Eskdale on a fine summer’s day. The end of the line for Little Ratty and everyone disembarks at Dalegarth Station. Pub gardens are lively at lunchtime and a infant in a cradle waves his feet and stuffs them into his mouth. A young cocker spaniel is on its first outing. Sunlit cloud rides the fells. The campsite is quiet at mid-day and within the small plantation it is quieter still. Above the River Esk tall conifers reach for the light. Fallen trees, boulders and mossy rocks strewn over a thick layer of pine needles. A magic of shadows and sunlight.
Green stars of moss and Fairies’ bonnets thick about a tree stump- Fairies bonnets, Trooping crumble cap. Nibbled pine cones lie on a bed of needles . Tiny white fungi grow on dead twigs, as if the wicked witch has strewn a pocketful of sweets to lure Hansel and Gretel deep into the forest, to her cottage. Sunlight pours through bilberry thick upon a crag-face topped by leafy oak trees and a woodpecker calls and small birds are piping high.
From Birker Fell the vistas are stunning and we stop to watch the play of light and shadow over the fells. Tiny shrubs of bog myrtle stretch across boggy ground and amongst its fragrant leaves there are flowers of cross-leaved heath. The solitudes of Birker Fell after the popular tourist haunts down in Eskdale.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)