23 June 1920 diary of Dr John Stewart Muir (1845-1938) of Selkirk

A fine day, not too hot + with a stiffish breeze on the hill tops. I had a fine climb. Taking some sandwiches with me I walked across the bridge to Sour Milk Ghyll1 + up by the side of it. It was a very stiff climb + almost dangerous in places. However I enjoyed it + came out on Bleaberry Tarn2 a lonely desolate tiny Loch Skeen3. Had a smoke: saw a few small trout rise + then mounted the Saddle4 from which I looked down on the lakes + village. It was a magnificent scene. With the glasses I saw Nancy5, Mrs Copland6 + Miss Foster 7 arrive from an inspection of Hassness8 at the same time as the first coach. Then I climbed Red Pike9 + looked down on Ennerdale10, then round to High Stile11, the highest point 2,643. The views of the Scafell12 range were magnificent + I saw the outline of Criffel13 + the Kirkcudbrightshire hills14. I had a most difficult + trying descent to the head of Buttermere15 but managed it all right + got back to a good hot bath + dinner which I enjoyed. I gathered 3 spears of Lycopodium16 + a lot of what I thought was Vaccinium vitis idea17 [sic] but a lady told me it was “something” Uva ursi18.

1 Sourmilk Gill (grid reference NGR NY169,158) drops steeply and in a surprisingly straight line into the north west corner of Buttermere lake

2 Bleaberry Tarn (NY166,154) sits in a Corrie below Red Screes andHigh Pike and debouches into Sourmilk Gill

3 Loch Skene, above the Grey Mare’s Tail, Dumfries & Galloway, close to Birkhill and the Selkirkshire border (NT171,165); both are in very tight corries

4 Presumably The Saddle (between Red Pike and Dodd (NY163,156)

5 Agnes Amelia ‘Nancy’ Roberts née Muir (1878-1948), Dr Muir’s second daughter

6 Susanna Copeland née Foster, widow of the Reverend William Broadbent Copeland (c.1839-1904), vicar of St James Buttermere Parish 1898-1902 [Sources: his death, Mar 1904, Copeland, William, Whitehaven Registration District 10b 482 and their marriage Sep 1862, Copeland, William Broadbent and Foster, Susanna, Islington 1b 473]

7 Sister of Susanna Copeland née Foster – see previous footnote

8 Hassness, the property directly opposite Dr Muir across Buttermere Lake, a private home originally, later a walking centre run by the Ramblers’ Association and now owned by the R.A. and called Hassness Country House

9 Dr Muir has continued to Red Pike (755m) on the main ridge (NY160,154)

10 Ennerdale is the isolated valley south west of Dr Muir at this point

11 High Stile (806m), the next peak (NY167,147) on the ridge when travelling south east

12 Dr Muir will have seen the Scafell range to the SSE relatively close at hand, this being the great bulk of mountains above Wastwater including Scafell and Scafell Pike and a number of other high peaks

13 Criffel (569m), south of New Abbey, Dumfries & Galloway (NX957,618)

14 Dr Muir is looking NNE across the Solway Firth to the hills around Kirkcudbright

15 The obvious route to the head of Buttermere from High Stile is straight off the top, dropping for about 400m with Burtness Comb on one’s right, before crossing the contours across Comb Beck to reach the footbridge at Peggy’s Bridge (which is visible on the Ordnance Survey 6 inch Cumberland Sheet LXIX.SE, published 1900)

16Lycopodium is a genus of clubmosses; Natural England document Lycopodium clavatum in the Honister – Fleetwith Pike area [Citation for Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 for Honister Crag / Allerdale / Cumbria here

17 Vaccinium vitis-idaea a short evergreen shrub in the heath family

18 Almost certainly Arctostaphylos uva-ursi or Common bearberry

[Source: Scottish Borders Archives & Local History Service SBA/657/23, Dr J S Muir of Selkirk, medical practitioner, journal for 1920]

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Archivist, interests include Dr John Stewart Muir 1845-1938) of Selkirk, general practitioner, and Seton Paul Gordon (1886–1977), naturalist, author and photographer

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