also just left of centre towards the bottom of this shot you can just about make out the square shape of the old roman fort of mediobogdvm on hardknott pass.