SENSE OF HERE

Time takes on a new pace when you’re walking, day after day. Our path is marked by steady footfall, mind and body become more acutely aware of the environment, and place shows itself anew. Our recent long walk – 16 days, covering 258km – took us on a circuit around the Lake District, bringing together the learning, the landscapes, and the long-distance poem which are at the heart of the Sense of Here project.

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January 1st, 2020

The first day of January: a new year, a new decade, and here we are beneath a sky that’s a drift of racing clouds, wind blowing at us from the Scafell massif. Despite the cold and nagging wind, I’m sweating: we’ve been walking steadily uphill for just over an hour. There is only the wind for noise, and the echoes of falling of water in rocky gullies all around us. We’ve just passed Sty Head Tarn and stand at the pass, mesmerized by the play of clouds across the fells.

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The year is turning and the months passing. Walking as if around a clock face is turning out to be a good way to get a sense of this, stepping through the seasons, stepping through place, watching things change.

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We have been blanketed in cloud, wetted through, walking within a multi-directional wetting. We headed downhill to seek a ghyll with a fresh flow of water, and all of a sudden the clouds lifted, danced in front of us, dressed and undressed the hills, rolled up from the valley and then back down again.

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Each month we’re pitching our small tent (all 1.2kg of it!) at a point chosen precisely, moving month by month in intervals of 30-degrees around a clock face which has a single sycamore at its centre.

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Just because you know a place it doesn’t mean it will ever feel the same twice. Today our walk takes me back in time, to memories of sitting in a cottage windowsill and watching snow fall, memories of daring dips in a chilled lake, memories of late night card games, days in front of the fire, walks into Martindale, warm, simple dinners shared with friends.

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This is one of our favourite images from a sunrise walk to the summit of Dollywagon Pike, looking across to the ridge of Helvellyn, and the pointed top of Catsycam. Being out there, no one else in sight, the light slowly changing on the snow-covered hills, is a very special thing. Somehow it makes us feel even smaller, just two specks in a land dominated by rock and snow and a biting wind.

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This wintering land presents itself in the skeletal shapes of trees and light that comes and goes with the skudding clouds. The wind is a roar through the leafless oaks. The sun is warm, though, and I heat up quickly once we start walking up hill, a gradual ascent on a balcony path from Hartsop towards Boredale Hause.

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We’re driving in, listening to the radio and all the talk is about Brexit – last night the government’s deal was voted down, Corbyn called for a vote of no confidence, and there is, if there could be, even more political uncertainty than before.

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It happens within minutes. My body warms, my breathing becomes louder, deeper and sets a rhythm to suit the pace, and we gain height. My body wakens and my senses tune in to what’s around. The sun is climbing in the sky, and as it does, the shadow of the Helvellyn range shortens its reach over Wythburn, then retreats from the surface of Thirlmere, revealing, in the water, a bright sky blue. 

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Tiny Tag East: Behind Harter Fell

Heading from Sadgill up Gatesgarth Pass we’re following a walled-in track that once was trodden by people walking their flocks and their produce to Haweswater, and beyond to Shap and Penrith.

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Dec 30, 2018 Placing Tiny Tag West at Sprinkling Tarn

Today is all about clouds and warmth, an uncanny temperature of ten degrees. The mist has lifted to 500 metres but it’s playing with us, hiding and revealing crags and ghylls as we ascend the path towards Great End. 

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