Wild Wanderings 3 – Windermere Waterside

by Paul Kirtley

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Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria contre jour

The delicate flowers of Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, caught in the evening sunshine while camped next to Windermere. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Two weeks on Windermere. It could be a lot worse. Windermere is the venue of the Expedition Canoeing Skills Course, which Ray Goodwin and I run every summer. This year we ran two of these courses back-to-back. Over the weekend in between the two courses was when we had our mini-adventure on the River Greta.

Spending two weeks based in the same spot outdoors is always interesting. Well it is for me. It is if you are interested in nature. In two weeks you really spot the changes which occur. Plants coming into flower. Flowers going to seed. Berries ripening. So on and so forth.

What you also notice, going back to the same spot from one year to the next, is how variable nature’s cycles are. Some years we will be running a programme in an area and it will be the peak time for a particular flower, berry, insect hatching or bird migration, for example. Another year, they will be much less prominent in the same week. Some years see early flowerings. Other years see poor crops or nuts or berries. Every year is different. There can be significant fluctuations between populations of species from one year to another, for both plants and animals.

So, like previous Wild Wanderings blogs, this is a snapshot, the capturing of a period of time during one year. The photos here were taken 11-13 July 2016.

View of a bay on Windermere with lush plants in the foreground

A shallow gradient down to the edge of the lake means this area is often flooded. Here all the plants tolerate or even thrive in damp ground. The light flowers of Meadowsweet are identifiable even from a distance but this area also harbours many other interesting trees and plants. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Windermere Waterside – More Than Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet in foreground, canoeists in background

Meadowsweet was very prominent again this year, as it often has been in previous years. Moreover, it’s a common, widespread and useful plant which you will find in many areas of damp ground. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Meadowsweet leaves

Meadowsweet leaves are visually distinctive, particularly with the three-pronged terminal leaf. Most distinctive, however, is the smell which is reminiscent of a muscle rub such as Deep Heat mixed with cucumber. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Marsh Woundwort, Stachys palustris

There was a lot more than Meadowsweet down by the water though. Here we have the delicate flowers of Marsh Woundwort, Stachys palustris. Photo: Paul

Hemlock Water Dropwort inflorescence.

This year most of the Hemlock Water Dropwort, Oenanthe crocata, had already flowered but here was one of the stragglers. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Purple Loosestrife in flower

The striking flowering spikes of Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria stood out brightly right on the waters edge. Photo: Paul Kirtley

water mint stand

There was also plenty of water mint, Mentha aquatica on the edge of the water and growing in the shallows. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Alder over other water-loving plants

Standing over the above-mentioned plants was a species of tree which is very happy to have its “feet in the water”, Common Alder, Alnus glutinosa. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Willow in water

Willows are another wet-ground species that were doing well in this area. Photo: Paul Kirtley

forget-me-not flowers in pink, purple, blue

Also on the water edge were a fair number of Forget-me-nots. This little cluster caught my eye due to its range of pastel shades of pink/purple/blue.

Rich Margins

Moving back away from the water displayed a good range species, all clustered close together on rich soil.

Betony, Stachys officianalis

Betony, Stachys officianalis in flower. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Chickweed, Stellaria media.

The diminutive flower of chickweed, Stellaria media. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Lesser stitchwort, Stellaria graminea

Lesser stichwort, Stellaria graminea, nearby to its close relative chickweed. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Common wasp on bramble flowers. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Common wasp on bramble flowers. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Hogweed leaves

Hogweed leaves with their hairy stems picked out nicely by the sunlight. This is common hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, not giant hogweed, H. mantegazzianum. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Tutsan, Hypericum androsaemum

I also spotted some tutsan, Hypericum androsaemum, which I’ve not seen at this site in previous years. Its toxic berries start off light green then turn red before fully ripening to black. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Common Meadow Cohorts

The grassy areas nearby displayed many of the usual suspects, which are common and widespread.

self-heal, Prunella vulgaris,

A cluster of self-heal, Prunella vulgaris, in flower. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Common sorrel, Rumex acetosa.

