Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Lake District, March 2018. Day 3, Wednesday 28th

Wednesday dawned fine; cloudy but bright.  The dawn chorus is well underway now and sounded glorious when I was out before sunrise.  Pheasants were displaying noisily and the large numbers of rabbits on the site were all out busily feeding.  
After breakfast we set off for Troutbeck to walk up to the Troutbeck Alder, one of the the seven remarkable trees mentioned by Rob and Harriet Fraser in their excellent project combining photography and text: the Long View.  The day continued fine with mixed sun and cloud and beautiful light later in the upper reaches of the valley.  It was periodically warm and spring-like but with a cold bite to the wind.  As we walked along paths and lanes into the valley of the tumbling Trout Beck River we noticed several plants heralding the early onset of spring: the bright green of dog's mercury, aromatic leaves of ramsons or wild garlic (no flowers yet but the leaves make excellent soup), yellow lesser celendine flowers and golden hosts of Wordsworth daffodils coming into their peak.  John Lewis-Stempel describes backen as the fronds first make an appearance as knuckles of bracken and that is exactly what they look like.

To view large, please click on an image.
A knuckle of bracken

 Walking along the lane towards Troutbeck Park Farm we relished the stone walls flanking the lane, each one a mini wilderness of mosses and lichens.  As we came in sight of the farm we found a fallen tree to sit on by a lively tributary of the Trout Beck.  The farm was bought by Beatrix Potter in 1923 when there was a risk of it being sold for development.  She kept it as a working farm and bred Herdwick sheep, 'Herdies'.  It was one of fourteen farms which Beatrix Potter left to the National Trust when she died in 1943, decreeing that each should keep its flock of Herdies hefted to the local fells.

Once above the farm we climbed steeply into the upper valley which we had completely to ourselves.  Leaving the oak and alder woods after the climb, we crossed a picturesque clapper bridge over the river.  Here the valley widened and the beck's sinuous path was marked by a line of alders enjoying the fact that their roots were able to grow down into the water.  This high mountain valley felt remote and peaceful.  It wasn't long before the Viewranger OS mapping on my phone and Rob and Harriet's description told me that we had found our tree.  As Harriet writes: 'The Trout Beck Alder is one of the last of a long line of alders overhanging Trout Beck.  It is slightly separated from them, as if leading a march away from the woodland towards the higher reaches of the valley and the birth of the river.  The tree stands where the beck runs wide and shallow and extends one long bough as if gesturing towards the eastern fells, while its other branches provide the bulk of its canopy, reaching westward.'  We spent a very happy hour with the tree, me photographing and Heather drawing.  Harriet mentions that Rob never comes away from this tree with dry feet so I took the precaution of carrying my wellies up there.  A rucksack loaded up with spare clothes and waterproofs, lunch, tripod and wellies is a cumbersome beast to carry.  Still it did mean I could get in the river and keep my feet dry.

On our return Heather wanted to stop to draw the lovely clapper bridge we had crossed so another opportunity to play with some long exposure photography.

As we wandered back down the valley we seemed to have been out a long time for our 8 miles; we are very easily distracted.  The investment in a slow cooker for the caravan seemed like a very good idea when we opened the door to delicious cooking smells at about 6.00 pm. 

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