Once again, I've been slow in updating the blogs and this has been due to having very little free time but I hope to get back on track and post on a monthly basis.
Following on from the last blog, we managed to get to the North York Moors and had a great time - unfortunately, the steam trains weren't running while we were there but there were plenty of other opportunities around.
In particular, we found a beautiful little village called Hutton-le-Hole - incredibly photogenic, with some terrific walks around the area. We didn't find it until the day before we were due to leave so we will need to go back to explore properly.
However, since then, I have been on my very first wild camp - a two night stay in The lake District (no surprise there!), with the first night spent on Lingmoor Fell and the second on Holme Fell.
The reason for the visit was to catch the heather in bloom and it was a great decision on my part - the heather looked stunning and offered the possibility of some great pictures (if the conditions were right).
Having had some brunch in Ambleside and stocked up with food, I made my way to Blea Tarn and parked up in the NT car park before I loaded myself up with all the gear and set off on the path to the summit - stupidly, I had started the climb in the middle of one of the hottest days of the year and I was carrying 45lbs of camping and photography gear!
Needless to say, I struggled and it took me the best part of two hours to get to the top - I then had to dodge through several swarms of flying ants (there were thousands of them!) and attempt to find somewhere to pitch the tent.
I'd researched the area using Google Earth so I knew that finding a spot would be difficult and so it proved - it took an age to find anything flat, dry and away from the path but I eventually found a small spot in a secluded area.
I'd got several hours before sunset and didn't want to pitch the tent too early so I sat and dozed under the sun, while enjoying the peace and quiet - it was so different to what I had experienced in Ambleside, which was rammed with people.
Time drifted away and I got the tent set up before scouting around for a suitable place for the sunset pic that I was after. It was just as well that I started the search early as two other photographers turned up and would have grabbed my spot.
The photographers turned out to be Martin Birks and Dave Massey, both of whom I was aware of and I liked their work, so it was a pleasure to meet them - they too were wild camping in the same area and had a job to find a spot.
Sunset came and went and was a little disappointing, if I'm honest, as the conditions weren't great so it was back to the tent for some food and a coffee. Despite this being my very first wild camp, I'd got no worries about it and actually loved the process of sitting and eating/drinking in the solitude before bedding down for the night.
The alarm rang early the following day and I peeked out of the tent to see what the light was like - it didn't look great but I decided to get up anyway and have a wander around. Boy, was I glad I did! I walked ten metres from the tent to be confronted by a temperature inversion (the first I'd ever experienced) - it was surreal to be above the mist that had enveloped the valley below and we (myself, Martin and Dave) were treated to over an hour of ever changing conditions - the mist rolling in and out, blocking and then revealing the distant hills. What an experience!
It was then time to pack the tent away and make my way back down to the car - I continued on a different route back which took half the time that the ascent had - I was so relieved that it was an easy descent.
The second night was planned for the top of Holme Fell and Martin had recommended I go so I made my way over - only about six miles further on so I took a look around for parking before making my way into Coniston for some breakfast.
While the breakfast was great (I can thoroughly recommend the Herdwick Cafe), the town was heaving with tourists so I was glad when I was back in the car for the return to Holme Fell. This time, I left the climb until later in the day so that the walk up was in cooler conditions and found that this climb was so much easier than the previous day.
It was also so much better for camping spots and I found a perfect little place close to the summit - I dropped the gear and made a cup of coffee straight away - absolute bliss - followed by another boil in the bag meal - meatballs and pasta, which was really very good.
As I was preparing the coffee, I heard a rumble in the distance and turned to see five Typhoon jets making their way across the next valley over - a terrific sight and thought "wouldn't it be great if they do a return journey?" How lucky was I? Twenty minutes later, I heard the roar again and spotted them in the distance, however, this time, two of them peeled off and flew my way - passing right overhead and only a few hundred feet above me - awesome!
Sunset was approaching so I grabbed the camera and headed for a spot that I thought might be suitable for the composition - however, I wasn't holding out much hope as there was a bank of thick clouds on the horizon which was blocking the sun.
After about ten minutes, another photographer turned up - this time it was Darren Knight (who I follow on Youtube) so I introduced myself and had a bit of a chat with him. He was after a particular shot and this was the third night in a row that he'd been up to the top.
Unfortunately, neither of us got the shot we were hoping for so he set off back down while I brewed myself another coffee before settling down for the night.
Once again, the alarm went off early and I was up right away - straight out of the tent and off to the area that Darren had suggested I try. Unfortunately, I hadn't realised how far away it was and didn't allow myself enough time to get there so had to revert to Plan B.
The conditions weren't great but I managed to work a few options and got some shots that I was happy with - they won't be portfolio ones so I will need to return and try again.
And then it was over - such a good time and so enjoyable that I will definitely be doing it again, probably not this year but I can start planning for the next one.