For me 2019 has been very much about experiencing wildlife with others. It’s the first year I have watched badgers go about their business from a guided RSPB badger hide and the first time I have been on a bat walk run by the Rivers Trust. I’ve also looked for ring ouzels in the Slaidburn fells with the RSPB and done this year’s bird and butterfly counts with my nephew, niece and sister. Family has joined me in all the above and it has been a joy watching wildlife with them. 🙂
Sometimes I can be out and about with Wil and the dog and we will spy something special. Recently we saw a red squirrel at NT Acorn Bank, I have been hoping to see one since buying our caravan in Cumbria this year.
There have been a few rare moments when I’ve been completely alone and immersed myself in nature. Just spending three hours in the woodland near my Mum’s in Askham back in May was such a treat, I saw jays, woodpeckers, buzzards, a weasel and wildflowers galore.
In 2019 I witnessed my first badgers ( I’m definitely not counting the squashed ones I’ve seen on the roadside), my first humming bird hawk moth, my first Crossbill, my first ring ouzels and my first slow worm!
I am not always able to get photos though, so it was very special when I managed to snap the barn owl that visits my sister’s croft, be it through a pane of glass. Below are some of the wildlife I have captured on camera..
What have been your own favourite wildlife moments of 2019?
Our last weekend at the caravan before we closed it down for the Winter was idyllic. Cold, fine and frosty. This is what Melmerby looked like on Saturday morning. Jack Frost had sprinkled his magic.
We headed into Keswick later that morning. Hugo enjoyed playing with his inflatable in the lake. Didn’t see many other wild swimmers. 😉
After lunch we headed back to the Eden Valley as Keswick was bustling with festive shoppers. We parked up in Edenhall and enjoyed the quiet solitude of a countryside walk. The combination of frost and mist was both eerie and magical.
This morning we left a beautiful winter wonderland for our rather green Lancashire home.
The River Eden is truly Cumbrian. Beginning high in the fells of Mallestang at its source, it meanders it’s way some ninety miles through Eastern Cumbria up towards Carlisle, and finally merging with other rivers as it enters The Solway Firth. Some twenty years ago ten sculptures were commissioned to celebrate the history and beauty of the area, they are The Eden Benchmarks and I’m hoping to discover them all.
There are other riverside features too. Wil , Hugo and I visited Lacy’s Caves , five chambers cut into the red sandstone cliffs along the Eden at Little Selkeld. Also nearby is a Druid Stone Circle Long Meg & Her Daughters. Faces cut into the rocks by the river at Armathwaite and more red sandstone caves at Wetheral are on my list of places to see. 🙂
Eden Benchmark Sculptures seen so far.
South Rising. Carved from local Lazonby red sandstone, South Rising by Vivien Mousdell is situated on The Ladies Walk at Edenhall near Langwathby. It comprises of two curved rock seats, apparently representing the rivers perpetual journey and the annual migrations of the Eden’s fish and birds. Although not terribly intricate , this sculpture has stood the test of time, twenty years hasn’t weathered the carving too much. Though it was quite hard to find amongst the undergrowth! The Ladies Walk is especially nice in the summer with river, cornfield and woodland views. Lots of wild flowers and the possibility of refreshments at The Edenhall Hotel.
Vista. Definitely my favourite of the Eden Benchmarks we’ve seen so far is Vista by Graeme Mitcheson. Carved into a large sandstone boulder are the discarded boots, clothing and map of a walker who has decided to chance a paddle ( or maybe even a wild swim) in the river below. Vista is situated in Coombs Wood, a pleasant riverside walk from the lovely village of Armathwaite. Below the sculpture ( and unbeknownst to us at the time) are several carved faces in the cliffs as well as a poem etched into the red sandstone. Definitely a reason to return, maybe when the bluebells are out in the spring.
Cypher Piece. In the picnic area near the Eden Bridge at Lazonby lies Cypher Piece by Frances Pelly. Two adjacent rocks have been carved with clues about the Eden’s human history. Unfortunately this benchmark has really succumbed to nature and moss covers the entire piece. We could make out a fish but other detail such as a Celtic horses head, a ram’s horn and a Norse Tomb Decoration were invisible to our untrained eyes.
