TR - Great Gable act of remembrance

An impromptu trip to the memorial ceremony with photos

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14/11/2011 at 11:58

(By way of background, in the 1920s members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club purchased a considerable area of the high fells around Great Gable and erected a a bronze tablet dedicated to, and naming, FRCC members who had died in the Great War. Geoffrey Winthrop Young addressed several hundred people at the original dedication and annually since then the two minutes silence on Remembrance Sunday has been observed at the summit by the FRCC with a welcome extended to anyone who wishes to attend. The event has become a strong tradition and, even in the harsh weather conditions that can occur at nearly 3,000 feet in November, it is attended by hundreds of walkers each year.)

Early on the morning of Saturday 12 November, I decided on the spur of the moment to drive from the midlands to Cumbria, stay overnight, then observe Sunday's act of remembrance at the annual ceremony on Great Gable. This was something I had contemplated but had never got round to doing.

I made a last-minute booking into a Travelodge near the M6 and drove to Cumbria on Saturday afternoon. Anxious to be at the summit in good time, I awoke before dawn on Sunday, packed the car, and checked out early. As there was so little traffic at that hour on a Sunday I arrived at Seathwaite earlier than I'd anticipated. Rather to my surprise, I found empty parking places right by the farmyard so I started walking by about 7.15 which allowed very generous time to get to the summit. In fact, even at an easy pace and with a sit-down stop for a snack and cup of coffee at the Styhead MRT stretcher box, it was only 9.45 when I arrived at the memorial atop Great Gable.

There had a been very few walkers on the path from Seathwaite to Stockley Bridge but more started to appear as I approached Styhead Tarn. Nonetheless there fewer people walking than the throng I had imagined. So I was slightly surprised by the number of tents pitched around the tarn - last time I passed there had been one tent. On this ocassion, however, it looked as crowded as a summer campsite and nearly as busy. There were little knots of campers chatting, others brewing up, others striking camp. Passing the tarn, I sat in the lee of the MRT stretcher box, made a coffee and ate breakfast while watching the activity around the tarn. Then, bolstered by the break, I stomped up the well-trodden path straight up the flank of the hill to the summit.

The weather was more-or-less as forecast - dry, mild, patchy sun with cloud lifting from the summits - although luckily the wind turned out less strong than predicted so there was no buffetting. I very rarely carry a camera when walking but, given the clear forecast and the special ocassion, I took my SLR up the hill.

Once at the top, the hour or so's wait passed quickly. From about 10.15 onwards, streams of walkers began arriving from all points of the compass and as the views opened out below the rising cloud cover so there was plenty of intrest. There was a sense of unity among the assembly and lots of people to chat to. I guesstimate there were between about 350 and 500 people present though it wasn't easy to judge accurately. 

To be continued...

14/11/2011 at 11:58

Continued ...

As 11am approached, people began to move in around the memorial. The actual ceremonmy was very simple indeed. There was a very short oration which stressed the universality of remembrance but also mentioned in particular the sacrifice of fellsmen in the Great war. Then, at the stroke of 11am, the murmur and shuffle of the crowd gave way to silence and heads were bared.

Apart from a scuffle of stones here, a dog bark there, a raven's croak and the whispering wind the mountain top was utterly quiet for two minutes. At the end of the silence, there was a ripple of applause - it seemed incongruous to me but, as a release of the moment, perhaps understandable. Groups of people moved to the summit to place individual poppies, poppy wreaths and crosses around the the memorial.

Over the years, I have attended many public acts of remembrance including formal church services. But this low-key event - no striking clock, no booming canon, no lamenting pipes or ringing bugle - was, I felt, uniquely dignified and moving. Also, up there high among the Cumbrian mountains on a solemn ocassion, there was a palpable sense of fraternity and community: after all, everyone there shared a love of the fells and had been willing to walk two or more hours to attend the ceremony.

I didn't linger long after placing a cross on the memorial because I faced a four-hour drive home. I walked down to Windy Gap then trotted over Green Gable and onward to the summit of Base Brown. I found a spot that was dry and out of the breeze to sit and make a coffee. There I ate my lunch admiring the fine views of Seathwaite Fell and Borrowdale. After lunch, I dropped down past the hanging stone and made a steep unpathed descent picking my way around the rocks and little crags until I reached the pitched path down Sourmilk Gill and thence through the arch at Seathwaite Farm back to my car.

I had made quicker time descending the hill than anticipated so although the trip home was tedious and, in parts, congested - the M6 is hardly a bundle of delights - I arrived back earlier than expected. But, the motorway drive aside, it had been a very rewarding day and the communal experience on Great Gable is something I shall long remember.

