The Lakeland Photo Blogs / 2015-2019
By Derek Rickman
I’ve made numerous visits to the Lake District with my brothers over the last few years and, with the lockdown still in place and no prospect of any further hikes there, it felt like a good time to compile these blogs which I’ve been posting on my Instagram account. I’ve edited and expanded the text and sourced additional images for the purpose of the article. I’ve used iPhone 7 Plus and Canon SX for the photography.
Breakfast at Rydal 26/09/19
We’d just completed the The Coffin Route and reached Rydal Water where we were looking forward to a late breakfast. We were in good spirits because we’d just heard that England had beaten New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup. My brothers have unparalleled expertise in finding the best spot for setting up a camping stove (I’m usually just crashing about in the background with my camera). The light rain that had followed us from Grasmere was still falling as we unpacked everything but the trees provided excellent shelter. We usually have croissants or cereal bars with our hot drinks though I think we had rock cakes at Rydal, they were pretty good! We sipped our coffee becalmed by the tranquility of our surroundings, the gentle lapping of the water and the flurry of a distant swan the only sounds breaking the chill air. The clouds were still lingering on the fells as we departed but the light seemed sharper as we traversed the breadth of the lake and we were treated to a pageant of autumnal hues reflected in the lake below Silver How.
Scafell Pike 28/04/19
This was our reward for the long arduous trek up Scafell Pike last week. We were incredibly fortunate to experience these views as we had arrived at Wasdale Head the previous day in pouring rain, and the forecast for our ascent wasn’t favourable. Luckily the cloud base had lifted as we approached the rock strewn summit which is England’s highest (978m). We could see the whole range of peaks from Eskdale in the west to Blencathra in the east.
In the first photo the clouds are just clearing the jagged teeth of Crinkle Crags with Lake Windermere a thin silver ribbon emerging on the left. There were breathtaking views of Bowfell cradled in the clouds and the remote and mysterious Styhead Tarn which sits at the foot of Green Gable like a frozen teardrop in the encompassing wilderness.
Easedale and Helm Crag 30/08/18
I really enjoyed this climb up to Helm Crag through the pastures and woodland of Easedale. I understand now why this part of Lakeland inspired so much of Wordsworth’s poetry. We passed the house at Lancrigg where he wrote much of his famous work The Prelude. It’s in a beautiful setting and overlooks some of the finest scenery in Lakeland. I can only imagine how it would look in early spring. It requires little effort to reach Helm Crag but despite its low elevation the views are exhilarating, and there are plenty of jagged rocks to scramble over to satisfy the more adventurous among us. We had coffee in a sheltered crag below the summit and watched the sunlight piercing the clouds above Grasmere’s glimmering Lake. As we descended I felt the spirits of many contented souls lingering on the fells who, like me, passed through this glorious landscape rewarded and enriched.
The Bowder Stone 23/04/17
Weighing 2000 tonnes and standing 9 metres high, the Bowder Stone is an andesite lava boulder which can be found in secluded woodland below Bowder Crag in the jaws of Borrowdale. Either a glacial erratic or the result of a cataclysmic rockfall, this geological behemoth is a favourite with amateur rock climbers as it has a low level under-hang. There were guys with climbing ropes and a mattress placed underneath when we were there. However there is a ladder available for anyone without crampons who wants to stand on the top. There’s just enough space for two people standing upright.
Above Buttermere 28/09/18
If you’re a photographer hiking in Lakeland there will be countless viewpoints and perspectives to consider on any ascent, but it’s important to maintain a balance between enjoying the experience of the hike and weighing up photo opportunities. On this occasion I rapidly discarded my trekking pole and ran 30 metres up a slope leaving a trail of dust (much to my brothers’ consternation) to capture this view of Buttermere and the distant sentinels. Despite the heavy cloud and diminishing light, I really like the textures and hues set against the blue water, and the lone wayfaring tree breaks the outline of the lake.
Great Rigg 22/04/17
The Fairfield Horseshoe is a classic Lakeland route and encompasses many outstanding viewpoints, Great Rigg being one of them. It’s the third highest peak (766m) out of a total of 8 on the round. It sounds like a tough day’s hiking but once you’ve made the initial climb from Ambleside or Rydal, negotiating each of the peaks doesn’t seem like such hard work. This was one of Wainwright’s favourite ridge walks. The distance is around 16k and takes about 4 to 5 hours to complete. There are boggy areas but generally the paths are well defined. I would recommend it to anyone who is reasonably fit and is contemplating their first hiking adventure in the Lakes.
