Wonderful cloudberries, Nordic berries. I was amused to see cloudberries pictured on body lotion and hand cream because the plant features in Cumbrian Contrasts. It's found only in the eastern fells and the berries are even more rare. Cloudberry is interesting botanically, and in its various names. Cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus- of the bramble genus. I found it on Knoutberry Haw on East Baugh Fell. Cloudberry, Knoutberry, it's all one.
A wacky title for a new story. It’s a bold strategy for attracting attention: the whacky title. Like A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian . It’s so odd it’s courageous. My Catch a Bungie Jumper is in English which you may find a let-down. Sometimes photographs are a spoiler. So use your imagination. Picture it for yourself. Throwing health and safety to the winds , a rogue bungie jumper is about to dive from a viaduct. The paparazzi are not invited. Here we are, standing way below, arms outstretched to catch a bungie jumper.
What is the impact of this winter’s floods on the ecology of Cumbria’s rivers? After the wettest December on record , continued through January and not over yet. Photographing stranded minnows, stickleback, bullhead and white-clawed crayfish on the river bank by Kendal Parish Church I tried to imagine the scale of devastation all along the River Kent. And in the Eden catchment which I explore in Cumbrian Contrasts. With the same SSSI designation and similar species for Scandal Beck at Smardale, both rivers have otter.
Snow is transformative. It ages the look of a landscape, takes me back. Takes me to the literature and art of winter. When the Scout Scar escarpment lies under snow it feels like the past. The soundscape of the 21st century is silenced. Snow picks out farmland and the outtake walls snaking over the fells. Snow reveals the only walker to come this way so far this morning, someone whose footsteps lead right to the cliff edge, and back. Someone who likes a frisson of danger. Each day is distinct. Yesterday, far less snow but the fells showed crisp and clear.
It’s a tonic, she said. Better than any medicine. The air was cold, the ground frozen hard with a scatter of ice and snow. From up on Scout Scar escarpment we looked west toward the fells and watched sunlight touch the snow with brilliance. We’ve all needed a tonic here in Cumbria, even those of us not flooded out. Cold air from the north west and winter sunlight on snow. I like to hear how others connect with countryside, how it inspires them. Best not to ask but simply to listen.
Have you tried swimming in peat bog? That’s the strategy if you’re unlucky enough to fall in, so my friend Barbara tells me. I’ve walked with her long enough to know she and peat bog are intimately acquainted, in a botanical sense. As I am. Most fell walkers will have been in over the ankles. But I’ve been further. I’ve been in deep . Discover what it feels like In my forthcoming book Cumbrian Contrasts. No need to risk drowning, let me do it for you. I could show you the photographs Barbara and her husband Austin took once they'd hauled me out, but I prefer to show you the bog I fell in.
How do you prevent flood damage like that experienced in Cumbria this winter? Not by dredging rivers, says journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot. That can simply make rivers flow faster. We want measures to hold water back, to slow it down. How about THE GIANT BLUE SOCK, exported from Somerset as a flood-prevention measure. And What’s Wrong with Our Weather? Find out from meteorologist John Hammond and physicist Helen Czerski who presented a BBC Horizon programme this week.
Michael Portillo wiped tears from his eyes after stirring a vat of Kendal Mint Cake. And headed for ‘ one of the best views in Cumbria, on Scout Scar.’ Could have been a Brief Encounter but I reckon I was in the Outer Hebrides at the time. Wish he’d waited. I enjoy his Railway Journeys and his radio series, Things We Forgot To Remember, was thought-provoking. His train took him to Lancaster and to Carnforth and the Refreshment Room from the film Brief Encounter. Where I missed him for a second time.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)