Helvellyn, with Striding Edge in the foreground. Photo: Terry Abraham

Helvellyn, with Striding Edge in the foreground. Photo: Terry Abraham

Terry Abraham’s ‘final love letter to the Lakes’ is a soaring, sprawling epic film capturing the Lake District national park’s most popular mountain and those who live, work and play around it, and who are drawn to the fell and its rocky challenges.

Abraham’s third and final movie depiction of Lakeland mountains, following from his earlier trilogy offerings featuring Scafell Pike and Blencathra, was due to premiere at Rheged earlier this year, but coronavirus restrictions put paid to that and the film was released online to an audience of thousands at the weekend.

Abraham said he’s still hopeful of a big screen event before the year’s out and rightfully too as his work undoubtedly benefits from the wide panorama of a cinema viewing.

The film-maker, who is now based in Cumbria, has matured in his technique with each new film and his latest offering displays some splendid footage using time-lapse, slow motion, macro, slow pans, and drones. His stock-in-trade is the static frame, letting the beauty of the mountain and its surroundings reveal themselves.

Terry Abraham in action on Nethermost Pike. Photo: David Forster

Terry Abraham in action on Nethermost Pike. Photo: David Forster

The movie has been three years in the making, with Abraham often lugging his film gear on to the fells in all weathers and at all times of the day, before most people are awake and when most have gone to bed; wild camping in the search for the best night sky, dawn or sunset. The Lake District displays its beauty in many ways but it takes real skill to capture it through the lens.

There are also some stunning shots of the fauna of the area, a notoriously difficult subject needing both patience and quick wits.

Almost as remarkably, Abraham has gathered a stellar cast of interviewees, from mountaineer Simon Yates to television outdoors evangelist Julia Bradbury; top fellrunner Ricky Lightfoot to adventurer and author Phoebe Smith. There are also a few surprising appearances from characters such as meteorologist Peter Gibbs and Lake District heritage story teller Steve Wharton. Those who enjoyed broadcaster Stuart Maconie’s discomfort on Sharp Edge in the Blencathra film will be happy to know the less than perfectly balanced Rambler can be seen traversing Striding Edge with not much more grace.

Terry Abraham filming on Angletarn Pikes. Photo: Paul Bacon

Terry Abraham filming on Angletarn Pikes. Photo: Paul Bacon

Life of a Mountain Helvellyn is much more than a mini-travelogue and has as much footage of the people connected to the fell and its environs as mountain eye-candy. There’s genuine educational material in the interviews and the film examines the wider area around the Ullswater valley. There’s even a surprising hop over the Atlantic to Iceland to help understand Helvellyn’s history.

Three years’ footage, shot both by Abraham and five other cinematographers, clearly created a lot of material and I recommend you find a comfortable seat on which to sit during the film’s near 150-minute running time. The movie would undoubtedly have benefited from some more extensive editing. Trouble is: where do you start?

The scenic shots are mostly accompanied by music composed for the project by Freddiehangoler, sometimes, lyrical; sometimes heroic, and I found myself induced by them into an emotional path that wouldn’t tally with my own experience of time on the fells.

I suppose a track featuring obscure prog rock or the latest Fat White Family song wouldn’t be everyone’s taste but it’s more likely what’s going through my head as I teeter along Swirral Edge.

Life of a Mountain Helvellyn is a visual feast and comprehensive examination of England’s third-highest mountain and a fitting finale to Abraham’s Lakeland trilogy.

Life of a Mountain Helvellyn is available on DVD to pre-order from Striding Edge.

Some articles the site thinks might be related:

  1. Review: Life of a Mountain: Blencathra by Terry Abraham
  2. Terry Abraham turns to print with book charting path to his mountain cinematography
  3. Film-maker Terry Abraham takes up role as patron of Nurture Lakeland charity
  4. Alan Hinkes and Terry Abraham join Fjällräven-backed Lake District campaign
  5. Review: Chris Bonington Mountaineer