Friday, 3 July 2015

Wainwright and the secrets of the River Kent

Tracking the source of the River Kent may not sound quite as dramatic as finding the source of the Nile but, on the plus side, Cumbria is a lot easier to get to than Egypt.

Looking towards Kent Estuary from Grange-over-Sands
Working backwards the River Kent empties into Morecambe Bay between Arnside & Grange where, at especially high tides, a bore is created which impressively fills the bay with one wave.  The river then tracks back up the valley and is joined near Milnthorpe by the River Bela, fresh from Dallam Park.

Dallam deer

Dallam bridge
Heading towards Kendal the Kent swings under Hawes Bridge and past a Roman Fort at Watercrook Farm before hitting the town centre.  Back in the 1800's the river was hugely important to the wool trade and steps down to the river from the ends of the various yard are still in existence in a few places, showing the routes taken to wash the fleeces. (The river was, of course, used for other trades too - but washing wool is what they're best known for).

River Kent at Hawes Bridge
From Kendal the river continues back to Staveley and the Kentmere Valley.  Things may look picturesque between here and the source of the river, but don't be fooled, the history of this area is dominated by industry and mining.  There were paper mills, bobbin mills, lead mining and slate quarrying, all of which put demands on the river, but it was a combination of agriculture and the asbestos industry that threw up one of Kentmere's most intriguing secrets.

Kentmere valley
Kentmere Tarn is bypassed by many on their way to Kentmere Reservoir at the head of the valley (which was constructed to regulate the water supply for the industries relying on it) but the tarn holds a few secrets, some of which we haven't been fully unlocked yet.

What is now Kentmere Tarn was once a Diatomite mine supplying the asbestos industry (sorry, but you'll have to read our book for all the details - it's out in October :-) ) and as they were excavating they made a number of interesting finds.  Initially they came across a number of Roman artefacts, but as they dug deeper they found something far more interesting.

In 1955 a dugout boat was discovered which was displayed for many years by the National Maritime Museum and was carbon dated to the 14th Century.  Four years later, in 1959, another dugout was discovered, significantly deeper in the deposits.  Its location in relation to the previous find, plus its more simplistic design indicate it could be significantly older, possibly even Viking - which would make it an incredibly exciting find - but it needs to be carbon dated before we'll know for sure.

You can go and take a close look at this second dugout as it's on display at Kendal Museum.  While you're there you can also admire the many other wonderful exhibits on display and see if you spot some famous handwriting.  For nearly 30 years Wainwright was Honorary Clerk and Curator at the museum and many exhibits still carry labels written in his distinctive style.

Kendal Museum have been incredibly helpful to us as we've researched our book and by way of saying thank you we're trying to raise £350 to allow them to get the second dugout boat carbon dated.  We need to raise the whole amount by 5th July and we're well over halfway there BUT if we don't reach our target we lose every penny that has so far been pledged, 

Please can you spare just a few pounds to help us reach our target - We thank you, Kendal Museum thank you and, if he were still around, I'm pretty sure Wainwright would thank you too!

Pretty, pretty, PRETTY please CLICK HERE to donate - Thank you! 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 30 - look at the map!

I think if there was a motto for my #30DaysWild experience it would be "look at the map" - June has been one of my most hectic months ever workwise but I've still manged to squeeze in something wild each day, well with 1 exception.

Today I was back in Wigan wondering where I'd wander when I spotted on the map a whole new section of canal leading to Scotsman's Flash and Pearson's Flash.  A beautiful 20 minute walk in baking sunshine was just what was needed to get me through the afternoon.

I'll write a round up post later this week picking out my highlights, but for me the whole thing has been a voyage of discovery,  finding wonderful pockets of nature in some of the least expected places and all I ever needed was a map and a small sense of adventure.   Here's to more fabulous discoveries in the future.  #StayWild

Monday, 29 June 2015

30 Days Wild:Day 29 - Fir Tree Flash

OK I admit it, I finally gave in yesterday & stayed in bed all day despite the gorgeous sunshine.  I'd like to say I feel better for it but after a day delivering another course I can still do a pretty convincing rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart.

I managed to drag myself into the fresh air at lunchtime and discovered Fir Tree Flash (Pennington Flash was a bit far).  This looks to be on an old industrial site and though I'm sure many locals would prefer the industry and the jobs to still be here, Mother Nature is putting the site to good use.

I spotted a few butterflies but none stayed still long enough for me to get a pic. I think I saw a Cinnabar Moth - though I could be wrong, whatever it was it was very pretty. 

This challenge has pushed me to find pockets of wild in some unexpected places, in future I'll definitely take a closer look at the maps for where I'm working to see what else I can find.

Not wild but interesting.  Spotted on my walk back to Leigh. 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 27 - Edible Garden

A beautiful sunny day and I've been stuck indoors all day coughing and croaking like an old woman.  What voice I have sounds rather like Bonnie Tyler the morning after a night of karaoke and inadvisable heavy smoking.

Still determined not to miss a day I dragged myself into the garden to discover how the fruit was doing.  We inherited all the fruit trees from the previous owner and we have something to keep us going throughout most of the year.

In addition to all the ones in the photos we also get blackberries and wild garlic, both of which are technically weeds but both still wind up in the kitchen.  We've also supposedly got a damson tree, though I've never seen a damson on it so I'm not convinced. 


Almost Redcurrants
Wild Strawberry
Soon to be blackcurrants
Apples coming along nicely
Figs - managed to eat 2 last year
Rhubarb ready for crumbles
Pansy - can you really eat these?

Friday, 26 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 26 - peering at Wigan Pier.

There aren't many wildlife experiences that begin with "I was working in the middle of Wigan & took a walk to Asda", but this one does.  Before I ever visited Wigan I expected it to be a bit of a hole - no idea why, blame the TV and northern stereotyping - but over the past couple of years I've been very pleasantly surprised by the place.  I'm sure it's got its grim areas but then so has everywhere but the parts of Wigan I get to visit are really rather lovely.

Today I was working at a venue alongside the canal and realised mid morning that I'd forgotten my cough syrup and was in danger of expiring.  At lunchtime I nipped along the canal to Asda to restock and took some time to explore along the way.

I'll be honest, there were plenty  of overgrown areas and an abundance of weeds, but that sort of untouched wilderness is great for wildlife. Canals are fantastic corridors for water related creatures and although they're usually considered the poor relation of rivers, I really rather like them.

This particular jaunt also took me past Wigan Pier - rather smaller than I'd imagined it would be, but choc full of interesting history, though the nearby statue didn't seem to be impressed.

Once back at the office there was just the small matter of battling the ducks for my lunch before taking a hearty swig of cough syrup and tackling the afternoon.

Wigan Pier - all of it.

She's not impressed...

Thursday, 25 June 2015

30 Days Wild : Day 25 - Wild at home

This is my "I refuse to be beaten" post. My germs have multiplied & I've been confined to quarters on account of the fact I have to deliver a training course all day tomorrow and it will help if I’m audible.

But, determined not to miss a day, I've decided to share some pics of the wild bits and bobs I've collected on my travels.   

Tomorrow I'm off to Wigan so if I don't expire you can expect something a little more exciting.

Shap Granite - love this!

My round rocks collection - it began in Worthing

A couple of sheep horns - collected separately

From Silecroft beach

Quartz crystal from the top of St Sunday Crag

The 2 on the left are from Rockcliffe & the mussel is from Foulney Island
2 fossil ammonites & 1 fossil coral

Big white feather - probably swan

Stripy feather - no idea what from
A shell & a brown thing from an exotic paddle in Oman