Monday, 13 July 2020

A Countryside Trail

Just beyond the cottage where I live, there are grassy corridors separating farmland and waterways. These tracks can be difficult to walk as they're often overgrown and almost impenetrable on foot but one such track, which I've been hoping to walk for the last couple of years, has recently been mowed by tractor offering several miles of (what is for me) previously unexplored trail. 

As it was a lovely Sunday afternoon with no farming activity and just a light breeze, Mr Fenwick and I walked in peace, alongside kestrels, buzzard, geese, ducks, toad, reed warbler, skylark, wren, grey heron, juvenile blackbird, butterflies (including Red Admiral) and many other beings (seen and unseen)...

There are large swathes of farmland on this West Lancashire moss. I sometimes dream of all this land being made into wholesome patchworks where food and flowers are grown organically using permaculture / biodyanmic ways, and consider how much better this would be for soil and soul. 

Yet on this place of moss and mere, just a crow's easy flight away from the sea, there is a tranquil beauty about the place on this lazy Sunday afternoon. 

The land is intensively farmed virtually all year round here but the life at the edges of these plains show glimpses of nature's diversity and ability to thrive. The trees offer welcome shade and shelter, and this peaceful waterway is full of fish, often attracting various species of wetland birds. Although we saw geese and heron, the Kingfisher remained elusive on this occasion.

There are many places considerably more enchanting, wild and pure but I, for one, find it hard to resist exploring a peaceful countryside trail - especially one that is on my doorstep. Whether or not I have the opportunity to walk this route again, my curiosity has been fulfilled - for now, at least. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Thought-bubbles of Potential

Watching cloud ships sailing across a pure blue sky is one of my passions. I will stop what I’m doing and simply spend magical moments gazing upwards. The solstice weekend brought many great ships. Some hung around for quite some time. Others simply sailed by on summer’s breeze. It’s one of nature’s most beguiling theatrical shows, anchoring us into the beautiful now while teasing the imagination.

While taking in the whole spectacle, I noticed how easily each cloud changed shape – becoming more or less. I considered how every single cloud represented a thought-bubble of potential, and how our mind’s imaginings are sometimes like clouds… drifting dreamily, soaring high, brooding and constantly transforming. Each formation felt symbolic of playfulness, adaptability, alchemy and freedom…

This solstice has been different but dynamic. Mr Fenwick and I sat out at a favourite spot by the river, drinking every last drop of daylight while entranced by the breeze-conducted swish of barley in the fields. Joined by tawny owl and hare, we held deep gratitude in our hearts for the natural realms and for our time here on this extraordinary planet.

Dawn unfolded, gift-wrapped in bright bird song. It’s a wonderful privilege to wake up to a brand new day. As a wiser elder, it’s something I do not take for granted. As we dance into our summer, I feel called in ways new and old, to step up and create for myself and others. And more than ever, it feels essential to make and hold space for magical moments.

Wherever you are in the world, I trust you are wonderfully well and I wish you a season filled with joy, wonder and creativity. Remember to look up, and breathe. Take in the wonder of it all. Let your worldly worries float away on a cloud…

Monday, 2 March 2020

The Sacred Isle of Iona

From our holiday home on Mull, we had amazing views looking out to sea. In the distance, between and beyond Ulva and the towering headland, the isle of Iona was often prominently sun-lit like a jewel on the horizon. It whispered daily, calling us to its sacred shores.

On Mull, the morning had started grey, brooding and uncertain and the weather forecast for Iona wasn’t promising. We set off, journeying south west to the Ross of Mull, through pretty crofting, farming and fishing villages, through Bunessan and to the port of Fionnphort, where we would catch the ferry to Iona. As we travelled, we noticed the sky brightening and by the time we reached Fionnphort we were greeted with a beautiful blue sky and sunshine.

We took the short ferry crossing to Iona and on our approach it was clear that there was something remarkable and mystical about this isle surrounded by the most incredible blue water.

After disembarking from the ferry, we were immediately in the central hub of Iona’s pretty village. I felt instantly at home here.

After a delicious meal at The Argyll, we took the well-walked path to the beach, passing galleries, tearooms, shops, and ancient landmarks as we went, vowing to visit each on our return from exploring Iona’s famous white-blond sands.

The unexpected and welcoming clear sky intensified the blues and turquoise of the sea. Skylarks soared singing their summer song loud and clear, and I heard the unmistakable ‘krek-krek’ of the ever-elusive corncrakes. A first for me.

Though cool for June, we went barefoot to the crystal clear water, and enjoyed paddling in the rock pools.

The white sands, colourful pebbles, and ancient rock of mostly Lewisian Gneiss contributed to the sense of having found paradise…

Iona is a place seemingly unaffected by the world’s weary woes. It has a magical energy as if it exists in some other dimension. I, for one, was most reluctant to leave.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Wildlife on Mull

I have never seen a White-tailed Sea Eagle so when we visited the Isle of Mull in June (here’s my first Mull blog) I was hopeful of seeing this incredible bird with its eight-foot wingspan.

For Fen and me, this was our first visit to the Isle of Mull. The rest of the family group, also enthusiastic lovers of birds, wildlife and the natural world, had visited several times, and had a good idea where we might spot the Sea Eagle, as well as Golden Eagle and otters to name but a few of the isle’s wild residents.

Sure enough, within a couple of days of being on Mull, we were fortunate to spot not one but three White-tailed Sea Eagles. One was perched in the tall tree tops set back by the side of Loch na Keal. Alas, my camera wasn’t powerful enough to gain a clear image but I’m posting the pic anyway to mark my first sighting of one of Mull’s most famous birds.

Shortly after this memorable sighting, and a little further along Loch na Keal, we saw a playful otter enjoying a post-meal stretch in the evening light.

There are plenty of deer on the island.

And there are highland coos, too, plus one or two wanderers that like to roam at will along the isle’s roads. (Remember to drive carefully!)

Hooded crows were the most dominant of the corvid family on Mull. Apart from wren, robin, and a lone rabbit, the hooded crows were among the first to appear in the morning looking for breakfast treats.

As the fourth largest of Scotland’s islands with almost 300 miles of coast line, Mull offers a diverse habitat for its resident and visiting wildlife.

We had far distant views of seals bobbing playfully in the sea. Perhaps we’ll go on a wildlife boat tour next time to spot Minke whales, porpoises and dolphins in the waters around Mull.

We had a fantastic view from the holiday house overlooking the isle of Ulva.

But the best place to see wildlife is while out and about. On our walks, we saw plenty of pipits, pied wagtail, waders and gulls but very few butterflies despite fields full of foxgloves.

Mull is also renowned for its population of Golden Eagles. Many a time, upon seeing a large bird soaring over the scree slopes and ridges or perched on a tree branch, we were hopeful of it being a golden eagle but mostly they proved to be large buzzards such as these two…

On our last couple of days on Mull, we did finally see Golden Eagle gliding over the cliffs on the opposite shore of Loch na Keal. Too far away to capture the moment on my camera but it was an unforgettable sight.

We logged around 100 species of bird sightings for the entire trip (the numbers helped by a northbound visit to RSPB Leighton Moss on the first day of our travels). Of this tally, we saw about 35 species of birds on Mull out of a possible 250 known to visit the isle, and the rest were spotted on Iona and on the mainland while travelling.

As for my favourite sighting on Mull? Each and every one was wonderful. Of course, it’s always an extra special moment to see a creature you’ve never seen first-hand before. So I’ll particularly remember Mull for my first sight of the White-tail Sea Eagles.

I’ll leave you with my little video clip of the otter…