January: Four Years On!

The start of a new year means another year of my website being up and running... Four years in fact! I probably say this every time but when I set up this website in my student room back in 2017 I never thought I would get to see all these amazing places or receive such lovely feedback from you guys, so thank you! In the last year I feel as if I have grown regarding my photography, my navigational skills and a general wanderlust to explore my beautiful home county, and I can only hope this continues into 2021!

As I hoped in our last post, we did indeed get a lovely wintery welcome to 2021! Although it didn't snow much by my flat, it did however snow at the Coniston area on some of the weekends I was delivering my grandads food shopping! Luckily the roads weren't too bad, the snow was considerate and blanketed the fields and fells instead, with the occasional patch sitting on icy bodies of water. The journey through to Coniston always delivers stunning views, but there is an undeniable magic in seeing the Lakeland fells and bodies of water painted white. I would have expected places like Waterhead at Ambleside to have been swarming with people basking in the snowy wonderland, but I was pleased to be proved wrong one weekend, and with the Langdale pikes calling out to me across the water I couldn't resist stopping to get a quick shot or two to commemorate this moment. The best place I found to appreciate the wintery weather was however Yew Tree Tarn just outside of Coniston, as on several mornings it was host to a blanket of snow. The first weekend of snow sat upon the icy top of the tarn, whilst the woodland surrounded it was littered with lost leaves. It was a beautiful contrast, especially as we watched parts of the snow slowly melt as the sun began to warm up, and the tranquillity of the bird songs were accompanied occasionally from a large crack appearing in the ice and breaking the sound barrier. Another time, the surrounding land was covered in snow, although this didn't stop the Belted Galloway cows meandering along the bottom of Yew Tree, and there were minimal patches of ice/snow on the water which meant that a stunning reflection of the fells could be seen here. Some disregard this tarn, as granted it can look a little' strange' at times, but dependant on the weather or season, it can be one of the most beautiful places in the county!

One journey back from Coniston, spontaneity came upon on me and I decided to explore a National Trust footpath sign which always caught my eye to and from Coniston. The signpost noted the start of Fishgarths Woods, a collection of trees which surrounded a thin path which took you up and around the bottom of the Loughrigg fell range. This small selection of woodland was beautiful, with a soft breeze slowly hitting your face and it felt so idyllic walking through there that you didn't notice how steep the pathway went at some point. Eventually, the trees began to clear and the principle top of the hill, marking the start of Todd Crag, could be seen to your left, with Lake Windermere becoming clearer in view from the right with every step I took. When slowly wandering along the top, views of the snow-capped fells could be seen all around, and when you stepped on the occasional frosty bit of ground which was hidden from the sun, it felt like you were walking on those very fells. Resting in amongst the bumpy ground of Todd Crag lies Lily Tarn, its half frozen surface sparkling as it came into view. A few woolly hats or hoods from coats could be seen bobbing along the side of the fell facing Ambleside, taking in the view of the village framed by snowy mountains, but none of them seemed interested in the tarn and the path alongside it, so I dipped down to the tarns edge, having its beauty all to myself.

I decided to continue along this path, avoiding those other walkers who were wandering in other directions, as I could see the tips of the Langdale fells hiding behind the bumpy terrain my feet rested upon. To the left, the river Brathay and Skelwith Pool could be seen, and when the light hit it in a certain way, it looked like a large thumbs up. And rightly so, as the views along this part of the fell were tip-top! The snow-capped fells were a sight to behold, and as much as I wished I had my proper camera on me to properly capture their tranquillity, it did allow me to appreciate moments of solitude like this - no distractions, just a vista individual to me that will never look the same again and I will never forget that moment. I wandered further along the fell, weaving on and off the different paths as opposed to walking directly ahead, before looping back on those routes I'd yet taken. Eventually, the fells were replaced with the view of Lake Windermere, taking over the horizon with every step I took. Even though I hadn't been out walking long, the winter sun had shifted in the sky and this time the lake was glistening as the rays hit the occasional bump in the water as I approached the footpath leading back to the car. This walk is definitely one to visit again, especially with my camera in tow, but also as an impromptu stretch of the legs when visiting my grandad! It's also good to find walks which are accessible despite snow or ice, so I will definitely be back to see those snow-covered mountains next winter!

