An under-fulfilled photographic prospect22nd February 2017
More than a decade ago, I had planned on a Sunday day trip to Snowdonia only for my plans to get extinguished by a cancelled train service. By this stage, I was in Manchester so I reviewed my options and continued to Windermere instead. The required train fare refund had to wait for another time because one operator (Virgin West Coast) was unable to refund a ticket sold by another (First North Western) and this was for standard tickets sold at a train station. Nevertheless, any associated frustration was to be pacified by what my chosen alternative was to offer.
From Windermere, I made my way to Ambleside by bus and a hike over Loughrigg Fell ensued. That exploit granted me stunning views over Grasmere on what turned out to be a wonderful evening. It must have been May when all this happened for the hawthorn bushes were shrouded in white blossoms. The display was one of the best that I have ever seen. It all just begged for some photographic attention. However, in those days of film photography, my choice of film made for results that were redder than was ideal.
Still, that was not realised at the time and I descended to Loughrigg Terrace and continued past Rydal Water to reach the A591 in a very satisfied mood. Roadside walking returned me to Ambleside and I retraced my journey home again. The disruption was forgotten and only the actual photographic results were to send the idea of a return visit into my head.
It was 2009 when I next crossed Loughrigg Fell while walking from Coniston to Ambleside. Though the hike included sightings of Coniston Water, Tarn Hows and Windermere, there was none that included either Grasmere or Rydal Water. That had to wait until 2014 when the promise of decent weather on a Saturday was enough to lure me north again for the last instalment of a summertime Cumbrian walking trip hat-trick.
Once in Cumbria, my first port of call was Orrest Head. Despite its proximity to Windermere’s train station, it took me until 2007 to discover this delight. The chance of a quick return on another fine sunny day was too good to overlook. That it was a short walk up there made it a possibility for using up time while awaiting a bus. Now, I wonder if it was the cause of my deciding to catch a later bus than planned for it was idyllic even with others about the beauty spot. Those westward views over Windermere towards the Langdale Pikes and their eastward counterparts featuring nearby fells like Red Screes were stunning on the day. Hopes of getting pleasing photos around Loughrigg Fell were raised.
Once in Ambleside, I pottered out along the A591 nearly as far as Rydal Bridge before I dropped onto a public footpath leading to steeping stones over the River Rothay and onto a minor road. Walking poles were essential for a river crossing that required the summoning of added resolve. The apparent chance that this could be a long sunny evening was enough to ensure that.
Turning left along the road, I continued as far as Fox Ghyll before leaving the tarmac again to commence an ascent of Loughrigg Fell. A family group had similar ideas and I happily left them to amble at their own enjoyable pace. In the warm sunshine, the climb was sweaty business devoid of wider views until I got beyond surrounding woodland. Then, they really opened out before me. With enough height gained, the gradients happily eased too. All still looked promising.
The route that I took puzzles me now it went back on itself and I could have pottered along the side of Rydal Water in the sunshine before reaching Loughrigg Terrace for its views over Grasmere. Crossing Rothay Park in Ambleside was another option, though I now wonder if I was after another path that I missed on my way out from Ambleside. That is the more likely explanation.
My abiding memory of my time on Loughrigg Fell that day is one of disappointment at having been caught by advancing clouds. However, looking through my library of photos from the time makes it apparent that my recollection is being selective. Any breaks in the cloud cover allowed the sun to peep through and spotlight the landscape. It may not have been the widescreen lighting that I had in mind, but there were plenty of delightful moments too. In any case, cloud shadow added to the scenes before me in their own way.
In hindsight, it appeared that I was being every photographic possibility but the one that brought me to Loughrigg Fell in the first place. At times, the sun shone brightly on nearby eastern fells like Red Screes, High Pike, Low Pike and Heron Pike. Looking at the resulting photos now is some recompense for the fact that the repeat of that grand view over Grasmere towards Dunmail Rise was laden with too much shadow for my liking.
That presence of cloud shadow did not deter me from having a go at capturing the scene before me. It was as I dropped down from Loughrigg Fell to the road that took me to the nearest YHA hostel, that any spotlighting really came to a halt. The clouds thickened, and the sky darkened all the while as I made my way to my lodgings for the night.
Even so, I still had designs on a stroll towards Elterwater once I had sorted things at the hostel. Soon enough, I found what the cloud was to bring and I had overlooked bringing a raincoat. Still, I got back under cover without too much of a wetting. A night of heavy rain lay ahead.
It still was raining well when I rose the next morning, so the atmosphere felt rather melancholic and autumnal. In order to late the rain pass, I dallied after breakfast while packing together my things. It was not to be so I walked along the minor road to Grasmere in the rain. Traffic was light and I was well-equipped with waterproofs, so the hike was no chore. The peace and quiet was more than a compensation. If the sun had been out instead, it even could have been quite special in its own way though I suspect that Elterwater would have drawn me instead.
All in all, there is unfinished business on Loughrigg Fell, so a return remains a possibility. Last December’s trip to Cumbria could have addressed matters had a walk from Great Langdale to Grasmere not been the bigger attraction in my mind. After all, I never had seen the Langdale Pikes up close in sunshine; cloud always pervaded whenever I was around those parts before then. The same might be said for Elterwater too, so the reasons for new visits remain.
Return train journey between Macclesfield and Windermere. Bus service 555 or 599 from Windermere to Ambleside. Bus service 555 or 599 from Grasmere to Windermere.
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