RSPB – Leighton Moss

LOW RES Leighton Moss map

Itching to go out walking again, I was looking for ideas for places to go to this weekend. I don’t know why but sightings of bearded tits at RSPB Leighton Moss popped up on my Facebook wall. So I decided to look at their website and planned on taking a few hours walking along their trails of woodland and reed-bed habitats.

Leighton Moss is the largest reed-bed in the NW of England. They have breeding bitterns and is the only home to bearded tits in the region.

We visited after a 1.5h drive, on a cloudy mid-September afternoon. Unfortunately too late to see the bearded tits on the grit feeders. However we did manage to see plenty of other wildlife, predominantly garden and woodland birds.

Among the many feeding stations we passed, we managed to spot hungry blue, great and long tail tits. A friendly robin sang to us for food but we had none. There were many chaffinches having squabbles, but the stars of the day (for us) was a small marsh tit and surprisingly bold nuthatches!

We also saw goldcrests flittering about the trees, but they were so fast that David couldn’t get a picture! Maybe, one day!

Leighton Moss has many walking trails to choose from. David and I did them all save the salt-marshes as they were not on the main reserve. For the three hours we were there, we put in a reasonable four miles of walking.

We stopped for lunch at a bench on the Causeway path, and watched as house martins swooped overhead and red and blue dragonflies darted about. Even the odd speckled wood butterfly made an appearance.

Of the many hides on the reserve I was very impressed with Lilian’s hide. It looked newly made and was very spacious, with bowed windows looking out towards the reed-beds and comfy seating. David snapped a good photo from here of a grey heron.

Not far from Lilian’s hide is the nine metres tall skytower, which gives unparalleled views over the reed-bed towards Morecambe Bay.

The path leading from Grisedale hide offered us two wildlife experiences. The first was on noticing something moving inconspicuously in the reeds, we looked a little closer to find a tiny field vole. He was so cute!

field vole

Field Vole

Further along the path we were surprised by a sudden splash of water! We did not see what made the noise but there are otters residing in the area. I’d like to think we startled one as we made our way along the path.

Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Leighton Moss. At first the £7 per person admission fee for non members seems a little steep but there is free car parking, a shop and cafe in the visitor centre, with the reserve open from dawn to dusk. So £7 for the whole day is good value for money especially as you can walk around the paths as many times as you like and rest a while in the hides.

Membership at £4 a month would be viable if we visited these places more often, but alas only every now and again do we visit an RSPB site. Perhaps that is something to be rectified in the future?

Have you visited Leighton Moss reserve? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Amongst the Ferns!

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After all the upheaval last week, with working on the house. It was nice to have the chance to get away from it all, even if it was for only a few hours.

We got up at 5am. (It seems customary now that if we go walking we head out early). I noticed that the sun hadn’t risen, already the shorter days are on their way! It took us two hours driving on the M6 to get to Grasmere in the Lake District. We planned to walk from Stock Lane car park to Easedale Tarn. The sun was out, yet there was a crisp chill in the air. There was little sign of the warmer weather the Met Office had reported, although it did warm up a little as the day progressed.

The walk to the tarn took just over an hour. Pretty good going, what with my stumpy legs and a well defined but rocky path. The gradient took us up past the beautiful though unfortunately named Sourmilk Ghyll. We stopped off at the waterfall and I pondered whether to take a dip in the plunge pool, though the force of the waterfall seemed fierce. I decided against it and we carried on towards Easedale Tarn.

There were already a number of people at the tarn when we arrived. A group had set up tents on a headland, and looked like they had camped the night, while others were stripping off wet-suits. We walked around the tarn looking for a good entry point. We walked a further hour slipping into mud, (well I was), dodging marshy moss and fighting through Jurassic ferns. At one stage I was ready to give up but David said we should push on. His doggedness paid off and we found ourselves on the other side of the tarn on a shingle beach where a lone sheep looked bewildered by our presence.

By this time a bank of thick cloud had drifted over the fells, blanketing any of the suns warmth. David sat wrapped up in his waterproof shaking his head. ‘You’re crazy!’ he remarked as I folded up my clothes. I stood in my swimsuit at the edge of the tarn. The water to the touch was cold. When I submerged my body, it was the coldest I had swam in! I knew being a tarn, Easedale would be colder than the lakes I had already dipped in, but I was not prepared for how cold. I gasped as I made my first strokes but I soon grew accustomed.

I swam back and forth along the lake-side for about 10 minutes. I felt the cold more as time progressed and what felt like fronds catching at my fingers. ‘It’s starting to rain,’ David said as concentric rings appeared on the water. However it didn’t rain, we realised then that I was not alone in the water! There were little silver fish swimming about. That was what I had felt touching my fingers!!

I got out of the water and shivered while I ate my packed lunch and drank a hot coffee. I only became warm once we headed back along the track to Grasmere and the sun decided to pop out from the clouds.

All in all, we were out walking, swimming, slipping and sliding for around five hours. The car park which has a recognition number-plate camera cost us only £5.80 for that period. I felt enlivened from my dip and the country air. We passed Rydal Water on our journey which looks a lovely lake. Perhaps before the summer’s out I can bag another swim?

Where do you think I should swim next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x