From early December, patterns of frosty snowflakes appear on windows, ice sculptures drip down from becks, tarns and through gills and we realise trees have finally relinquished their last leaves, leaving a slightly daunting silhouette of arms wide-open branches against enormous dark skies. Old Man of Winter, we admit, is deliciously menacing.
Yet winter is the time of coming together. It is the season of celebration and feasting. We are safe inside, with the fire crackling and the guilt of the gym a million miles away.
Just as the hedgehogs, foxes, and badgers of the Lake District lowlands scurry themselves away, we too focus our attention on what’s important – feasting on the treasures collected over the summer. Winter is a time for family, for love and for peace. And nowhere else is this more so than in the Lake District.
You may notice that we have used words like beck, fell, and gill, rather than river, stream and gorge. Beck and gill, along with fell, come from our Viking ancestors and they are words still used today here, as the ancient heritage of the Lake District lives on. In fact, the Lake District has one of the highest concentrations of Scandinavian influence and over the winter months, this history comes alive with festivals, Christmas markets, winter droving, lantern parades and Dickensian performances. The Cumbrian version of hygge.
Yet, here in the Winter, the Lake District offers another side, one for those ready to embrace Old Man Winter and head outdoors, under the Lake District’s famous huge dark, winter skies.
A blanket of snow on the ground muffles any sounds, with the lone figures of hardy Herdwick sheep and silent wandering deer or scampering red squirrels, the only tell-tale tracks of life on the quiet fells. ‘The other Lake District’ is for folk who just want to head outdoors regardless of the weather and light.
And if you find yourself atop our very own Old Man Winter, the Old Man of Coniston or alongside the Jack Frost falls of Stanley Ghyll and you chance upon some other walkers, you might not stop to chin wag. But instead, nod your head and carry on at pace – as the cold weather requires – both parties understanding that you’ve discovered ‘the other Lake District’. This is the Lake District. Anyone can love the Lakes in summer, just like fair-weather football fans, but the winter Lake District is for those with a deeper love of this wild landscape and for being outside, regardless of the light! It is for those with a hunger for winter wanderlust.
It is a time of muted silence, except for the warm gaggle of joy from your select party of winter ramblers. Winter in the Lakes is perfect for those who love the stillness of landscapes, the snow-brightness and wintry skies, which bring its own warm glow.
As we head into the Winter Solstice, we embrace some of the darkest skies in England. For this single moment a year, the sun appears to stand still and the days are noticeably shorter. Here in the Lakes, we celebrate the longer nights – a chance for cosy indulgence, as we head outside to take in the breath-taking night-sky and star displays.
Some of our favourite things are the walk back from a cosy pub by torchlight, those early dog walks with the clearness of the frost and pink skies, amazing temperature inversions above the water; and of course, the delicious choice of comfort food and mulled wine or cider or perhaps a craft ale, or hot chocolate.