Days Like This, No 3: Sunset on Caw

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ONCE in a while I stand still and look around and think: at this precise moment I am truly alive; I am as much a part of this earth as a root raising its knuckle from the turf or a raven perching in a blackthorn; I am here and my world is unfolding beneath my feet and flooding its valleys with cool mist and shadows as the sun sinks behind mountains. That’s how I feel on the summit of Caw . . .

This is a retro post for Because They’re There. It’s a letter from the past featuring a memorable walk and the contemporary events surrounding it . . .

Do you ever gaze through a window at work, observe a blue sky and high streaky clouds, and wish you were out there strolling across mountains with a breeze behind you? That’s what happened to me this morning. Only I was in the engine-room of an aircraft carrier while the engines were being tested, and at mid-morning I clambered up to the flight deck to gaze at Black Combe and the southern Lakeland fells. And I vowed that when the shipyard siren shrieked out at 4.30pm across the roofs of Barrow I would jump in the Mini, hare home to pick up my boots and bag, drive to the Newfield Inn at Seathwaite, in the Duddon Valley, and climb Caw to watch the sunset.

caw 1 caw 2 caw 5caw 3And here I am. The sun is setting. My day began in a fog of welding smoke and aviation fuel fumes. It is ending in pure cool air and fading light.

I watch the mist well from hollows and creep along ridges, and shadows bleed from gills and northern slopes, and I hear the sounds that people have been hearing for thousands of unremembered years, and I think: I am the same as the first man who stood in this place and watched this same sun go down. There is no difference between him and me.

Colours change and light shifts as they did in Mesolithic times. Up here, in the dying of the day, nothing has altered because the universe remains the same. I may have a Zenit E SLR and a roll of Kodachrome 35mm slide film to record this scene, rather than crude paint mixed from haematite pigments and burnt umber, but my eyes are observing the same timeless sights as that first man observed and my spine is as electrified as his was 5,000 years ago.

On the summit of Caw, as the sun goes down, the past meets the present. There again, it might all be the same thing. I don’t know.

Sunset on Caw, August 1979

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About McFadzean

Alen McFadzean, journalist, formerly of the Northern Echo, in Darlington, and the North-West Evening Mail, Barrow. Former shipyard electrician. Former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still. Now lives in Orgiva, Spain.
This entry was posted in Climbing, Environment, Hiking, HMS Invincible, Life, Mountains, Walking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Days Like This, No 3: Sunset on Caw

  1. qdant says:

    Yes ! but did you chip out any cup and ring marks ?

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on springoutdoors and commented:
    This is beautifully written. I nearly grabbed my boots and backpack and left the house…

    Like

  3. teigl says:

    Beautiful writing, gorgeous photos…just what I want on my dashboard in the morning! Thanks for another great post…you touched on a feeling all of us have …I know I feel like that when I am trapped in my office and see the sunshine outside…even if, perversely, I want to go underground 🙂
    cheers,
    Iain

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hi Iain. It’s a horrible feeling. And you just know that if you wait for the weekend the weather is going to change. Been there, done it.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

  4. mbc1955 says:

    Wonderfully evocative. The hills are indeed eternal, as are we when we are amongst them.

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  5. Howellsey says:

    I know what you mean. The feeling I get in the hills is the only thing approaching spirituality I have come across.

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Howellsey. Yes, same here. And especially when the sun’s going down and night’s approaching. Perhaps that’s why so many burial mounds and stone circles are in the high places. I don’t expect we’ll ever know for sure.
      Cheers, Alen

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  6. I love this writing and the photos are superb. Oh, I know exactly what you mean by being alive. I am desk bound in an office in Leeds and although my window doesn’t look over the moors I am painfully aware they are not far away – I can breathe the fresh air if the wind is blowing right and a window happens to be open. I have a need to get out – and almost every waking minute is dreamt of walking on the moors and mountains (I have already planned my weekend – Blackstone circle on Rombalds moor at 5:30 am to catch a sunrise). Fortunately my lovely Shirl gives me enough rope to do this more or less when I want to (although she does tighten the knot from time to time). It is about being ‘Alive’ and feeling your heartbeat. Someone once said ‘if you can do something all day without looking at your watch – that is passion’ – and that, sadly is what is lacking in most people..

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    • McEff says:

      Hi James. I think we’re all on the same wavelength here. Perhaps it is something in the human psyche that has driven us – for hundreds of thousands of years – to seek the high places to observe the sun and stars. It’s not just about walking, it’s about being part of the environment and learning from it.
      I like that quote about passion. And I shall look out for your Rombalds moor post.
      Cheers, Alen

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  7. Yes, I do feel like that! And, again, that´s a cracking post, Alen.

