Through The Viewfinder and What Alice Found There
In June 2014 I hiked around the Kentmere Horseshoe in the Lake District with my dad, and ever since completing it I've wanted to go back and do it again! Unfortunately, the day we chose was extremely foggy with very little visibility, which not only meant we got lost a few times on the top of some of the fells, it also meant we didn't get any good views for me to take photographs of! Since then, we've never got round to walking it again but we have talked about doing the Fairfield Horseshoe aswell which is near Ambleside. After still never getting chance to walk either of the horseshoes since last summer, we eventually arranged to walk the Fairfield one! I finished work at my university placement a few weeks ago, and the week after that we set a date for the walk - no turning back!
So, on the morning of the walk a few weeks ago we packed up early ready to leave the house at 8am and set off in the car towards Ambleside. After checking the weather forecast repeatedly we still couldn't decide what it was going to be like - all I hoped was that it wouldn't be foggy! We parked in Ambleside then set off up the first fells which were Low Pike and High Pike, leading to Dove Crag. The weather was dry when we set off and looked a bit hazy looking back down over Lake Windermere, but so far so good and no thick fog! After a few hours of walking / rock climbing up the first part of the horseshoe, we stopped for a drink and a KitKat Chunky, then continued on our way up. On a few occasions we found ourselves surrounded by thick bog so we had to be careful not to fall in and try and jump across using stones to step on, which at times was quite hard especially with all my camera equipment on my back which put me off balance a bit!
When we got up onto Hart Crag, we were roughly in the middle of the horseshoe and the views were spectacular! On a bright clear day you can apparently see Scotland and the Isle of Man! We took our time walking along the middle ridge of the horseshoe so I could take photos of the views, then made our way along to the summit of Fairfield.
By the time we got up to Fairfield it was about 12pm so we agreed to head down and start the descent then have dinner at 1pm along the ridge somewhere. As we started to head down we noticed the clouds had thickened and were fast approaching from all sides of us! We quickly decided to have dinner on a little sheltered patch of ground just off from the path and as we sat down it looked like the clouds were clearing again...until we looked behind us! The route we had just walked up and over was all of a sudden covered in thick black cloud, then the rain started and it looked so dark and gloomy that you would easily have got lost up on Fairfield in it! We were very lucky to have got down when we did - as we finished eating it started spitting light rain but it only lasted a few minutes. The rest of the walk down we managed to stay dry and watched as the rain fell all around us - we seemed to have the only clear patch of sky above us which was good!
The walk down took us over Great Rigg, Heron Pike, and finally Nab Scar. The views coming down were once again fantastic! At one stage we could see Lake Windermere, Rydal Water, Grasmere, and Coniston which made some beautiful photos! I've recently been giving panoramic photography a go so I've been looking out for interesting views like the ones from the last bit of the horseshoe. I use either my standard 18-55mm lens, or my wide angle 10-17mm lens, hold it portrait, and take about 6-10 shots all next to one another with about 30% overlap. It doesn't matter too much about keeping the camera steady or getting them exactly in line, as long as you remember a reference point within the frame that you can use to match up the shots as you move along - for example a tree, or a boat on the lake. I then open all the images in Photoshop (you can also use Photoshop Elements) and click on File > Automate > Photomerge. Choose the Auto option then Add Open Files, then click OK. Photoshop will then layer up your images and match up the edges to create your panorama! All you have to do then is crop it how you'd like and double check everything is matched up properly before saving it! I love the effect of panoramic images - I have a wide angle lens which I often use for my landscapes as you can fit a lot more in the frame, but panoramic photography gives a whole different perspective and you can fit loads more in but with a tighter crop which often makes the images more striking.
Coming down from Nab Scar we joined onto a road that leads down past Rydal Mount (one of Wordsworth's houses in the 1800's) and Rydal Hall (formerly home to the Le Fleming family from approx 1126 - the early 1960's), then along a footpath which took us all the way back to Ambleside. Overall, the walk was 11.96 miles and took us 7 hours and 11 minutes (according to my GPS route tracker I took with me)! The walk was really enjoyable, even though some parts of the ascent were quite tiring due to having to rock climb in parts, and there were also lots of deep boggy areas which could be quite difficult to cross! However, once we'd made it to the top it was a very satisfying feeling to be able to look down and see what we'd just climbed up! The walk included 8 Wainwrights (Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Heron Pike, and Nab Scar) which now brings my total number up to 19 Wainwrights - still a long way to go until I've done all 214 of them! I'd like to do the walk again, maybe on a slightly clearer day to see how far off the coast I can see, and I'd still like to do the Kentmere Horseshoe again aswell, seeing as I got no views at all up there last time! But in the meantime, the next Wainwright I'd like to conquer is Helvellyn! Watch this space for future posts about it!
Landscape & travel photographer from Cumbria, UK.