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Issue #22 The Misc. Adventures Digest
A Rusland Valley exploration, further small adventures, a favourite flower in bloom and how we're feeling about substack notes...
Hello! Another weekend, another nature adventure! I’m wondering whether these diary style posts about our weekly adventures here in the Lake District are interesting enough? I enjoy writing them so I suppose that’s all that matters and sometimes they digress onto deeper thoughts, like this one. Please do let us know if there are other things you’d like to hear about. Well, here’s another one anyway from our weekend hike in the Rusland Valley. Read on for Emma’s latest Nature Happenings featuring one of our favourite woodland plants, to find out what else we’ve been up to and some thoughts on Substack’s new feature, Notes.
As we drive around Cumbria for work and whatever else, we’re slowly compiling a list of places we want to revisit and explore on foot rather than just whizzing past them in the van. The beautiful Rusland Valley is one such place. We have been up and down this valley a lot recently visiting longtime friend of Misc. Adventures, Lorna Singleton who we are doing some photography and filming work for. Lorna’s work as a spelk basket maker connects her to Rusland, the natural and cultural heritage of the woods and waters of the valley are woven into everything she makes and we’re thankful for her tips on places to explore in the area.
This walk took us through the Rusland Mosses nature reserve with its mix of squelchy raised bog and lovely wet woodlands of willow and birch. A network of wooden walkways winds its way through and around the mosses, granting access to its boggy secrets without having to wade through knee deep sludge. We were happy to find a few common lizards basking in the sun on the duckboards and to see a herd of red deer charging through a patch of bog myrtle, and a red kite amongst other things. Someone we spoke to said they had seen an adder. Hoverflies were very busy buzzing around the willow catkins and we found a very cute orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata) who seemed to have shacked up with a tiny slug inside a beech mast husk. A curious couple.
From here we headed across the river and over the road up into the glorious oak woods of Hall Brow. The woods here are thick with bilberry, each oak trunk standing in a sea of green. Tiny globular flowers hang gently like miniature lanterns on every bilberry plant - I wonder how many people pass by these without noticing them or being aware of the delicious fruit they become? Society forces us to seek financial growth unconditionally, but there is an abundance of wealth available to all of us in tiny treasures like these if only we could be better at perceiving their value. I’m so thankful for the experiences that have allowed me to see nature in such a way that makes me feel incredibly wealthy despite being financially poor. It’s a struggle to explain the magnitude of this revelation - I wish I could find a way to express it more clearly and I wonder what the ramifications would be if there was be a wider shift in perception of true wealth. The whole of Nature is waiting for us to realise there is a new way to live.
After a steep climb, the woods give way to open heath and juniper scrub as we seek out our destination, Boretree Tarn. It’s gloriously sunny at the top and we strip layers and don caps for the first time this season. We can see mountains for miles in all directions. We still struggle to name all the peaks, especially when viewed from different approaches but we are slowly building a picture in our minds of how the landscape fits together. We find the tarn, sparkling in the bright sun. It has a nice feel, with trees down to the water’s edge and rocky shores to explore but we know we have to walk all the way back we came so we don’t linger long. We promised Benji ice cream in Grizedale and we want to catch Lorna in her workshop so we have to hotfoot it back down though the woods and across the mosses to make it to the Grizedale Forest visitor centre before it closes - we make it just in time!
It’s been a nice week of small adventures, it finally feels warm, even on the cloudier days which makes everything just that little bit easier. We went canoeing after school on Monday and took Benji’s dinner with us so he could have it on the other side of the lake. It’s so neat to live somewhere we can do stuff like this so easily. It was cloudy but warm and the lake glassy smooth on our way back.
We also took advantage of a warm and sunny morning and went for a quick dip in a deep pool with a lovely little waterfall cascading into it. We first found this spot almost a year ago exactly but it’s taken us until now to actually swim in it. It was absolutely freezing despite how inviting it looks.
Substack launched a new feature recently called Notes. It’s being lauded as something like an alternative to Twitter. I’m a bit disappointed to be honest; I like writing and sharing here because it’s NOT like Twitter or Instagram. A newsletter feels much less needy and demanding of your attention and I enjoy not being bombarded by stuff I don’t want to see. Anyway, we might use it occasionally or we might not but I enjoyed reading this relatable post about it by Bryan Pfeiffer of Chasing Nature:
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts about it either way…
Hello! Emma here again with this week’s nature happening.
We’ve been delighted to see one of our all time favourites appearing in the wood the last week or so, the wood anemone. As the name suggests, this is a flower at home in the woods and is a good indicator of ancient woodland. They flower before the trees are in full leaf to maximise exposure to sunlight, often flowering at the same time as bluebells, appearing like stars amongst the carpet of blue.
Also known as windflower, patches of wood anemones can often be spotted bobbing their heads in the slightest breeze. During the night and on cloudy days, their flowers remain closed and drooped, only opening when the warm sun appears and coaxes them into action, the flowers then open up and turn their heads to track the path of the sun as it moves overhead throughout the day.
Wood anemones also have a fascinating mutualistic relationship with ants, who play a major role in their seed dispersal. Wood anemone seeds have a fatty attachment (elaiosome) which ants feed to their larvae. The ants take the seeds back to their nests where the larvae consume the elaiosome, the remaining seed is then taken to the waste disposal part of the nest, where it can germinate (for those who enjoy fancy words, seed dispersal by ants is known as myrmecochory). Thus, it takes a long time for wood anemones to spread and despite them also using underground rhizomes (creeping off shoots from the main root) to grow, progress is still slow. Something to consider next time you are in a woodland full of them.
Wood anemones have also always been one of Benji’s favourites and they remind us of happy times living in the woods. They have a lovely scientific name which Benji has known since being a toddler. Each year he would shout “ANEMONE NEMOROSA!” upon seeing one for the first time. We’ve been happy to find them close to our new home in a favourite spot by the river, old friends in new places.
Let us know if you see any where you are!
Well, that’s all for this week, we hope you’ve been able to get out exploring and perhaps had some chance encounters with nature. Do let us know if you’ve seen anything neat; we are fascinated by nature’s stories and would happily share your findings here, if you wanted us to.
With warm wishes as always,
Andrew, Emma and Benji