Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

. (page 33 of 52)
Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 33 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Rainfall, br c, by Clwyd — Deluge, 6 yrs.

Nulli Secundus, br c, by St. Simon — Nunsuch, 3 yrs.

Morfes, b c, by Ladas — Medora, 3 yrs.

Cheverel, ch c, by Persimmon — Cheveronny, 3 yrs.

Slim Lad, br c, by St. Simon — Laodamia, 2 yrs.

Sir Plume, br c, by Persimmon — Courtly, 2 yrs.

Isograph, b c, by Isinglass— Amphora, 2 yrs.

Perambulator, b c, by Persimmon — Spyglass, 2 yrs.

Periclui, ch c, by Persimmon — La Caroline, 2 yrs.

White Frfere, ch c, by St. Frusquin— White Lilac, 2 yrs.

Cynosure, ch c, by Cyllene — Nenemoosha, 2 yrs.

Victoria, b f, by St. Simon — Meadow Chat, 2 yrs.

Alexandra, b f, by Persimmon — Ambleside, 2 yrs.

Perimeter, b f, by Persimmon — Vane, 2 yrs.

Osella, b f, by Orme — Ecila, 2 yrs.

Flower of the Loch, b f, by Florizel II.— Loch Door, 2yts.

Digitized by





" Now for our mountain sport. Up to yon hill." — Cymbeline,

A FEW days before Whitsuntide, 1905, the hall of the Wastwater
Hotel (Wastdale Head, Cumberland) was graoed by a type-written (

document, which, whatever its merits or demerits, brought about I

some admirable sport on Whit Monday. After an introductory ij

recommendation by the distinguished gentlemen, including the dis- *

tinguished writer, who had drawn them up in council, the rules \

proceeded : — ^ \

''Subject to certain conditions (explained below) the Scouts, \

two or three gentlemen from Boot, will endeavour to make their
way to Angle Tarn without being intercepted by the Outposts,
patrols of gentlemen from Wastdale, every one of whom is invited to

1 These were " for this occasion only." A set of General Regulations is now being
prepared, and will no doubt be published in due course in one or more of the moun-
taineering journals.


Digitized by



take part in the sport, if not on this, then on some future occasion,
as it is to be hoped this venture will become a recognised form of

" N.B. — This sport is not to be confused with a variation that
was attempted some years ago.

''The Scouts will leave Boot at 10.15 a.m.

" The Outposts will leave Wastdale at 10 a.m.

'*The sport will conclude at 2.30 p.m., and Outposts and
Scouts will assemble at Angle Tarn at 3 p.m., when the respective
scores will be calculated.

**The operations of the Outposts will be confined to that
portion of the Bowfell Range lying between the Shelter on Esk
Hause and the Three Tarns, but they shall not operate on the
Langdale and Langstrath side of the fells till within half an hour of
the time limit, except in pursuit of a Scout already challenged by
two or more Outposts in concert. Operations on the Eskdaleside
shall be unrestricted except by the boundary limits, Esk Hause
Shelter and Three Tarns.

" The operations of the Scouts will be unlimited in area, but,
like those of the Outposts, limited by time.

"A Scout shall be adjudged 'captured' if summoned 'Sur-
render ! ' within easy hail by two or more of the Outposts in concert.
Easy hail shall be determined by the Scout, who will in honour
signal his acknowledgment that he has heard the summons

" A Scout shall be held to have put an Outpost out of action
for the day if he touch him out of Easy Hail of another Outpost.

" A Captain of the Outposts, whose authority shall be absolute,
shall be appointed by show of hands at the Sty Head. It will be
his duty to give, if necessary, a description of the Scouts.

" The Outposts will wear a handkerchief tied broadly round each
arm, so as to avoid being confused with non-players, e.g, shepherds,
tourists, etc.

" Any communication (except the employment of someone not
taking part in the game) between Scout and Scout and Outpost and
Outpost is admissible.

" The score shall be reckoned as 30 per Scout, either to the
Scouts if they evade the Outposts, or to the Outposts if they capture
the Scouts. In the event of a Scout putting an Outpost out of
action, 10 points shall be added to the Scouts' score."

The amount of hard work disguised by this unassuming docu-
ment may not be apparent. I will endeavour to explain.

