Stuart Maconie and Eric Robson team up to cover the area described by Wainwright in his 1962 "Pictorial Guide to Northern Fells." Remote as they are from the "queuing on Striding Edge" and "the fleshpots of Bowness" (near Windermere), such diverse peaks as Skiddaw, Blencathra, Carrock, Knott, Bowscale and Souther appeal to the "connoisseur," claims Macconie, as he and Robson discuss the 2-day, 25-mile walk to come at the Mill Inn in Mungrisedale at the base of Blencathra. Then Maconie sets off on his own (accompanied, of course, by his reliable 4-man Striding edge crew, including researcher David Powell-Thompson and cameraman Januscz Ostrowski), while Robson provides occasional narration and inserts of helicopter shots.
Among the highlights of Day 1: Maconie's visit to a pre-Roman stone fortification at the top of High Pike, his discussion with Keswick Mining Museum director Ian Tyler about some of the minerals that have been mined in the area (Germans came to mine copper in the first Elizabethan Age), and, on the top of Knott fell, his story of the 100 beacons lit atop English and Scottish peaks on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887.
Day 2 begins with Maconie in earnest discussion with Powell-Thompson as to exactly where they are and where they're going, as the three other crew members sit and wait. We see the relatively unheralded but still impressive Ullock Pike and the very much heralded Bassenthwaite Lake (the only officially designated "lake" in Lakeland; the other major bodies of water are called "waters"). Atop Skiddaw, the 4th highest mountain in England, Maconie recalls the famous literary figures who have come to this spot, including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, and Edward Lear. Robson's off-camera comment: "We're on a grand old man. Be civil to him." Maconie stops for some refreshment at the Skiddaw House Hostel, built 200 years ago as a shooting lodge, then serving as a gamekeeper's hut. He stops at Mungrisedale Common, Wainwright's least favorite fell ("It has no more pretension to elegance than a pudding that has been sat on"), but nonetheless one of his famous 214 Lakeland peaks. Approaching the "infamous" Sharp Edge near Blencathra, Maconie consults with Powell-Thompson as to whether it's safe to negotiate, considering the high winds and the open exposure. They conclude that it isn't; so "just so that we don't feel cheated," Robson inserts a clip of himself years earlier--with considerably darker hair--climbing the same spot ("the ruptured crab maneuver"), as recorded in Striding Edge's "Remote Lakeland" DVD. As AW himself acknowledged of such undignified but necessary movements, "there's no dishonor in doing [this] part of it on your backside."
This is a thoroughly enjoyable journey, enhanced not only by the matchless views, but also by Maconie's abilities as a guide and the care he takes to frequently locate the viewer, pointing out in the distant landscape where we've been and where we're going.
Larry B | Ventura, California | October 2018