Peaceful moments at our greatest war memorial
REMEMBRANCE To commemorate the Armistice centenary, James Forrest climbs 14 peaks dedicated to the soldiers who gave their lives for freedom
The Cenotaph in London is 36ft tall. But this war memorial, the one I’m standing on top of, is nearly a hundred times as high. It is the loftiest of 14 majestic monuments, each dedicated to the bravery of our fallen heroes. Monuments forged by glaciers, not man; monuments made of cliffs and crags, not concrete.
I’m in the Lake District, perched atop Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. It is exactly 100 years since the Armistice: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. And I’m here to explore the history of the Great Gift: the endowment of 14 Lakeland fells to the nation, under the protection of the National Trust, as a permanent shrine to those who gave their lives in the 1914-1918 conflict.
More than 100,000 people climb Scafell Pike annually, especially participants in the Three Peaks Challenge, but not many are aware of the mountain’s post-war significance. The Great Gift is little known.
It began in 1919 when Lord Leconfield bequeathed Scafell Pike to the na- tion in “perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom, peace and right in the Great War”. Castle Crag followed in 1920, donated by the friends and family of 2nd Lt John Hamer to commemorate the men of Borrowdale. Then in 1923 the Fell and Rock Climbing Club dedicated 12 summits to freedom: Lingmell, Broad Crag, Great End, Seathwaite Fell, Allen Crags, Glaramara, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable, Base Brown, Brandreth and Grey Knotts. This vast swathe of uplands was described at the time as the world’s greatest war memorial.
I am trying to climb all 14 memorial mountains over a long weekend. Day one will tick off seven peaks around Scafell Pike; day two will add six more, including the mighty Great Gable; and a relaxing day three will conclude with the dinky but delightful Castle Crag.
The adventure starts bright and early on a Friday morning, near Seathwaite, the wettest place in England. Mercifully it is dry. “So I packed my wetsuit for no reason,” says Tom, my brother and climbing buddy for the weekend, glancing nervously at the path ahead. We have a 10-mile route in front of us, including almost 6,000ft of
Sunday 11 November 2018
Sunday 11 November 2018