Angle Tarn: A Ragbag of Blues5 minute read

Angle Tarn

In this piece of my nature writing, I pass the exquisite Angle Tarn on my way from Patterdale to Haweswater in the Lake District.

Angle Tarn: A Ragbag of Blues

Barely a breeze cruises the sky, a sky that is, on this auspicious day, an endless sea of azure across which heavenly white clouds slowly sail.

I take in the beauty of a tarn before me, a ragbag of blues nestled in a distinctively-shaped upland concavity. The lie of the land that surrounds Angle Tarn sees to it that this exquisite body of water is blessed with numerous small bays, the shoreline highly convoluted.

Three small islands are positioned side-by-side close to and parallel with the tarn’s eastern shore, adding yet another geometrical element that engages the onlooker all the more.

Each island appears bleak, but for grass bare, congruous with the tarn’s neighbouring terrain. As I close the gap between me and them, I notice that there are in fact several tough, tiny, naked trees doing their best to sustain themselves, each and every one of them a true gem in this largely treeless landscape.

The northern-most island is linked to land by an isthmus, resulting in its inclusion in the alluring complexity of the shoreline.

Angle Tarn, with its majestic arrangement of features, is unquestionably attractive, but just as I thought that I had appreciated it in its totality, a cloud unveils Earth’s closest star, producing a blinding flare of light that bathes everything in sight, and in one split second the tarn is transformed into a dazzling pool of molten metal, liquid silver with a yellow-white beam reflected onto its surface exactly in line with the sun.

The interplay between light and liquid could easily transfix me for many an hour, but the day is short, so I must move on.

I soon find myself atop Rest Dodd in a zone high enough for snow to linger. Observing my surroundings, an abrupt horizontal demarcation between snow-free fell-side and snow-smitten fell top is evident, endowing the whole of the Helvellyn and High Street Ranges with an unbroken white cap, albeit with sporadic, dark mottling where precipitous, craggy outcrops poke through, which only increases the aesthetic beauty of this alpine scene that encircles me.

To the north, Hayeswater, a small, elongated reservoir of reflection shines vibrantly from a shaded valley, a snapshot of a shooting star amidst a dark night sky.

I continue onward to The Knott before hiking up to High Street via the Straits of Riggindale. It is on this col between The Knott and High Street that I first catch sight of my destination, Haweswater.

I see only a fraction of the lake’s whole at the foot of Riggindale Valley, the end of the valley opposite from where I currently stand. This small fraction of Haweswater, its sun-kissed fluid sapphire blue, encompasses a cove with a small, wooded enclave either side; and a wooded island studs its centre. Indeed, it looks the idyllic little oasis.

Down in the depths of the dale, the dark, distant dots that are red deer are discernible. The dozen-strong herd is still, occupied only with grazing.

Suddenly, my attention is diverted from down there to up here by a flurry of flight filled with flashes of white; it is a snow bunting, a magical, little snow sprite. Afront a sky-blue backdrop, she quivers across from High Street to Kidsty Pike, voicing several soft whistles as she goes. I could not have asked for a more fitting addition to the fell top winterscape.

From High Street, I head further east, beginning a gradual descent of the ridge that forms the southern lip of Riggindale Valley. Out of the blue, to the immediate south of this ridge, I gain a bird’s-eye view of Blea Water, a giant teardrop in the landscape tucked secretively away inside a cirque.

Indeed, in every direction I turn, I am stupefied by the unmitigated gloriousness of the vistas that manifest, so much so that by the time I reach The Rigg—one of those aforementioned wooded enclaves—the sun has already slipped away behind the mountain tops, causing daylight to quickly dwindle.

I enter The Rigg, my eyes peeled, ears fully engaged, sneaking, slinking, sidling; but despite my stealthy manner of movement and a heightened level of alertness, my senses detect only plant life.

A drystone wall dressed thickly in moss divides The Rigg into two, on one side grow predominantly larch, the other spruce, one side deciduous, one side evergreen, one side light, one side dark, one side’s ground grassy, the other’s bare. Many a larch have been hit hard by wind, uprooted bodies strewn across the land.

Suddenly I see a sign of animal life, a handful of copiously-gnawed spruce cones along with a scattering of scales, the evidence situated beside the trunk of a tree. I turn my attention immediately to the canopy, my eyes scouring the trees with a fine-tooth comb, but alas I see nothing, no red squirrel waiting to return to its cache.

Remaining in stealth mode, I continue to the end of the headland where a large portion of Haweswater is visible through the trees. The vast body, long relative to its width, curves gracefully around a bend, its far end well out of sight.

I turn to follow along the southern edge of The Rigg when I spot a second sign of animal life, this one big. Countless grey and white feathers, for the most part downy, litter a one-square-metre plot of woodland floor, and what is more, two feet away lies the white shell of a cracked-open bird’s egg.

My imagination runs wild with the possible concatenation of events that could have led to this scene. Judging by the colouration of the feathers, the colour and size of the egg and the time of year—mid-January seems too early for most birds to be laying—I conclude that a wood pigeon and its clutch are the victims here; as for the suspect, I cannot be sure.

As darkness encroaches, I pick up my pace, but only briefly, for suddenly the peeps of a rarity permeate the place. My ears lead my eyes to a larch tree on the woodland’s fringe where, sure enough, I see whistling willow tits silhouetted against the waning light of this wonderful day.

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