THE ENGLISH LAKE DISTRICT
Where to begin in summing up a place of pilgrimage that personal dreams have been spun around for decades? Arguably the best place to both start and finish is with the National Trust, probably the greatest influence in maintaining the integrity of this beloved and inspiring national 'monument', largely unspoilt by commercialisation and kept almost exclusive by the honesty to call a damp place wet and the sense to keep it mostly dark at night.
In half a century of regular visits, or 'fixes' in my case, it's never become boring or repetitive, no place looking the same twice regardless of how many times revisited; little wonder the Romantic Poets Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey made it their own, immortalising it for the next two hundred years - and counting.
In the context and general pictorial theme of this website, the Lake District offers mobile skies and their amazing and almost constant shifts of light, a kaleidoscope changing with every shake of the head, each blink of the eye.
Rarely less than sumptuously green, the insistence on maintaining native woodland within its boundaries makes it unique amongst Britain's upland National Parks. Dominated by oak and ash, areas such as Borrowdale, suffering or maybe even enjoying the notoriety of having the highest rainfall levels in Britain, are rich in a variety of lichens, mosses and liverwort; to say nothing of the profusion of fungi appearing in late Summer/early Autumn around the western lakes: Ceps, Chanterelles, Saffron Milk Caps and Birch Bolete Mushrooms among the more prized species.
The largely deciduous nature of the Park's trees and its carpet of heathers provides a constantly changing palette of hues and views the year round, but particularly between April and November, while the winter months reveal the full majesty of the older trees' intricate structures against a backdrop of more sombre seasonal monotones.
And then there are the Lakes themselves: shallow, deep; dark, brightly reflective; welcoming, forbidding; long, short; wide, narrow; small, expansive; wild, cultured; gentle, rugged; left to themselves or tapped as reservoirs; glass-like, choppy; even tragic*, but there's nothing to beat the magic of a frosty dawn, when not a ripple disturbs the reflection of those ancient hills surrounding Buttermere, Crummock or countless other waters as the moon slinks home after an illuminating night and the Park's oldest inhabitants wake to usher in a new day.
Passionate about all the dales, valleys, becks, waters and lakes for their endless variety and natural finery, my personal favourites have to be remote Wasdale and scree-sided Wastwater, deepest of them all and proudly guarded by the highest of England's old rocks. Coming in on foot from Borrowdale and descending into Wasdale Head passing Great Gable and Lingmell, with Sca Fell to the left, is a memorable experience, whatever the weather or season.
Perhaps it's best that The Lake District remains that dream that can be revisited time and again rather than be lived in: better a regular visitor than an 'offcomer' be.
If there's one regret it's that self-serving politicians have re-drawn the Park's boundaries over the years and relegated two of its original hosts, Cumberland and Westmorland, to the history books and sundry atmospheric etchings. As long as they don't rename it 'Waterworld' one day, we'll have to live with 'Cumbria' and hope that people respect it for what it so gloriously is and not for what it might 'make'; and that Wordsworth can rest in peace forever in St.Oswald's churchyard, close to Sarah Nelson's Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, to preside in spirit over each new season's host of golden daffodils.
No wind farms - please!
*Worth a read: 'Haweswater' by Sarah Hall