Aira Force and Ullswater

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Ullswater

Before journeying home, I planned to stay a little bit longer in the Lake District. Even though the day dawned grey and showery, we stuck with the itinerary and headed towards Aira Force and Ullswater. Neither we had visited before, so we were in new charted territory!

We parked the car at High Cascades car park. I thought it was reasonably priced for the day at £6.50, other car parks in the area charged a lot more!

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Aira Falls

The path took us along well designed paths that lead towards the viewing platform and steps to Aira Force. The whole area felt like a Victorian park, and after some online research I found that the area was indeed landscaped, though earlier than expected, by the Howard family in the 1780’s.

The woodland walk was pleasant and the area seemed very popular with other tourists.

We spent a good hour walking the meandering paths, following bubbling streams and watching fast flowing rapids.

Above the shade of trees the clouds broke and an unseasonably hot sun glared down.

After visiting Aira Force, a walk along the Gowbarrow trail was planned. We took the route anti clockwise. I don’t know whether this was a good thing or not, though come our descent we were faced with very steep steps, so going up would have been a struggle!

We walked a narrow path, with wonderful views of Ullswater below. The destination for lunch was the Memorial Seat and cairn.

After a well earned rest, where we were either too hot or too cold, we continued on an exhausting two hour hike around Gowbarrow. At 481m it was 100m taller than Walla Crag, and boy did it feel it! We kept walking and walking. The map I had didn’t correlate to anything in front of us. There were times when I thought we were lost, and then the weather turned and the cloud came rolling in!

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Gowbarrow Summit

However we managed to find the summit of Gowbarrow and though we stumbled on our descent, we could see the car park and David’s shiny red car awaiting us in the distance. It was a welcome sight!

I have never felt so utterly spent after a walk as I did after Gowbarrow. Perhaps is was due to the fact that I hadn’t rested after a hectic day around Derwentwater, the day before. Whatever it was, when we found free parking alongside a grey Ullswater, I was in two minds as to whether to embark on my final swim or leave the total for 2016 at 9! All along the walk to Gowbarrow I had been imagining the swim in Ullswater. I felt apprehensive. The swims in Bassenthwaite and Loweswater had made me worry about how cold the water would be and would I enjoy the experience. I know I hadn’t enjoyed Loweswater!

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Ullswater

Though my mind debated and my body felt tired, I knew in my heart that if I didn’t take a dip in Ullswater, (a new lake to add to the tally), then I would feel I had cheated myself. I had come this far, a few minutes of discomfort would be worth the exhilaration afterwards! So David and I headed towards the shore. The choice of entrance was not the greatest. I had intended on swimming from Glencoyne Bay but we had parked a little further up the road and the entrance was rocky and very shallow. It took me a while to waddle into water deep enough for me to submerge my body.

Though the water was cold, it did not feel as icy as Derwentwater. Indeed after a few strokes I felt warm. I began to enjoy myself. I took Wilson (waterproof camera) with me and snapped a few shots. I was later astonished to find that I had shared my swim with hundreds of little fish. I had not felt them swimming through my fingers like I had at Easedale.

What happened next was due to my own laziness at not wanting to stumble across bricks and rocks to hand Wilson back to David on shore. I have discovered that I can’t breaststroke while holding the camera, so I placed Wilson on a stone that protruded above the water. The water was relatively calm, so I left Wilson while I continued to swim back and forth along the shore. On the other side of the lake a ferry chugged along.

Before I knew it, David was shouting ‘wave,’ in alarm and I was buffeted by a huge swell churned up from the ferry. I watched in horror as Wilson was knocked off his rock and I kicked stones and bruised my legs scrambling towards shore to find him. David directed me as to which direction he thought Wilson had been swept in. I waded in panic, shivering in the cold. I was about to give up when I saw Wilson bobbing in the shallows. I was so relieved. I did not want to lose my new camera. It was a lesson well learned!

The event had upset me almost to tears. Cold to the bone, I cut short my swim and returned, mightily relieved to the shore. David and I were thankful I had not lost my new camera. David joked that it reminded him of the film Castaway, hence the name Wilson.

Up until the incident, I had been enjoying my swim in Ullswater. It makes me determined to return in the future. I will just have to find a way of fixing Wilson to my body so I can swim unhindered.

I hope you have enjoyed my short, but full excursion to the Lake District? Have you been to Aira Force, walked Gowbarrow or around Ullswater? Let me know what lakes/walks you think I should visit next.

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

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week One

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The Wildlife Trust’s, 30 Days Wild 2016 dawned on a cloudy Wednesday, a hump day! I must admit it was difficult to find my ‘get up and go!’ However the sun made an appearance in the afternoon. It shone down hotly, as I slowly eased into this June by doing the usual pottering about the yarden (yard/garden)!

