Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Hazy sunshine...clearing...20C

With a forecast like that the safari set off in the early hours for the Lake District National Park. The drive up was uneventful and very quiet on the motorway. The lanes near our destination had a lovely selection of wild flowers including Field Scabious, Meadow Cranesbill and lots of Meadowsweet. Not many birds about except for what seemed like half the world's population of Pied Wagtails. The woodlands in this area still have Red Squirrels but they either hadn't got up at this ungodly hour or were hiding from the 'hazy sunshine', not that we stopped to search for them but I have seen then cross the road using high level branches before.

In the car park, at Mardale, (where there used to be a village - under the water before the rocky outcrop with the trees on the left of the lake - the remains are exposed when the water level in the reservoir, Haweswater, is low),and at he start of Gatesgarth Pass (more about that later) brewing up for a cuppa at 8.30.Then we were on the hill before 9 o'clock but there was no sign of the promised hazy sunshine, hazy heavy drizzle more like it. Still the weather is set to improve so off we trotted towards the valley of the Golden Eagle, Riggindale.
A distant Raven's deep croaking broke the morning air...things were looking up...literally! Round the first corner a family of Stonechats who just would not sit still.
I apologise now for any more telephoto shots that are a bit dodgy and any pics with drips of 'hazy sunshine' on them. The field behind the wall he is sat on had a decent patch of Sneezewort.

Sorry there's no close up, but I wasn't prepared to jump over the wall in to the morass on the other side for you today so you'll have to look it up on Google Images if you so wish.

On with the trek and the path skirts the bottom of a very steep boulder and scree strewn slope with a few stunted but probably very old trees. This used to be a good place to look for Ring Ouzels but as their numbers have crashed recently I don't know if they are still here - not been to this site for over ten years!A couple of Meadow Pipits and Rabbits were all we could find on the hillside and we heard a Goldcrest in the conifer plantation on the lakeside. It was here that we discovered that Frank likes sheep and when he isn't allowed to chase them he eats their droppings- the dirty dog! Talking of dirty - first rant of the day coming up - why on earth throw away a disposable nappy up here on of he most ruggedly beautiful parts of England.

Why not let your little one do its business away from the path and let some fresh mountain air get to their little backside rather than all those nasty non-biodegradable chemicals. And what is the recommended way of combating Swine Flu? Yes sneeze in to a tissue and BIN it - not CHUCK IT ON THE FLOOR where the sheep will pick it up and infect us with a mutated Sheep Flu double whammy. If you brought it - in take it out!!! Sorry about that but there may be more rants to come - it was a good day - honest...

Much better than nappies were these Harebells.

Absolutely delightful in the 'hazy sunshine' don't you agree?

Continuing along the path we come in to RiggindaleWhere Golden Eagles fly - well only one hunkers down against the weather actually.There are at least six Red Deer in this photo - honest - they are on the far fell side above the highest part of the diagonal wall - you'll never see them they were difficult enough through the 'hazy sunshine' with the bins.

Up on the side of the valley there is more old woodland and still no sign of any Ring Ouzels. No sign of any anything really. If the sheep were fenced out of these woods they would probably start regrowing. Most of the bleak treeless landscape in today's pics was originally wooded and c(sh)ould be again.

The 'hazy sunshine' got much heavier so after only a short Eagle hunt we headed back. He wasn't on his usual perch under the Hawthorn bush high on the flanks of Kidsty Pike and you couldn't make anything out on the nearer left hand crags were the nest site has been in the past and there was no chance of seeing Twopenny Crag at the head of the valley so turn back we did. On the way we passed the old hut the wardens used to sleep in, but it now falling in to disrepair. It did have a nice Wheatear on what's left of the roof though.
We retraced our steps as far as the nappy but it was too early to consider leaving. We couldn't stray far as we had left a note in the car as to our whereabouts so we made a short detour and headed up the well made but seemingly little used track towards Blea Tarn to see what we could find. A Buzzard was the nearest we got to any Eagles.
Looking down at our feet - important in mountainous terrain - the wet boggy areas held patches of Butterwort, not in flower unfortunately. This is an insectivorous plant, and where it occurs there is a good chance of the other more bizarre insectivorous jobby...and there it was a Sundew. Going hungry by the look of it, not a stuck insect to be seen.