Common sorrel, Rumex acetosa. The succulent basal leaves are oblong and have characteristic pointed lobes. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Plantago lanceolata flowers - creamy yellow flowers on thin stems off a black central mass

The distinctive flowering heads of ribwort plantain, Plantago lanceolata. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Ladies mantle leaf

The distinctive regularly lobed leaf of lady’s mantle, Alchemilla. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Silverweed, Argentina anserina

Swards of silverweed, Argentina anserina, abounded around the field margins. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Silverweed, Argentina anserina

The silvery undersides of silverweed leaves. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Surprising Stragglers

Pignut stem leaf, faded yellow

I was pleasantly surprised to see the flowering stem of a pignut, albeit fading and past its best. The lacy stem leaf is a clearly visible yellow here against the verdant backdrop. Photo: Paul Kirtley

lady's smock late flowering

More surprising for July was to see lady’s smock, Cardamine pratensis, still in flower. This species is referred to as cuckoo flower in some parts due to it normally appearing in the spring around the time cuckoos can be heard calling. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Trackside Regulars

On or near the track leading down to the site were some regulars commonly seen on country walks. Burdock in particular likes hard-packed ground.

Burdock leaf rosette

Burdock leaf rosette. The lack of flowering stem shows this is the first year of growth for this biennial plant. Photo: Paul Kirtley

leaf rosette of Digitalis purpurea

More leaf rosettes from a biennial. This time foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Foxglove flowers

The easier-to-recognise flowering stems of foxglove, which appear in the second year of growth. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Yarrow flowers

Another distinctive flowering head. This is Yarrow, Achillea millefolium. Like burdock and thistles, this is also a member of the family Asteraceae, more commonly known as the daisy or sunflower family. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Yarrow leaves

The second part of yarrow’s scientific name, millefolium, comes from it appearing to have thousands (mille-) of leaves (-folium) due to the fineness of the leaf divisions.

Yellow dasiy-like flowers of ragwort, Senecio jacobaea

An increasingly common sight are the bright yellow flowers of ragwort, Senecio Jacobaea. Looking at the flowers it should not surprise you that this plant is also a member of the daisy/sunflower family. Photo: Paul Kirtley

High Summer, Yet Preparing For Autumn

These photos were taken within weeks of the summer solstice yet there were clear signs of the seasons yet to come. Hazelnuts and acorns are already present at this time of year…

Sessile oak, Quercus petraea.

Tapered leaf bases and longer leaf stems identifies this as a Sessile oak, Quercus petraea, and the acorns are starting to form. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Hazel nuts early formation

Hazel nuts were also starting to swell. Photo: Paul Kirtley

A Fine Camp

Where we base ourselves for our the Expedition Canoeing Skills Course is a lovely spot, with lots of natural diversity, which we certainly started to feel part of. In the second week the mute swans became very accepting of us, even allowing their cygnets to come quite close to our camp (you can see a guyline from one of our group tarps in the edge of the photo below).

Mute swan cygnets and parent

Our nearest neighbours became very accepting of us. Photo: Paul Kirtley

If you’d like to see what else we got up to while in Cumbria, check out the video blogs below:

A Trail Of Destruction: Canoeing The River Greta After The Floods…

Canoe Capsize Recovery – Deep Water Rescue Training

Photographic Kit

If you’d like to know, the photos above were taken with the small yet powerful Leica D-Lux (Typ 109), the same camera which I used for the aurora timelapse you can see here. It has a micro four-thirds sensor and shoots RAW. The compressed images above don’t do it full justice. You can also see a larger, higher resolution version of the cover image here.

What Are These Wild Wandering Blogs Anyway?

