Ode to Duty: fell singers scale peaks to mark end of first world war

Hills are alive with the sound of music as choir braves elements to sing across the Lake District

Songs on the Summits. The 60-strong choir marked a centenary since the end of the first world war.
Songs on the Summits. The 60-strong choir marked a centenary since the end of the first world war. Photograph: The National Trust

A pop-up choir of hardy singers have braved the elements to perform on a series of Lake District fells to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war.

The 60-strong group’s marathon act of remembrance took them to the top of nine mountains, including England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike.

At each, they sang William Wordsworth’s poem Dear Native Regions; Meet On The Ledge by folk bank Fairport Convention; and a new song by musician Dave Camlin called Old Straight Tracks.

The tribute is part of a wider programme of events to mark a century since the conflict ended. Thirteen mountains in the national park were given to the National Trust in memory of those who had died.

Known as the “Great Gift”, 12 summits were given by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club and Scafell Pike was given by Lord Leconfield.

Completing more than 3,000m of ascent across three trips, the choir climbed Great Gable, Green Gable, Brandreth, Grey Knotts, Lingmell, Scafell Pike, Broad Crag, Thorneythwaite Fell and finished with Glaramara and Allen Crags.

During the Great Gable performance, they were filmed by a 360-degree camera for a film by Keswick Museum and the University of York.

Gilli Goodfellow, one of the members from Cockermouth, said: “It’s been amazing, an incredible experience and difficult to put into words really. None of us were aware of the emotional impact it would have on us, it’s become our own little fellowship.

“It’s a story that needed telling, the amazing gift of mountains, a true story of generosity.

Called The Fellowship of Hill and Wind and Sunshine, the group got its name from a speech made by poet and mountaineer Geoffrey Winthrop Young, delivered onGreat Gable in 1924 as he dedicated the fells to the nation, saying: “[They] surrendered their part in the fellowship of hill, and wind, and sunshine, that the freedom of this land, the freedom of our spirit, should endure.” Young continued to climb mountains even after being wounded and losing a leg while working as an ambulance driver at the battle of San Gabriele in Italy.

Camlin, who led the choir, said: “The real experience of singing meaningful and powerful songs of remembrance in a large choir on a mountain-top was profoundly moving, and we hope that the virtual experience will help people to share in what was a very special moment.”

The programme includes 200 days of footpath restoration as well as rebuilding the summit cairn and England’s highest war memorial on Scafell Pike.

Jessie Binns, the National Trust’s visitor experience manager in the Lake District, said: “These mountains were given as memorials for everyone to enjoy and the National Trust is extremely proud to have cared for them ever since. It is so important for us to safeguard these and other open spaces, so that future generations can continue to reap the benefits in the years to come.”