The Lake District is, for us and millions of other visitors, one of the most beautiful places in England or indeed the world and it is instantly obvious how and why it inspired so many poets, painters, photographers and other artists as it's landscapes and towns are simply awe inspiring to such an extent that it's almost as if your brain can't take it all in and it becomes a kind of visual overload. Everywhere we went I took my camera and I could easily have taken a dozen photos every few steps. This is never more true then when you climb any of the fells because just when you think you've seen the best view, you take 10 more steps and it gets better and better and better.
We rented a self catering flat with Heart of The Lakes called Mell Fell which is at Wreay Mansions approximately 2 miles from Pooley Bridge at the north end of Ullswater. This photo was literally taken from the living room window and shows the breath taking views we had over farmers fields to Ullswater with Arthurs Pike rising above it. We found this view totally captivating and every night despite having spent the entire day walking and climbing fells we would find ourselves simply gazing out at it watching the boats go up and down the lake and the clouds paint patterns on the fells as the sun went down, it was unbelievably peaceful and relaxing. Mell Fell itself was a fabulous apartment that had everything you could possibly hope for and more and was so nice to come back to when you were exhausted after walking for several miles that day in all kinds of weather. We would, without hesitation recommend it to anyone looking for a place to stay in the Lake District.
On our first day we revisited Aira Force which we had previously visited in 2005 but was now only a few miles up the road from where we were staying. Aira Force is now owned by the National Trust and is probably the most famous waterfall in the Lake District with Aira Beck tumbling 65ft over it. Aira Force is actually middle but highest of three waterfalls along this stretch of Aira Beck and due to recent heavy rain there was much more water in Aira Force compared to our last visit. Also there was a strong breeze that was causing an incredible amount of spray to be blown onto the viewing platform from where I took this photo. The spray was a constant problem and I was having to clean the front of the lens of my Sigma 10-20mm after every shot. Frustratingly after I had put my camera away the sun came out which caused a rainbow to appear amongst the spray which would have made for an incredible photo. Whilst I didn't capture that moment with a stills camera I was able to capture part of it at least on video which was some compensation.
After viewing Aira Force we followed Aira Beck further up towards the final waterfall along a path that hugged the side of the beck. At several points you could climb down to the edge of the water into areas that had clearly been created by flood waters eroding the bank away. One such point was this one where I put to good use my new NDx4 filter along with my tripod which I had strapped to my back and carried with me up the climb for a mile or so. It may have been tiring to carry it but I was glad that I had as otherwise this shot would almost certainly have been impossible.
Following Aira Beck as far up as we could we finally came upon the 3rd and largest waterfall. Whilst the water doesn't drop very far it is much wider than the other falls and the water does go over it pretty quickly too. Due to all of this getting close enough to the waterfall for photos is a bit tricky and I had to scramble down a slippery slope to get to the very side of it and perched my tripod just inches from the edge of a sizeable drop with me squashed in just behind it. I couldn't help wonder how secure the little square of grass I was kneeling on was with all this water rushing past inches from my face even though I knew deep down that the ground was totally solid. Again I used my NDx4 filter with my Sigma 10-20 but unfortunately there was no way of avoiding capturing some of the bank that I was standing on without leaning over the edge a couple of feet which there was no way I was going to risk!
We returned to Aira Beck and Aira Force towards the end of our holiday after we discovered that you could get to the water from the very top via a car park on Park Brow, the A5091 from Matterdale. On this day the weather was beautiful, very hot with blue sky's and the various deep pools that were filled with slow moving water at the top of the falls looked so inviting, you just wanted to dive in. I think that this is one of the charms of Aira Beck is that you because the Beck is full of so many large rocks and boulders it creates different types of water, so you can have a slow deep pool on the edge of a very fast stream gushing between two rocks. It was so beautiful there and the water was so spell binding that we felt as though we could stay there for hours just looking at the water.
St.Peter's Church is, figuratively speaking, the new replacement church for Martindale despite being built in 1880 as it replaced St. Martin's Church which still stands a 10 minute walk away. St. Martin's Church is well worth a visit simply because it is steeped in history and unlike any other church I've ever visited. In the grounds of the church there is a Yew tree that is thought to be an incredible 1300 years old. The church itself stands in, what felt to us at the time due to the driving rain and wind that we experienced, quite a desolate landscape situated as it is in the valley of two fells with just a farm and B&B to keep it company with a small collection of houses further back towards St. Peter's Church but all of that just adds to the atmosphere of the place and when you step inside it really is like stepping back in time.
The interior of St. Martin's Church is unlike any modern church and by modern I mean pretty much any church built after 1800! As soon as you step inside you can really imagine what it would be have been like in the 1600's and 1700's before the stone floor was laid in 1724 with the locals in the clothing of the time who would have walked there or perhaps travelled by horse, it really feels as though it's almost exactly as it would have been back then. There is a reading desk of 1634 and a stone font that was originally a Roman altar, even the church bell is 500 years old. Quite frankly with the weather we experienced when we were there it's a miracle that it's survived all this time and in such excellent condition.
