During the last week or so, there have been hints of the coming autumn, the swallows have started gathering to prepare for their long winter migration south and there have been some beautiful misty mornings.
The blackberries are ripening and the mountain ash berries are a startling red.
There were also some very delicate cobwebs along the path towards the boat house at Crummock
and one day I found that someone had been carefully building stone stacks.
It has been a busy summer with many visitors which on the one hand is lovely but the number of vehicles has been difficult for our narrow winding roads to cope with. However there have been some positive efforts to help with these problems. The Rugby Club car park in Keswick offers a deal of £4 all day parking with 15% off Keswick launches: this aims to help alleviate the pressures on parking near Hawes End to climb the ever popular Catbells. There is a shuttle bus running between Cockermouth and Buttermere to help with access to Buttermere and at Loweswater, as well as many other places, there are temporary ‘pop up’ car parks in farmers’ fields. This all helps in the short term but the whole transport and access issues needs to be seriously looked at for the long term. The problem has been with us for some time but the current influx of visitors has really brought it to the fore.
Back to more mundane local happenings…… the ponds in the field behind Foulsyke are filling up and I regularly see dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the water. There was a resident sheep in the enclosure for a week or so. We think she jumped over the fence at a point where the ground was higher on the outside and she was unable to jump back out. Unfortunately she could not be persuaded to go towards the gate at the other end of the enclosure. The gate was then left open for her for several days until eventually some friends/family from the next field came to visit and she agreed to join them.
What incredible weather at the moment, wall to wall sunshine and so hot! I tend to write my blog of an evening or on a wet day but it’s not very often that it’s because it’s too hot to be outside!
The dog is getting walked very early morning. We went down to Crummock the other day via the stone age fort rock, the sheep were still resting on the top. I wondered if they were descendants of some earlier Neolithic flock.
The wild flowers are beautiful at present and there are some of my all time favourites, meadow sweet, harebells, foxgloves. Sometimes I find it difficult to name flowers, particularly ones that look similar so I have now got an app on my phone to help distinguish them so hopefully I will improve, I now know fox and cubs and can distinguish common valerian which apparently was used in WW1 to calm people’s nerves.
I seem to be having a wildlife week, much to my initial horror I found an 8” slow worm on my kitchen work surface yesterday, I do not know how it got there. I tried to take a pic when a friend helped me put it back in the garden but it was too speedy! Later in the day I had to evict a toad from the kitchen. The red squirrels are delighting visitors and some guests in Loweswater saw a family of five playing in the courtyard, it must have been an amazing sight. There is also a thrush who is singing its heart out from the tops of trees, from first thing in the morning till late at night.
The wildlife ponds behind Foulsyke have started to fill up and green shoots are appearing on the sides. There are also some very nice reflections developing.
Many of you who are regular visitors or who visit the Hiley’s local website were saddened to hear of Ann’s death last December. As funeral numbers were limited because of the pandemic Roger and their family decided to have a celebration of Ann’s life in the summer. This took place on Monday with a gathering on the top of Rannerdale Knotts where Ann’s ashes were scattered followed by a tea party at Oak Cottage. It was a lovely occasion, I’m sure Ann would be very proud of Roger and her family.
25 July – Since posting this blog, one of last week’s guests sent me this beautiful photo of a red squirrel going across the roof of the old dog kennels – isn’t it lovely? Thank you Simon.
I am beginning this month’s blog with a picture of Crummock Water on this morning’s dog walk. The lake was incredibly still and even the clouds are reflected clearly.
It is mid June, the cuckoos are still calling across the valley, the cow parsley has taken over from Jack in the hedge and the hedgerows are closing in over the paths and lanes. The grass has not been cut in the churchyard apart from little footpaths winding through the gravestones and there is a carpet of wild flowers, bistort, dog daisies …..
Down by the lake I always look out for ragged robin in the boggy meadow between the kissing gate and the pump house.
The yellow iris were flowering in the wooded area but I didn’t get a very good picture of them.
On checking my previous blog I realise I wrote it before bluebell time at Rannerdale, like many other early flowers they were a little later this year. The bluebells cover wide swathes of the sides of the valley but I like this picture as it shows the density of the flowers.
The creation of the ponds in the field towards the wood behind Foulsyke is progressing apace. There was a Himalayan balsam bashing session a couple of weeks ago then the diggers moved in …..
and the ponds are starting to take shape.
If you go on the road over Mockerkin Heights there is an old, ruined building at the top on the right. I often wondered what it was – I learned recently it was the old Mockerkin School established in 1781 which remained open until the late 1800s. I went to have a look at it on a cycle ride this week and was amazed by how small it was. There is also a stone from the school on Mockerkin Green which reads:
‘Mary Mirehouse of Mockerkin founded and endowed this school in the year 1781. Remember now the creator in the days of youth’.
