Gritstone Winter Smithy Meet 17 – 19 Feb 17

The majority of the attendees started arriving on Friday afternoon, but sadly none had brought with them any weather forecasts other than utterly abysmal! However, a merry evening was had in the Smithy with the woodburner lit discussing various options for the following day. It was agreed that, bearing in mind the unfavourable forecast (high winds and plenty of precipitation) that the priority for Saturday would be to tick off a number of jobs in and around The Smithy and the surrounds.

After a few cups of tea, and coffee whilst staring out of the window wondering if the weather would improve the skies began to brighten around 10.00. Three teams emerged by skill, luck, and judgement. Team 1 was focused on fixing the gatepost, which I learnt had been damaged on the day The Smithy had officially been opened many years ago. After a few hours of hard labour, several drill bits and one smoking drill (borrowed!) a steel dowl and adhesive was inserted into the gatepost to ensure that the pull of gravitation that the top half started around 30 years ago was not continued!

Team 2 started off by looking at what could be done to save the camping patch to the rear of the hut. The turf had never taken strongly, and the heavy rain over the last year had just about finished it off, resulting in what had become a rather muddy, but very flat area, not totally practical or pleasant to put a tent on. An idea from the team came forth that the conditions under the trees in this area were perfect for moss, which would not be uncomfortable to sleep upon. Mosstroturf was born, and a few hours was spent gathering moss from areas surrounding The Smithy and laid on the camping area. It is hoped that after a few months this could provide the solution to the thus far less than satisfactory camping pitch.

Team 3 worked indoors at The Smithy, the main goal, amongst several, being to ensure that the new heating system was working satisfactorily. Much work was completed, but the heater in the seating area remained temperamental. Work on this continued into Sunday, by which time the problem had been resolved and the system was working as it should.

After a lunch of baps and pasties collected from Keswick various plans were made for short afternoon strolls. Waterproofs were donned by everyone, and various options were taken. One group went off to check on the recently installed hydro on Fisher Gill, a second headed up High Rigg, and a third went up and around The Benn. No group was gone for more than 3 hours because of the inclement weather, meaning that there was time for a trip to The King’s Arm prior to a much welcomed communal curry which helped everyone warm up and dry out.

The forecast for Sunday was an improvement on the previous day, although this was a very low bar to set the standard by. The cloud was very low, and the weather was not anticipated to improve. Whilst some of the group headed back home for various reasons, one group stayed behind to solve the mystery of the misbehaving heater in The Smithy, whilst 5 intrepid individuals left for Blencathra, ascending via a somewhat slippery Hall’s Fell returning via Scales Fell. Views were not spectacular owing to very low and thick mist, which may have helped the more nervous members of the group (most notably the author and his dog)!

The Blencathra group returned to The Smithy for 1pm, by which time the heater had been fixed. All were looking forward to another weekend in the future when the weather would be better so that they wouldn’t need to use the heaters!

Tom Rodda

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