Gatesgarth Bridge

A wet day in the Lakes and a trip up to Dale Head didn’t produce anything photogenic. Gatesgarth Bridge at the bottom of Honistor Pass on the Buttermere side reminds me of an earlier visit. October 2008 and I was sitting in my VW Polo at almost the same spot watching the water in Gatesgarthdale Beck pour over the parapet of the bridge. I was weighing up the risk of trying to cross.

I had spent the previous night camped high in Eskdale manning the first control on the Elite course of the Original Mountain Marathon. It was a lovely night. I had pitched my tent in a dry rocky gully surrounded by bracken. A fine morning and around 0830 I got snug in my sleeping bag ready for the first competitors to arrive. It started to drizzle. Within half an hour it was raining but I was snug and cosy. The competitor flow tailed off and the control cut off time passed. It was then I notice the ground sheet of my tent was floating. Like a water bed. I looked out and water was spurting up between the boulders like a fountain. I have not depitched so quickly since. By the time I had packed my rucksack the tent was flooded.

The worst was to come. There were several diversions due to floods on the drive to the overnight camp ay Gatesgarth Farm. I had to use Winlatter then Newlands passes and cross several overflowing becks. Eventually a car came the other way and I could see his number plate. So I took the risk.

But the race had been abandoned. So it was a drive up and over Honistor to the hired cottage in Seatoller. The road was awash. Boulders rolled down as competitors walked up back to their cars in Borrowdale oblivious in the driving wind and rain as I tried to drive up.

As usual the press went completely over the top with thousands of competitors lost on the fells. Even the BBC report was a little sensational. The following morning I helped collect in the controls. It was glorious. I found one control marshall snug in his tent completely unaware the event had been cancelled. And when I left to go home the press vehicles with large satellite aerials were still parked up in Grange, perhaps finally realising it was all a fuss about nothing.

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