There is a fascinating article by Walter Head about the school in an old History Society newsletter, many of the family names of the children who attended are still familiar in the area. I think I need to find out more.
Just returned this morning from a walk along the Loweswater terrace path and met this sheep on the road up from Maggie’s Bridge, she did make me smile as she jumped agilely onto the wall!
I heard the first cuckoo on Thursday 22 April which was quite early, I usually note it more towards the end of the month. There are swallows and house martins about looking for nest sites and I have also seen the goosanders who I noted flying around last year: one of them tried to get into the hole in the tree where the jackdaws nest and was very speedily evicted.
The weather has been interesting over the past month with some beautiful still days, great for reflections but frost almost every night so no good for planting out in the garden.
It also didn’t rain for quite a while so my little local walking group (Now we are Six) took advantage of it being drier underfoot and went on what is usually a very boggy walk over the back of Gavel to Banna Crag and Floutern Kop returning via Hen Comb. Our boots remained clean and dry!
I went on a favourite walk around Drigg (south of Sellafield) last Wednesday. It is a lovely walk across rough pasture to the Esk estuary and then returning across the sand dunes to the beach. There had been a lot of snow on the high fells, (perhaps you saw the footage of people skiing on Helvellyn), and the Scafell range in the distance was white but the sky and sea were blue, some nice fluffy clouds as well – beautiful.
Those of you who know Foulsyke may be interested to hear that the Rivers Trust, working together with the local farmer, are going to create a wetland area and series of ponds for wildlife in the field behind leading up to the woods, this will also allow for water storage during floods. It will be fascinating to watch the project develop.
Finally a photo of the Kirkstile with its beer garden open!
It’s springtime, the skies are blue, although it may be a bit cold, and we are open! It is lovely to have guests in the Cottages again, everyone so happy to be able to come away on holiday after lockdown. I had a haircut last Monday, what a difference it makes and to celebrate I had my first Luchini’s icecream of the season on Whinlatter.
After welcoming yesterday’s guests I took the dog out past the Kirkstile where people were sat in the garden having drinks and headed down the lane to take a picture of some beautiful primroses I had seen on the verge a couple of days ago. There were also lots of glowing celandines which made me ponder on why flowers like celandines and dandelions get such a bad press in gardens – I do know the answer but in the right place they are lovely.
The mornings in the past week have been very cold, I registered -3C on the bridge by Lanthwaite Wood the other day. There has been very little wind and early in the morning Crummock has been very still with lots of incredible reflections. Max however needed a swim…..
Towards the end of last year when we were able to meet outside in small groups six of us decided to get together for some local walks (plus coffee and cake!) These sadly came to a halt in January but we have now restarted with a walk up Melbreak last week. We went up via Todd’s Trod in Mosedale which Mark Richards, in his new series of walks books, Walking the Lake District Fells, has named after the local farmer who told him about the route. Below is the view towards Loweswater from Melbreak top.
This morning I met a friend I had not seen for a while for an early morning walk over Sale Fell. We had a hazy but lovely view across Bassenthwaite as we meandered around the fell catching up on each other’s news.
On our return we came by the walls of the old Wythop church, always a place to reflect on valley life in times gone by.
Hopefully we are going to be able to reopen shortly after Easter which will be good news for everyone, it has been a long winter. However there are signs of Spring, the snowdrops have looked beautiful for a long while but are now being taken over by the crocus and daffodils. I walked through Loweswater churchyard yesterday and the spring flowers in amongst the graves were lovely.
The sign at the junction by the Kirkstile that Wainwright referred to as ‘a negative signpost’ in his section on Melbreak suddenly disappeared one day. We were rather worried for a while wondering what had happened to it as it is such an iconic sign. However a couple of weeks later it reappeared looking very smart and clean. The sign at the end of the lane has now been taken off, it must be the local council having a clean up.
Over the past week or two we have had some beautiful still and misty mornings. It’s lovely to go down to one of the lakes early when it’s like this. There are often swans gently gliding around on Loweswater and one morning I saw two red squirrels chasing each other through the woods.
It’s also nice to go up a bit to look down on the mist over the lake and Brackenthwaite Hows is an ideal place for this.
