High Spy

Published 19 January 2020

High Spy, seen from near Dalehead Tarn
High Spy, seen from near Dalehead Tarn

Overlooking the Newlands Valley are a series of fells. One of them is well known. Catbells. But the others are frequented far, far less. And I decided it was definitely time to check them out. My walk started at Catbells, even though I’d done it before. But then it was on to pastures new, starting with Maiden Moor, before continuing on to the wonders of High Spy.

“But you just wait until you hear my poem. It involves the use of the word ‘plinth’, which as everybody knows, is the sexiest word on Earth.”

“Plinth” said Kelly.

“My God,” said Derek. “Say it again.”

From Web Site Story, by Robert Rankin

If you’ve never heard of Robert Rankin, well he is an author of what he calls ‘far fetched fiction’. In some respects, he has elements in common with Terry Pratchett. Except that Robert’s work is set on this planet. Also he’s more bonkers. Many of his books are set in Brentford, West London. A town that’s not far from the “fleshpots of Ealing”. A description that always amuses this former Ealing resident no end.

To the best of my knowledge, none of his books are set in the Lake District. But I do know he has a bit of a thing for the word “plinth”, declaring it the sexiest word on Earth.

I can’t say I have ever put plinth to the test. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought “undulating” was also a strong contender.

Heather topped hillside of High Spy
Heather topped High Spy

High Spy was undulating. No sooner did you think you’d got to the top of it,and you’d find it started heading down again. Then up. Then down. Then up. The whole of High Spy’s summit was like a Walls Viennetta. Well, up to the point you crack into it with a knife and the whole thing shatters into a hundred different pieces. A think. Truth be told it’s been a few years singe I last had one. And only a few years at that. I was so astounded to learn that they still made them, that I had to rush out and get one. I recall being a little disappointed that it didn’t live up to my childhood memories.

High Spy wasn’t disappointing. There was a wonderful craggy point at the south of the summit that was far from it. There was an excellent view of Derwent Water, of the Newlands Valley and more. So no. High Spy wasn’t disappointing. But it was definitely undulating. And long. The plateau around the summit seemed to be at least half a mile long. And for most of the time I couldn’t even see High Spy’s substantial, and solid looking summit cairn.

The time spent seeking the top did give me time to think of other Wainwrights named after children’s games. You know the one. The game that goes “High spy with my little eye…” But unless there was a game called Eel Crag that has something to do with putting long wet fish down the back someone’s t-shirts, I was stumped. I did consider ‘Stone Arthur’, but that would be more akin to bullying.

The big cairn at High Spy
The big cairn at High Spy

High Spy was clearly getting to me, I thought as I staggered towards the now visible cairn, before collapsing in a heap at a nearby rocky outcrop. Maybe the lack of oxygen at 653m was getting to me. Or it was the views of Derwent Water that I now couldn’t see because of where the summit was. Or could it be all that undulating? Yes, the undulating. Definitely the undulating.

Still, pretty fine word though. Definitely one that was going to give plinth a run for its money.

And with that I undulated down the south side of High Spy and headed to Dale Head.

Next time: it’s time to visit a fell that’s at the head of a dale. Yep, it’s Dale Head.

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