BB1827 : The Penny Farthing

Thursday 16th August 2018

Not long into the steep part of the climb, Ian stopped and called out “Look what I have found.”

What had he just found?  It was small, brown and round. It was very worn but appeared to be a coin. When I looked closely at it, I was sure that I could see the upper part of the figure of Britannia.  It was a farthing, we decided.  For younger readers (if any) I should explain that a farthing was a bronze coin of which 960 added up to make £1.

They were last minted in 1960 so the likelihood was that it had lain there, undisturbed for over 50 years.  Maybe the drying out of the ground over the past few month followed by the recent torrential rain had unearthed it.

The hill in question was Pike o’Blisco possibly the least fashionable of the Langdale Pikes. Standing alone on the southern side of the valley, it is one of my favourites, partly because there are three short sections where you have to get your hands on the rocks to get up.  Nothing dangerous or exposed but a bit of fun. Also, on a clear day, it provides one of the best viewpoints for looking at the more famous Langdale Pikes.

It had had to be an early start because really foul weather was due to arrive mid-afternoon.  We didn’t want to be caught in that.  Robin, Stan and I had been joined by my nephew, Ian and his son, Bradley (he of the Bryan’s rib-breaking fell race saga of BB0809 ).  Setting off from the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park, we soon had to don our cagoules whilst showers briefly passed through.

Pike o'Stickle left; ahead Crinkle Crags in cloud

There was a spectacular double rainbow.

Not long after the discovery of the old coin, Ian stopped again.  "What have you found this time?" we asked.  

Quite the reverse- he had decided to leave a five pence piece lodged in the rocks to be found, similarly, by walkers in fifty or more years’ time (if walking still exists then). What a nice gesture, we thought.

We had another look at the discovered coin.  "That is not Britannia," said Robin.  "It’s a Robin".  Well Robin should know about Robins.  "That would date it as being between 1937 and 1960 when production stopped.*"

We thought no more about it as we came to the three short scrambles, nor as we headed to the top.

Looking southwest to Windermere

Or I should say tops?  There are two and it is not easy to tell which is superior. As often happens, when at the summit of one, the other looks higher.  I thought the northmost one, largely because it has a spotmark on the OS map of 706 metres and why would they spotmark the lower peak?  However, it seems that that is what they did.  The OS map itself appears to suggest the other is 5 metres higher but, strangely when viewed on the computer, at a height of only 683 metres.

Whichever, we were not going to stay and debate the point. By now the wind was ferocious.  Gusts of up to 40 mph had been forecast.  I think they were stronger than that.   Ian obliged with a Comitibus selfie then we set off, with considerable difficulty, down to Red Tarn, wondering just how fierce it had been.

First I consulted the Windbeer chart, as introduced to the world in 1734**.  I reckoned it was about a grade 5, somewhere between “Why did I just trip over my feet” and “I can’t believe I just fell to the floor”.  However the scientific basis for that scale which compares the equivalence the effect of wind speed to the consumption of pints of ale as being somewhat suspect. If true, it would suggest something of the order of 50-60 mph.

The Beaufort scale seemed to indicate something greater than number 7- "inconvenience felt when walking against the wind".  Well, on occasion the inconvenience was so great that I couldn’t move against the wind.  Beaufort 8 “generally impedes progress”.  That sounds about right.  Gale force.

At the tarn we had three options:

1.  To continue on to climb Cold Pike.  There was no enthusiasm for that, given the conditions.  

2.  To head south into the wind to pick up the road at the top of Wrynose Pass. There was no great enthusiasm for that, either.  

3.  To have the wind behind us and take the red track down alongside Browney Gill and into Oxendale and back to the pub.  Unanimous.

Once far enough down, we stopped for an early lunch and a re-examination of the discovery.  

Someone reckoned that it had had a serrated or milled edge.

Would that change the perception?  

Could it possibly be an old silver sixpence that had got tarnished by the iron ore that had turned all the paths red?


The matter was finally resolved an hour or so later.   First however we had to pass through the Stool End farmyard where there was a fine cockerel and several odd looking birds. Someone claimed they were partridges, another said pheasants.  Ian corrected them and explained that they were a cross breed called phartridges.

Perhaps the coin he had found was a pharthing?

In the Old Dungeon Ghyll bar was a very bright spotlight.  

When the coin was examined under this light two digits could be seen:  0 0

Could this mean it was a 1900 farthing?  Sadly not. These digits were the middle two of four.  That put it in the 2000s.

After further scrutiny, the final conclusion was that it was dated 2006.  No treasure trove today.  It was a modern one "new" penny piece.  Four pence less than the coin that Ian had left for a future generation to find.

Better luck next time you are with us, Ian!

Don, Thursday 17th August 2018

*   You didn’t think I meant AD1734 did you?  It was BB1734 !

** Actually farthings didn’t have a robin on them.  It was a wren!



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If you want to know which BOOTboys reports refer to having visited any particular Wainwright or certain other tops, see BOOTboys Hill Log.


Here's a bit of useless information for you. This was only a short outing, however in terms of feet climbed per mile walked it ranks second so far this year with a fpm ratio of 334.  The winner, by a long way, was BB1804 on Fairfield in the snow which produced the remarkable figure of 424.


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Comitibus: Ian, Robin, Don, Bradley, Stan

Map : Harveys 1:25k


BB1827 : The Penny Farthing


Thursday 16th August 2018


Pike o'Blisco

Distance in miles:

5.8 (Garmin)

Height climbed in feet:

1,938 (Anquet Outdoor Map Navigator)

GPX track



Don, Ian S & Bradley, Robin, Stan


If you want to know which BOOTboys reports refer to having visited any particular Wainwright or certain other hills, see BOOTboys Hill Log.

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