Monday, 27 June 2022

Iona, June, Day 3

A beautiful start to the day today and Heather and I went down to the small beach at the end of our garden for some drawing and photography.  The light was superb and I loved the colours and detail of the grey and yellow lichens on the rocks.  After breakfast we collected our pack-up and headed out.  Our ultimate destination was the Bay at the Back of the Ocean on the far side of the island.  It took us an hour or so to reach it, though, as we meandered our way through the village and over the hill. On the way we found both northern marsh and heath spotted orchids. We loved to hear the corncrakes on the way over and also on our return walk.  The so called song of the male is remininscent of their scientific name of Crex crex; it sounds just like somebody playing a two syllable tune on a hair comb or grooved wooden stick.  Eventually we reached the summit of the short climb from where we could see brilliant blue sea infront of us and behind.  We crossed into the short, flower-bedecked turf of the machair (known to some as the golf course) and down to the beach where we sat down to rest our legs and take in the amazing view.  We were in the middle of the crescent of the bay.  The shell sand beach gleamed white in the sun and contrasted with the myriad colours of the sea: deep navy, turquoise and duck-egg blue with the white caps of breaking waves.  In between were rocks covered in rich, gold and grey lichens and lower down the glistening bronze of seaweeds.  Oystercatchers were plentiful and all busy, some seeming to be single birds while those with youngsters noisily and fussily guarding them and warding us off.  On the water were shelduck and eiders with broods of young while the handsome male eiders were moulting into their black eclipse plumage.  A large seal was hauled out on a rock with a female with pup further away.  As there was a pup present these were, presumably, coomon seals rather than the atlantic greys we are more used to seeing and which pup in November.  I was delighted to be able to get close enough to a small flock of ringed plovers to photograph them and there was a handsome dunlin in fabulous summer plumage.
When we reached the far south end of the beach near the cliffs we were thrilled to see the spouting cave performing well.  As the swell from the incoming tide, enhanced by the westerly wind, was pushed into the cave, the pressure forced the water through a hole in the cave roof making it spout up in an impressive spray.
Eventually we wended our way back to the village.   It would have been rude not to partake of some rehydration in the pub garden.
An excellent day.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Iona, June, Day 2

After yesterday's clear sunny weather (although complete with gale), we woke this morning to rain, although the winds had dropped somewhat.  Some of our group who didn't make it over yesterday because of deteriorating weather arrived early today on the first ferry.
Wonderful porridge for breakfast this morning followed by toast.  Of course it is Scotland so the porridge is made with water.  Once outside breakfast, we headed out to explore the village and Abbey.  Our plan was to have a packup out but the rain closed in again and so we retreated to the Bishop's house where I am waiting for the latest squall to blow out before walking down to Traig Mohr beach.  Hopefully there will be a good sunset tonight.
Eventually the rain finally cleared, temporarily as it happened, and Heather and I set out for Traig Mohr to the south of the village.  The ferry came in while we were passing the terminal and made for some good photography opportunities.  A few hundred yards later, despite the wind noise, we heard the unique 'craik, craik', call of corncrakes in the long vegetation in more of less the same spot that I photographed them in 2015.  At one time corncrakes could be found all over the UK but gradually harvesting became more and more mechanised and industrial and the birds couldn't cope.  Sadly they now hang on only in Iona and the Outer Hebrides, where the wildlife is more important than industrialised farming.  
We soon reached the beach and fell into our usual beach combing routine.  Wheatears flitted up the beach ahead of us and several pairs of oystercatchers objected to our presence.  Thinking they perhaps had young chicks, we gave them a wide berth and left them in peace.  No sooner had we noticed clouds heading in our direction than the strong winds swept a squall towards us and it was time to batten down.  As the rain passed through, we were treated to the most magnificent rainbow.  Amazing.  We had time to reach the far beach and take some photographs in  supberb light before it was time to return for our evening meal.
As I write, it is look less and less likely that a half hour walk to see the sunset at the extreme north of the island will be productive, so it will go on hold for another evening.
Images to follow later.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Iona, June, Day 1.

