From one month to the next, from one destination to another, from one iconic Lake district to the more scenic - the choices were remarkably similar yet the experiences were totally different.
Hot on the heels of the holiday to Lake Como, in the Italian Lake District, sprouted the seeds of ideas for the next holiday, to the English Lake District. Actually, the destination was supposed to be the Peak District in the English Midlands but turned out to be the Lake District, eventually. This was due to various factors - none of them interesting enough to be mentioned in this article.
While the holiday to the Lombardy region, in Italy, was meant to be one of a "rest & relaxation", the one to Cumbria in the North-West England was packed with lots of activities. The only factor that could have changed anything was the weather. It almost did! The old saying that you can book your holiday but you cannot book the weather, is mostly relevant to the British Isles than anywhere else. And the Cumbrian weather is as unpredictable as a vegetarian shark.
The other interesting thing about this holiday was that we kept up our tradition of travelling as a group, atleast, once every year. We had done a few together now - Yorkshire Dales, Cornwall and the Isle of Wight - besides the various day-trips that are not necessarily planned.
The Easter holidays in the UK have been traditionally a long weekend spanning four days, from Good Friday to Easter Monday, and most people take off on their little journeys on the preceding Thursday evening after work, but the vast majority of the population venture out on the Friday morning. Invariably, distances in miles, lose their meaning as the entire population are usually stuck behind on long tail-backs on most major motorways. A four hour journey as per Google Maps, under normal conditions, will end up being seven hours during the Easter break. This is not to mention the strata of the population that wish to escape it all, only to cram all the airports and ferry terminals, in their eternal quest for warmer climes. Easter is a time for family get-togethers and plenty of road rage.
We all agreed to depart at around 6:30 am on the Good Friday morning - and considering that we had a little detour in Birmingham on the way, the total distance was about 350 miles - about 6 1/2 hours driving under ideal conditions. However, we were caught in long traffic queues along the way and with a few pit stops for stretching the legs and for refreshments, the journey took us nearly 10 hours. We eventually reached our holiday cottages in the beautiful victorian seaside town of Silloth-on-Solway. There had been some rain before we arrived but it had stopped but the winds had picked up. We soon dropped our bags in the cottage and went out to the seafront for a bit of a walk. The tide was just coming in but the winds had reached a howling point. Anyone that cared for how well coiffed they looked, were looking like rag-dolls. With a severely receding hairline, mostly from work related stress rather than from genetics, I had little to worry about. For the camera though, thankfully, I had both my reliable (and heavy) Manfrotto tripod and a 10 stop ND filter to create long exposures. This made it possible to smoothen the water, in the below picture, despite the wind factor. There are many brands available in the market when it comes to ND filters - they are meant to be absolutely neutral gray, to not allow any colour cast in your images - but they are NOT. The Hoya ND filter is fairly neutral and I am extremely pleased with the results.
The image below was captured on an iPhone 7 and processed using Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.
After a brief walk by the seaside - you can see that it's not a beach - we returned to the lodge, had some lovely dinner and we all found ourselves fast asleep, not too long after.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast, and upbeat about the ensuing adventures, we set out towards our next stop - Buttermere . We had planned for a quick photo shoot on arrival and then a trek up the mountains to a tarn (a mountain lake) - Bleaberry Tarn. On arrival at Buttermere, we struggled for about 20 minutes to find a parking and eventually parked near an entrance to a farm. The weather became variable with periods of sunshine and clouds - but the constant factor was the winds. After a brief walk down the hillside, from where we had parked, we headed towards the lake. The sudden burst of light for a fleeting moment only to be covered the next moment with an overcast sky made setting an accurate White Balance nearly impossible - despite the gray card. before long, I shot my first image with the Fleetwith Pike in the background.
Butter mere looking towards Fleetwith PikeWith so much of lighting variation at the scene, establishing the correct white balance was extremely tricky. Here is a shot of the lake at f 14/ 4 sec exposure at ISO 100. In the background is Fleetwith Pike
We soon set out on our trail towards Bleaberry Tarn - after 10 minutes into the walk, with no mobile signals, we completely lost our trail to the mountain lake and quickly abandoned any thoughts of walking up the fells and, instead, decided to do a circular walk around Buttermere.
The terrain is rough but the walk was almost on an even ground with the highest ascent of not more than 67m. It is roughly 5 miles and towards the last leg of the journey, the group split and the group of five went down towards the lake while the group of three walked along the road B5289 - the Honister Pass.
Along the way we stopped at a few places for some photo opportunities and some 360° pictures. Here below is another view of Buttermere.
There were plenty of farm animals and the entire Lake District region is famous for the Herdwick Sheep. However, the zen cows - Sheila and Shirley, below - were quite obliging for a pose as long as they were not interrupted during their incessant cud-chewing routine.
A few minutes later we were near the half way point on our trek - at Peggy's Bridge - where the Warnscale Beck empties into Buttermere.
At this point we split into 2 groups and one group took the route along the lake while the other took the Honister Pass to arrive back at the cars within a few minutes of each other. We soon had picnic lunch at the farm where we had parked the cars and decided to head out to the next stop. When we departed Buttermere, it was past 3pm, and our next destination is the Whinlatter Forest near Keswick. But we were also conscious that the next day was Easter Sunday and all the shops would be closed.Hence we decided to drive to Keswick to pick up some groceries for the next day - and were caught in a traffic jam for about 45 minutes - thus making any chance of recovering any lost time, almost impossible. As we were driving back to our lodge, we briefly stopped by on the western shores of Bassenthwaite Lake to relish the ice-cream that we had bought earlier at Keswick. It was then that I took the below panoramic shot using my iPhone 7 Plus.
