Swindale Beck rediscovers it natural meanders. Farming Today visited the area on 28 September 2016, to coincide with the launch of a report from Green Alliance and the National Trust. Improved water-planning on a catchment-wide basis, that's the thrust of the report. And Swindale Beck shows what can be achieved. Listen to Caz Graham on Farming Today, read the report. Read the blog I wrote on 14 July 2016 for a glimpse of the flora and fauna of the area.
Skeggleswater is not for everyone. Even with the heather moorland fragrant and in bloom a friend turned it down, wanting to walk high. So in August we headed for Shipman Knotts and Kentmere Pike, for vistas. From our vantage point we glimpsed Skeggeswater but the tarn and its heather surround appeared unremarkable.
Skeggleswater is secluded, lying low . On a late September day my friend Jill and I lurched through tussocks of tall grasses and boggy hollows beside Skeggleswater Dyke , through the flame-like seed heads of bog asphodel and cross –leaved-heath. A heather knoll rose into view and a green haze of reeds reached out into the tarn. Summer vegetation overspread the water, pond weed and water lily pads soon to shrink back into the silts below.
The warm sun quickly dried vegetation, after an overnight shower. I searched the brambles- late flowers, ripening fruit and luscious blackberries. A tapping came from the hazel beyond, a nuthatch perhaps. Hoverflies were nectaring on bramble flowers. A comma butterfly settled on a blackberry. Its wings are ragged, like leaf-margins. Colours run and blur, seeping like blood from dark blotches. Lurid and maculate as bramble leaves in autumn. The bramble patch is all thorns: blackthorn, rose, bramble and hawthorn. And delicate wings.
Tall trees gathered the darkness and lightning thrilled us. Flash floods in Manchester. The pitch awash, football was off. Those pulsing skies brought dreams. A charm of goldfinch rose from a bed of thistles, twittering in flight. I tried to bring the image into sharper focus, but I knew I was dreaming. A dream made of memories. Through September I’d been charmed by goldfinch: plunging their heads deep in thistledown, like raindrops beneath a dark cloud, sheltering in a horse chestnut tree so thick with leaves I could see none although I could hear many. In my dream, I reached for the perfect photograph which in reality had eluded me.
The adventure begins in the clouds, in Cumbria’s eastern fells. Up on Mallerstang Edge, vistas are lost in mist on a late March day filled with birdsong. Seeing little, other senses become fine-tuned to the world close about us. Here and now, the mist blots out beyond. Skylark, curlew and golden plover are come for the breeding season, settling in. Listening through the wind, we spy a ghostly golden plover through the mist. In the heather there are mystery feathers and bird droppings. Not the weather we might choose, but it made a day which resonates long after the experience is passed.
A blush of gold along thorax and abdomen, and beguiling eyes on an underwing designed to confuse predators. A light wind flutters wings as butterflies nectar on flowers, turning this way and that. Painted ladies may be sitting pretty in classic profile or settled with open wings, rarely for long. They're acrobatic, tipping and tilting as if drunk on nectar, flitting and dipping behind fading flowers.
In close-up, their rich colours, pattern and texture are stunning. Take a look.
Jan Wiltshire is a writer and naturalist living in Cumbria. She take photographs.