Saturday, 25 April 2020

Guest Contributor – Tim Synge


If readers would like to contribute an article for the Guest Contributor page heading please contact me, my email address appears on the About Me page heading.  The 0nly two things I ask is that the article should be hill related and importantly I should not end up in court through its publication!  Otherwise the choice of subject matter is down to the Guest Contributor.

About the Author; Tim Synge

Tim Synge on Maiden Moor

If you divide fellwalkers into those who live in the Lake District and those who do not have that privilege, Tim falls into the second category.  He did once make a day visit from Bristol to walk on the fells, but concluded that this is not conducive to a well-balanced life.  This means that, like so many, he spends much time either reviewing his last visit or planning the next one.  It was this sense of longing to be on the fells which led him to start work on his survey some 25 years ago and which culminated in a list of fells which, in spite of – or possibly because of – its subjectivity, has gained a certain following among peakbaggers and keepers of mountain lists alike.  Tim currently lives in Devon, where he rates the walking on Dartmoor and the SWCP as something of a consolation when he is unable to spend time in his favourite National Park.

The Synges

By Tim Synge

Myrddyn has very kindly invited me to contribute an article to his blog and, finding myself with some time on my hands between jobs, I am happy to oblige.  Had it not been for the lockdown, I would have been walking in the Lake District this week, so this should be seen as something of a silver lining at a difficult time for the country. 
My approach to the compilation of my survey and the resulting lists is set out in the introduction to the book and I do not propose to repeat it here.  Instead, I offer some reflections from the perspective of a date some twenty-five years after the publication of the original list, together with one or two of the highlights of what has been for me the quite surprising survival of the survey anywhere beyond a couple of boxes in my garage!

I compiled my tables very much as a personal study over a period of a couple of years.  I had owned a copy of John M Turner’s 1974 Combined Indexes to the Pictorial Guides since childhood, but there were no other Lake District lists that I was aware of.  Like most walkers, I knew that Wainwright’s inclusion of Mungrisdale Common was at best debateable and consequently regarded any claim that his choices formed an authoritative list as questionable.  However, it was by no means clear what should be included in a more comprehensive survey, which is what I intended to produce.  I remember leafing through the popular guidebooks (including those by John and Anne Nuttall and Terry Marsh) to see whether there were other fells which they regarded as significant enough to merit a detour or a mention and I am sure I was influenced by these and others.  A lot of time was spent simply perusing the 1:25,000 maps grid square by grid square.  Bill Birkett’s book was published in 1994, the year before mine, but by that stage my list was finalised. 

I chose three sets of distinguishing criteria.  The first was easy and all Wainwrights automatically earned an entry.  The second related to height and so, once I had rationalised my position on metric measurement, summits were either over 600 metres or they were not.  The third related to re-ascent. 

On Long Side

As I write this, I am struggling to remember why I chose to identify what I referred to as “separate fells” and “subsidiary summits”.  At that stage, I think that the concept of a drop of 100 feet was attractive and seemed to have merit.  I had not heard the term TUMP (and was certainly not connected to the internet in those days!) and it is a pleasing coincidence that my 30 metres of re-ascent matches the criteria for a TUMP.  I will confess that my ability to identify a TUMP correctly is not infallible.  I see that my original survey identified 257, while the current online lists suggest that I missed a further 21 and incorrectly included 8.  I worked primarily from OS 1:25,000 maps and sometimes from the 1:50,000 series, which does include one or two summit heights where its larger-scale companion shows only contour lines.  I am more than happy to stand corrected by the work of many who have been painstaking in their approach to measurement of height and re-ascent.

I decided that the lists might be of some interest to others and first approached the indomitable Jenny Dereham, at that time Wainwright’s editor at Michael Joseph.  She showed me a proof of the cover of Peter Linney’s Official Wainwright Gazetteer and was unimpressed by my view that the Wainwrights were not the only mountains in the Lake District.  Sadly, that book was, on subsequent publication, full of errors which, when I drew them to her attention, were blamed on an incorrect version of the database being sent to the printers.  (This may be a suitable moment to admit to errors in my own book, the most glaring being the omission of the summit of High Rigg.  This was drawn to my attention by, among others, Chris Crocker and was duly corrected in online lists from 2017.)

A brief aside from that era may be of some interest or perhaps a source of amusement.  After my survey was published, I was briefly alarmed to receive a solicitor’s letter from the compiler who had worked with Peter Linney to provide the Wainwright grid references for his Gazetteer, claiming that I had copied his work.  The Gazetteer had a column of six-digit grid references and so did my book.  The allegation was that I had copied his work.  A quick check showed that, of my initial sample of ten Wainwrights, five had references which differed from his by at least one digit.  Clearly no plagiarism was involved!

Graham Beech at Sigma Leisure was interested enough to take the survey on and duly published it in 1995. I now regret the handwritten format that I used, but he seemed happy enough with it.  After a year or so, the book was duly remaindered and I ordered a couple of boxes of copies while the rest went to discounters of various types.  And that was that.

The Lakeland Summits - A survey of the fells of the Lake District National Park by Tim Synge

Or so I thought.  In 2012, I received a very friendly email at my work address from a correspondent by the name of Nick Wakelam.  He drew my attention to the fact that there was a small but dedicated band of baggers who were out to bag all the Synges and I realised that the internet had enabled my list to take on a new life beyond print.  Through Nick, who was very persistent in the face of what must have seemed like a lack of excitement on my part, I became aware of names such as Rob Woodall and Phil Newby.  I stand in admiration of the work that baggers and chroniclers alike do to keep their various lists and databases accurate and I feel privileged to feature in a small way in these.  But what has really brought me pleasure in recent years, besides the simple fact that the Synges are a challenge for some, is the occasional feedback to the effect that there always turns out to be a reason to visit each one.  Whether this is a detour from a well-trodden route or a new view into a known area, a number of correspondents have been kind enough to get in touch and explain why they have enjoyed the challenge.

I hesitate to single out individuals, but now that I have started, I must also acknowledge the efforts of Rick Salter, Ronnie Bowron and, of course, Nick and Jacqui Wakelam in keeping the challenge of the Synges alive.  Apologies to any that I have not named, but I know that there is a small band of followers out there!  Martin Roberts is one who has prompted me a couple of times regarding the extension of the survey to include the newly designated extensions to the National Park.  I have a list, but I am not quite ready to go live with it.  Unfashionable as it may seem, I am investigating the possibility of a short print run for what would be a twenty-fifth anniversary second edition.  I realise that this goes against the grain of the marvellous “living” lists online, but I do not intend to make frequent further changes and updates, so am drawn to the concept.  Watch this space … and if it does not work out, I will release a list in the next twelve months.  Astute readers will probably be able to guess most of the fells that will be included, but it will emphatically not be simply a list of TUMPS!

In the meantime, this would seem to be a very good opportunity to make one further amendment to the original list and to publish details of Synge 648.  I don’t expect this to cause too much wailing and gnashing of teeth, as I am confident that it will already be on many ticklists: Oakhowe Crag (NY 302 052).  If it is not on your ticklist already, then I am pleased to have given you a reason for a new walk. 

Tim Synge

As Tim mentions in his article, he still has a few copies of the original survey of 646 summits available.  Anyone who would like a copy for the cost of £8 including UK postage, with details of the two additional summits inscribed by Tim, is invited to contact him at

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