The changing colours of Lake District.
edited: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
By Robert J Dowell
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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After a trip I made to the Lake District in the UK, I wrote this article.
Having never visited the Lake District, I was in for more of a treat than I could have imagined. As I sat in the passenger seat at the end of another glorious day, I gazed out across Thirlmere lake and wondered at the magnificence of the view. The evening colours that graced the sky, layered subtle hints on the surrounding countryside and water reminiscent of a summer’s evening in the Swiss alps.
Here in front of me was a view that showed all the grace and beauty of nature at its best. I could have been forgiven for thinking that it was not our fair and pleasant land, but somewhere more grandiose. But this would be to do a disservice to this small part of England. It is hard not to look at this special place without feeling moved by the sheer scale of the awe inspiring views that greet the eyes at every turn.
Earlier that day I had been going towards Kirkstone Pass, and the mist had given the whole valley a Chinese flavour and then, as I travelled back to the cottage that evening, the countryside had revealed yet another facet to its catalogue of holiday look alike destinations, namely somewhere in Canada.
I had always wanted to go to the Lake District; but something always got in the way. If it was not the car that needed a service, then it was lack of funds in the bank. I was fortunate, therefore, that a friend offered me a chance to accompany them. As I was driven from one location to the next, I felt like repeatedly getting out of the car and kicking myself for not making time to discover this gem of England sooner.
We travelled on Friday for a three-day break and managed to get there by early afternoon. Even though the weather forecast had been none too promising, the sun was still shining as we headed out to Derwent Water and took a look around. The lake surrounded by large hills and mountains, had all the hallmarks of scenes found atop a Swiss chocolate box. Unlike parts of Dorset that have a Lillyput village feel to them, it is hard to pin down exactly what makes towns like Keswick and Derwent so appealing. Everything is chaotically organised, as though it was planned to look that way, whilst somehow managing to still appear organic in its evolution. One thing that I did feel was a bit tiring after a while, was the profusion of mountain-sports shops, endless cafes and art galleries. How many does one town need? However, this is a very small niggle.
We decided to take a trip through Honiston Pass, a sharp, rugged and unforgiving valley that had a bleak and austere beauty. I stopped off and climbed one of the slopes to get a better view of the area, and was immediately struck by the scale of the landscape. With the day closing in, we returned to the cottage where the only thing that ruined the rural atmosphere was a large wind turbine poking up from the hill.
The weather started out well, for a late April morning, and initially showed no signs of closing in. As we travelled out, you could see signs of straining weather patterns in the sky. This did nothing to detract from the views to be had in the Lake District, and in many cases I found that looming storms gave a whole new atmosphere, again with an oriental flavour. Taking a different route we made our way towards Kirkstone Pass, at which point the weather showed how unforgiving it could really be. The heavens opened and it seemed as if a celestial hand had poured one of the nearby lakes through a sieve. This made no difference to me in the car, but I can’t speak for the walkers who were wending their way down the Pass. Coming over the brow of the hill at the top of the pass, a sharp break in the clouds signified a change in the weather that was to bring with it improved skies and warmer climes.
We made our way down ‘The Struggle’ and came out into brighter conditions and lots of glorious sunlight. The town of Ambleside is a strange mix of cafés, art galleries, old world buildings and camping shops. But even with this eclectic mix of architecture there is something for everyone to see. Look down any alley off the main street, or up at the second floor of many of the buildings and you’ll see what I mean. When you have had your break from the incredible scenery, don’t worry, within a couple of minutes of leaving the town you’ll be immersed in it once again.
The return trip took us past Thirlmere lake, and through a valley that was atmospherically like Austria. As the sun slipped down over hill on the other side of the lake, the tree line ignited with an orange fiery glow; one thing you can’t accuse the Lake District of is subtle colours. Further down the valley, the mists and evening clouds swirled round the peak of a distant mountain. Even after the sun had been down for half an hour the last vestiges of the light still managed to make a nearby peak glow with the dying rays of the day.
This was the last day of our break and I wanted to do something a little different. Over the last two days I had driven past the multitude of hills and peaks that beckoned me from afar. Today I was going to climb something, but not having been here before, I drove through the countryside looking for a likely target, which was not difficult, I was spoilt for choice. Luck was clearly on my side as the rain held off providing the perfect weather for climbing with cool breezes, sunshine and the odd passing cloud. Being a time of year that is notorious for bad weather, I was clearly in the minority of people who wished to climb. I met very few on the ascent and had a clear run on the return journey.
I made my way up ‘Ullock Pike’, along the ridge known as ‘Longside’ and finally a steepish ascent up ‘Skiddaw’ to the summit of what I later found out was the fourth highest mountain in England. At the peak, I got a clear unobstructed view of the entire Lake District, with the distant mountains of Scotland and fleeting glimpses of Ireland through the far-off evening clouds.
Climbing might have tested my lungs, but the descent put my calf muscles and ankles through the wringer. By the time I reached the car I was tired and shaky, but also very happy, having climbed my first proper mountain. Later, I drove back on the M6 and reflected on my first visit to this unique and beautiful part of England that I had for so long neglected. With the sun setting and giving way to night, I drove into the darkness on my long trip back home. I was already planning my next trip.