On the day after we help try and set a world record for the longest street party as part of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, we hike up Catbells Keswick to watch one of over 4000 beacons being lit around the Commonwealth. It’s not the highest in England; that honour goes to the nearby Scafell Pike. And compared to the line of 60 being lit along Hadrian’s Wall, it’s a solitary light in the darkness. But it is a memorable, and very Cumbrian way to mark a unique and royal moment in time. And tick off a Wainwright!
Queen’s Jubilee Beacon: on Catbells Keswick
No one sings the national anthem. There are no crowds waving flags or singing along to pop songs. The pinprick street lights of Keswick are too far to light our way as we round the peak of the mountain. But there are more people enjoying the dusk of Catbells than we thought. Perhaps sixty people; some huddled under a union jack blanket, others munching on muesli bars, or chucking their dog a plastic toy. The last of the sun sets. And then, high on a hill above us, a tiny light comes on. Everyone stands to look.
Look, a beacon
“It’s Binsey. The beacon’s been lit on Binsey!” And then just as suddenly, it seems to go out. The kids scour the landscape looking for Scafell Pike, where one of the last beacons will be lit before The Queen ignites the last with her crystal ball. But what they see instead is a sliver of red light, slowly ascending between two mountains. Soon it has swelled into a full, red ball. The moon has come to oversee the Jubilee proceedings.
The Lake District towns have spent the weekend celebrating the Jubilee with fayres, street parties and local events. Pints have been drunk and barbecued food consumed. But what the Lake District does best is the lakes and peaks. And here, above Keswick, lakes and peaks and people have come together to mark a moment in a quiet, reflective way.
There is some business on the walkie talkies, and a countdown from ten starts.
“Ten, nine, eight,” The crowd draws back as a guy in a red jacket pours petrol onto a heap of wood in a metal grate.
“Seven,six, five,” The dogs pause and drop their toys, sensing the tension as Keswick seems to grow stiller in the distance. A young person lights a match.
“Four, three, two, one,”
Whoosh. Two Cadets and two Queen’s Scouts bring the beacon to life. Due to public interest, the planned 2012 Diamond Jubilee beacons being lit across the commonwealth have become more than 4000, and one of them is here. Hundreds of camera flashes go off in the distance as the people gathered on the beach in Keswick watch us walk towards the light.
Under the moon
“When people ask where I was on the Jubilee, I’ll always tell them I was next to the moon on Catbells,” says Cameron.
Still no one sings the national anthem. But Cameron’s moon glows brighter and people’s faces are illuminated by light and warmth of The Queen and her fire.
The Queen does her bit
Almost half an hour later, on a scout’s i-phone, we watch the Queen light her own beacon, the final in the sequence. She doesn’t chuck petrol on the fire, hers is done in a rather more high tech fashion, but no doubt the same moon witnesses the event.
Our day is nearly done; the kids are fading. We climb down towards Keswick in the moonlight; its reflection spreading across the surface of Derwentwater below. Hannah has never been on a night hike up and down a mountain before. She holds her breath as her feet slide gently in the scree.
Have you ever done an outdoor adventure to mark a special moment? We’d love to hear what you did.
This post is part of our Family Adventure Capital Season. We’re exploring different ways families can adventure together in and around Cumbria, sharing ideas and inspiration to encourage families to get out, get active and adventure together.
Got some ideas for things we should try? Let us know.
You might also like these other posts about adventures in Cumbria:
- “What is an Adventure Capital?” we asked Cumbria Tourism
- Climbing the Walls: Ever tried family climbing? Keswick Climbing Wall
- Bushcraft survival expert Woodsmoke shows us firelighting
- A special proposal for Leap Year: 29ers in Keswick
- Counting Sheep.. in Cumbrian: Yan, Tyan, Tethera..
- Lake District hills with no sweat and no tears… Electric Bike Network
- Our blue sky, go green, 10 point, Go Lakes travel plan!
- Helen Skelton at Keswick Mountain Festival
- In a tent with Chris Bonnington at Keswick Mountain Festival
- Adventure! on the timetable in Cumbrian Adventure Schools