Aspen Fell – click any image for full size
It’s been two years since my last visit to Aspen Fell, so when Shakespeare suggested Caitlyn and I head back and take a look and the region in its new home, I thought he had the right idea.
The region presents a setting caught between autumn’s last breath and the cold winds of winter. It is a rocky place, the majority of the region given over to a high-walled rocky U running north to south, surrounded by cold looking waters and offshore peaks, the entire setting struck in muted browns, whites and greens by the lowering Sun (I’ll be honest, I pushed the Sun a little higher into the sky to gain a little more natural contrast).
The landing point sits on the south side of the region, at the base of the U. Facing visitors on their arrival is the high face of the cliffs, split by a narrow crack, which seems to offer an invitation to see what lies on the other side of the rocks. However, we’d recommend you avoid the temptation, unless you want to get particularly wet. Instead, turn to the east or west, where sit old walls bearing wrought iron fences and heavy gates, pointing the way to where you might find paths snaking their way up to the plateaus above.
This is very much a place of two parts in several ways. To the west, it is distinctly autumnal; the grass is still green, the trees still have their leaves, the lowlands offer a long ribbon of sand that curls around the cliffs, a place to walk and even enjoy a sauna – but everything is cast under a chilly, heavy sky, the tide braking against that sandy ribbon particularly cold. To the east, the region is caught in the grip of winter; snow blankets lay over both the curl of the beach and the tops of the plateaus, and even forms drifting slopes between the two. The trees are denuded, the grass fighting to push itself through the white mantle of snow, and frost catches stone and wood.
Similarly, to the west, the cliff tops, caught in their autumn cast, appear careworn and a little tired. Dilapidated barns and the ruins of a farm-house together with the wrecks of old vehicles lay scattered across the plateau. To the east, the cliff tops are given over to the remnants of much older structures: an ancient bridge or viaduct together with the walls, arches and paved floor of a former building or gate-house, their stonework giving them a sense of youthful permanence within the landscape, the snow on and around them presenting a feeling of pristine newness.
Down in the valley between the arms of this rocky U, these two halves meet, but do not merge. To one side, the cliffs descend with path and rocky face to the snow-covered banks of a watery finger poking its way south. The trees here are also without leaves, bent against the cold, while an icy shelf reaches outwards over the water without actually reaching the far bank. Across the water, the west side of this broad valley again holds on to autumn the grass is tall and the trees, though bent and twisted, retain their crowns of leaves. Paths again wind up to the highlands above, and like those highlands the detritus of life can be found here: the ruin of a wooden house, the wreck of a car, a forlorn wooden deck caught under the downpour that holds the north-west of the region captive.
Bridges suspended by balloons link the two halves of the valley, undulating over ice and water to link snow and grass. To the south, the two halves of this landscape are also brought together by an old railroad line, a narrow bridge allowing it to hold the two sides together likes stitches holding together the thin slice of a cut.
If all this sounds gloomy, don’t be fooled; Aspen Fell also hold plenty of warmth. Scattered across it are places to sit, indoors and out, be they in the warmth of cosy cabins or aboard the freight cars of a parked train or on blankets or cushions under open skies, or up in a watch tower or under the canvas awning of a tent. Lamps and lanterns are also scattered throughout the setting, offering pools of warmth and illumination, while many of the trees on the snow-laden eastern side of the region are festooned with lights, bringing their own cheer and warmth to the setting.
I’ve always enjoyed Aspen Fell, and this iteration is no exception. Raw it may be on first looks, but there is an appeal to be found here, a desire to explore and discover. So, too, does it offer a place to be shared, and to perhaps reflect on the passing of another year (albeit with a typical northern hemisphere outlook).
- Aspen Fell (Peaceful Den, rated: Moderate)