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Walking in the Lake District - Langdale Valley and Grasmere

In June this year, I spent 6 days camping in Great Langdale. This was the first of 3 research trips to the Lake District to gather ideas for a series of new linocut prints. Something that I had planned to do last year until the pandemic put a spanner in the works!

Facing challenges

Solo camping, and in particular solo walking, are way out of my comfort zone. It’s crazy as I’ve independently traveled around the world a lot. But my inner confidence isn’t always quite what it may seem on the outside. I work hard at it and have always had to push myself out of my comfort zone to do things I want to in life.

But I needed fresh inspiration for a new series of prints of the Lake District. Add into that, I’d been struggling with horrible anxiety about a number of things for a few weeks before I went. The last thing I felt like doing was spending more time in my own head!

Once there though, my mind settled. I felt a little self conscious about being on my own at first but everyone was so friendly. I’ve always loved the simplicity of backpacking. Very few belongings, a rough plan, focusing on one thing and being in the moment. The rest is where the magic happens, exploring new places, going off piste and chatting to people along the way. Ok, I had a car and a tent but it was fairly simple.

Great Langdale campsite

The Great Langdale campsite is run by the National Trust and nestled amongst trees beneath Langdale Pikes in Great Langdale. It's not far from the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub.

I’ve popped an arrow on one of my photos of roughly where I was. Sleeping to the sound of nature, birdsong and the rustling of trees is absolute heaven. I slept like a log. I think the digital detox worked wonders too.

The view of Langdale Pikes from my tent at National Trust Great Langdale Campsite.

Time to reflect - Mountains aren't for me?

​​I love being surrounded by mountainous landscapes. I love the scale, grandeur, changing light and drama of the weather.

I’ve decided to be honest with myself though. I enjoy doing lower level walks, rather than up and down mountains. Going up, I worry about finding my way and the weather changing, coming down, I’m no mountain goat and make it look hard work!

I went up to Stickle Tarn and bottled going up Langdale Pikes. It’s frustrating as I'd planned to do a series of linocut prints of mountainous landscapes but there we go.

I thought I'd share a few of the photos from my waking trip.

Day 1 - Elterwater and Slaters Bridge walk

8 mile walk

I'd left York early so that I could make the most of the weather and get a good walk in before checking into the campsite.

From Elterwater I walked along Great Langdale Beck and the River Brathay to

Skelwith Bridge. On reaching the bridge, I looped back towards Stang End and onto Slaters Bridge. Slaters Bridge is a packhorse bridge dating back to the 17th century.

I loved the views across Little Langdale and Little Langdale Tarn. I returned to Elterwater via Dale End and Sawrey Wood discovering an honesty box and homemade cake at Dale End Farm.

'Slater's Bridge', Lake District, Original Linocut Print

Inspired by this walk I've created this linocut print. A 5-colour multi-block print which is hand-printed using oil-based inks. Available in my online shop.

Day 1 - Blea Tarn, Great Langdale walk

4 mile walk

After I’d pitched my tent, settled in and made dinner I made the most of the longer evening. Walking directly out of the back of the campsite takes you up to Blea Tarn. I did a small loop around the tarn and Great Langdale. The reflections of Langdale Pikes in the still Waters of the Blea tarn were perfect. This had inspired one of my latest prints in my Lake District series. It was such a delight to sit on the hill overlooking Langdale Pikes and the campsite late into the evening in just a T-shirt!

'Langdale Pikes from Blea Tarn', Lake District, Original Linocut Print

Inspired by this walk I've created this linocut print. A 5-colour multi-block print which is hand-printed using oil-based inks. Available in my online shop.

Day 2 - Langdale Valley walk

13 mile walk

Today I’d planned a longer walk which circumnavigates Lingmoor Fell. From the Great Langdale campsite, I walked up to Blea Tarn. Passing through the larch pine forest, the footpath leads towards Ting Mound.

En route I visited Slater's Bridge for the second time. I’d missed Cathedral Caves on my previous walk. I asked a couple of fellow walkers and they kindly showed me the way.

I return back via Sawrey’s Wood, then onto Baybrown Wood and Hagg Wood which runs parallel to Great Langdale Beck. On meeting The Cumbrain Way, I followed the footpath back to Dungeon Ghyll and the campsite.

Day 3 - Stickle Tarn, Langdale Pikes walk

5.5 mile walk

From the Sticklebarn pub at Dungeon Ghyll the steeply stepped footpath follows Stickle Ghyll up to Stickle Tarn. As you walk up the views open out, across the Langdale Valley and towards Lingmoor. A good excuse to catch your breath!