I will append some photographs in a subsequent post

14/11/2011 at 12:13

Above: a steady stream of walkers arriving at Great Gable

Above: reaching the summit

Above: the crowd gathers

Above: good weather and clear skies so plenty of views

Above: members of one of the RAF's rescue teams

Above: the crowd just before the ceremony began

Above: after the ceremony a stream of people head up from Windy Gap

Above: the line of walkers at Windy Gap

14/11/2011 at 12:58
a lovely report SB
14/11/2011 at 13:08
nice one
14/11/2011 at 13:14
Well done SB - this is on my list of "must dos" - thanks for the reminder.
14/11/2011 at 13:15
Well done SB, nice photos and loads of folk there.
14/11/2011 at 13:29

Some of my mates did it last year and probably this year. A good thing to do I reckon. It's always busy that day. Which in my book says a lot about respect for armed forces hill walkers, climbers and other outdoors types have. Nice one SB. If you're going next year give me a shout, about time I made that journey. Been meaning to and nearly did one year (other things or person distracted me from going).

One of my favourite places is the memorial near Grey friars in the Coniston range for IIRC a lancaster bomber that crashed there near the end of the war. It was the RCAF and the oldest was a Flt Lt aged 21. In fact there were Flt Sgts aged 18 in the crew. I don't know why it is one of my favourite places as it is on the flank of the hill and without a view worthy of being a favourite but it is.

14/11/2011 at 17:06
14/11/2011 at 17:40

Well done SB nice report too.

Might do it next year with the family  if i get chance with a wildcamp thrown in.



14/11/2011 at 19:25

Nice one, Skip

Had we known of your plans you could have had a spare bunk at Derwentwater & jambalaya for tea...

14/11/2011 at 20:01
Millysawitch wrote (see)

Had we known of your plans ...

Plan? What plan!

Millysawitch wrote (see) could have had a spare bunk at Derwentwater & jambalaya for tea...

Damn! And 'damn' again! That would've been great!

14/11/2011 at 20:05
Sceptical Bastard wrote (see)
Millysawitch wrote (see)

Had we known of your plans ...

Plan? What plan!

Millysawitch wrote (see) could have had a spare bunk at Derwentwater & jambalaya for tea...

Damn! And 'damn' again! That would've been great!

and lemonade
14/11/2011 at 20:06
Skip, good trip report.
14/11/2011 at 20:12

Thank you for the very kind comments, everyone.

Parky, my ad hoc trip was in part triggered by you posting Binyon's For The Fallen and the other poetry on Friday.

Lost in Lancashire wrote (see)

...If you're going next year give me a shout...

* THE DIDSTER * wrote (see)

...Might do it next year with the family ...

Perhaps if enough OM-ers are interested we could arrange a 'Great Gable Act Of Remembrance Meet' for November 2012?

I suppose the most obvious venue would be the Black Sail Hut (with nearby wild camping for those who prefer to be under canvas). People could arrive on the Friday evening, spend Saturday either on individual walks or a group hike followed by a communal meal (and whisky-samping), then walk together up Great Gable on the Sunday morning.

14/11/2011 at 20:57

Great Trip Report Skip. That sounds like a really good way to remember those people who have fallen in conflict and a meet sounds like an even better one. I might even see if I can make it up there myself, although I think I'd prefer the hut to canvas as I'd probably freeze to death in my current camping set up in November.

I also note that you seem to have finally got your hands on a camera

15/11/2011 at 05:46
seems like a plan.



Edited: 15/11/2011 at 07:32
15/11/2011 at 07:49
privatehudson wrote (see)
... you seem to have finally got your hands on a camera...

Yer cheeky bugger! LOL  

I've had that SLR for ages but I rarely take it on the hill as it's big and heavy.

* THE DIDSTER * wrote (see)
seems like a plan.

Well, vague ideas are about as near as I ever get to planning anything, Dids.

I suppose the next step is to post in the 'Meets and Partners' section and see how many people would be interested in attending? Either that or just lean on Milly to organise it

Edit: Meet Thread now started

Edited: 15/11/2011 at 08:30
15/11/2011 at 12:41
Yeah I had some problems with my Superzoom on Snowdon because it has a tendency to swing around a bit when I'm using the neck strap
15/11/2011 at 15:56

Good report SB.

I too was there. I try to make a point of getting to Wasdale for a few days around Remembrance Sunday.This year the weather was especially good and the numbers seemed quite high.

I wonder how many other OM folk were also there?

It's the fact that this act of Remembrance by like minded folk is low key and non-religious that makes it so moving and dignified.

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