This is the story of the theft of the old Ordnance Survey stone summit ring from Blencathra, and how we bolted down a replacement; The New Blencathra Summit Stone.
The first walk I did with John Beamson of Robustours, and the first day I met him was a Winter ascent of Blencathra. We had that moment when you’re meeting someone you’ve never seen before in a car park, checking each other out, getting round to asking, ‘Are you… ‘.
We had a great day, both training for our Mountain Leader Awards and have talked or messaged each other every day since!
Blencathra was John’s first ‘mountain’ so he has a special love for it. I’ve also been up there several times as well from all directions and had a caravan across the road with a view of the range.
Ordnance Survey Trigonometrical Station
The OS trig is buried under the summit, and the old stone ring, phosphor encapsulated in concrete, stood on top waiting for a theodolite to be mounted on it to be used in geodetic surveying or some such nonsense.
What concerned the community was that it had been there since June 1953, part of the mountain’s make up. It was like the soul had been removed.
Blencathra Summit Stone Stolen
After the summit stone was stolen in August 2018, John has been hell-bent on replacing it. Before you knew what was happening, he’d set up a fundraiser, enrolled the mountaineering community and raised £1000 to pay a stonemason to craft a replacement (from sandstone) and engrave the words that the original ring stone bore, ‘Ordnance Survey Trigonometrical Station.
It’s a bigger stone, something that will be seen even in snow, something that demands more attention, it’ll get in more photographs!
Laying The Stone
On Saturday 30st March 2019, with permission of the landowner, the Earl of Lonsdale, and the blessing of Ordnance Survey, John and a group of friends carried the stone from the car park at Mousthwaite Comb up Scales Fell and onto a cloudy Blencathra summit.
I pinned my orange Trailstar tarp to the slate and David Ector and I spent the next two hours drilling and gluing the 18-inch sandstone ring, The New Blencathra Summit Stone, to the concrete base that Ordnance Survey had laid in 1953.
This is the VERY first photograph of the stone in place, we were under the tarp and the sun was starting to go down.
Four of us camped on the summit to guard it while the resin set. ‘Twas a wee bit chilly that night let’s say.
Next morning I descended to update the rest of the group who had camped at Scales Tarn. John went to the White Horse to accompany a group of what would end up being 60 strong back up to the summit, John’s third ascent up this 868m mountain in 24 hours.
Some of the group would ascend Blease Fell, two in electric wheelchairs, one of which was John’s dad Colin!
At midday on Sunday 31st March John said a few words and lifted the Bergen he used when serving in the British Army off the stone. Fiona Marley Paterson made this film for ITV Border.
The event was attended by Alan Hinkes, Steve Birkinshaw and other well known Lakeland heroes, a group to which in some people’s eyes John now belongs.
Limited Edition Map
Ordnance Survey agreed to print me a one-off limited-edition Explorer map which covers the whole of the Northern Fells, including Blencathra but notably showing ALL 24 Wainwrights. This coverage would normally be on four sides of two OS maps.
We thought it would be good to have something special to commemorate this historic occasion in Lakeland history and we sold a limited number of maps.
Thank you to the Earl of Lonsdale and Ordnance Survey for their blessing in replacing the Blencathra summit stone. Can we also say thank you very much to Alan Hinkes, Steve Birkinshaw, Dave Wheeler and Terry Abraham for coming up and supporting the event, Debbie North and The Outdoor Guide team for bringing John’s dad, Colin, up in the motorised wheelchair, our group of friends who lugged the heavy load up to the summit, and if you donated to the cause thank you very much from John and me.
We really believe that you’ve all contributed to an event that will be remembered for decades to come as…
The day that Blencathra got it’s smile back!
Coming off Blencathra, Sharp Edge is the result of two glaciers side by side cutting an arete 15000 years ago. Sharp Edge is one of Lakeland’s most dangerous attractions for hikers and climbers.
After fitting the Blencathra Summit Stone, I descended Sharp Edge with Alan Hinkes. Read about our little adventure.