Birkett Fell was once a nameless height in the Lake District, a spur of Stybarrow Dodd. Now this modest fell is named after one of the great heroes of Lakeland – (Lord) Norman Birkett, the famous barrister, judge at the Nuremburg Trials, and Member of Parliament.
A speech Birkett made in the House of Lords, just two days before his death, literally saved beautiful Ullswater from being reservoired for the benefit of Manchester Corporation – an act of destruction that would have for ever changed this corner of Lakeland, the countryside which inspired Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils”. A dreadful attack on National Park values.
In a speech described as “deeply felt and eloquent” Birkett won round the Lords and defeated what would have been the most appalling act of corporate vandalism. The morning after his victory Birkett suffered a heart attack, dying the next day in hospital. His legacy the unspoiled grandeur of Ullswater.
We set out to walk there from the National Trust’s higher car park between Aira Force and Dockray, following the narrow path winding along the Brown Hills to the Balcony Path above Glencoyne.
There was still snow on the greater heights of Catstycam and Helvellyn (more has fallen since).
From the Balcony Path we made a steep ascent up to the fell itself, following an old stone wall. Not the easiest of going, boggy and mushy from melted snow. We returned the same way.
The fell is capped by a cairn with an inscribed stone bearing the words Birkett Fell.
Not by any means the greatest height in Lakeland, but well worthy of a visit by everyone who cares for Lakeland.
If you go there do spare a few moments remembering Norman Birkett. Unspoiled Ullswater -so visible on this walk – is as much his memorial as the superb viewpoint which was once Nameless Fell, but is now Birkett Fell.