It had been 2 months nearly to the day when I finally hit the road and headed back to the National park that had brought me so much fun, solitude, adventure and creativity. As a Yorkshire man it pains me to say that this place has an edge over the Dales. Mountains, lakes, weaving paths and rolling hills has attracted me to The Lake District for several years. This was the day I returned.
Lockdown restrictions had eased around 2 weeks prior to this day. Personally there was no ecstatic opening of the gates and mass rush. Social media had played a large role in my decision to not travel back to the National Park. Stories of the locals not being welcoming and restricting access. Official warnings from the likes of the Police and authorities requesting to stay away. I still had reservations as both Twitter and occasionally Facebook does have a somewhat different view of life as I see it and a very much glass half empty opinion. I am an almost carefree glass half full type of guy with common sense. There was a reason after all that part of the measures had been lifted.
I love the Lake District mainly for its many fells that are scatted across the region. As I write this article, I have 52 Wainwrights to complete. The fells vary in technical difficulty and ease of route. To this day I have never had a serious accident. There is however the risk and the voluntary Mountain Rescue are at hand to assist if such events occur. I have never relied on the service and have always taken the approach that the risk is mine. Still, this organisation was also stating the fells are closed and to avoid the area.
The morning of Tuesday 26th May 2020 was a rather overcast start to the day as I settled myself into my car and set off for a 3 hour journey to the Western region of the Lake District. My fully loaded Lowepro Whistler was a bag that was packed with the essentials. Camera and video gear, additional clothing, food and water all added to a weight of around 35 pound. It sat in my boot along with my walking poles, a piece of equipment that took some of the burden of the bag away and made my hiking easier.
The first sighting the road sign which read South Lakes brought a sense of relief. I had made it this far and as the greenery and rolling hills came into view, my relief turned into a different emotion. The feeling of meeting a long lost friend or a loved one after several years. I am very sentimental and as the Western fells appeared through my car window I stopped and got out to breath the air. It was a taste that I was familiar with and related only to Lakeland. I stood and gazed at the scenery and a small wave of emotion swept across me as I whispered ‘hello’.
I had taken some time in deciding what would be the location of my return. I desperately wanted a hike but also to enjoy landscape photography. The big camera had been out for a very brief moment in the last 2 months and I was itching to restart. I had to weigh up many factors. The length, ascent and technical difficulty of the hike was important as it had been quite a lengthy period since my previous walk and I would be rusty. I wanted to limit my chances of an injury. I also wanted a place where I knew would give me opportunity for a good photograph but this location had to be within walking distance of the fells. I wanted to climb new fells which I hadn’t ticked off my list of completed Wainwrights. I opted for the Western fells and Wastwater.
Wastwater is no doubt one of Lakelands most beautiful and remote lakes in the National Park. As I arrived on the banks of the northern side of the lake, the stillness of the water and the mist hugging the surrounding fells again twinged my emotional strings. Elation, solitude and a sense of well being were just a few emotions I was enjoying at that moment. It was good to be back.
I finally set up a composition I was pleased with but as ever, it was no quick decision. I had toyed with several options and played around with different foregrounds that that led the eye towards the North Eastern side of the lake. This was where the grandness of Lingmell, Great Cable and Yewbarrow sat. I knew this from previous visits, maps and other images I had seen. Visibility this morning had shrouded the views and it was like a blanket had been draped over the scene. I could still however make out the faint outlines of some of the fells. I had chosen a composition making use of the conditions. This image was a reintroduction of my love of landscape photography. A simple square cropped image with shapes and faint lines.
I had spent a good couple of hours lakeside, coming away with 2 images I was fairly pleased with. It was time to head to the hills. The route I chose was a 7 mile hike that included 3 fells; Middle Fell, Seatallon and Buckbarrow. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I was right. The hike to Middle Fell consisted of walk for 20 or so paces, stop for a breather, walk a further 20 paces, stop for another breather and a quick guzzle of water and then repeat the same sequence until I finally arrived at the summit. The views were wonderful. It was time to reflect, relax and enjoy a well earned dinner as I took the sights in. The weather was near perfect for hiking. It was warm with a slight breeze. It was also hazy however and didn’t lend itself to good photographic opportunities but I didn’t care. I was reunited with the fells and its glorious feeling of escapism, beauty and feeling of what goodness this life has on offer.