In September 2019, as a birthday gift from my wife, I treated myself to an overnight stay in the English Lake District. I wanted a sunrise photograph of the famous lone tree at Lake Buttermere.
The drive there across the Newlands Pass was an adventure in itself. Often described as perilously steep, it’s a single-track road, twisting for much of its 6.8 miles and there are some unforgiving dry-stone walls guarding sheer drops. I had to watch out for approaching cars because there weren’t many passing places – but there were some wonderful views. I just wasn’t able to stop the car to photograph them.
Eventually, I reached the hotel that I’d booked at nearby Crummock Water and left my bag there while I reconnoitred the area. I walked initially to Buttermere village adjoining the Lake Buttermere and called in a hotel there for a meal before I followed a path to the lakeside to find the lone tree. I knew that, to secure the best chance of a sunrise shot, I’d be retracing my steps from the village the following morning in almost total darkness. I was also aware that there would probably be other photographers who’d have the same idea, and I wanted to secure a good viewpoint.
The tree itself, when I found it, is a spindly thing that takes its appeal from the background of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks mountain peaks viewed across the lake. Once I’d checked my bearings, I walked back to the village, and then by a track I found that led me to Crummock Water where I took some photographs that will feature later in this photobook.
The following morning, I left the hotel at 4am with my camera and tripod plus a headtorch and hand-torch to light my way via the village to the tree. I almost walked past it but was pleased to see that I was alone. I set up my tripod, mounted my camera on it, and set it up for the settings I expected to be using. Just as daylight began to reveal the scene, I was joined by two other photographers who negotiated positions between themselves. I think that we were all disappointed that there was no glorious sunrise that morning because of the cloud cover – and a breeze was disturbing the stillness of the water. I was sad because I couldn’t see myself returning to try again, but in retrospect, I think that, if there were ever to be a next time, I’d use a different viewpoint with the tree positioned in the gap between Fleetwith Pike and the ridge to its left.
Once I’d taken all the lone tree shots that I felt would be worth taking, I wandered back towards the path to the village, but stopped to take a photo of a line of fencing that led into the lake. The light had changed and there were some lovely reflections. I then returned to the hotel via Crummock Water where I took some more shots before breakfast.
After a pleasant meal and a chat with other guests, I checked out, but left my case and car at the hotel while I returned to the village for a circular walk around Buttermere.
The path that I’d planned to follow was closed, so I took the advised detour to the lakeside path and followed a very wet track to the point where Sourmilk Ghyll flowed, from Bleaberry Tarn above, into Buttermere, close to the bridge that I would have crossed but for the diversion. Needless to say, I took some photographs.
Continuing my counter-clockwise walk, I was delighted to come across a beautiful little lone tree that stood among rocks and bowed to the lake. I liked it much better than the one everyone seemed to rave about.
As I progressed, the Sun appeared now and then – at one point illuminating a group of lakeside trees while ignoring Fleetwith Pike.
As I neared the Southernmost end of the lake, I could see Warnscale Beck as it descended into the lake from between Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks.
I had lunch at the far end of Buttermere. I was tired and hot by now as the Sun had finally decided to stay for the rest of the day, but I decided to continue my walk rather than wait for a bus back to the village. Soon, I had a lovely view back to the mountains, the Sentinels (the line of trees) and the side where I’d been walking in the morning.
Not long before I reached the Northern end of the lake, I was attracted by the view beneath the branches of a tree.
I did get another chance before I found my way back to the village to take another shot of the lone tree. That photo remains on my hard drive now, but I don’t think that it warrants a place in this online selection of favourite images.