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Visiting the Lake District for the first time

Visiting the Lake District for the first time
February 14th, 2020

If I was to make a list of the places I want to photograph in the UK, one of the top places would be the Lake District. If you’re not in the UK or unsure where the Lake District is, the Lake District is one of the UK’s National Parks situated in the North West of England.

I have been wanting to visit the Lake District for quite a while, but its a place that I have never visited to photograph. I do have vague memories of visiting when I was younger but its a place that I don’t remember much about.

The Lakes was always a place that I thought would be a difficult place to navigate on public transport and we always have this perception of the countryside being miles from any form of civilisation. The UK in world terms is a very small country and you can get to most places within a day, and I’m quite fortunate to be in a central location for most of the country and only 20 minutes away from two of the UK’s major cities, so public transport is relatively good(whether it turns up on time is another thing!).

Photographing the Lake District by Stuart Holmes

On planning my first visit, I purchased a great book by Stuart Holmes called Photographing the Lake District https://amzn.to/38MSsIH (this is an amazon affiliate link), which I found invaluable in choosing my first location.

I researched my best place to catch a train and figured out that the best places to catch a train to, is either Oxenholme Lake District, Windermere, Penrith or Lancaster, which has great bus links to other parts of the Lake District. There are other places such as Ulverston but I found that these where the best places for my journey.

Oxenholme is just outside of Kendal and is a good place to catch a train, as its served by the West Coast Mainline which runs from London to Edinburgh via major cities such as Edinburgh, Birmingham and London, and is easily accessible from Liverpool, Manchester, and other places via Crewe. This also forms the start of the Windermere line and is a great location for the southern parts of the Lakes.

The West Coast Mainline also visits Penrith which is a great location for the northern parts of the Lakes, such as Keswick to access Derwentwater, Ullswater and Bassenthwaite. These stations are also served by Bus Services that cover most places in the Lakes. I did find that the bus services are very expensive, and it may be more affordable to consider a day ticket or a weekly ticket depending on the length of your travel.

When deciding my first trip, I gathered that it may be a difficult journey to make in one day, so decided to spend a few days in a location, allowing me to travel to a few locations. I decided on Windermere at first and staying in a Youth Hostel. Youth Hostels are a cheap and easy place to stay, and no longer has the reputation of yesteryear, being grimy, untidy places full of noisy teenagers backpacking the world. Yes, it isn’t quite up to the standard of Hilton but is quite nice and frankly, if you’re in a location like the lakes your not going to be spending much time in a hotel room.

My first day was about getting my bearings and working out a location. I was rather worried while travelling on the train. I couldn’t see much outside of the train window for dense fog. I was thinking that I am visiting one of the most picturesque places in the world, and I am barely going to be able to see 6 foot in front of me. Luckily when I arrived in Windermere, the fog had cleared a bit, revealing the fells and mountains around. It was kind of a slow tease, to a beautiful reveal. The Wonderful Staff at YHA Windermere let me into my room early so I was able to drop my kit off and venture out for sunset.

I decided not to vlog this day, as I was quite tired from the journey, so I decided to relax and spend a few hours just exploring and capturing images without the extra stress of trying to video it as well. Anybody who vlogs will know that you can spend an hour in a location, 55 minutes is getting the right footage and b roll, and spend 5 minutes taking the shot!

The Fells of the Lake District from Lake Windermere
The Fells of the Lake District from Lake Windermere

I spent the last couple of hours of that day on the edge of Lake Windermere, I took a stroll up to the roman ruins at Ambleside as well. I have always been a bit of a history nerd! It still fascinates me that I stood in a place that was built around 2000 years ago.

Onto day two and a 5.45 start for an 8.15 sunrise. I’d worked out it would take me about an hour and a half to get to the location where I’d planned for sunrise, which gave me plenty of time, to get showered, fed and left a little scope if I got lost.

I’d originally planned to climb up to Loughrigg fell and visit the nearby tarn, but I woke up to the fog again. I walked partway up the fell and was greeted with the fog, which I couldn’t see 6 foot in front of me and the path I was walking was narrow, to say the least. It would have been rather foolish for me to climb a fell in those conditions, especially for somebody who had never been up a fell before. I’d only saw a few days earlier, a story on the news about somebody getting rescued by mountain rescue, in a location not far from where I am.

I decided to stay down low on the edge of Lake Windermere where the fog was the clearest. I could only imagine that there might have been an excellent view above the fog if you got high enough. One for another day I think!

I didn’t miss out though. I remembered from my wander the night before that there was an excellent view looking down Windermere from a local spot called Borrins Park, so I set up there. A big YEAH to plan B! I was lucky enough that there was a number of boats moored on Lake Windermere that looked awesome in the fog, and the conditions meant that the background behind the boats, couldn’t be seen. A day for minimal black and white it seems.

The Boats on Lake Windermere

I spent a good 2 or 3 hours sat in the same spot, with the goodies from my YHA Packed Lunch, it was like being back at school. Its great knowing that you have all day just to photograph, experiment and work an area without the stress of wondering what’s going on in the world. It’s very relaxing.

So vlog #1 done. I went back to the YHA had a rest for an hour or so, grabbed a brew, and warmed up a little, it was lovely conditions but cold. I spent that hour to weigh up the conditions for the evening and consider my plan for the sunset that evening. I was thinking I wasn’t going to get much of a sunset in this fog. Boy, was I wrong?

Roll on the evening to record Vlog #2, I ventured out, set up on the edge of Lake Windermere, stuck on the long lens and was greeted with some absolutely awesome clouds rolling across the local fells, it was definitely a sight to see. It wasn’t the greatest sunset but the low cloud and atmospheric conditions was a sight to behold.

The Fells of the Lake District from Lake Windermere
The Fells of the Lake District from Lake Windermere

I’d fallen in love with the Lake District in that two hours and could see why so many people rave on about the place and climbing the mountains. I’d only wish I’d been able to climb that fell. I made up for that a week and a bit later, climbing Black Crag and wandering around Tarn Hows with the gang from Mali Davies Photography meetup group. That’s a blog for another day.

A Swan on Lake Windermere
A Swan on Lake Windermere

Needless to say. I slept very well that evening even with the banging doors of the YHA! There is nothing better for the mind and soul than a wander in the country

I had a few hours on day 3 before I had to catch my train home, so I decided to have one last wander around Lake Windermere, and ventured into Windermere for my train home.

My final thoughts. What an awe-inspiring place, and definitely one to visit again in the future.

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