Great Dodd

Published 28 May 2014

Great Dodd seen from Watson's Dodd

The plan was to go to Helvellyn. The plan didn’t happen. Instead I went up White Side, then to Raise and did three Dodds… The final Dodd was great!

I can’t tell you much about what I learned during my high school education. It’s all a bit of a blur in the twenty years it’s been since I departed from West Hill High School for Boys in Stalybridge. I learned enough to get myself some good grades, and that was that. What I actually learned, well that is another.

The odd thing does stick in the memory though. Having to draw a plan of a petrol station in Graphical Communication. A class enacted courtroom scheme putting Lee Harvey Oswald on trial. And a certain Geography lesson where we were given a section of Ordnance Survey map, and told how it all worked. Contours, landmarks, where the trees were, and where the bracken and marsh began.

And to check how well we’d understood it all, we were given some polystyrene, some plaster of Paris and some paint, and told to go off and make a 3D representation of the piece of map.

The map had a hill on it; that much I can remember. And some fields, and some stones. And that was that. Don’t ask me what happened to the model. Perhaps we weren’t allowed to take it home. Or perhaps I didn’t see it as particularly relevant to anything. Yet it must have been the first time I’d ever used an Ordnance Survey map in anger; to understand what it all meant. And I sometimes look back on that lesson and wonder just what hill it was.

The summit of Great Dodd

Chances are, it was some fake fell, created by a keen cartographer to give school children something to do. But I like to think it was somewhere special. Perhaps a favourite spot of the teacher.

What I do know is that it wasn’t Great Dodd. On the map, Great Dodd doesn’t look much. It’s just a series of contour lines in the middle of a vast expanse. To be fair, it didn’t look that much on the ground either.

Was Great Dodd the greatest of all the Dodds? I wasn’t sure. Put my photographs of each of the Dodds in front of me, and I’m not entirely sure I could even tell them apart; they’d all rather blurred into one. My walk over from Watson’s Dodd was just a case of following another grassy path over a mile, and then suddenly realising I’d managed to make it to the top of the fell. Great Dodd’s summit wasn’t even that pronounced; just a small lump on the fell, with a simple shelter stuck on it on top.

But like it’s compatriots, what Great Dodd lacked in presence, was more than made up by the view it provided. All around where mighty fells; all the more for me to explore on another day. Preferably when the snow had gone.

Cairn on the top of Great Dodd

I sat in the shelter, which, as Wainwright ruefully noted, was not actually at the very top of the Dodd. With my trusty Pictorial Guide in my hand, I began to scan the skyline, looking for those future adventures. And wondering when I’d do them all. Great Dodd was my 36th Wainwight; I still had many more to go.

No more on that day though. Looking through the pages, I studied the map for the final fell on the ridge. Clough Head was two miles away, which was easily doable. However descending down from it would take me on a route that then would require me to walk several miles to get to any bus stop at all, yet alone one which would take me back to Ambleside. Alternatively I could call it quits, and head down Great Dodd’s western flanks, in order to get me to the main road near Thirlspot.

No surprise which option I went for. For like Helvellyn, which I’d failed to do several hours earlier, Clough Head would still be there on another day. Just another fell on the todo list. It’s time would come. But for now, there was a bus stop to get to.

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