Coledale in winter

On Location 15th January 2016. Coledale near Braithwaite, North Western Fells region. Fells climbed none.

Parking in layby on Whinlatter road.

Route map: click on the arrow to play the route. Free GPX data and other route publication options available by clicking in the Plotaroute.com link at the bottom right.

This walk was undertaken for one sole reason, to get a single reference photograph for The Wainwrights in Colour. I had been waiting for years to obtain a photograph of Outerside, a Wainwright fell in the north-western area of the lake district. It was part of my obsession to try and capture the scenes in the same seasonal conditions as AW illustrated them.

The weather forecast looked promising. An early start and I headed west over to the fells.

Blencathra
Blencathra in a winter coat

A fresh fall of overnight snow had covered the landscape. As I drove along the A66 Blencathra looked stunning in the perfect winter conditions.

Whinlatter road
Whinlatter road looking back down to Braithwaite

I parked up on the Whinlatter road just west of Braithwaite. A woodland path ascends up towards the valley of Coledale.

Coledale wood
Coledale wood

The woodland thins and provides a clearer view of the landscape ahead.

path in Coledale
path in Coledal
gated path
Gated path, Coledale

As we reach this gate I can see the tops of the fells which were my subject for the day. Conditions were looking promising.

Force Crag road
Force Crag road

The footpath soon joins the good track that runs the length of the valley.

Outerside and Stile End
Outerside and Stile End

Ahead on the other side of Coldale is Stile End and the rising top of Outerside. We walked along the track in hopeful anticipation. On the way I took several images to try and match the scene (see below)

Stile End and Outerside
Stile End and Outerside from Coledale

Frustratingly within minutes the good sunshine had gone.

Outerside
Outerside in winter

By referring to the Pictorial guide (as I do for lining up the scene exactly) I was looking for the spot that Wainwright stood when he photographed the fell. I took several shots from along this track but the low cloud on the distant fells didnt help the situation. I needed a clear view to line the location up exactly. (See below).

Heading to the winter fells
Heading to the winter fells

Where I was just ambling along the track, others were heading for a more serious day out on the higher ground.

Walkers in Coledale
Walkers in Coledale

After a quick chat these well prepared guys were in for a good day. I was hoping that the conditions would improve for goal. To kill a bit of time I wandered on to the end of the valley.

Force Crag Mine
Force Crag Mine

As quiet as it is now, Coledale was a hive of mining activity up until fairly recently. These are the old buildings of Force Crag Mine.

Force Crag Mine board
Force Crag Mine board
Force Crag Mine board (2)
Force Crag Mine board (2)
Mine buildings Force Crag
Mine buildings Force Crag

There are lots of reminders of the mining activity, the buildings are only part of the story. Mine entrances and shafts which puncture the fellside of Grisedale Pike.

Force Crag Mine Coledale
Force Crag Mine Coledale

Higher up on the fellside is the view back down towards the vale of Keswick.

Force Crag mine working
Force Crag ponds

An important new feature of the area is the water treatment system which was recently installed (2017). At one time Force Crag mine was reputed to be the most poluting mine in the UK. This treatment set up has helped cure the problem. This is worth a read about how it came about: Force Crag Water Treatment

Force Crag Mine water treatment ponds
Force Crag Mine water treatment ponds

The clouds were parting and the sun was breaking through, just what I wanted. So I re-traced my steps back down the valley.

The track to Force Crag mine
The track to Force Crag mine

These brighter conditions allowed me to visualise better colours and contrasts for my painting.

Outerside reference photograph.

This was a shot taken on my way into the valley (see the “Stile End and Outerside image above). I knew that I was in the right place due to several factors: A The ridge of Scar Crags is in view over the Outerside edge. B Only from this area does the top of Outerside appear to rise up to the right (see how it flattens out in the previous photograph) C I was just able to see the outline of Sail and Eel Crag which I enhanced in the painting. D In the intervening years landslips and erosion have caused the course of Coledale Beck to change, I include these changes. E Footprints in the snow. In AW’s drawing he just shows a single line of footprints “The Abominable Snowman?” I have seen a copy of his photograph and it has as many footprints as in my photograph. He simplified this element not only would have it been easier to draw but it gave him a chance to show off his humour.

It is interesting to note that this is one of very few sketches in Book 6 of the Pictorial Guides that is in winter conditions. Even the main illustration for the Eel Crag chapter which was taken just about 100 further along the track is done in a different season from this.

Outerside sketch
Outerside sketch (Wainwrights in Colour)

My watercolour of that scene that appears in The Wainwrights in Colour book. Reference obtained it was mission accomplished. I was heading home.

Latrigg
Latrigg in the afternoon sun

There was some lovely light illuminating Latrigg in the distance as we headed back to the start.

Gorse in Coledale
Gorse in Coledale

Before I took the path back down to the car I couldn’t help noticing this gorse bush which was in bloom. This isn’t unusual, Common Gorse which is a member of the Pea family blooms between January and June but it can flower sporadically throughout the year. Oddly the flower has the smell of coconut.

Anyway, I was very content as I drove back home. That one reference photograph which I thought may have eluded me for the project was now in the bag. All that I had to do was to get it painted to edge me nearer to the completion of The Wainwrights in Colour.

Thanks for reading.

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