In the Footsteps of Romantic Explorers: Recreating the Climbs of Three Early Lake District Adventurers

Today, we enjoyed a talk at the Kendal Mountain Festival. The subject of the talk was Romantic Explorers and their Early Climbs. The Romantic Explorers discussed were Joseph Budworth, Ann Radcliffe and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. All of these "strangers" - the word used to describe early tourists to the Lake District - were keen to explore some of the region's mountains.

All three early tourists were already well known as writers. Ann Radcliffe was at the height of her fame as a Gothic novelist and her visit to the Lakes was to experience, at first hand, the sublime and terrifying landscape, she celebrated in her novels.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge had already collaborated with William Wordsworth on Lyrical Ballads, and his journey from Greta Hall, in Keswick to Dove Cottage, in Grasmere, was to read a new poem to the Wordsworth siblings. Coleridge's journey, from Keswick to Grasmere, included Helvellyn and the Dodds, and was the longest and most arduous of the three climbs.

Joseph Budworth, a former soldier, and writer, climbed Helm Crag and recorded his walk and climb in A Fortnight's Ramble in the Lakes. This small tome was published in 1792 and acted as a light-hearted guide to tourists who wanted to avoid travelling through Europe on the Grand Tour, due to the instability in revolutionary France.

We watched three short films which recreated the walks undertaken by Joseph Budworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Ann Radcliffe. The films "starred" Dr Simon Bainbridge, as Coleridge and Dr Penny Bradshaw as Ann Radcliffe, with a number of other keen walkers supporting them. 

All three films were excellent and provided real insight into how the early tourists tackled exploration in the Lake District. I loved Penny's journey, as Ann Radcliffe, up Skiddaw, side saddle on a horse! I couldn't help but feel that this journey was the most perilous of the three.