By Rachael Parkin
Izzy, the newest addition to the Coppermines family, is a Welsh Sheepdog, Border Collie cross with an endless enthusiasm for “walkies”. Lucky for her then that she lives next to some of the best “walkies” country in the UK (if not the world – but we are a bit biased). Bred for working in the hills she is seemingly physically incapable of tiredness, has an uncanny ability for finding sticks in places no tree has ever grown, and as it turns out, and has a talent for posing wistfully on mountain tops.
The seven Wainwrights books had been sat prettily, read but otherwise unutilised on her owners’ bookshelf for some time. Her first Wainwright was right here in Coniston, home to The Coppermines and the famous Old Man of Coniston himself. Her owner had decided that it was simply not acceptable to live in South Cumbria and not to have climbed the Old Man. So off they set one morning for a quick dash up and down (in time for a well-earned pub lunch at the Wilsons) in between the usual school-run obligations.
Much of Izzy’s time was spent looking downhill, patiently waiting for her two-legged owner to catch up. “I’m not sure this is for me” she gasped as Izzy ran back downhill to investigate what the hold-up was. But somewhere, in between Low Water and the summit, something changed and the bug was born – this would be her first, but definitely not her last Wainwright.
In the weeks and months that followed Izzy (accompanied by her owner/chauffeur) walked all of Old Man’s ancient neighbours including Swirl How, Wetherlam and Dow Crag. Days off were spent discovering new places neither of them had been before and the horizon always offered up near endless options for future adventures.
All the big names were subsequently ticked off; Scafell Pike, Helvellyn, Bow Fell, Skiddaw. Izzy watched while her owners got stuck in a snow drift on Crinkle Crags. She swam in Grisedale Tarn to cool off whilst her hot and bothered owners paused for breath en route to Dollywagon Pike. And she hopped and leapt her way from boulder to boulder while her owners scrambled and swore their way to the summit of Great Gable. Smaller Wainwrights such as Helm Crag, Holme Fell and Catbells were undertaken by Izzy and her whole family, including three reluctant children who were encouraged along by the promise of a picnic at the top and a nice rest in the car on the way home.
Izzy has to date walked, run and dashed her way up 73 of the 214 Wainwright Fells. With 141 still to go there are many, days of glorious walking still to enjoy, many smells left to sniff, many views still to gaze at and many, many impossible sticks still to find.
Coniston makes the perfect place to start on the Wainwrights challenge. All of the Coniston (or Furness Fells to give them their official title) can be walked from the village itself, and the energetic can even summit the seven nearby Wainwrights in a single day. If you prefer a more relaxed pace then Coniston makes the perfect base for a short break where all the Furness Fells can be walked comfortably over 2, 3 or 4 days. It is also an ideal location from which to explore further afield in The Lakes and start your own Wainwright adventure.