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A year in the life of Lakeland’s Scafell Pike

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 May 2014

An icy morning from Bowfell towards Scafell

An icy morning from Bowfell towards Scafell

mark gilligan

Filmmaker Terry Abraham speaks to Mark Gilligan on his labour of love

Terry with his camera beside Wast Water Terry with his camera beside Wast Water

Those who make their way over to the Lake District’s western fells usually pay homage to Scafell Pike. Arriving on the shores of Wast Water, they will look up and take pictures of England’s highest point, weather permitting. Others will have a personal goal of ascending to its summit.

It is a mountain that draws people from all over the world with its awesome majesty. Outdoors film producer Terry Abraham is no different. It brings him back time and again but his labour of love has gone beyond simply scaling this behemoth of a rock.

In fact, he has been ‘wild camping’ on the open fell through the seasons, recording all he has seen for a new film, The Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike. It records a year in the life of the peak and the people who live, work, care for and play around this iconic fell.

‘This area is so special to me,’ says Terry. ‘I have a particular feeling for Scafell Pike. There is something about it, something that fascinates me. I just had to make this film.’

Sometimes we experience forced changes in our lives, turning points. It happened several years back for Terry, who was facing Christmas with the prospect of redundancy from his office job.

‘I had been working a normal nine to five job and producing films as a sideline,’ he says. Terry spent weekends making corporate videos and then shooting the material he really loved while camping in the wilds.

‘When my job finished, it was decision time. I knew what I really wanted to do. In fact, it was all I wanted to do but there was a reality check. I discussed it with my wife, Sue, and she supported my decision to give filmmaking a go full-time.’

He invested what money he had left in better equipment and began searching for backers for his project of recording Scafell throughout the seasons. It would concentrate not just on the mountain, but also the people who work on and around it.

‘I had about three to four months redundancy and felt that would be enough time for me to know if it was going to work or not. It was a gamble, very hard but after a year, I had made a living doing what I wanted to do. Having won various amateur awards in the past, I had built up a following on YouTube and other social media sites. The concept of making a film on the mountain was my ambition and the people I approached for sponsorship backed me immediately. I was very honoured they had faith in me.’

In the ‘downtime’ before he started his Lakes adventure, Terry went up to Scotland with the acclaimed writer and back-packer Chris Townsend. They spent a winter shooting what is now one of the most sought-after DVDs of its genre. The Cairngorms in winter is so beautifully crafted you would never know Terry started with a cheap camcorder and has had no formal training.

Even now, Terry doesn’t do things the easy way. Not only does he endure the hardship of living on the fells but just getting to them is tough.

He doesn’t drive so after a train to Seascale, he often walks to the mountain with over 30 kilos of equipment on his back, then makes his way up to various shooting sights on and around the Scafells. While he takes up what he can, Terry has his food delivered to a local inn using a prearranged internet booking service. He comes back down for supplies when they arrive.

Having made camp and settling down with his camera, he then waits. Nature throws up some of the most astonishing spectacles and while we are warm in our beds, he is busy rigging his camera onto a jib and capturing the most evocative, striking images.

‘Sometimes I will be up there for three or four days and the “clag” has prevented anything worthy and then it will just happen. Two or three minutes of what I am seeking and it has all been worthwhile.

‘It is another world. Sunsets and sunrises above the clouds are quite breathtaking. This area draws me. I have a passion for it and so it seemed like an inevitable thing for me to do. I just love it here.

‘I have learnt a lot about myself while doing this. How to cope with being lonely and dealing with situations on my own. It hasn’t been easy but I am lucky to have the support of my wonderful wife.’

The Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike - which will premiere at Rheged, near Penrith, on May 10. For details call 01768 868000 or visit www.rheged.com

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