We are very fortunate in that the England Coast Path now covers virtually all of the Cumbrian coastline. You can walk from Green Road Station in the south of the county to Allonby in the north, a distance of around seventy miles. A lovely week's walking holiday, if you fancy it. Today we're going to start at Maryport pier and walk south to Flimby, about two and a quarter miles. Right at the start of the walk, on the shingle beach next to the pier, an Oystercatcher has chosen to nest.
There are plenty of other birds about such as these Whitethroats, Dunnocks and Linnets. These are all passerines, or perching birds (Order: Passeriformes). This is a very large order of birds, all of which have three toes facing forward and one toe facing backwards. The perfect arrangement for clinging on to long, thin branches, swaying in the wind.
It's a botanist's paradise along here. We have Northern Marsh Orchids, Wild Mignonette (a source of the yellow dye called weld), and down on the beach, some Sea Kale. The forced, blanched shoots of this plant used to be a highly expensive Victorian delicacy. The leaves are good as well, so I think we'll gather a few for us tea tonight (us tea = dinner northern dialect). There are a couple of other useful plants up here too: Ribwort Plantain and Comfrey. Both can be applied to the skin to relieve bites and stings, although comfrey is better known for using as a poultice to promote the healing of broken bones (it's old English name was knit-bone). As it happens, we can do a little experiment. Ishbel was stung by one of her bees yesterday, so we can use her as a guinea pig. (I like to live dangerously). The verdict? Both work, but comfrey is the more efficacious.
The flowers attract the butterflies, of course, including the Common Blue that we saw last week down at Drigg. This week, we've a chance to study them in a bit more detail. As you can see, the female (on the left) is very different to the male (on the right), but the markings on the underwing are the same. Unfortunately the Common Blue is not as common as it used to be. One of the reasons for this being the massive reduction in it's preferred host plant (Bird's Foot Trefoil, which you can see them feeding on here) due to habitat loss. There are also some Green-veined Whites about, which for some reason, seem to be more prevalent than the ubiquitous Small White this year. Finally, we have some very small, pale moths drifting about. These are Grass Rivulets who's larvae feed on the seeds of Yellow Rattle.
Here we are, down at Flimby, and there are some fabulous rock pools about. Unfortunately we don't have time to investigate them now as the tide's coming in. Just a note on the tides here on The Solway Firth: they are big (4-5m on average), quick, and have a disconcerting habit of coming in behind you. So, I think we'll make our way back to land while we can still do so without getting our feet wet. Come on Mattie! Before you have to swim for shore.
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Although you can simply boil Sea-kale as a vegetable, if you're feeling a bit more creative, here's a recipe from Mrs. Beeton's 1930s edition of her Household Management, This is just one of the books in the Beautiful Books Collection at SVCwithEtsy.
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All the best,