Published 29 November 2020

The distinctive shape of Robinson, seen from near Newlands Church

It’s September 2020 and after a year full of lockdowns, cancelled holidays and just general chaos, I rather unexpectedly found myself having a week of carefree fell-walking in the Lake District. The first day saw me explore two fells with “High” in their name. After a relaxing night at Borrowdale YHA, I headed up to the Newlands Valley to tackle three fells, starting with Robinson.

There was a walk I did once a day when I went out for a walk. And the first half of it was so dull and uninteresting that, when I came to write it up, I almost made something up instead. I came close to fabricating a tale that would be far more interesting. Something that would involve something completely unexpected happening. Something unrealistic even. A tale of seduction, passion, and more on heather topped moorland in the remote part of the country I was walking in.

I didn’t write that in the end. In part because I didn’t think that such imaginary exploits would go down well with my other half. And also because I’d get nominated for that award that celebrates bad writing about sex. Besides, the second half of the walk was far more interesting.

But when you start walking up a fell called Robinson, the brain starts resurrecting such an idea. An idea spurned on by Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, and quotes of “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?” Although the film The Graduate has – to the best of my knowledge – absolutely nothing to do with the Lake District.

Instead Robinson got its name from one Richard Robinson. He purchased a heap of land, including this then unnamed fell, in the 16th century. Thus it became “Robinson’s Fell”; a name singularly lacking in imagination in a part of the world that brought you Eel Crag, Catbells, and Barf. On the other hand, next to Robinson is Dale Head. A fell that is at the head of a dale, so, insert shrug emoji here.

This simple building has served as a church for this valley for centuries. For a long time the smaller part on the left was also the local primary school.

After parking up in an old quarry, I set off down the lane to Newlands Church.

This small, whitewashed 16th century building sits near the hamlet of Little Town. Although I’m not in any way religious, I do like to poke around in old churches. They often have the most distinctive architecture in an area. And it’s a chance to see inside a building that often haven’t changed much for decades.

Indeed the last time there was a big alternation to Newlands Church came in the 19th century. In 1841 they added a balcony and a school room. Local children came here for their education all the way up to 1967 when it closed. Now the children of Newlands travel four miles up the road to Braithwaite.

Newlands Church with a few additional Covid-safety measures here and there.

I followed instructions and dutifully sanitised my hands on both sides of the church door. Inside I stood quietly, looking at the wooden pews, and the pulpit installed in 1610. Even here, in a space for, what, forty, fifty people, modern technology had arrived. Attached to the lectern was a microphone so everyone could hear.

I stood there wondering how many people now worshipped here. Back in the day, most of those living in the valley would have packed this place out on a Sunday. Times change. People attend church less. Farms employ far less people. Later I’d learn that Newlands doesn’t actually have any regular services. But with that knowledge still to come, I closed the door, sanitised my hands once more, and continued on to Robinson.

At the lane end at Low High Snab, on the way up Robinson.

All I had to do was follow a lane. And then, when the lane ended, follow a well marked track. The Ordnance Survey map showed a good route to the top, following Scope Beck. So clear was it marked on the map that I hadn’t actually consulted my Wainwright Guide to the North Western Fells. This would prove to be a mistake.

Thick gorse covered the hillside as the track went towards an old dam; the stone dam wall covered in moss. The dam had created a reservoir, although there was little clue as to why someone had built a reservoir here. But once this was a valley that had been active. This was an area that once bustled as lead and copper was extracted from the ground; the reservoir powering two waterwheels for the mines. Now it’s silent.

I stared at the water for a short time, thinking the reservoir would make it a good wild camp spot. Hey, you could spend the evening bathing once you’d pitched your tent. It would have been perfect. Had there been any good patch of flat ground on which to pitch up on, anyway.

I continued along the path, past the reservoir, staying close to the beck that filled it. The I realised that the well defined path I’d been following, was no more. It had been slowly, but surely, disappearing. I’d been looking out for a path that went right, up the hill. The map showed one. But sometimes maps lie. Here in reality, there was nothing. Was it behind me? Was it further on? I had no idea.

An old reservoir near Robinson, with the dam wall covered in grass and moss.

I dragged out my Wainwright guide from the depths of my rucksack, and found the right page. Staring at the map the words “former path” leapt out of the page at me. Yeah. Probably should have looked at that before setting off.

Sighing, I prepared to head uphill over “rough” country. Stumbling my way through grass and rocks on a steep slope at least took me up with relative speed. And at the top, oh joy! The proper path I should have taken all along if only I’d actually had done some research beforehand.

Mind you, the map did tell me that the route I had taken hadn’t required me to scramble up three rock steps. The book described them as being “20′ – 30′ high”. Could things had turned out for the best after all? It’s possible.

The summit of Robinson.

After an ascent strong on rocks and stones, Robinson’s summit was devoid of anything but grass. There was a simple stone shelter that crowned the summit. And that was it.

The broad plateau was rather unassuming. But the views from its edges were pleasant enough. Crummock Water and the fells surrounding it, and the Honister Pass road snaking its way up and downhill, both being notable stars.

I sat down, admiring this beautiful scenery, munching on an early lunch. And then headed downwards to Newlands Hause, where another road weaves its way through the mountains.

I got to the top of Robinson with no romantic interests. No one had tried to seduce me at all.

What happened on the way down though, when I met three women heading in the opposite direction… Well that really is a whole other story.

Andrew Bowden’s new novel, Passion on Robison, is published in February.

Next time: Knott Rigg

Newlands Hause, seen from the descent of Robinson.

Your Comments