Calm After the Storm

The past few months have been fairly hectic. University assignments have ranged from writing an article and designing its magazine layout, a 3500 word report discussing a client project and an exhibition designed from scratch.

There was a week or so once these were all submitted, then lectures started again. The blessing (or curse, as far as I’m concerned) of third year is we only have lectures on one day, leaving the rest of the week disconcertingly empty. This has made my need to stay busy ever greater, so this week we chose the driest day to go for a hill walk in the Lakes. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t taken my camera out for a long time, so it was time to dust it off.

The wildlife highlight came before we’d even left Grasmere. Zahrah’s keen eyes spotted a red squirrel hopping around not far from the road – obviously this one was accustomed to the comings and goings of Grasmere’s inhabitants. While Kerr and Conor fussed over the map, Zahrah and I watched the squirrel forage at the foot of a tree. Inevitably, I didn’t have my telephoto lens so I just enjoyed the view. Once the boys had figured out our route, we set off into the hills, blowing off the cobwebs that had gathered from being cooped up working.


A Day in the Fells

As we turned into the car park at Honister Pass, the clouds were grumbling. Geoff Cox appeared and shook my hand in greeting, with the same kindliness he might offer to his closest friend. Having roamed the fells since childhood, the bracing chill and spattering rain are all too familiar to him. A gust of wind blew me sideways as I struggled to catch the flyaway sleeve of my coat and hastily zip it up. Pulling a hat firmly down on my head, I gazed up at the fells. The day was bleak, and an ominous mist obscured the tops of the hills, which would provide a dramatic background for filming.

Today marked the penultimate day of shooting for the second documentary about Geoff’s experiences as a fell runner. During his sixtieth year he attempted to run three notorious Lake District endurance-running rounds: in the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge and Gerry Charnley he was successful, but the Bob Graham round defeated him. The film we’d be shooting today was a reflection of this unsuccessful round, and how Geoff found redemption to complete the Charnley. Geoff wrote poems about each round to process these challenging ordeals, and approached filmmaker Richard Berry to transform his words into films. Today, I was joining them to see what happened behind the scenes.

We set off, following Geoff and the other endurance runners up the first incline. Before long it became evident just how comfortable they were on this terrain; while I took my time negotiating uneven and slippy rocks, the rest of the group hiked with confidence and admirable swiftness. As we climbed higher, I was told that the views up here were usually breathtaking, but the fog hung over the entire horizon like an impenetrable curtain. We were completely enclosed, walking along a single clear track with white walls on all sides. “Drifting in the Skiddaw mist”, Geoff wrote in his poem; how apt this line was today.

Now 62, Geoff has been fell running for decades, and can’t remember a specific time when this habit became a continuous routine in his life. “Work and family pressures meant I needed a sport I could focus on which didn’t need other people,” Geoff explained, “With running I could drop everything and go anytime, day or night.”

Fell running in the wilderness of the Lake District is a lonely and secluded past time, something Geoff often welcomes. “I needed a place where I could have a bit of ‘me time’. Society seems to look upon somebody who needs these extended periods of time in isolation as strange and even a bit weird. Long days running in the hills gave me what I needed; something about the independence and self-sufficiency was very appealing.”

In a few hours we reached the right place to begin the day’s filming. Director Richard and camera operator Kerr McNicoll set up and before long shooting was in full swing. Agile as mountain goats, the runners cascaded down the rocky slopes with impressive assertiveness. Surrounded by the silent fells, the only sounds were the cracking of the colliding rocks and soft squelch of mud as feet drove through. Puffs of breath spilled into the sky, and as the runners headed further off, the mist soon swallowed them.

“And again!” Richard shouted, the echo of his words bouncing for miles. After a few moments, the group appeared again. From this distance they looked like small dashes of coloured paint on a white page – the only distinguishable features of the landscape. They looped around a small lake, reflections bouncing on the water. After several takes of this shot it was time for cake – a delicious fruitcake made by Jim, one of the runners. This burst of energy was welcomed with open arms, and once Richard had filmed Geoff scaling a large rocky outcrop on his gimbal, we began to snake back through the fells, gathering footage on the way and constantly referring to Geoff’s poems to capture the essence of his experiences and narrative.

Writing poetry has helped Geoff to process the challenges and obstacles associated with endurance running. “I started writing poetry as a way of processing the mental and emotional garbage floating around in my head, or ‘mental detritus’ as I call it. Prose didn’t work because it has the wrong rhythm. Poetry allowed me to talk about what I’m thinking and meant that I could introduce the pace and metre that matched my memories.”