I participated in 30 Days Wild last year and thoroughly felt enlivened just by noticing the nature and wildlife around me.

I do try to help the wildlife in my area. It started off by putting out feeders for the birds. Then it progressed to planting for bees, butterflies and other insects. And this year David and I have built a small pond in the hope of bringing even more wildlife to the urban back yarden.

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Day One: Wednesday.

Like last year I will blog about my 30 Days Wild in weekly installments. Thanks to Annie Irene from Trails&Tails who wrote about the many bloggers featured on The Wildlife Trusts, My Wild Life website. It is always good to read what other’s are getting up to this June, so if you are interested like I was, then follow the link and get reading!

One of the positives about reading other people’s experiences of the ‘wild’ is that you learn something new almost daily. Today, I learnt that a ‘weed’ I have ashamedly been pulling up out of the yarden (oops), is called Herb Robert or geranium robertianum. This wild flower is apparently edible and has many therapeutic properties.

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Day Two: Thursday.

Today, David had a day off work. I suggested we go to a park in search of wildlife. We decided on visiting Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. We seem to make an annual pilgrimage here, but really should visit more often. It has lakes and woodland walks. It also features the restored Moon Wall and Pagodas that featured in the Garden Festival of the 1980’s!

On our leisurely walk, there were coots with chicks on the lake. Alongside the paths David and I spotted orchids and oxeye daises, and in the woodland we saw several butterflies, one was a Speckled Wood.

We had a picnic alongside a stream, where under a strong beaming sun we sat listening to birdsong. I’ve identified (using British Garden Birds) the song of a chaffinch and maybe a wren, but is there a third song? Can you tell?

Day Three: Friday.

If you are struggling to find something ‘wild’ to do in June, then why not download the 30 Days Wild app for 101 random acts of wildness? I did and the first act suggested was something blue. So here is a picture of one of David’s rockery plants, lithodora ‘heavenly blue.’

Day Four: Saturday.

This March we planted some seed maris bard potatoes in the hope of growing our first vegetables. Today I noticed that the first flower has opened. I read that it will be soon be time to harvest these earlies! Isn’t the flower very strange looking? Well I thought so!

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Day Five: Sunday.

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Naughty Artie!

Today was World Environment Day. Nicky on her blog Too Lazy to Weed, highlighted that it was also The National Garden Bioblitz weekend! So we spent the whole day in the yarden. I busied myself with counting the flora and fauna that we have in our small space. My fellow ‘spotter’ Artie was watching the bees and butterflies for a very different reason!!!

I counted  about 60 plants. Of that number we have two trees and many shrubs, alpines and perennials. I used the Pl@ntNet app to ID some annuals and I was surprised at the results! One of the wildflower seedlings has roundish leaves so I used the app and found out it is a nasturtium!

Of the many insects that visited the yarden, a number of them were bees. Those identified were: common carder bees, a dark variant of the tree bumblebee, mason bees and white-tailed bumblebees. Thanks to UK Bees, Wasps and Ants Facebook page for help with ID-ing the bees. My skills are still not great! Below are five useful facts on each bee.

Common Carder Bee:

  1. Found widely in the UK.
  2. On the wing from March to November.
  3. Nests above ground, such as cavities, hedges, plant litter or birds nests.
  4. They gather moss or grass to cover their nests.
  5. A social bee, can have a colony of up to 200 workers.

Tree Bumblebee:

  1. Came to the UK ten years ago, under own steam.
  2. Not reported to have damaged native bumblebees
  3. Prefers wide open flowers, i.e. daisies.
  4. Nests in cavities or birds nests/boxes.
  5. The males are sting-less.

Mason Bee:

  1. One of the solitary bees, (there are no worker bees).
  2. Nests in cavities, i.e. walls.
  3. Uses mud to close their brood cells.
  4. Are non aggressive.
  5. Are just as good pollinators as honey bees.

White-tailed Bumblebee:

  1. Is another group of social bees.
  2. Nests underground, i.e. rodent nests.
  3. Has a short tongue, so prefers wide open flowers, such as daisies.
  4. Are accomplished nectar ‘robbers’. By boring holes, means they don’t have to enter the flower.
  5. On the wing from March to November.

David, Artie and I were also given a spectacular mating dance from two, small white butterflies. It was truly uplifting to see the two flutter delicately about on a hot summers day!

Day Six: Monday.

