I suppose this photo might have all sorts of hidden gems in it – there may be a rare moss or liverwort there but what caught my eye were the innocent loking Amanita phalloides var alba which could look a bit like ‘wild mushrooms’ but are really Death Caps. They’re usually a vaguely yellow or greenish on the cap but this is the variety that looks most like a field mushroom. Two things ought to warn you of danger immediately – firstly Field Mushrooms don’t have that name by accident, they grow in fields. Secondly, Death Caps have white gills, not brown.
We were in Eskdale, walking back down from the spectacular Stanley Force which lies on on a tributary steam to the River Esk. “Force” seems to be the local name for waterfalls – and when you see one with this power it’s altogether appropriate. It’s about 60′ according to the guidebooks, but I’d put the depth from the lip at nearer 40′, maybe 60′ from the top of the gorge. Either way round you wouldn’t want to fall from there. When you look up at it there’s a tremendous sense of exposure, but actually the path isn’t nearly as bad as it looks, notwithstanding the warnings everywhere. The biggest challenge was driving rain; the whole gorge looked and felt like a chillly tropical forest. Fabulous bryophytes there. I don’t know much about them except that when you look at them through a pocket magnifier they’re absolutely beautiful. The last climb up to the viewpoint was a bit of a scramble but what with the noise and the height it was properly exciting. One of Wainwright’s favourite places, they say – but then everyone who wants to sell an ice cream in the lakes makes the same claim. There are a number of newish footbridges in place to cross the beck, and without them the whole enterprise would be a bit of a desperate scramble unless you were prepared to wade across. As we were walking up someone spotted a red squirrel, but despite moving as quietly as we could we never found any. On the way back we met a man who’d been up the fell in May and had found Mountain Ringlet butterflies there – sady, life’s just too short for me to do it all! The Western Fells are very beautiful, it’s a shame they’re so far from our home.
But that wasn’t all we did today because we’re staying in Ravenglass and that’s at one end of the narrow gauge Ravenglass and Eskdale railway line that runs up Eskdale to Dalegarth, the starting point of our walk. We’d chosen to go today because it was forecast to be sunny and dry. However we’re in the Lake District which has its own climate, and it rained heavily on and off all day – luckily we took our waterproofs and enjoyed the challenge.We travelled up the line in a little carriage, but coming back we rode in one of the open trucks which was much more fun, open to the weather and the spectacular views. I was born and brought up next to the main line north from Bristol and the sheer smell of engine smoke and steam sets of a firework display of childhood memories.