Monday, May 6, 2013

Lake District - Day 6

This morning I drove over to Ullswater, the second largest lake in the district after Windermere, and one which many regard as the most beautiful of English lakes, comparing it to Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. It is a typical Lake District narrow "ribbon lake" formed after the last ice age when a glacier scooped out the valley floor and when the glacier retreated, the deepened section filled with meltwater which became a lake.

And here is that very Water, taken that afternoon
The origin of the name 'Ullswater' is uncertain. Some say it comes from the name of a Nordic chief 'Ulf' who ruled over the area; there was also a Saxon Lord of Greystoke called 'Ulphus' whose land bordered the lake. The lake may have been named Ulf's Water in honour of either of these, or it may be named after the Norse god Ullr.

Whoever it was named after, I just hoped they liked company, as even early in the morning it was fairly teeming with people, and compared with my day of seclusion yesterday, the difference was notable to say the least. But with the sun shining on such a glorious morning I didn’t mind getting stuck in the queues of traffic that formed behind the lumbering campervans, as we made our way round the winding road that borders the lakes western shore.

As I had the whole day to explore the lake, I decided that first I would stay on the main road that travels south to Windermere, and check out the Kirkstone Pass. But as I left Ullswater behind the weather started to turn quite grey, and what was a clear blue sky, had now, out of nowhere it seemed, developed a severe case of ‘the clouds’. I pushed on past the tiny Brothers Water, which used to be called Broad Water until the 19th century when two brothers downed in it, and the name was changed. towards the pass. But as I did the light became more and more leaden, with the sun only coming through in isolated patches.

As I rounded a bend and could see the road stretching up into the mountains in the distance I happened to glance over and see a beautiful view that was just crying out to be photographed, the dappled sunlight on the mighty fells, looking down onto an old stone barn was just the ticket, all I had to do was get parked and set up as soon as was humanly possible.

It was a shame, for me at least, that the fields lining this stretch of road were subject to vigorous attack by machinery, they were digging trenches or something, which in itself would not normally worry me, I have no particular sympathy with fields, they get what they deserve I always say, but on this occasion I was unduly perturbed.

The trench digging people had parked there infernal paraphernalia in every lay by I came across, so I had to drive on for some distance before I was able to park up and walk the not inconsiderable distance back to the spot. Of course by this time the light had moved on to bigger and better things, it was not going to dally around for the likes me. So I set up my tripod and waited.

And I waited. I couldn’t even have a bit of a sit down as I lingered around for the clouds to get their act together, as I was stood on the side of the road, and drivers tend to get rather annoyed and alarmed if you just stretch out on the carriageway. For almost an hour I waited around for a fleeting moment of satisfaction as the light subtly shifted this way and that, but while it was more than happy to illuminate other parts of the surroundings, like behind me for example, it steadfastly refused to bring the scene in front of me to life.

I was tempted to call it a day and pack up, but I knew in my heart of hearts that as soon as I did, the sun would shine through in a glorious display of perfection, but, and here’s the saddest part, it would only last as long as it took for me to get most of my equipment hastily unpacked and set up, as soon I was ready to take a picture, it would then disappear again. These apparently are the rules, and I have come to begrudgingly accept them over the years.

But luckily for me, I soldiered on and in the end the light did what I hoped it would and picked out the foreground and the parts of the fells behind, so after getting that shot, and with a smug feeling of a job well done bubbling away inside me, I did finally pack up and practically skipped back to the car with joy.

Here's what all the fuss was about
Yes, I am easily pleased.

Once that mission was accomplished I headed up Kirkstone Pass, the Lake District's highest pass, at 1,489 feet, that is open to motor traffic. The name of the pass is derived from a nearby stone, the Kirkstone, which stands a few yards from the roadside at the top of the pass. The stone is so named as it’s silhouette resembles a church steeple, 'kirk' meaning church in old Norse.

Once I had reached the plateau and continued onwards for a few hundred yards, and before the road started to drop back down again, I thought it prudent to get out and take a picture, as anyone would. The views over to Windermere were stunning in the morning light and the weather conditions were become slightly more predictable.

