Patterdale and the deer rut: that’s our objective. It’s a rite of autumn. Over the years, I’ve learnt where and when to go. The Martindale herd is scattered about the fells. The bellowing of stags and the deep-voiced raven flying in amongst them is the theme of the day. There’s something atavistic about the experience and this herd goes back to medieval times. The stag and the raven share a long history in hunting lore. Steep and inaccessible slopes give the deer solitude. They are loud, but elusive. The stags’ voice resonates, but the acoustic of the fells traps the sound within the dale. So what will we see and hear today?
We listen to the stags bellowing as sunlight plays on a lime-washed farmhouse and sweeps over the fellside toward us The stag is distinguished by his antlers and he is muscular, a much heavier build than his hinds. Several images catch him with his head raised and giving voice. The number of tines on the antlers distinguish different stags.
Approaching Angle Tarn there are vista of Helvellyn and Striding Edge. In autumn, cotton grass and other sedges give a reddish hue to the boggy ground. Sunlit mist hangs about the Helvellyn range and I come upon this lovely moss, found by the spring-head and not found often.
The Marsh Forklet Moss, Dichodontium palustre, is beautiful in colour and design and it occurs by the spring-head in the Lake District. A lovely thing to find.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)