Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Lake District, June 2019. Day 4

Well I had a lazy day today while everyone busied about around me preparing for my 70th tomorrow. Beth and Alejandro had arrived last night and Thomas and Laura this morning.  The four of them were sharing a Ready Camp tent adjacent to us.  Peter and Linda arrived this afternoon and set up their pop up tent on our pitch.

The day dawned bright and sunny and got hotter as the day progressed.  I was up early and cooking bacon on the camping gaz BBQ which we enjoyed as bacon butties along with scrambled eggs.  People then went off to Kendal without me to buy supplies for the morrow.  Surely more than for the 10 I was expecting thought I naively.

Arrangements made and shopping done it was time for an excellent family meal of chilli prepared by the mistress of ceremonies, Beth aided by various others.

What would tomorrow bring?

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Lake District, June 2019. Day 3

The day dawned cloudless but with a coolth.  There was a chill breeze blowing from the west.  We pottered lazily for a while until, late morning we headed to Arnside and up to the Knott car park where we enjoyed an early sandwich lunch. 

We took the low path from the car park leading, eventually, to Siverdale.  Shortly  however we took a left turn which headed uphill more steeply than I intend as Heather is suffering with her knees and I wasn't sure how much steep ground my fitness, or lack thereof, would allow.  I actually surprised myself as I felt quite strong again.  I have been noticing for a week or so now, how much better I am feeling since the cardioversion. Before long we reached a couple of benches where Heather chose to sit and draw while I wandered the hillside and up towards the summit.  My usual hunting ground of the steep slopes facing the Kent estuary were facing the cool westerly breeze and not much was to be found here  although my first two sightings were of grayling.  A good start, although, as usual, they would only settle on the gravel with wings closed, but I did manage a few images.  These hunting ground today  though was beyond the trees backing the viewpoint where the scrub by meadows were sheltered and warm.  There were large numbers of small pearl bordered fritillary with plenty of small sheaths.  I managed to photograph a superb brown argus but missed a speckled wood and female common blue.  Another butterfly hunter told me that high brown fritillary had been found recently but there were none about today.

Eventually I found my way back to Hether and sat admiring the magnificent views of Morecambe Bay  the Kent estuary and the Langdale and Coniston fells in the Lakes.  Drawing finished it was time to repair to Arnside for tea and excellent toasted tea cake.

Returning to the van we relaxed in the evening sun before cooking pasta bake for tea which went in the oven just as Beth and Alejandro arrived.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Lake District, June 2019. Day 2

We woke to a beautiful warm and sunny morning and I celebrating by cooking a fry up on the camping gaz BBQ.

After a relaxed breakfast in the sun we wandered out for a walk through the local Rather Heath woods in the hope of finding butterflies to photograph. Unfortunately there was quite a cool breeze and the sky clouded over and we narrowly avoided a heavy shower.  I did glimpse a hairy dragonfly  though.  We haven't been here in June for a couple of years and we delighted in mantle of lush green taken on by the woods  field and hills.  Buttercup  red campion  foxglove  bracken and ferns abounded.  As always I find the close up details of nature amazing and spent some time examining and photographing the sori (spore bearing bodies) on the backs of the fern fronds.  The luxuriant growth of lichens on trees, walls and fallen branches is indicative of the lack of pollution here.  We walked as far as the lake where we found a pair of swans with three well-known magnets.  Nuthatches were identified by their constant busy- sounding strident calls and we saw chafginch, great tit, pheasant, magpie and crow.  The wonderful bubbling song of a curled as it defended territory over the nearby field stirred the soul.  We see wintering flocks of these magnificent birds on the mud flats of the Humber in the winter but in spring and summer they return to the uplands to breed.  I am always fascinated by the way thousands of waders can find sustenance in winter estuaries without out competing each other.  They all have slightly different feeding methods and different length bills enabling them to exploit different levels in the mud.  Curlew,  with their great scythe of a curved bill,  favour the deeper layers finding juicy morsels and, perhaps, a huge lugworm  delicately rinsing them in the tide and before gulping them down.

On returning from the walk we drove into Ambleside for a potter before repairing to the Langdale Chase Hotel for a wonderful afternoon tea overlooking the lake.  Back at the caravan it was time for a snooze before walking out to 'The Tree' for sunset.

