Buttermere

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.

Author: writingandphotography0531

My name is Gerald Murphy. I am a retired local government officer. At the time of my retirement I was an IT manager and had associated responsibilities for training. I had previously been involved, in various organisations, with aspects of industrial training and management development. My main hobby is photography and, until 2016, hillwalking in Snowdonia. Sciatica has put an end to mountain walks and, as a carer for my wife, opportunities for photography excursions are now more limited. Since July 2022, I have started using this site as a photobook.

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