I have seen such beauty over the past few days that even the gods would weep for joy. Eight hundred miles driven, as many photographs …
I left home in the early hours of Wednesday morning for the north to meet my son, to take him to places his wheelchair cannot. Roadworks and accidents delayed me and it was a straight six hour drive. But I was greeted by a perfect rainbow framing the hills… then a quick coffee and we were off again, back onto the motorway to catch a glimpse of the Yorkshire Dales as we headed for Kirkstone Pass. There was no time to waste… the sun sets early in the north in December.
The narrow road links Ullswater and Windermere, running through Patterdale, high in the Lake District. The road gets its name from an outcrop of rock that stands near the summit of the Pass. In silhouette it looks like a church steeple… and ‘kirk’ is an old word for church .The road climbs steeply to almost 1500ft, winding its way between lakes and fells, streams and rocks. Great boulders are simply built in to the dry stone walls that snake across the landscape and the clouds come down to play.
Perhaps it is that which gives the light that opalescent quality… perhaps the air is so full of moisture that rainbows dance in every misty breath… whatever it is, there is something about a northern sky that sings to my heart. I may… possibly… have mentioned that before…
In summer the area is full of tourists coming to drink in the wild beauty of Cumbria… in winter the roads are empty, the skies iron-clad and the wildness complete. Waterfalls tumble down hillsides, trees raise skeletal fingers to heaven and twisted roots cling precariously to fellside and shoreline.
Every stopping place opens on to a new vista… I know… we stopped at every one so that my son could take photographs… and of course, I did too. It was bitterly cold, windy… the sky ranged from dark to bright as the clouds raced, sending shafts of light streaming through the hills. Almost, almost the light allowed us to capture something of the beauty… almost… but not enough.
High above Windermere we pulled in beside a stone wall and got out of the car. My son and I leaning on the wall, drinking in the light on the lake below, both of us torn between a desire to try and capture what we were seeing and a need to simply look and be there.
We dropped down into Ambleside then skirted the lake’s northern tip to find the road to Coniston. The light was fading, softly pink on the water. Breaks in the cloud let the sun light the hills, picking out the last colour of autumn like flames. As the sun set we headed back towards the hotel and the seafront, catching the last blaze of colour over the water.
We had shared six hours of wonderment and awe in a landscape that is so beautiful and magical my son said he knows now what heaven looks like.