Posted in daily walk, Gardening

A feast of tulips

Saturday might have been the day of the Coronation but it was also warm and sunny and much too nice to spend the whole day sat in front of the television.

Instead we popped up the road to Holehird Gardens, home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society, for a mooch round in the sun. And it was lovely. There were lambs frisking about in the nearby fields and the whole garden was simply awash with spring colour, mostly in the form of swathes of tulips.

We had a lovely stroll around the various areas of the garden – walled garden, rockery, high level paths, stream and pool, woodland garden – enjoying the flowers and the spectacular views out across Windermere to the fells. And then the visitor reception opened up so we grabbed a cuppa each and drank that sitting on a bench in the walled garden in the sun, which was much nicer than being stuck indoors!

Posted in Cumbria, daily walk, Nature

A roadside zoo

I’m still feeling under the weather but didn’t want to just hang around the house so for a complete change this morning we headed to the Lakeland Wildlife Oasis.

This has to be one of the most unusually-sited zoos anywhere in the country. Basically it’s just a strip of land alongside the main A6 just south of the small Cumbrian town of Milnthorpe. They have a couple of indoor tropical houses with fish, insects, reptiles and free-flying birds, and a handful of outdoor enclosures which mostly house rodents, meerkats and small monkeys, but with the bonus of a beautiful pair of breeding snow leopards.

It might all sound a bit lame but they actually do a lot of very valuable conservation work and because of that have just won permission to expand the site. Even at its current size it’s fun and informative to look round. And there can’t be many cafes where you can sit drinking coffee whilst watching three emperor tamarins frisking about!

It made a nice change, although muggins here took a camera and then forgot to take any pictures. So I’ve had to nick one from Visit Morecambe Bay to head this post.

Posted in Cumbria, daily walk, scenery

Two go to a castle

Did any of you do anything nice over the Easter weekend? The bank holiday traffic here in the Lake District is always terrible, but on Saturday we braved it in order to go to Wray Castle.

This huge Victorian folly perched on Windermere’s western shore is now owned by the National Trust and a great place for a walk on a sunny day. Lots of other people clearly thought the same thing and it was very crowded, but we set off walking northwards along the lake shore which seemed quieter and gave us some spectacular views towards Ambleside and the higher fells.

The journey home again was horrendous (nearly an hour to go about 15 miles) but worth it for a breath of fresh air, lovely scenery and lots of lambs and daffodils.

Posted in daily walk

Two head for the coast

We had an errand to run in Arnside on Friday and as it was a lovely sunny day we decided to make a day trip out of it. The village, which clings to the southern shore of the Kent estuary overlooking the wide sweep of Morecambe Bay, is a lovely place to visit anyway with a few nice shops and galleries, a promenade, and countryside walks at the back of the residential area, which eventually lead up to Arnside Knott, a curious flat-topped hill that’s visible for miles around.

We didn’t have time to get up the Knott but we had a good walk along the sea front and back through the village as far as the railway station. After lunch in one of the cafes (the delightfully named Posh Sardine) it had clouded over a little so we pottered in and out of the galleries before completing our errand and heading home again.

Lots of sea air, lots of stunning views across the bay, and we even heard ravens croaking in the trees at the far end of the promenade when we first arrived. It was all quite magical!

Posted in Cumbria, daily walk

A dramatic trip to Keswick

The weather has finally turned more autumnal, with dark clouds sweeping the tops of the mountains and occasional sharp showers. It seemed perfect for a trip to Keswick, so yesterday morning we set off early to beat the crowds and headed north over Dunmail Raise pass and past a shockingly low Thirlmere. We may not officially be in ‘drought conditions’ in this region, but my goodness we’re still short of rain.

We got to Keswick just as some of the cafes were opening so darted into the Honeypot for coffee and a toasted tea-cake between us. Suitably fortified, we then marched through the town and Hope Park to the lake, and along the shore as far as Friar’s Crag. This famous viewpoint was really living up to its name, with stunning views out across the lake to Grisedale Pike, Causey Pike, and Borrowdale.

Keswick has long had a reputation as an arts and crafts town, as far back as the early twentieth century when it housed the Keswick School of Industrial Arts and had its own artistic style. There are still many gorgeous shops and galleries, and we pottered round several of these including Viridian Gallery where we got a few inexpensive goodies. My treat was a couple of life sized wooden cherries to add to my ‘fake fruit’ collection. They’re in bubinga wood, which I’ve discovered from Google is an African hardwood. It’s a lovely rich mid-brown and the cherries look great on my fruit bowl. I just hope no one tries to eat them!

The moody skies were great for photography. The picture above shows Cat Bells and Maiden Moor (don’t you just love some of these mountain names?) looming over Derwent Water, but I took a load more…

Posted in daily walk, Nature, scenery

Two hear a bittern

For a complete change we headed to our nearest RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) nature reserve on Saturday. Leighton Moss is around 20 miles south of us, just over the border into Lancashire, in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near the Morecambe Bay coast.

I went once with my parents a very long time ago when there was nothing but a handful of paths and some ‘hides’ to watch the birds. Since then the RSPB have gently developed the site, opening up new walks, building a viewing tower, and creating a visitor centre with shop and cafe in some adjacent farm buildings.

On a sunny morning it was a lovely place for a stroll. There’s a wildlife garden and some ponds near the visitor centre, but the surroundings get wilder the further away from that you walk. The site boasts the largest reed bed in N W England which is home to all kinds of rare wildlife including small birds like bearded tits and reed buntings, plus larger (and even rarer) species like bittern and osprey.

