It’s all very well making a decision (SEE Bagmag 4) in theory. It’s what happens in practice that counts. Where to start? Perhaps the most obvious place is the beginning - so I turned to Region 34A of Dawson’s inventory of Marilyns in the North of England. Northern Fells revealed a list of 6 hills, headed by Skiddaw. Five of these I had already climbed leaving only Watch Hill high and, with a bit of luck, dry. I consulted the appropriate OS Sheet and summoned Google Earth from the depths. All looked straightforward enough. A track from a potential parking space rose through a wooded area before turning left to the summit over what appeared to be rough pasture. Climbing around 500 feet in a couple of miles seemed to indicate a fairly gentle average gradient. If I couldn’t do that I may as well take up outdoor tiddlywinks.
After a bit of interesting navigation around the outskirts of Cumbria, we finally reached the foot of the intended track, changed into boots and set off. After fifty yards I stopped. Or to be more precise, I was stopped. Everything was going fine then everything seized up. The nearest parallel I can think of is a car running out of petrol. Lesson number one: don’t rush your slopes. I would have to learn to walk uphill more slowly, much more slowly. Give the heart a chance to catch up with my ambitions.
Once that was sorted matters went quite easily. The path, naturally had its steeper bits but at no stage did it prove too difficult. There was even a gate rather than a stile to allow access to the fell proper and then a wall to follow to the summit. Nothing could be easier. I say summit but that is rather a grand term for any one of a number of lumps of turf littering a kink in the forest boundary. Lesson number two: one of the problems besetting the intrepid sub-Marilyner is ascertaining the exact top of a little visited hill. A theodolite or a NASA satellite reading might come in handy.
Nevertheless my feeling of elation, though quite out of proportion to the number of feet ascended was genuine enough. For the first time since my hospital appointment with its attendant prognosis, I really believed I could continue to get out on the hill. Nothing for the normal person to shout about, but if looked at in the right light, I might embark on a whole new chapter of my hill-walking life.
Watch Hill, as the name implies, has a distinct advantage over its loftier neighbours – it is a well placed viewpoint. Forestry plantation has severely restricted the view to the north and east, but south and west a great unexplored chunk of the western Lakes was clearly visible. Low Fell, Mellbreak, Muncaster Fell. Definitely names to conjure with and at the top of the list Blake Fell, a Lakes peak in miniature. But first things first. Back to the car and a pint at The Old Crown in Hesket Newmarket.