When making a project, field trips for research are usually simple affairs… But life can get in the way, and the Lakes are not a conventional landscape.
Travelling up to to the Lakes is a reasonable journey, five and a half hours from my home. This isn’t an issue, I’m used to and enjoy long car journeys, there’s a lot of time for daydreaming. However, a recent trip to the lakes for the Buried Moon project presented a series of challenges and lessons about encountering environments that you are not used to.
It was a late night drive, I started at about 20:00. Light snow began at Birmingham, then hail, then full snow at Manchester and then blizzard at Lancaster… What residents of the Lakes would probably identify as a light dusting.
As I drove, a strange sensation was occurring in my mouth… dental pain… increasing in severity and insistence like a doorbell being left to ring with the volume increasing. This was what I later to discovered was the result of one of my teeth having inexplicably cracked, tip to root, at some undetermined point in the past. This moment, an hour into a long drive, was when nerve damage began.
I stopped at the famous Forton Services for painkillers and continued. The road had cleared of traffic, replaced by the snow. Which was beautiful, but also I realised, treacherous. Coming off the M6 there were no longer street lights, no road markings because of the snow, and I had no idea what this road was like, I’d never taken this route before, and it was midnight. Then I reached the section the road that was being resurfaced… which was very alarming…
Finally at two in the morning I reached Braithwaite village, tired, but elated at the journey, it had been a real challenge and adventure. On exiting the car I could hear an unexpected hiss coming from my car. A flat tyre… I dread to think what would have happened if I had been stranded out in the snowfall. I had made it to Braithwaite just in time.
These three incidents, the snow, my tooth, and the tyre framed the rest of the visit. But also framed how I looked at the Lakes. My previous visit had been beautiful weather, and no obstructions. But now, I was keenly aware of the beauty of the landscape in the snow, but also it’s risks and demands.
I was unprepared. Whereas Penny and everyone else was fine. From the tread on their shoes, the quality of their clothes, the contents of backpacks, to their general fitness. A host of tiny adjustments that made it easy for people to function. This was how the Lakes shaped it’s inhabitants, and how they shaped themselves to live there.
We went on with our planned trips; we drove in Penny’s car, I took painkillers, I borrowed a better coat. We made a Fell ascent in the snow, visited Fort Crag mine, made a snowman for my son, and visited a Quarry, ‘Cathedral in the Rock’.
There, while we talked, a Robin calmly perched on the rocks and regarded us, barely two feet away. I considered how this Quarry was created by people reciprocally shaped by the Landscape. As they mined the mine changed how they lived. How then the quarry in disuse has become a tourist destination for sightseers and climbers, shaping them. Now, a Robin, having learned that the visitors here pose no threat, (and are probably a good bet for food) has been shaped too. One set of mutual adjustments after another.
Back at the cottage Penny lit a fire, Seamus basked in front of it, Ben our consultant Geologist came round to discuss the centre of the earth, and we ate and drank. Even here adjustments are made, how I light a fire, who I know, and what I know about Geology are all shifted in one short evening. I acclimatise to the Lakes, it changes me, and I welcome it.
P.S. My tooth is fine now, but that’s a story you don’t need to hear.