"When are you going to survey Illgill Head and Miller Moss?" we asked John Barnard and Graham Jackson while relaxing with a glass or two of wine in our garden in the heat of the summer sun. It was a question that had been posed many times. Illgill Head, that splendid and challenging fell rising almost straight up from Wastwater, looked a strong contender for promotion to the elite ranks of the two thousanders. With close companions Sca Fell, Scafell Pike, Great Gable and Yewbarrow it dwells among great company indeed. And then there's Miller Moss. What a name for a mountain! It ought to be called Little Lingy Hill, but that title was appropriated by a small bump on the slopes of Great Lingy Hill. In any case it isn't anywhere near the moss which, as is usual in such matters, is at the foot of the fell.
Surveying Illgill Head
A few weeks later and we were plodding up the slopes of Illgill Head on one of those days that have been incredibly rare this summer. It wasn't sunny, the sky was grey and we even put on our fleece jackets. Lying down upon the summit were John, Graham and Jim Bloomer. Now reaching the top with all the equipment is a strenuous activity, but having arrived they have to wait a couple of hours for the readings. We joined them in their semi-recumbent posture, ate our lunch and discussed the likely outcome. The chosen spot was several feet above the cairn; surely this was a mere formality? We set off down to Wasdale Head and then back to our base near Keswick.
Miller Moss signpost
The following day saw us among the Northern Fells, heading up Mosedale beside the River Caldew towards the now closed Carrock Mine. The weather was being kind, with clear blue skies and feeling warm again. The start of the bridleway bears a strangely prophetic sign. "Miller Moss 1 1/4 miles" it says. There aren't many mountains with their own signpost! Our companions had not yet arrived, so off we trotted up the track to get a head start. Well, not really trotting, it's more of a plod these days! Soon we were overtaken, not by our expected friends, but by a man from the Environment Agency. He had come to read the rain gauge. Back home our lawn had been brown for over a month. Surely there couldn't be anything here. But to our amazement when he unscrewed the gauge he poured out a large canister of water.
Reading the rain gauge
Soon the intrepid three arrived and strode past us up the fellside. Calling in at the hut, which must often be a welcome port in a storm on these windswept summits, we met a fireman doing the Cumbria Way in three days as a charity walk. Then it was on to pay our respects to Great Lingy Hill before heading across the fell to Miller Moss. The summit has a cairn. It even has a path of sorts. But in terms of magnificence it doesn't really feel like a mountain. Still sometimes the unexpected happens; the quiet, shy student who gets a first class honours while his more showy, exuberant fellows just scrape a third.
Miller Moss cairn
The three surveyors were already hard at work with the ascent from two cols to check and, of course, the absolute height of the summit. By now the sun had disappeared and the wind again felt chill. Anne relaxed with her head on the cairn while the surveyors with graduated staff and sophisticated level measured the ascent from both cols. They converged on us and conveyed the news that Miller Moss had the required ascent from both cols, but we would have to wait for a few days to learn the height of the summit. Could the Ordnance Survey have got it wrong?
Graham, John and Jim
Back home a few days later we got the
news. Illgill Head is still too low to make 2000ft, but Miller Moss is in
and has been accepted by the Ordnance Survey, so the next edition of the map will
show the summit as 610 metres.