We enjoyed a comfortable night at Maridon House and started the day with an excellent full English.  We had plenty of time for packing and reorganising the car before popping to Tesco's for petrol and then driving down to the ferry terminal.  It wasn't long before the ferry arrived and unloaded and we were being boarded.  The weather was bleak with rain in the air as we left Oban but the views were splendid.  As we rounded the northern tip of Karrera Island we gained vistas up the sound of Mull with Lismore lighthouse on one side and Duart castle on the other and the Munro of Ben More dominating the island.  We enjoyed sightings of gannet and guillemot and a group of common seals basking on a reef.  As views of Craignure opened up we could see our campsite from 2015.
Off the ferry we were soon driving along the single track road up into Glen More, becoming accustomed to the regular use of passing places once more.  We stopped briefly at the summit of the pass hoping for views of raptors but were disappointed.  Continuing down into the Glen we soon reached the shores of Loch Scridian - otter territory, but no luck.  Otter remains a work in progress but hopefully the situation will be resolved during the next ten days.  Arriving at Fionnphort we drove down to the ferry terminal to unload our bags only to find that there was somewhat of a pamic.  We hadn't realised that the wind had got up so much that it was near gale force and the ferry that was in was to be last one.  It was suddenly a mad dash to get the bags, out, the car sorted and moved back up the road to the free carpark and a dash back down the hill and onto the ferry just as it left.  We quickly realised the reason for the panic: the ferry was rolling badly and it was nearly impossible to stand up.  I managed to scramble up on to the upper deck to grab a few photos only to discover that one of my bags containing camera gear seemed to have gone missing.  Fortunately it was hidden behind a larger case.  Once on the other side of the sound getting off the ferry dry shod was the biggest problem.
Eventually all of our group, complete with bags convened at the Bishop's House for our intial briefing.  Having settled into our rooms a small group of us opted to walk up the steep little hill of Dun I, the highest point on the island.  The views were fabulous and the light wonderful.  Unfortunately the gale made it difficult to stand up, never mind take photos.  Still we had seen a small flock of twite on the way up which was special.  The Bishop's House is situated just behind the ancient St Mary's Abbey which we passed on the way back. 
I look forward now to a week of relaxation, meditation, bird watching and photography, but first an early night.
Images to come.

Oban June

A transition day today.  Having packed and reorganised clothes and cases yesterday, the pcking down and cleaning of the van went quickly and we were away at 10.30, our earliest ever departure from the van.  We joined the M6 at Shap having travelled up the A6 first.  At Gretna Green the M6 seues into the M74 and then in Glasgo morphs into the M8 which we followed to the Erskine Bridge where we crossed the Clyde.  It was now non motorway to Oban, first along Loch Lomand, stopping for a cup of tea and leg stretch at Luss, and then to Crianlarich and Tyndrum before heading south again along.  All went smoothly until we met a traffic holdup at Connel Bridge.  We eventually arrived at Maridon House B&B and soon Nigel, Jackie and Myra caught up with us.  We were ready for our evening meal on Oban harbour side and then an early night excited about crossing to Mull and Iona the next day.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Lake District, June, Day 7.

We woke to a foggy morning today but this soon cleared to give a baking hot day with temperatures up to 30C.  It was a day of pottering and relaxing; largely trying to avoid too much su.  We have rejigged the packing ready for Iona and plan to be away by 10.30 tomorrow.  As the afternoon wore on, despite still being very hot we noticed the clouds building from the south west.  Still intending to eat outside, despite not forecast, it suddenly began to rain and quickly became torrential.  We just managed to batten down and move inside in time.  Despite the rain, it still feels very hot in the van and we have had to close the vents to stop the rain coming in.  Hopefully it will stop and we can open some windows soon. Hopefully we are on the way to a quick getaway tomorrow.

Lake District, June, Day 6.

