Saturday 23 November 2013

A Trip to Kendal: The Great Outdoors Awards, Kendal Mountain Festival & a wet hill day

Kendal from Kendal Castle

A week ago a trip down south to Kendal on the edge of the Lake District for The Great Outdoors Awards and the Kendal Mountain Festival provided an intense four days of people, films, bars, beer, pizza and endless talking. I met many old friends and made some new ones. I won't mention them all here - that way I won't offend anyone by forgetting them!

The second Great Outdoors Awards saw the return of editor Emily Rodway from maternity leave and it was good to chat with her about plans for the magazine for the next year. That meeting was held over breakfast the day after the Awards. I can't remember the last time I had a breakfast meeting. Knowing it was coming certainly kept my beer consumption down at the Awards ceremony. The last was successfully conducted by Emily with Daniel Neilson, now The Great Outdoors Digital Editor, assisting. The results will be published in the next issue of the magazine. I was one of the Gear Awards judges along with Emily, Daniel, Outdoor Industries Association Chief Executive Andrew Denton and outdoor blogger Andy Howell. Our decisions had been reached a week before during a long conference call during which every item on the shortlist was discussed. All the items had been tested by at least one of us (apart from a few items that never arrived and were therefore discounted) and our discussion was detailed and thorough. We also discussed the nature of the Awards and whether any changes should be made, a discussion that has continued since. Andy Howell has written a couple of excellent thoughtful blog posts on the Awards that are well worth reading.

I was particularly pleased that we decided to make a special award to Sarah Howcroft's Gift Your Gear scheme, a wonderful innovative scheme for enabling unwanted gear to be used by organisations encouraging people, especially youngsters, to get outdoors. This was the most important award of all.

Terry Abraham

The Awards ceremony was held on the eve of the Kendal Mountain Festival, the premier event of its type in the UK. I was there because a forty minute festival edit of The Cairngorms In Winter film was being shown every day and together with Terry Abraham I was to say a few words before each showing and answering questions afterwards. It really was a few words too as the films come thick and fast and we only had a couple of minutes before and after the film. At the end of the Festival the film was runner-up in the Mountain Culture category, which is very pleasing. 

Into the Mist

Meeting people was great fun but after three days I felt the need to escape to the hills. I'd had a few short walks around Kendal, climbing up to the castle and the woods above the town, but I really wanted to get into the Lakeland fells. A bus journey to Ambleside and I was heading up into the hills with a vague idea of doing the Fairfield Horseshoe. The weather was not promising though with low cloud hiding even the lower slopes of the hills. There was no wind though and the air was surprisingly warm for November. The cloud was damp but I felt if I put on waterproofs I'd soon be soaked in sweat so I continued upwards in two thin layers, which soon became quite wet. It wasn't raining but the air was saturated. I felt as though I was pushing against wetness that was just hanging in space motionless. As I gained height and came onto a broad ridge with a tall stone wall along it the wind appeared and cut through my wet clothing. On with the waterproofs! And on up the invisible hills. Hooded figures occasionally looked up out of the cloud, muttered a greeting, and just as quickly vanished. I plodded on. A big cairn appeared, probably marking the summit of Hart Crag. I couldn't be bothered working it out. It was far enough anyway so I turned and descended back to Ambleside thinking of cafes and hot drinks. The cloud came back down with me. I reckon the cloud base was somewhere in Ambleside. I dripped into a cafe and restored myself with a cappuccino and scone. I'd had a walk in the Lakeland fells, the second one in a year, which is unusual these days. I hadn't actually seen the hills though. That would have to wait for another visit. This will probably be in January on an overnight camp with Terry Abraham for my part in his next film: A Year In The Life Of A Mountain: Scafell Pike.

Tree in Mist


  1. Yes, it was one of those mild Autumnal days of silence and mist. I avoided the higher fells and wandered along the river in the Kentmere valley with the trees and river providing at least some colour and sound in an otherwise monochrome world.
    Dave Porter

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