Halcyon days of views for miles and miles from Penrith Beacon

Date: Monday 16th April 2018

Sir, Having read about the opening up of the views from the Penrith Beacon by tree felling, I thought it worth mentioning observations on views I have had from the pike over the years.

In the early 1980s it was possible to access the pike itself and climb to the floor above. Views to the north into Scotland were unimpeded by trees and it was quite a challenge to identify the rather featureless rolling hills of the Southern Uplands.

Occasionally, at times of exceptional visibility produced by clear maritime Arctic air and using binoculars, I was able to pick out various landmarks and hills.

The Langholm monument, some 34 miles distant, was a good landmark and to the east the hills along the Roxburgh/Dumfriesshire border of Greatmoor and Leap Hill stood out. I was able to identify Ettrick Pen and, in the background, the Moffat hills including White Coomb and Loch Craig Head. It was even possible to make out Saddle Yoke on the ridge to Hart Fell.

Westwards, the top of Criffel was just visible above the slopes of the Caldbeck fells, and Queensberry Hill was prominent with the hills on the Dumfriesshire/Lanarkshire border.

The furthest I could see was Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, some 70 miles distant, silhouetted behind the Skelton radio masts, and just visible to the north were hills I assumed to be on the Kirkcudbright/Ayrshire border. The view of the highest Galloway hills to the west was blocked by the Caldbeck fells. It was even possible on one occasion in the exceptionally clear air and with the sun at a relatively low angle to pick out lorries moving along the A75 on the high ground east of Dumfries.

The excellent viewing plaque giving full 360 degree information was installed later on but omitted some of the more distant Scottish hills as they are rarely seen.

However, I felt that although inscribed on the plaque, Great Shunner Fell, in the Yorkshire Dales, was blocked off by the Mallerstang fells, and Mickle Fell could not be seen either as the shoulder of Dufton Fell obstructed its view. Tree growth obstructs the view in these directions now.

I understand most of us who ascend to the pike do so to admire the view of Penrith and the Lakeland fells, and this is the view that has been opened up by the tree felling.

To obtain the views I have mentioned would entail the felling of a considerable number of trees, which would be unrealistic. Perhaps when the woodland to the north becomes mature and is felled, this northern view will be opened up once more but obscured again when the new trees grow up.

It is no wonder that the Beacon Hill was such an important site for the lighting of warning beacons in times of strife. From such a modest height and easy accessibility from the town, a huge range of 100 miles of country from Ayrshire to Yorkshire is visible, although one has to be lucky with the weather conditions and having a good pair of binoculars is essential. Yours etc,


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