Did you know that today is National Walking Day? Well, we bring you one intrepid Border Terrier who, along with his 'staff' (lovingly referred to as Old Man and Ma!), has completed all of the Wainright Fell walks in the Lake District. It has been well reported through the pandemic that walking is good for your mental and physical health, let alone essential to keep your Border Terrier exercised, lest they should start causing trouble through excess energy!
Having shared his walks on twitter for many years, here Culter, takes us on his journey around the Fells, up hill and down dale, along with his top tips of how to get out there, even for those who aren't up to the whole 978 miles of them!
Walking the Lake District Wainwrights by BT Culter
In the beginning . . .
In 2017 my recently retired Old Man (OM) decided he wanted a wee dog to walk the Lake District fells with and Ma agreed. All they had to do was decided on the breed and it was a chance meeting that made up their minds. They were walking on Culter Fell in the Southern Uplands of Scotland when they met a Border Terrier out for a walk. She seemed at home on the hill, so back in Cumbria they did some research and a BT it had to be.
The search for a pup led them to a Cumbrian Border Terrier breeder who only has one litter a year and in December 2017 I was born. The owners are keen fell walkers and were delighted to let me move in with the folks in February 2018. It seemed a good idea to name me Culter (pronounced Cooter), so you could say walking was my heritage from the start!
My first months were the same as those experienced by most pups and the folks quickly learned that I was going to be hard work. Some things like house training came quite easily but others didn’t and, of course, at this stage the fells were beyond me. We had lots of fun on our local coast and took trips into the lakes for short low-level walks – I loved the smells, sights and sounds on these.
During this period the OM decided he wanted to walk the Wainwrights again before moving to Scotland when Ma retired. This time he’d take me with him.
So what exactly are the Wainrights?
A fair question, for those not local or 'in the know', so here's a few facts and figures.
The Wainwrights are the 214 Fells listed in Alfred Wainwrights famous Seven Pictorial Guides to the Lake District and are spread throughout the National Park. The highest is Scafell Pike (978m) and the lowest Castle Crag (290m).
Some are short easy walks but others are long mountain days over rough ground. All are more difficult in typical Cumbrian weather – rain and wind.
The Wainrights challenge begins
By April 2018 I was deemed ready to have a go at my first Wainwright – Sale Fell (359m) in the NW Lakes. This grassy hill takes about 1 hour to complete so was an ideal starter. I loved it – especially as snow had fallen the previous night and by chance, I met another BT. He was 3 and doing the Wainwrights with 30 to go.
From this start I continued to get onto the fells regularly. We stuck to short easy walks for several months and I always had plenty of days off in between. Gradually the walks got longer and we tackled hills with rougher rocky ground. I had no problem adapting and always slept well. Occasionally I was let off the lead but it soon became clear I wasn’t good with sheep so the folks played it safe and still do most of the time.
By the end of 2018 I’d climbed 69 Wainwrights including my first of the ‘big’ ones Skiddaw (930m). The OM missed this one as he was volunteering with Fix the Fells maintaining footpaths on another hill, but we’ve done it several times since including a memorable day in snow.
2018: 69 Wainwrights completed ✅
My Top 10 Easy Wainwrights
For BT’s and staff who would like to climb a Wainwright during their Lakes holiday, I’d recommend the following:
1. Latrigg above Keswick
3. Sale Fell
4. Ling Fell
5. Castle Crag – a bit rockier this one
6. Walla Crag
7. Loughrigg Fell
8. Knott Rigg and Ard Crags
9. Rannerdale Knotts
10. Silver How
There’s a slight bias towards the west and NW in the list but, what can I say . . . that’s my patch!
No one likes descending, so BT’s learn the Commando Crawl technique. It’s great fun and the Hu's will forget the pain in their knees as they laugh at you!!
So, back to the Wainright challenge
Throughout 2019 walking the fells became a big part of my life. If we weren’t climbing new Wainwrights, we were repeating those closer to home or climbing hills in the Scottish Borders including, of course, Culter Fell.
I had no problem completing long mountain days and trotted round several classic Lakeland Horseshoes. These involve climbing several fells in one long day (5-6 hours plus) often over rough ground and conveniently end at the starting point. Luckily for me the staff know these well and were great guides – often pointing others in the right direction.
By my 2nd Birthday I’d climbed 87 more Wainwrights including some of the very well-known ones like Helvellyn, Blencathra, Great Gable, High Street, Cat Bells and Haystacks – where Wainwright's ashes were scattered by his wife, Betty, near the shores of Innominate Tarn in 1991. I only had 58 to do.
2019: 87 Wainwrights completed ✅ (156 total)
My 5 favourite horseshoes
For BT’s and staff with some hill fitness and an ability to navigate if the clag comes down, I’d recommend these:
1. The Coledale Horseshoe – 5 Wainwrights (Coledale Round video below)
2. The Fairfield Horseshoe – 8 Wainwrights
3. The Newlands Horseshoe – 5 or 6 Wainwrights (Newlands Round video below)
4. The Deepdale Horseshoe – repeats some of the Fairfield tops but quieter and 3 new Wainwrights
5. The Mosedale Horseshoe – 5 Wainwrights
Wainwright challenge interrupted by a global pandemic
The plan was to finish in 2020 but Covid had a big impact. In the glorious Spring of ‘Lockdown’ we could only look longingly at the fells and when things opened up, the Lakes became incredibly busy making travelling to the more distant hills I still had left to climb, unpleasant.