My one criticism is that the reeds are so tall that there aren’t many places where people can get close enough to the water’s edge to actually see anything. I’m guessing this is deliberate to cut down on the disturbance to the birds, but it was slightly disappointing to hear cheeps and splashes and not be able to see what was causing them. However, at the end of the longest trail is a large hide overlooking one of the lagoons and here we could get some great views of the surrounding wildlife.

Our highlights were one goose, one grey heron (above) and a coot, but people who’d been in the hide before us had photos of both a marsh harrier and an osprey so it just shows what you can see if you hang around. And the biggest highlight of all was hearing a bittern ‘booming’ in the distance. These birds are incredibly rare and incredibly secretive, pottering about amongst the dense reed stalks, so the only sign they’re even there is often their enigmatic call. I’d heard it on telly, but never in real life before. It sounds very much like a didgeridoo, and was a real bonus on an enjoyable walk.

Posted in Cumbria, daily walk, Nature, scenery

Two have an Easter walk

I’m still re-discovering my legs after Covid but this morning’s weather was too nice to just hang about indoors. So we set off into the countryside at the back of Windermere (town) which is surprisingly secret and surprisingly scenic, with lumpy bumpy fields, woods and occasional views of Windermere (lake). Ravens nest there – you can here them ‘coughing’ at certain times of the year – and there are often lambs and always an abundance of flowers, as well as a sprinkling of historic farms.

Today’s lambs were in shorter supply than usual but there were spring flowers everywhere and a wonderful sweet scent on the air. As well as a few daffodils still hanging on in there, we saw blackthorn, violets, wood anemones and even a solitary early bluebell.

The terrain is hilly without being challenging so it made a great circuit to test out the lungs and legs. I didn’t go quite as far – or as fast – as I usually would, and my legs were jelly on the way back, but it was smashing to get out into the fresh air.

And as an added bonus, on the way up I found a charm that had dropped off my handbag several weeks ago!

The main photo above shows the view from near Helm Farm, looking across to Brant Fell in the distance. Below are a couple of shots of some of the lovely flowers: blackthorn, the first violets, and a wood anemone.

Posted in Cumbria, daily walk, scenery

Two go to Friar’s Crag

Saturday brought another sunny but bitterly cold morning. For the first time in ages we drove to Keswick for a walk down to Derwent Water and along the shore path as far as the well-known viewpoint of Friar’s Crag.

The ‘Crag’ is a small rocky promontory overlooking the lake which was acquired by the National Trust in the 1920s and has been a popular destination as a viewpoint ever since. It’s not far from the town – about a fifteen to twenty minute stroll past the Theatre by the Lake and the boat landing strips, and makes a pleasant stroll whatever the weather.

Everything looked absolutely stunning with beautiful views across the lake to mountains still dusted with snow, and spring flowers bursting out everywhere. I’m still a bit short of useable legs so I couldn’t manage my usual mooch round the market and shops, which was annoying as Keswick has particularly good shops! But we’ll save that for when the post-Covid exhaustion has finally disappeared. And in the meantime, there was still plenty to enjoy.

The photo above shows Causey Pike (the one with the knobbly bit on top) across Derwent Water, with higher and snowier fells in the distance.

Posted in Art, Cumbria, daily walk, scenery

Two find some bonkers birds

We had a walk along the promenade at Morecambe for a change on Monday. Chosen because it’s level with benches (again, still struggling with post-Covid tiredness) and because the weather wasn’t good enough for anywhere more scenic.

That’s not to say Morecambe isn’t scenic – the views out across Morecambe Bay are stunning, and the town’s powers-that-be have littered the promenade and surrounding streets with sea or coast-related sculptures and artwork. Much of it is really lovely – like my favourite life-like cormorants near the old lifeboat station – but some pieces are utterly bonkers. There are some fat seagulls near the Eric Morecambe statue which always make me smile, and this time we also discovered these cartoon puffins sat on top of some of the bollards in the Festival Market car park. There were similar (but even weirder) seagulls and cormorants in the nearby Morrisons car park. Quite a sight if you’ve just staggered out with a crate of booze!

This time we finally got inside the Old Pier Bookshop which we’ve been meaning to visit for years. I picked up a YA vampire book which looks intriguing, and we explored some of the vast, twisty network of passages inside, all of them lined floor to ceiling with books, some interconnecting, some not. One friend has described it as a TARDIS, and it certainly keeps going… and going… and going… until you lose all sense of direction and wonder if you’ll ever get back out again.

Luckily we emerged, to find the sun was shining – just as we were about to set off for home. Typical. But we enjoyed the stroll, and a mistily scenic drive back up the A6 afterwards.

Posted in Cumbria, daily walk, Nature, Photography, scenery

Two have a convalescent walk

A rare sunny (and mild) day combined with us both starting to get over the worst side-effects of Covid meant we decided to head for the promenade at Grange-over-Sands for a walk.

It’s in the open air, so no chance of infecting anyone. It’s level, with benches to collapse onto at regular intervals in case we hadn’t quite got our legs back yet. And there are two cafes for a cuppa along the way.

We only managed about half of our shortest usual distance (and yes, I had to make use of a couple of those benches) but it was wonderful to get out into the fresh air again. The sun was surprisingly warm and there were flowers bursting out everywhere, as well as an egret pacing around on the salt marsh and a curlew crying in the distance.

It would have been nice to go further, but we didn’t want to push it. After a cuppa and a cake each at the old Promenade Cafe (dating from Edwardian times when it served passengers alighting from boats at the nearby pier), we turned tail and headed for the car again. But we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and the views across Morecambe Bay, and the light on the reedbeds. We’re lucky to have places like this on the doorstep.

The photo shows Arnside Knott (the flat-topped hill) across the estuary of the River Kent, with the aforementioned reeds in the foreground. There’s a nice walk up the Knott; when we’ve got legs and lungs back we might try it and I’ll take some photos looking back the other way at Grange.