When I attempted recently to draw up a list of elements which come together to make a ‘perfect day on the hoof’, Lisa corrected a few omissions from my list. One of her suggestions was:
Things to smell – pine, spruce, saltwater, wild roses, skunk cabbage (haven’t made that one yet)
The first thing that struck me as I set-off along the path around Haweswater yesterday evening was the heady scent in the air. But what was the smell? If I were a cleverer writer I would say something like: burnt nutmeg, rosemary and an undercurrent of chocolate, but in fact I couldn’t begin to decide how I would describe what my nose was picking up. The best I could manage was: the smell of the earth and the air cooling after a long warm spring day. But as I continued on my walk I did pick out some of the elements of the overall complex blend as they each in turn became more or less prominent in the mix. When I walked between two banks of blackthorn, white-over with blossom, the scent of the flowers was overpowering – rather sickly sweet, but I realised that the same smell was a major factor in the overall mix. When I arrived back by the lake, having left it for a turn around the Gatibarrows limestone pavements, I recognised that the water and the lake itself provided a strong base-note in the chord. Almost back at the car I realised that I could smell the horses which graze the field by the wood, though I couldn’t see them.
Spring is of course in full swing now and there were flowers everywhere. In the woods cuckoo pint, violets and in one spot that I know of old toothwort – although they seem to be almost finished – I wonder whether that’s down to settled fine weather we’ve had? (For photos of this unusual flower see this previous post.) In more open glades or field edges the violets were joined by primroses and cowslips and a few cuckoo flowers. (Earlier in the week we took the kids to Sandscale Haws on the Duddon estuary near Barrow – it has a beach which is unusual near here. In a damp area between dunes cuckoo flowers were blooming in profusion. Elsewhere in the dunes there were many wild pansies.)
As I crossed the fields on my way to the limestone pavements I could see a pair of roe deer in the long grass by Little Haweswater. I’ve seen deer here before at this time of day and know that from this distance and in this light photos don’t really work. I tried anyway, but with predictable results.
By now tawny owls were hooting and perhaps I should have been hurrying back to my car, but I was draw away from the path by a a blob of brightness above the pavement…
…or seeds. I think that these are seeds or fruit. Wych elm?
‘The Wild Flower Key’ supports that hypothesise because the seed is in the centre of the fruit which isn’t the case for English elm.
A neighbouring tree had buds just opening….
Now that I was looking I saw that there were several similar trees scattered around. Because trees grow singly out of the grikes, the limestone pavement seems to be a good place to get to grips with different kinds of trees.
..are relatively common.
‘The Wild Flower Key’ warns that “Willows can not be identified by using catkins alone.”, but with that caveat it seems that these might be the male flowers of goat willow. Presumably this is a dioecious (there’s a handy word for those times in Scrabble when you end up with a fistful of vowels) because it was on other trees that I found what I think are the female flowers…
There were many yews, some of them neatly cropped as they emerged from the grikes – roe deer are very fond of yew. Junipers also spread low over the rock…
Ash are very common….
One reason to come this way was to answer a query from my friend Z – would I be able to find the spot where the lady’s slipper orchids were planted last year?
Sadly I couldn’t find the lily-of-the-valley which I know flowers nearby. On my back to the car in the gathering dusk a roding woodcock flew overhead.