Bowfell (2,960 ft.) is the most graceful fell in the Lake District.
In " the altogether " of mountain form it is, perhaps, inferior to

Digitized by

Google I


Great Gable ; in climbing possibilities (and impossibilities) it is
infinitely so ; but in beauty, in my opinion, it has no rival, and
beauty of outline does not generally (with all respect to dear old
Skiddaw) signify excessive ease of access. By the rough process of
applying a two-foot rule to an inch-scale map I have calculated that
towards the head of Ling Cove on the south-west it falls about
1,000 ft. in a quarter of a mile; towards the Three Tarns, south,
about 1,000 ft. in a third of a mile; and towards the foot of Rosset
Gill, north-east, about 2,000 ft. in a mile. Towards Esk Hause on
the north-west there is a rugged up and down descent of some



500 ft. in about a mile and a quarter. The slope towards Three '

Tarns is chiefly grass, with a few boulders. The north-eastern and I

south-western slopes are mildly precipitous, with a few ferocious I

features over which a man may step a couple of hundred feet without 1

suffering more than momentary inconvenience, besides plenty of
little drops of 30 ft. or thereabouts. The north-easterly side of the
ridge between the summit and the crags which buttress Esk Hause
is more or less scarped, but almost everywhere easily practicable ;
and Ewer Gap, on the Langdale side of Hanging Knott, affords an
easy, if somewhat rough, descent from Bowfell towards Angle Tarn.

Digitized by



From Boot in Eskdale to Bowfell summit is a grind of some-
where over six miles, entailing an ascent of rather over 2,500 ft.;
from Wastdale Head, between four and a half and five miles, the
ascent being about the same. Some of the Outposts on Whit
Monday, 1905, came from Nether Wastdale, five and a half miles
from Wastdale Head, and had to go back in the evening.

The first tentative regulations quoted above, trivial and cnide
though they may seem, were not framed without much mental and
physical sweat of the brow.

Late on Saturday afternoon, June 3, 1905, three men might
have been seen, as the old-fashioned three-volume novelist would
have written, outside the inn at Strands in Nether Wastdale, con-
suming bread and cheese and beer with anxious haste. The con-
sumption of food and drink was due to strictly ordinary causes-
hunger and thirst ; the haste and anxiety were attributable to the
fact that one of the Scouts was missing, and it was thought that he
might have sprained his ankle, or fallen over himself, or something.
Poor fellow ! Just as the three were girding up their loins to quit
the fleshpots in search of him, he came in sight and made a bee-line
for the beer, to be captured ignominiously within ten yards of his
goal by two gorged Outposts.

This was a day of fiascos. H. and B. and myself had been
out that morning from Boot on Hartley Crags seeking climbs and
finding none. Then lunch was late,*or we were late for lunch, the
result of which was that we had to race immediately after a heavy
meal, with disastrous consequences to the morrow's sport.

We were to have a preliminary canter. R., the author of the
scheme, had been over to Boot the previous evening with the infor-
mation that he, with a detachment of Outposts from Nether Wast-
dale, would guard the ridge line of Irton Fell, nearly a mile in
length, against two Scouts. As, however, he feared the contingent
would be few, he wanted to borrow one of us. I was selected. I
was to have had half an hour's start so as to give me time to get
into position. Thanks to lunch being late, I only got ten minutes,
and when I did arrive I found the patrol was small indeed— R.
himself and a lad. Nevertheless the day was not wasted.

In the first place it was decided that the Outposts must have
time to occupy their ground before the Scouts reach the field of
operations. B., that afternoon, had made such speed that he arrived
on the ridge line within five minutes of myself, and was through our
defences before we had a chance of posting our scanty forces. We
never sighted him — we never had a chance of sighting him — till he
was safely past us. > !

This rule is of importance, and a liberal allowance of time

Digitized by



must be given to the Outposts in which to man the "fighting

The contention on the question of what constituted " Easy
Hail" -waxed warm. One man advocated 100 yds. ; another
200yds. I, as I purposed to be an Outpost, suggested that my side
should be provided with shot-guns, loaded with sparrow hail ; but
the proposal was not taken kindly. In vain I protested that we
should only fire at the legs, and that puttees would form a moderate
protection. B. objected that puttees were "beastly hot" in summer.


and added some quite unnecessary remarks about the possible
inaccuracy of my aim.

