On a hot Summer’s day a couple of years ago, I took a wrong turn whilst driving through the busy town of Ambleside in the Lake District National Park, UK. Within minutes I was astounded by the views to my left, overlooking what I assumed was a tarn. I kept driving, enjoying the ride which was much more tranquil than bustling Ambleside. I then spotted the infamous Langdale Pikes in the distance, so I decided to stop and explore this wonderful place. After a few minutes walk it turned out I had arrived at the small village of Elterwater, in the valley of Great Langdale. What I assumed was a small tarn turned out to be Elter Water Lake, about half a mile from the village. It’s the smallest of the 16 lakes in the Lake District but as I found, it is not without its special moments. I returned to Elterwater last Summer but didn’t take any images and promised myself I would go back, which I did just recently to work on this photo-essay.
Like many rural areas now, tourism is the leading source of income for the locals, despite a rich farming and quarrying history (as well as gunpowder manufacture!). In fact, the local quarry is still in use and you will regularly hear explosions as they extract slate. Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem out of place when it happens and it always becomes a talking point for tourists who are startled by its historical echoes.
Bang in the centre of the village is The Britannia Inn. A bustling hub for hikers and it swells with people in Summer months, craving the fine local ales and wholesome pub food. The menu is actually more upscale than a traditional pub and uses locally sourced seasonal produce only. The atmosphere is always jovial as people share their tales from the day’s hike and comparing past travels, especially whilst sat outside on the sizeable terrace enjoying the Sun (and refreshingly cold ale!). Sitting outside, in good company, with good food and drink, it really is a place where you can just forget about the stresses of everyday living.
Elterwater is the kind of place where you can walk off in any direction and come across nature’s beauty. Due to its central location, it is the ideal base for hiking, cycling and climbing. The National Trust manages a car park right in the centre of the village, next to the bowling green, about a 1-minute walk from the Britannia Inn. The car park can get busy so I recommend you arrive early where possible and National Trust members like myself park for free (another great reason to join).
To the right of the car park is a large gate (almost facing the bridge), which is the starting point of the Elterwater walk, where a well maintained and flat trail will take you alongside the River Brathay onto Elter Water Lake and finally to Skelwith Force and Colwith Force Waterfalls. This simple walk is suitable for all ages and once you get past the modest forest area beside the river, space opens up to outstanding views of the lake and surrounding valleys and mountains. The mighty Langdale Pikes will look down upon you from several vantage points during the walk.
You will also encounter plenty of friendly wildlife including sheep, grazing cows (in a gated area), many species of birds and large ‘whooper’ swans that have famously migrated to the lake for centuries. They fly in from Scandinavia and Siberia during Winter months (i’m told). Elterwater is privately owned, but the National Trust manages the land near the banks of the river/lake where the footpaths are, offering the sweeping views. Remember to respect the land and the wildlife and do not litter. You may also see signs asking you to keep dogs on a leash if cows are grazing.
I hope you enjoy this series of images I took from early morning to afternoon recently, where you can see fluctuations in the light. It was a cold day especially to start but the light was pretty amazing and nature shared blue skies before mid-day! Open and limited edition prints are available from my STORE in A5, A4 & A3 sizes. If you see a photograph here that is not in the store, feel free to get in touch.
National Trust, Elterwater, Red Bank, Cumbria, Great Langdale, LA22 9HN.
Photography & words by Ian Cole for Client Voyage
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