Between Buttermere and Crummock Water, a small stream runs, by the name of Buttermere Dubs, which is where we are taking you this week. Dubs is a Scottish and northern English dialect word for pools of water, or puddles. There is a pleasant walk alongside where the ewes and the lambs lazily graze. With a cuckoo calling in the distance, we are being treated to a black and white birdie show, with Magpie, Pied Wagtail, a Grey Heron and even a White-throated Dipper exploring the banks of the stream. All very idyllic.
Passing through shady glades, more Spring flowers are beginning to appear. Sorrels, who's name means sour, and worts who's name comes from the Old English Wyrt, which simply means plant. Wort was often applied as a suffix to medicinal plants, with the prefix denoting the ailment it was supposed to cure. Thus Stitchworts would cure a stitch in your side and Dropworts may have been used to alleviate dropsy (or oedema, as it is now known). Pimpernel means peppery, but I wouldn't advise eating them as they are somewhat toxic.
Insects are beginning to appear in greater numbers now. Usually, insects are relatively easy to photograph, but when they decide to sunbathe on your face, it can be a bit problematic! We also have our first True Bug of the year. True Bugs are a distinct order of insects, the Heteroptera (as opposed to the generic term bug that can apply to any creepy-crawly). This one is an Hypericum Rhopalid, so called because it is a member of the Rhopalidae family of scentless plant bugs, and it feeds primarily on Hypericums, or St. John's Wort. Here, the wort still identifies it as a medicinal plant, but it doesn't cure you of overbearing saintliness, it is merely that the flowers are traditionally collected around St. John's day on the 24th June. It is, in fact, a natural antidepressant, backed up by medical research.
We've now reached the edge of Crummock Water, so we'll turn back and make our way through the woods, back to Buttermere. Oh look, a Roe Deer. Given the general decline in British wildlife over the last century or so, it's nice to talk about a success story. In the early part of the twentieth century, Roe Deer were pretty much constrained to Scotland and up here in the Lake District. This population has spread south and east, and met up with reintroduced animals in the south of the country which have pushed northwards. They are still uncommon in Wales, but they're getting there.
And here we are, back at Buttermere, where the shallows are positively teeming with minnows. This shoaling behaviour is a defence mechanism against predation. They are only small fish so it pays them to forage in a group. If a predator approaches, some of the braver minnows will go to assess the danger and, providing they come back, will release a chemical which stimulates the shoal to bunch up. Basically it is a fear chemical, and individuals react by trying to get to the centre of the group. Safety in numbers. And now, it's time a spot of lunch. We have sandwiches, crisps, grapes and fizzy pop, but as my beloved has just pointed out, I seem to be a gateau short of a picnic.
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