Recreating the climbs of three early Lake District adventurers

Coleridge’s view from Helvellyn’s summit - shows rugged mountains, a sharp ridge and a lake.
‘sharp as a (jagged) edge’: Coleridge’s view from Helvellyn’s summit

An epic 13.5-hour, 34-kilometre walk, led by a Lancaster University professor, which followed in the footsteps of one of the Lake District’s great poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was captured on film and will be premiered at the Kendal Mountain Festival next month.

Professor Simon Bainbridge, from the University’s Wordsworth Centre, co-organised the ‘re-walking’ of three historic Lake District ascents with several other groups in conjunction with Wordsworth Grasmere, the charity that looks after the poet's house, Dove Cottage, and a unique collection of manuscripts and other works.

The team ‘re-walked’:

· The route Samuel Taylor Coleridge made from Keswick to Grasmere via Helvellyn in 1800

· Joseph Budworth’s pioneering ascent of Helm Crag in 1792, which followed a huge meal in a local pub

· Ann Radcliffe’s horseback ascent of Skiddaw in 1794 which resulted in what became a very famous description.

The ‘re-walks’ were undertaken with a range of participants, including members of the public, Whitehaven Academy, Trek Therapy, Veterans of the 4th Parachute Regiment and The Calvert Trust.

They drew on Professor Bainbridge’s extensive research and book about the literature and culture of mountaineering in the Romantic period when, in the 1790s and 1800s, many of the earliest recreational Lake District ascents were made.

And the three films, one of each ascent and made by three different directors, are to be shown at the Kendal Mountain Festival as part of a special session on November 19.

This event will feature descriptions of the original exploratory climbs, capture the ‘re-walks’ and show the three short films made to celebrate the pioneering adventurers.

Speakers will be Professor Simon Bainbridge (Lancaster University and a trustee of Wordsworth Grasmere), Dr Penny Bradshaw (University of Cumbria), Jeff Cowton MBE (Wordsworth Grasmere) and Dr Paul Davies (Wordsworth Grasmere).

Dr Bradshaw actually took on the role of Ann Radcliffe on horseback and rode as far as Latrigg, along with another Trustee who played the part of Radcliffe’s husband, and her film focuses on this.

Professor Bainbridge said: “We undertook these three very different walks to gain a sense of what was involved in these three pioneering ascents, made over two centuries ago.

“In each case, our appreciation of these exploratory climbs was strongly enhanced, as we discovered what it's like to make an all-day (and half the night) traverse of a major mountain ridge, to ascend a peak on horseback, and even to climb a 'formidable ... projecting point ... having a full bellyful', to quote Joseph Budworth.”

There are plans to reshow the films on a future occasion and to make them available via Wordsworth Grasmere's social media channels.

More information: In the Footsteps of Romantic Explorers: Recreating the Climbs of Three Early Lake District Adventurers (

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