Buttermere – the other end

Perhaps I should have called this “Buttermere – the end with the famous tree”. Having seen a photograph of a lone tree somewhere on the shore of the lake, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to try my own version and I eventually found a rough location. Buttermere is probably my favourite lake in Cumbria. It is one of the most accessible lakes and it is possible to walk around it in two or three hours. I already had plans to climb to Warnscale Bothy that afternoon, so a quick trip to the Western end would have to do.

I parked up by the Fish Inn (which incidentally provided the most excellent lunch a couple of hours later) and followed the track to the shore. For some reason I thought I knew exactly where to find the tree, so after admiring the view for a few minutes, I shouldered my rucksack and turned right. The guide books were spot on in that there were photographic opportunities all along this stretch. I stopped once or twice, but still keeping one eye up ahead for the tree of my dreams. I had seen images of it in better times when it had a few more branches. More recent shots showed it to have suffered from one bad winter too many. It was still beautiful of course, but the few wisps left looked so fragile that I had been worried it might not survive. It looked as though I was right, as by now I had walked all the way to one corner. The path turned sharp left and I knew the tree couldn’t be in that direction because the background would have been all wrong. I was gutted.

There was no way I could have missed it, although I spotted what looked like a poor cousin not far from where I was standing. It was probably the same species and standing on similar ground, but the lines lacked the elegance I knew from memory. Maybe it had once stood here, but had finally given up the ghost. I wandered back along the shore and got talking to another photographer, who by sheer luck had photographed “that” tree a few years ago. He looked in the direction from where I had just come and said he couldn’t see it either. That confirmed my fears and I felt sad. I was sorry I wouldn’t get the chance to take my own photograph, but I felt worse for the poor tree that had stood so bravely, but could no longer withstand the elements.

I had been very lucky on this trip though and I was grateful for the images I already had. I decided to explore a little further along the left hand shore before heading back to the pub. It was a glorious day – the last morning of September and it was already 22 degrees. The mist at the other end of the lake had long gone, to be replaced by the most beautiful haze. I felt relaxed and at peace with the world… and then I spotted it. The tree. MY tree – at least for the next few minutes. I never did get the moody sky I had hoped for, but it didn’t matter. The tree was alive and well and the photograph I took is the featured image above.

The image below was taken at the point where I decided to turn around. As I stepped back from the camera after taking this photograph, a red squirrel ran past me on the rocks to the right. I was all set up for a long exposure on my tripod, so I missed my chance, but it’s a sight I will never forget.


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