Now and then, as The Dog and I stride out purposefully, off on our morning walk, we are quite lucky if we can make fifty yards of purposeful striding before there is something one or the other of us needs to investigate in detail, and inevitably our purposeful stride deteriorates into an undirected amble, Our walk becomes a bit reminiscent of a pinball, flying straight and true until it hits the first pin – thereafter bouncing around in as an unpredictable and random manner as the fates can devise.
If we have a clear day and we chose to turn left out of our gate, we have a view westwards to Scotland and the mountains of the Lake District. The highest point, from our point of view, is Skiddaw whose peak rises above his surrounding mountains and foothills when seen from this direction. Indeed, the story goes that a beacon was fired on Skiddaw in times of national crisis.
These days, there are well marked paths starting from conveniently located car parks, all linked by a network of roads gouged out of cliff and lake to transport tourists and their vehicles from one healthy activity to another. Even so, from the most convenient car park to the top of Skiddaw is a good six hour walk and perhaps a five hour walk to come down again.
So, imagine in ‘those days’. Here comes a National Crisis – the Scots, the French or the Spanish are invading. A rider on an exhausted horse comes pounding in to the local constabulary. “We need to rouse the countryside. To. Arms! To. Arms!” etc. etc. Right, load up the horses with a couple of big bundles of firewood, if we’re going to keep it going all night we better have a whole string of horses – no popping to the supermarket for a bag of charcoal allowed – and, as night falls, off we go up the virtually unmarked trails in the dusk. Six or seven hours later – it’s now nearly midnight we reach the top.
“Did anyone remember to bring a tinderbox and a flint and steel? Come on, lets get the fire going. Then we can toast some marshmallows.”
Crises must have been much more leisurely affairs in the olden days.