Lake District June 2019, Day 1

A pottery morning finishing the packing and loading the car.  The journey up to the Lakes went really well with swathes of beautiful oxeye daisies on the roadside verges, especially on the A66.  We were soon settled in and then spent the evening at friends Anna and Gordon's for a superb pre birthday meal with a theme of the times we spent together at Tudweiliog on the Lleyn peninsula.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Butterfly Hunting in the cemetery

After a warm and bright start the sky began to cloud over and by early afternoon it had become overcast, but warm and humid.  I was keen to go and check on the white helleborines that I had found in May.  To my knowledge they were first discovered growing here in 2015 and I went on 7th June to check them out.  Although I only managed to find 20 I understand the official count was around 200.  Whilst walking through on May 15th this year I found them again despite there being none in the intervening years.  In May I found five and today six and they had seeded so hopefully this will mean more in years to come.  I also found a single bee orchid and and a solitary pyramidal orchid in the same spot.  Great news indeed.

The other aim of my walk was to look for butterflies in the adjacent woodland cemetery.  Unfortunately the cloudy conditions meant that there were none about and I had to make do with a couple of green veined whites.  Still, these are lovely butterflies and good to see.  There was plenty of hogweed in flower and also dog roses, one of my favourites.  In the main cemetery there was plenty of lesser willow herb and the grass was thick with daisies.  Birdsfoot trefoil or 'eggs and bacon' was growing rampantly on some of the older, les well tended graves.  Blackbirds were plentiful with some singing males and it was pleasing to hear a singing male blackcap.  There were plenty of magpies and wood pigeons about as well as flocks of fledgling and adult starling busily foraging in the grassy areas.  I really enjoyed watching a pair of wrens feeding their brood of fledglings - a success story.
White Helleborine

White Helleborine

Bee Orchid

Bee Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid

Birds Foot Trefoil

Green Veined White

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019. Day 8

Finally an improvement in the weather today.  As we had a long drive home the next day, Heather and I decided on a walk up Glen Fyne from the head of the Loch.  We donned water proofs to begin with but as the day went on the weather improved.  A splendid river runs through the glen and we enjoyed watching dippers busily feeding.  The path led past a hydroelectric power station, like the one at Cruachan, built into the mountain.  There is a lochan at the 5oom contour which presumable drives the turbine.  After passing through some gravel workings the valley became quieter and much more remote with excellent views up the glen to Beinn Bhuidhe at 948m and 216 in the munro hierarchy and the Arrochar Alps on the other.  We soon reached a point where the river narrowed and there was a fine bridge crossing it.  We started to notice people on the track crossing the river and when we reached it there was a constant stream of people.  We knew that there was a large beer festival back down at the Fyne Ales Brewery by the main road.  At first we though it was people out the stretch their legs; but this many?  We discovered that as part of the beer festival there was a walkers' bar 3 miles up the valley from the festival.  Good thinking!!!  We continued as far as Glen Fyne Lodge and then retraced our steps to the bridge before returning on the opposite side of the valley past the brewery.

After our walk we drove over and down to Lochgoilhead through some wonderful oak woods and on alongside the loch to have a look at Carrick Castle which stands impressively on the loch side.

Soon it was time to return as I needed to buy the ingredients for our final evening meal together before heading home the next day.  I prepared steak and chips with a whiskey, cream sauce followed by the piece de resistance, the scottish specialty of cranachan: layers of toasted oatmeal(I used granola), fresh raspberries and whipped double cream blended with heather honey and whiskey.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019, Day 7

Sadly another wet day today so we decided to visit Inveraray Castle.  The castle was splendid.  There is an excellent view of on the approach to the village and the inside lives up to expectations.  It was a bit of quick whizz around the excellent gardens in the rain which was a shame.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019. Day 6

A thoroughly wet day with heavy rain all day.  We had a very lazy morning before launching to drive down the far side of Loch Fyne to Otter Ferry and the Oystercatcher bar and restaurant.  We turned off the main road back to Loch Lomond onto ever smaller roads along the side of the loch.  We kept meeting lots of groups of wet and bedraggled cyclists and found even more at the pub.  We discovered that they were taking part in a two day charity ride from Arran to Aberdeen.  We really felt for them, but fortunately the forecast was somewhat better for the 'morrow.  Just before arriving at the pub we stopped to watch a flotilla of male eiders.

Lunch at the Oystercatcher made the best of a dismal day for weather.  We all opted for Cullen Skink or smoked haddock chowder and excellent it was.  We took an alternative route home and called that the day.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019. Day 5

A long day today so we were up and breakfasted early.  I wanted to drive up to Seil Island on the west coast and we had promised Thomas that we would go to Oban bike helmet shopping.  Although it was not the promising day of weather as we set off, the sky rapidly cleared the further north and west we went and we had a magnificent day.  The weather was very local, however as the Munro Baggers on the Arrochar Alps had a very wet day.

