Nights at Pendragon Castle: I spelled it out over the phone but she must have misheard. Knights at Pendragon Castle, read the proof-poster for my talk at Kendal Library. Oh well! That’s the risk you take with a whacky title, it’s evocative in a way you did not intend. Pendragon Castle sits on the banks of the River Eden, not far from its source. Wild Boar Fell rises to the south-west with the dramatic bluff of Mallerstang to the east. These are fells I love and I go there whenever I can, often setting out from Pendragon Castle. Meeting there, you wouldn’t want to spend the night. It’s a romantic ruin, its structure unsound so warning notices advise you to keep out.
On a morning of biting cold we assembled at Askham and headed for Heughscar Hill along the Roman Road. The sun lit snow cloud hovering over Blencathra and Helvellyn, and the Dodds rose in a magic of snow and mist. We looked across Ullswater toward the distant fells. We came upon several stone circles, distinctive for their alignment across the landscape and because they showed up disturbance in the ground in their distinctive vegetation. All around these grassy circles were tussocks of sedge and heather.
A cold, bright day with snow on the high peaks all around the Helm Crag ridge. A wind from the north west brought cold, invigorating air and as we climbed higher we reached the snow. A day like this raises the spirits after so much rain and gloom. Down in Far Easedale the networks of becks showed how much rain had fallen in recent months. Bracken glowed in sunlight and the becks reflected it as pure gold. Strange to look down on the A 591 where traffic could go no further, the road bei ng washed away. The Old Forest Road and Bailey Bridges will serve, until it can be repaired.
The goshawk’s crop swelled as she tore shred of flesh and gorged herself. What a bird! Look at her. Flo she was called. The three men had been out on the fells since early morning. They had come off Smearsett Scar down a gully, scanning the ground. They filmed her as she flew fast after a rabbit their ferrets had flushed out of its burrow. The art of falconry: the stout glove, the tail guard to protect her feathers. They came off the fell each carrying a case with ventilation holes, for a ferret.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)