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!

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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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Of Princes and Fairies.

An early start to Friday beckoned as David and I headed out on a North Wales adventure.

Our destination for the day was Beddgelert Forest. According to 18th Century lore, Gelert was a dog of Prince Llywelyn the Great. One day, on returning from a hunt Llywelyn found his son’s crib overturned. His boy gone! Gelert was discovered with blood around his mouth. Llywelyn in a fit of temper, quickly slayed the dog to later find that Gelert had saved his son from the jaws of a wolf. Gelert is said to be buried on the bank of the river Glaslyn. 

Beddgelert Forest, with panoramic views of Snowdon, a walk and cycling trails, and even a secluded lake, sounded too good to be true! I thought with it being the school summer holidays that the area would be teaming with day trippers, how wrong I was. On arrival at the free car park, we discovered we were the only visitors there, (it gets busier during the afternoon.)

The walk is a circular route through the forest and around Llyn Llywelyn. The walk is just under three miles long, on easy navigable pathways and took David and I two hours to complete, (with a pit stop for refueling). 🙂 I was excited to visit the secluded llyn as I was intending to do my first Welsh wild swim there! However on arrival the beautiful scenery was being destroyed by deforestation and the lake was coffee coloured. The smell of decomposing matter only added to my consternation. The question was whether to swim or not to swim! I decided not to swim and felt cleaner for it!

Along our walk we did see lots of wildlife. There was an abundance of butterflies; commas, red admirals, peacocks and ringlets were among the ones I spotted. There was heather, field scabious and self-heal growing along the paths with dragonflies darting about like mini helicopters! I’d never seen so many! The star sighting of the day was a goldcrest flitting about the conifers.

At noon we decided to head back along the A4085 for an impromptu visit to Llyn Cwellyn – the fairies lake! We’d visited Llyn Cwellyn the previous year. You can read about that adventure here. There are many lakes in Snowdonia that are associated with tales of menfolk and fairies. Llyn Cwellyn is just one of them. A man happened upon a group of fairies dancing at the shores of Cwellyn. Entranced, the man joined in with their dance. After a while he grew bored and decided to go home. On his return to his village he discovered that his parents had died, his sweetheart had married another and he had been gone for seven years! At this revelation the man died not long after, lonely and of a broken heart. It seems time for fairies is much slower than our own!

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Llyn Cwellyn

However being lost in time was the least of my worries. It was midday, and I feared the Snowdon Ranger car park would be full. We had also seen that there was only one shingle beach from which to access the llyn. I imagined the lakeside path to be full with families enjoying the scenery. How wrong could I be? Luckily we found parking and paid the £2.50 for four hours, though we wouldn’t be there that long (unless we discovered some fairies!)! Many walkers headed towards Snowdon, so on arrival at the shore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was deserted! It was just David and I and the lake!

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

I was determined to kick start my Welsh wild swims, so from the shingle beach I waded out into cool, clear waters. The entrance into the lake was one of the best I’ve experienced. The llyn’s bed was soft shingle and I walked out until I was neck deep in water. Terence said the temperature was 17° but it felt colder due to a mean wind that whipped across the surface. I swam watching butterflies flitter across the water and floated on my back while RAF planes flew high above. It was a most enjoyable swim, one of the best this year and no I didn’t spy any fairies!

As I shivered back on shore the only disappointment was that Wilson (camera) hadn’t recorded my swim. We estimated that I was in the water for 15 minutes.

So our adventure turned out to be a day of ups and downs. Ultimately it was a perfect day for my first Welsh wild swim. There are around 200 llyns in Snowdonia alone. I won’t get to swim all of them, but at least I have made my first attempt.

Where do you think I should swim next? Have you tried wild swimming? What were your experiences?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Angle Tarn and Beda Fell.

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Angle Tarn

With a planned walk to Angle Tarn on the itinerary, David and I headed towards Patterdale. We parked the car opposite the Patterdale Hotel and paid the very reasonable £4 for all day. At 9.30am I was surprised at how busy the village was with walkers. With a grey leaden sky and a chilling breeze we headed down the lane and took a left turn onto Goldrill Bridge. We followed signs to the tarn and Boredale Hause.

I found information on getting to Angle Tarn rather sparse online, perhaps that was why we took so many wrong turns. What should have been a two to three hour walk ended up being a five and a half hour epic! Things started to go wrong when we reached the first of many forks in the path. We interpreted the walk featured on The How Cottage website wrongly and took a left turn instead of a right. After walking for half an hour, we found that we were heading out onto Place Fell overlooking Ullswater. I knew this was the wrong direction so we turned tail and retraced our route back to the fork, where we took the right-hand path.

