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bird watching birds countryside lakes Land Art landscapes light light quality National Trust nature reserves photography The National Trust trees wildlife woodland woodlands

Aira Force – the walk back.

After enjoying the sights and sounds of the Aira Force water falls we followed the stream as it wandered through the wooded hilltops before we started our walk back down the valley. As we had been sat resting we were mesmerised by the songs and calls of so many birds in the trees and understory. This we would soon discover was to be a feature of our week in the Lakes – the sheer number of birds astounded us! At Aira Force we could hear Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Goldcrests, Coal Tits and all the thrushes, the Song Thrush, the Mistle Thrush and the Blackbird. We heard several warblers too and recognised a few such as the Wood Warbler, Garden Wabler and the Chiffchaff as well as their larger cousins the Redstart, Whitethroat and Blackcap. It made for an entertaining time and emphasised how important these areas of countryside managed by the National Trust are as nature reserves.

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We changed direction and began the gentle descent. We enjoyed different views of places we had admired on our ascent.

 

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We took a slight detour from the main path to a damp more open area where different plants were growing and even the air itself felt damp to our skin. We were tempted to follow this detour just because of this beautifully constructed stone track. We just had to follow it! It reminded us of the work by land artist Richard Long.

 

 

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Our detour finally took us back to our original pathway and we enjoyed the sounds of the tumbling stream once more.

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So we found ourselves back at our starting point having enjoyed a stimulating, beautiful wander up and down this wooded valley. The waterfall, Aira Force, was the icing on the cake! A great day out!

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countryside landscapes light light quality National Trust ornamental trees and shrubs outdoor sculpture photography The National Trust woodland woodlands

A Week in the Lake District – Part 2 – Aira Force

For our second day in the Lake District we made for the great outdoors to explore some ancient woodland with a stream running through it. Aira Force is the waterfall at the top of a gentle ascent up through the wooded valley.The wooded valley is owned by the National Trust so we had a warm welcome as we do at most of their properties. A beautifully carved wooden finger post gave us the choice of going left to the tea room or right to Aira Force. You’ve guessed it – we went left first and enjoyed a mighty good coffee and cake break.

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We were soon on our way up the valley after a quick look at a map where some lovely benches crafted from single chunks of slate caught my attention.

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As we walked towards the more wooded section of the valley we initially had open grassland along side the path, but we soon found that the trees increased in number and the atmosphere changed completely. Woodlands have their own brand of intimacy that engulfs those who walk in them. There is something about the light creeping in through branches which highlights areas to draw the observer in. We discovered the wonderful original signage used to identify the main tree species. They were very rustic and in keeping with the setting.

 

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The seasons come late to the Lake District so the tree foliage was still Spring fresh.

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As this woodland was once the grounds of a shooting lodge there were areas for seating with ornamental paved areas and surprising finds. The second photo shows the patterns made by coins being hammered into the trunk of a fallen tree – we just couldn’t work this out!

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As in all woodlands we explore we found some interesting creative works sculpted by Mother Nature.

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As we moved slowly uphill we followed the stream and even when we couldn’t catch glimpses of it we could hear its incessant burbling to our right.

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The damp atmosphere within the wood allowed mosses, ferns and foxgloves to grow on any natural surface.

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Where light penetrated shade wildflowers were in bloom. Bluebells and Bugle painted a blue haze on the woodland floor.

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As we approached the waterfall open views were suddenly revealed as our path came to the wood edge, and we enjoyed a glimpse of lake and mountain.

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As we followed our path upwards we could hear the waterfall roaring in the depths of the valley, before it suddenly appeared, a sparkling ribbon dropping down the valley.

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This was the end of our upward journey so we stopped to enjoy a well-earned rest. We sat on an old wooden bench listening to the many woodland birds all around and above us. In the second part of this post we will be making our way back down the valley.

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countryside landscapes migration Powis Powys trees Wales wildlife woodland woodlands

Waterfall Walkabout

We made a quick visit to the waterfall at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, in Powys  last year and vowed to return. So in late august we did just that not thinking that being still in the holiday period it would be so much busier than our previous spring visit. But many people were walking off into the hills so our wander was still quite quiet.

After our usual coffee and cakes which we enjoyed in the cafe at the base of the falls we set off up a narrow path and quickly found the stream that flowed rapidly from the falls themselves. The cafe is part of an interesting and unusual endeavour, a business which involves a campsite and retreat as well as the cafe, a little empire to nourish the body, the soul and the mind. It is a place to find peace and get close to nature.

We heard the falls well before we saw them, the roaring and rushing  of water dropping over 100 feet splashing on rock outcrops as it falls. When the falls come into view we are always forced to stop just to stare and take in the scene. It is simply beautiful, a place where the gentle beauty of nature is disturbed by the sheer power of water. A mist of spray drifts among the trees. All around is green, bright almost fluorescent green. Ferns, mosses and lichen reveling in an atmosphere full of droplets of water, very pure clean water, not yet subjected to man’s pollution. It won’t be long before this stream, crystal clear but for a hint of the coffee brown stain from peat, will be subject to agricultural run-off. Nitrates, herbicides and sheep dip chemicals. But for now its purity adds to the delight of the place.

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After enjoying being close to the roar and rumble of the waterfall we took a narrow track into the valley. Our feet made no sound on the pine needles that covered the path so we could hear the sound of the falling water getting quieter as we moved deeper into the heavily wooded slopes of the valley side. The trees grew close together so had grown tall in their search for light.

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Every boulder and the bases of every tree trunk were carpeted in mosses and lichens, soft and silky to the touch.

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The boulders had been rolled down the slope by the forces of gravity after the equally powerful force of erosion had separated them from the rock faces of the vertical outcrops towering above the tree line. Erosion had also removed the soil and scree that once anchored this tree and its roots to the ground. Today it somehow remains upright by holding on with only half of its giant roots still in the ground.

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The openness at the end of the woodland afforded us vast views of the mountain range underneath which we had driven to find the waterfalls.

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In a place dominated by huge trees, massive mountains and rugged rock faces it is good to study tiny delicate things as a contrast. There can be no more delicate flower then the Harebell and no smaller plants than mosses, lichens and algae (algae and lichen are not strictly speaking plants). Although the beetles we came across were small at only a centimetre or so long they certainly did not look delicate. They looked tough as they moved through the grass with purpose. Theses little chaps are powerful predators in the mini-beast world.

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Fruit was colouring up on Hawthorns, Rowans and wild Crab Apples. We imagined that once the migrant thrushes passed through Wales they would home in on this valley side and gorge themselves on this fruit bounty.

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On the more exposed slopes of the valley trees live short lives and they grow stunted by the harsh winds and cold winters. This does though give them beautiful shapes, their branches and trunks taking on bonsai like twists and turns. The clean air here meant they wear coats of lichen, moss and algae. The first three pictures below are of a dead tree, partly felled but still giving a home to these tiny members of the plant world.

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On our return back along the track we took a detour to see if we could get a closer look at the falls by going upwards. The path rose steeply and we found ourselves on a ledge almost halfway up the falls so we did get different views but not as dramatic as we had hoped for.

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What a great place this is, possibly as close to wilderness as we can find in this part of Wales. The walk isn’t easy or indeed sensible for either of us – me walking with a crutch and one leg without any feeling and Jude being scared of heights and hating walking with a gap alongside. But we did it and we enjoyed! And we will probably do it again! No – we will definitely do it again!