We returned to the lodge and after a quick freshening up, we all assembled for dinner and drifted off to sleep in the hope that the weather stays the same the next day as well.
For the next day we had 2 different plans and depending on the weather we were going to choose one over the other. If it rained, Plan A was to go to Elterwater-Skelwith bridge circular trail in the Great Langdale valley, where the trail goes along the River Brathay to Skelwith Force and then on to Skelwith Bridge before navigating the way back along the other side of the river via Colwith Force and back to Elterwater. If the weather turned out to be fine, Plan B was to drive to a remote lake on the Western Lakes called Wastwater - in 2008, Wastwater's magnificent view was voted as Britain's favourite view by ITV voters and this view is the logo for the Lake District National Park Authority. The plan was to visit Ritson's Force - a short walk from the car park at Wasdale Head and then a mountain trek to Styhead Tarn - a 6 mile return trek from Ritson's Force. In Cumbria, it is prudent to plan for adverse weather as Plan A!
The weather Gods had taken the day off for Easter and it rained - and rained. So, we decided to go through with Plan A and thus we started our drive towards Elterwater. We arrived Elterwater at around 11:30 am and spent a further 15 minutes trying to get a parking. When we couldn't get one in the village, we drove about a couple of hundred meters away to a freshly grazed pasture and parked the cars and headed out towards the trail.
As we set out into the village to the start of the trail, we were completely awestruck by the breath-taking image of the village. The image below was shot on an iPhone 7 Plus as part of a movie clip and one of the frames was used to extract the picture. It was further corrected for the right aspect-ratio of 3:2 for a still image.
We had a steady start to our trek - the rains were a constant but that did not deflate the spirits of our resolute group. With so much chatter and yackety-yakking going on, we kept eating the distance of 5 miles. After a few minutes into our walk, we reached a little clearing where it offered us a chance to capture River Brathay rushing towards Skelwith Force.
In about 45 minutes time from the start, we had reached Skelwith Force. As it had just rained, the river was in full spate and the result was stunning.
We kept plodding along and we soon crossed Skelwith Bridge to walk a couple of hundred metres on the road before picking back our tracks towards Colwith Force. Along the way, a few of us felt that it would be absolutely fantastic to have a cup of coffee and to escape the weather, albeit momentarily. It was such a shocking surprise that the trail actually goes through Elterwater Park Guest House and they have a café called Muddy Boots Barn. We had a warm welcome into the café and soon Hazel took our orders and came back with a tray full of steaming coffees and hot chocolates. It was such a relief after being soaked in incessant rains. After spending about 30 minutes at the café, we gleefully rang the bell outside to express our pleasure at being taken care of so very well.
In the picture below, Hazel and Lesley were obliging enough to stop by for a moment for a picture with me - Gus, the resident labrador retriever, was not as patient as them.
Hazel and LesleyMuddy Boots Barn - What a wonderful place and hospitality. Gus the resident retriever just went off the frame. There were a few friendly chickens that allowed one to pet them as well! The coffee and hot chocolate were heavenly.
After we left Muddy Boots Barn behind we kept walking towards our trail where the landscape turned dramatic. We went past some squelchy trails and then there was the descent before we reached a fence named "Lambs Oot." We went through the fence and came up to another road leading to Low Colwith. At this juncture, we lost a bit of our way, as we were told that there is a clear signage for Colwith Force, but not finding it. After straying a bit, we were re-directed by a friendly local and after 200 metres of walk - we actually heard the waterfall first before we eventually saw it. The sight was simply breath-taking. The image below was captured using iPhone 7 Plus using Adobe Lightroom for Mobile in DNG format.
At the time of our arrival at Colwith Force, we had walked for a little over 4 hours. When it was time to leave, we decided to walk without any further stops towards Elterwater to get back to our cars - at nearly 4pm, we had not had our lunch yet and the entire group was ravenously hungry. We walked for a further hour to eventually reach Elterwater and had our packed lunches right by the road side.
We left Elterwater in the knowledge that we had probably taken a little too long to finish the circular trail perhaps not helped by the weather, but quite keen to visit the next place on the list. The journey through Ambleside and Kirkstone Pass was magical. Kirkstone Pass is the highest pass in Lake District that is motorable. It has very steep gradients and it requires good driving skills to be able to navigate the pass. It connects the Rothay Valley and Ullswater Valley. At the beginning of the descent, one is able to have glimpses of Brothers Water in the Hartsop valley. When we arrived at the iconic Cow Bridge Car Park at Brothers Water, the rains had let off a bit, so we parked our cars and walked towards the lake - it was getting pretty dark well. Just a couple of hundred yards into the walk, the rains started all over again and we all turned around to get back to the safety of our cars. It was then, I crouched a bit low to take the below shot on my iPhone 7 Plus.
As you may have noticed, the pictures on the second day were all shot either on an iPhone 7 or an iPhone 7 Plus - the weather just did not allow for the Canon to be pulled out of the bag - even though I was carrying the entire kit bag on my back right through the whole day. We soon left Brothers Water to get back to the lodge in Silloth to have an early sleep, so we could check out the following morning to return home. An interesting piece of trivia, is that except Bassenthwaite Lake all the other Lake District lakes are either called "Tarn" or "Water" or "Mere" - as in Windermere or Buttermere!
I had woken up quite early in the morning and I was thinking of taking the dog out for a walk, but then realised that I did not have a dog, so there was no need for going for a walk. We all had a heavy breakfast, checked out, and hit the road for the return journey - and told ourselves that we need a slightly longer holiday the next time with lesser driving time.
Plans are already afoot for the next one, be sure to watch out this space.