Firstly, let me wish you all a happy summer. The solstice passed last week, so where better to start our journey than at a stone circle. No-one has come up with a definitive reason as to why these were built, but solstices and equinoxes figure in most theories.
Cumbria is particularly rich in these megalithic monuments, with over fifty of them. This is probably a numbers game: given Cumbria's climate, there's a reasonable chance that an errant shaft of sunlight will fall upon at least one of them on Midsummer's Day. This one is Blakely Raise, near Ennerdale, which is where we're off to next. It's pretty well windswept moorland up here, but there are odd patches of Cotton Grass dotted about. It's quite a useful little plant of the sedge family, having been used for candle wicks, paper making, wound dressings, and pillow stuffing. The leaves and roots are edible, and it has been used medicinally for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. It is also the county flower of Greater Manchester. The last two facts are probably unconnected.
Meanwhile, over at Ennerdale, the Lepidoptera are out in force. Meadow Browns are two a penny, and the Burnet Moths are hatching in great abundance. Unfortunately, the Cleg Flies are also pretty numerous. Although attractive to look at (as flies go), they have a vicious bite. It is only the females that bite; they need a blood meal in order to reproduce (and who would begrudge them that?).
Let's head south now to Devoke Water. Although the Lake District is famous for its sixteen lakes, there are also nearly two hundred smaller bodies of water; the tarns. This is the largest of them and it is magnificently remote. Buzzards wheel in the sky overhead, Swallows skim the water, and the occasional Northern Wheatear stands guard. In the drystone walls that line the lane, Pied wagtails and Wrens are nesting and escort us down the road, politely asking us to be on our way. The shallow puddles around the edge of the tarn are a great place for dragonflies, a true harbinger of long, hot summer days.
Heading north via the village of Ulpha, we run alongside the upper reaches of the River Duddon (the estuary of which, we visited last summer). A lovely spot to stop and have a picnic. There are minnows in the shallows, and a Grey Wagtail flitting about. Growing on a rock, down in the rapids is a lonely little Selfheal. A nice little pot herb that can be eaten raw or boiled, it's name derives from its use in traditional medicine. Good for cuts, scratches and boils apparently.
And finally... some news from the Old Corn Mill. We have a new young Heron on the block, possibly the offspring of Harry and Sally. One of the Mallards has had five ducklings, and she's sharing our neck of the Derwent with a Goosander and her brood of four. It's a veritable avian soap opera outside my front door.
Steve's Vintage Collectables. (click to visit)
I've just opened a new section in the shop this week: Terrific Toys & Games. Pretty self indulgent really, as I love old board games. Pop in and take a look.
Or why not join the 2.5k members of our Naturalists group?
All the best,