Between snow storms and sun showers and armed with our new Fraser packs, Athena Mellor, Callum Cunningham, Rebecca Slack and Jim Marsden took a wild wander with our Name Sake Rob Fraser, his wife Harriet and Guilly the dog, to meet the Glencoyne Pine. In the coming weeks we will share their personal journeys from that day wandering, walking and talking with Fraser.
Words & Photography by Jim Marsden | @jimmarsdenphotography
On a soggy, grey Tuesday morning we met Rob and Harriet Fraser. Between the changing seasons of 2016 through to 2017, Rob and Harriet created the Long View project 'a creative documentary meeting ordinary trees in extraordinary locations'. Today they were to be our guides to meet one of these ordinary trees, in its extraordinary location.
Our little gang for the day was six; Bex, Athena, Callum, Harriet, Rob and myself. Solitary walking is calm meditation, but it can be a fair weather pleasure. Rain, cold and grey skies need the warmth of conversation and companions. We were here for the joy of walking together and to learn more from Harriet and Rob of this place and their project.
From our car park meeting place we headed off and across the wet fell. The conversation was easy and enjoyable despite the persistent rain and thick, muddy path. Both Harriet and Rob were generous companions, eager to share their experiences and knowledge.
The path gained a thick crust of snow the higher we went, but Harriet and Rob led us on regardless. They'd walked this way under summer days and the new growth of Spring and their feet knew the way.
Both Harriet and Rob seemed soaked with this place. Not just the very regular Cumbrian rain, but these fells and these ways. We spoke more of the Long View project and plodded through the snow and mud eventually arriving at a stone wall and gate, the entrance to a bare beech wood. Stark and cold bones, windblown snow clung to their sides. Through the wood rose the path that would lead us to the other side and our destination.
We walked in single file up the steep path. The air was quiet and the tree tops swayed in the wind.
We reached the edge of the wood and the world opened up to bright white. There, behind the blowing snow, was what we had come to meet, the Glencoyne Pine, Rob and Harriet's ordinary tree in its extraordinary location. Except this didn't look like any ordinary tree. It stood alone on the edge of the fell looking like an oversized dandelion clock, its seed blown here on a lazy summer breeze many years ago to land here on this exposed fellside. I walked over to the tree and stared up at its evergreen head.
It suddenly felt like a Pilgrimage, with Harriet and Rob as our spiritual guides. In Japan, the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail was once a place where Kyoto's emperors prayed to the deities in the trees. I could understand why Rob and Harriet had chosen this tree in this place. If deities still dwelled in the trees, they surely lived in this pine. I looked at Rob and Harriet and their smiling faces gazed upwards.
Rob suddenly headed off through the snow, camera and tripod under his arm. He disappeared over the edge, by the side of the tree to re-appear a while later, grinning. Whatever he'd gone hunting for, he'd found. The snow was still swirling when we left the tree to return along the path that brought us. The Glencoyne Pine, stoic against the weather, resumed its watch from the fell.
The weather changed as we walked back, giving way to sun and putting away the snow and rain.
We spent the rest of the day bathed in bright winter sun by the lakeside of Ullswater carrying on our easy conversation. Harriet and Rob and their Long View project had brought the six of us together for this day of walking, talking and meeting not an ordinary, but an extraordinary tree. The afternoon wore on and we made the most of the sun, while the Glencoyne Pine and its deities smiled down at us from its home, high on the fell above.