A foggy start today and up early to get laundry washed and dried ready for travelling up to Mull/Iona on Friday.  Eventually we set off at 11.30 for Cockermout to see an exhibition: Scree, in The Wordsworth House.  The journey went well with no holdups in either Windermere or Ambleside.  Parking was at a bit of a premium, though, but we managed to get in the last available parking space in a car park we knew.  
Walking through the town we couldn't resist the old-fashioned ironmongers that we love.  Heather couldn't stop herself buying a garden sieve to hang on the wall/use to sieve her compost.  We soon reached the Wordsworth House where we chatted to the two very friendly and helpful volunteer staff.  Fortunately it is National Trust and so entry was free.  We found our exhibition on the top floor.  Scree is part physical exhibition and part online at  Cockermout poet, photographer and writer, Lucy Burnett has produced an alternative walking guide to The Lakes which encourages us to respond personally to this much loved landscape and the impact humans have on it.  Scree isn't any old guidebook of routes designed for their peak bagging or scenic potential, these routes are artistic provocations - experiments which playfully ask questions aimed at entirely rethinking our relationship with the Lake District.  The environmental topics explored are certain to dominate debate in the future.  Scree doesn't provide all the answers, it requires our participation, either by independently following the routes, creating and submitting new writing or art, attending a Scree Lab (workshop) or following route adaptations and virtual exercises to complete the experiments from home.  This exhibition has certainly given us both food for thought and we look forward to following some of the routes and exploring the website.
And so onto another guidebook: the teashop walks book Beth gave me for Father's Day.  With this in mind we headed for Buttermere to the excellent Croft House Farm Cafe for an excellent and well-deserved tea and stickies.  Not so sure about the well-deserved, though, as we missed out the walking part, it being, by now, quite late on in the afternoon.  Buttermere is a splendid location: right at the hub of high mountains.  It was pleasant to relive memories from past, and fitter, days: descending to the youth hostel by head torch from High Stile, picking up controls in the Saunders Mountain Marathon on Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike at the end of a tough first day and descending precipitously to Warnscale Bottom and the overnight camp and, more recently, with Thomas flogging up and over Scarth Gap Pass on mountain bikes carrying heavy loads on Wainwright's off-road C2C and then stuggling up the Honister Pass.  There was a wonderful view from here up Warnscale Beck to where the famous Bothy is.  This reminded me of old plans to walk up to it - perhaps they need to come back on stream when we come to the van in September.
All too soon it was time to drag ourselves away, over the Honister and through idyllic Borrowdale and back to the van for a very pleasant BBQ.  A splendid end to an excellent day.
Images to follow when I get back home.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Lake District, June, Day 5.

A lazy morning today, waiting for the sun to decide what it was going to do.  Eventually the day warmed up and the sky looked as though it was going to clear, so, after lunch outside, we set off for foulshaw moss to look for white-faced darters.  Although the main focus was the darters, which have been re-introduced here and are now doing well, we also hoped for other dragon and damselflies as well as the patch ospreys.  
Pulling into the car park we headed, as usual to the two feeding stations which, as always, came up trumps.  Among other species I was pleased to see tree sparrow, siskin and lesser redpoll.  Moving out onto the moss itself we reached the elevated viewing point where a kind birder let us look at the ospreys through his 'scope.  Very clear views of two birds standing on the nest, whether large chicks or adults I am not sure.
Around in the wooded marsh area large skippers were on the wing in large numbers with the odd meadow brown, a lone brimstone and my first ringlet of the year.  Azure damselflies were present in large numbers along with a few blue- tailed damsels and large reds.  I was pleased to find and photograph a single black darter female and a few four spotted chasers were on the wing with one posing to perfection.  I did eventually find a couple of rare white-faced darters, both male but sadly only resting on the boardwalk.
A couple of hours sped by and it was time to head off to Outgate, near Hawkshead, to visit some friends who have a cottage there.  Later, returning to the van, we decided that we had left it too late to BBQ.  Just as well, because when I let myself into the van it was like a sauna.  Thinking we had left the oven or hot plate on I checked but they were fine.  Opening the door and all windows and roof lights I noticed that the the radiators were pumping out heat and the water in the hot water tank was boiling hot.  Even the central heating fluid was boiling when I checked the expansion tank.  Turning off everything to do with heating and hot water we left it to cool down, although I did notice a glitch on the control panel: it claimed that the ambient temperature was -40C!!  No wonder it was pumping out heat.  Later, delving into the mysteries of the Alde control panel, I found a possible cause of the anomoly and corrected it.  Fortunately all seems good now.  Phew!!!
All images to be posted when I return home; in the meantime they reside on the camera.