'The late great John Muir said that “Wilderness is a necessity”. This statement has been rolling around my head a lot recently, there are so many things that people consider a necessity in the modern age. The latest phone? A high paying job? A big bank balance? But let's be honest, that's all bull. Suffering the rat race for weeks on end you soon realise that none of that matters and that the really important things in life start when you leave the sprawls of society behind.'
Words & Photography by Tom Allport | @tom_allport
Escaping to nature, fresh air, solitude, space, that's all so much more important than anything I just listed there, and what better way to do it than packing up a van with 2 of your best friends and a week's worth of gear and heading north to the beautiful Lakes.
I had only been to the Lake District twice, flying visits as a child, before I truly appreciated the great outdoors. Connor and Sam had never been and as Con was back visiting from New Zealand after the best part of 3 years, it seemed fitting that we caught up whilst exploring a part of our own shores that none of us had ever properly experienced. One thing you quickly realise when driving an almost 30-year-old campervan on your first proper trip together is that, although they're slow and loud, you're basically driving around in your house and that's a very liberating feeling, our first taste of van life and it plastered smiles across all of our faces.
Arriving at the end of England’s deepest lake and at the foot of it’s tallest mountain just after sunset, Wasdale Head played a base for the first couple of nights. With no mobile signal, bright stars, a warm fire, cold beers and a few steaks we caught up into the night and, after a surprisingly comfortable sleep, woke early to tackle Scafell Pike.
Blessed with good weather we managed to stay dry throughout the whole ascent and descent, we couldn’t imagine those slippery near vertical cobblestone sections in the rain and each of us still ended up on our arses at some point. The effort totally rewarded us at the top, with stunning views west over Wast Water towards the sea and east further into the Lake District, the stunning winter light getting better and better towards sunset.
With aching legs, we spent the night in the pub reminiscing and drinking good beer. The next day saw us point the van, dubbed Graham, east towards Keswick passing through Whinlatter forest. I feel at home in the woods so we spent a couple of hours exploring the expanses of pine forest and fire roads. The quiet forest felt like a different planet compared to the blustery peak of Scafell Pike.
After camping for our 3rd night in Keswick we awoke early again to views across Derwent Water, a quick scan over the map and we decided to head for Helvellyn for what we hoped would be an easier hike. Completely unprepared we only made it about 2/3s of the way up, but with views like this, we could hardly complain.
We descended again for a hike around Thirlmere Reservoir instead, a much easier and relaxed option and we scoped out camp for our final night, the best of the trip. With a forest leading right to the shore of Thirlmere it was a beautiful mix of all the landscapes that the lakes have to offer, a view of mountains across the expanse of water and dense forest to your back.
We parked up back from the shore in a quiet sheltered spot, lots of wood and lots of whiskey to keep us warm, Sam rustled up the tastiest pasta I think any of us had ever eaten and we talked and laughed long into the night, blessed again by a clear one with bright stars, something that should never be taken for granted. We left Thirlmere and the Lakes on the coldest morning of the trip but the view we woke up to easily made up for the fact we had been sleeping in a metal box with a layer of ice on it. This trip definitely left a lasting impression on us all and I’m sure when we all find ourselves back on home soil in the future we will be itching to return and explore this gorgeous part of the country again… and it has only instilled the idea in my head that wilderness really is a necessity.