June 2016. Referendum day to be precise. A near perfect day weather wise, and as it turned out the ideal day for shooting a video of the walk from Grasmere up to Alcock Tarn. The views are so good on this walk that a clear day with sunshine and fluffy white clouds is essential. But this shoot has an added bonus. I have a couple of production assistants (first class, unpaid) to help me out. My good friend Nicola and her son Michael. Nicola is a bright and busy single mum who loves to get out on the Lake District fells whenever she can. Michael has a very enquiring mind, and is developing an interest in history, as well as all things artistic, including videography. It was a chance for them to experience a very different day on the fells, and to also see what goes on behind the scenes on one of my video shoots.
Alcock Tarn is on the western side of Heron Pike, overlooking Grasmere. On the face of it it's a nice walk through the woods and then up the fell side to a pretty little mountain tarn. But things are not all they seem. This is not just a scenic walk, and believe me, it is very scenic, it is also a stroll through the world of Victorian plumbing, and one of the very best examples of hidden history in the Lake District. So it makes not only the perfect subject for a ten minute video, but also was ideal for a fell walking enthusiast and her history loving son. This is the story of our day. The pictures are low resolution stills from the finished video. If you want to see that, scroll down to the bottom.
|St Oswald's Church Grasmere|
We started from the church in Grasmere, close to Wordsworth's Grave, and headed out towards his old house at Dove Cottage. Once there we headed up the old road towards White Moss Common before turning left to follow the path up to Brackenfell Woods. Up to that point the walk had been at a normal pace, with a couple of short stops to take establishing shots. We soon reached the seat just before the entrance to the woods, and the first major stop for filming, a piece to camera about the plush 18th and 19th century villas visible on the other side of Grasmere. It was at this point that the benefit of having a production assistant really paid dividends. Normally, I work alone, so have to spend time setting up the shot and ensuring all the camera settings are as they need to be. But not today.
|Heading into Brackenfell Woods|
With this first filming stop complete and the footage checked, it was time to head up into Brackenfell Woods. This route is along a wide sweeping path which follows the line of an old pack horse route, but that is not the reason it is so wide. Pack horse routes were narrow, often little more than the width of the horse and pack. Similar in fact, to a normal footpath today. This path is considerably more substantial, and was clearly constructed for much wider traffic. The answer to the question of why it is so wide is very simple. What is now Brackenfell Woods was, in Victorian times, a landscaped garden, complete with woodland trails, waterfalls, artificial streams and, to facilitate ease of access, a wide carriageway leading to the top of the garden. This allowed the owners to convey their guests to the top of the garden by carriage from where they could stroll back down, admiring the various features as they went.
After two aborted attempts to tell the story of the woods direct to camera, one because other people walked past, and the second because I totally fluffed my lines, we reached a point where there is a seat overlooking a view of Grasmere, from where I was to do another short piece to camera. Unfortunately there were two people sitting on the seat about to start lunch.
|The remains of an ornamental pond, dating from the days when Brackenfell woods was a garden.|
It is amazing how accommodating other walkers can be when you have a camera on a tripod and a production assistant with a script in hand. Had I been on an ordinary walk and requested that this couple give up their seat for a few minutes, they might have been, quite rightly, a little annoyed. But on spying the camera they were only too pleased to make way, standing a short distance away to watch proceedings. Unfortunately, after going to all that trouble, the shot did not make it into the final video. Their lunch was disturbed for nothing.
|This gate is a bit misleading. The tarn is still some way off.|
Lunch was taken at Alcock Tarn. Not only was it a chance to enjoy a break, but also a paddle. I may take my video making seriously, but it is also a day out with friends, and there is a certain amount of fun to be had. So having fought against a bracing wind to deliver the story of how this tarn is not all it seems, and having made the occasional error necessitating at least 4 takes, it was time to relax and enjoy the sunshine. All good things come to an end however, and the time to leave came too soon. The second half of the video, and arguably the most demanding, remained to be made.
Having assistance has great advantages. The shot of me leaving the tarn, taken from one of it's many viewpoints, would not really have been possible had I been working on my own. The time taken to set up such a shot, as well as executing it, would make it prohibitive. But with Nicola and Michael keen to add their input the shot was captured in less than 10 minutes.
We didn't return by the outward route. This is a circular walk, and although the descent is steep, and rocky in parts, it is very scenic, with stunning views north west up Easedale and towards Steel Fell.
|Leaving Alcock Tarn|
|Heading off down the northern edge of the fell, a steep and rocky slope.|
|Thirlmere to Manchester Aqueduct|
|The top of the Aqueduct turns out to be about a foot deep in rubble from the December flooding|
|The Aqueduct crossing Greenhead Gill|
|Time for a paddle|
|The riverside walk in Grasmere|