Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Hampsfell Jubilee Beacon

The crowds heading up
We haven't really done a lot of Jubilee stuff; there haven't been any street parties around here and on a busy bank holiday it's best not to take your car too far unless you have a fondness for sitting in traffic jams.  We did buy ourselves a rather sweet Union Jack tray but that's been about as festive as we've got.  Having spotted a piece on the news about the lighting of the beacons we figured there must be plenty of that going on around here so looked up the nearest one; turns out it was at the end of the road so no excuses!  We had toyed with the idea of Scarfell Pike or The Old Man, both of which also had beacons, but my dodgy back sadly precluded them though, as it turns out, that was a good thing.

Hospice & fells
Tearing ourselves away from Kylie, who'd just taken to the stage in the Jubilee concert, we headed upwards with light backpacks wondering what awaited us.  Having never been to a beacon lighting before we weren't too sure what to expect, apart from a bonfire obviously.  The main route up Hampsfell runs along our back garden and we'd not noticed crowds of people swarming by so we were beginning to wonder if it had been cancelled.  Up at the Hospice we noticed a dozen or so other people all hanging around looking bemused but, more importantly, we noticed there was no bonfire.  Eventually someone mentioned that the actual beacon was at Fell End rather than the Hospice and about 5 minutes later it sprung into life.  Oh, that's what the big "beacon" symbol on the map meant...

Birkrigg Beacon
We hung around at the Hospice for a while watching the beacons lighting up all around; Birkrigg, Black Combe, The Old Man, Arnside, Morecambe and about half a dozen others we were struggling to place in the darkness.  Some were accompanied by fireworks while others, like the one on The Old Man, appeared rather more modest affairs, presumably due to the challenges involved in carting huge loads of wood to the summit.  Eventually we decided to head over to our own beacon before it went out.

Hampsfell Beacon & full moon.
Although it was now nearly 11pm our route was well lit by the most incredible moon.  I completely failed to do it justice in any of my photos, but it was a stunning full moon with a near perfect reflection right across Morecambe Bay; something we'd never have seen from Scafell Pike or The Old Man.  As we approached the beacon I began to ponder about "beacon etiquette"; what was one expected to do?  On bonfire night we eat hot dogs and watch fireworks, on other ceremonial occasions we sing carols, but what does one do at a beacon lighting?  Turns out one hangs around chatting to the organisers until nearly midnight and then gets lost on the fell on the way home.  Well that's what we did anyway.

Although small Hampsfell is criss-crossed by dozens of paths and we thought that midnight would be a great time to try a new route down.  To be fair we did find a new route down, just not the one we intended, but it was a warm dry evening and we had head torches so we just had fun and made the most of our impromptu adventure.  We finally arrived home sometime before one o'clock; the jubilee concert was long over, but at least we'd finally joined in the festivities.