In the end I managed 24 new Wainwrights including the two highest Scafell Pike and Scafell. The former was done on a dreich midweek day with no summit views, in the hope that it would be quieter, which it was.
I did meet the Wasdale Womble, a local lady who climbs to the summit daily, picking up litter and sadly there was a lot of it!
2020: 24 Wainwrights completed ✅ (180 total)
Culter's Top Tips for a Border Terrier's needs 'on the hill'
The staff carry all sorts of stuff but I need very little:
1. Water and bowl
– the amount carried by the staff depends on the route and time of year. On some routes there are plenty of safe streams to drink from, but you need to know the terrain well for this, so don't rely on it.
– my favourite is a Kibble and chicken mix plus some treats. Most important for every Border Terrier who thinks of their stomach as top priority!
3. A Jacket
– a warm one in winter or a waterproof one, if heavy rain is likely. I’m not a fan of either so they only get used occasionally.
4. A spare lead
– I’m walked on lead most of the time so wear a harness which is also useful for ‘helicoptering’ me over stiles and fences. The folks carry a spare short lead and now almost always walk me on an extender which the OM attaches to his waist. This gives me some freedom and he’s able to manage me fine even on quite difficult rocky or unstable ground (see the pic below where I'm 'dragging' him up the Fell!).
5. Dog boots?
– some advice suggests wee dog boots to protect paws on rocky ground or snow and ice, but I’ve never needed them.
Wainwright challenge curtailed, but continues
By the start of 2021 my remaining 34 Wainwrights were mostly in the Far Eastern and Southern Fells - further from my home in west Cumbria.
I completed 23 of these, including 7 on a superb 13 mile walk above Coniston, but mainly explored fells nearer home due to lockdowns, busy roads and parking problems throughout the Lakes.
2021: 23 Wainwrights completed ✅ (203 total)
My Top 10 Wainwrights
They make the list because I’ve done them all several times, plus they have great routes and great views.
3. Hopegill Head (NW Fells Round video below)
4. Grasmoor (A Grasmoor Round video below)
5. Red Pike (Buttermere)
8. Mellbreak (First Fell Walk 2022 video below)
10. Dale Head
The Wainwrights challenge completed!
At the start of 2022 the folks learnt that our new house would be ready to move into on 3 March so the race was onto finish.
By the start of February, I had 5 to do. The OM really wanted to finish on Lingmoor Fell in Langdale, as it was the first fell he ever climbed as a 13-year-old. This wasn’t to be, as we grabbed the chance to tick it off between two named storms on a clear day.
So, my final Wainwright became Shipman Knotts – not a very distinguished or well-known hill in the Far East. It was a frosty morning when we left home for Longsleddale and we set off in sunshine to climb my final 4. However, after bagging Grey Crags, the clag rolled in and the guide had to do his bit to get me over Tarn Crag, Kentmere Pike and that final one in poor visibility and snow showers.
So, a great Lakeland adventure was over with just 3 weeks left before our move. Thanks to all those in the BTPosse who’ve followed along and we hope you've enjoyed reading and seeing more of them here.
I look forward to more adventures in Scotland in the years to come!
2021: 11 Wainwrights completed ✅ (all 214 finished! 🎉)
Want to have a go?
If you and your staff are interested in doing ‘a round’ of the Wainwrights two excellent looking guidebooks have been published recently:
1. Walking the Wainwrights - 64 Walks to Climb the Wainwrights of Lakeland by Graham Uney, which can be found on Amazon here or ask at your local bookshop.
2. Peak Bagging: Wainwrights: 45 routes designed to complete all 214 of Wainwright's Lake District fells in the most efficient way by Karen and Dan Parker, which can be found on Wordery here or ask at your local bookshop.
Many of the walks in these guides are long so the excellent Lakeland FellRanger series by Cicerone may be a better choice (found on Amazon here or ask at your local bookshop).
The original Pictorial Guides are classics and works of art, but they are a little dated and not as easy to use as an up to date publication (found on Amazon here or ask at your local bookshop).
An excellent online resource is Wainwright Routes - Lake District Walks.
Note: Your staff should carry the relevant Ordnance Survey Maps and know how to use them with a compass in poor visibility. The local Mountain Rescue Teams have been very busy over the last two years, mainly looking for people lost on the hill.
Walking even just the occasional Lakeland fell is superb, and I hope any BTs visiting the area are encouraged to have a go. If you do, keep an eye out for two of my local Pals, Seth and Frodo who are charging around their Wainwrights – both off lead!! Frodo is often seen out with Fix the Fells, supervising the workers maintaining footpaths – say hi and give him a treat if you bump into him. Wee pupster, Hana, has also just started her round!
For me new adventures await up in Scotland. I’ve already started on my Munros and Corbetts and look forward to more backpacking trips. I will of course share my adventures with the wonderful #BTPosse on Twitter and I will return to visit the fells of Cumbria.
Stay safe and enjoy the hills.
The mountains are calling and I must go!!!!
A huge thank you from BTW
We are truly grateful to Culter, his OM (we can't bring ourselves to call him old!) and Ma, for sharing their Wainwrights, their useful top tips and excellent walk recommendations. What a truly inspirational blog, and vlog, showcasing the amazing landscape of the Lake District.
We hope you are able to get out and enjoy some of it in person, or if not that this post has brought it to you vicariously, as we know so many on twitter have enjoyed seeing Culter's posts and continue to do so on the Scottish hills now.
Whatever walks you take, be safe and keep your Borders Terriers safe too, they're brilliant company!