It was with a distinct pang of regret that I left the Grant Arms Hotel after breakfast on Wednesday, 16th June. As during my previous stay in June 2019, I had felt so well looked after. For anyone who would like a holiday in the Cairngorms – not just for wildlife purposes – I cannot recommend it highly enough.
But it was time to make my way southwards. Indeed, I needed to descend (map-wise that is) through Scotland rather more speedily than I had travelled on my way ‘up’, as I wanted to spend a couple of hours at RSPB Loch Leven, given that it was so near to Kinross Services. So I took the faster A9 road, and stopped for no photos, much as I would have liked to. As the previous week, I plugged Steve Richards’s latest podcast into my ears, having downloaded it at the hotel, and was pleased to find that he had taken, not for the first time, one of my comments or questions to respond to. Moreover, he had mentioned my journey northwards. (And the following week he did the same again, this time referring to my journey southwards. He enjoys including personal references to his listeners who contact him.)
After stocking up on fuel and food provisions at Kinross Services, I made my way to Loch Leven, and spent a couple of hours there, in three hides, each quite close to the others. As I moved to, between, and from the hides, I enjoyed looking at the the wildflower meadows as much as I did at the birds.
Way in the distance I spotted one of my favourite birds, a lapwing, aka peewit from its call.
And then I noticed one ferreting around much closer to the hide.
It stayed quite a while. I moved to the next hide. As with the others, I had it to myself.
There were several artificial ‘islands’ where birds could nest safely.
I took a final picture as I made my way back to my car afters two hours. I needed to move on.
Another enjoyable crossing via the Queensferry Bridge, though in rather faster moving traffic this time, and then I disobeyed my satnav’s instruction to avoid Edinburgh by using on the motorways surrounding the city to the south, and went instead across the top, parallel to the Forth, though sadly not actually seeing much of it. I had only visited Edinburgh once before, on a management course some 50 years previous (!) and I was pleased to see a little of it as I drove through in the very slow, sometimes stationary, traffic.
It was a lovely, but by now tiring, drive further along the Forth/North Sea coastline to Berwick-on-Tweed, where I was very happy to flop for the rest of the evening in my pre-booked B’n’B. It always amuses me when places give you a key to the front door, ‘for if you come in after 11 o’clock’. I wasn’t going anywhere after such a long day!
Fancying a short late morning walk in the Quantock Hills, I googled and found this, thanks to Quantockonline.com
Ideal. Nice length, water, and a picnic spot with a viewpoint. Splendid. Hawkridge Reservoir was built about sixty years ago to provide water to Bridgwater. Technical details here.
50 minutes away from my home according to the satnav. I arrived after 75 minutes – yes, more roadworks. It’s August.
I had some difficulty identifying the car park. I saw a broad entry to what was evidently a car park, but it had no panel saying it was for the public, so I drove on. I found nothing after a couple of hundred metres, so turned back and parked in the one I had seen, where there was just one other car, and this view.
The instructions said to go to the road and turn west, past a cottage on my left. So what did I do? I confused my east with my west. (My excuse was that, on both Ordnance Survey map and the plan, the car park is shown south of the road when in fact it was north – but I should have been more alert!) That cost me ten minutes. Having corrected my direction I found no cottage to my left, and made my way back to the car park. Faffing about for a while more
increased my loss of time to at least 30 minutes, until I realised that, according to the plan, my starting point should not have been at level of the the reservoir’s dam, but more than halfway along its length. ‘They’ had evidently changed the location of the car park since the plan had been drawn, and my OS map was also pretty old.
No public access to the top of the dam.
Hooray, I now knew where I was, at Point 4 on the plan, not Point 1.
These are either scaup or tufted ducks. They are just minuscule dots on the previous picture, and some fishermen in a boat are not much larger.
The weather forecast having predicted only a 3% chance of rain, I had not taken any rain protection. So it was as well that as I reached the bottom of the slope and this splendid sweet chestnut tree,
and found myself at this stile (check – yes!), when the rain came I was entering this wood.
It was lovely hearing the rain but feeling not a drop of it.
By the time I reached this gate and bridge it had stopped.
Through some private land, now labelled Ebsley Cottage.
Emerging into ‘wilder’ territory once more, I was delighted to see this Scarlet Pimpernel. It is not rare but I had not seen any for a while.
At Point 6 I got a bit cross with the walk description. Quite clearly according to the plan one was to turn left, south-westish. There was a field to the right, but its boundary was on the left, with a wire fence between field and a coniferous wood. But the words said, ‘follow field boundary on the right.’ What was one to do? I turned left and had the boundary on my left. I was TO the right of the fence. The alternative would have been to turn north, up a slope and have another field boundary on my right. And I’d have got lost again.
I now also had the reservoir to my left. Only fishermen (fisherpeople?) have access to the water’s edge, and beyond, on to the water. This is their clubhouse.
I had to turn away to my right for a bit (Point 8), and, as I turned sharp left a minute or so later, was delighted to be able to rest my elbows on a stile to take photos of this yaffle, aka green woodpecker, at a great distance, as it looked for insects in the grass. I took many photos, and couldn’t decide on the best, so here are two.
As I encountered these, I couldn’t help but think of my friend Zoe who is always very cautious around cattle. With her words in my ears, I moved well south of them.
A lovely view ahead, spoiled by an ugly deforestation scar.
I turn round – they’re keeping an eye on me.
Above the scar is a flock of sheep.
A look back at the reservoir.
By the hedge there was a couple eating a picnic. Had I been nearer to them I would, with an explanation, have asked permission to take their photo, but an exchange of what the cliché calls ‘a cheery wave’ sufficed as greeting.
Down to the minor road, and to where I was to leave the circumnavigation of the reservoir to go up to the lime kiln, the viewpoint, and the picnic spot, for my late lunch.
I felt better about the scar now. And was not at a personal level as disappointed as I might have been. I was ready for my lunch, a Great Climb would have been ahead of me, (I have not mentioned hitherto that it was very hot) and I did not have my walking pole with me to help me down the later descent.
I walked on, thinking I should now see the space where the original car park would have been. Instead – yes – I found THE car park, a glorified lay-by, which had I continued another 300 metres I would have found. It had a nice view of the reservoir,
with some swans and a grey heron,
an information board,
and some people, in and out of cars. I walked on,
found the cottage, and the stile at Point 1, and sat on it to eat my picnic, with a lovely view,
and a better view of the swans.
The grey heron had moved to join its cousin, a little egret.
Difficult to get decent pictures at that distance, but there were also great crested grebes,
mallard ducks (?)
and the chance to get a better picture of the egret.
Back at my personal starting point in due course, I thought this quarry, way in the distance and over to my right, must be Callow Rock Quarry, near Cheddar, the entrance to which I have passed many times on the road, but never seen.
This panorama from ‘my’ car park takes in Wales, Brean Down and much of the Mendip Hills, including the above quarry.
It was time to move on to my other visit of the day.