February: Soul-Soothing Strolls!

I will be the first to admit that the start of 2021 hasn't been ideal, and that's without all of the personal things to myself happening! It has been a month of highs and lows, but I've been trying to focus on the brighter side, the small things that make me smile and making sure I get out for plenty of walks to cleanse my soul. I've managed to get out to a variety of places this month, which has certainly broken up the repetitiveness of lockdown, and it has also been quite a novelty as usually as we don't have walking weather in winter!

As what was the routine for January, the food shop deliveries to my Grandad continued this month, as did the walks on my journey home. The first weekend, I decided to stay in Coniston to stretch my legs and follow the old cross-country route that my mum used to run when she was at school in the village. After hopping onto the footpath lying between a few quaint cottages and the lower Coniston fells, I wandered along the woodland trail heading towards Yewdale. I've walked this path in both summer and autumn, but this was my first time to my memory that I had walked it in winter, but it was still a lovely walk as I had experienced, although more puddles lay along the path! With the foliage being kept short, I could see more rock slides and boulders that had fallen down the hillside, and the streams that are also rolling down the hillside could be seen from afar. At Yewdale, I crossed the road and made my way along the footpath that runs through a farm, crossing one of the many streams heading towards Coniston Water before coming to a multiway footpath sign. Deciding to be adventurous, I decided to take the long way around and began the ascent towards Boon Crag up a rocky bridleway which had a constant flow of water trickling down one side of it.

Halfway up towards Boon Crag, with Coniston Water slowly appearing over the horizon on my right, my attention was caught by a footpath leading through the woodland to my left and I turned my back on the water and began to follow the footpath. It was clear that not many people used this path, or at least during the wetter months, and slowly the trail began to peter out with the only signs of direction being where foliage has grown sparse or fallen branches have evidently been cleared from that area. It was only when I was met by yet another stream that I lost the path - I've said many times I'm not willing to cross streams of water which are wider than my comfortable stride so I ended up walking up higher to cross the stream and this meant I could see the principle top of Boon Crag. Through the trees, I could see splashes of white paint from the farm buildings near Yew Tree Tarn, and the orange hue of the fells surrounding the thin Tilberthwaite walk. Upon reaching the top, the footpath led me towards the woodland surrounding Tarn Hows which hid houses I never knew existed before I arrived onto the Tarn Hows road, and began my descent towards the the Eastern shores of the lake at Monk Coniston. Whilst walking down the road, I could hear birds chirping in the treetops, and the occasional shout of a sheep carrying in the wind. I was surprised not to have a car pass me on the road, given how popular Tarn Hows is, but once I reached the road and footpath leading to Coniston, the footfall and passing traffic increased significantly. I wandered along the footpath, stopping off at the edge of the lake to watch the waves crash right against my feet before heading back home.

One place I had always wanted to visit, but never seemed to find the time to do, was Loughrigg Tarn as I'd seen some fantastic shots of this place, and it looked like it had some interesting trees sitting on the waters edge. I set off from Skelwith hotel, and clambered up the old Grasmere road which was extremely steep in places with lots of twists and turns in the direction it took. Eventually the land petered out, and soon I was wandering along footpaths that took you past farmland and old terrace rows of cottages which wouldn't look out of place on a postcard. Before I saw the tarn, I could see the ground underneath the road begin to drop, so I knew I was close, but the first magnificent sight I saw was the tops of the fells around Langdale, covered in a sprinkling of snow. As the tarn came into view, I began to see the fells twins appear in the surface of the water, both growing larger and larger with every step. I detoured off the road and wandered along the tarn shore to get some photographs, and sure enough both the views and foliage lived up to my expectations! Once reaching the end of the tarn, I didn't fancy heading directly back to where I started, so I detoured along a footpath which took me across a small patch of fell land and stumbled across a stunning viewpoint of Elterwater and the Langdale pikes. Unfortunately at this point, the weather was starting to darken and Elterwater didn't have the usual rich blue tone to it which I had usually seen, but it was still a breath taking sight regardless. After taking in the views, the footpath led me onto the river Brathay, and a different angle of the Langdales which was as stunning as usual. I followed the path of the river Brathay, before heading onto the viewpoint at Skelwith Falls which I had to myself. I found the crashing noises of the water against the rocks so peaceful as I watched each wave spray into the air before finishing my riverside descent back to the car.

