BB1828 : BOOTboys Should Wear Woad

Thursday 23rd August 2018

Was it due to the debate about what clothes to wear on a day that threatened to become rather inclement?  All of a sudden Mike T started enthusing about the virtues of woad. In fine voice and to the tune of Men of Harlech he burst forth:

What's the use of wearing braces, spats and hats and boots with laces?

These are things you buy in places down in Blackhall Road.

What's the use of shirts of cotton, studs that always get forgotten?

These affairs are simply rotten, better far is woad!


Woad’s the stuff to clothe men, woad to scare your foe, men.

Boil it to a brilliant hue and rub it on your back and abdomen.

Ancient Britons never hit on

Anything as good as woad to fit on,

Neck or knees or where you sit on,

Tailors you'll be blowed!

Whether it be with woad or what, we did expect to have to cover up against the weather in due course.

We'd left John's car at Bull Pot Farm Caving Centre in order to have a linear wander up Leck Beck, starting from Cowan Bridge.  It was surprisingly clement as we strolled through the hamlet of Leck with its rather superior houses and onwards along tracks through fields.  There was one minor detour, to test out a remarkably rickety old suspension footbridge that looked as if it could collapse into the stream at any moment.  It was private so anyone foolish enough to test it would have little cause for complaint or case for compensation if it collapsed.  Fortunately it didn't and we continued on the trail.  Soon it swung away from the beck and climbed a hill where a narrow trail cut through the bracken (which seems to have grown considerably in the August downpours, as has the grass on our lawn).

On the horizon we could see our originally intended destination, the Three Men of Gragareth (and their lovely ladies).

Eventually I got tired of not being by the beck and persuaded the boys that a short descent through more bracken would lead us down to much easier and more interesting walking.  

Well, this bracken was even deeper and there was no real path.

However the members of the Hekawi tribe eventually reached rock bottom and were ready to explore the dried up stream.  After so much rain this seemed weird but the reason is that this is limestone country and for much of its way, the water runs underground.

Soon we reached the Ease Gill Kirk lower chamber.  I climbed part way up its entrance then retreated.  Discretion decided us to take a different route up the banking and round the chambers.  The boys were able to look down into the upper chamber and realise why we han't gone that way.


Much further up the gorge we came to the waterfall where the water runs off the hill and plunges underground.  

Again we had to climb round on a higher path.  This soon brought us to a bridge from which we could look down and admire the way in which the water had shaped the rocks over the millennia.

We left the back for an easy if somewhat dull tramp across the moor.  By now Gragareth and the other tops were shrouded so we congratulated ourselves on having made the right decision.  The Bull Pot Farm came into sight.

It was there that we exchanged pleasantries with the first people we had met all day.  One was a lady who had worked in Bolton (UK) and then Boston (USA) with the same company and at the same time as Terry though unbeknownst to each other.

It was time to climb into John's car and return to Cowan Bridge.  Half way back Mike started off again:

Romans came across the channel all dressed up in tin and flannel,

Half a pint of woad per man’ll dress us more than these.

Saxons you can keep your stitches building beds for bugs in britches,

We have woad to clothe us which is not a nest for fleas.


Romans keep your armour, Saxons your pyjamas,

Hairy coats were made for goats, gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and lamas.

Hike up Snowdon with your woad on,

Never mind if you get rained or blowed on.

Never need a button sewed on,

BOOTboys should wear Woad.

All of a sudden we realised why.  For the second time of the day we were on Wandales Lane.  It's a Roman Road.

Don, 23rd August 2018



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"Woad" is simply great!  Hearty compliments to the poet – is it Mike T himself?  And can we look forward to a choral rendering of it from the BOOTboys en masse sometime?  Not necessarily dressed in woad!


Hello Mary, thanks for writing.  Mike can’t claim credit for writing the song but he can claim great credit for remembering it and delivering it flawlessly.

The Woad song is also known as “The National Anthem of the Ancient Britons” and is, or at least was, sung by the Boy Scouts. The author was William Hope-Jones, an Eton housemaster, who wrote it before World War 1.

As for BOOTboys singing en-masse, I am not sure that is something I would want to inflict on anyone.  There again, after a few pints of giggle juice, who knows!!


I’m just pleased that it never ceases to entertain; it always links me back to some great memories of Scouts.


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Comitibus:  John, Mike, Terry, Don


Map : OS 1:50k


BB1828 : BOOTboys Should Wear Woad


Thursday 23rd August 2018


Leck Beck

Distance in miles:

6.4 (Garmin)

Height climbed in feet:

1,196 (Outdoor Map Navigator)

GPX track



Don, John H, Mike T, Terry


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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