High Rigg

Published 10 September 2013

Sat on its own, High Rigg is hardly a major fell. But it is a Wainwright, and one you can do amazingly quickly if you want.

I’ve never owned a car. You don’t really need one living in London. However there are times they come in useful. After all, how else would you manage to get from Ambleside to St John’s in the Vale church.

What was that? Catch the 555 bus then walk the mile or so from Causeway Foot?

Oh. Right. Fair point.

So what’s the answer if you have a baby then?

Ah, now we’re talking.

For our trip to High Rigg we were certainly running on baby time and that doesn’t always match up well with bus timetables, especially when the bus runs only once an hour. We’d already left the house much later than planned due to Sam deciding he was going to have a very long sleep (and given the lad’s idea of a good kip barely extends beyond 35 minutes, we decided not to argue.) With him now awake and strapped firmly in his car seat, we headed off up the Keswick Road, before turning off up the smaller road to Threlkeld.

“The church is on a road on the left,” Catherine told me mere moments before a road sign told me the exact same thing. Following the signs, we suddenly found ourselves on a long, very narrow single track road up going steadily uphill.

“Err, is this right?” I wondered. “Are we going to be able to park up there?”

“You said there was limited parking at the church.”

“Yes, but I’ve absolutely no idea how I know that. It’s not like it’s on the map or mentioned by Wainwright.”

Given there was no way to turn round – not a single passing place or anything – there was little to do but keep on going up to the tiny church of St John’s in the Vale. Thankfully there was indeed a small parking area, with space for four cars – perhaps five if everyone budged up. Although I was still none the wiser to know how I knew that there would be.

We hadn’t come all this way to look at a small church though, interesting as it was. We were here to take Sam up a Wainwright. For just beyond the minuscule place of worship starts the path up to a diminutive fell.

On the east is St John’s in the Vale, whilst on the west the valley which takes the road from Windermere to Keswick. To the north, another valley. And in the middle, sits High Rigg, a Wainwright surrounded by valleys, separating it from other fells.

With a name like High Rigg, you’d expect it to be massive. You’d be wrong. It’s actually the second smallest fell in Wainwright’s guide to the Central Fells, standing at a mere 357m above sea level. High Rigg is only high compared to neighbouring Low Rigg which stands a mere 277m high.

With Sam safely strapped on my back, we headed up the path, a lovely grassy one surrounded by bracken. It was a gentle climb, one that Wainwright proclaimed that “anybody full of the joy of spring will do it in 15 minutes” before adding “author’s time: 35 min.”

It wasn’t that we had our eyes on the watch or anything. Having a lumpy, wriggly rucksack on your back doesn’t make for the fastest of paces, but as we reached the simple rocky summit, I asked Catherine to tell me the time – my own watch being broken after a trip in the washing machine a few days earlier.

“Fifteen minutes exactly!” she exclaimed.

“So you mean we’ve spent longer driving here than it’s taken us to climb to the top?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, right.”

We celebrated by enjoying the views. Blencathra up ahead of us looked especially splendid in the cloudy and sun of the afternoon. And then there was Raven Crag, with it’s tree lined fellsides and top. Sam enjoyed it too. He’d fallen asleep almost as soon as we’d started heading uphill.

After such a short walk it seemed rather pointless to head straight back down. Instead we took a meander round High Rigg’s bracken and craggy summit, wandering round in a lazy loop until we eventually found ourselves back at the church once more.

We eventually spent longer on High Rigg than the time taken for us to drive there, but it was a close run thing. And later that day, whilst studying the records from our photographs, I found out something else very disturbing.

It had actually taken us sixteen minutes to get to the summit, not fifteen. On finding that out, I could have hung my head in shame.

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