Lake District

From Gilsland, it's only an hours drive to Keswick and the north Lakes, so when the weather looked promising I set my alarm and headed off to Castlerigg Stone Circle.
I'd checked the solar calculator and knew where the sun would be rising and after an easy drive down the M6 I arrived at Castlerigg.

 Castlerigg Stone Circle

Castlerigg Stone Circle panorama ( click to see it at full size)

From looking at the sun rise on the map I thought it would be rising in the perfect spot, but there were trees, still the sky coloured up and I was able to get some photographs before heading down to the Lake at Keswick.
Saw a couple photographing the boats with the light catching Catbells behind and not wanting to impose I went further along towards Friar's Crag.
It really is a beautiful lake and I pottered about for about an hour, here are some of the photographs I took.



Derwentwater below Friar's Crag

Morning Mists on Derwentwater, looking towards Cat Bells

View down the Lake


Early morning light

Light on the bay

Friar's Crag pano ( click to see full size)
As you know I don't pretend to be a great photographer and I'm really no good with the Photoshopping stuff but I hope to show you that you can quite easily fill a weeks holiday based in Gilsland so come along and show me just how it should be done.


Hello Sunshine

From my bathroom window at 4am this morning things looked promising towards Walltown.
Clear sky and a 4 degree temperature should have guaranteed mist, and there was mist at Longbyre as I drove through with yet another Little Owl flying across my bows through the mist.
Got up to the turn to Walltown and it had all disappeared.
I headed along to Housesteads Fort figuring that as long as I was up I might as well get some exercise.
The clamber up to the Fort was hard this morning, don't know why some mornings it takes more puff than others but this morning took a few more breath stops than usual.
Housesteads Fort had some tents up, guess there's a re-enactment group there this weekend, two people in brightly coloured flourescent jackets stood watching me come up the hill, I waved but they ignored me.
Finally I hit a flattish patch and headed along to Cuddys Crag, taking a small detour around the black Aberdeen Angus cow feeding a calf, she had that manic look in her eye so I thought it best to leave them to it.
No mist at all from Cuddys Crag, the sun came up and then it was too harsh and bright for photographs, end of July August is my least favourite sunrise time the early light has no softness to it.

Sunrise over Hadrian's Wall

I must have a dozen similar versions of this shot

One of the cattle tidies up the edges, a green strimmer

Looking west along the line of Hadrian's Wall. I'm standing on the only bit of Hadrian's Wall that is permissive footpath and that runs through the wood at Housesteads.

I thought this was interesting the way the light catches the many, as yet, unexcavated lumps and bumps outside the walls of the Fort.

When I got back to Housesteads Fort I was amused to see one of the 'flourescent jobsworths' had positioned himself to repel any attempt I might make to scale the Wall of the fort and wreck havoc amongst the tents.
Once I'd passed he returned to the shelter of his hut.
The fact that I'm a pensioner with a dodgy hip didn't seem to register, obviously in his mind anyone out at this unearthly hour must be up to no good.

Stopped in at Cawfields on the way home and the Little Owl adult was keeping watch from the telegraph pole, using the car as a mobile hide I got quite close but it's not the most picturesque of settings.


Where Buzzards dare

I'd gone out to Cawfields Crag hoping to photograph some little birds like the Whinchats, but suprisingly few small birds around and those I could hear I couldn't see.
It doesn't help that my eyesight is so poor, hearing is good though so I can uaually pinpoint the general direction then wait for a movement.
I think most of the birds that were feeding young last week must have them up and away from the nest.
One Tree Pipit sat on the wall in front of me and was snapped for posterity.

I followed the river checking out the patches of Gorse, always a popular spot for small birds, although much of the Gorse seems dead, last winters -20 temperatures must have prooved too cold for it to survive.

I could hear some Buzzards calling a bit further along, helpfully electric wires were prventing me from getting a clear view so I had to move right up to the conifer plantation where the Buzzards 'live'.
What a show they put on for me, two adults and one juvenile, eat your heart out Red Arrows.