Wild Wanderings is a series of photoblogs of elements of nature which, having caught my eye while out and about, I want to share with you, the reader. These observations are typically related to tree and plant identification, animal tracks and sign and other aspects of natural history which pertain to bushcraft and survival skills.

These blogs do not usually contain much written explanation other than concise photo captions. This is intentional, as writing long descriptions, including background facts or a large amount of context, whether it be historical or contemporary, slows down the sharing of these images with you.

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog

Wild Wanderings 1 – Spring Plants And Some Tracking Fun

Wild Wanderings 2 – Wonderful Woods, Badger Latrines and A Weird Parasite

Boost Your Bushcraft With Urban Botany

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

jason brown

As always, well done Paul. There seems to be an unusual amount of diversity where you are. Here in Kentucky I dunno that I’ve found a place with so many species. I’ll have to keep looking! Thanks again!


Paul Kirtley

Hi Jason,

It’s good to hear from you. It’s interesting – the more you look, the more you often find. That said, some places are indeed more diverse than others. Head to the tropics and then things get really diverse 🙂

I’d love to hear more about what you find close to home though.

Warm regards,



Danny Barrett

Really enjoyed reading this Paul,thanks for sharing


Paul Kirtley

My pleasure Danny 🙂


Gary Kier

I really enjoyed these pictures and such skilled use & application of the “Bokeh Effect & Wildlife Photography!” Thanks so much for sharing these through e-mail Paul. Cheers!


Paul Kirtley

Thanks Gary. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

Warm regards,



Gary Kier

All the Best Paul! 🙂


Dave Howard

Hi Paul,
Many thanks for another varied and interesting share. It is the first time i have ever seen Forget-me-not in pink. Growing up on a dairy farm in the S.W. we had them growing along the hedgerows. I am wondering if perhaps like the Hydrangea flowers they were affected by a local source of acid in the soil, such as rotting animal or timber from a blown down branch. Would love to know any thoughts you might have. Looking forward to your next issue like a child waiting for the Beano.
All the best, keep safe, Dave.


Paul Kirtley

Hi Dave,

It seems there are a lot of factors which affect the growth characteristics of plants. I’m constantly surprised at the variation in species I already know.

I see you’ve already enjoyed Wild Wanderings 4. Number 5 will be out before too long 🙂

Warm regards,



Julia Tyrer-Cutts

Love the photos. I really love knowing the names of plants I see whilst walking around. I feel really pleased with myself when I recognise a new plant. We use it as alternate I spy game with my daughter. So not only I spy a ‘t’ for tree we say w t for willow tree etc. Great way to learn.

Thank you Paul.
I will be checking out the videos later.


Paul Kirtley

Hi Julia,

Thanks for your comment. Learning new trees and plants never gets dull. I’m glad you and your daughter have found a way to include this in some nature I-Spy. Sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing.

Warm regards,




Thanks Paul,

I am not familiar with some of these plant as I live in Canada, such as the poisonous tutsan, whose berries look deceptively inviting to anyone trying to forage through hunger. It goes to show that when the Europeans travelled through North America, they really had to rely on the Indigenous peoples to guide them about. Even scurvy was fended off by a simple infusion of pine needle tea given by the Natives, as was wild garlic to a sick and weak Jesuit Missionary in Chicago (Hence from the name chi-ka-goo, native for wild garlic). Samuel Hearn defied the Hudson Bay Co’s policy of following British protocols and trusted the Native way of travelling through the wilderness, which taught him to survive better than his Admiralty counterpart and his crew who froze to death near the Coppermine River.

Knowledge of our surroundings is paramount to pass on to the next generation. With photographic records, it certainly is easier to start identifying nature better. Thanks for sharing.



Paul Kirtley

Hi Buck,

Thanks for your comments. Yes, Samuel Hearne’s approach has much to be admired. As does his mental fortitude.

To me an understanding of bushcraft always comes back to a knowledge of nature and we should do our best to preserve and pass on what we know.

I’m glad you see things the same way.

Warm regards,



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