Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Cumbria in Photographs by Steve Pipe

Cumbria through the seasons

Each year Cumbria sees in excess of 15 million visitors and many of them come between Easter and October, which is a shame as Cumbria is a county of year round beauty. This ever changing beauty is something I tried to show in my Cumbria in Photographs book; capturing the colours and the activities is less of a challenge than capturing the atmosphere and feeling of the changing seasons; here are a few of my favourite seasonal moments which I think show the county at its finest.

Spring

Rhododendrons at Wastwater. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

For me spring is a season of colour, especially if we’ve had a particularly long winter, and the rhododendrons at Wastwater really show that off. I remember taking that shot; it was a beautiful spring day, crisp and clear with a gentle warmth from the sun. Taking the perfect picture often involves a lot of hanging around so it’s nice when the weather warms up and makes things a little more comfortable. Even the small things like taking your time over lunch rather than hiding behind a tree or a rock for shelter and wolfing something down before your hands go numb, make a big difference.

The county is awash with snowdrops, crocuses and bluebells but surely it’s our daffodils which are most famous, thanks to Mr Wordsworth. They were really late flowering this year due to the Beast from the East bringing some late snows and the daffodils photo was the very last one I took for the book, just a few days before the deadline. I kept visiting to check on their progress and wasn’t sure they’d be out in time, but thankfully they just made it.

Summer

Kelly Hall Tarn. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

The challenge in summer can be escaping the crowds and finding a little peace and quiet and there are a few excellent “off the beaten track” sites in the book. Devoke Water and Kelly Hall Tarn are both usually pretty quiet, as are the fells to the south of Haweswater where you can often wander around all day and only see a few other people.

If crowds are your thing then there are plenty of events on throughout the summer months where you can enjoy some of the more traditional aspects of life in the county. Many of the shows began as farming meets which, in the years before the phone and digital communication, played a vital role in local life. They are usually well advertised locally and are definitely worth a visit. As well as an increasing number of modern athletics events you’ll also be able to see local wrestling and hound trailing – both events are unique to the county.

Autumn

The Milky Way over Castlerigg Stone Circle. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

As the nights draw in the county begins to glow with the glorious colours of autumn. The leaves on the trees turn through various shades of reds, golds and browns and the fells follow suit as the bracken dies back. Autumn is a great time to enjoy the dark skies above the county too; we have low levels of light pollution and, when the weather is clear, it’s easy to spot the arm of the Milky Way arcing high overhead.

Autumn is also the best season to spot an inversion – when the clouds stay in the valleys leaving the fell tops clear. Although many inversions are gone by lunchtime some can last for several days so, as was the case with the Windermere inversion in the book. There’s nothing quite like hiking or driving up a hillside through thick fog then suddenly emerging into crisp clear sunshine, especially when you’ve got a full flask of hot tea and a rucksack full of sandwiches.

 

Winter

Flying over Ullswater. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

The county is pretty much empty though the winter months. Many of the villages with high numbers of holiday homes become ghost towns and there’s no problem finding parking in even the most popular of spots. Although Cumbrian winters can be harsh, they can also be incredibly beautiful – though it’s best to make sure you’re well layered up with plenty of thermals. Crunching through the snow on top of a high fell is a wonderful experience, but only if you’re properly kitted out.

One time when you’ll find plenty of people on the high fells is Remembrance Sunday when people gather at the war memorials dotted around the Lake District summits. The most well attended event is on top of Great Gable where, whatever the weather, several hundred people gather for a short service of remembrance.

Last year I was lucky enough to enjoy a ride in a Gyrocopter which allowed me to take a couple of aerial shots for the book. It was a fantastic experience but perishing cold; I’d definitely do it again, but perhaps in the summer next time.

Steve Pipe's new book Cumbria in Photographs is available for purchase now.