The words "will signal his acknowledgment" ("in honour"
was merely inserted as a provision against a temporary attack of
mountain or some other deafness) are pregnant with hard work and
panting lungs, inasmuch as they necessitate the Scout and the two
capturing Outposts being all three in view of each other ; otherwise
the Scout might fall a victim to the mountain echo, the " unsolicited
reply to a babbling Outpost sent." The worst of it is that the
mountain echo is not always, like Wordsworth's, " solitary, clear,

Digitized by



profound." It often indulges in vain repetitions, and it is quite con-
ceivable that a Scout might imagine that he was being hailed almost
simultaneously from several quarters, whereas the challenge would
actually have come from a single Outpost. Some of the cliffs are
regular whispering galleries.

The possibility of putting an Outpost out of action gives a
splendid opportunity to an active and enterprising Scout. Like
Androgeos at the sack of Troy, he may have fallen right into the
middle of his enemies, but by a quick dash he may run in on and
capture one Outpost whilst the challenge of the other is still an
inarticulate shouting, in which case the pursuer becomes the pursued,
and the second Outpost has to fall back on his supports in shame
and confusion of face lest he share the fate of his comrade.

During our experimental run I had noticed a considerable lack
of organisation on the part of myself and my two companions, R.
especially showing a disposition to disregard his own orders. Hence
the necessity for a captain. H. was loud and vehement in his
advocacy of a distinct and distinguishing badge for the Outposts.
As there was not the slightest indication of opposition on the part
of anyone, his insistence seemed to us rather waste of energy till we
learned the reason, which was also the cause of our past anxiety and
future indigestion. There were shepherds on the fellside, and these
he had mistaken for a contingent of Outposts from Nether Wast-
dale, and had been compelled to " lie low and say nuffin " for a
miserable hour, at the end of which he effected a painful and
tedious escape under cover of a stone wall. He did not seem inter-
ested in the suggestion that the shepherds might also have seen
him, and taken him for a wandering lunatic, and switched the con-
versation off on to the stone walls.

Everybody who has been to the Lake District knows the fell-
side stone walls, and everybody loathes them. Still, it was thought
they would be useful cover. They are not ; they are a nuisance.
Historically they may be interesting enough, but they tend to spoil
sport. An Outpost stationed at the juncture of two stone walls
running at right angles to each other may well put an unreasonable
area of the fighting zone practically out of action, whilst he himself
has a very poor time, either grilled, or chilled, or blown to rags.
Again, in misty weather they give the Scouts an undue advantage.
At this game, at any rate, natural hazards are preferable.

The charmed sunset lingered low adown in the red west when
we left Strands and breasted the slope of Irton Fell. The world
went very well then. At Eskdale Green we called a halt to raise
our glasses to the King of Prussia (Inn), and a little further on we
had further refreshment in the "liquid notes that close the eye of

Digitized by



day," from a nightingale that seemed to be pouring out its whole
soul in melody.

The next day was, I regret to say, in respect of its avowed
object, a fraud ; in regard to the sport, most instructive. My com-
panions had been good enough to accept my suggestion for the
Whit- Monday course, and our proposal was to walk up Eskdale,
reconnoitring the ground as we went and keeping an eye open for
any likely climbs, our objective being Bowfell Links, where there


is a series of gullies which were, and remained, for us, new ground.
B. had a heavy camera with legs, and a cloth to wrap his head in ;
I had 60 feet of rope in my rucksack. H., who is as big and strong
as both of us together, came with nothing, as assistant porter. It
-was an ideal day for photography, a chance it would have been
-wicked to miss ; also it was hissing hot. I had left town at mid-
night on Thursday, reached my hotel at Boot at eleven on Friday
morning, gone up Bowfell at midday to have a look at the Links
NO. cxxix. VOL. XLU.— April 1906 G G

Digitized by



(which I did not see, as the mists were so thick one could not
make out anything ten feet from one), and come back to Beckfoot
to meet the others who had run up from Manchester. The pre-
vious day we had been hard at it, with the exception of lunch and
the interlude of bread and cheese and beer, and anxiety, from
nine in the morning till a quarter past nine in the evening; and
the Links, owing to some atmospheric, or optical, or psychological
illusion, seemed more like sixteen miles off than six. B. took many
photographs, including one of a curious rock that, viewed at a
certain angle, looks like the high priest in A'ida, whilst H. and I
scrambled about on boulders and discussed the climbing possibili-
ties of Heron Crag and other cliffs.

