I was planning to go to the Berwyns with a few friends.
Like my good friend the Shandy Sherpa I had been looking forward to a get together for a walk in the Berwyns – hills which I don’t know at all. It meant a very early start for me and when I saw that the forecast was dreadful – and what’s more that the bad weather would arrive in Wales early, several hours before it would hit the Lakes – I reluctantly decided to opt out. (Apparently, I was far from being the only one.) I’d packed my bag anyway, so when I was woken early by sunlight streaming through our east facing bedroom window I decided to tiptoe out of the house and get an early start. I was walking just after 7.
When I looked down on Swindale from Selside Pike a few weeks back, I renewed a promise to myself to visit this valley on the Lakeland fringe which until now had been terra incognita as far as I was concerned. I’ve been meaning to visit for many years because the walk is featured in Aileen and Brian Evans ‘Short Walks In Lakeland Book 2: Northern Lakeland’ and the walks in their books never disappoint. To prove the point – I followed their route on this walk and it was a cracker.
I’d parked where there are several signs warning ‘No Parking Beyond This Point’ and although there is a little space where it is possible to pull off the road further up, frankly the short walk along the traffic free lane, past several well-maintained barns, was very pleasant.
From near the farm at Truss Gap I crossed a small footbridge and took a path, not shown on my OS map, which skirted below the imposing Gouther Crag with woods on my left and the buttercup blushed and evidently quite damp meadows of the valley bottom on my right.
The ground was very wet and after the path leaves the trees there was quite a display of small heathland flowers.
I posted photos of butterwort quite recently, but I didn’t know then that those hairs visible on the petals are there to keep out small flies. Small flies are only invited to the leaves – where they are consumed. It’s a very educational business this blogging malarkey! (Look here for more about butterwort)
I’m pretty sure that this is thyme, although when I tasted the leaves to check, they didn’t have much scent or flavour at all.
I haven’t had much success in getting butterflies to sit still for photos recently. I was very impressed when this one let me take several photos, getting progressively closer as I did so. Then I realised that it was dead – but still clinging to a blade of grass. I wondered if the same fate had befallen this butterfly as had happened to the dungfly I read about on Donegal Wildlife. (See it here)
The birds were very busy in the valley. The trees had been full of tits and finches. The wall was a popular perch too. This bird…
…was flying in a regular circuit between a spot on the wall, two boulders and a dead branch. It was singing constantly – skillet, skillet, skillet – and then finishing with a descending trill. In its flights between its various stations it sometimes held its wings very rigid and then flapped them very rapidly. It’s a meadow pipit and I was to be entertained by more meadow pipits for the entirety of my walk.
There were pied-wagtails on the wall too. And wheatears…
…these are both females.
…is hobgrumble gill, which I had to include for the name alone. There must surely be some old folktale attached to this location, about the hob, the sprite, the goblin which lived in the ravine frightening unwary travellers with his blood-curdling moans?
Despite not being on the map, the path emerges at an excellent little bridge over Mosedale Beck. I opted not to cross the valley to reach the main right of way, but to pick a way up the hillside sticking as close to the beck as possible without swimming or getting into anything but the mildest of scrambling.
Sadly, the position of the sun in the sky and the fact that parts of the gill were relatively inaccessible meant that I struggled to do justice in my photos to the very pleasant stream and its many falls and cascades.
I was surprised to find a solitary meadow crane’s-bill (I think?) growing pretty much out of the rock at the edge of the stream.
A pair of grey wagtails entertained me as I climbed – this is the male.
And then, as I topped a rise, this redpoll appeared on a boulder in front of me. It flew away, but then returned, and really seemed quite unconcerned by my presence. In general, it seemed to me that the birds were less shy than I would usually expect. Is that because this is such a quiet valley? I didn’t meet another walker at all, although I think I saw two from about a mile away, later in the walk.
By this final fall the rocks were sun-warmed and dry and relatively sheltered from the wind and I stopped for a while to eat hard-boiled eggs and cold-potatoes for my breakfast. Had it been a bit warmer I might have been tempted by a swim.
Small heath butterfly. (A live one this time.)
The terrain levelled off and the scene changed – wide-open moorland spaces.
I would guess that this is bombus jonellus a bumblebee mainly found on moorlands and heaths. There were lots of butterflies too – small heaths and some kind of white, but they were too busy to pose for photos. There were also lots of meadow pipits and now skylarks too.
Heath spotted orchid.
As I climbed up towards High Wether Howe the view behind revealed lonely Mosedale and Mosedale Cottage (the white spot in the distance), which a quick internet search reveals to be a bothy – I shall have to investigate further.
Seat Robert from High Wether Howe.
The top of Seat Robert has a large cairn and a crude shelter, and is the sight apparently of a bronze age burial cairn. There’s also….
Ordnance Survey Trigonometrical Station.
These tiny and very odd flowers are so distinctive that I’m hoping that someone knows what they are because they have me stumped.
I think that this might be heath rush juncus squarrosus. Whether it is or not, the colours are fabulous.
I watched a couple of climbers on Gouther Crag (and later, when I reached the road passed two more just arriving – with the cloud gathering I didn’t think much to their timing.)
This is the same flower we saw on Loughrigg terrace a few weeks ago, growing here, as it was there, in quite a damp spot. I wanted to identify it as a stonecrop, but I now suspect that it’s yellow saxifrage. (Complete with ant.)
Bedstraw (or possibly different bedstraws) wins the prize for ‘Most Ubiquitous Flower of the Day’, narrowly pipping tormentil at the post.
I was back to the car just after midday. When I was driving back over Shap on the A6 it came on to rain.
I’m still looking forward to a day out in Wales, but this walk was highly successful as Berwyn Replacement Therapy.
(Oh – for box-tickers: Three Birkett’s, two of which are Outlying Fells to boot)