Welcome to a new series of The Crete and Cumbria Nature Blog. Still in Cumbria, thanks to the necessary travel restrictions still in place, but I'm not complaining. Cumbria is a wonderful place to spend the Springtime. So, let's celebrate by looking out for the first signs of Spring, such as newborn lambs, primroses bursting through last years fallen leaves, trees and woody shrubs budding and flowering, and insects pollinating the plants as their blooms burst forth.
Continuing our railway theme from last week's imaginary trip on The Cockermouth Circle Line, our journey today starts at Keswick station and follows the old railway line towards Threlkeld. The line, which used to link Penrith to Cockermouth, was axed in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, and is now a tarmacadamed walk/cycle track suitable for wheelchair users. Just listen to Spring beginning around the station with this symphony of birdsong.
The River Greta (which means stony stream in Old Norse) will be our constant companion on this walk, as it zigzags back and forth across our trail. There's a Woodpigeon down there, collecting sticks for what he laughingly thinks of as a nest. Whereas some birds construct intricate structures of grass, moss, wool and other materials, pigeons just seem to launch twigs at a tree and see what sticks. How their eggs and chicks remain aloft is one of nature's great mysteries.
There are ponds along the side of the trail, with Marsh Marigolds bursting forth. These are predominantly insect pollinated and have an unusual method of seed dispersal. When the seeds have matured they are surrounded by a 'splash cup'. When a raindrop hits the splash cup the seeds are bouced out. They are also surrounded by a spongy lifejacket so they simply float away from the parent plant. Like their relatives, the Lesser Celandine, which we have been seeing a lot of in recent weeks, their leaves are edible when cooked but poisonous when raw. (see Longlands Lake). And clumped together on the bottom of the pond we have frogspawn. You can tell that it's frogspawn and not toadspawn because of the way it clumps together; toads lay their spawn in long strings.
You'll have noticed that all the bridges, the tunnel and much of the infrastructure on this trail are brand new. In 2015, Storm Desmond produced such a torrent of water that all the old railway bridges were destroyed. Seeing the river so calm and peaceful today, it's hard to imagine the scale of the flood that could have wreaked such havoc. It took five years to repair the damage and the trail was only reopened at the end of last year. I've included a few pictures of fungi and lichens, not because they are signs of Spring, for they are with us all the year round. I just didn't want them to feel left out.
We also have caterpillars crawling about and this one features in my new series on Steve's Nature Plus called Minibeast Monday in which I tell you a little bit more about the insects and other creepy-crawlies that appear in my blog posts. Much of the information is taken from The Quick Guide To Creepy-Crawlies which tells you who is related to whom, how to identify them in their various stages of life, and plenty of other interesting facts (like whether they are likely to bite or sting you). Everyone tells me that it's a very interesting and informative book but modesty precludes me from agreeing with them wholeheartedly. I still refer to it when I come across something I've never seen before.
I'll leave you with this beautiful picture of the River Greta flowing through the Lakeland pastures with a little Grey Wagtail bobbing around on the boulders. See you through the week on Steve's Nature Plus.
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