Sale Fell lies at the westerly edge of the English Lake District, looking out towards the Solway coast and the Scottish hills that lie over the water, whilst guarding the fringe of the north west fells that so dramatically margin this rugged landscape. It is a modest beauty combining lovely walks, views, splendid birds (of which pied flycatcher and green woodpecker are good examples) and wonderful opportunities for picnics and breathers.It has an interesting geology with outcrops of pure white rock marking the top like sheep biologically washed in the latest washing powder. It has been the location of films, murders, passionate love embraces and probably much much more. May it long watch over us.
I’m currently working on an exhibition together with other members of the Independent Cockermouth Artists group on a “Celebrating Ospreys” show at Whinlatter Visitor Centre in Cumbria. The show will run from 31st March until 30th April to coincide with the hoped for return of the birds to the neighbouring Bassenthwaite valley, a successful breeding ground for the birds since 2001. The valley is of historic ecological importance for breeding English ospreys as there weren’t any birds in the country for the 150 years prior to 2001. To celebrate that and the wonderful work of the Lake District Osprey Project in supporting the re-establishment of ospreys in Cumbria we are holding this show. Brilliant birds and a great inspiration to us all.
The seasons are moving. Winter thankfully moves from its wet beginning to a more seasonal fall in temperature with cold days and clear starry nights. The air is thin and transparent, allowing sight of distant constellations and faraway planets. The fells have a dusting of snow, with more forecast to be on the way. Birds clamour for food to keep their fat reserves up and mammals grow desperate and braver in their search for food.
A hush descends over the countryside as we await the warmer weather that lies ahead. Hope ever lingers.
The turning of the year always begins a process of reflection and renewal. It’s an opportunity to think about what is good in our lives, and how much we have to be grateful for. It’s also offers a space to reflect on our hopes and aspirations for the seasons that lie ahead, things we want to do, or how we want to be. Although I really know at one level that happiness is a lot to do with how we respond to events and situations as well as those things themselves, its hard not to just react with emotion, or give out a pre-programmed habitual response. So I’m going to try to be a bit more centred and mindful this year and try to ride out what occurs with greater grace. We’ll see!!!
Anyway – it was hard not to react with awe as this little beauty of a long tailed tit came up to say hello to the fatballs.
And so it is confirmed. “Bowland Betty” a female hen harrier bred in Lancashire has been shot in North Yorkshire. Its taken the pathologists four months to come out with the results but these are finally with us and have now been made public. The RSPB are suitably outraged and quite rightly so. The news has even hit the national press in the Independent and BBC.
But all this comes as no surprise to some of us. Warnings have been around for some time. Mark Avery, latterly chief conservation officer for the RSPB writes eloquently of the situation in his blog, ending with the crystal clear message that we have to be ready to start a campaign to end grouse shooting in the UK once and for all. The reason is clear. The landowners, gamekeepers and shooting community have been given every opportunity to put their house in order. But they haven’t. The government has been given notice of the need to get tough with the grouse shooters. But they haven’t (no surprise there when the minister responsible for protecting our wildlife Richard Benyon is himself a bastion of the landed classes). The RSPB have stressed the need for bio-diversity but been utterly impotent in this, perhaps their greatest challenge. As we stand on the precipice as one of our most iconic birds is blasted mercilessly out of the skies they ought to have done more. But they haven’t.
Watchers have followed hen harriers fitted with satellite trackers as they fly into the grouse shooting uplands of North Yorkshire, knowing what fate awaits the birds. Its heartbreaking, shameful and time for action.
But what exactly do we do ???????????
The Solway today was quite a dramatic place to be. The recent stormy weather had abated a little but the signs of instability could be seen in the cloud formations. Over Scotland it was clearly still raining but the clear blue skies to the west heralded more promise. A flock of c90 lapwing passed overhead as the oystercatchers and curlew hugged the shoreline in their irrepressible way. Our two Estrela dogs were keeping our eyes and hands busy. Meanwhile I had a new lens to try out – a Yashica ML 35mm. This is, in fact, an old lens that had been used, as originally intended on film cameras. These days I mainly shoot with film but the Yashica had been rebuilt and converted for use on Canon digital SLR. The man responsible for this clever tweak is Eddie Houston aka The Lens Doctor. Eddie specialises in giving wonderful old lenses (often optically superior to their modern counterparts) a new lease of life. Its basically recycling – and hats off to Eddie for doing such a terriffic job. The lenses he sells have all been restored to a professional quality, fitted with a converter and chip to offer compatibility with Canons and offer great value.
The shot above is a bit blurry – but I love the richness of the colours and the contrast between sky and land.