Anyone any good with Heathers? Is this Cross Leaved Heath? It was everywhere but I'm not so good at montane plants, I seem to have forgotten most of what I learned when I lived up this way 25+ years ago.That's the end of the wildlife shots - just scenery to follow. No shortage of it in Mardale. Gatesgarth Pass winds it way up and over the fellside behind the square block of conifers in the middle distance - got to be England's best road. At the moment it is closed to traffic for repairs - lets hope it does eventually reopen. I haven;t driven it yet and would like to take a safari over it to Kentmere via Long Sleddale one day - a cracking tricky technical drive. Used to be able to drive from Kentmere to Troutbeck over the Garburn Pass ( a track I helped repair in the early 80's for vehicles) but no longer its been closed. Might go up and have a look how its looking now some day soon.Meanwhile back in Mardale!
A beautiful little water chute in Mardale Beck.As the path climbs higher you get a good view of one of my favourite glacial features, drumlins - aka 'basket of eggs' country.You also get a view of where Gatesgarth Pass goes from this side of the valley.

I think it's on those zig-zags that the worst erosion has occurred.
The other pathway from Mardale leads over the Nan Bield Pass directly in to Kentmere. At the top of this pass are weird little bee-hive like shelters. Didn't get anywhere near them today so again if you're interested patch in to Google Images. The water is spewing down from a high level tarn, Small Water, set in a dramatic cwm, or corrie.In this telephoto pic you can just about make out some hikers - on the left hand side level with the big waterfall. 45 degrees above them below the bottom of the dip in the fell is the erosion scar along the footpath. No-one seems to be advocating banning pedestrians from the fells yet they do as much, or probably more, damage than a few 4x4s which use the area. Discrimination is a word that springs to mind. I used to walk all over these hills, and have even spent a very very cold night in one of those little shelters, but am no longer physically able to do it so why do those that can feel they have to stop me! Much of the alledged damage done by wheeled traffic is no doubt due to the fact that the CROW Act closed over 90% of green lanes so the remaining <10%> get all the vehicles.Rant over; enjoy this view of Blea Water in the hazy sunshine. Blea Water emanates from Blea Tarn, slightly bigger and slightly less dramatic than its smaller neighbour, but not by much. Wonder if I'll ever be able to make the climb up again now. no chance of driving as this route has never been for wheeled traffic, ponies yes so if I could learn to ride properly I might still be able to do it. (would need to borrow someone's horse as I don't have one - you don't say!)
Frank is still checking out those sheep in the 'hazy sunshine'.
But he does get to cool off in the icy Mardale Water. Why did he need to cool off the temperature barely reached 15C all day?
On the way back we chased a Grey Wagtail along the road through the woods. Plenty of Swallows around some of the farms still and a huge female Sparrowhawk speeding low over a field with its beady eye on some poor unfortunate.
Home at last and sound asleep in the hazy sunshine - no actually - this was taken in some real hazy sunshine yesterday afternoon - it's still raining outside!

Where to next? Somewhere a bit drier perhaps.
In the meantime let us know what's lurking in your mountainous misty outback.


Warren Baker said...

Hope you didn't get to burnt in the ''Hazy Sunshine'' Dave.

You had quite a good trip out though, apart from the scumbag nappy.

Monika said...

I love the scenery shots - looks like beautiful countryside out there! Sorry the weather didn't cooperate for you. We often call it "liquid sunshine" over here, as in the Pacific Northwest in fall/winter/spring that's often the only kind of sunshine you'll get.