Monday, April 29, 2013

Lake District - Day 1

After travelling up to Keswick, in the Lake District the evening before, I was ready to get cracking first thing. Unfortunately the weather was acting rather belligerently, a dismal, funereal procession of unrelenting grey, shoving spluttering rain and pin sharp gales in the face of anyone who would be foolish enough to venture out. 

Needless to say, sunrise was off the cards. So with a heavy heart and modest relief, I hastened back to bed with a view to humoring my shameful laziness. So after a leisurely breakfast I headed out around 11.30, once the worst of the weather had sodded off. My first stop was Buttermere, in my view one of the prettier lakes in the area.

But wait I hear you shriek, Buttermere, is in fact a mere, not a lake, hence Buttermere. There is only one true lake in the Lake District, and that is Bassenthwaite Lake, the rest are either, meres, waters, or in the case of the smaller bodies, tarns. Yes, well done, you are absolutely correct to make that statement with the force and clarity it warranted. Now we have that settled, let us move on and never mention it again.

Once parked in the approved parking area at the northern tip of the mere, not lake (yes I lied, I will be mentioning it. A lot), I made my way to the nearest shoreline where I had a date with a rather scrawny tree. I had seen pictures of this particular specimen before, but never had the pleasure of its company. I was about to rectify that. 

The light was pretty flat so I have processed it with a toned monochrome
effect as the colours were nothing to write home about

Spent about an hour getting some pictures of this tough little stripling, using the fells behind to frame its delicate looking form while the bracing wind tried its best to blow everything to ground, it really was a keen wind, almost fanatical in fact. I suspect if there was a War on Wind, then this rascal would be on the top ten Most Wanted list. And it’s a shame there isn't actually, because I was quite wishing this wind would go and cower in a bunker in the mountains somewhere, possibly issuing grainy video footage every few months, issuing wrath and windy destruction on all infidels, rather than terrorising my outer garments and troubling my tripod in such an unrelenting fashion. 

Here is another shot of it with the fells rising up behind
Realising my parking time was about to be up, and not wanting to pay for more, I headed back to the car before scooting round to the local café/farm shop where I had a very decent coffee and an almost decent Panini, which would have been marvellous if it half of it hadn't been burnt to a fiery crisp. But I was hungry and in a good mood, so I stoically munched through it anyway.

Next up was Ashness Bridge, one of the most photographed items in all of Lakeland, with its fine views over Borrowdale, Derwentwater and the mass of Skiddaw, England’s fourth highest mountain, rising steeply behind them, this ancient packhorse bridge is well worth a stop. But not today, the view was somewhat obscured by the low, hazy cloud. Instead I carried upwards through the steep narrow lane to Surprise View, which as I had been there before, wasn’t much of a surprise, but it was a view, and a very fine one at that on a good day.

Again though, I didn’t stop, but continued the two and a half miles through the narrow, wall rimmed lane as it twisted its way along a 'hidden' valley towards Watendlath, a tiny hamlet that has a seven acre tarn of the same name, and is entirely owned and protected by the National Trust, as are many of the farms, much of the lake and most of the surrounding fells in the Borrowdale Valley. Here also is a rather lovely packhorse bridge, which I tried to get a picture of but failed.

But I did get a nice shot on the way there though, the sun had made a rare appearance so I took full advantage. 

With the sun taking off his hat, it has really lifted this tranquil scene
I instead decided to try my luck with the tarn itself, interestingly, as with a lot of terms up here, the word tarn is derived from the Old Norse word tjörn meaning pond. I shall provide a full discourse on the prevalence of descriptive Norse words in the Lake District at another time, so you’ve got something to look forward to. But back to the action, unfortunately after I had gone to the trouble of setting up my gear I realised I’d left my keys in the car, this was not good news.

Admittedly there were not many other people about, in fact the only other human beings I had seen since arriving were an elderly couple, and common sense dictated that they were not the most likely suspects when it came to automotive theft, unless they had a taste for joyriding of course, which couldn’t be completely discounted. Nevertheless it would have been remiss of me to just leave my keys dangling in the ignition for any hooligan to find, no matter how enfeebled they may be.

So I quickly packed up my gear, not having taken a single shot and rushed back to my car, ready to deck any suspicious pensioner who got in my way. You’ll be pleased to know I retrieved my keys without incident, and no geriatric blood was spilled. I couldn’t then be bothered to go back to the tarn again, so I fired up my steed and headed back towards Keswick.

The weather was starting to improve so I shot through Keswick and up towards Castlerigg Stone Circle for the early evening light. One of the most visually impressive prehistoric monuments in Britain, this remarkable formation was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BCE, during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages. As one of the earliest stone circles in Britain it is important in terms of megalithic astronomy and geometry, as the construction contains significant astronomical alignments. Although its origins are unknown it is believed that it was used for ceremonial or religious purposes. 

Looking rather majestic with the rolling fells watching over this ancient scene
There is a tradition that it is impossible to count the number of stones within Castlerigg; every attempt will result in a different answer. This tradition, however, may not be far from the truth. Due to erosion of the soil around the stones, caused by the large number of visitors to the monument, several smaller stones have ‘appeared’ next to some of the larger stones. Because these stones are so small, they are likely to have been packing stones used to support the larger stones when the circle was constructed and would originally have been buried. Differences in opinion as to the exact number of stones within Castlerigg are usually down to whether the observer counts these small packing stones, or not; some count 38 and others, 42. 

And here is a smaller portion of it looking all moody
I have to admit I didn't attempt to count them, I was too busy watching the sun as it danced over the stones and the hills beyond, trying to get the best shot I could in this frivolous light. I grabbed a couple of pictures before the clouds claimed the light entirely, and after waiting around for a while for it to re-appear, I decided that was it for the day, as the skin shredding wind at that exposed elevation was beginning to get on my nerves.

The sun never did make another appearance that day so if there was a beautiful sunset I didn't see it. Headed back to the accommodation for some dinner and to warm up, hoping for better weather tomorrow, but not holding my breath, as the forecast was not optimistic.

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