The Southern Fells- Eskdale and Ravenglass
'The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal.'
The Lake District is a haven for wildlife. Eskdale and the West Coast are host to a variety of different habitats, the perfect place for spotting some hidden natural gems.
During my short stay in this area of outstanding natural beauty, I learnt of its incredible history including the emergence of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway as a result of Iron ore mining from the valley slopes. Bronze age settlers were the first people to farm the land, clearing the surrounding moors of trees, allowing their livestock to graze and creating space for cultivating crops. At this time, the marsh-like environment of the valley floor would have been unsuitable for farming, hence why the people chose to settle on higher, drier ground. Eskdale was also an important transportation link for the Romans, who built Hardknott fort (visible from the road coming down from Hardknott Pass into the valley). When the Vikings came to Eskdale, they drained the valley floor, thus allowing people to live down from the moor and use the fells for sheep grazing during the summer. (Some information taken from Friends of the Lake District, to visit their page go to https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/).
The River Esk that runs through the valley is surrounded partly by Hows Wood, and partly by farmland, ideal habitats for a number of different bird species; this includes: Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpeckers, Blackcaps and many more. The wood floor is damp, the perfect conditions for the growth of an array of fungi, and is home to a number of different amphibians, like the common toad.
Ravenglass, a picturesque coastal town, is about a 25 minute car journey from Eskdale, or a short ride on the Steam Railway if one prefers. At low tide, the shoreline is littered with signs of life, both past and present. Crab remains are scattered amongst the rocks, a sign that the bird life is perhaps taking advantage of what the sea has to offer! Washed up jellyfish, including these Chrysaora hysoscella (Compass jellyfish), can be found during the summer months. They still can give a painful sting when they're washed up like this, so observe them safely without touching them to avoid this.
Alfred Wainwright wrote in his book on the Southern Fells that 'all Lakeland is exquisitely beautiful; the Southern Fells just happen to be a bit of heaven fallen upon the earth' and I can honestly say that he is absolutely right. Despite my stay only being short, this place of mystical natural beauty will hold a place in my heart for a very long time. I fully recommend it to anyone and everyone, as a place to go in order to experience its true wonders.