England Gains a New Mountain

Following a height survey, a Lakeland fell has been promoted to the list of Nuttalls, the 2000 foot (610m) summits of England and Wales. By this definition it qualifies as a new 'mountain'.

A nondescript rise between Knott and Great Lingy Hill in the fells north of Skiddaw, Miller Moss was previously given a height of 609m. A small team of amateur surveyours, John Barnard, Jim Bloomer and Graham Jackson, considered this borderline enough to be worth closer investigation.

The team on Miller Moss, 223 kb
The team on Miller Moss
© John and Anne Nuttall

"Jim, John and I had planned to survey Miller Moss for many months" said Graham Jackson.

"[It] is not the most spectacular hill in the Lake District and is rather dwarfed by its neighbours Great Lingy Fell and Knott. However, there is tranquillity here compared with the much busier fells south of Blencathra and Skiddaw."

Previous visitors had reported a large rock just beside the sizeable summit cairn to be the true high point of the fell.

"Our first task was to set up our professional surveyor's level and carry out a detailed survey through staff measurements to find the position of the summit" explained John Barnard.

"We were soon able to confirm that those previous visitors were correct. We set up our Leica Viva GS15 GNSS receiver over the rock and started to collect data from the orbiting GPS and GLONASS satellites. So far so good, but now came the hard part."

The Nuttalls are named after Anne and John Nuttall who wrote the two-volume Cicerone guidebooks The Mountains of England and Wales.

To qualify as a Nuttall a summit needs to be both 2000 feet high and to have a drop of at least 15m between itself and any adjacent Nuttall. Establishing the depth of the cols on either side of Miller Moss was key.

"Having carted over 6kg of gear up the hill, I was now keen to get stuck in and make good use of it!" said Jim Bloomer.

"So Graham and I descended to the east col with level, staff and a handful of marker flags so see if we could find its position. We all recognised this was going to be a difficult task. The col was very broad, being approximately 200m in both the valley to valley and hill to hill directions. Worse still the ground was very uneven and played host to a varied and luxurious flora half a metre thick in places. After an hour of systematic work... we were confident that to within 10m we had found the elusive col position."

But what about col two? With approaching mist threatening to cloud lines of sight and scupper the survey, the race was on. At this stage the team were joined by Anne and John Nuttall, who had taken an interest in the survey.

"We spent a full hour measuring transects across the col in both the valley to valley and hill to hill directions" said Jim.

"Our work eventually showed an area within the confusion of bog and peat hags that was the general area of the col. With the level and staff we were able to further narrow this down and determine the col position more accurately to within a relatively small area and finally we measured the height difference between the Leica GS15 set-up position and the col position. By this time a fine mist of rain had begun to descend, but with the col position located the survey did not now depend on good weather.

"Finally our task was completed and we could make our way down off the hill. We arrived wet but warmed with the knowledge that we had collected all the data we needed. Expectation of a positive result was high but could only be confirmed several hours later when we arrived home to have access to the processing software."

And the result? The height of Miller Moss was found to be 610.1m, while both cols have more than the requisite 15m drop. It may be nondescript, but Miller Moss becomes a new mountain to be added to the list of Nuttalls.

This data has already been accepted by the Ordnance Survey, so the new height of Miller Moss will feature on OS maps.

The three men are part of the editorial team for the Database of British and Irish Hills (DoBIH), which provides information for hillwalkers keen to tick off particular lists.

"An important parameter of course is the summit of the hill – where it is and how high" explains John Barnard.

"Although there is good data on OS Maps, Harvey Maps etc, it is not always absolutely correct. This is more evident now that people take hand-held GPS receivers which can pinpoint positions to within a few metres. Therefore we try to provide good data that people can use with these units and hence the need for accurate surveying."

"Graham and I have been measuring hills since 2006 and our first significant measurement was Birks Fell in Yorkshire which we showed to top 2000 feet and that measurement was agreed by OS. Over the 12 years since then we have carried out surveys of many hills and also have acquired more sophisticated equipment to do the work. Since 2012 we have owned a Leica Viva GS15 to take absolute measurements of height. This is a GNSS (Global Navigation and Satellite System) receiver and is the same unit that Ordnance Survey use in their Network or GNSS Base stations and for surveying."

"We have a very good working relationship with Ordnance Survey who have helped us a great deal over the years. We regularly submit data to OS that is verified by them and is used to make changes on their maps."

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