Up on Lingmoor I’m eager to see the fair-ground wall that snakes up to Brown How with its heather habitat. Brown How is the high-point of the ridge: a dome of two halves, grass and heather. Like a dome-shaped pudding of distinct flavours. That heather flank looks like chocolate. The wobbly stile has been fixed, hurray. Beautiful late September weather, the summer we didn’t have. Now for more stunning views and wading thigh-deep in heather to avoid the rock-descent by barbed wire fence!
A perfect night for the blood supermoon eclipse, with clear skies full of stars. I listened to the first Shipping Forecast of the new day as moonlight flooded into the house. The time was about 1.45 am. No use taking photographs through double glazing, too much distortion. So I stood outside in the darkness marvelling at the glorious moon. I watched through binoculars and began to take photographs as the eclipse began . Here comes the sequence.
An air of fairy-tale hung about Warth Fish Pond. A high gate stood unlocked and open to admit us. Bulrush fringed the water and wild angelica rose stately in the wet border of the wood. Elderberry l eaves assumed autumn colour. I heard coot on the pond, nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker in the trees. A peaceful place to fish, to sit looking out upon the water listening to birds on a summer’s evening. This cloudy morning in a September wood was rather gloomy. Unearthed, our collected fungi showed in a burst of colour. What did we find?
Cat Bells drew the crowds but we left them behind as we climbed Maiden Moor and reached heather habitat. A day of clarity, with strong light and deep shadow. A few walkers clustered about a cairn along the ridge. ‘I was twenty years younger when I began this walk,’ I heard a someone say. His words resonated and I couldn’t resist telling him he had the makings of a short story. He smiled and lifted his hat in salute, as if to show he’d lost his hair since he set out this morning. It’s more than twenty years since first I saw Borrowdale.
Rain and low cloud dashed our hopes of Buckbarrow. But when John Holman suggested a lower walk on Muncaster Fell I was not disappointed. (I remembered a walk he’d led there one spring when his wife Fiona and I pored over the tiny flowers of crowberry deep in the heather.) Up by the cairn on Hooker Crag, we looked south to the estuary of the River Esk and the sea. To the north lay Hooker Moss. John found a route over drier ground but he knew he’d lost me to the lure of peat bog. I lingered, wishing Fiona were here. She and I are known for lingering on the quest botanical.
Squalls off the Atlantic sounded loud about Wasdale Hall where we slept lightly, if we slept at all. The wind whistled and squalled through the open window, the eye of the wind. My dreams swirled over Wast Water and in the lull between downpours I heard the cry of the tawny owl. Snug in my top bunk I felt as if I were voyaging into Atlantic weather and The Shipping Forecast.
To the sound of lapping waves, we walked the shore of Wast Water and headed steeply up onto Whin Rigg. The wind made visible, that’s what I’d like to show.
Retracing our steps to Wasdale Hall YHA, we emerged from the trees on Irton Fell and descended toward Wast Water. Our splendid walk almost completed, we found something that I could have lingered over for hours. On the lower slopes of Irton Fell was boggy ground, full of water-tracks and tussocks concealing ankle-traps which slowed us to a lurching progress. Before us lay a great sweep of warm colour and detail within the pattern and the intricate mix began to appear.
Flocks of hirundines gathered about the church and tower and settled to preen their feathers in the heat of the day. The naturalist Gilbert White observed the birds on 13 September 1791. I witnessed this same behaviour on 9 September 2007 when adult and juvenile swallows enjoyed the sun on the roof of Low Farm in the Lyth Valley. Some years earlier I came upon swallows mustering in a dead yew tree below Scout Scar escarpment. It's a spectacle I always hope to encounter at this season- a truly memorable mustering.
Smardale pack-horse bridge is irresistible. The moment the child saw the beck he wanted to go down to paddle, now, right now, the shortest way. We abandoned our route and searched for a path through the embankment of flowers down to Severals Gill that trickles into Scandal Beck where the little boy took off his shoes, dipped his toes in the water, and smiled. His paddle had given a novel approach, a fresh perspective. The day was bright and fair and my photo-sequence reveals the bridge as a confluence, a place of convergence.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)