    Thanks
    Charles

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  8. Very deep! Great photos 🙂 I love Caw – one of my favourite smaller hills.

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    • McEff says:

      Hiya Carol. I had a hunch you’d like Caw. I can’t remember if I had a pint in the Newfield or stopped off at the Blacksmith’s Arms on the way home.
      Cheers, Alen

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  9. “and I think: I am the same as the first man who stood in this place and watched this same sun go down. There is no difference between him and me.” That my friend is being connected.

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  10. Jo Woolf says:

    Beautiful, Alen. Those kind of moments, when they happen, stay with us forever. I am sure there is something about high places, the last places to feel the sun’s rays when it’s setting. How good that you still have the photos (and can put your hands on them!)

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    • McEff says:

      Jo, I like that thought: the last places to feel the sun’s rays. I shall dwell on that.
      I have masses of old slides, somewhere in the region of 3,000. The Kodachrome ones have dates printed on them but the others don’t, so some detective work is involved. I then have to convert them to a digital format and clean them up. The results are a bit grainy, but it’s good fun and keeps me occupied.
      Cheers, Alen

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  11. David says:

    Wonderful writing, you certainly captured the feeling there Alen.

    I really do feel there is an unbreakable thread running through time that connects us all as we observe the rising and setting of the sun. Sometimes I have felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – almost as if some ancestor is standing there just behind me.

    Like

    • McEff says:

      That’s given me something else to think about, David – the ancestor standing behind. Souls departing at the end of the day and life beginning anew at dawn, but a thread running through all their lives like a strand of Celtic gold.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

  12. Hanna says:

    Alen, it is very beautifully expressed, thank you.
    All the best,
    Hanna

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  13. Unusual name for a fell, Caw. I walked it six or seven years ago and what a slog! But the views from the top across the Duddon Valley towards the central fells were worth it. (Arriving at any summit always makes the slog worthwhile.) I suppose walking in a natural, untouched landscape is about as primitive as you can get and my only explanation for the feeling on top of a high place is the expansion of the mind to fill the space it occupies, and if the space is boundless the mind can expand infinitely.
    Chris

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Chris. Funnily enough, only this afternoon I had a conversation over the garden fence with a neighbour who is building a stand for his 6in refractor telescope. After discussing cosmology, we sort of strayed into the area of your final point.
      I’ll go along with that, not because I think my mind is capable of expanding infinitely, but because it sounds good.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

  14. Ash says:

    A brilliant post & it set me thinking about all those places I’ve visited, when that feeling of connection to an ancestor or to an era, creeps up the spine & dazzles your brain so much that those moments of insight last a lifetime.

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    • McEff says:

      Yes, you’re right there, Ash. Those moments do last a lifetime. They are like jewels we find at the side of the road and drop in our pocket.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

  15. Paul says:

    Hi Alen,

    I think you may have touched a nerve with this one, so beautifully written as if it was yesterday. Thank god for memories eh. Since changing jobs I now work in a busy city & feel so far away from my fell walking, at times, (usually when I’m stuck In traffic) images come to me & for that nano second I am there, it brings a gulp to my throat & I’m sure a tear to the eye.

    A great post.

    Like

    • McEff says:

      Hi Paul. It’s great to hear you’ve got a job – you sounded a bit down a couple of months ago, so now the only way is up (as someone once sang).
      But the trouble with work is that on one side it is necessary to pay the bills, but on the other it gets in the way of everything we really want to do.
      You could do with a job like that bloke who climbs Helvellyn every day to record the weather conditions.
      All the best, Alen

      Like

  16. Jenny says:

    Thanks for this. I work in an office in Bristol with a view of a green hill and the weather rolling past. Being up in the mountains makes you feel grounded yet free. I came down from a long walk one day saying to myself ‘I could walk to the moon if I wanted’.

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Jenny. Thanks for that. That’s a great feeling, when you could walk to the moon. Stuff like that makes me smile, because it’s what walking through the countryside is all about.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

  17. You’ve just made me truly homesick. There is alive and then there’s alive when you’re viewing the world from a Cumbrian fell at sunset. What a wonderful memory.

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Lapoubelle. Thanks for that. Sorry about the homesick thingy. Cumbria is a wonderful part of the world and I feel privileged to have grown up there.
      Cheers, Alen

      Like

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