Keswick’s new mountain?

We’re used to heavy rain obscuring our view, or darkness and lamplight throwing up weird shapes in alleyways and urban landscapes; or early morning mists twisting the familiar face of a park or meadow into a foreign field. We take it for granted. It’s what happens when a few of the visual clues we are used to are removed or changed. A common enough experience you’d say.

But last week in Keswick in broad daylight I saw something different – a shapely new mountain – which completely threw me. A keen wind was blowing and thick clouds covered the high fell tops. Mountains surround the town, so I am used to seeing them from different angles as they poke out above the rooftops. But this time there was a hilltop profile – almost that of an isosceles triangle – I couldn’t immediately identify.

It took me a while to crack the mystery, but a group of local residents failed in the task when I asked them at the weekend. So now it’s over to our readers! The first to send me the right answer – the name of this mountain – gets a pot of our best 2012 Tango marmalade. The correct answer will be published in the New Year. Just email me ( a message with ‘Mystery Mountain’ in the Subject box and the answer below.

HINT: If you are a keen reader of this website and of the walking section, you will find a hint about the answer!

Felltops’ snow service saved

The weather has been wild and changeable this week like for most of the country – cloud, sleet, snow, hail and sun in succession; and has not been without some glorious ‘world’s first smile’ moments. The picture of the snow capped Skiddaw range, taken from inside the Belvedere took your breath away as we ate breakfast on Monday, but by mid morning the mountain was obscured in thick cloud and hail. Our decision to delay a climb to the summit had made sense.

The wind has been very strong and temperatures near freezing for most of the week, so we postponed another high level walk too. It’s reminded me just how important it is for walkers to have good up to date information of the conditions on the fell tops – a service which earlier in the year looked like it would be discontinued because of budget cuts.

The good news this last month is that the up to date service, dependent upon daily climbs to the top of Helvellyn, has now been sponsored and the two men, Jon Bennett from Ambleside and Jason Taylor will this winter continue to undertake this formidable 950m climb in all conditions – at the princely rate of £8.40 per hour.

I met Jon last year in the car park by Thirlmere, when I had been up all day in snowy conditions above Grasmere. I recognised then his commitment as he described climbing through chest deep snow drifts to make the summit. We all have much to thank Jon and Jason for, as conditions on the high fell tops need to be assessed with care.

Accurate information allows choice of the right gear and clothing or a decision to stay at a lower level, if your fitness or level of experience is more limited. I’ve seen walkers in thin gym shoes without ice axes climbing icy snow steps on the route from Catstycam to Helvellyn. Accidents waiting to happen.

Reading Jon and Jason’s reports would hopefully next time make them think again! Yesterday they reported: “Owing to the strength of the wind, the Fell Top Assessor turned back at 710m after measuring a gust of 72mph in a relatively sheltered spot!”

The detailed reports can be found at

POSTSCRIPT: Click here for three other photos taken from the Belvedere, which show the changing seasons and light patterns from this great vantage point above the Derwent valley.

World’s costliest marmalade?

Readers of this blog will know that stories about marmalade have a particular fascination for me, especially at this time of the year when stocks of the stuff are at a low level and I’m thinking how many weeks it is til early February, when the new crop of oranges from Seville will be in the shops.

This week’s story comes from New York, where our own correspondent has sent news that if I am really desperate for a good pot for Christmas, there’s help at hand in the big Apple.

What’s the deal? The photo opposite shows what you can buy on Madison Avenue – a pot of Orange marmalade (‘Les Confitures de la Creation’) from the Savoie for $25. I know there’s a certain cachet about French made products, but this offering from Manhattan’s Eli Zabar Manhattan store must be the world’s most expensive jar yet of the golden preserve.

At today’s exchange rates this makes it £15.94 for the pot. What’s not clear is the weight! As every well taught 12 year old knows, a kilogram is not 2 lbs but 2.204 lbs (or 2lbs, 3.27 ounces), which makes a 500 kg pot weigh 1.102 lbs, not 16 ozs. We need some help here from the Weights and Measures Inspector!

And finally just let me know if you come across a more expensive pot – anywhere in the world.