After the final shopping delivery of the month, and a change of scenery of driving back via the dual carriage ways, the opportunity arose to stop off at Torver Common for a little stroll. I decided to take the path away from the lake which led towards Beacon Fell and various parts of Torver Common as I knew there were several reservoirs or tarns in this area to explore. The footpath led along the river, with the option of stepping stones or a quaint bridge to cross it onto the main body of Torver Common. After taking the bridge, as much as I would have loved to cross the stepping stones they were met by boggy land on the other side, I began to meander up towards the brow of the hill and on towards Throngmoss Reservoir. The path initially ran along the top edge of one of the crevices in the terrain which was home to running water before turning away into open land, which was home to the occasional tree or shrubbery. This route soon crossed paths once again with one of the many streams feeding into the principle beck, and as we had had quite a bit of rainfall after what could be considered dry for winter, the water was running quite quickly and the stones which once offered your feet stability were slimy from the remnants of boggy water. I would much rather change my route and play it safe than risk both myself and my camera crossing streams etc where uneccesary - besides, if it doesn't look like a clear cut route across and you're likely to have to cross it again to get back, it's probably not going to be any better further down - so I decided to wander up along this side of the stream instead and find the reservoir from here. Luckily, this paid off as when I reached Throngmoss, I was on the side where the path ran against the waters edge. After pausing for a while and experimenting with my new phone camera, I wandered along the edge of Throngmoss, with the common gradually folding downwards to reveal the Coniston fells resting behind Torver Village. The ground here was quite boggy in places, regardless of whether there were streams or becks nearby, so I decided to cut my exploration of this side short, and head to the other side of the common.

Upon taking the footpath through Torver Common that slowly descends towards Coniston Water, each twist and turn of the path was hidden by long blades of grass denoting where you could walk and bare tree branches fragmenting the view of the land behind them. Eventually, the trees began to thin out and the distinct blue of lake water began to fight its way through the branches, clearly marking the end of the forest covered fells on the Eastern side of the lake. As the view opened up, the path levelled out and the remnants of Sunny Bank Jetty could be seen resting in amongst the waves of the lake, and I dipped down onto the little pebble cove to the right of the jetty just so I could hear the lap of the water against the land before continuing on my way. Eventually this footpath leads you to another jetty, this time the fully functional Torver Jetty, although its functionality could be debated given how much it was bouncing in every direction with the tiniest bit of wind/waves! It was a peaceful walk, with glimpses of the lakeshore to your right(some of which I'm sure wouldn't be available other times of the year) and plenty of little shores to sit down by when the time comes that we are allowed to, whilst to your left a variety of plants, trees and shrubbery could be seen before it opened up into a thick collection of evergreen trees. From here began our climb back up onto Torver Common, and along the pastures where the tarns Kelly Hall and Long Moss reside.

The walk up towards the other part of the common was quite muddy in places, with the previous rainy days creating their own channels across the paths or where animals had clearly congregated, but it was nowhere near as bad as the area surrounding Throngmoss, and I soon found myself at the top with a group of Herdwick sheep to welcome me as I arrived. With The Old Man Of Coniston and the surrounding fells standing proud to my right, I slowly veered towards the left and approached the two tarns. One of the Herdwicks that greeted me at the top of the common followed me along to the principle land of the common, stopping every time I looked behind me, but its little footsteps could be heard in tandem with mine once I continued on my way. As Long Moss came into view and I veered to walk along the Western side of it, the little Herdwick joined a group that were grazing on the drier patches of grass and I was glad to have helped it reunite with its friends! As was expected, quite a bit of this ground was boggy so I ended up talking a longer route around Long Moss, and although I didn't go to its waters edge, I did get some fantastic views of it peaking out in between the bumps and curves of the common. I did however get to wander around Kelly Hall Tarn, and get plenty of photographs of that wonderful tree residing on its edge! It's such a stunning little tarn, hidden away in plain sight and the perfect views of the Coniston fells behind it only adds to the magic! I really love this area as there is always something interesting to see, if not then you can rely on the tarns to set the ambience!

Whilst I've been at home, I decided to set myself the task of going through every photograph I have taken (well, those saved since 2016!) as to find those I overlooked in editing first time, and to improve on my editing skills. I'm hardly an expert in editing, not that I'd really call it that as I usually just colour or shadow adjust so that the photograph matches what my eye caught - no fake filter fakery or cheap trickshots here - but I have definitely improved in my eye for making the photographs reflect reality. Going through these photographs have really helped with my confidence, especially those photos taken in 2019 which was a year where I was really unhappy with my final products from walks that year. With 2020 being the whirlwind that it was, mentally 2019 can feel like only months ago but looking over my work has shown me how I have improved in a matter of months alone. Sometimes I feel that my photos are boring, but as mentioned before I try to capture the true essence of the scene in front of me, so although those people who spend ages fiddling with settings or camera tricks for just one shot get a lot of love and feedback, I'd rather be true to myself and stick to my 'scene over style' nature photography. These photographs encapsulate the memories and experiences I myself had when walking/taking them, as opposed to some photographs which are forced moments of tranquillity, and that is what is important to me.

Well, after the year we have all had, we can only hope for better days to come in 2021!