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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Many Firsts.

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Derwentwater

I did not hold out much hope for the weather over the weekend. The forecast predicted rain and heavy cloud. Yet David and I decided to keep to the plan I had devised anyway. So, the following morning we left the B&B before sunrise and headed towards Keswick. We parked the car at the Theatre by the Lake, and walked towards the lakeside.

A white dawn broke over Derwentwater. From Friar’s Crag we walked towards the National Trust Centenary Stones, though they looked rather underwhelming with the water having receded. From this bay I planned my first swim of the day. At 9am the water was cold and there was no one about save David and I, and the lake! It was magical, and I loved it!

As an early birthday present David had gifted me a waterproof camera (nick-named Wilson (I’ll explain why later!)) which I trialled at Derwentwater.

After my swim of about 10 minutes, with burning hands and numb skin, I attempted to get dry and dressed. With the sun breaking through the clouds we retraced our steps back towards the car before heading into Keswick for our walk towards Walla Crag.

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Derwentwater from Walla Crag

The walk took us through some nice woodland and across a fell. The whole walk took about two hours. Parts of the ascent was steep, muddy and tiring. We touched the peak of Walla Crag at lunch time. I ate my fruit salad, buffeted by a chilling wind, while looking towards a blue Derwentwater below. We couldn’t have asked for better weather!

We arrived back at the car earlier than anticipated. So looking at the map, I chose Bassenthwaite Lake to visit, being only 15 minutes drive from Keswick.

We luckily managed to find free parking alongside the lake. Indeed the lake seemed almost deserted, much like early morning at Derwentwater! With having a spare swim suit in my rucksack (as you do). I made the impromptu decision to go for another swim!

I had intended to have a sunrise swim at Derwentwater and a sunset swim at Loweswater, but Bassenthwaite became my second swim of the day!

I was not in the water for long. I felt cold, probably because I had not fully warmed up from the swim that morning. After a cup of lukewarm coffee, we headed towards Loweswater for sunset. Much like the sunrise, the sunset did not really happen, but we enjoyed a pleasant autumn stroll along the lake, before I donned my bikini and waded out into the cold and very reedy water.

Loweswater was my shortest swim that day, more of a dip. I did not like the reeds catching at my ankles, so I cut short the swim to shiver on the pebbly bank as twilight fell.

14595792_10154199594089200_8827333379966744528_nWe decided to risk driving the 30 minutes to Ennerdale, a designated dark sky area, in the hope that the clouds would break long enough for us to do some star gazing. We arrived tired and hungry around 7pm and waited for the night to darken. There were no other tourists, save us. We stood listening to eerie calls of birds roosting before the sky above became emblazoned with a multitude of stars. There were wisps of cloud but none could detract from the faint ribbon of the Milky Way. I loved gazing up at the sky and feeling the peace of the area. We will definitely have to visit again when the night is more clear, but what David captured is good for his first attempt.

We returned to the B&B exhausted yet feeling accomplished. It had been a tremendous day, though at times it did seem endless! We had achieved many firsts in the 14 hours of travelling! I had amazingly completed three swims/dips in one day! Loweswater and Bassenthwaite were new lakes to us, and it was the first time David had seen the Milky Way.

It will be hard to top such a day!

Have you visited any of the lakes mentioned? What were your memories of them? Have you been star gazing, seen the Milky Way?

Do continue to follow me as I write about my final day in the Lake District.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Of Swallows and Shallows.

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Wast Water

It was August Bank Holiday here in the UK, and once again David and I headed up to the Lake District. The weather, unusual for a bank holiday turned out to be pretty impressive. Blue skies, hot sun, we couldn’t ask for a better day!

We were up before sunrise (again) and headed out at 6am for our three hour drive! Our destination was the lakeshore of Wast Water, touted in a 2007 ITV poll as Britain’s Favourite View. The scenery is indeed inspirational. To the north, Wasdale Head features the giants Yewbarrow, Great Gable, Lingmell and Scafell Pike. Along the eastern side, Whin Rigg and Illgill Head form the Screes. To the south is a leisurely lakeside walk towards Low Wood and Lund Bridge. It was this path that David and I took on our arrival.

A cool breeze that blew across the lake, created the perfect opportunity to try out my new fleece in preparation for autumn and winter walks.

At the southern point, under the shade of trees I noticed roses scattered along the lake-shore. It got me thinking how many have faced a watery death at Wast Water. After an online search I found that in 1976 a woman had been murdered and her body was dumped at Wast Water, only to be found eight years later still preserved.

In 1945, three airmen lost their lives during a nighttime navigational exercise which saw their Gruman Avenger crash into the Screes. And again in 1973 a Piper Cherokee G-AZYP also crashed into the Screes with no survivors!

Wast Water is the deepest lake in England at 258 feet (79 m) and is a divers haven. Yet even as recent as 2013 the body of a diver, in search of the infamous gnome garden was found. So nothing for me to be worried about then as I planned on doing a swim!

David and I found a nice stony beach on the western side of the lake, where later we would enjoy a scenic picnic with coffee. The choice of location to swim was actually a poor one as the water was very shallow. (No sign of the deepest lake here!) I found I had to wade quite some distance, slipping over mossy rocks before managing to swim. You may be questioning my type of swimwear, especially for a lake that is renowned to be the coldest. I had plans to do not just one swim but two!!
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The water wasn’t as cold as I was lead to believe. Indeed I stayed in the water for my longest swim at around 20 minutes. I breast-stroked with mountainous giants before me and floated looking up at the blue sky as swallows and grey wagtails flittered past. It was indeed a magical experience. I stumbled back onto land giddy and blissfully happy! I could have stayed at Wast Water all day but I had plans of swimming another tarn!

20160829_122344From Google images and maps, Greendale Tarn looked like it had everything going for it. It was isolated, surrounded by mountains and didn’t look like too much of a walk. However with my rudimentary walking skills at best, a two hour walk there and back ended up being three! There is free parking for about 10 cars next to the cottages at Greendale. The start of the walk overlooks the Screes of Wast Water. The going was steep to start off with as the path wound around ferns and bracken. We past Herdwick Sheep who made walking over the boulder filled path look easy. I stumbled and tripped my way upwards, while to our left was the fast flowing Greendale Gill.

Two hours later and we were standing beside a tarn with disappointment on our faces. Instead of finding a peaceful idyll, we gazed upon a body of water that looked reedy. A pond-like smell emanated from the surface. If there were any trout in the water they were well hidden. I could not find an entry point that didn’t have reeds lacing the banks. It was very off putting and I decided (sensibly?) to forego a second swim, much to my consternation! However, looking at the positives from the day, we had enjoyed the walk, even if I did crawl most of the way up and slipped on the way down! The picture of Greendale Tarn makes it look so much more appetising than it really was!

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Greendale Tarn

Wast Water maybe my final swim of the year, what with September and autumn around the corner. I do hope not. Maybe I can squeeze in another swim before it gets too cold?

What do you think?

Christine x