One day I wanted a short walk that would be quiet but also allow for some nice views, I decided to wander up to Sizergh fell and do a few loops around the top of the principle fell. Not paying much attention, I slowly meandered up the principle area which resides against a farm and national trust woodland until a large cow caught my eye. I know usually livestock are fine with humans in their fields, but nonetheless I would rather steer clear of them so I veered off away from the big cow. As I wandered, keeping an eye on the cows, a flash of ginger caught my eye and I realised that there was a highland cow in the field! I absolutely adore Highland cows, and as it isn't often to spot one of these it was a lovely surprise! She wasn't fazed at all by me being in the field, and neither did the other big cows either to be fair! I made my way up to the top of the fell as planned, taking a few loops of the top and taking in the views over towards the Lakeland fells and the coast before heading back to see the Highland Cow again, managing to get close enough to her to get lots of photos!

One day in February, I didn't quite feel up to a full length walk, but wanted some fresh air and a quick stretch of the legs, so after coming back from Coniston via the bypass, I decided to stop off in Grange-Over-Sands for a quick walk along the prom. It's amazing how a bit of fresh sea air can make you feel better, and this accompanied by all the beautiful flowers in the beds on the prom meant I felt in better spirits when I left than when I arrived. I don't visit Grange-Over-Sands much, so it made a nice change to walk along here and look over to my usual walks across the bay at Arnside or Silverdale. As what seems to be a theme when I am by the sea, it was a lovely but cold day on my side of the estuary, but halfway across the blue skies rapidly changed into a dark grey shade.

Thinking ahead towards Bluebell season, I decided to scout out the area of Skelwith Fold for any potential spots, as I'd seen photographs online but also some fantastic paintings listed as being this location. It was really quiet as I wandered along the river, both on the path I took and the road across the water. I hadn't really explored this area before, and I had no intended destination around here, so I decided to see where the footpaths and roads led me. I followed the track around the edge of a woodland, with autumn colours littering the floor on a February morning. The path was gradual, climbing upwards but the twists and turns tended to hide this. Now and again the wall to my right would lower, and I could see towards the Langdale pikes and Loughrigg fell across several farmers fields. Eventually I reached the top of the hill, and spotted a small plaque marking a viewpoint so I detoured slightly down the other side of the hill to read this. This viewpoint opened up to another set of farmer fields, this time with several trees littered amongst them, and again to the Langdale pikes but from a different angle which allowed for every jutting fell top was distinct against the greying cloud behind it. After taking some photographs of the view point, I made my way back down along the river to my starting point, with plenty of bluebell spots in mind.

On a whim, one morning on the drive back from Coniston I decided to pull up into the parking bay beside the road junction for Oxen Fell to see what delights awaited me. After wandering up the road, I realised I missed the gate for Oxen Fell but decided to continue walking regardless. Over the wall, I could see the tip of Elterwater shining under the sunshine amongst its surrounding fields and fells, and in front of me I could see hues of grey amongst the fells as I wandered towards the cluster of quarries between Coniston and the Langdales. I followed each twist and turn of the stony path until I arrived at Hodge Close Quarry, and spotted the footpath down into the depths of the quarry - somewhere I hadn't been before but was eager to visit. Every other time I'd been at Hodge Close it has either been questionable weather or extremely busy that I wouldn't be able to properly appreciate what I was seeing. But on this day, it had been dry and I was yet to see a soul whilst on my walk so I took the chance and began my careful descent into the mouth of Hodge Close. From the top you don't quite realise how far down you go, with the boulders beside you getting bigger, and the foliage claiming more and more land as their own. I finally made it down to the bottom, and it was much more magnificent than I could imagine and I felt so small as I looked up at the slate roof, with the sunlight catching my eye as it hit parts of the water in the mouth of the quarry. I carefully wandered along the old mining tracks that end into the water to properly take in the vista before me, with the spring colours before me doubled in the reflection of the water. I got some photographs, and even a couple of videos as I felt my photos wouldn't show the magnitude of the place before heading back. As I clambered back towards my Oxen Fell path, voices were carried through the air and as soon as I reached the top, there was several groups of people intending to head towards the bottom so I was glad I took the opportunity when I did!

The ups and downs of the last month and my need to get out in the fresh air have been due to a family bereavement that has left a hole in all the families hearts. Unfortunately it was my beloved Grandma, and with her being in a care home it has meant I haven't been able to hug her for over a year, and it makes the pain of losing her that much harder. It's been really therapeutic visiting some of these places as I know she's walked there with my mum when she was a child, or she had stunning paintings of these areas hung on her walls with pride. My grandma was, and will always continue to be, a huge inspiration for my nature photography and love of historical ruins, as she used to nurture my interest in these subjects every summer when I used to spend a week with her and my Grandad at their home in Coniston. Sometimes I forget that she is gone and want to show her a photograph I took, but I can still hear her words of encouragement and admiration with new image... although I could probably show her a very blurry photo and she would still think it was the bees knees! No matter what, she will always be with me and being out in nature makes me feel close to her, after all she would want me to continue discovering these beautiful places and making the most of every moment.