Drawing 30: St John’s in the Vale Church
Direction of view: ESE
Notes: This scene is in permanent shadow in winter. A summer’s evening will be best. To exactly replicate Wainwright’s picture, it is necessary to sit on the ground under a tree in the corner of the churchyard.
A tiny version of this picture appears on page High Rigg 3 in The Central Fells.
Comments: I first took this picture on slide film in 1978, probably on 25th August, after an ascent of Brae Fell with Peter Messenger: image 1.
This sketch was on the agenda for the first foray of my project to take digital images of the sketches. With lovely weather, I thought I would get out for a walk on 14th January 2012, and renew my skills of hunting down AW’s viewpoints, as well as visiting a few places I hadn’t been to for a while. See Drawings 54 and 3 for more details.
Having walked over High Rigg and steeply downhill to the north of it, I rapidly realised that, sitting as it does at the foot of this steep northerly slope, St John’s in the Vale church simply will not get any sun at any time of day during the winter months. No matter, might as well get a photo while I’m here (image 2); and much to my surprise I found that AW’s precise viewpoint involves you sitting on the ground jammed up against a tree in the corner of the churchyard. The photograph from which this sketch was drawn is in the County Archives at Kendal, reference WDAW/4/1/1/2/30. Which confirms Wainwright must have sat there.
In fact, the church is shaded by trees even on a summer afternoon, as I found out on 18th June 2017 (image 3). This picture was taken after a walk over the Lord’s Seat group: see Drawing 280.
The earliest reference to a church on this site is in 1554. The present building dates from 1845, incorporating parts of earlier buildings. The road which passes the church was once an important route from Matterdale to Wanthwaite.