It was at this time that B. definitely decided on his plan of
attack, whilst I very generously gave him all the assistance I could;
for a conviction was beginning to grow on me that Whit Monday
would not see me on the fells, as the exigencies of work would
probably compel me to return to penal servitude in London.

From Esk Pike (marked 2903 on the Ordnance Map, but left
nameless for some reason, or want of reason) the ground runs
down in a tongue, some two miles in length, through Yeastyrigg and
Gate Crags to Throstle Garth. By starting vigorously it would be
possible for the scout to reach Yeastyrigg Crags before the advance
pickets of the Outposts. The ground there is much broken up and
affords admirable cover. Moreover the Outposts would hardly dare
to push their skirmishers so far in advance of their supports, as the
outlying pickets would be in extreme danger of capture. Thence it
would be comparatively easy to work one's way up the rocky
shoulder of Bowfell by Hanging Knott, and make a bolt by Ewer
Gap, or a less hurried descent by some more difficult route, to Angle
Tarn. This plan B. followed on Whit Monday, and passed right
through the thick of the Outposts, whom he could hear all round
him, reaching his goal undetected, and thus scoring 30 points to his
side. His companion was not so fortunate.

On Whit-Monday morning a score of Outposts set out from
Wastdale Head, including the Nether Wastdale contingent, who, be
it remembered, had eleven miles more to travel that day than their
fellows. The Sty Head was reached in forty minutes, good going.
S. was elected captain, R, having modestly waived his claim to the
post, which was his undoubted due in view of the part he had taken
in originating the sport. Instead, he led his party to the furthest
point, over by the Three Tarns, and to them belongs the honour of
securing 30 points for the Outposts, thus making the game a meri-
torious draw, for B.*s companion was about as likely a Scout as one
could select.

Digitized by



B.'s triumphant career has already been recorded. It now
remains to relate the adventures of F. B. What the concluding
initial signifies shall remain an impenetrable secret, but it might
very well be Bluebottle, to judge from the marvellous way he crawls
up rock faces. B.'s attack was frontal ; F. B. preferred a turning
movement, and, confident in his own powers, made for Shelter Crags.

There is no finer walk in the Lake District than the traverse of
Bowfell from Wrynose by Crinkle Crags, provided you keep rigidly
to the ridge line, though I have no doubt that many a tripper would
describe it as "simply 'orrible, what got on his nerves, fair ! " There
the paper bag ceases from troubling, and there the gingbereer bottle


is not at rest, for it is not in being. Besides which the views on
either side are magnificent.

By the way, there is only one thing more objectionable than an
empty gingerbeer bottle at rest, and that is one in motion. Anyone
who has scrambled up a steepish fell side, the summit of which is
guarded by picknicking trippers, who have arrived by the easy way,
vnll know what I mean. People who throw stones or bottles over
edges ought to be pole-axed.

F. B. reached Shelter Crags in good time and safety, and all
might have gone well but for the Nether Wastdale men. For him
to attempt to cross the grassy space by Three Tarns was to court

GG 2

Digitized by



capture. Below was Langdale, to which a descent could be made
unobserved by Crinkle Gill. But then came the question of getting
up again. The natural exit is by Rossett Ghyll, a rough pass just
over 2,000 ft. in height which, according to the late Mr. James
Payn, must be done on all-fours. Is it not written by an unknown
poet —

If I were a lover and loved a lass,
Who lived on the top of Rossett Pass,
While I abode at Dungeon Ghyll ;
Vd swear by all that's good and ill
To love and cherish her ever and ever,
But visit her — never !

Also a partial descent might be made and the traverse of the Lang-
dale face of Bowfell attempted. It is rather rough going, but the
scenery both near an 1 distant is very fine, and, to the geologist, the
glacial striations on Flat Crags should be of interest ; but F. B. had
come out to "get there," and there was that horrid contingent ot
Outposts — and time was flying. The Outposts did not move, but
the minute hand did, and the consequence was that F. B. did not
reach Angle Tarn till after the time limit had expired.