20160606_133351I don’t know if it is due to tiredness or the heat but I have been feeling kind of tired and low today. So it was going to be a lazy kind of day. After the midday heat had passed, Artie and I headed out into the yarden to sit quietly. I took out my library copy of Roger Deakin’s Waterlogged, (a tale of ‘wild’ swimming around the UK), and relaxed while the yarden hummed with bees. I am finding the book hard reading. I simply can’t get into it!  I usually like history but the historical passages in the narrative just bore me. I will persevere though!

Day Seven: Tuesday.

I have always wanted to try my hand at writing a Haiku (traditional Japanese poetry.) You may have guessed that I can go on a bit while writing the blog, so you’d think a three lined poem would be easy for me! Wrong! I have been racking my brain trying to get syllables to come together. Below is my best attempt. What are your thoughts? Have you tried writing a Haiku?

Bees, buzz, drunk on nectar (5)
Flowers’ scent, enticingly (7)
Pollen baskets, full (5)

Summary: The problem with this years 30 Days Wild is that I have wanted to do everything all at once! And that is not plausible. I have felt like a daemon possessed! Panicking if I don’t do something to the extent I want. For the second week, I think I need to ‘chill’ a bit more and enjoy nature instead of forcing it!

I hope you will come with me on this next week of discovery?!

Christine x

‘The Road Goes Ever On and On.’

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Friday the 12th February was International Darwin Day. Coincidentally David had taken a day off work, so we both headed off on our second adventure to Wales. Again we drove towards Snowdonia National Park, this time to Llyn Idwal.

The valley or cwn around Llyn Idwal is recognised as Wales’s first National Nature Reserve and a site of special scientific Interest. The area is famous for its rock formations (moraines) and rare plants. Notables, the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary, visited Llyn Idwal to prepare for his ascent of Everest. Happily, I also read that Charles Darwin also visited the area before embarking on his voyage on the Beagle.

So on the day, David and I walked in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest men.

However the weather didn’t measure up to the forecast and when we arrived at the National Trust car park (off the A5,) there was a thick blanket of white cloud all around. We paid £5 for the day as we didn’t know how long it would take to walk around the lake. There is a charge of £2.50 for four hours for people who are more experienced and more equipped! As you can see I still sported my Parker!

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Photo by David Evans

The first thing you notice is the snow capped mountains, (Glyderau or Glyders.) It was nice to finally see some snow! The designated path takes you over a stream with a pretty waterfall.

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Then the path meanders around most of the glacial, fresh water lake. We took the path anti-clock wise.

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Most of the path is navigable except for the Idwal Slabs and boulder field which is beneath the towering heights of the Devil’s Kitchen. I am no climber (some would say not much of a walker, either,) so David left me to explore.

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While David was scurrying over the rocks like Gollum, I turned and appreciated the view of the lake below me. The name Idwal comes from the myth of the Gwynedd princes. Idwal’s father, Prince Owain one day entrusted the care of his son to Nefydd Hardd (a bondsman.) However under his care Idwal drowned in the lake. Some tales tell of Nefydd’s son, Dunawd, having pushed poor Idwal into the lake due to his jealousy! As punishment, Nefydd was forced to give up his lands and was banished from the kingdom of Gwynedd. Owain, in his sorrow named the lake after his son. The tale recalls that no bird will fly over the lake because of this tragedy!

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Llyn Idwal

We found the area very popular with tourists and walkers alike, and as we took our leave of Llyn Idwal, there were coaches full of students arriving, all hoping to do what David and I had done. Walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.

Do you like to go walking? Where are your favourite walks in the UK?

Christine x

A Lady of Leisure.

Costa treat

Costa treat

Monday was the beginning of my ‘much needed’ week off work. I started it by going for a coffee with my mum! We braved the drizzle and took the bus to Allerton and our favourite Costa! It was a nice indulgent treat but the indulgence didn’t end there! The next day Mum and I went to Liverpool One’s Odeon and went to see Jurassic World! It was an enjoyable romp and it was nice to just switch off for a change! There were some nail biting moments which had mum and I squealing like children! 😀

I spent the ‘hump’ with Artie who seemed to enjoy the company.

2015-07-14 22.29.24In the garden:

There has been a flurry of activity at the feeders this week. Visiting were lots of baby Starlings all greedily helping themselves to the fat balls. Amongst all the flapping of wings were four House Sparrows, two males and two females. They happily explored the garden. I saw them under the Honeysuckle and at one stage all sitting in the branches of the small Buddleia I have in a pot! However they do not stay still for long and we believe we have more Sparrows visiting than first thought. I am hopeful they will continue to visit the feeders, they have such lovely sweet characters.