The altar upon which is placed a wooden cross and candle holders is carved with the date of AD1674 with the letters E B above it separated by a crown. Since Charles II was king of England in 1674 I can't see how the crown and initials would refer to him so I'm not sure what they signify.
St. Martin's wasn't the only church we visited. Just up the road from where we were staying was All Saints Church in Watermillock which was built of local stone in 1881. Whilst we did not go inside this church we did walk around the grounds where I shot a number of photos including this one. The church is clearly still used frequently judging by the number of modern graves amongst the much older ones but we couldn't help wonder where the congregation comes from because this church is kind of in the middle of nowhere with just a tiny hamlet close by of no more than 6 houses.
At the back of the church I spotted this little doorway. I just loved the textures of the wood and stone combined with the colours of the stone and the lichen that I thought it worth a quick shot. Fortunately the overcast day for once helped me get the shot I wanted which made a welcome change!
We decided that we would like to go to Buttermere to see Scale Force the highest waterfall in the Lake District. In order to get to Buttermere from where we were meant that we would have to go over the Honister Pass which was something we hadn't done before. Honister Pass climbs to 1167 feet making it one of the highest in the region and at the summit is the Honister Slate Mine from which there are spectacular views down the valley. Towards the bottom there is a stopping place where you can park the car and get out to take a closer look at the incredible landscape. Yet again the weather was bad when we were there which just added to the desolate atmosphere of the place but yet still had a sense of beauty about it. In many ways Honister Pass is like the Kirkstone Pass but on a bigger scale, it's wider, higher and grander and not one to tackle in icy conditions.
The B5289 road that runs through the Honister Pass is quite an incredible road. The eastern side is actually the steepest and most winding and whilst it does still offer some good views it's far less spectacular than the the western side which despite having a lower gradient is far more dramatic. I defy anyone not to gasp in amazement when they pass through the wall of the slate mine to start the decent, it really is quite incredible.
Once we finally made it to Buttermere we parked our car in the car park next to the Fish Hotel and had a quick look around the village and enjoyed a slice of cake and tea in the Syke Farm Old Dairy Tea Rooms which was very quaint. After this we walked up to the church where I spotted this road sign and after taking photos of both we decided to start our walk up to Scale Force.
Our guide book described the walk as a gentle incline of about 2.5 miles in length that could be walked in around 2hrs as a round trip. I can only assume that the person who wrote this guide book had only ever done this walk in perfect weather and not after several days of heavy rain as we did because "gentle" is not a word I would use to describe the walk and a 2hr round trip was never going to happen!
After walking down the side the path behind the Fish Hotel we came to a lovely stone bridge over a river that flows between Buttermere and Crummock Water and then a gate. The difference in the landscape on either side of this fence is actually quite startling as on the hotel side of the gate it's basically flat with farmers fields full of sheep but the second you walk through the gate you are confronted with a steep hill right in front of you covered in dense trees creating an almost forest feel and absolutely everything is covered in vivid green moss. Turning to the right we then followed a path heading towards Crummock Water and Red Pike where we had to cross numerous streams of water that was running off the land.
The higher up we got the harder it became with the path completely disappearing a couple of times. Virtually the whole way we are stepping from rock to rock which on the one hand made it very slow going but we were grateful for them because when the rocks stopped it was a case of walking through bogs in which you sank up to your ankles. At one point after we had been walking for nearly 2hrs we passed another rambler coming back from Scale Force. This person had all the gear and two walking poles which greatly helped in keeping his balance as he clambered over the rocks and looked pretty tired. We stopped him and asked how far it was to the waterfall to which he said, "I don't know what to tell you, if the terrain were flat you could be there in 10 minutes but in these conditions it's got to be about 45 minutes.".
Our hearts sank because we could see that the terrain just a few feet in front of us was going to get harder still and we did consider giving up but decided to press. At one point the path just stopped and the only thing in front of us was a deep bog and no indication of where to go. After consulting our map and guide book we knew where we were almost to the meter but none of the paths marked on the map seemed to exist. Eventually I spotted a faint track of flattened grass heading up the hill and eventually realised that this connected to a more defined path higher up.
Eventually after nearly 3hrs of walking we finally reached Scale Force. Scale Force is the highest waterfall in the Lake District with a single drop of 120ft followed by others which bring the total drop to 170ft. In truth it was a little disappointing as the gorge in which it runs is heavily tree lined and unfortunately the branches of the tree do obscure the view to an extent that a camera can't really capture it. That said it was well worth the effort and in better conditions the walk up to it would not only be much easier but quicker too and the views from the top are lovely.
