Sunday, 11 December 2011

The North Face of Lancaster.

Christmas shopping in Lancaster:  it may not be a typical hike but it did involve several hours of solid walking, intricate navigation through the back streets of the city and an overwhelming desire to accomplish the entire mission in one expedition.  Recklessly I left my head torch, map and compass at home and pinned my hopes on Lancaster City Council's streetlighting and signage departments; luckily they didn't let me down.

After leaving Lancaster railway station I took the waymarked route along Westbourne Road and continued straight on over the major intersection, keeping the Cancer Research shop to my left at all times.  Some of the views along the way were simply stunning; snowy mountains, gaping ravines, polar bears, penguins and a giant sized Very Hungry Caterpillar in the window of Past Times.

I opted for the circular route taking in M&S Knott, BHS Screes and WH Smiths Gap.  The route was fairly busy, but perhaps less so than you'd expect for the time of year.  I also noticed that everyone seemed well prepared and appeared to be carrying more than enough food and equipment to cope with most eventualities. Should the mist have descended I am confident we could have survived on mince pies and Harvey's Bristol Cream until mountain rescue found us, though I had secreted a secret stash of liqueur chocolates in my handbag in case of emergencies and was prepared to lead a rousing chorus of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" to guide them to us should the need have arisen.

There was a good degree of camaraderie amongst my fellow hikers though I did notice that on this particular hike there were far fewer men than I usually see out on the fells.  I can only assume that the arduous nature of the route had proven too much for them and they were most likely at home with a pie and a pint bravely planning their next assault on an empty grassy hillside.

Four hours later and my mission was complete.  I'd sustained minor head injuries from a craggy outcrop of Jamie's Great Britain as I passed through WH Smiths Gap and a glancing blow to the shins courtesy of an over excited small child with a scooter.  It's an ideal bad weather route with plenty of places to shelter along the way though it's certainly not going to be the prettiest route in good weather.

Grange's Record Breaking Tree!
Fortunately I had time to recover at home before venturing out to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Grange. When you think about record breaking towns, Grange-over-Sands probably doesn't leap immediately to mind.  However we apparently have the tallest live lit Christmas tree in England and, in its 65th year, the longest continuously lit Christmas tree - though we do switch it off during the summer you understand.

The ceremony started at around 6pm when a crowd of excited children began to gather opposite the ornamental gardens.  After a few rousing carols the lights were turned on and Christmas officially arrived in Grange.  Soon after Santa appeared to take up residence in his grotto much to the delight of everyone present (including me, though Steve did veto me going to sit on Santa's knee.).

So there you have it, the first unsupported winter assault of the north face of Lancaster completed and the biggest Christmas tree in England.  Who says it's grim up north?