Cloudburst at Coppermines 02/10/17
A day of contrasts and fluctuating emotions. It had been some months since our Mother had passed away and knowing how happy it made her to see the three of us hiking together added a touch of poignancy to this outing. We left the outskirts of Coniston climbing through dark swathes of cloud, a silent procession in a ceaseless downpour. Church Beck thundered in our ears and the boulder strewn paths gushed beneath our feet. The whole fabric of the landscape seemed to be reverberating with the force of the deluge. I imagined water coursing through fissures in the mountain and filling hidden chambers in the bedrock. The heavily laden trees shuddered in the rasping wind, showering our faces with icy droplets and twig debris, but a steely resolve had set in and we marched on grimly. We crossed Miner’s Bridge and paused, the rain still unfolding in silver veils across the heather. I smeared the beads from my device and watched the clouds drift over the ruined walls and spoil heaps of a derelict past. Yet the mountain had begun to quell the storm, dark shapes dissolved into flickering waves of sunlight on the shoulder of the mountain. As we approached the Tarn, the wild beauty of our surroundings began to reveal itself. The cobalt surface rippled in the breeze and shards of light danced between half sunken rocks. Far on the other side through the coiling mist a thin ribbon of water fell into an impenetrable gully. By the time we reached the summit of The Old Man there were groups of fellow hikers chatting noisily amongst themselves, relieved like us that they had conquered the elements. We sat beneath the cairn drying out and warming our hands on our coffee cups. A solitary bird soared over the deep blue of the tarn as the clouds parted and we felt the spreading warmth of the sun. It seemed as if a weight we’d been carrying had suddenly lifted. I looked at my brothers, both silently staring into the distance. Through half closed eyes I softly recited the words to a Wolf Alice song..
Like all earth angels should’
When I look back at all the hikes we’ve done, this was the toughest but also the most rewarding. I suffer with mild vertigo so negotiating a crowded Striding Edge and scaling The Chimney were big personal achievements. Helvellyn is the most popular route in Lakeland but there’s no doubt it strikes fear into some hikers. (There were 13 deaths there the year we climbed it). As we were tackling the first part of Striding Edge a guy gave up the ghost and promptly slid down to the Tarn butt first and later another hiker got crag-fast on The Chimney and had to be cajoled off the rock face. We all felt like we’d been walking a tightrope by the time we scrambled up to Helvellyn summit (950m) so there was much relief and celebration as we enjoyed the views. But we still had Swirral Edge to contend with before we could relax. Although it’s a shorter ridge compared to SE, it needs to be treated with respect and I was soon scrambling on my hands and knees as we descended for a well earned coffee break. After the thrills and spills of the mountain it was good to cool our boots and watch the silent drift of the clouds above Red Tarn. It was pretty much plain sailing all the way back to Glenridding and we had time for a brief stop at the tree fringed Lanty’s Tarn where for a few precious moments I sat in the dappled shade by the water’s edge in a state of zen like calm.
To Future Days
A slight air of melancholy descends on me when a day’s hiking is nearly over but it is always tempered by a sense of fulfilment and wellbeing. Those feelings are magnified by Cumbrian Ale and a lively retelling of the experience just gained. In many ways a walk in the fells is self perpetuating, diverging paths and peaks tempt the eye, new perspectives spring up and vie for your attention imploring you to explore further. In spring I stood on Scafell gazing across a fractured landscape to a distant tarn sparkling in the sunlight. Beyond it lay a deep corridor of verdant slopes caressed by fleeting cloud shadows. How I longed to feel the wildness of that place and look into that mirrored pool. Moments like these sink deep into the soul and provide a rich visual harvest to be replayed on long artless days when there is nothing but work and idle chatter. So perhaps those feelings of melancholy are misplaced, for it is not an ending, merely another beginning.
For Martin and Trevor
All words and photos © Derek Rickman
You can follow Derek’s photography journey on Instagram and read his previous In Focus feature here
14th May 2020