At Stickle Tarn, the peaks of Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark rise behind, reflecting in the water. I sat on the rocks watching people climbing Jakes Rake.

Although I’d chickened out of walking up to the peaks of the Langdale Pikes, the footpath leading towards Dungeon Ghyll Waterfall and Dungeon Ghyll Force had stunning views down the Langdale valley. I walked back to the campsite for a cuppa.

Day 3 - Mickleden valley walk

4.5 mile walk

I’m not good at sitting still for long, so thought I’d explore the Mickleden Valley from the campsite. The Combrain Way follows Mickleden Beck, with the Pike of Sickle on right and Bowfell and the Band on the left. At the head of the valley I returned by the same route.

Day 4 - Grasmere and Rydal Water walk

13.5 mile walk

I drove over to Grasmere. Leaving the village I followed the west side of Grasmere along Red bank Road road to pick up the footpath that drops down to the lakeside. I had a view that I wanted to capture in my mind. As forecast, the weather started to close in and the view across Grasmere towards Helm Crag and Seat Sandal were going to be illusive.

Following the River Rothay, I walked along Rydal Water, crossing the river to discover a sculpture trail at the Rydal Hall. I stopped for coffee at Rydal Mount and Gardens, the former home of William Wordsworth.

Rather than continuing the loop I decided to double back on myself, hoping that the views were clearer. Taking the higher path back I visited

Rydal cave on my way.

Day 4 - Blackwell House

Blackwell House is an outstanding example of Arts and Crafts architecture and craftsmanship. Designed by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, it has expansive views over Windermere and Coniston Fells.

I visited Blackwell House for the first time a few years ago and absolutely loved it. Visitors numbers were being restricted. I must say it was a joy to have the house nearly to myself! One of the reasons for waiting to visit again was to see their House of the Setting Sun exhibition. I love all things Japanese too, so it was my idea of heaven.

Day 4 - Elterwater Grasmere walk

6.5 mile walk

On the way back from Blackwell House I thought I’d see if I could find those illusive Grasmere views. From Elterwater I walked up Red Bank and across the tops to Grasmere. Clearer views opened out across Grasmere from Loughrigg Terrace.

I walked back across the tops, via a footpath that follows Wyke Gill through Wyke Plantation. I wasn’t quite so lucky with the weather at this point! Although thankfully it wasn’t far until I dropped back down into the valley for a damp evening at camp.

The Great Print Exhibition

On leaving Great Langdale I had a wander around Ambleside to see if there were any galleries or shops I could approach in the future. I remembered that it was the last day of The Great Print Exhibition at The Rheged Centre near Penrith, so I made a detour. I’m so glad I did! I’d felt pretty low after a challenging year but just seeing the exhibition made me feel so at home and that sense of belonging as a printmaker. Two months later an email landed in my inbox inviting me to exhibit in the 2021 exhibition. Just imagine my delight!

I had just 4 weeks to develop some new linocut prints for the submission deadline. That's no mean feat!

But I did it, creating a new linocut print of Langdale Pikes from Blea Tarn and Striding Edge, Helvellyn to sit alongside my new Swaledale II and Malham Cove linocut prints and a new colourway of Ennerdale Water.

The Great Print Exhibition 7 runs Friday 3 December 21 to Sunday 27th February 22. See the Rheged website for details.

The best bit of trip

One of the best things that came out of the trip was that I found myself again. Phew! Now let's hope that lasts.

Another was all the interesting people I’d got chatting with along the way.

Where next? Ullswater and Derwent Water

This trip gave me the confidence to plan some more camping and walking trips.

The second trip was to Glenridding in late June and the third was to the Newland Valley, near Derwentwater and Keswick in July. More to come on those trips soon.

My last camping trip of the year was to Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales. You can read about that as part of my Yorkshire Dales blog.

I’ve started jotting down ideas of places I’d like to go to for inspiration in 2022.

If you have any ideas of places to see and places to stay do get in touch.



About the artist

Michelle Hughes is a North Yorkshire landscape artist. Much of her work depicts the Yorkshire landscape and Yorkshire coast, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

Michelle loves exploring the British countryside by bike or on foot, camera in hand, capturing ideas for her next prints. Back in her garden studio, Michelle creates simple but stylised silhouettes based on her photographs, and hand carves these shapes into lino. She hand prints with an etching press, using oil-based inks to create tonal blocks of colour. Michelle’s original linocut prints are limited editions.

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