Reach, a Bradgate Oddity | Mark Goodwin

Introduction by Lord ‘Broc’ Howk

Over the years, the Greater Bradgate Range of Leicestershire has yielded strange journeys. The territory is laden with ghosts, mostly in the form of venerable oaks with their crowns chopped out – reminders of poor Lady Jane Grey, that very young and innocent queen, who after her nine days of royalty was beheaded. And there is also Old John himself, that old beer mug of a folly atop one of the grander peaks. In the wrong light one can hear the whinnies of the tortured horses that galloped around the race circuit that encircled Old John’s prominent lookout. They weren’t really tortured, but by gods we can imagine the racket. And none of this, of course, is believable – rather it requires a particular kind of faith, a particular way of looking at things aslant. And the same too can be said for the miniature mountaineering to be found in the park. It does not require a sense of adventure, and anyway adventure is a word that fell off a bygone cliff … o so long ago! … but also it died of late on the moors, roasted on one of those dreadful disposable BBQs. Yes, poor old adventure, just another extinct bird! But where was I? … And then there was the Sliding Stone with its oaken snail, just about to eat the pretty stand of birches … No? … No! … Ah, yes, the sense required to enjoy the rock and soaring mountains of Bradgate … well, it is a sense of other that is required, and a sense that what doesn’t make sense can be sensed – can be felt. Yes, this is a grand outdoorsness, a vast wilderness of condensed values, one where a red stag is just as big as a stag beatle … perhaps the drummer, Ringo, rather than the really famous bugs. Anyway, enough of me … let’s get stuck into Bradgate.


As long as Mountaineers respect ancient Pagan traditions and don’t actually stand on summits, expeditions are now allowed. Sir Christopher Lichen commented:

‘This is great news for the great climber who longs for a great place!’

[ Topo diagram courtesy of GBRFC, the Greater Bradgate Range Frictioneering Club (the real one!, est. 1890). This rather gruff club has refused permission for the climbs’ grades to be quoted. Besides, the GBRFC’s grading system would take up too much space, for example: the grade (not the description!) of Lady Jane’s Arête runs to half a page of A4. ]

… All I can remember from Bradgate was the deer and Old John. Is that base camp? …

… I didn’t say I’d got a new range of kit! It might of sounded like it – but I actually said: “And what better way to go but dressed in a new Range”, so yes, I didn’t specifically say ‘kit’, and ‘range’ can refer to a range of things, including kit, granted, but in this case we …

… Well spotted! Yes, base camp is where the ghosts sat around chatting about Lady Jane’s skull. We had to move the mess tent because the local Charnwood porter refused to cook in it. Mind you, there was a very strange sensation in that tent …

… but in this case we are talking about being dressed in a mountain range, a tiny mountain range. There is also the word ‘range’ as related to ‘reach’ – and as you can see I’m making a really long (st)reach to finish Old John …

… Little Braggers looks about my grade …

… Look, I was actually expecting you to pick me up on the number of routes, not question whether or not I’d created a new range of outdoor clothing … the point is, it is not how we dress, or what we dress in, but where we dress … a range of bright colours, of alp …

… Yes, Little Braggers is only 296 ft long! Much shorter than the rest, however, it actually has one of the hardest moves in the range – there is a thirty foot pitch of completely gleaming stone, incredibly slippery … as if some giant mollusc had slid across it …

… a range of bright colours, of alpenglow, can be cut to a romantic jaunt and easily slipped over young muscles, or alternatively one can simply watch one’s own shadow dress itself in the late stone of day. By the way, do you like my bald patch in this topo? – it is a site, a …

… it … it is a site, a place of its own, somewhere to pitch a memory … and sleep snug under the rattling canvas of bygone ravens, their lovely inky blue wings shivering against the flight of a tiny mind-sized mountain … no, I will not take it back, it, the sentiment of stone, it …

… it … the sentiment of stone, it … cements my sentience …



… No, that’s not true at all. You must not say that! Look, take the Yeti for example, that was entirely invented by the great 1930s mountaineer, Eric Shipton. Having said that, yes, there is in Bradgate something … a thing rather large and strange. I did see this thing once, but it defies visual description. In fact it was more of a feeling – a dark trickle of hairy hissing, and yet soundless, and not actually felt. You see, even though I do so love the place – it is probably where I first scrambled on rock, as a toddler, and the park for me is indeed a bowl of embers, each ember a memory glowing – but still there is something very Englishly dark there …

[ An author approaching the summit of the hill Old John, with its folly of the same name. The grove directly below the sun is called Tyburn. The war memorial can be seen just appearing at the edge of the woods left of Old John. ]

… I have balanced along the Bradgate Dragon Back – a great pleasure of walking a miniature mountain spine. I have with my love sat out more than one New Year’s Eve, both of us perched at high altitude, with frostbitten fingers, but glad to be clinging to life … just as the great slab of the calendar tips … watching the lights of Leicester shimmer far below us … and the jubilant fireworks sprout like miniature war. I have explored the oaken wonders of the figures here, with my little children – I have entrusted both my kids to the arms of the park’s oaks. I have watched the grainy cine film of my grandparents hand-in-hand walking – before I was born – down by the River Lin. And my love & I have lovingly cursed the ‘naughty badgers’ that have so often during their snoofling in the dark scratched off the garments of the ground in search of their sustenance … leaving their tell-tales of rucked turf … and freshly disturbed soil. And all these moments gleam gladly through me, and I cup the bowl of legends, I cup it with my ears! … just as the woodpecker yaffles by day or the owl sculpts by night …

[ Mark (photo-shopped) on the Great Slab of the Calendar (named thus by the (un)author). ]

… But yes, there is no escaping, by climbing nor walking, not by going across nor up … there is something dark laid down here … below us all … for actually, there is something dark laid down under all England … no mountain is ever conquered … but certainly minds can be … and souls can

… fail … and bodies can break …



Note, according to Wikipedia: Bradgate Park (local pronunciation: /ˌbrædɡʌt/) is a public park in Charnwood Forest, in Leicestershire, England, northwest of Leicester. It covers 850 acres (340 hectares). The park lies between the villages of Newtown Linford, Anstey, Cropston, Woodhouse Eaves and Swithland. The River Lin runs through the park, flowing into Cropston Reservoir which was constructed on part of the park. To the north-east lies Swithland Wood. The park’s two well-known landmarks, Old John and the war memorial, both lie just above the 210 m (690 ft) contour. The park is part of the 399.3 hectare Bradgate Park and Cropston Reservoir Site of Special Scientific Interest, which has been designated under both biological and geological criteria.

The visible geology in Bradgate Park ranges from some of the oldest (Precambrian) fossil-bearing rocks in England to the youngest (Quaternary). They include rocks with some of the oldest known developed forms of fossil animal life in Western Europe.


All original photos by Nikki Clayton.

Image manipulation by Mark Goodwin, from original photos by Nikki Clayton.

Thanks to Jo Dacombe & Chris Jones for their responses to the Bradgate topo, which are included in the ‘conversation’ below the topo.

Thanks also to Boz Morris … for banter !

Mark Goodwin
‘s publications include
All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and a new collection, Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019), acclaimed by Andy Clarke in Climber magazine as ‘An exhilarating journey through the glorious variety of UK rock, including mountain rhyolite, eastern grit, Llanberis slate… a fascinating and rewarding collection that amply repays backtracking and re-reading.’ Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite 
for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Rock as Gloss: £12.99 (hardback)

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