Cycling is a healthy sport, that's the image. But what is the environmental impact of The Tour Of Britain? The question is urgent because the Tour will finish at Beast Banks, Kendal, in September 2019. A finish witnessed by 10,000 spectators in 2016 at this same location. A splendid sporting event but with such numbers involved robust procedures should be in place , before permissions are given, to minimize the environmental impact. So what was the problem in 2016?
Fragrance of meadow sweet, purple loosestrife and greater willowherb. The sussuration of tall reeds with dragonflies and butterflies flitting across our path. Stepping over puddles on a hot and steamy afternoon. Chirrups and squawks from deep in high-summer vegetation. Speckled wood, of the sylvan fringe transfixed with sunlight and shadow. Our path through the reed beds to the hide and a tranquil scene looking out across the water.
Whitbarrow is a prime butterfly site. The limestone cliff of White Scar faces south and on the hottest day on record, Thursday 25th July, there would have been a butterfly spectacle toward the foot of the cliff. Our field-trip is two days later, temperatures nearer a July norm. Rain set in later in the morning. And persisted. How about a virtual reality butterfly field-trip? What we’d see if the sun shone. What has been seen by aficionados of White Scar and Farrer’s Allotment who are our guides.
In the Alps, I was wearing a floral blouse and butterflies settled on me. The attraction was not the floral print.
'I didn’t need a floral blouse to be overtaken by butterflies yesterday......
.....craving salt, they massed on my sweaty rucksac, pole handles and me!
As I took the welcome shade of a large limestone boulder high up on the alti plano alp where marmots burrowed and screeched a warning of my presence the butterflies descended. I was mobbed!
The arrival of small skipper takes me by surprise. No longer a pioneer patrolling territory, looking for females, but a fresh brood visiting a specific clump of flowering thistles, nectaring and mating. Surprised, since the weather seemed inauspicious for butterflies, the afternoon was cloudy, with showers forecast and a breeze stirred the vegetation. But the new brood was lively about these chosen thistles in tall seeding grasses. Small skipper were abroad, numbers of them..
For everything a season. Today, it’s small skipper. A rush of small skipper. The first time I came upon a brood was five years ago on knapweed at Simpson Ground, south-east of Windermere.
Kendal Fell, who goes there? This summer we are asked how we use Kendal Fell and how we'd like to see it managed. Last week's meeting clashed with another held by the LIb Dems on the Climate Emergency, so I went for the latter. Biodiversity was a theme linking both.
What did we seek on Kendal Fell on this July day, and whom did we meet? A farmer made hay ( these days it may be haylage or silage) while the sun shone
Six-spot burnet moth is a striking creature. In flight, the insect is a blur of fast-beating wings and a flash of scarlet and black. Mating is leisurely and can last for hours. This morning, broods of soldier beetles were out and about, tumbling and climbing all over each other, mating and feeding.
This summer on Scout Scar the unsettled weather is in contrast to last summer's heat-wave, affecting flora and butterflies and their behaviour. My blog archive for July 2018 shows a very different picture.
Swindale Beck meanders through deep pools, fast-moving shallows and deep gravels where salmon and brown trout lay their eggs. In July, its flood plain of flower-rich meadows has drifts of melancholy thistle, with eyebright, yellow rattle, sneezewort, saw- wort, wood cranesbill and ragged robin. ‘ A suite of meadows’ along the course of the beck.
We hear of the farming community some two hundred years ago when Swindale Beck was made straight. It’s ‘an anthropogenic landscape’ says Lee Schofield, RPSB site-manager.
Wind-shear and streaming cloud over ScouT Scar. Yellow hawkbit and catsear on rising ground where sunlight falls. The first thistles open to the sun and a fresh brood of small skipper comes seeking pollen and nectar.
Alarm calls from the tree- tops and a great clamour. The jays have a young family. The adults will take eggs and young birds and warning signals sound as the young jays beg for food and take flying lessons. Sunlight pours through the canopy, dazzling.
A creature appears in the gateway to the stubble field, masked by long grass, long ears erect, it lopes off along the track to Bradleyfield Farm. A hare is a rare sighting here and in that startling first moment we took it for a dog, a small deer. So unexpected it was.
Tuesday was cool, with a breeze. Too cold for larger butterflies. Micro moths flying. I find two common blue, like displaced petals on scabious. So tiny. They have not yet warmed up enough to fly.
'You were a nature writer long before you declared yourself to be one,' said Frances.
Long before I decided to publish my work, to share the fun of finding things.
Her words reminded me of an excursion to the Black Mountains, 27th July 1992. I reflect on how being a nature writer has changed over that 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.)