east to west across the lake district

Step by step between the trees

The Light Walk : east to west across the Lake District

Yesterday’s path is green and patched with sunlight. From where I’m sitting the hill looks like a sleeping behemoth and I can see where we walked: up between its outstretched limbs, and over its ridged back. Now I look at that land and I know the feel of placing my feet, one after another, on the earth and grass. I know the hard path of stone that descends from the pass, the split stream that tumbles white all the way down to the valley bottom, the ingle sycamore by the stream’s side. The view has been transformed into a physical memory that my mind and body sense and recall in equal measure. I know the feel of shade under ancient woods and especially the scent of the air where moss covered boulders line the beck, and an oak tree is dressed so abundantly in fresh leaves that its entire trunk, as well as every branch, sings green. I know the spot where hundreds of orchids sprinkle the grass on the way into the woods on the final climb to our camp spot. And with this, I have come to know my steady pace, the tap of my walking pole, and the highs and lows that come with the miles walk. A day ago I was considering giving up. Now, I’m feeling light as air, and eager to keep going.

This deep yet gentle encounter with land is one of the many pleasures of a multi-day walk, as is the sometimes challenging swing between emotional highs and lows. We decided that midsummer was the obvious time to make our 130km trek from the east to the west of the Lake District, linking the seven trees of The Long View. Our choice of route was determined by the position of the trees, starting with the Little Asby Hawthorn on limestone pavements in the east, and ending at the Wasdale Oak, in the midst of the severe scree slopes above Wast Water. Step by step we trod a land of
changing geology, traced its contours, climbed up, dropped down, entered woodlands, emerged onto bare fells. In connecting the trees, and setting our
camp beside each one in turn, we have come to know their space more intimately.

Rob and I chose these seven trees for the presence they have: standing proud in extraordinary landscapes. We’ve been walking to them, in all weathers, for the past year, as part of The Long View, a project focusing on trees as a way of telling their stories, and learning more about the land and culture around them. Walking between them was an essential part of this. We took a necessarily slow and gentle pace (carrying heavy loads inevitably slows you down!) and let our minds slow down as well. Life these days seems so fast and full; our seven days with no regard for time passing, governed only by our feet and the location of trees, was a welcome break. Never have the days of midsummer felt so gorgeously long.