One of these memories took the form of white theatrical masks, worn by three of the runners looking over their shoulders at Geoff while he hung back, exhausted and near defeat. It was an intriguing idea and as we walked back through the fells I asked Geoff why he decided to include masks in the film. “They’re a symbol of how small doubts kick in and grow more insistent as the run goes on” he explained, “So we made them progressively more obvious throughout. ” This feeling of doubt was linked to people coming out to support Geoff while he competes and the pressure of not letting them down, a burden that can hang heavy on a runner under such physical and emotional strain.

I was astonished to hear that the masks were also a representation of hallucinations that Geoff said will be very familiar to long distance fell runners out on the hills for 24 hours or more. This “sleep monster” phenomenon is a result of exhaustion and sleep deprivation. “My particular version seems to be that I find myself running across strips of beautifully patterned Axminster carpet” Geoff told me, “All the time I’m thinking ‘It’s amazing that somebody has been up here and laid this carpet across these mountains!’”

Fell running in the Lake District is not for the faint-hearted. Unpredictable weather, unforgiving terrain, and a vast secluded landscape, and all with a burning in your legs. Even today, after walking seven miles, I returned to the warm café with aching knees. Geoff has proven that age is no match for will and determination, and is continuously training for new rounds to run. For him, fell running is more than exercise but a way of managing stress and even inspiring poetry. Spending time with him and the other runners opened my eyes to a life spent high above the ground, where so few people think to look.

Things to Do in the Lakes

For the past two weeks I’ve been on an internship at Student and Graduate Publishing. I’ve been writing non-stop for their three online magazines. This article on the Lake District was written for Study International. 

In July 2017, the Lake District officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it part of a group of iconic locations across the world alongside the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu and the Grand Canyon. There are sixteen official lakes in the Lake District, each surrounded by stunning scenery and with plenty of things to see and do. Whatever your interest, the Lake District has so much to offer. So if you’re studying in the North West of England, take a look at what you could be planning for your next weekend trip.

Coniston Boating

For the adventurous, there is lots of sporting fun to be had on Coniston Water. Stretching five miles long and watched over by a mountain called the Old Man of Coniston, the lake boasts a wide range of possibilities for boating. Enjoy the sights on a motor boat, or perhaps try a more hands-on approach with rowing boats, paddle boards or canoes. Take a look at the Coniston Boating Service to book online and find out more. There are also bikes available for hire, for those who’d rather stay on dry land.

All that time on the water is bound to build up an appetite. Situated right on the shore is the Bluebird Cafe, where you can enjoy freshly-made cakes, ice cream or hot drinks, depending on the weather.

Derwentwater and the Theatre by the Lake

Another of the beautiful Lakes is Derwentwater, a site that has been named a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) due to the wide range of flora and fauna that inhabit the water and surrounding shores. One species that resides in the lake is the Vendace fish, Britain’s rarest freshwater fish.

In addition to being able to walk the entire circumference of Derwentwater, there is also the Theatre by the Lake, situated right on the shore. A wide range of events are shown here, whether your interest is theatre, film or music. The annual Words by the Water literary festival takes place here too, where famous authors gather to discuss and sell their works. A brochure of upcoming events can be found on the Theatre by the Lake website.

Visit Beatrix Potter

Relive a classic from your childhood and visit the quaint 17th century farmhouse of Beatrix Potter, nestled in idyllic Ambleside. Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top after the success of her first few books, and her visits to the Lake District were spent sketching the house and garden for new stories. Infamous characters such as Jemima Puddleduck and Tom Kitten were created in this picturesque cottage, along with many landscapes that featured in her books.

Anyone who enjoys a bit of British history will love exploring the cottage, with its quaint interior and surrounding garden exploding with flowers, as well as fruit and vegetable patches where Peter Rabbit could be hiding.

Upon her death in 1943, Beatrix Potter left Hill Top to the National Trust, insisting that the site remained completely untouched. So as you wander through the entrance hall with a pot of tea waiting on the table, it almost seems as if Miss Potter is still living there. Read more information from the National Trust about this beautiful cottage and what there is to discover there.

Here For Your Entertainment

On Friday we went on a field trip to The Lake District Wildlife Park. In Alex’s lectures we’ve been studying the behaviour of animals in captivity, so visited the park to see if we could see any of the same signs in the animals they kept there.


It hadn’t been too long since my last visit to a zoo, but maybe it was the presence of four other wildlife students that instilled different feelings in me this time. The small size of the enclosures seemed more obvious and I couldn’t help feeling uneasy as I watched the lynx pace up and down and the raptors attempt to fly off the metal perches they were tied down to. I could photograph the bald, golden and tawny eagles in vivid detail, but I knew deep down it was cheating and the photos I was taking were no different to those of hundreds of other visitors.


