On a lighter note, a third plaque to be found on the summit of Helvellyn commemorates the first successful landing and subsequent take-off of a plane on a British mountain, undertaken to show the adaptability of modern aircraft. ‘The first aeroplane to land on a mountain in
Great Britain did so on Dec 22nd 1926. John Leeming and Bert Hinkler in an Avro 585 Gosport landed here and after a short stay flew back to Woodford’. The stony summit plateau of Helvellyn is fairly level but it must have taken some courage, and perhaps a touch of gung ho, to attempt this daring feat. the walker comes upon a timely reminder of the seriousness of the walk. A small plaque reads: ‘In memory of Robert Dixon of Rooking, Patterdale, who was killed on the 27th day of November 1858 following the Patterdale Foxhounds’. Critically injured, the young man was taken home but sadly died in the early hours of the next morning aged 33.
Next, along the ridge, comes a descent down a 15 to 20 foot rocky ‘chimney’, colloquially known as the Bad Step. Having negotiated the climb down the rocks with care, the final steep ascent takes you to the summit where a larger memorial stands. The Gough Memorial commemorates a fatal fall down the east face in wintry conditions in the spring of 1805. Charles Gough was a Manchester artist who set out to climb Helvellyn with only his faithful dog,
Foxie, for company. He failed to return. At the beginning of the 19th century, fell-walking and mountaineering for pleasure were relatively new pursuits and Gough, alone on the mountains, had no specialist clothing or kit. Three months later a shepherd came upon across a dog barking. Beside her lay the remains of her unfortunate master.
Foxie, an Irish Terrier, loyal to the end, had remained with
Wordsworth penned the poem Fidelity that celebrated the romantic nature of the young artist’s death and extolled the virtues of such a loyal companion, even suggesting that the dog had been ‘nourished’ by a higher power. Walter Scott too wrote a poem entitled ‘Helvellyn’ and in 1892, inspired by the poem, Edwin Landseer, painter of the Queen’s dogs, created a sentimental image of the devoted dog keeping vigil over his dead master.
Foxie’s faithful vigil became the stuff of legend and is even commemorated today in a beer, Charles Gough’s Old Faithful, made by the Tirril Brewery, near Penrith.
Although romanticised, the story of Foxie and other legends such as Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal terrier who guarded his masters tomb in Edinburgh for 14 years, still hold appeal for dog lovers today which shows that there is simply no competition for the status of man’s best friend.
This is the Gough Memorial on Helvellyn
ABOVE: The Dixon Memorial on Striding Edge BELOW: One of today’s canine visitors to Helvellyn