Larks ascend in song flight about Oswen Fell, joyously. All around us.
Blake Fell in the distance (in clearing cloud) the highest fell of the day - a lunch spot within a summit-shelter welcome in a chill wind. Through fleeting cloud we glimpse the higher fells. These grassy fells are little walked and we meet only a few walkers all day.
‘A steady climb up Darling Fell,’ so my companion describes his zig-zag ascent. Distracted by three stonechat in song and display flight I stop to look and listen. When I look up he’s way above me. We’re on soft grasses and hummocks of mosses and I go for the ascent-direct to catch up, almost on hands and knees. My Achilles tendon is startled at what I’m asking of it. Great views northward across the Solway Firth to see the Galloway Hills, and west to Snaefell and the Isle of Man. Point of Ayres, he claims. Sailing to the Isle of Man on a bright day in September we saw St Bees Head clearly.
Cloud builds as we sit looking down on Crummock Water and Buttermere from Low Fell. Low it may be but even my athlete friend concedes the descent is steep. Off the open fell, out of winter bracken, we reach a beck and an outtake wall where there’s a fallen cherry, a large tree whose trunk and branches are green with thick mosses, holes where birds might have nested, bark weathered and lost to expose the wood of the cambium layer. A senescent tree beautiful in decay, with twigs of long rosy buds that open into white flowers. With the suckering habit of wild cherry it may well regenerate. It is an emblem of resilience. Along the beck grow trees draped in lichens.
Creamy-white flowers of blackthorn adorn the wayside hedge, with Darling Fell and Low Fell beyond. As we approach Maggies’ Bridge at the east end of Loweswater we see dog lichen as I have not seen it before. On stone walls and on a holly bush there appear wisps of white fringing the grey fronds of the lichen. Somewhere in my photographic archive, somewhere lost, I have images of dog lichen fringed with a rubbery orange from which these white filaments must emerge.
We drive back from Buttermere over Honister Pass, stopping for a late lunch- soup, cheese, bread and looking up at crags and screes. Past the Honister Quarries. The descent to Borrowdale is softer, golden grasses and the beck with birch rising from it. We pause at the farmhouse where I stayed in girlhood so it’s a nostalgic drive.