Monday 20 May 2013

A Few Days In The Lake District

Terry Abraham watching the sunset from Bleaberry Fell

A magnificent sunset high in the fells at a wild camp. Woken early in the morning by throbbing disco music. Rather different ways to start and finish a three night camping trip in the Lake District. I was there for the premiere of Terry Abraham's Cairngorms In Winter film at the Keswick Mountain Festival but before the showing and the Keswick crowds I'd joined Terry and one of the films Kickstarter supporters Mark (whose account of the trip can be found on his blog here) for a peaceful camp in the hills, my first in the Lakes for twenty or so years. Climbing out of the lovely, wooded, steep ravine of Cat Gill I'd found Terry and Mark camped not far below the summit of Bleaberry Fell. The slope was broken here by little terraces on which the tents were pitched, tiered above each other. Clouds sped across the sky on a gusty east wind but the tops were clear and glowing in the low sun. Dusk was gorgeous with a deep red sky. Just as the sun was dropping out of sight a squall of heavy rain and a fierce wind swept in. We watched the last colour fade from the sky from the shelter of the tents. 

Rainbow after squall at the camp on Bleaberry Fell

A quiet cloudy dawn made for a pleasant start to the next day. We wandered back down Cat Gill and along the path beside placid Derwent Water to busy Keswick where we camped on the festival site as far from a noisy generator as we could manage. That evening as we returned from refreshments in the town (food as well as drink!) rain started to fall. Dawn came and it was still falling, steadily and heavily, straight down from a sheet metal unbroken sky. The festival field was beginning to turn into a quagmire. By lunchtime we were beginning to wonder if the tents might float away. Streams were pouring down the streets of Keswick. The entrance to the festival field was a morass of thick, sticky mud. Having foolishly not bothered with overtrousers (well, I was in town!) my thin trousers were soon sodden and my legs cold. Terry's almost new waterproof jacket slowly leaked. I'd forgotten Lake District rain. Only Mark, sensibly attired in over trousers and properly waterproof jacket, was dry. Thankfully in the early afternoon the rain slowly drizzled to a stop, after fifteen hours without a break. The tents were safe. We could dry out.

Blencathra from Bleaberry Fell

Wandering round the festival and the town I met other outdoor friends, many of whom I only usually see at communal events like this. It’s one of the joys of such get togethers. I won’t name everyone I met – that way I can’t offend anyone I forget! Many of them came along to the film premiere, which was held upstairs in George Fishers outdoor shop, which was originally the photographic shop of the Abraham brothers, pioneers of climbing photography back in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It seemed appropriate that Terry Abraham’s first film should be shown here, though sharing the name is no more than a happy coincidence.

Mark looking down Cat Gill

After the film there was a question and answer session with me and Terry, followed by several hours of more informal discussion in various pubs. Eventually I returned to the festival field and slurped stickily through the mud to my still damp tent. I was astonished the next morning to discover that Terry had somehow managed to cross the field in white trainers and clean jeans without getting a speck of mud on them. In the dark. Without a torch. I had mud splashes up to my knees from walking over it in daylight. I reckon Terry must know the secret of levitation. There is no other explanation.

The welcome night’s sleep was abruptly shattered at 7pm by the pounding bass of speaker-distorting music. This was for the send-off of four hundred and fifty entrants in a triathlon race. As a fellow camper, who shall be nameless, said, with feeling, “why do triathletes need ‘expletive deleted’ disco music to get them going?” Staggering out of the tent clutching a mug of hastily made coffee I watched, bleary-eyed, as an endless procession of wetsuit clad bodies plunged into Derwent Water. Not my idea of a good start to the day. My mind went back to the camp on Bleaberry Fell. That was the civilised way to begin a new day.
Morning at the camp on Bleaberry Fell


  1. Lovely photos Chris.I particularly like the one of your pal Mark in the foreground and the gorgeous bright green of the Larch and the yellow flowers of the Whin - a harbinger of Spring - so different from the haar we've I've endured up here the last few days!

    I do look forward to Terry Abraham's Cairngorms In Winter film when it comes out.


    Rob fae Craigellachie

  2. Chris,the over-trousers bit was quite funny as a number of people asked me during the Saturday was I camping with you and Terry? as I was nice and dry( and clean) compared to you two :) I liked your comment when we were walking around Keswick about Chris Townsend being found suffering from hypothemia in Keswick High Street. Great couple of days




  3. It's a real shame, Chris, that your first visit to the Lakes in years was marred by the rain and, worse, the early morning music. The place is still magical and I do hope you will get back soon.

    1. Thanks. The time spent in the hills - the real Lake District - was magical. I didn't count camping in a park in Keswick as really being in the Lakes. If it was going to rain it did so at the right time!