During lockdown several of the local groups have gone online with Zoom presentations, it has been good to see local friends who you otherwise may not have seen and there have been wide ranging presentations including one from Rosie, a local girl running from Loweswater to Mongolia highlighting climate activism. Unfortunately she had to temporarily halt her journey in Bulgaria and return home because of the pandemic. At the other end of the timescale we had a fascinating lecture by the history society on local Neolithic settlements in the valley which are quite extensive and there’s even evidence of stone age ‘cups’ on the large rock in a field towards Loweswater.
Anyway I had better come back to the present time and get on with preparing to re-open the cottages.
The beast from the East
Like everywhere else in the country we have had the ‘Beast from the East’ during the past week. Instead of snow however we have had mainly sunny days with blue skies but it has been bitterly cold with temperatures scarcely rising above freezing. Earlier in the week it was very calm and the swans were quietly feeding on Loweswater
but there was ice about.
By Friday morning we were being hit by an icy blast and the bushes along the wall at Crummock were starting to ice over.
I couldn’t get through to the pumping station because of an icy bush hanging over the track which was sheet ice.
After a very windy night I braved the weather and went down to the lake again but by the gated track to reach the far side of the pumping station.
The route to the kissing gate was impassible
It was incredibly beautiful but I now certainly understand wind chill.
We’re now a week into February and the snowdrops are looking at their best.
The weather has been very mixed from sunny days with snow and ice to rain and squelching mud. One rather icy day Judy and I met at Maggie’s Bridge and went up the valley between Hencomb and Gavel. We went to the sheep fold at the head of the valley, returned to High Nook and from there joined the terrace path. We stopped for a very cold lunch on the seat – Judy amazingly still had some Christmas cake to share! The view from the seat shows a very clear snow line between the valley and the fells.
As I walked home along the road from the far end of Loweswater I found these lovely broken pieces of ice gathering on the shoreline of the lake.
I think during the lockdowns we have become more observant and also give ourselves time to stand and stare. I came across this beautiful lichen on a tree stump when on a bike ride near Rogerscale.
The past weeks have not just been walks, I have also had my cottage inspection and retained my five star rating. The inspector writes:
‘The properties sit safely at the higher end of the banding with all areas meeting the expectations at this high Star level. The continued high levels of presentation have enabled the Gold Accolade to be reconfirmed once again this year.’
Like many people, I still can’t resist taking photos from the front of Foulsyke particularly on bright wintery afternoons.
I think however the sheep had other things on their minds.
The cottages have been unoccupied since November either because of lockdowns or tier restrictions so it has all been very quiet at Foulsyke. At present I am doing the usual January jobs of preparing the cottages for the oncoming season, repainting, replacing, renovating etc. I am also having to work on my booking conditions and cancellation policies because of the pandemic: hopefully these will be on the website shortly. It is currently uncertain when we will be able to reopen but let us hope it will not be too long before I can welcome guests again.
Now on a much lighter note I thought I would post a couple of fun pictures. Mark, the National Trust ranger was busy with his chain saw over Christmas and festive reindeer and snowmen appeared at Loweswater. Children were also delighted to discover a goblin tree along the lakeshore.
We have just had a couple of days of wonderfully snowy weather which then disappeared overnight. Here are some photos I took on Friday.
First thing Friday morning
A sheep along the lane
Two pictures of Loweswater in the afternoon sun
And sheep feeding on my way home
Since the November lockdown my walks have been local, most of them starting from the door which on occasion can lengthen a walk considerably. It has been interesting to find new routes or put parts of walks together in different ways. My walking friend Judy and I found new routes up Burnbank and Carling Knott and added the path above the intake wall to Thackthwaite to a Low Fell walk. Yesterday’s walk in the snow was put together as we went along. We started on the fell road to Mosser, then went up the valley between Low Fell and Darling Fell. After enjoying ‘emergency rations’ of coffee and Judy’s energy giving Christmas cake at the stile, we continued up the right hand side of the beck before bearing right to join the main Low Fell track. Instead of turning right to Low Fell we turned left to visit Fellbarrow before returning to the top of the fell road. As some fairly gloomy clouds loomed in the distance we enjoyed a visit to this perfectly placed snowman on Watching Crag.
We are seeing red squirrels on a daily basis which is lovely. Thank you to everyone who has donated to the West Lakes Squirrel Initiative. If you have had difficulties making bank transfers to them unfortunately the account number I was given had the last two digits reversed so the last two numbers are 98 not 89. If you want to check anything further please get in touch.
I’m sorry it’s been a little while since I posted anything but I will hopefully get back into my monthly notes in the New Year. In the meantime, to help make us smile on a grey December day, is a red squirrel on the feeder by Buttermere Cottage. We are so delighted to have them around the gardens again.
I send my best wishes to you all for Christmas and the New Year.