The reason I love photography is it captures a moment in time that cannot be exactly replicated ever again. It freezes a memory and provides a very intimate insight into the photographer’s mind. So as I stood in front of a tethered bird that couldn’t escape my camera or my gaze, I soon realised this was not how children should experience wildlife.

Ticking off birds from my wish list was part of the charm that got me interested in wildlife. It was going out, tracking a bird and watching it live its life that gave me a sense of pride. Not only had I had an adventure in the great outdoors, but I’d discovered a species I’d never seen and sometimes got photos to show for it. During my time on the Isle of Carna we attempted to track down golden eagles on a boat trip on Loch Sunart. We were extremely lucky to get a glimpse of the magnificent bird as it perched high up in the tree canopy.

Anyone with £8.95 in their pocket can go to the Lakes Wildlife Park and see a golden eagle, but where’s the fun in that? If the same children who see a captive golden eagle were to see one in the wild, I’m certain that experience would last a lot longer in their memory.


Of course, I’m just talking about British wildlife. None of us in the UK are going to see a wild red panda or lar gibbon no matter how impressive our tracking skills, so in that respect zoos offer children the chance to see what wonderful animals roam our planet. While this is all well and good – and with the rate of extinction as rapid as it is, this may soon be the only way that the next generation can see certain species in the flesh – it’s just not “wild” life. And isn’t that the point? What next, we round up indigenous tribes and keep them in pens for people to stare at? Although some zoos have done wonderful work for conservation and provide a safe place for endangered animals to live unharmed, should it be up to us to decide whether a long, captive life is better than a short, free one?


Last of the Lakes

My friend George was just about to graduate from Wildlife Media, and during his time at university he wanted to visit all the lakes in the Lake District. Technically, only Bassenthwaite is considered a true lake, while all the others are classed as waters, meres and tarns. Still, we set technicalities aside.

The last on his list was Wastwater, England’s deepest ‘lake’ and lying west of the National Park. As he couldn’t get there without a car, I drove him and Zahrah there. Although the route was lengthy, it was worth every minute when we arrived.



Like so many other of my visits to the Lake District, I felt like I’d been transported to Canada or another exotic faraway destination. It always amazes me just how beautiful England can be – places such as Wastwater are a lot closer than similar locations abroad, and often just as incredible to see.


We wandered along beside the lake through a wooded area that kept the blinding sun out of our eyes. A Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) chirruped high up in the trees, silhouetted alongside the shadow-tipped leaves. By the shore a lone Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) hopped over the rocks.

It was refreshing to see an area of the Lake District National Park that hadn’t been overwhelmed by tourists. During our day at Wastwater we only saw a handful of people, most of them either dog walkers or cyclists. When the wind died down there was a deafening silence like time had stood still.


After a while we reached a quaint little bridge running over a stream. The only way to get down was to sneak underneath – it felt like entering a different world. On the other side we perched on the rocks and dipped our feet. The water was ice cold but we felt like characters from the Wind in the Willows, blissful and carefree.


I’m very glad George suggested going to Wastwater; it’s a beautiful location without much disturbance. During our lunch break we watched two wild swimmers bobbing about in the lake, something Zahrah and I would love to try. It’s sad that George will soon be graduating and leaving to continue his study in Salford; I hope we can still meet up during summer holidays and go on other adventures!

Experiencing Ennerdale

At the edge of Cumbria’s Lake District National Park lies Ennerdale Valley, a site of vast ecological restoration and astonishing beauty. The plan is “to allow the evolution of Ennerdale as a wild valley for the benefit of people, relying more on natural processes to shape its landscape and ecology” (Wild Ennerdale, 2016).



Wild Ennerdale is an on-going partnership between the National Trust, the Forestry Commission and United Utilities. There are several objectives for the site, including changes to farming, forestry, transport and water extraction. Our guide for the morning, Gareth Browning, works for the Forestry Commission, and took us on a whistle-stop tour of part of the valley. We walked for almost seven hours and barely scratched the surface.



“It’s more about us stepping back,” Gareth explained, “It’s about working alongside natural processes. Sometimes they speak louder than we can act.” It was inspiring to see an individual so keen on working for a brighter future, with nature in mind. All too often profit is the main concern. With Ennerdale, wildlife is the priority. As I walked around I realised I had visited very few wildlife locations I would consider completely wild with next to no human intervention. Most nature reserves have trodden down paths, numerous hides and bustling visitor centres. Out in the Valley, I felt like I’d disconnected from day-to-day existence. It was invigorating.



