Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Visit to the Lake District in June, Day 6

Our last day today and fortunately Thomas was off work so was able to join us to walk up Harter Fell from Mardale Head.  I had never been to this part of the Lakes so was excited at the prospect of the day.  Despite the fact that from the summit of Harter fell it is possible to look down on our caravan iy involved a 30 mile drive up the old A6 to Shap village where we turned off to wind through the lanes and along Haweswater Reservoir to the car park at Mardale Head above the sunken village of Mardale.  As we left the car the weather was superb: plenty of sun with mixed clouds, but sadly as the day wore one more and more cloud came in on the very strong cold westerly wind.  Still we beat the rain back to the car.

Alfred Wainwright in The Far Eastern Fells describes this as, "..An excellent expedition, richly rewarding in intimate scenes of Harter Fell's grand northern cliffs and in the views of Haweswater from its summit, yet short in distance and needing much less effort in its execution than its formidable appearance suggests."  And how right he is.  It is a splendid walk of only 5 miles with a delightful ridge along the top of the fell.  The way up by Gatesgarth Pass is easy and straightforward and the descent by Nam Bield Pass steep and dramatic.  There are excellent views all around from Haweswater below to High Street and Thornthwaite Beacon and across to Froswick and Yoke.  All during the walk we could hear the fluted songs of skylarks cascading down to us as the birds pirouetted high above.  Although we didn't see them the Lake Districts only f Golden Eagle is resident in nearby Riggindale, although last spring the bird did not reappear and the RSPB fear for its survival.  With its mate it used to nest here until the mate died in 2004.

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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A Visit to the Lake District in June, Day 4 and 5

On Tuesday we had arranged to meet my brother and his wife at Lowther Castle for coffee as they were on their way up to Scotland for a few days.  It was good to catch up with them briefly and then we visited nearby Askham Hall Gardens which are excellent and well worth a visit.  From here we went to Kendal to visit another exhibition, this time of excellent landscape paintings by Julian Cooper.  An enjoyable day if somewhat pottery.

Wednesday it was get up and go again as we made a return visit to Arnside and the Knott for some butterfly photography.  We had picked today as it was the best forecast and butterfly photography needs sun and in this we were lucky.  Butterflies are easier to photograph when they are cold, but they are often impossible to find then as they tend to be tucked away somewhere sheltered.  The down side when the sun comes out is that they can be seen easily but if it is too warm they become too active to get close too.  A nature photographer is never happy - it is either too wet or too sunny, too windy or too hot!!!  That said, I had a fantastic few hours up here with plenty of butterflies: small heath, wall, speckled wood and best of all large numbers of small pearl bordered fritillary in pristine condition.  I had hoped for dark green and high brown fritillaries as well as grayling, but I was too early for these so I shall return in July.  as well as the butterflies I revelled in the close up detail of fallen juniper and yew trees, gnarled and weathered to a lustrous silver grey and I was fascinated by a wild strawberry growing in a hollow of a sawn off tree trunk.  While I chased butterflies, heather was able to enjoy herself drawing and what a place for it.  Arnside knott is  a steep little hill giving a feeling of being perched high above the village and the estuary of the River Kent with a view of the Lake District Hills beyond - perfect.

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Monday, 12 June 2017

A Visit to the Lake District in June, Day 3

Not only do I enjoy reading the books of nature writer Robert MacFarlane on a personal level, I have also referenced him in my photography degree studies with the OCA.  It was with great excitement, then that we set off for Cockermouth and the National Trust's Wordsworth House where Word-Hoard was being exhibited.  Curated by MacFarlane it features a selection of words from his book Landmark which are illustrated by his parents' excellent photographs.  I shall be writing this up in my degree blog (link here) .  Suffice it to say here that it was excellent and well worth a visit.

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After feasting our senses on the exhibition we explored the garden which is also first class and were then ready for some lunch and a walk.  We returned to the car and then headed through the delightful lanes of the north-western Lakes for lunch above Buttermere, before continuing up to the summit of Honister Pass where we parked up in the slate quarry.  we were interested to see that parties of would-be via ferrataists were being bussed up to the Honister Crags to tests themselves on the UK's original Via Ferrata.  Via Ferrata, literally iron way is an adventure activity which involves climbing exposed cliffs with the aid of steel cables, ladders and bridges.  It is tremendously exhilarating and, although we have not done this one, we have done many in the Alps.  

Our route, however, took us above the Honister Crags and up to the summit of Fleetwith Pike, another Wainwright to add to the list.  As we climbed above the quarries and cliffs the views began to open up.  Across the hillside we could pick out the excellent contouring path of Moses Trod which winds its way across the fellside from the quarries of Honister to Wasdale Head where it could be transported to the port of Ravenglass.  The path was devised by the colourful quarryman Moses Rigg.  Slate was not the only thing he transported, however.  Hidden among his loads was hidden, illegally distilled whiskey which he smuggled for sale on his travels.  The remains of a hut high on Great Gable have been linked to Moses and it has been suggested that this is the site of his illegal still.

Great Gable stood taller than all of its neighbours forming a satisfying conical shape from this angle and once on Fleetwith Pike we were perched high above the Buttermere as if suspended.  The views were stunning.

Once back at the car it was time for a meal in The Travellers' Rest.  A brilliant day.