When autumn days are clear and warm, as they have been for the last week, the land comes alive with shades of gold, and the low sun picks out and burnishes the land. On Monday for our public walk to the Langstrath Birch we strolled for five hours through this vibrant landscape, always with the beck by our side. We were at the tree on Friday as well, with Jean Johnson from Natural England, finding out more about the ecology of this Lake District Valley. We’ll be sharing more about our conversation with Jean in a later blog post.
While we were walking with the fifteen people who had booked on the public walk, the sounds of birds and flowing water that always fill this valley were joined by the calls of two farmers gathering in some of their herdwicks on the steep sides of Long Band, bringing them to lower ground for the tupping season. One of their dogs, apparently known as ‘Skiver’, had slipped away from the hard work on the fell and joined us on our walk to the tree, an unexpected addition to the party. As we walked we shared what we have learned about some of the valley’s special features, including the vast oak woods, small leaved lime that is over 800 years old, thriving, but unable to reproduce (cooler summers since the 1300s have meant that the seeds do not reach viability this far north in England), and Smithy Mire Island, where ore mined on Bow Fell was once smelted.
We lunched at the tree, all of us utterly relaxed in the sunshine. The Langstrath Birch managed to ignite a smile in everyone who met it.
A poem written at the Langstrath Birch: Paper Bark