Lake District Break

For the third year now we have had a few days away in the Lake District.  This is in the county of Cumbria, north west England.  We decided to set off a day earlier than planned to take advantage of some decent weather.  Turned out to be a good move as mid week it was murky and damp but brightened up on the last day.  It would have been nice to have had more sun as we have yet to see the mountain views without a covering of cloud!

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Up on the Roof. A view east towards the Yorkshire Dales

The first day we stayed in south east Cumbria and took a short hike up to Hutton Roof Crags.  This is a fascinating geological area known as a limestone pavement.  Here the rocks are 300 metres thick and 350 million years old.  Over the years people have been removing these rocks for building, mill stones or garden features and only about 8sq miles (20sq km) remain in the UK.  Now the pavements are fully protected by law.  Many rare and interesting plants grow in the cracks and I saw several different butterflies and my first Chimney Sweeper moth (Odezia atrata).

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Chimney Sweeper moth
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Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) at Foulshaw moss

Day two was a search for butterflies and dragonflies.  Started at Arnside Knott the 500ft limestone hill in south Cumbria.  This year the butterfly activity was quite low and slightly disappointing.  We then went over the Kent Estuary to Foulshaw Moss, a raised peat bog, for dragons but the cloud was building and not much was seen except the distant nesting Ospreys.

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Scorpion Fly (Panorpa communis). The ‘sting’ is actually the sex organs of the male

Tuesday and our daughter the ‘Lemming’ joined us from Manchester by train for the day.  She has now finished uni and will shortly be going to live in Berlin.  So we had a bit of a ride around in the damp.  Started at Bowness on the eastern shore of Windermere.  This is the largest lake in England, 11.23 miles (18km) long, 0.93 miles (1.49km) wide and at it’s deepest 219ft (66.7m).

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Windermere in mono, pretty much the same in colour!

Decided against a boat trip and instead visited the ‘World of Beatrix Potter’ attraction.  I used to love reading the stories to my daughter and the models and sets here were superb.  Those of you not familiar with Beatrix Potter must really check out her work.

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The Tale of Jeremy Fisher at the Beatrix Potter world

Wednesday and we drove the narrow, windy road up the west side of Coniston Water.  High above the village of Coniston at the northern end, on a narrower and windier road, is the popular beauty spot of Tarn Hows.  A tarn is a small mountain lake.  Tarn Hows used to be three smaller lakes but was dammed to create one large one.  This was done in the 1800’s by the rich landowner.  Now it is looked after by the National Trust and is a lovely walk of about two miles around.  Sadly the views were lost in the cloud.

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Tarn Hows

Last day and Tina wanted to see Levens Hall and gardens where her friend works.  Not the usual stately pile, it had some very interesting displays.  The gardens were outstanding with ancient topiary and a beautiful selection of plants.

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The River Kent by Levens Hall

As the sun broke through I managed one last butterfly trip to nearby Latterbarrow which despite being a riot of wild flowers was pretty short on butterflies.

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Northern Brown Argus (Aricia artaxerxes) at Latterbarrow, a last minute bonus

 

Corfu – Island Holiday

It has been many years since we have had a holiday abroad and even longer since we have visited Greece.  The arrival of the Lemming put paid to our trips but this year Mrs H and I decided to treat ourselves.  The destination we choose was the island of Corfu.  This was always on my wish list ever since I read Gerald Durrell’s brilliant book ‘My Family and other Animals’ as a child.  Although the story was set in the 1930’s we hoped to try and find traces of the past on what is now a very busy tourist isle.

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An evening view from our villa driveway toward Kerkira (Corfu Town)

Corfu is set in the Ionian Sea.  It is noted for being lush and green with a landscape of olive groves and tall cypress trees.  Even though we travelled in the second week of May we experienced some rain.  For our base we rented a villa in the beautiful village of Nissaki on the north/east coast.  Fifty yards from our terrace, through an olive grove filled with scrub and wild flowers, lay the sea and behind us the impressive backdrop of Mount Pantokrator, at 910m the highest point on Corfu.

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Looking down on Barbati. A view from 400m above Nissaki
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A calm Ionian Sea

On the fourth day we visited Kerkira or Corfu Town.  We had a hire car but having experienced the drive from the airport thought it safer to take the local bus!  To drive on Corfu you must forget everything you have learned, it’s every man for himself!  Indicators are frowned on, pedestrian crossings mean nothing and you can stop without warning and park up in the road.  The road surfaces are rough and that is being kind and to meet a coach on a steep hairpin bend is, er, interesting.

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Kerkira. Looking from the old fort toward the new

The capital is a very busy, bustling place.  Although there are many new shops some areas look pretty tired.  One downside being a problem with waste disposal meaning big piles of rubbish bags here and there.  We made our way through the back streets and along the promenade to the Old Fortress where we spent several hours exploring.  The fort was built by the Venetians in the 1540’s but the original fortifications date back to the 6th century.  The New Fortress was built a few years later to strengthen the town defences.

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The Old Fortress, a scene of many sieges
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On Corfu wild flowers grow everywhere

To find the island of Durrell’s book you have to venture off the beaten track.  We walked for many miles in the countryside, our favourite being the steep climb behind Nissaki.  We discovered a peaceful world filled with a profusion of wild flowers of every hue, also the wildlife but that must wait for another time.  One week and you are not even scratching the surface of this gem of an island with it’s friendly people.  At the end of each day after enjoying a meal at our favourite taverna, the Olive Press, we would sit back on the terrace and watch the neon flashing of the fireflies in the olive grove and listen to the whistling ‘twoo’ call of the Scops Owls.  In the distance, over the bay, the twinkling lights of Kerkira.  And relax!

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The hills above Benitses on the south east coast typify the Corfu scenery

 

 

Big City – Manchester Canals

I must admit I’m not very comfortable in big cities.  Coming from the countyside I find them claustrophobic and at times intimidating.  My daughter the ‘Lemming’ is now in her third year at university in Manchester studying music journalism (check out her blog https://crazystupidmusic.wordpress.com).  We have just returned from a visit, she always tells me to leave my camera behind as I could be a target for muggers!  This time I took the old Nikon and sneaked out of the hotel to get some images.

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Rochdale Canal looking west to lock 92

I am always drawn to water and am fascinated by old canals.  These man-made waterways were constructed in the 17 and 1800’s, during the industrial revolution, to provide transport in and out of cities for raw materials and finished goods.  With the coming of the railways they mostly fell into disrepair.  However in recent times most have been brought back to life, providing boating holidays and recreation, a ‘green lung’ in the heart of urban sprawl.

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Castlefield Basin where the Bridgewater Canal meets the River Medlock

It was a lovely walk in the cool early morning sun and no I wasn’t mugged.  People on their way to work ignoring me or perhaps wondering what I was photographing.

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Narrow boats outside ‘The Wharf’ public house
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Duke’s Lock No92. The start/finish of the Rochdale Canal

This section of the Rochdale Canal that I walked was the last to be finished and opened in 1804.  It is called the Deansgate Locks.  The locks, nine in total, are used to raise or lower the barges and narrow boats and must require a fair bit of physical effort to operate.

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A fine old railway bridge, looking east toward the Deansgate Tunnel
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Lock 91 at the end of the Deansgate Tunnel
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Lock 90 looking west. The old railway arches on the right have been transformed into swanky bars and restaurants

Hope you enjoyed this post.  It has been a bit of an indulgence for me, a chance to try a new type of photography.