Mud and Sphagnum!

This Sunday, David and I finally planned a Lake District adventure! It was nice to be back to our days of exploring. 2019 has thrown us a few curve balls but hopefully illnesses and job woes are all behind us!

Our destination this Sunday morning was the western shores of Thirlmere. We arrived at the Dobgill pay and display car park at 8.30am after an early rise. Whilst enjoying unprecedented weather this summer bank holiday weekend, the decision to visit the quieter Thirlmere was beneficial as we only saw a handful of people on our walk towards the picturesque Harrop Tarn.

The walk through woodland was steep but not exhaustingly so, we spotted many types of fungi bathed in sunshine.

The tarn itself has only one shingle beach with access to the water. We aimed for this beach but had to squelch through moss and bog to get there!

Thankfully no one else was swimming when we arrived but a group had set up a wild camp in the conifer trees beyond. Mindful of people at close proximity I quickly stripped to my swimming costume and donned my neoprene shoes and gloves. I entered the water quickly as the sloping shingle shore was steep and shifted under foot. I spent a leisurely 15 minutes swimming back and forth with butterflies fluttering over head and the Helvellyn massif stretching impressively to the west. The water was around 16°C but was rather murky. It was only later that we discovered that I shared the swim with little silver fish.

Back on land I struggled into another swimsuit, a second swim was planned! However I recalled that on arrival at the car park I’d exclaimed, ‘I’ve forgotten the sunscreen!’ David and I were going to bake as the sun was already high in the sky and burning hot!

We retraced our steps through bogland towards a forest path and then struggled through a muddy, stone littered track towards the open fell of Watendlath. The second tarn of the day was going to be Blea. There are three Blea Tarns in the Lake District: Landgale, Watendlath and Eskdale, only the Eskdale Blea Tarn to do!

Watendlath’s Blea Tarn is nestled below Coldbarrow Fell at 1500ft. It was a tiring marshy trek over sphagnum moss to get to the tarn and then with no path to the shore or easy access to the water, we had to knock down vegetation and sink into pits of mud and water to get any closer. We picnicked with the view of the tarn and Low Saddle before I gritted my teeth and waded into the wind chopped waters. I was not enamoured with this Blea Tarn. At present the Langdale’s Blea is winning. Watendlath’s Blea had a feel of Small Water for me. I waded out into shallow waters. Too shallow really to swim in. Then there was the blue green algae fluorescing further ahead and fronds of vegetation wrapping around my wrists. Tired and frustrated, I turned tail and returned to shore.

Once dry, we decided to walk back to the car park, which saw us embark on another hour of trudging through marshland. We dodged hungry bumblebees, and avoided ticks as we made our descent towards the car. An inferno awaited us as we opened the car doors, heat flooded out! We returned home tired, sunburned but content that we had spent five hours walking and swimming in the lake district fells. I am looking forward to our next adventure.

How did you spend your summer bank holiday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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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