On January 15th the current Chairman of our society, David Woodthorpe, gave a fascinating presentation featuring his immediate locality. David lives in Grange in Borrowdale and for the last few years has regularly repeated an early morning walk around surrounding area.
Although his route is not long, perhaps four miles if he completes the entire circuit, it takes him through a wide variety of natural habitats and it is his patience to just stand and watch and listen that makes his walk such a source of satisfaction and pleasure for him.
David is a talented photographer and we were able to share, through his photographs, some of the fascinating creatures and plants he has studied, from the tiniest of Leafhopper insects, just a few millimetres long to Roe Deer and the sheep and cattle in the fields he passes through.
Such an interest means that his walk has become a gentle wander rather than a route march and he never knows how long it will take him, or even how much of the whole route he will undertake; indeed he has written a very well received book “A Wander to Wonder: The Best Walk in Borrowdale” which is heavily illustrated with his own photographs.
Crossing the iconic double arched bridge over the River Derwent, (we saw photos of the river in flood during Storm Desmond as well as the unfortunate bus that crashed into the parapet),
his walk takes him up onto rather boggy fellside, a macro-photography paradise, with damselflies and numerous other insects as well fascinating plants such as the insectivorous Sundew
and then up onto Grange Crag which has fantastic views in all directions in spite of its lowly altitude. It is up here that David’s skill as a landscape photographer comes to the fore, at times aided by his ability to scramble into the best viewpoint to look directly down onto Grange village,
a sight not enjoyed by his wife Marilyn who was apparently watching fearfully from their house. Dropping down into Troutdale gives him the possibility of spotting Red Squirrels and Woodpeckers
before he emerges onto the Borrowdale road and crossing onto the fields running beside the River Derwent.
It is here that he may come into contact with some of the grazing livestock and he gave, what was for most of us, new facts about sheep management that he had gleaned in conversation with the local farmers who have become well used to him passing their way. He told us about Sand Martins nesting near the Chinese Bridge
and had managed the impressive feat of photographing some of these speedsters in flight. The raised walkway is another habitat altogether and it is an area that David got to know individual birds such as Reed Buntings or Willow Warblers
knowing exactly which branch of which bush he was likely to see them on; and having the patience to wait until they returned as predicted with a mouthful of insects for their young. Such fieldcraft as well as the individual birds getting used to him allowed him to take fantastic photographs.
And so the walk continues over wet and dry areas, past fields and woodland before gently ambling back down the back road into Grange. We were left greatly impressed by David’s enthusiastic presentation of what is the very traditional British trait of an enthusiastic amateur natural historian getting thoroughly to know his local patch, (think Gilbert White and the village of Selbourne from the 18th century), but with the added dimension of superb photography to record it all.