Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Walking with a legend

David Powell-Thompson & me!
I have to confess that David Powell-Thompson is rather a hero of mine. As a fan of Lake District walking programmes I have seen him play cricket on top of Knott (one of the mountains behind Skiddaw that has rather a flat summit) with the crew filming Stuart Maconie and guide Julia Bradbury across Sharp Edge. David has such an amazing knowledge of the Lake District that any guided walk with him at the helm is going to be worth every step.

This guided walk however had the added bonus of including Mark Gilligan, an award-winning photographer who I met recently when he was writing an article about me and my book. Mark’s role was to give basic photography tips for amateur photographers like me (and I need all the help I can get!)

View to the jaws of Borrowdale (photo taken with help!)
We met at the tiny hamlet of Grange in Borrowdale (which has two lovely cafes) and set off towards Derwent Water. The origins of Grange date back to medieval times when the monks at Furness Abbey built a monastic grange (a manor house that was used for food production). It has a double-arched stone bridge that was built in 1675 that I think is the only double-arched bridge I have come across.

The rapport between David and Mark was clear immediately and it made the whole day light-hearted and entertaining as well as highly informative. Here came the first comparison between one of my “point and shoot” photos of the lake and a photo that with Mark’s advice and taking just a little bit more time, looked so much better. It sounds obvious but it really is all about how you capture the light. 


After - much better colour contrast
Using the same technique
After my first short photography tuition, we headed up behind the Lodore Falls walking beside beautiful cascades and waterfalls that were still frozen in parts and glittering as the sun came through the trees. I started to understand how to use light and dark contrasts on my camera at this point - I still have a  lot to learn (as you can see from the photos) but at least I know the technique.

As we were on a trial run for the guided walks rather than an official one, we decided to cross the river over some stones rather than continue up to the footbridge. It was an interesting few minutes. David hopped across like a mountain goat, I demonstrated that walking poles can actually be useful (thanks for lending me one Mark) and Mark demonstrated that his walking boots were in fact waterproof.
Same view......
....different light/dark contrasts
 Our next stop was Surprise View just above Ashness Bridge. It is a little clearing at the edge of the woods on a crag that looks across Derwent Water to Keswick, Skiddaw, Catbells and all the way down to Bassenthwaite. Another photography lesson followed and I bravely took my camera off its automatic setting for the first time... For me this is real progress. I was given my camera by a friend recently who was upgrading so it is the best camera I have ever had. I know very little about all its features and functions though so understanding even a small amount what it is capable of has made a real difference. The quality of the colour of the sky is so much better – it actually captures the colour and contrast I am seeing with my eyes much better, rather than the sky being too light.
Surprise View

Watendlath Tarn
The hamlet of Watendlath was our next stop and we followed a gentle rocky path. There is a cafe at Watendlath (which may or may not be open, it keeps its own hours) and the most stunning tarn. I chatted a lot to David on the way up the hill out of Watendlath. It was totally by chance David got into the research and filming side of the Lake District, starting with some programmes being made by writer and broadcaster Eric Robson. Every conversation I had with him I learned something new about the Lake District – particularly the literary links. As we made our way into Rosthwaite, David explained that William Wordsworth had once stayed at the Scafell Hotel and had had to share a room with a pedlar owing to a lack of space. Now that was definitely the random fact of the day. After a swift refreshment break at the Scafell Hotel bar, we headed back towards the jaws of Borrowdale along the lower slopes of Castle Crag and the river Derwent.

The weather had turned much colder and there were even a few flurries of snow at this point so it became a walk more about history and insights rather than photography (if it does rain on the walks though they have that catered for so photos can still be taken). I knew about the history of Milican Dalton, a hermit who used to live in a cave on Castle Crag but I had never found the cave. David of course took us straight there (albeit on a more adventurous route that usual) and lo and behold there was a two-storey cave with living quarters below and the bedroom up and to the right. Positively roomy! Inscribed on the wall of the cave by Milican Dalton himself is the phrase:

“Don’t waste words. Jump to conclusions”

A brilliant phrase!
Milican Dalton's cave

It was then just a short walk back to our starting point of Grange. The walk was about six hours but it was done at a relaxed pace to allow time for photography, to talk and for refreshment breaks. I ended the walk with a better level of photography skill based on a few basic tips and a much better knowledge of the area we had been walking in. More importantly however, I had an absolutely grand day out in a wonderful part of the Lake District and in great company. 

I would highly recommend this guided walk with photography tips. David and Mark have dates and locations set for the summer so go onto their "A view, a camera and you" page and book yourself onto one. I am definitely going on more of them so I might see you there.
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  1. Always great to see things from a different perspective - especially if you are with informed, and pleasant, people :-)

    1. Thank you Tracey - you are right. Great people :-)