Come to Smardale every week during spring and summer, says our leader Geoff Brambles. In autumn when there are berries on the hawthorn the view toward Smardale Gill Viaduct is the best in England. That’s what I feel too. With his quirky sense of humour and his enthusiasm for geology this excursion would be memorable. I was here on a Westmorland Geological Society field-trip for a fresh perspective on a location I know and love.
Catkins against a blue sky on a spring morning beside the River Duddon. Alder catkins.
Beside the rivers of Cumbria grow alder trees. You can track the course of the River Kent (when the river is hidden) if you follow the fringe of alders along its banks. And here beside the River Duddon the thick purple catkins open yellow in the spring sunshine. Spring comes later at altitude, climb higher in the fells and you'll find alder catkins in tight purple bud when they're open and flowering as the rivers approach the sea.
A handful of swallows has reached Britain, no more. Migration is on hold as birds sense barometric pressure that tells of wild weather. Held back by strong north westerly winds that scatter bins and recycling boxes about the neighbourhood.
On a theme of recycling, or a Damascene conversion just in time for Easter, Jeremy Clarkson bids to join the Green Party- so radio 4 announced this morning. Let's remember the date and chuck the foolscap into the recycling bin at noon, with all the discards.
Hearing of all those swallows, chiff-chaff and black caps holed up in France, in Europe, I wonder about the vanguard- those hardy wheatear Frances, Michael and I saw on Scout Scar on 19th March. How sleek they looked! Newly arrived from Africa and not a feather out of place.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)