‘I’ve looked it up, so you don’t have to.’ I was amused to hear this from a Today presenter on radio 4. I sometimes feel it’s my by-line as I spend hours looking things up. It’s fun, but time-consuming. Correcting proofs for my new book Cumbrian Contrasts, I have to be meticulous and I’m about to begin on that. So writing a blog is light relief. I’m tempted to let images speak for themselves. Why not? Now and again. I know very well why not, because there are naturalists who always want to know more. And I’m one. Curiosity rules.
‘It’s beautiful up there’, she called to me as she ran down off the fell. An ordinary greeting but heartfelt I could tell. Up on Scout Scar escarpment the ground beneath our feet was in darkness, a dark mass of cloud hung over us. My fingers felt the chill from the north as the light vanished. We both felt that sudden icy blast.’ I come here every day’, he said, looking west toward the fells. No need to say more. I understood. I love to come here too and we know a rare day when we see one. .
Where are those fieldfare from the North? There’s a wind from the Arctic, snow on the fells and a bright blue sky. Head south and the sun’s in my eyes. The Lyth Valley gleams with flood water after weeks of rain, ice flood-water until the sun gets to work. The limestone clitter glistens in sun-melt. What a stunning morning! When the wind drops i hear through the silence an absence of fieldfare.
Flood alerts across the country, and Cumbria was forecast to receive some of the heaviest rainfall. An Environment Agency Unit from Derbyshire was stationed by Stramongate Bridge and they had officials patrolling the river, checking for trouble. Hidden inside their vehicle were pumps and they were ready for debris brought down by the floods. There was no let-up in the rain but the river was expected to peak at mid-day and the deadline came and went, seemingly without trouble.
A skylark motif runs through my new book. The story was written and I needed a skylark image. From mid-February I watch for their return to the uplands to breed and early in the season a lark flew up at my feet, burst into song and the sun lit its wings and outspread tail with warm colour. I could see my lark singing but I needed a sharper image. Armed with a new and more powerful camera I set out on the quest for the lark ascending.
A stag had been shot by poachers at Rusland Pool, we discovered. So those notices alerting us to poachers highlighted a current problem. The only poaching we encountered was attributed to cattle, more anon. Fog lingered all day and vistas closed down. The atmosphere was full of moisture and vegetation was drenched, with some spectacular effects. Gorse bushes were full of spiders’ webs and they showed up in the golden autumn grasses of Rusland Moss.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)