There seems to be less sheep on the moors nowadays. Not sure if this is a deliberate policy. Certainly, in other upland areas, there are concerns about over grazing. At one-time moorland farmers were actively encouraged to graze their sheep on the moors by gamekeepers. The sheep would act as magnets for ticks which also infected grouse chicks causing the transmission of a viral disease by the name of Louping Ill Virus. This could devastate the grouse population. Regular dipping would clear the sheep of ticks. Now with hardly any dipping being done, the tick population is once again soaring, however vaccination of sheep to control ticks has been shown to reduce the incidence of louping ill in red grouse.
The photo was taken on Newton Moor, a small area of heather moorland which is part of the National Trust’s Roseberry Topping property.
Harrison Stickle. With only the sheep to keep me company in the gloomy mist. I’ve climbed Harrison Stickle before, particularly on this very day 37 years ago. The weather was a lot clearer then. My training and Karrimor partner, Peter, and I had set off from in front of the Moot Hall in Keswick an hour or so before dawn. We were following in the footsteps of Bob Graham, a Borrowdale hotelier who in 1932 completed a circuit of 42 Lake District fells within 24 hours; his “long walk”: 72 miles with 27,000 feet of climb. That record was to stand until Alan Heaton broke it in 1960 thus creating the challenge of the Bob Graham Round. Harrison Stickle is the 21st summit on the round, so I guess we would have been about half way round.
Our plan was an early start climbing Skiddaw in the dark and finish off on Robinson at dusk. Maximising the hours of daylight running. Even back in 1979 attempts on the Bob Graham Round usually involved pacers and support. Bob Graham himself had had four pacers. Peter and I eschewed all that preferring to be self supported, carrying our own food and waterproofs and navigating ourselves – we hadn’t done any recceing just relying on our knowledge gained from fell races. But my Dad did offer to support us, so there he was waiting for us at Thelkeld after completing the Northern Fells section.
Now my Dad’s idea of support was based upon his crossing of the Lyke Wake Walk in ’68. I was 16 at the time, and with a party of 40+ from the Nottinghamshire section of the Camping Club. It was my first foray into Yorkshire hills, real hills, not the rippled White Peak of Derbyshire. We had set off from Osmotherley at midnight aiming for a sub 24 hours crossing. Breakfast at Clay Bank was a full English provided by the mothers and wives of the party. (Long distance walking was mostly a male affair). Lunch at Rosedale Head and dinner at Wheeldale Beck were each banquets. Each of these stops took well in excess of two hours hence the reason why we only just managed to get to Ravenscar before midnight. It was so frustrating being confined to the speed of the most injured, which happened to be Dad. Never again I said, next time I would do it on my own. That day was to kickstart my love of fast lightweight excursions into the hills and mountains.
Anyway so my Dad’s idea of support was a three course meal. Sorry Dad can’t stop. We grabbed what we could carry and ate on the hoof up Clough Head. At Dunmail Raise Dad had got the idea and just opened the boot and took the lids off the cake boxes. But I did feel guilty about stopping for only five minutes.
I was also concerned that Dad’s ageing Hillman Hunter might struggle tackling Wynose and Hardknott Passes. My own experience with my Mini shooting brake (the estate model with a wooden frame) over these passes was still fresh in my mind. It kept jumping out of 1st gear so I had to hold it in and pray. So I persuaded Dad to give Wasdale a miss and meet us next at Honistor.
I don’t remember much more about the day. It was clear, not too hot. At Mickledore neither Peter nor I were confident enough to climb Broad Stand without ropes. It had a reputation. So Foxes Tarn it had to be. Just after midnight Peter and I ran back into Keswick. A couple of hours or so within the 24 hour time limit. A good day on the fells.
But for those who want a more scenic photo of Harrison Stickle, better revert back to yesterday’s post.
A day spent recovering from the weekend’s exertions so just stayed local from the house. That photo will have to wait for a rainy day. This is from yesterday. Taken from the Baysdale road below Park Nab. A view towards the Cleveland Hills.
A sheep finds scant grazing amongst the sandstone boulders below Roseberry Topping. Sandstone which, according to geologists, were laid down at the bottom of a tropical sea 180 million years ago.
A day spent in Bransdale volunteering for the National Trust. A brief break when the sheep came past. In spite of an open road the lead sheep were very reluctant to move and only did so when pushed from behind. The lambs were particularly mischievous, scaling walls and trying to get through steel wire fencing.
After three years I have finally succumbed to perhaps the most iconic subject of Springtime. And on Mothering Sunday too. Note I say Mothering Sunday and not the American Mothers’ Day.
Mothering Sunday is one of the traditional ‘feast’ days of lent when ‘breaks’ were given on Sundays in the observance of the fast. Carlin Sunday being another. It is thought to have originated from an annual tradition of pilgrimage to the ‘mother church’ of the diocese but it maybe even more ancient having evolved from a Roman feast on the March equinox to Cybele, the Mother of the Gods. By the 17th century the tradition of paying tribute to mothers had become firmly established particularly by those daughters in domestic service. But the advent industrial revelation resulted in the practice dying out.
In the first decade of the 19th century a new secular tradition had been established over in America. Mothers’ Day, the second Sunday in May. Influenced by this new fashion from the States, the Nottingham branch of the Mother’s Union were keen to resurrect the British tradition and set about designing the first Mothering Sunday Cards and establishment of ‘The Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday’ culminating in the publication of a book in 1921. Almost one hundred years later and the tradition has become just another commercial opportunity between St. Valentine’s and Easter.
Anyone got any mint sauce.
An early morning view of Roseberry from Gribdale. The sheep nearest are showing off their green raddle marks. Not so obvious are others with yellow. The colour comes from an oily paste which is contained in a leaky leather sack called a raddle strapped onto the chest of the tup or ram. This enables the farmer to know which ewe has been serviced.
The tup is usually with the ewes for six weeks. The sheep have a cycle of 16 to 17 days so if she comes back in season then the ewe is not pregnant. After two weeks therefore the colour in the raddle is changed. This enables the farmer to know the likely lambing date for each sheep. Young tups might mate with twenty ewes whereas an older more experienced one might service over a hundred.
Each farm aims for a particular lambing time. A lowland farm might start lambing in January. Upland ones later when the weather is likely to be better and the grass is growing. I am not sure which farm these sheep belong to. Aireyholme Farm lies at the foot of Roseberry to the left in the photo. I remember the late farmer there once telling me that he aims for a lambing date of April 1st so the tup is placed with the ewes on November 5th. So that’s when the fireworks happen.