Seen centrally is an ash with a distinct white canopy of twigs. Taken 19/01/2020 at 12:02pm.
BILL BIRKETT COUNTRY DIARY 19TH to 25TH NOVEMBER 2020
Apart from a few stubborn oaks all the deciduous trees around Grasmere have now lost their leaves. Gone all the spectacular finery. They now stand naked exposing their real depth of intimate beauty, their power, complexity and delicacy. There’s colour too, in the lingering berries on the hawthorns, in the dark purple of the buds running along their finger-like twigs. Particularly eye-catching and satisfying are the silver birch. Their brilliant white trunks and canopy of purple twigs stand out from the crowd to say emphatically, summers long gone, autumn’s finished, now it’s time to chill out and enjoy the subtler wonders of winter.
My latest book THE GRASMERE YEARBOOK, a book of colour photography throughout the seasons, is now at the binders. It’s been printed locally, so it’s a true Cumbrian affair, and the proofs look great. Thanks mtp media of Kendal. I feel both anxious and excited. How will the hard copy look, how will it feel, will it have that real book smell? Will it be on time, will people like it, will the Covid restriction allow the shops to be open, will anybody buy it? I don’t know, but I just got that feeling, after years of thinking it over, that I just had to do it now. When you feel like that rational thought often takes second place.
Will Birkett, my son, has just done a talk with Tom Randall, for the Kendal Mountain Festival: “WILL BIRKETT & TOM RANDALL: CLASSIC ROCK ROUND CATCH-UP” hosted by Rob Greenwood. The climbs are all collated in the Lake District section of Ken Wilson’s magnificent book CLASSIC ROCK. Catch it online – it’s very good.
Tom and Will vied against each other to set the best time. Finally the day after Tom set a new record Will broke it to complete the round in under 11 hours. It includes 15 different climbs which are spread throughout the Lake District crags, starting on Coniston’s Dow Crag and ending on Borrowdale’s Shepherds Crag. It includes rock climbs on all the major cliffs including Scafell Crag, Gimmer Crag high above Langdale, Pillar Rock and Tophet Wall on Great Gable. They solo the routes, no ropes or safety equipment, and run 35 miles over the fells to join them all up. To do it in that short time amazes me. As Dave Birkett, my nephew, said to me it’s one of the most major accomplishments in British Mountaineering for many a year. He should know.
People ask me aren’t you proud. Of course I am but it’s also very worrying for a caring father. The truth is it only takes one tiny slip and that’s the end of the story. Though, as I write this, in my head I can hear a few voices saying; “Now you know what it feels like”.
Another thing I’m very proud about is the fact that Ken Wilson, now sadly departed, endorsed my copy of “CLASSIC ROCK” with; “To Bill, in great appreciation for the Birkett contributions to this book and also your own fine additions to mountain literature”. I treasure that.
Next to the River Rothay silver birch stand with dark purple buds and brilliant silver white trunks. On the hillside beyond, above Forest Side, they can plainly be seen again defining the upper left edge of the wood. Taken 25/11/2020 at 12:57pm.
Hawthorn with berries. Grasmere Meadows. Taken 19/11/2020 at 11:47am.
Three trees, Grasmere Meadows. Leafless oak, right. Alder with purple buds, centre. Naked ash, left. Taken 19/11/2020 at 11:48am.
Looking north from High Tongue with the sunlit Esk Pike in the far distance. Pyramidal Bowfell seen to its right. Taken 26/11/20 at 3:57pm.
On the 23rd November there emerged, from a dark damp morning of mists, an afternoon of breathtaking light. On seeing the skies lighten and pinpricks of blue it was obvious that the valley bottom clag was rapidly dispersing. Accordingly we changed plans and headed for the head of Great Langdale, Blea Tarn and Wrynose Pass, to photographically catch some of the action.
We weren’t disappointed. From the cattle grid above the head of Great Langdale and Little Langdale’s Blea Tarn, our heads were in the clear whilst below bubbled a smoking cauldron of rapidly rising cloud. The night’s temperature inversion was rapidly reverting.
Below to the west the Duddon shone crystal clear. Still quiet, always magical, this lonely valley is perhaps the most alluring of all Lakeland’s beauties. Because of work on Seathwaite Bridge we were stopped prematurely. Finally it was being repaired after many years of a fallen parapet needing attention. A walk around and up onto High Tongue became the obvious solution.
From the intriguing ruined farmstead, to a secret den beneath a huge boulder, to bear, naked and complicated oak woods and silver birch, incredibly silver and crimson. All became bathed in a wonderful light. A light so intense it seemed like that all the best Hollywood lighting technicians had created a huge stage-set lit with unbelievable colour. And as we gained the rough heights of High Tongue the views to the tops of Grey Friars and the far distant Esk Pike were breathtaking. Perfick.
Because, this was Jet’s last walk.