Blea Tarn - the Jewel in the eye of the Lake District: Grid Reference NY 2930 0442 (National Trust Car Park)

 

No trip to the Lake District is complete without a visit to the utterly stunning Blea Tarn. Nestled in between the beautiful Little and Great Langdale Valleys, Blea Tarn remains one of the most popular locations for both photographers and lovers of the outdoors. It probably boasts one of the most recognisable views in the Lake District -  looking over the tarn towards the Langdale Pikes. Langdale means 'Long Valley' in Old Norse and it certainly lives up to its name with Great Langdale stretching around 6 miles from Skelwith Bridge all the way up Dungeon Ghyll and Mickleden Valley. Blea Tarn sits in an elevated position between the head of both valleys and as a result makes it a superb view point for the impressive Langdale Pikes and surrounding fells. If you have ever looked at pictures you would be forgiven in thinking that it was quite difficult to access, but it is In fact a doddle with a National Trust Carpark conveniently situated across the road and is only a short 5 minute walk from the carpark down to the tarn itself. Blea Tarn is around 7 miles from the town of Ambleside and the Village of Coniston. You can get to the tarn via Great Langdale or Little Langdale. Personally I prefer the route through Little Langdale as if you are heading towards Wrynose Pass, as the road up to the tarn from Great Langdale, while short, is extremely narrow, steep and windy.

Once you have safely made your way to the Carpark, you are then in an absolute Photography paradise. The obvious choice is head down to the tarn shoreline, here you can get the classic view of the Langdale Pikes (Pike O'Stickle, Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark) reflected in the tarn. There are plenty of rocks in the water for foreground interest, as well as a nice sloping fence. There is a bank of trees to the left and they also make for good interest in your image, especially in Autumn with the fantastic colours. Its not always flat calm, so make sure to pack your filters and practise some long exposures. Once you have explored the shoreline, you then have the luxury of either heading a little further around the tarn or heading up to some of the fells. My personal favourite is Birk Knott, a small hill on the back end of Lingmoor Fell (which is the large fell on your right as we look toward the Pikes). When coming out of the carpark turn left and head over the cattle grid, you will see a path on your left, start heading up the path and after about 10-15 minutes you gain enough height to get a superb view over the tarn towards the head of Great Langdale, with stunning views of Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell and of course the Langdale Pikes. 

The view from Birk Knott looking over Blea Tarn towards Great Langdale is one of my favorite in the Lake District: 

 

If you fancy stretching the legs a little more then you can take a hike up either Lingmoor Fell or Side Pike. Personally I would recommend Side Pike as for a short 10-15 minute steep walk you get the most stunning views of the head of Great Langdale and into the Mickleden Valley. Side Pike is the little 'nose' shaped fell at the end of the tarn and can be accessed at the cattle grid at the top of the road which leads town to Great Langdale, you will see a sign post for the fell. There is the odd small layby to park, other wise you can park at National Trust car park and make the 15 minute walk around the tarn to the foot of the Fell. The views are tremendous and for a small fell it has so much going on with bags of foreground interest, with old stone walls, fences, trees and it's also a hot bed for heather as well. Lingmoor is another great fell to climb, but requires a little more leg work if you want to get to the summit. Having said that some of the better views are pretty accessible on the lower flanks of the fell. One of my favourite shots is using the old stone wall which runs down the fellside all the way to Side Pike and leads you in to that sumptuous view. There are many was to access Lingmoor but for a quick short ascent to get to the wall (Like in my image below) you take the path from below Side Pike and climb up inbetween Lingmoor and Side Pike. Its around a 20 minute walk up to the wall, then just follow it along until you get a view you like. 

The View over Great Langdale from Side Pike: 

First Light on the Langdale PikesFirst Light on the Langdale PikesAnother location I really enjoy visiting is Side Pike. For very little effort you can get to a truly stunning vantage point, one way you have the Langdale Pikes and head of Great Langdale and the other you have the view over Blea Tarn towards Wetherlam and the Coniston Fells. Side Pike not only offers splendid views but plenty of foreground interest to keep any tog happy, from dry stone walls, rocks, old fences to lone trees. I don't know of many places that you can get all this from a short walk. This short taken as the sunrise, with the morning sun warming the Langdale Pikes.

The view from the lower flanks of Lingoor Fell looking towards Side Pike and the Langdale Pikes beyond.

You could easily spend a couple of days exploring this area and never get bored. It has so much to offer both around the tarn and surrounding fells, I could have added more places, but I think this is an excellent starting point and should keep you occupied when you next get chance to visit. I will start doing as many of these little Lake District Photography guides as I can and hopefully it will help you when you are heading out with your camera. 

Tim