I used to be a city dweller, with the seasons passing by me in a blur, a blink of an eye. Moving to the Lake District, a significant change of pace and lifestyle, I found myself subtly starting to tune into the everyday changes which used to pass me by, too wrapped up in my own thoughts or the daily commute. From the way the air feels crisper, the clouds often lingering over the hills waiting for the warmth of the morning sun; to the slow demise of nature shifting into hibernation. During my first autumn, I kept a journal to record these changes, those quiet moments and observations which are so easy to miss during the rush of our busy lives. Drawn from that journal, here is a snapshot of that autumn past in the Lake District.
26th September – Keswick, North Lake District `
“I feel a rush of joy at the first hints of autumn in Fitz Park, the view from my bedroom window. The maple tree slowly turning crimson. The beech leaves caught in a dance between summer and autumn; the inside of the leaf still steadfastly green whilst the edges are frayed and withered. On my morning walk, I smile at the gleeful delight from a little girl finding a conker amongst the autumn debris. Her joy echoes around the park as she prises it from its prickly home and proudly holds the treasure in the palm of her tiny hand. I venture through town and down to the lakeshore to Derwentwater, the vibrant summery greens of the ferns and bracken which cover the familiar arched curve of Catbells mountain are beginning to wane to fiery tones.”
30th September – Borrowdale Valley, North Lake District
“I’m on the hunt for the mysterious Bowder Stone, an enormous rock balancing on one side which was found by an eccentric local in 1798. Today, the footpath is dotted with wild mushrooms – red and white toadstools and the tawny coloured chanterelles hiding amongst the morning dew which clings to the long grass. The last of the blackberries which have escaped the birds and humans glisten in the low autumn sun. I venture further down the valley to Stonethwaite, climbing the wooded footpath towards Dock Tarn and turn back to marvel at the autumn hues that have swept over this underrated valley. Using a leftover pumpkin, I’ve made a velvety soup, lifted by a hint of chilli and packed it into a flask. I perch on a rock next to a tumbling waterfall, my hiking boots buried under a sea of crisp leaves with the deep earthy scent of the forest floor drifting through the air. A moment of calm against a backdrop of change.
16th October – Rydal, Central Lake District
“An early evening trip to Rydal at golden hour, that magical time just before sunset when the light dances on the mountains like a theatre spotlight.Nab Scar looms over the lake, a dabbled mirror of russet and gold. A hardy swimmer creates soft ripples on the surface on his way to one of the lakes small islands. I follow the undulating path which hugs the shoreline and underneath Loughrigg fell, the jewel-like red berries of a sole rowan tree on the shore glinting in the evening light. The path leads me into the darkness of the White Moss wood, the air rich with the damp moss littered in its rocky outcrops. The distant hoot of an owl signals home time. “
26th October – Grasmere, Central Lake District
“The dying days of autumn, before winter takes an icy hold. On my way to Grasmere, I pass the Thirlmere reservoir, where the larch trees are now a deep yellow and low, eerie clouds linger on the peaks surrounding Helvellyn. Waterfalls pour off the hillside after days of rain. The road climbs up to Dunmail Raise, an invisible marker dividing the rugged, dramatic north and softer, more undulating south Lake District. The descent leads me to Grasmere where the streets are lined with falling leaves from the cherry tree and delicate Japanese acers. The sky is painted with the faint curls of chimney smoke from the neighbouring houses, reminiscent of a time when poets such as Wordsworth gazed at this beauty and felt inspired to pen lyrical verses. I cosy down in one of the many cafes for a steaming pot of tea, cradling the mug to warm my scarlet fingers after a bracing walk along the River Rothay. A thin layer of early evening mist suddenly engulfs the village making it feel unfamiliar and otherworldly, the sweet scent of ginger and molasses from the famous neighbouring gingerbread shop lingers in the chill of the fading autumn light. “
As I sit there gazing out of the window, I reflect on how for me, this is the eternal joy of autumn here in the Lake District: its unpredictability. From the dark and stormy skies, where the rain lashes uncontrollably; to those fleeting flashes of sunlight illuminating the seasonal tones. If you are lucky, maybe a brilliant, bright crisp day where the blue skies sparkle beneath the ever-changing landscape. You never quite know which kind of autumn day you will get.