After reaching a second fork we took the top pathway. In hindsight it would have been far easier if we had taken the lower path as this would have seen us directly to the mountain pass of Boredale Hause. Instead it was the beginning of our woes as the top path branched off before Boredale Hause and we ended up traipsing across mossy blanket bogs, soaking our tired feet in mud and water. I soon grew fearful as we seemed to be heading in the wrong direction to Angle Tarn. The sky darkened broodily causing my sense of isolation to increase. With map skills at a minimum, GPS not functioning properly, and David doggedly wanting to see what was at the end of a steep path, we walked for further than needed. Instead of heading south we headed east and ended at a cairn overlooking two valleys. However we had inadvertently bagged another Wainwright, this time Beda Fell. With my mood as morose as the weather I didn’t take a picture. Thinking back the scenery was impressive, I just wish that it didn’t look so desolate. I was not enjoying myself out on the fells!

Almost close to tears and wanting to give up, we retraced our footsteps back down the path. Some of the pathways were not clearly defined, but (luckily) we finally ended up at Boredale Hause and its cairn. There were numerous paths leading from the cairn and one that was sign posted with red flags (the coast to coast walk). We followed this path which seemed popular with other walkers. It was also aiming in the right direction for Angle Tarn. I had not given up totally of seeing it. The well defined path was gravelly underfoot with sheer drops in places. I didn’t look down! There were however stunning views of Brothers Water nestled among the Hartsop Dodd fells.

We had been walking for three hours, our feet had started to blister when I saw David ahead of me jump for joy! Over a hill we spotted the dull tinge of cloud reflecting water. Angle Tarn spread out before us enticingly with its two islands and spit. We stiffly walked to the promontory and found a little cove where we set up camp and had lunch. I was too tired to be happy. I had found the whole experience underwhelming.

Even though I felt cold I decided to continue with the planned itinerary and go for a swim. It ended up more of a dip as I felt so exhausted! Terence said that the water temperature was 15°C. From our cove the main island was only a few metres away. Once in the water I decided to swim over and explore. I had always wanted to swim to an island and Angle Tarn’s island was not too far away.

After my swim, we returned to Boredale Hause and thankfully our journey back to the car park was uneventful. Our descent took two hours. On the way down, David spied a huge golden ringed dragonfly at the side of the path. Out came the lenses and he managed to snap a great photo of it!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

In calculation, we had walked for over five hours, ten miles in total and my Samsung Health clocked a whopping 26,000 steps! It was an eventful day, one I won’t forget in a hurry.

Have you walked around the fells of Patterdale? What were your impressions of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Whinlatter Forest.)

Our last breakfast during this short break to the Lake District, was shared with another couple who had arrived the previous evening. I felt rather sad that we were going home later that day, yet I knew Artie was missing us. Breakfast was a relaxed and leisurely beginning to the day.

On leaving Hermiston, Phil and Helen said goodbye to us with more hugs and handshakes. It was a wrench to leave, they do indeed make you feel like friends.

David and I headed 10 minutes up the road to the visitor centre at Whinlatter Forest. I had planned a three hour walk to the top of Seat How. On arrival the car park was already busy with bikers and families. We donned our walking boots and headed towards the red way-markers.

The winding pathway took us past a Gruffalo and through tall trees. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and we got to the top of Seat How earlier than planned. I thought the pathways were better sign posted than our visit to Grizedale last year. We stopped and ate our packed lunch with views of the surrounding fells, Keswick and Derwent Water before us. We watched transfixed as a pair of buzzards drifted elegantly on the breeze.

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Seat How Summit

As we made our journey back to the car park, the clouds broke and the sun came out!

Our time at Whinlatter Forest was shorter than I had planned, though we had enjoyed our time spent beneath the trees. The paths towards Lord’s Seat and Grisedale Pike will have to be revisited some other time. After 1pm we decided to make the journey home. I was sad to leave the Lake District but knew I would return again soon. My wild swims beckon!

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Fudge

The news we were greeted on arrival home, was that we had lost one of our finches while away. R.I.P. Fudge, you are still sadly missed.

Artie however was happy to see us and for this past week has been more clingy than normal. He is usually such an independent cat.

Thank you for joining me as I recap my short break to the Lake District. The change of scenery was much needed, and even David said he had a good time! Thank you Phil and Helen for making our stay at Hermiston such a relaxing and pleasant time.

Are you planning a trip/day out to the lake District? Do you know of any sights David and I would enjoy visiting?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x