Into my heart an air that killsA E Houseman
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
Houseman's 'Blue Remembered Hills' were in fact, the uplands of North Wales which he looked upon from the Shopshire hills around Church Stretton.These days,many of these peaks certainly are a 'land of lost content'. A few months ago I wrote about ‘the honeypot syndrome’. A curious outdoor social phenomenon where outdoor activists choose to eschew the wilderness experience in favour of the Tesco experience. That is, a preference to gather in great numbers in our most despoliated mountain areas rather than seek out the wilder, less frequented mountains, crags and rivers.
Like Steptoe’s faithful old carthorse Hercules, the blinkers are firmly attached as they spill out of the packed car parks, don their boots...or in some cases flip flops...and pant their way up Yr Wyddfa, Scafell, Tryfan, Ben Nevis, Helvellyn and all thronged points north south east and west.
Of course a lot of these folk will not be outdoor activists but tourists who feel that bagging ‘Mount Snowdon’ is just another tourist experience; like a visit to Chester Zoo or Ikea. There still does though,appear to be a lot of walkers, and climbers...who prefer to follow the dusty worn trails that lead to crowded summits and teeming crags rather than seek out the backwaters.
For a lot of outdoor folk, it's somewhat incomprehensible and I'm sure they,like me, would have been horrified to see the photograph posted by the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team at the weekend which showed Wales’ highest summit looking like Goodison Park at three o clock on a Saturday afternoon.
It’s a hellish vision to be sure. Particularly when you consider that on a warm sunny day, when so many mountains would be basking in isolation, Yr Wyddfa- to use a rock climbing name-was being ‘raped by affection'!
When the photograph was taken, I was about 20 odd miles away-as the crow flies- on the Berwyn tops (see photo) and apart from meeting one guy on the 9k walk in who had somehow managed the complicated walk in from Llandrillo to Cader Berwyn with an AA roadmap- and one young guy who was on the summit sunbathing- all was quiet on the Western front. After wandering over to Moel Sych, I made a beeline down the ridge under Sych, gained a gully which looked like the only mammals who had ever set foot in it before were sheep, stripped off halfway to follow Gus-the dog- into a deep mountain pool, drained the last dregs from my bottle and eventually staggered back to the car, tired, dehydrated but satisfied after 7 hours and 20k of mountain walking in which I’d only seen two people.