Some of you know that I’m writing a book on traditional craftsmen and artisans in the UK, and its taking me all over the country, while I can’t reveal the photos just yet, I thought I would share my journey with you and show some of the places I am getting to visit in the course of creating this book, so this is the first instalment. Do subscribe to the blog if you want to see how it progresses. I’ll probably run a competition for a free copy in due course too.
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I really REALLY love my job, as a photojournalist, I get to travel all over the world and meet those who have insightful and compelling stories to tell. I’m so lucky, and this book has already enabled me to meet some astonishingly skilled individuals and such warm, honest and passionate people, who really live and love their job too.
Anyway so where did I go? I photographed Owen Jones, the last Oak Swill basket maker in Britain. He is based close to Coniston, and I was totally in awe of the speed he worked, the skill and swiftness of his dexterity with knives and his ease of being in his workshop, which he kindly shares with his goat (he lives in a fabulously gorgeous and honest house too by the way, with his lovely creative wife). I’ve taken some intriguing shots and in his pages of the book, hopefully you will feel the fresh air, the smell of the oak and the ease of the barn where he works…. can’t wait for the book to be published so you can see.
While in the Lakes, I stayed in a stunningly faithful art deco hotel right bang wallop on the shores of Haweswater, it was a perfect retreat and temporary “home” to unwind and to write. It’s also perfectly located for photography, and if you’re a photographer, book it! I have no qualms whatsoever in recommending it, locally sourced food, lots of comfy chairs, cushion, a very comfortable bar, open fires, lounge, original wood art deco flooring, tactful lighting, plush carpets and I have to say this, it’s the CLEANEST hotel I’ve EVER been in! Seriously!!! (book one of the suites for a balcony overlooking the Water and you get a jacuzzi too). Also a BIG plus, you can walk from the hotel right into the Fells. The RSPB reserve is also just at the end of the road. It’s part of the Lakes I hadn’t done before (I’ve walked most of the south and central parts) and so the chance of staying and experiencing somewhere to rest up and get away from it all over Easter, to totally unwind was such an attraction! The Haweswater Hotel, looks like a large manor home, it faces Haweswater and is surrounded by red squirrels, woodpeckers, and more species of birds than I have knowledge to identify.
The Fells seem stare you out and they appear to grow in size as they rise like the bodies of sleeping leviathans as the mists rise, snow-clad cragginess promising solitude and impulsive inspiration.
I’d forgotten just how much I totally adore being on my own and walking, just walking. Camera slung over my shoulder, at peace in the solitude and geological munificence, experiencing the season envelope me with clothes of delirious sensation.
The Lake District is just that a collection of Lakes, bodies of water which run off the Fells through the earth’s natural carbon filters, and all around me were waterfalls, brooks and streams, ghylls and gullies. As one night the temperature fell to -19C (yep, pretty chilly) some of the waterfalls on the north side were frozen solid and gave me the opportunity to get up close and capture their chilly glazed fingers.
Such is the nature of the British Lake District, if you just walk another thirty minutes you’ll find water flowing fast, eddies that bubble with ardour like ethereal transparent frogspawn.
I’d taken my car with me on this trip, and on my return from Owen I stumbled across this long wooden jetty. I pulled over, leapt from the car and wandered onto the Lake shore. I was totally alone, well apart from a woodpecker I could hear dangerously close in the wood above me and the water softly lapping on the stones at my feet. The air so incredibly fresh, the Fells facing me on the other side of the Lake were seeming more and more like anthropomorphic patriarchs than snow-covered mountains.
Written by Vanessa Champion
Haweswater hotel & to make a booking: www.haweswaterhotel.com
To book a course with Owen Jones: www.oakswills.co.uk