Terry Abraham is an acclaimed filmmaker, producing and directing the BBC hit, ‘Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike – A Year in the Life of England’s Highest Peak’. At the heart of Terry’s work is his own love and passion for the outdoors. This passion drove Terry to change his career and the self-taught filmmaker hasn’t looked back. To launch our #BirchallsBritain North West series, we shared a cup of tea with Terry to understand where this passion came from, how he became a filmmaker and what it is about the Lake District that is so special.
“There’s just something about how our maritime climate dances with these modest mountains and the ever-changing light that alters their facets aesthetically through the course of a day.”
How did you first come to love the outdoors?
I grew up in the countryside and my grandparents had a farm, so spending lots of time outdoors has always played a prominent role in my life. My grandfather was a gamekeeper too and would often take me out bush crafting in Sherwood Forest, a part of which he leased for shooting.
Several times in my youth he’d take me out late on summer evenings and we’d spend the night out in the woods taking in the ambience of the forest at night, watching foxes and badgers and more besides.
My grandmother had a deep affection for culture and history and consequently I’d be force fed to read encyclopaedias and visit countless museums and sites of interest.
So in a way, they had a profound influence on me in terms of respecting and enjoying the Great British Countryside.
When did you first come to the Lake District?
I’d never heard of the Lake District until I visited the area on a holiday with a friend when I was 13 years old. I was in total awe of the high fells and my guardians and tutors for the trip constantly struggled to stop me running free and up the fells!
I vividly recall a guided walk in atrocious weather we did one day and upon reaching the summit of Fairfield, the clouds parted and heavenly light shone down on a distant Windermere. I found a secluded spot and sat there totally mesmerised by the view before me. I’m not afraid to say as a 13 year old boy I shed a few tears too and I knew from that day onwards I wanted to make Cumbria my home one day, let alone explore every nook and cranny of the magnificent fells.
You have always had a passion for the outdoors but how did you eventually make the jump to film making?
I’ve always had a keen interest and passion for film and sharing the delights of the countryside here in the UK. With regards to the latter I feel it’s criminally underexposed and underrated by the wider public. In my twenties I begun taking a cheap camcorder with me out on my wild camps and then shared the sights and sounds I was experiencing on YouTube. In time I inadvertently built up quite a following and from there I decided to take the filmmaking side of things more seriously.
A year or two passed by and I was sadly made redundant from a lowly IT role and I then decided to make the jump and have a go at making a career for myself as a filmmaker promoting the outdoors. I’ve not looked back since!
‘Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike – A Year in the Life of England’s Highest Peak’. What was the inspiration and motivation behind making this film?
As time went by and I developed my filmmaking skills, experience and equipment more, I then felt confident enough to branch out on my own and produce a documentary I’ve always wished to see.
Too often TV programmes never do places like the Lake District justice. Crews are on daily rates, have no care for the area or are working to a set diary. I consider myself a backpacker first and foremost and in a way I guess that gives me an advantage; in respect I enjoy wild camping and get to enjoy and capture sights most people miss when heading down late in the day or after sunrise.
Given my interest in history and culture I wanted to combine all the above and produce a scenic spectacle of one mountain through the course of a year intertwined with authentic voices from those who live, work, care for and play in the area.
The rest as they say is history and it’s been life-changing for me too! Little did I know the documentary would get to feature on the BBC and become a big hit for them and me!
You have spent a lot of time in the Lake District, what is it about this place that is so special for you?
I’m no Wordsworth that’s for sure. I couldn’t possibly begin to explain my deep love for Cumbria and it’s fells; I try to do that visually with my work. I guess in some respects it’s the fact that most if not all of the hills have a distinctive character, let alone the valleys. I often joke that unsightly weeds are beautiful in the Lake District!
There’s just something about how our maritime climate dances with these modest mountains and the ever-changing light that alters their facets aesthetically through the course of a day.
I’m fortunate enough to spend a lot of time here. So much so many consider me a local. That aside, it’s only because of the support from the public via social media that has enabled me to continue my work promoting the area and I’ll be eternally grateful for that. If it weren’t for the public I wouldn’t be where I am today!
Where is your favourite place in the Lake District?
Now this really is a silly question eh? There’s no way I’m revealing such a secret. What I will say is, I have a favourite area. Quite simply it is Upper Eskdale. You can explore an extinct crater of a volcano with ancient towering fells looming over you. It’s a wild place – or at least you get a visceral sense of wilderness. It’s an awe-inspiring place at any time of the year and its little more than an hours walk from the nearest road!
To see more of Terry’s work please visit https://terryabrahamlakedistrictvideo.wordpress.com