They didn't seem to be alarmed by my presence they just were displaying in the warm thermals, the youngster came and sat within camera range.
I was treated to a variety of poses, including the full on stare.

I have to use the big lens on a tripod, not ideal for birds in flight shots so they're not as sharp as they should be, but at least you can see the amazing pumage.
I think it's the sun shining that gives it that yellow colour, I haven't done anything to it in Photoshop, it's as it came out of the camera.

Eventually I left them to it and wandered across the field back to the car, the Little Owls took off as I approached but the juvenile landed in a nearby Ash Tree so I was able to get a photograph. If you stay at Burnhead B&B you can watch the Little Owls from the garden.

I had a lovely afternoon and thankyou for letting me share it with you.


Wheatears and Winshields

I've had a horrible day for all sorts of reasons, things were going from bad to worse so I decided to get out and walk off my mood.
Off to Winshields with my new compact camera, it's one of those camera's described as a bridge camera with a lens that allegedly goes from 35mm to 850mm.
Because the weather has been poor I've not had a chance to try it out and while it was showery today it wasn't bad enough to put me off.
Climbed to the top of the hill, pressed some button that I shouldn't have and wiped out the battery - it's been one of those days.
Called in to Winshields Camp Site Tea Room for a coffee and got chatting to Billy about Wheatears.
Juvenile Wheatear

He gave me some tips on where to find them so tonight, after tea (TT has been engrossed in the Tour de France coverage) I headed off out again with my 200-400mm lens.
I was really too late for them, found one juvenile fluffed up on a rock but non of the nice males, though I suppose most adult birds will have lost their breeding plumage by now and are reverting back to 'little brown jobs'

I had the presence of mind to put my 18-200mm lens in my pocket and I was so glad I did.
Up at Winshields Trig Point I came upon a technicolour sky.
I have never seen anything quite like it.

You could see for miles tonight, Criffel, the Scottish mountain way beyond Dumfries looked as if it was just a mile away, amazing.

Not much light to the east, just a quick burst on the top bit of the Wall then it was gone.

When I got to the bottom of the hill I looked back and all the colour had gone to be replaced by big black clouds, nature putting on a show.
Now in Gilsland at 9.30pm there's not a cloud in the sky.

Hope you don't mind if I just share one of my garden bird pictures with you, a Nutchatch. We have two adults feeding young although they keep them well hidden in the thicket of the oak tree. I'm hoping they will bring the youngsters down within range of the hide if only to teach them about peanut feeders.


Early one morning

TT is normally awake before the alarm goes off but he must have been extra tired yesterday so we were both awakened at just after 4am by the ringing of that bell.
As I was awake anyway, I decided I might as well go and take some photographs.
I dropped him off at the farm to start work and I headed towards Cawfields.
There's a spot I like that doesn't take any time to get to, so it's perfect for those days when I only have ten minutes or so to sunrise.
As I came up the crest of Glenwhelt Bank from Greenhead I slowed down to do a 'mist assessment', it was looking good, I took a photograph there on the corner because the sky was nicely coloured and I wasn't sure it would last until I was in position.

Looking across Blake Law to Cawfields and Winshields Crag

There was a fair lot of cloud about and it was quite low, I turned down the road to Great Chesters Farm, I had to watch that I didn't get too far into the valley, and enveloped in mist.
Took my photographs, unfortunately, because I'd come out in a rush I hadn't checked my camera settings and I was taking landscapes at ISO 500, instead of the usual ISO 125 so they're a bit grainy.

Colour in the sky over Cawfields Crag but lots of cloud as well

Sun rising through the morning mist at Cawfields

A field of buttercups catch the early light.

Sun starts to burn off the mist at Cawfields.