Our journey took us once more to Lochgilphead, this time turning north along the Crinan Canal, rather than South towards the Mull of Kyntyre.  Seeing a sign advertising a coastal view point we called in at Askneish Bay where found an attractive hotel and bistro.  What a pity we were somewhat pushed for time and it wasn't lunch time.  We also discovered some excellent gardens that we separately became lost in.  Slightly more formal that Ben More, they were still magnificent with ferns, azaleas and rhododendrons.

Continuing north, it wasn't long before we were crossing over to Seil Island over the narrow strip of 'sea' separating it from the mainland via the very hump-backed Clachan Bridge, known affectionately as The Bridge Over the Atlantic.  Crossing the island we parked up at the superb viewpoint of Port a'Mhuilinn where we had lunch in the warm spring sun looking across a sparkling sea dotted with islands ranging in size from Lunga, Scarba and Jura to the tiny Garvellachs.  The rocks were dotted with beautiful delicate sea pinks which made excellent foregrounds for photographs.

Lunch over we continued the short distance to Easedale which we enjoyed pottering around and photographing.  The views to the impressively steep cliffs of Mull were fabulous.

All too soon it was time to continue to Oban to complete our errands.  The owner of the bike shop alerted me to the fact that there were black guillemots nesting in the harbour wall.  This was too much to resist so, while Heather pottered round the shops I wandered round to try my luck photographically.  Mt information was correct and my only regret was that I hadn't driven round with the big 500 lens - ah well!!

I did get some images with the 200, however, and I found a very cooperative hooded crow foraging on the tideline.

All too soon, having secured a bike helmet for 'the boy' it was time to continue our journey.  We drove east from Oban, along the north shore of Loch Awe, stopping briefly in increasingly overcast weather to photograph the magnificent Kilchurn Castle.  We had our eyes open for the ospreys that breed along here and caught a brief glimpse of one as we walked don the the loch side.  It didn't seem long then before we arrived back at Inveraray in increasingly deteriorating conditions; we had certainly had the best of the weather.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019. Day 4.

A rest day today.  A relaxed start to see the Munro bagging team depart.  A few regrets there.  Even last year I would have been with them - although there are lots of contours very close together so maybe having an easy day was the better option.
Heather and I pottered into Inveraray where I had a doctor's appointment for an INR test.  Fortunately it has gone up!!  Only a week to go now before cardioversion - fingers crossed.  Following this we explored the town and I enjoyed looking at and photographing The Vital Spark.  A semi derelict old Clyde Puffer, this old lady is awaiting restoration and was the inspiration for Neil Munro's novels based on its exploits: The Tales of Para Handy.  These books also formed the basis of both a 1960s and 1990s television series.  Munro was actually born in Inveraray.  Coffee and scone followed before our return to Stonshira House.

While the remainder of the party went off for an excursion I remained behind to play at being a bird photographer again.  I had a very pleasant time down on the loch side, now at low tide.  I was delighted with my shots of a heron dealing with a large fish and enjoyed watching goosanders, common sandpipers and oystercatchers.  Sand Martin's were skimming the water surface over the mouth of the small river that flows into the loch here.  I also managed to pick up a tick which I fortunately found before it bit and dug in; later in the week I discovered on that had bitten and dug in!!

At 5.45 I feel a preprandial beer coming on!!

Monday, 27 May 2019

Scotland, Spring 2019. Day 3

Today was a day of rhododendrons and azaleas.  Everywhere they are in their prime with colours ranging from purple  to deep red, rich orange and yellow.  Although we saw them all over the best displays were at The Edinburgh botanic garden at Ben More.

We drove down Loch Fyne stopping off briefly at Lochgilphead for maps and then Ardrishaig to explore the end of the Crinan canal which provides a short cut for boats from Loch Fyne to the sea to save a long voyage around the Mull of Kintyre.  It was quite surreal, though to be driving inland and suddenly see an ocean going yacht gliding by.  We enjoyed watching another yacht negotiating the first of the initial flight of locks and the views from the harbour down Loch Fyne to the sea and the Isle of Arran were superb.

We continued our journey to the attractive harbour side village of Tarbert where we were just in time to catch the ferry over the loch to Portavadie.  From here we continued to the tiny village of Tighnabruaich which features in the much loved Para Handy Tales.  On the ferry we enjoyed excellent views of dolphins as well as eider ducks and black guillemot.

After a sandwich lunch it was time to move on to the magnificent Ben More gardens.  Set on steep hillsides were specimen trees, rhododendrons and azaleas.  Ferns are a speciality both in the gardens generally and in the cool fern house.  There were Japanese, Himalayan and Peruvian sections to the gardens.  A visit to be recommended.
The drive home took us along the opposite shore of Loch Fyne where we stopped briefly to investigate the Loch Fyne Oyster bar.  On our return to base it was, of course, beer o'clock.