What’s the unique magic of the Lake District? That is the question that was posed to a group of eminent Lakes characters on the summit of one of its most iconic fells, Helm Crag.
Their answers, and the views of two-dozen guests from around the county, will be aired on Friday (April 14) in a special podcast. The 100th episode of Countrystride will be released, celebrating all that’s special about this beautiful corner of Britain.
The hosts, David Felton and Mark Richards, climbed Helm Crag to record the episode in the company of local climbing legend Bill Birkett; poet Harriet Fraser and photographer Rob Fraser; and former mountain rescuer Gordon Bambrough – who climbed Scafell Pike on his 90th birthday.
They also invited two-dozen people from around the county to contribute and asked them: ”What is the unique magic of Lakeland for you?” Each of them has picked an excerpt from a piece of writing, poetry or song that encapsulates that personal magic for them. Authors chosen include Alfred Wainwright, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Ransome, Nan Shepherd, Norman Nicholson and many more.
Countrystride – dedicated to the landscapes, people and heritage of Cumbria and the Lakes – has been winning audiences since 2020. It began three years ago when Felton and Richards set off from Wasdale Head to climb Scafell Pike. They planned to record a handful of podcasts to celebrate their love of Lakeland, but enthusiasm from listeners carried them on through Covid lockdowns until today. Now Countrystride broadcasts to more than 15,000 listeners a month all around the world.
Felton – also a writer and photographer – runs the Cumbrian business Inspired by Lakeland, publishers of, among others, Forty Farms, The Lake District in 101 Maps & Infographics and the Lake District Sticker Book. He has wandered the Lakeland fells since he could stand on two feet and in 2017 walked from Land’s End to John o’Groats.
Meanwhile, Richards, strongly influenced by his mother’s roots in the Yorkshire Dales, has adored the hills and dales of northern England sicne his youth. He was encouraged to direct his passions for pen and ink drawing and walking into writing and illustrating walking guides from Alfred Wainwright, with whom he spent many weekends in the 1970s. The author of many guidebooks, including his seminal eight-volume Lakeland Fellranger series, he lives at the northern tip of the Pennines.
Together their podcasts have covered a diverse and eclectic range of subjects, from Dentdale and the Dales High Way to the Vikings, Cumbrian dialect, dry-stone walling, fell ponies, Cumbrian ghosts and Beatrix Potter. There have been walks and talks in the footsteps of Wainwright, as well as interviews with people who are helping to shape the future of the landscape.
They have talked to Cumbrian celebrities including fell-running legend Joss Naylor, writer and farmer James Rebanks, broadcaster Eric Robson and John Dunning, founder of Westmorland Motorway Services.
But they also chat with walkers they meet on their rambles, and following the 100th episode of Countrystride they are making plans to hold their first ever Countrystride Live event in October, featuring a range of walks, talks and music, at a venue in the South Lakes.
You can find out more about Countyrstride at www.countrystride.co.uk
Header image: Helm Crag by Mark Richards