“There’s always a sunrise and always a sunset and it’s up to you to choose to be there for it,” said my mother.
“Put yourself in the way of beauty.”
– Wild, Cheryl Strayed
The Autumn and Winter months up at Arthur’s Pike can be very windy, so windy and cold I cannot use my cameras at all, my fingers become so numb I have to pop my hands up inside my fleece sweater to bring back the circulation. The Bracken has completely died back after its beautiful russet colours in the Autumn and the open ground on Barton Fell reminds me of those wide American plains in cowboy movies.
The light especially during a weather change is truly beautiful. I have sat up here and watched huge black and furious weather move in from the west and I’ve walked back along the ridge and over the open ground before it even reached me, thats a really lovely thing to watch. The snow and ice up on Helvelln’s summit hang around until the end of May at least and I don’t dare go up onto Barton Fell without hat and gloves until early June. I really want to get up there during a very snowy period like we had back in the winter of 2010. I’m sure Ullswater and the surrounding fells would make a stunning image.
I dont tend to hang around much at the summit because of the cold sometimes, although star jumps help keep me warm if I want to wait out some time. I’m often visited by crows up here. I lost a lens cap up here once, it slid down the very steep side of the ridge and there it remains forever.
The Spring and Summer months are much warmer and the colour palette changes to warmer hues. The thing I notice as soon as Spring arrives is the smells, a warm aromatic smell, the sweet smell of the yellow flowers on the Gorse. There are a few Cuckoos in Barton Wood below the ridge and I hear them call out especially in June. The grass smells very sweet and the purple flowering heather in August is delicious. I have to be careful laying in the heather as there are so many bees buzzing around too. I can sometimes hear the laughter from the people camping at the many campsites to the east of the lake, their voices carrying along the water.
The view as I sit on the south ridge of Ullswater is due north, so a brilliant panoramic view of the Northern fells and Blencathra from here. I always think it is a great vantage point for the long view up the lake and the recession of the fells around it. There are a few other vantage points in the Lakes where you get that lovely fading recession of mountains, but you feel so close to it up on this ridge. Blencathra has a small saddle shape on the top, hence its old name Saddleback. The small mounded shape hill in the near distance is Little Mell Fell.
Mid September heralds cool winds and the arrival of Autumn here and the green bracken begins to explode into shades of russet. Sometimes when I walk off the Ridge at dusk, I swear it is the most peaceful and beautiful place in the world.
I looked back over my photo catalog and realised I’ve been going up to the same ridge, walking out over Barton Fell, up to Arthur’s Pike since the winter of 2014. These images are from an evening back in late June of this year. In the next post I’ll show you my very favourite historical images from this ridge. As a photographer and nature lover I enjoy the repetition of going to the same vantage point high above Ullswater.
I start out near Pooley Bridge and walk out across the open fell, passing The Cock Pit, an ancient stone circle. The light is really beautiful here, even in the dead of winter I always love this part of the walk, It takes me about an hour to get to the foot of the ridge itself just by Barton Wood. Then a steep short climb up and I take the sheep path right on the edge of the ridge. I use the safer inside path during the winter months, when the wind can knock you over. There are always sheep here, sometimes they chase me along the path, stamping their feet at me.
Barton Fell is pretty boggy all year around but there is always lots of Bog Cotton here and on the ridge itself in August, the heather is in full flower. Sometimes I lay here and watch the Ullswater Steamer sailing up and down the lake. My objective is always the cairn by Arthur’s Pike, I looked this up on the OS map and its name is actually Whinny Crag. Sometimes I walk on a little bit further and watch the water pouring down Swarthbeck Gill.
In all the time I’ve been here, I have only bumped into humans on two occasions and that suits me just fine. It’s so rare to find very quiet fells in the Lake District. If I have my head torch packed, I will sit up there until the sun sets with my flask of tea and a warm blanket. I have started to take my Hasselblad up here to try and catch some of that lovely light and will carry on doing that through this coming winter for a project I am going to do.
So many people think cameras and lenses are getting better.
But cameras are stupid no matter how ‘great’ they are.
They know nothing, they see nothing, they don’t come with vision.
There isn’t a Decisive Moment indicator light in the viewfinder.
There is no Avedon button on the back.
The most important piece of gear for a photographer is their brain.
– Zack Arias
If you ever find yourself empty from something you cannot know or name,
find a stretch of ocean, a field or a mountainside,
or even clouds or trees.
Because there are 1,000 simple ways to fill your tired soul so that you can remember how to be,
how to see, and most importantly, how to breathe.
– Victoria Erikson
Everyone who terrifies you is sixty-five percent water.
And everyone you love is made of stardust, and I know sometimes
you cannot even breathe deeply, and
the night sky is no home, and
you have cried yourself to sleep enough times
that you are down to your last two percent, but
nothing is infinite,
not even loss.
You are made of the sea and the stars, and one day
you are going to find yourself again.