Location: Helm Crag (Cumbria, England)
Helm Crag is situated in Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England. This landmark has been given a variety of names because of its unique formation. Depending on the viewer’s vantage point, Helm Crag takes on different shapes and has since become identified by these monikers.
What is Helm Crag, exactly?
Helm Crag is considered a “fell,” which is a general term referring to a feature of the landscape that is located at a high altitude and is barren. It comes from the old Norse term ‘fjall,’ meaning “mountain.” A “crag” is commonly known as a rugged cliff or peak. “Helm” is a Norse term, which means “cloud-capped hill.” These simple descriptors provide an image for those who are unfamiliar with the features of Helm Crag and enable travelers, such as the students of the Kiplin Hall Program, to identify the landmark. It is clear that the label given to Helm Crag serves an important purpose–but what about its other names?
Helm Crag’s Nicknames
Like any other well-known and prominent geographic landmark, Helm Crag earned a variety of titles that express its multifaceted appearance. The three names emerged as a result of travelers’ diverse impressions of the summit’s formation.
1) Helm Crag is perhaps most commonly referred to as “The Howitzer” because of its appearance from the summit of Dunmail Raise. This viewpoint is considered to be the “true” summit of Helm Crag, for it stands the tallest and is the steepest angle.
2) From the southernmost point, the rocks on the peak of Helm Crag look like a lion pouncing on a smaller creature below. Because of this image, the landmark has also earned the name “The Lion and the Lamb” or “The Lion Couchant” (a word used to describe an animal lying with its head raised and its body resting on its legs).
3) The final name given to Helm Crag is “The Old Lady Playing the Organ,” which can be visualized when the fell is approached from Mill Gill.
From a geographical standpoint, Helm Crag falls under the category of the Skiddaw Group. This grouping encompasses landmarks in the Northwest region of Lake District Park in Cumbria. The National Park was established in 1951 and is 885 square miles—England’s largest national park with just over 42,000 inhabitants in the area. Although not the tallest mountain in Lake District, Helm Crag stands at 405 meters (1329 feet). It has a fairly rocky terrain and is a moderately strenuous climb, but the peak is accessible from the North side. Images show that the summit is less daunting when approached from this angle.
William Wordsworth wrote an entire book about his experiences in Lake District, titled Guide to the Lakes. In this text, Wordsworth describes the landscape and incorporates poetic commentary about its influence on civilians living in the area. Of the mountains, he writes: “…the MOUNTAINS. Their forms are endlessly diversified, sweeping easily or boldly in simple majesty, abrupt and precipitous, or soft and elegant” (Norton Topics Online). It is clear from this passage that the mountainous region impacted Wordsworth’s writing and his interactions with the natural world.