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.
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 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 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
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
This year most of the Hemlock Water Dropwort, Oenanthe crocata, had already flowered but here was one of the stragglers. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The striking flowering spikes of Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria stood out brightly right on the waters edge. Photo: Paul Kirtley
There was also plenty of water mint, Mentha aquatica on the edge of the water and growing in the shallows. Photo: Paul Kirtley
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
Willows are another wet-ground species that were doing well in this area. Photo: Paul Kirtley
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.
Moving back away from the water displayed a good range species, all clustered close together on rich soil.
Betony, Stachys officianalis in flower. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The diminutive flower of chickweed, Stellaria media. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Lesser stichwort, Stellaria graminea, nearby to its close relative chickweed. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Common wasp on bramble flowers. Photo: Paul Kirtley
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
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.
A cluster of self-heal, Prunella vulgaris, in flower. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Common sorrel, Rumex acetosa. The succulent basal leaves are oblong and have characteristic pointed lobes. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The distinctive flowering heads of ribwort plantain, Plantago lanceolata. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The distinctive regularly lobed leaf of lady’s mantle, Alchemilla. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Swards of silverweed, Argentina anserina, abounded around the field margins. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The silvery undersides of silverweed leaves. Photo: Paul Kirtley
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
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
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. The lack of flowering stem shows this is the first year of growth for this biennial plant. Photo: Paul Kirtley
More leaf rosettes from a biennial. This time foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The easier-to-recognise flowering stems of foxglove, which appear in the second year of growth. Photo: Paul Kirtley
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
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.
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…
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 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).
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
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.