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Issue #38 The Misc Adventures Digest
Working in the woods, back to normality, seeking swim spots and lighting strikes...
Firstly, happy autumnal equinox! It may only be officially autumn as of today, but phenologically and meteorologically it has felt very much like summer has been over since last week, don’t you think?
This has been our first normal week for a while. I say normal, but I’m not entirely sure whether normality is ever something that graces our existence. This has however, been the first week with no visitors, no travelling, no events and no dramas for a while. The end of summer has been a busy time for us. Truth be told we have been looking forward to this week for a while; we have held it in our minds as something to get to. We rounded out our busy period with Emma giving a talk in Bradford on Thursday evening last week at a wonderful event hosted by Rooted in the beautiful garden of Studio Terra Flora.
We’re interested to know, how has the end of your summer been? Are you looking forward to calmer, quieter autumn days or do you dread the dark, wet and wind?
A quiet weekend. Saturday was a work day. Luckily, work for me means spending the day in the woods. I had a fence to replace on the edge of a woodland I look after near Elterwater and I managed to persuade Emma and Benji to give me a hand. It was a gloomy day to begin with, warm but decidedly autumnal.
I have been visiting this woodland fortnightly since March and I’m slowly starting to build a connection to the land. I enjoy arriving here each fortnight, deciphering the clues, unraveling the woodland story that has unfolded since my last visit.
Birch leaves have started to turn golden, bracken has browned off, rowans are tinged with red and acorns drop from boughs high above, clattering through tangled branches as they fall. Fungi are working their mycelial magic, the earthy smell of decay fills the air. Autumn arrives quickly up here in the north. We were not quite ready for it last year and I fear we may have been caught off guard again.
Whilst Emma helped with banging in posts and I wrangled with fencing wire, Benji set up camp and busied himself drawing and reading, sat on a mound of moss. It was nice to be together, all three of us working in the woods. This is what our weekends often looked liked when we lived in our woodland home. Benji sat somewhere, orange ear defenders on, watching whilst I worked with the chainsaw, cutting firewood or clearing fallen trees from fence lines. I remember it fondly now, but it wasn’t always easy. I wonder how it would be now that Benji is older? Would he be happy helping me in the woods? I’m glad I have this place to visit regularly, it is not mine, but it’s nice to be able to do things like this again.
Sunday dawned with the promise of good weather. We had however been misled and watched and waited for the rain to clear before heading out. Our plan for the day had been to follow a beck we had seen from a distance whilst on a recent hike. From our lofty vantage point we had seen waterfalls cascading into what looked like deep pools and we vowed to head back another day; we were on the hunt for new swimming spots.
I think we had envisaged warm sunny weather, with cold plunge pools offering welcome relief from steep scrambles. Instead we had a blustery, dull day, but the air was warm enough and the season for easy swims would soon behind us so we headed up into the mountains to make the best of it.
We spend a lot of time following water here in the Lake District. We are drawn to the dynamic force of water falling, the constant flow, ever changing, reflecting the mood of the landscape. Water adds character, life and energy to our hikes. It is good company. It’s often in steep gyhlls and narrow watery valleys that trees and plants find safe haven from over zealous grazers; here we love to seek out wild flowers, ferns and mosses clinging to the sides of ravines, chasms and pools. Bathed in constant spray, growth is lush, green and luxuriant. Branches and trunks of trees are covered in lichens and epiphytes. If the hills were ever allowed to recover, it is perhaps from these hidden worlds that life would spread.
We didn’t really find what we were seeking, but one pool looked just deep enough for a dip so we scrambled down a steep bank to get changed, balancing precariously on the water’s edge. We had a hard time persuading Benji to take the plunge - he is a fair weather wild swimmer - but eventually he waded in and enjoyed the feeling of the moving water, bubbling and churning.
I think this stretch holds promise for further adventures, so we’ll be back another day, following the water once again.
Here’s one other cool thing we saw: an oak tree struck by lighting! This is up the hill from our house - you can see where the lightning hit the tip of one of the branches and travelled down the trunk right into the roots. The bark has been exploded off in thick strips by the water in the sapwood being boiled instantaneously. Absolutely incredible.
Well, that’s all for this week. Be sure to check out our new offerings for paid subscribers, the first of which will be going out tomorrow, and stay tuned for our next (slightly delayed) Nature Happenings.
Whatever autumn means to you, we hope it brings you everything you need.
Until next time, warm wishes from the three of us,
Andrew, Emma and Benji