There were also the many Goldfinch ‘charms’ visiting. One family must have been successful at rearing their young as they brought about four babies to the feeders. All are welcome! 😀

I had to dig up my Michaelmas Daisy as the mildew was spreading to other flowers. The vinegar spray did not help I am afraid! Looks like I’ll be heading to Lady Green Garden Centre in the near future!

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The rest of the week:

David had Thursday and Friday off. So on the first day, we went to Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Trent to see their art instillation of fairies, by local artist Robin Wright. We got in for the 2 for 1 offer via Stoke on Trent’s tourist website. Saved us nearly £10! The next four hours was spent walking along the mile long lake, viewing the many art displays in-situ and enjoying their gardens.

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While walking we came across a flash of colour! It was a small part of the lakeside given over to wild flowers. The sight was stunning!

Wild flowers

Wild flowers

One of the attractions at Trentham was their Bare Foot Walk. I had decided the night before that if I had the chance I would try it. So in anticipation I packed with our lunch a small towel to wipe my feet! 🙂 David thought I was mad, but I threw off my shoes and socks and jumped on the wooden stepping stones.

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

The wood was presently warm and comfortable unlike some other surfaces I encountered. Small stones, wood chips and coals were the hardest and most difficult to walk on. I made very slow progress!

The excitement of the day really knocked us out! So come the evening we relaxed and watched Maleficent.

Friday dawned cloudy and cool, We decided to make the most of the day and headed towards Lancashire to see the Pendle Sculpture Trail at Aitken Wood. I don’t know if it was due to still being tired from the day before or the fact that we seemed to get hounded by horrid flies for the two hours we were walking (one even tried to bite me!), I didn’t enjoy the day as much as I thought I would! The weather didn’t play ball either as it was rather windy on the hills and the sun rarely showed!

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The wood was good for wildlife spotting and we bemoaned the fact that we should have brought our ‘bigger’ cameras instead of our phones! We really were not equipped for taking any decent nature sightings. Another visit will be on the cards in the future!

On the walk we spotted:

  1. A Linnet, but not 100% certain.
  2. Tuffted Ducks though again I am not certain. I really wished I’d brought my bird ID book!
  3. Great or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  4. Blue, Great and Coal Tits, I recognised them! 🙂
  5. Goldfinches
  6. Three rabbits
  7. Seven butterflies, two were Red Admirals and two Gatekeepers!
  8. A few moths
  9. A hawk hunting, could have been a Merlin, though not certain! 😦

My identification skills are decent enough for when it comes to garden birds, but when I am faced with birds I don’t see regularly then I find them difficult to ID! I think many more days out in the country are needed to hone my skills!

Saturday turned out at be a busy affair as we had family around for a curry and film night! We ordered from my favourite takeaway, Saffron and the film we snuggled up to watch was The Kingsman, it had it’s funny moments!

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Now Sunday has arrived and I’m feeling blue, work looms gloomily on the horizon! I’ve enjoyed my time off work so much! Maybe too much! It’s been lovely. I have spent time with family and seen and experienced new things. I’ve spent today at home with David and Artie and tried to get my nervous finches to feed from the hand. Two already have the courage, Chocolate (Bengalese) and Rainbow (Gouldian) but poor Romeo (Bengalese) is still hesitant!

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Here’s to the next week off 🙂

‘Amongst the Bluebells.’

You courted me all day long,

And my heart believed your song.

You said I was ‘pretty,’

And I thought you were mightily witty.

 

By the hand you whisked me to a dell,

Where you said ‘I love you’ until I fell.

Around us shimmered a pale hue,

A mass of heads swayed blue.

 

By John William Inchbold,

 

There we lay, just you and I,

As a stream trickled nearby.

Dappled light glistened through the trees,

As we listened to the sound of bees.

 

Sharing a kiss here and there,

Your hands wandered everywhere.

Breast to breast we did embrace,

As I let you untie my lace.

 

Cold air on skin,

Surely this must be a sin?

‘Palm to palm’ do lovers touch,

Oh this really is too much!

 

A lone doe skittered past,

As you held me fast.

I looked into your eyes, wide,

How your love filled me with pride.

 

In ecstasy I cried out your name,

I really should blush with shame.

You made me feel all warm inside,

And your gaze left me nowhere to hide.

 

Afterwards we shared our dreams,

We talked until we saw moonbeams.

Stars shone bright up above,

As we revelled in our love.

 

‘Will you come here again?’ you asked,

In answer, I simply gasped.

‘Will you lie with me amongst the bluebells?’

Yes, as long as nobody tells.

 

Christine Lucas © 2014

Picture by John William Inchbold, British, 1830–1888, Mid-Spring, c. 1856, oil on panel