Ullswater is for us the most beautiful of all the lakes which is why we chose to rent a holiday home as near to it as possible. There is just something about the lake itself with it's crystal clear water, the charming villages of Pooley Bridge at the northern end and Glenridding at the southern end combined with the fells that surround it that make it so special and uniquely beautiful. Before we went up there I knew that I wanted to get a photo of the famous boathouse that sits on the shore of Ullswater on the outskirts of Pooley Bridge. To get the shot I wanted I knew that I would need blue sky's and early start because the sun rose opposite the boathouse giving it a nice warm glow whereas at sunset it would be behind the boathouse causing it to be more in shadow and I also knew that I needed there to be no wind whatsoever so that I could get perfect reflections. Unfortunately these were the complete opposite of the conditions that we experienced for almost our entire holiday but then 3 days before we were due to leave the weather changed and the conditions were perfect so we raced down to the boathouse where I took around 30 shots at different apertures and compositions.
Later that same day we returned to Ullswater and found a path around the western edge of the lake from Pooley Bridge. With the sun now setting behind the boathouse we had the sun shining in our faces which was causing all the trees that were on the shoreline to be perfectly silhouetted. All credit for these shots must go to my wife who spotted the scene and was busy taking photos of them with her new Fuji Finepix S2000HD whilst I was taking some photos of the boats on the lake, I literaly couldn't see the wood for the trees and it was only after she showed me the excellent results that she had captured that I thought I'd give it a go myself.
The difference that good weather makes to the Lake District is quite incredible. In the wet and gray the landscape does look very dramatic and everything looks lush and green but when the sun comes out the place is transformed and the colours are so vibrant and the landscape takes on a more welcoming feel. Whatever the weather the Lake District has something different to offer visually which I suppose is one of the reasons why it has been a source of inspiration for centuries.
When we visited the Lake District in 2005 we had largely perfect weather the whole time but when we visited Coniston Water it rained quite heavily and so we only stayed for a few minutes. This time we were determined to see Coniston again and hoped for better weather. We didn't get it. If anything it was worse. We pretty much abandoned the idea of seeing the lake and thought we'd have a go at climbing The Old Man of Coniston. We headed up the trail passing a small waterfall and stone bridge before passing through a gate where we could see the old slate mines ahead of us. The landscape was very dramatic but we then realised that it had taken us an hour to get to where we were which we reckoned was only about half way and that we probably didn't have enough time left on the car park. This coupled by the fact that the weather really wasn't very good made us decde to turn around. Once again Coniston had beaten us.
Derwent water is one of my favourite lakes and so we were really looking forward to seeing it again. We had decided to climb to the top of Cat Bells first before visiting the lake and drove over to it's base but found that there was nowhere we could park with the few parking places already taken and that the nearest we could park was at least 4 miles away. We didn't fancy another 8 miles on top of the climb and so decided to drive back into Coniston to get the ferry across to Cat Bells. Unfortunately all the recent rain had caused the lake level to rise by so much that the landing stages at many of the ferry stops, including that for Cat Bells, were underwater and closed off. We decided instead to take a short walk around the edge of the lake where I was able to capture this dramatic scene before we gave up on the day and went back to the warm and dry of our flat.
On yet another day when the weather forcast was not looking good we decided to explore some of the area outside of the national park and visited the town of Appleby-In-Westmoreland which we completely fell in love with. We had actually gone there to see the castle but found that it was not open to the public and appeared to not have been for some time so instead we had a look around this beautiful old market town. On our way back though we spotted a sign for Brougham Castle and decided we'd take a look. Whilst the castle itself is small and almost entirely in ruins, which considering it was founded in the 13th century is probably to be expected, it is a nice place to have a wander around and has a nice location on the banks of the River Eamont and if it wasn't for the noise from the near by A66 it would be a very peaceful place to just sit and relax.
On one of our last days we decided to drive down to Glenridding to do a walk up to Lanty's Tarn. It was a glorious day with a temperature of 72 degrees, perfect blue sky's and just a gentle breeze. The walk up to the tarn is very easy but does give some incredible views down to Glenridding and Ullswater and we took the walk very slowly stopping every few meters it seemed to take more photos.
When we arrived at Lanty's Tarn the sun was directly overhead and so the photos I took of it are not very good and don't do it any justice whatsoever but suffice to say that it is one of the most tranquil places we have ever been. We arrived at the edge of the tarn which was crystal clear and sat on a fallen log to take a rest and there was complete silence. All we could hear was gentle breeze of the wind in the trees and the occassional bird song. Not only was there absolutely no visual sign of humans but nor was there any sound of them either, not even the faintest traffic noise, it was total bliss.
Despite the bad weather the Lake District once again delivered in spades and proved to be totally captivating and has cememted it's position of being our favourite place in England and one of our favourite places in the world. We can't wait to go back there again and honestly don't feel we would ever tire of it for the very simple reason that you could spend a lifetime there and still not see all it has to offer due to the different seasons and weather that cause the landscape to constantly change right in front of your eyes.