Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lake District Day 2 - Holes in the ground

Up for sunrise once more, and I elected to go back to the same spot I had occupied the morning before, to see if the colours were more to my liking. So yet again, as I strode through the gloom, I thought how a torch would have been handy, and yet again, once I had reached Friars Crag, I made my way down the perilous embankment to the shoreline. But here’s the crucial difference, I made it down without banging, cutting, grazing or gouging a single part of my delicate person.

Job well done I mused, but then an alarming thought appeared unbidden, if I didn’t injure myself now then it was bound to happen later on in the day. So with that unpleasant logic beginning to smoulder in my brain pit, I thought it best to get it over with, at which point I promptly picked up a wellington boot someone had discarded on the shore and began bashing myself over the head with it.

So it was I found myself stood on the gentle, silent shoreline, as the dark of the night gave way to the soft, cool tones of dawns first light, repeatedly hitting myself over the head with a soaking wet item of rubber footwear.

Life is a strange old fruit sometimes.

Of course I didn’t do any such thing, it wouldn’t have worked anyway. Believe me, if I thought there was even a glimmer of hope along that particular avenue. I would have brought my own wellington boot along with me for the occasion.

I was soon setting up the tripod in anticipation of the morning light, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. It was soon putting on a grand display of pinks and yellows over the distant fells. Alas it didn’t last long, and although I waited around for another half hour or so, it just became rather grey and ashen as the early morning progressed.

This was the last of the sun I would see all day unfortunately

This was taken once the sun had disappeared.

Once I had returned to the house for some breakfast, I headed over to the hotel where the workshop participants were staying, and gave a bit of a talk on Photoshop, and image manipulation in general. After confusing everyone and/or sending them to sleep, I was back out on the road again, my trigger finger itchy for action.

It had worked out quite well, as the weather since sunrise had been pretty dire, with a dense mist and blustery rain, so being inside was no hardship. But now, although it was still grey, the rain had eased off so I was soon motoring down to Coniston Water.

I stopped at Yew Tree Tarn, a small body of water that lies along the road from Ambleside to Coniston, making it one of the most accessible tarns in the Lakes. The Tarn was dammed at the southern end in the 1930’s and stocked with brown trout, it still is in fact, although the numbers have been kept deliberately low in recent years. On this particular day it was looking rather fetching with a hint of autumnal colour along its far bank.

Even though the tarn is easily accessible it was still very quiet. Everyone who stopped was just content to
look out the car window so I had the place to myself.

I took a wander over the dam to a small promontory on the other side, which tapered to an old tree stump half submerged in the water. I got a few shots but the rain fitfully started up again, so I packed up the gear, plus I was eager to get going anyway. I had a date with an old slate quarry I was keen to keep before the weather turned unmanageable.

The weather by this time was getting very overcast

After a bit of bumbling around the area I knew it to be, but not the area it actually was, I finally found it and pulled to a halt at Hodge Close Slate Quarry. This quarry is just one of many slate workings in the Tilberthwaite Valley, between Langdale and Coniston, and was worked on a large scale from the 19th century to small scale in the early 1960s.

Hodge Close Quarry is a massive excavation of light green coloured slate, sheer-sided and unfenced, with an original worked depth from ground level of about 330 feet. The 150 feet deep face is a favourite with abseilers, while the 150 feet deep flooded workings which extend below the surface are popular with divers. From the far end two huge openings, which lead into the equally impressive neighbouring Parrock Quarry, are visible at water level, one contains the wrecked steel base of a crane.

A number of divers have lost their lives in Hodge Close Quarry, mainly as the result of getting lost in the underwater tunnels.

You can just see the remains of the crane protruding from the leftmost of the two caverns.

The gigantic chasm in the ground was indeed very impressive, although very difficult to photograph with any real sense of scale, it was just too big. But I was also taken with the bright yellow beech trees that were all around and looked lovely. There were a couple of other people there when I arrived but it was a very peaceful place, and extremely atmospheric under the leaden sky.

One of the walls of the quarry.
I liked this autumnal beech tree against the dark quarry wall.
Beech tree trunks
Looking over to the other side of the site, festooned with autumn colour
This is a nothing shot really, but my eye was caught by what looked like a face on the left side of the picture.
When I originally took it, it looked to me like a skull, but going back to it I can't see it that all. Now it looks
like a man with a big bushy moustache.
More of those fabulous beeches.

After a couple of hours of wandering around the upper part of the site, I scampered back to the car for a spot of late lunch, as the afternoon was moving along at a brisk pace and I was famished. Once my (mustardless) sandwich was nearing completion the rain began to fall quite heavily, so I decided to stay in the car to see if it passed.

I actually stayed in quite a bit longer than I had anticipated as thanks to the post lunch torpor, it wasn’t long before I had dozed off. I awoke about an hour later and although the rain was still pattering down, I was loathe to leave without exploring a bit further.

Thanks to the advanced hour of the day, and the dreary weather I had the place to myself, so leaving my camera behind, I buttoned up my raincoat and strolled down to the lower area of the site to see what’s what. And the what I found was slate, unsurprisingly, bloody great shedloads of it in huge alpine like cascades, dwarfing me as I wandered the pathways amongst this grey/green bouldered terrain.

These three were taken on my old phone, which has seen better days, so the quality isn't great. This is
the entrance to another pit that drops probably 150 feet into the ground.
It's very hard to get a sense of scale, but bearing in mind that the trees on the
top are full size, gives you an idea how big that hole is and how deep, although
it can't be seen in this picture, the quarry below is.
A derelict hut, made from slate of course. The pictures are not the steadiest in the world, as the light was
pretty dim (the pictures have been lightened) and funnily enough my phone doesn't have image stabilisation.

After spending an hour or so meandering from gaping holes to derelict structures, I walked through the advancing dusk back up to the car. With splintering rain still filling the air, I drove back along the little lane from the quarry knowing that I would be leaving the lakes without seeing a final sunset.

But I wasn’t that downhearted, as the weather the previous day had been exemplary, and I was glad to have found somewhere new, in the form of the quarry, definitely somewhere to come back to on future visits.

Back to Day 1 Part 2

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