Initially the creation of Wild Ennerdale had some problems. Parts of the farming community have and continue to struggle to follow the concepts. “Some believe that high density sheep grazing is part of the Lake District culture,” Gareth told us. True, when I think of the Lakes sheep spring to mind, especially the innocent faces of the Herdies. However, it is without a doubt that sheep are a hindrance to wildlife, not a help. They act as living, breathing lawnmowers, gobbling away at the countryside and leaving a barren wasteland in their wake.

In response to the problem, Wild Ennerdale have decided to move from intensive sheep grazing to extensive cattle grazing in the valley instead. It is thought that they bring a positive impact to local habitats, as a result of their eating habits. Unlike sheep, cows are not selective when choosing what to eat, and their bulk has benefits too. By walking through bracken, cows can break up dead material and form paths through the vegetation. In addition, their size prevents them from accessing difficult steeper terrain, allowing parts of the land to continue growing ungrazed. This results in a patchwork effect, instead of the total disruption that sheep produce.

This change in livestock management seems to be taking effect. After conducting a ten-year-long survey from 2006 to this year, there has been a 50% increase in the abundance of bird species in the valley bottom, where sheep previously grazed. No doubt this is as a result of increased diversity of vegetation, allowing a greater insect population and attracting more birds to the area. It’s great to see that the work Wild Ennerdale is conducting is bringing about positive change.


Aside from the few human interventions, such as the introduction of cattle, Ennerdale remains fairly wild. But what exactly does wild mean? It seems everyone has a unique definition. To Gareth, “wildness is a human perception, not what nature feels.” He explained that most people compare natural surroundings to their urban life, so essentially all green spaces are wild in comparison to tarmac, metal and plastic. A red squirrel, Gareth pointed out, doesn’t consider its home wild; it’s what it has always been used to. The majority of us are just too accustomed to living in concrete jungles instead of real ones, so any change of environment seems like we’re in the wilderness, when in fact man has still made its mark in many different ways.


  • Wild Ennerdale (2016) Our Vision. Available at: (Accessed: 13 March 2016)

Winter Wonderland in Spring

Last Wednesday my boyfriend and I had a free day, so decided to go for a hill walk in the Lakes. As we scooted along the M6, the weather transformed from dry, drizzly to snowy. The experience felt like we were being transported through time. After having some lunch in Windermere, watching Goosanders and an array of swans and geese paddle by the water’s edge, we headed off into the wilderness.



What I find most magical about snow is the tranquillity that accompanies it. An almost eerie silence settles over the landscape, and even breathing sounds deafening. As we pulled on hats and gloves, I couldn’t stop gazing at the formidable rolling hills and dry stone walls dusted in icing sugar. It was bizarre to think that back in Carlisle, we hadn’t had a flake of snow, and here the scenery was thick with it.



We followed the sheep up the hill, who were far more sure-footed than I. Despite my horrendous balance, I only ended up falling on my face twice, which I considered an achievement. Every so often I couldn’t help but stop and drink in the landscape before me, spread out like an unrolled map. The vibrant blue sky against the pearly white hills looked like an illusion, too perfect to be real. For a moment I was ridiculously proud of my country, impressed with the magnificence of little old England. So many people shoot off abroad to enjoy stunning scenery, and don’t appreciate what they have a short drive away.




It really did feel like a different world up there, with only the sheep for company. At one point we stumbled across a set of vertebrae lying in the snow, presumably from an unlucky sheep. It was a bizarre find, but captivating all the same.



The ascent was a challenge, but worth every slip and stumble for the view from the top. Due to a threatening white-out that had already claimed a nearby peak, we refrained from climbing very high, but the sight was still breathtaking at six hundred metres . Even without the beautiful covering of snow, the contrasting textures and rich colours had me snapping away like a photographer possessed. Eventually the time came to make our slow descent back to the road. Although thoroughly puffed out, I was beaming ear to ear after my adventure.


A Walk In The Wild

What I love most about university is that I can spend whole days outdoors photographing wildlife or hours writing blog posts, and it’s all considered good, valuable work. The nature of my course allows me to do all the things I’ve longed to spend my days doing for years. During A levels I would be locked away, hunched over Biology textbooks and Spanish dictionaries. Now, I get the freedom to still spend my time cradling books (that part was never too difficult for me) or wandering around in the countryside. It’s the choice available to me that is just too perfect to describe.

