Since we opened our Chester gallery we’ve had many visitors enquiring whether I had any paintings of the Lake District. The landscape of North Wales has been my major inspiration, particularly Snowdonia and the views near to our Betws-y-coed gallery. Feeling adventurous Jon and I packed our bags and took a couple of days to explore what lies further north.
We were surprised how quickly we arrived. Driving along we were concerned by the the pockets of mist that obscured the views and as we arrived at Windermere we could only see the shore. The tourist information office there were amazingly helpful and using webcams advised us that we could get a clear view in the Kirkstone Pass, so that’s were we headed. The intention of this trip was to get to know the area and find places to re-visit by driving around and stopping to take some photographs, but the winter light on the hills was fantastic for an artist and there was just a sprinkling of snow. We stopped at numerous places along the way and looked back at Windermere covered in a blanket of fog.
From the Kirkstone Pass we drove towards Patterdale with Brothers’ Water glistening in the distance, definitley one to paint, before driving down towards Ullswater. I started to notice the different types of sheep to those in Snowdonia, lots of Swaledales and the native Herdwick sheep. Herdwicks are said to be descended from Viking flocks, these sheep help to maintain the landscape of the Lake District by grazing the high ground, they know their patch and will stay in the same location, known as being “heafed” to the fells. They have thick woolly fleeces which are black at birth and then lighten to grey, which results in a wonderful mixture of different shades of grey on different animals.
Ullswater is one of the largest lakes in the Lake District, it was very peaceful and still with few visitors, unlike Windermere. I managed to capture on camera some shots looking back at the snowy Kirkstone Pass framed by the hills at the end of the lake. It would be great to return here to find more viewpoints.
From Ullswater we drove towards Keswick, on the journey there was a terrific view of Blencathra topped with cloud. At Keswick the light on Derwentwater was magical with sunbeams streaming from the clouds, it seemed quite unreal! We also stopped at Grasmere to admire the light and reflections on the lake.
One of the most stunning drives was up to the Langdale Pikes along a winding road that passed snow covered fields and villages. The landscape became more dramatic the higher we climbed lit by the low winter sun.
The next day the mist had returned and we just couldn’t seem to lose it. We took the car ferry across Windermere which gave me an opportunity to see the lake from a different perspective. We headed back to Grasmere and quickly found the “Grasmere Tea Gardens”, where we enjoyed a tasty Cumberland sausage sandwich. The cafe was just next to the church were Wordsworth attended and now rests with his family. We passed through the pretty churchgrounds, no daffodils, but lots of nodding January snowdrops. We browsed around the shops and galleries of Grasmere, before heading to Consiton. The wintery fog was here too, enveloping the lake, and hiding the Old Man of Consiton. We drove past Brantwood, the house Ruskin built with many windows to enjoy the views - on clear days!
We headed back to Windermere, where I got out my easel. I found the mist had given the lake a subtle palette and I was inspired to paint the atmospheric view of the islands appearing out of the fog. It wasn’t easy to concentrate as we had lots of inquisitive feathered visitors - geese, swans, pigeons, doves, and ducks - all thinking we had come along to feed them!
Before returning to Wales we took a drive to Morecambe Bay, the light across the bay was fabulous but with the forecast being for more snow we got back on the road to Wales. My head full of ideas and already planning a return visit!
See Alison’s new collection as it develops - The Lake District and Cumbria