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When Wainwright made his first visit to the Lake District in the summer of 1930, aged just twenty-three, he was unprepared for what he found when he left the train at Windermere station.
'That week changed my life,' he wrote years later. 'It was the first time that I'd looked upon beauty.' His moment of epiphany came when he viewed Lake Windermere from the vantage point of Orrest Head. Millions of people have followed in Wainwright's footsteps. Indeed, for a lot of people, Windermere is the Lake District. But even when Ambleside, Bowness, Windermere and Lakeside are heaving with visitors, there's still room to roam - on the shoreline, on the lake itself and on the fells which surround it. This book is a celebration of the lake as it is today. John Morrison's photographs capture the lake and its surroundings in many different moods: showing not just what the lake looks like, but what it feels like too.
256mm x 270mm hardback
It takes a drop of water entering Windermere from the north, from either the River Brathay or the River Rothay, a full nine months to travel the eleven miles down the length of the lake, and to escape into the waters of the Leven and then make its way onward into Morecambe Bay.
That drop of water, if it was as observant as John Mortimer’s camera, might see the neatly positioned white sailing boats placidly idling in the new marina in front of the Low Wood House Hotel; or the wonderful sunlit arabesque of a fly-fisher’s line as he casts across the still waters; or a pair of mating swans on a blue and misty lake holding their elegant necks to form a perfectly symmetrical heart; or another white swan gliding through the dark waters that reflect the eccentric walls of Wray Castle boathouse.
However, no matter how observant it was, the drop of water wouldn’t see the steam train, number 42085, as it pushed and puffed its way up the incline heading for Lakeside on the Lakeside-Haverthwaite Railway. Neither would it see the daffodils in front of the grey walls of Jesus Church in Troutbeck at 9.33 of a brilliantly sunlit spring morning. And it certainly would not have sat in the Brown Horse in Winster and enjoyed what looks like a well-earned pint, with a dog resting in its lap.
John Mortimer’s photographic portrait of Windermere is rich and varied. It can accommodate the young lad in water wings who leaps off a wooden pier and hopes to land next to a yellow dinghy and a white swan caught gloriously on the golden waters of the evening lake.
In one picture, the setting sun, a splash of vivid yellow against an orange sky, is reflected behind the wooden piers of Waterhead. Two powerful motorboats appear to be tamed as they wait on the placid waters. Elsewhere, on the River Leven near Newby Bridge, a father patiently steadies their rowing boat, as his young son studiously waits for a fish at the end of his line.
Another young lad is silhouetted as he sits at the end of a pier and waits for the evening light to fade from the waters of the darkening lake. On the opposite page, the bright lights of Bowness are garishly streaked across the dark lake.
Boats are everywhere. The Mallard, the ferry boat, lumbers past Belle Isle. A big red square on its metallic side reads “Danger Keep Clear of Ferry Cables”. In the southern reaches of the lake, the elegant steamer, the Tern, slips through the waters. A sailing ship lies quietly moored next to two swans and a duck in a pale green light. Another boat poses between the yellow and orange streaks of the setting sun and their equally bright reflection in the lake. An anxious man in a motorised rubber dinghy forges his impatient way through the lake as heavy storm clouds threaten.
And people are everywhere, sitting on a bench on Rawlinson Nab, gazing across the lake from Latterbarrow or crowding together on the Glebe at Bowness looking heavenwards as the Red Arrows fly past.
John Mortimer has known Windermere since he played Swallows and Amazons on its shores many years ago. His affectionate photographic portrait shows Windermere and the surrounding hills in times of private tranquillity and public celebration. The one subject of his many photographs is the ever-changing light.
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