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2 Force Crag Mines By Suzy Braye
CREDIT: Suzy Braye

Mountains and Mines with Ade Gidney by Suzy Braye LRPS

RPS Landscape Group Newsletter, March 2023

Mountains and Mines with Ade Gidney by Suzy Braye LRPS


For someone with a lifelong love of the Lake District and a growing involvement in photography, a workshop promising a full day in the mountains, along with the chance to reach a significant summit as well as to explore a notable industrial heritage site, was hugely attractive. Add to this the prospect of spending time with a photographer whose work captures much of what I love most about the Lakeland fells, and the prospect was irresistible. Thus I found myself, at 8am one Saturday morning in early September, joining a small intrepid group of photographers/walkers in a Lakeland village car park under the welcoming eye of Ade Gidney. There was a sense of excitement: the morning light still had that soft, gold quality, the mist had not yet fully lifted and the clouds were dramatic - the weather for the day promised well.  

Coledale by Suzy Braye

The route took us up into Coledale Valley – an easy walk with a gentle incline, ahead of us the cluster of buildings that make up Force Crag Mines. The mine is a National Trust site and has operated for over 200 years, first mining lead and later barites and zinc, before finally closing in 1990 as a result of water-induced collapse. For us, the site offered great riches – interesting angles in the decayed buildings, foreground interest from randomly strewn stones and bricks, all sorts of textures, shapes and colours - all set among the open fellside with its late summer grasses. By this time we had lost the early sun and the light was dull, but Ade carefully guided us to pick out features of the site – avoiding the need to ‘show everything all the time’, working on composition, training the eye. We had plenty of time to explore, with little interruption as there were few passers-by – though we did witness the bizarre delivery of a set of portable toilets, so incongruous in this remote and somewhat desolate location (though making more sense in the context of a National Trust ‘open day’ scheduled for the following day).


(above) Force Crag Mines by Suzy Braye


Our onward route took us up a steep, grassy incline, the first challenge for the leg muscles, before we reached the stony track up to Coledale Hause, the site some years ago of extensive work by Fix the Fells to remedy serious erosion: En route, we paused at the site of a disused mine dam – a great viewpoint offering more photography as well as a chance for a well-earned mid-morning snack. From the Hause itself we had stunning views West before turning up the ridge for the onward climb to our highest destination – the mighty Grisedale Pike, whose conical summit is instantly recognisable from most angles in the North Lakes. At 791 metres, it is no hillock – indeed, as one of our party remarked, when you think about the height in metres, it doesn’t sound that much, but when you convert it into 2,600 feet, it sounds rather more like the challenge it is.


Disused Mine Dam by Suzy Braye


We had several pauses on the way, Ade pointing out good vantage points for the camera, offering ideas on composition, and even lending lenses to fill gaps left by the need to save rucksack space and weight. His own rucksack seemed something like a Tardis, producing whatever was needed at just the right time. The views were magnificent – right over to the coast in the West, back across the Lakeland fells to the East and South. At the summit we settled with our sandwiches into a vantage point to await gaps in the low cloud that had gathered – they came but were fleeting and we had to be quick with the camera to make the most of the opportunities.


View West towards the coast by Suzy Braye


Our descent was steep – certainly a good workout for the knees and the quads – but the cloud cleared and we were treated to some gloriously-lit views of the valley ahead emerging from the mist, and some welcome afternoon sunshine as we headed back to our starting point.


View East towards Borrowdale by Suzy Braye

Descent to Braithwaite by Suzy Braye


This was the first time this particular workshop had taken place and it deserves to become a regular feature – it was such a satisfying day, with good companionship and plentiful photographic opportunities in the heart of the mountains. Ade’s knowledge of the terrain plus his photographic guidance, provided to each of us individually, according to need and demand, was hugely helpful throughout the day. One thing (amongst many) that I learnt - when Ade says walking poles may be helpful, they will be, so take them with you; I will next time …

All Images © Suzy Braye


Future RPS Landscape group events can be found here