It has been a while since I have posted a blog post. This one is quite honest but is also filled with lots of wildlife 🙂 . A lot of stuff has happened in the last few months in my life, most of it seemingly rather bad. As those of you that follow me on Twitter may have noticed, I have been struggling with my mental health, which has seemingly led to other problems in my life and is why my condition recently worsened. This combined with a challenging and stressful new job has meant that things haven’t been great if I am honest, and in fact feel like they can’t get much worse. Anyway, this blog post is less about that, and more about a weekend away I had in the Lake District, to try take my mind off things.
I was invited to come to the Lake District with some colleagues from the Wildlife Trust, and people that used to work here, for a weekend of looking at plants. I thought I knew a lot about plants, but these people knew a lot more and it was a chance for me to learn a lot from them, and get distracted by insects along the way. The Lake District is a place full of happy memories for me, which unfortunately feel like very painful ones. So I knew this trip would be a challenge.
I have basically had to reassess my life again and go back to basics. One thing that someone told me lately, which has really stuck a chord with me, is that mindfulness isn’t necessarily about concentrating on your breathing, it is about noticing the small, insignificant things. Something that I do normally, focusing on small insects etc., but I sometimes forget to do when my mind is decidedly foggy.
The natural world is a great source of support for me. Sometimes it is nice to feel cosy and enclosed, and a walk in a wood can sometimes do that. But equally I love open landscapes. Most of the sites we visited were open boggy sites, which usually means beautiful, breath-taking scenery. I love mountains and the lakes are certainly a place to be for them. You can see for miles and see that the world goes on, even if you are struggling. There is hope.
The small pearl-bordered fritillary had to be one of my insect highlights of the weekend. I some saw earlier in the day from afar, but suddenly one flew past me. I literally dropped everything but my camera and proceeded to track it down, running through the sphagnum bog to get a photo. It kindly stopped for a second enabling me to get a photo, it isn’t a great photo… but it is enough. A memory of a beautiful species in a spectacular habitat.
Unfortunately in Buckinghamshire we are rather lacking in heathland, and even more so in wet heathland, so it was a real treat to get stuck into some of those sites. I have a real love for Sphagnum mosses, even though I can’t identify them. There is nothing quite like experiencing a quaking bog, feeling the squishy sphagnum underneath. I also find watching cotton grass blow in the wind is also very good for the soul, so it was wonderful to take that all in.
Sedges and ferns also featured heavily in the weekend, both groups which I have limited experience in. Who knew there were so many sedges in Britain!!! We went to Eycott Hill, where we managed over 15 species in the day, a number of which were uncommon or rare and some of which I could identify again by myself now. I was also intrigued by Wilson’s Filmy Fern. This was a tiny, delicate species growing on vertical wet rocks at one of the sites we went to. A nice species to see. I was also rather fond of the parsley fern that we saw at Eycott Hill.
I also managed to add two new orchids to my list.. northern marsh and heath spotted orchids, both lovely species. We also went on a twitch for yarrow broomrape, a ‘vulnerable’ plant in Britain. After getting excited after finding the wrong broomrape species (common broomrape), we eventually found the yarrow broomrape, which is a delicate purple colour.
I couldn’t go to the Lake District and not look for bees, I managed to find a number of workers of Bombus monticola, the bilberry bumble. This isn’t a new species for me, but is absolutely adorable! I also managed to find Andrena laponica, which is a new species for me and it was lovely to try and show some of the botanists the wonders of bees!
I am yet to finish identifying everything and collating all my records from the weekend, but it is fair to say that I saw a number of new species which is always exciting. There may well be some real highlights that I have missed in the things I have yet to identify.
The trip was a break away from my day-to-day life, and in regards to my personal struggles, I have been listening to some kind and helpful people and I am taking steps to try to improve my situation.
On balance, it was a lovely weekend. Thanks for reading.
Until next time,
PS it is two years today since I went swimming in a wild swim in the middle of London. It is mentioned in this blog post