Red River. Looking out over the Eden at Temple Sowerby, Red River by Victoria Brailsford can be accessed by a footpath from the cricket field at the North of the village. This local Lazonby sandstone sculpture is still in good nick, the steps are carved with water ripples, the balls apparently representing large pebbles in fast flowing water. Not far from Temple Sowerby is NT Acorn Bank where we saw our first Eden Valley Red Squirrel in its adjacent woodland. 🙂
So there you have it, four of the ten Eden Benchmark Sculptures and six more to find…
So on Saturday we decided to see what the Eden valley village of Shap has to offer. To be completely honest I have never been the biggest fan of Shap. Partly because it’s one of those places that you mostly just pass through, a road of grey houses on the way North… and partly because I actually stopped there for a night once with an ex in the deathrows of our relationship. These reasons and the fact that it usually rains in Shap ( in my experience!) haven’t exactly endeared the area to me. But I am being unfair. A little bright sunshine and some friendly hospitality has happily changed my mind. We arrived mid morning with a destination in mind, Shap Abbey. Little is left of this twelfth century abbey except the imposing tower which looks striking against both stormy and sunny skies. Information boards scattered around the site give a you a good idea of what was where. The building was one of several used by the Premonstratensian Order of Canons before the disolvation of the monestries by King Henry VIII. The canons were known as ‘The White Canons’ because of their unusual white woollen habits. They were apparently given good pensions when their home was destroyed , some of the abbeys stones were used to build the adjoining farm house. I can’t help but wonder if those canons still walk the grounds of a moonlit night…..
Wandering round the abbey gave us a good appetite. Shap is home to an award winning Fish & Chip shop. We headed there for lunch. Situated in the heart of the village, Shap Chippy is incredibly fresh and clean looking inside & out. The decor has a homely nautical vibe and we recieved a cheery welcome. You can eat in too, and we were pleasantly surprised that dogs are very welcome. Most importantly the fish & chips are excellent. Well recommended!
After that tasty treat we needed a good route to walk off those calories. Nearby Wet Sleddale Reservoir has a 4 mile public footpath & quiet road that circles the water. Set in the Shap Fells this triangular reservoir was built in the sixties, the water like many Lakeland reservoirs is used to supply Manchester. For this walk I recommend wearing wellies! I guess the clue is in the name. Wet Sleddale is indeed quite wet & boggy, even on a dry September day. We parked on the car park near the dam.
The countryside is lovely here and so peaceful. We only saw a couple of other walkers, so its definitely away from the Lake District crowds. Ling Heather, Scabious and Bog Asphodel grow in abundance and buzzards soar in the sky. The area also has connections with the cult ( and rather batty!) movie Withnail and I. Film locations include the stone bridge where Withnail attempts to shoot fish in the brook below and Sleddale Hall where him and his friend try holidaying in the Lake District. I took a sneak peek at the remote Hall, where outdoor screenings of Withnail and I are shown annually in the yard.
At the end of our wander round Wet Sleddale we sat and admired the gushing dam which is 21 metres high.
Have you ever visited Shap or the surrounding area?
It’s been a while since I have written a post. As I currently have no job, I thought I would be writing lots. But nope. Instead I find myself procrastinating when it comes to things I probably should be doing, like finding a job. Instead I have been booking trips away…..and we’ve bought a caravan.
Yes I am now the proud owner of a 38 ft 2005 Willoughby Vogue static caravan! I can’t quite believe it! Here she is the day we looked round her, and I bought her on the spot. No procastinating there…
She is quite beige inside so for now we are just brightening her up a bit with some rugs and throws. Really not sure how simple it is to paint the inside of a van.
We will probably get around to changing the curtains too. For now though it’s Summer at last, so we might as well enjoy our purchase and start exploring the area. 🙂
Can you guess where we are?
We got the keys on Friday and have been busy kitting out the van whilst Mr Hugo is being looked after for the wknd. Hopefully he will get to see it next wknd, before we head to Shropshire glamping with him, a trip we booked a few months ago, before my impulse buy.
If you had told me back in January that by June I would have taken redundancy and bought a holiday home, I would never have believed you. Life can be crazy like that!
Hi it’s the end of another month ( 2019 is going crazy fast! ) , So I thought I would join in with Kate’s/Hawthorns Scavenger hunt. Her words for May are Seat, View, Starts with a P, Transport, Lunch & My own choice.
Seat. I am recently back from a few days in the seaside village of Ravenglass. Wil & I are lucky enough to have friends whose family have a holiday cottage right on the sea front. And we can rent it for mates rates. So happy days. 😎 Anyway there is a balcony where we spent most late afternoons admiring the sea views and pretending we were in the South of France. You could be fooled ~ apart from my knees are wrapped in a blanket. 🙂
View. The view from said balcony is fantastic, looking out over the estuary. The sunsets in Ravenglass are also to die for.
