Tuesday 31 October 2017

Lake District, October 2017. Day 4

Our final day saw another lazy start.  In the early hours tawny owls were calling again and over breakfast it was good to see a tree creeper spiralling up a tree just outside the van.  A very tame pheasant made its daily perambulation being rewarded with some tit bits from each caravan.  Having enjoyed the boat trip on Lake Windermere in very wet conditions the last time we were here, today we planned another, this time combined with a walk.  We caught the ferry from Bowness again, but this time to Ambleside, where we enjoyed our lunch while we waited for the launch across the lake to Wray Castle.  These small launches are beautiful.  Straight out of Swallows and Amazons they are all wood and varnish, more works of art than a form of transport.  As we landed at Wray Castle the sun made an appearance through the haze and lit up the gold and bronze autumn colours of the stately beech trees.  Out walk took us along the west shore of the lake through beautiful woodland to The Ferry House where we caught the launch back to Bowness.  The trail passes through ancient Claife oak Woodlands.  The clean air encourages a luxuriant growth of lichens and the platforms of charcoal burners from times past can be seen on the hillside again reminding me of the encounters with these characters in Swallows and Amazons.  Of interest, too, is Bark Barn, built in the nineteenth century to store oak bark before being transported to the local tanneries for use in the leather industry. 

Lake District, October 2017. Day 3, The Little Asby Hawthorn.

Today's walk has been inspired by photography and writing team, Rob and Harriet Fraser, and their project The Long View where they worked with seven ordinary but remarkable trees.  The link to the website for the  project is here  and the link to their Somewhere Nowhere site is here.  Rob and Harriet have both loved trees for as long as they can remember and in 2010 came up with the idea of photographing seven trees over a period of two years.  They decided on seven as it is a special number with many connotations (see their website for more), but first came the task of selecting the seven trees which itself took several years.  I first became aware of this work when we saw a small exhibition of it at Thorney How guest house in 2016.  I had stayed here many years ago when it was part of the YHA so there was a double incentive in play.  We were so inspired by this small exhibition and also their website that we leapt at the opportunity to visit the full show and artist talk at Grizedale Forest Centre earlier this year.  I have written this up in my degree blog and the link is here.

Not only did we feel that Rob and Harriet's interests and outlook on life and the natural world matched our own in many ways, I could see many similarities with the main body of work for my degree.  Given the title -Shul ( a Tibetan word meaning the mark made by something's passing - so both a footprint and a path are a shul) - it is about walking woodland paths and in many ways is a celebration of trees and woodland (Link to the work here).  We were so inspired by the exhibition and by talking to Rob and Harriet that while we have the caravan in The Lakes we have decided to make our own pilgrimage to each of the 7 trees and record the journeys in our own ways (me photography, Heather drawing and perhaps felt and textile work); The Little Asby Hawthorn, then, is our first foray.

Having weathered the eeirie conditions and gales of Storm Ophelia we woke on the Wednesday morning full of anticipation for a day of good weather - we were not to be disappointed.  Our journey to Little Asby on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park via Kendal and Tebay on the M6 took only a short while. Once parked up we headed back up the road towards the Tree Fold that we had passed on the way up.  The Tree Folds are part of Rob and Harriet's project; a celebration of their work, the trees and the art of of dry-stone walling. They were built with the help of master waller, Andrew Mason, who also worked with land artist Andy Goldsworthy,  Each is built with stone found locally.  Around the centre of each treefold is carved a line of poetry.  Each line stands alone but, when joined together with the others, forms a complete poem.  During this next winter a young tree will be planted in the centre of each.  We really enjoyed the Treefold and its poem.  We photographed it and drew it and were delighted with the tiny geode set into one of the stones with its crystals gleaming inside.  Soon though, it was time to gird up our loins and tackle the hill up to the limestone escarpment and the hawthorn following tracks that may have been human but were most likely made by sheep.  Sheep tracks are usually good to walk along but often go nowhere specific apart from the next juicy clump of grass.  On the way up we found a small patch of fungi - red jewels gleaming in the grass.  I find fungi complicated to identify but this one, I think, is scarlet waxcap.
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In the end a sheep trod did lead us straight up to the tree.  I was thrilled to be there, having seen Rob's wonderful images in the exhibition and The Long View book where I have also read and reread Harriet's evocative words about it.  Rather than just walk up to the tree and down again we had decided to make it into a round walk, as we hopefully will with the other trees, so, having had a relaxed start to the day it was an ideal opportunity to sit up on the edge of the limestone pavement and have our lunch with Sunbiggin Tarn sparkling in the sun below us and the hump of the Howgills to our south, the sun warm on our faces and a gentle breeze keeping us cool.  I affectionately (?) think of these as the 'Howling Howgills' ever since one ill-fated Karrimor Mountain Marathon there many years ago.  It was delightful to just be with the tree and to be a Human Being for a while rather than the Human Doing we so often are.  The only sounds were the wind and the occasional car on the raod below.  A kestrel hovered above and a late tortoiseshell butterfly danced past.

 As pleasant as dallying up here was we eventually had to move on.  Just above the tree was a superb stretch of limestone pavement karst scenery with the  Eden Valley below and the busy A66.  Beyond, in the distance were the Northern Pennines.  Weathering from acid rain dissolves the limestone into clints or slabs of rock separated by fissures called grykes which give enough shelter for all manner of plants, particularly noticeable today being harts tongue fern and herb robert a beautiful pink member of the geranium family.  We also came across some more scarlet waxcaps (I didn't break the cap off, honest, although I did position it to my advantage) and what I think were snowy waxcaps.  Lichens of varying types were plentiful.

Once we hit the Dales High Way we began to head north and descend from the karst scenery of the limestone pavement to the lush farming pastureland of the Eden Valley with cattle and sheep.  After a mile or so we changed direction again, this time east as we made our way back to the car via the farms of Masongill and Asby Grange.