The possibilities of this sport are great. One advantage is that
it should not be materially affected by weather, so long as it remains
weather, and does not turn French and spell itself tourmente. For
the Scouts a hot, clear, still day is the least desirable. In addition
to and apart from the fatigue of the initial run in the stifling,
breathless valley, and the fag of grinding up a sun-beaten slope,
extreme caution would be necessary. Scrambling up screes is always
tiring and seldom noiseless work, and the fall of a pebble under such
conditions echoes like a pistol shot, to the sure and certain betrayal
of the luckless (or careless) scrambler. In thick weather the Out-
posts would, of course, hunt in couples for fear of being put out of
action in detail by the stealthy attack of the Scout. On such occa-
sions the element of chance would enter largely. The Scout might
very easily walk through the line, upright, in the attitude proper to
dignified man, undetected; on the other hand he might quite as
easily blunder onto a brace (or is the correct military term "a
file " ?) of Outposts, and be taken before he had time to realise, and
attempt to remedy, the situation. The ideal day is fortunately not
uncommon — a day of light sunshine, light breezes, light haze. The
chances then should be equal, without advantage or disadvantage to
one side or the other. It is true that on the fells in such weather
there is an element that, to use the tripper's language, is calculated
to "get on the nerves, fair," though I doubt if it would affect him. I
know of nothing more eerie than the whispering of a light air

Digitized by



through the grass on a mountain-side, that strange, seeming-sound-
less movement that is yet so full of sound.

If it is not clear that this new sport affords abundant exercise
for lung and muscle, I have ill expressed myself. It is, however,
calculated to cultivate other physical powers — the ear must be con-
stantly alert, the eye ever watchful. I do not accept the theory that
the Boers were better marksmen, qua marksmen, than we. They


rnay have made better shooting, but, if so, it was because their
trained eyes could distinguish clearly, whereas our men saw, as it
vvere, comparatively through a glass, darkly. Time and again when
I have been out hunting on the fells have I been outsighted by the
dalesmen. ** There's a hound in yon crag.'' ** Ay, it's Ringwood ! "
And it was. By myself I should probably not have ** spotted " the
hound, and even when it was pointed out I could not recognise it.

Digitized by



Yet I have high professional authority for believing (I paid three
guineas for about as many minutes' information on the subject) that
my sight is abnormally keen. The explanation is that the sense, as
in the case of most men who are compelled to drag out the long
year linked with heavy day on day in great cities, is only partially

For Scouts and Outposts judgment and decision are necessary.
The greatest talent a general can possess is the intuition of what is
happening **on the other side of the hill.'' Also, if Scout sights
Outpost, or vice versa, a plan must be immediately decided on — by
the one to evade, by the other to ensure capture. In our prelimi-


nary canter on Irton Fell so narrow was the margin that B.
escaped the Outposts by less than three hundred yards. Had we
agreed to sweep that part of the ground five minutes earlier, he
would, I think, have been caught. I write '* I think " advisedly,
because he might have out-generalled us at the last moment.

One conclusion I have arrived at, as Mark Twain would say, by
gravel train. I suppose few men know more about the hills of
Great Britain than B. He is a quick traveller, has a good eye for
country, is active, ready, resourceful. Still, I do not believe that if
the Outposts had been, say, our Ghurka troops, he would have got
through the cordon. The ** deer-stalking " faculty is natural to
man. I am not at all sure that the office of Outpost is not at least
as exacting as that of Scout.

Digitized by



Of the scenes of wild beauty, of delicate loveliness, of stern
grandeur amongst which this sport conducts you, it would be out of
place to speak. ** The Lake District is one of the fairest places on
the earth. This opinion must not be attributed to insular prejudice ;
it coincides with the verdict of men of acknowledged intellect and
taste, men who have travelled far and seen much. In storm or
calm, sunshine or mist, winter or summer, Lakeland is lovely."

Whether the sport of Scouts and Outposts will ever become
popular it would be idle to attempt to prophesy. Its main disabili-
ties are that it demands hard work and constant attention. Still, I
venture to think that to us who rejoice in the exercise of our physical
faculties such will not form its least attractive features.

Digitized by




There appears to be great activity amongst the Anti-Gamblers in
various countries at the present time. A Bill is to be brought into
the Senate of the State of New York, which is said to have the sup-
port of the Governor, making betting on the racecourse a felony,
the Bill apparently sweeping into its net both backer and bookmaker
alike. What the chances are of such a measure passing may be left

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 33 of 52)