Starts With P. P is for Sea Pinks. These pretty in pink flowers cover the cliffs of St Bees head , a little further up the coast. Sea Pinks are also called Thrift. Pinks apparently do well in rock gardens and have appeared on the British threepence coin from 1937 to 1952.
Transport. The best way to get around in Ravenglass ? Well I can recommend the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway , a narrow gauge railway set in 7 miles of stunning scenery. My kind of transport.
Lunch. Here’s a recipe I found which was a hit with my other half. It could be lunch or tea.
200g Chick Peas, 200g Chorizo diced, 200g yellow cherry tomatoes halved, 2 tomatoes chopped, 1 red pepper cut in strips, 2 cloves garlic crushed, handful of frozen onions ( I use these because chopping onions always makes me cry) & a little olive oil.
Fry onion & garlic in a little olive oil for 5 minutes.
Add chunks of chorizo & fry for a couple of minutes on a high heat, before adding the pepper strips and lowering the heat again. Cook for 5 minutes then add the chick peas & tomatoes. Stir thoroughly and simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on the pan.
Serve with crusty bread.
My Own Choice. Our very own handsome Hugo conquered his third Wainwright last week, Crag Fell looks over Ennerdale Water. I did too….about 20 minutes later!
Head over to Kate’s blog to see more Scavenger hunters.
If your looking for miles of dog friendly coastline then you’ve hit the jackpot in Cumbria. Because most people head for the lakes and fells, the beaches are almost always quiet, few having any dog restrictions at all.
We recently spent four nights in the coastal village of Ravenglass, and visited a couple of other seaside resorts whilst we were there. All three are served by the Cumbrian Coastal Railwayline.
Ravenglass. A tiny harbor village, Ravenglass has an ancient history. The Roman settlement of Glannoventa stood here and was an important naval base. The remains of a Roman bathhouse lie on the outskirts.
The beach is a mixture of sand, shingle and mud. There are lots of well signposted walks along the coast or up into the fells. Our dog Hugo enjoyed running here and his favourite nearby hill walk from Ravenglass was a mornings yomp up Muncaster Fell.
Hugo was made a fuss of in all three of the pubs in Ravenglass. We ate out at The Ratty Arms & The Pennington Hotel. Both were very good. 🐶
St Bees. Twenty minutes north of Ravenglass, St Bees is actually named after an Irish medieval Saint, St Bega . Bega ( a beautiful & devout princess) fled across the Irish Sea by boat, having been promised in marriage to a Viking Prince. She had other ideas, preferring to live in religious solitude on the English mainland.
I’m not sure if St Bega liked dogs ( there is a statue of her and her rowing boat in the village center) but the beach she landed on is a great place for a bracing walk. We took Hugo to the sands at Seacote Park, where there is a caravan park, lifeboat station and beach cafe. I don’t think dogs are allowed inside the cafe but as it was a nice day we had icecream on a bench outside and Hugo was brought water & dog treats.
St Bees is the start of the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk and the cliff top ( safely fenced off ~ Phew!) is also ideal for walkies. Look out for all sorts of seabirds. The cliffs at St Bees head are an RSPB bird reserve.
Arnside. A pretty estuary resort, Arnside resides in the Arnside & Silverdale Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is from here that I took part in The Morecambe Bay Cross Bay walk with Wil and Hugo, three years ago. This iconic organized hike across the shifting sands of Morecambe Bay must not be attempted without an official guide.
On our latest visit Hugo had a good run on the beach but there are also plenty of coastal and inland walks to do in the area including Arnside Knott and along the shoreline to Silverdale. Do make sure you listen out for the sirens that are sounded to warn of the incoming Arnside Tidal Bore, a high tidal wave that happens once a month in Arnside’s estuary.
The village has a couple of dog friendly pubs and cafes. We chose to sit outside with the best ever fish & chips from Arnside Chippy. We also visited a very cute little jazz cafe opposite Arnside’s Railway station. Moochin About is a teeny tiny espresso bar with the cutest decor and vinyl jazz records playing on a record player. Sad to say no doggies allowed inside, purely because it is so small. There are two benches outside though, water bowls and the lovely owner brought out biscuits for Hugo and a collie customer. 🐕
If you have a dog, what beaches do you like to visit with them?
Dog friendly hikes and exploring, mostly around New England. Our Adventures includes: waterfalls, the beach, conservation land, lighthouses, state parks, the woods, the mountains, statues, and castles.