Last Monday, we embarked on an outing that my lecturer described as an ‘aesthetics trip’. There was no real agenda, nothing to be ticked off, just a pleasant walk near Little Salkeld, a charming village just outside Penrith, Cumbria.

The weather promised nothing special, so as we clambered out of the minibus we braced ourselves for buffeting wind or sheet rain, or perhaps even both. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the day would pan out beautifully. Aside from one brief heavy shower, the sun shone for us.



Woodland is my all time favourite habitat. It makes me feel eight years old again, exploring a mysterious faraway land. Every forest is magical; its hundreds of wooden soldiers concealing countless secrets. A combination of crackling twigs underfoot, chirruping birds overhead and the hushed silence everywhere else is what makes it so enchanting. As I meander through woodland I feel like everything around me is holding its breath, watching me as I pass through.



Texture plays a key role in my attraction to the outdoors. Touch is a sense often overlooked, when the mind is distracted with sight and sound. I often trace my fingertips down the cracked bark of an ancient tree or rub a smooth leaf between finger and thumb. Nature’s texture is as wonderful as its colour – a hundred thousand surfaces that each feel slightly different to the touch. More often than not these textures complement each other, and I can’t help but think of the natural world as a colossal painting, millions of years in production and ever-changing.




It is at times like these that I appreciate nature’s influence over objects of artificial creation. We found an abandoned cabin nestled deep in the forest, its brick walls cloaked in rich green ivy. Time and neglect have forced it to surrender itself to nature’s dominance – it has become part of the landscape, crudely disguised as something natural, a monument of times gone by. In years to come it will have succumbed further, its harsh straight lines blended into the asymmetry of natural life.




By early afternoon we’d found Lacy’s Caves, chambers carved from sandstone by Colonel Lacy of Salkeld Hall (Visit Cumbria, 2013). It was a child’s paradise, a cracked copper castle perched atop a rock face, overlooking the River Eden as it surged past. The building was steeped in history, its small rooms ghostly in their darkness. Once again I was drawn to texture, the lengthy process of erosion creating intricate masterpieces of the walls. As the sun penetrated the gloom, the shadows accentuated the deep crevices scratched in harsh zig zag lines. The light brought colours in abundance; copper, amber and lime green to name but a few. It was truly breathtaking to see what time could achieve.


Finally, I couldn’t help but make use of running water to practise my slow shutter speed technique. The river gushed at an alarming rate, churning up plumes of deep green and frothy white. Yet again, the unwavering power of nature was brought to mind, and I reflected on how truly insignificant we all are on such an immense planet. Being outdoors makes you appreciate your natural surroundings, and should encourage us all to respect them. The elements were here first, and only time will tell how they will continue to shape our planet and everything within it.

Visit Cumbria (2013) Lacy’s Caves. Available at: (Accessed: 4 February 2016)


Experiencing Drumburgh Moss

The word ‘Friday’ springs to mind many different things: summoning the willpower to get through one more work day, making plans for the weekend, working out how best to spend your wages. What isn’t immediately apparent is a trip to a lowland raised peat bog.

I spent Friday morning wading ankle deep through mud that threatened to rob me of my Wellington boots, clutching for dear life onto my camera and hoping I’d stay upright.

This was a field trip to Drumburgh Moss, an RSPB site that we’re studying as part of our module ‘Interpreting the Natural World for Media’. We have the choice whether to base our report on this site or Derwentwater.


On arrival, we were expecting to be met by our tour guide, who would show us around the site. Instead, we were greeted by an adorable and very inquisitive Exmoor pony, who wasn’t at all alarmed by the large group of wrapped up two-leggeds that had arrived on his patch.


Despite being buffeted by the wind, we were very lucky with the weather. Our tutor Alex told us that last year the group had endured pouring rain, so for that I was extremely grateful. The Lake District is undoubtedly beautiful, but also temperamental.



Having visited in the winter months, there was a distinct lack of wildlife apart from the wild ponies. However, there were definitely signs of life in the bog. A sharp-eyed friend of mine spotted an adder skin in amongst the grass, the silvery ghost of its previous owner.


I’d never been to a peat bog before, so it was interesting experiencing a new habitat. Despite not being the prettiest of environments, it is without doubt a vital part of our countryside. Peat bogs can be thousands of years old, and are capable of storing large amounts of carbon dioxide because of the mosses and lichens that thrive there. As a result, the conditions become anaerobic (without oxygen). This prevents decomposition of dead plants, so they accumulate and form peat.

The destruction of peat bogs releases all this carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing further to the already drastic effects of global warming. Therefore, it is of utmost importance than these habitats are protected.