Wandhope

Published 17 January 2021

The summit cairn of Wandope. Really, the excitement of Wandope never really ends.

It’s September 2020 and after a year full of lockdowns, cancelled holidays and just general chaos, I unexpectedly found myself in the Lake District for a week. Day one was spent near Borrowdale, the second in the wonderful Newlands. For the third, I had a lovely horseshoe walk around Grasmoor lined up. After starting with Whiteside, I revisited Hopegill Head, then to Grasmoor, the tallest fell in the North Western area. And from there, it was all rather downhill in more than one way.

What a difference a week makes. Seven days earlier – a Monday – our two children had booted out of school for coughing too much.

Not that long ago, everyone would have shrugged, pointed out that they had runny noses as well. “It’s September. They’ve got a cold.” they would have concluded, before reaching for the liquid paracetamol. That would have been that.

But this was 2020. The year of Covid-19. And that meant no school until a Covid-19 test had either come back negative, or they’d self-isolated.

Wandope – a highly exciting fell.

For good measure this happened at a point where the Covid-19 testing system was in complete meltdown. The website for booking tests was telling people in London to get a test in Aberdeen or Cardiff. If it was telling them they could get a test at all.

I spent several of hours battling with the website before somehow snagging a booking. It wasn’t in Aberdeen. It was in Oldham, nine miles from my house. A borough that – at that point – had the worst Covid-19 rates in the country. The testing centre was completely empty. An hour later reports started coming in that testing centres had run out of tests. They started turning people away.

I can’t say I particularly enjoyed sticking a swab up the noses of two children. Or indeed any of the process. The staff at the centre were friendly and helpful. But the whole exercise had left my stress levels at Defcon 1.

The tests came back negative. This didn’t surprise me one bit. It turned out that two children that had all the symptoms of the common cold, really did have the common cold. Life could resume again. Which is why I can tell you all about Wandhope instead of boring you to death with my 14 day ‘Self Isolation diary.’

Grasmoor – seen from Wandope.

Although truth be told, there wasn’t much to tell about Wandhope. Which is why I put all that stuff about Covid-19 here. Something to pad it all out with. For if I hadn’t, all I’d be able to write was that Wandhope had grass. Lots and lots of grass.

Wandhope was one of those fells surrounded by far more exciting fells. Fells with grand views. Fells with great height. Fells with exciting rocky summits. Fells with giant cairns. Fells with sweeping panoramics. Fells with trig points. Wandhope had few of these things. It had little in the line of discerning features. Although it did have sheep.

You wouldn’t chose Wandhope over Crag Hill or Grassmoor. You just wouldn’t. Which is probably why Wandhope’s simple summit, with its tiny cairn, was completely deserted. No one wanted to go there. No one except one lone fell bagger who had walked the rather dull path up from Coledale Hause. One lone fell bagger who needed to be here mainly so he could tick the place off on his list. A list created because of the whims of one man in the 1950s.

The view from Wandope. More interesting than the fell, anyway.

It had a nice view towards Newlands Hause. A good place to look at Knott Rigg and Robinson. And to look at the car park and ponder how quiet it was on a Monday. But that was about it. Wandhope was one of those fells. Not the kind of place you would otherwise be bothered enough to visit. A fell that’s rather forgettable. Bit dull and boring.

But sometimes dull and boring is fine. For dull and boring is not, at least, stress. Not self-isolation. Not swabs being stuck up noses and then pushed into plastic tubes.

Wandhope wasn’t the most exciting place to be. But it was a lot better than at least one of the alternative places I could have been that day.

Crag Hill, seen from Wandope. But I wasn’t really paying much attention. Because you don’t on Wandope.

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