Open fells with Windermere in the far distance
I then carried on the long road downwards towards Windermere, but not wanting to actually go into the town itself, I turned off and headed towards Ambleside, with a view to heading back to Ullswater via the The Struggle. But first I had to get through Ambleside itself, which was packed, and made me realise how busy the Lake District gets, I’d not experienced the mass of visitors up until then, having stayed away from the main tourist areas. So it took a while to get through the town before I saw the little right turn at the mini roundabout that would take me back up.

Whilst not as steep as some roads, with a gradient of 1 in 4 The Struggle still lives up to it’s name, as the ascent is relentless with many twists and turns along the way. I stopped about half way up to get some pictures of the sunlight as it danced across the fells in front of me, and must have been there for quite a while because before I knew it I had run out of space on my memory card. Although by rights I should have had my fill from earlier in the morning, there is something about light sailing across the land as the clouds rupture and reform that just makes you want to watch it.

I won't make you sit through all the pictures I took, but here's a condensed version.

And here's one of a rather nice tree
Once I had rejoined the Kirkstone Pass from the The Struggle, I headed back to Ullswater, stopping alongside the road and scrambling/embarrassingly falling down an embankment to the waters edge where a boat house was situated. I walked out onto a small promontory, overlooking the boathouse and shore beyond where I took a few photos, then had a lovely sit down on a rock that was perfectly shaped as a seat. So well done nature, I applaud you.

The boathouse is in camoflage behind that tree
After lunch I drove round the northern end of the lake, through Pooley Bridge and then up the smaller road that runs along the eastern edge through Martindale, and which ultimately comes to an end near Beda Head, a high point with good views of the surrounding fells. So I took the opportunity to get out and have a bit of a stroll. The weather by now was bright beaming sun, so even though the views would be all encompassing I didn’t take my camera with me, as it wouldn’t be worth the effort of trudging up there with all the gear. In fact I was happy to be fleet of foot for a change and fairly scampered up the steep path to the top.

Once I’d recovered from that ridiculous folly, I had a good old wander about, soaking in the panoramic vistas, and then realising I’d exhausted all that Beda Head had to offer, I made my back down to the car for a well deserved cup of coffee.

By now the sun was starting to tumble towards the horizon and the light was getting warmer, so I hightailed it back round the lake, before making my way towards Keswick, as I wanted to get a picture of a jetty at sunset. They have jetties at Ullswater of course, but I didn’t know where they were, and I hadn’t seen any that day, so instead of stumbling around like a confused simpleton, I decided to head for one I knew.

Got back to Keswick with time to spare so I headed straight to Ashness Jetty with a view to setting up shop and being nicely prepared for the upcoming show. Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one to have thought of that, as I walked from the car park I could see quite plainly that several tripods were standing tall on the jetty already, their owners several metres away, larking about on the lakeshore without a care in the world. So cursing under my breath about how all photographers are annoying bastards, I traipsed back to the car and slung my kit in the boot, vowing to ban photographers when I ruled the world, except for me.

For want of something better to do I drove up to surprise view to see if I could get some images of the mossy forest as it was draped in the evening sunlight. Draped it certainly was, but I couldn’t get anything that was worthwhile, it all seemed to come out rather bland. So I arrived back at the lake shore looking for another spot to pitch up for the sunset. I eventually discovered a parking area, I say discovered, I knew it was there, it just took me a while to ‘discover’ which direction it was in, I am the only person who can get lost on a single road.

So after waiting around a bit, the sun did eventually drop down, as is it’s duty, and I got a few photos, as is mine, but to be honest it wasn’t much to write home about, the colours didn’t really materialise as I’d hoped, but it was still nice nonetheless. Plus I was revoltingly pleased those photographers at Ashness Jetty didn’t get an amazing sunset. Bah humbug.

As I say, it was nice, but not spectacular

So I finished my excursion in the beautiful Lake District with a quick journey back to Keswick, a visit to the supermarket and a ready meal in front of the TV.

Life is certainly there to be lived.

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