Songs on the Summits 1918-2018

Archive photo of people gathered on Great Gable Summit in 1923

'Upon this mountain summit we are met today to dedicate this space of hills to freedom.'

'The World's Greatest War Memorial'

At the end of the First World War the Fell and Rock Climbing Club created what was described as ‘The World’s Greatest War Memorial’ by giving 12 mountain summits to the nation with the words ‘we dedicate this space of hills to freedom’.

One hundred years after the ‘war to end all wars’ finished, we are commemorating the extraordinary vision of their gift with a rather special project, called:

'The fellowship of hill, and wind, and sunshine'

To mark the breathtaking vision and generosity of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club’s gift to the nation, we’re working on an arts project during 2018, as part of the Trust New Art programme funded by Arts Council England.

Informed by the mountaineering principle of ‘leave no trace’ we’re working with Mouthful –  leading professional musicians from the North of England – and amateur singers drawn from community choirs in Cumbria. Together we'll create a 'singing picnic' at Peace How – a tiny hill at the south end of Derwent Water which was given to the National Trust in 1917 so that servicemen from the trenches could experience peace and tranquility.

We'll also be recruiting singers to learn, perform and record a series of songs on each of the 12 summits dedicated as war memorials by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club.

" [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."
- Geoffrey Winthrop Young

Cumbrian songwriter, musician and teacher Dave Camlin has created a new arrangement of the moving speech by poet, climber and FRCC member Geoffrey Winthrop Young that was ‘declaimed in a trumpet voice’ on the summit of Great Gable at the dedication ceremony. The song will form part of the song cycle.

The project will also form part of a research partnership with York University and Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to research the impact that group singing in these special outdoor spaces has on people's sense of place.

Stand with us in 2018 as we re-dedicate this space of hills to freedom

You can join in this project in a number of ways:

The Great Gift

Every year, hundreds of people brave the November wind and rain by climbing to the summit of Great Gable on Remembrance Sunday. The mountain has become a deeply symbolic place for the outdoor community.

Few people know that it was not just Great Gable that was given to us to care for on behalf of the nation, but all the land above the 1,500ft contour line surrounding the peak – including 12 summits in total, that stretch out on either side of Sty Head Tarn.

The war memorial gift was the largest area that had ever been given to the Trust at the time
section of map from FRCC archive showing the gifted land

The start of an avalanche

At the time, it was the largest gift of land that had ever been placed in the care of the National Trust, for the benefit of the people of Britain forever.

It marks a transformational moment in the history of the British people’s relationship with our nation’s heritage of beautiful landscapes: Long before the formation of the first national park it precipitated an avalanche of gifts of land donated and bequeathed to the nation so they could be accessed by all and cared for in perpetuity by a charity – us.