This was the last picture from this particular spot.
I headed down to Cawfields Quarry, hoping the see the Little Owl and there it was sitting on the fence, I managed to get out of the car with my camera but jst when I thought I'd get a picture it was off.
Just a few wisps of mist over the lake at Cawfields, yet again there was a camper van parked up for the night though to be honest the sign saying 'no overnight camping' isn't easy to spot, and I suppose foriegners are used to stopping in just this sort of area.
It is denying our local camp sites much needed revenue though.
I drove around past Caw Gap, saw some Roe Deer and Hares.
I really must try and get myself organised to photograph hares, one of my favourite animals.
Had a peek down towards Greenlee Lough, I've heard the Osprey has been seen fishing there this year, that's a sight I'd like to see again although it would probably be too far away to photograph.

Golden light over Greenlee Lough Nature Reserve

That's the morning pictures taken care of and now I have one photograph especially for Alison, one of the ladies who works in the Northumberland National Parks Authority Once Brewed Visitor Centre answering visitors many questions with patience and good humour, that's why it's an award winning Visitor Centre and a 'must visit' for anyone coming to this area.

Juvenile Little Owl at Cawfields

as always the photographs are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and can't be used without written permission


Walltown wildlife

I'm not a Naturalist, I have a great interest in natural history and I enjoy nature watching but I'm not privy to the finite differences between some of the species of plant or animal, and I'm getting worse at remembering the names.

So today I'm simply bringing you some pictures from a two hour ramble around Walltown Quarry.
(see bottom of the Blog for a link to a PDF of Walltown Quarry area)

As the name suggests this area was once quarried for stone but now it forms part of the Hadrian's Wall Trail, a pit stop for walkers or a picnic spot for day visitors and locals alike.

The Northumberland National Parks Authority look after it and great areas of wild flower meadow sway with grasses and wildflowers, buzzing with insects.

There are bog areas, dry areas, ponds, woodland areas and mown grass, ducks nest by the ponds and swallows swoop for insects, they're already onto their second brood of the season and can be seen swooping into their nests by the toilets. Plently of car parking space and even refreshments available.

My photographs show just some of the flowers and insects and my apologies for the names, it's not my strong point and I hope that it will whet the appetite of true naturalists to come and check the place out for yourselves.

Pictures today are smaller than usual because there are more of them.

One of the gems of Walltown, a Bee Orchid. This is the first year I have seen them there but I found at least 4 plants in different spots and it's awash with other orchids so maybe I've just not noticed them before.

Common Blue Butterfly a beautiful splash of colour amongst the grasses

Common Blue with wings open.

One of the smaller Darter's, they whirl around your head as you pass by, later the big Dragonfly's will emerge with a real clattering or wings when they fly.
Amazing insects to watch they change posistion in the blink of an eye.

Hawksbeard,  insects seeme to be drawn to these open bright yellow flowers.

Common Centuary

Latticed Heath Moth, so striking you might mistake it for a butterfly

Prunella vulgaris

Ragged Robin

Ringlet Butterfly, I counted 75 of these on this ne visit to the site

Small Heath Butterfly

Small Skipper butterfly

Small Skipper butterfly, although they are as fast as all the other butterflies they don't seem to mind you getting quite close to them for photographs and generally chose a nice spot to pose.


St John's Wort

Flower of the Twayblade Orchid, something you could easily pass by and not notice, but they're worth a second look

Twayblade Orchid

Twayblade orchid blends so well with the surrounding grasses.

Birds Foot Trefoil, always humming with insects

Simple Buttercup, a full field of them look amazing

It's been a great year for Orchids at Walltown with the various types flowering from late May onwards
I imagine we have all of the Northern Orchids represented

Orchid, not only a variety of colours and form but sized from mere inches to 3ft tall

A white version of the Orchid

Deeper pink Orchid with distinctive markings on the lower lip

What meadow land would be complete without clover, and both pink and white can be found in the park.
Bees love the nectar rich flower.

So, I hope you managed to get this far, lots more things to see and record I've merely skimmed the surface  to give you a little taster, please come and see for yourself, it's a wheelchair friendly area.

A leaflet, with map, from Northumberland National Parks Authority as a PDF for you to print off linked below here

All photographs used in this blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission