Why? – natural history

Natural history

On a trek of this duration, and being outdoors pretty much 24/7, I might have expected to come across lots of interesting wildlife.   But, if I’m honest, I didn’t.   In fact one of my sponsors e-mailed me to ask why I hadn’t blogged about interesting animals along the way and the simple answer was it was because I hadn’t actually seen any.

Peregrine falcon on the banks of the river Clyde.   honestly...
Peregrine falcon on the banks of the river Clyde. Honestly…

I think the two most interesting animals I saw were a hare, in Cornwall, a pine marten in Scotland, and a peregrine falcon on the banks of the Clyde (albeit the latter was from the comfort of an RSPB hide set up specially for viewing it).   I saw toads, a few deer and even a lizard, but nothing truly extraordinary.   I was desperate to see an otter, or a kingfisher, lurking on the banks of one of the many rivers i walked along, but I wasn’t in luck.   I think my lack of success is mostly because I’m particularly unobservant, but also partly because what wildlife there is in the UK tends to keep itself well hidden.

The flora were more interesting.   When I set off, it was pretty much still winter.   The trees were bare, and just a few daffodils were poking their heads into the daylight.   But as I walked north, spring caught up with me, and seemed to follow me all the way to the end.   First the bluebells came out – I  first noticed them in Bude, Cornwall, and they were sill in full bloom when I got to Loch Lomond.

Stunning "white bells" growing at the side of the path near Lynton
Stunning “white bells” growing at the side of the path near Lynton

The trees slowly came into leaf as I walked, too.   When the sun shone, and the new leaves shimmered iridescent green, the emerald display was dazzling.   I think the most impressive were along the Annandale Way, in the hills near Moffat.

Beautiful Britain clothed in springtime green - near Lochmaben
Beautiful Britain clothed in springtime green – between Lochmaben and Moffat

And talking of trees, I discovered that all our woodlands have different smells.   Although pine forests and spruce forests look very similar, they smell completely different.   Pine forests, unsurprisingly, smell of pine, whereas spruce smells like the scented candles you get in posh shops in Covent Garden.   And birch woodland is different again.  It has a fragrant apple-ish sort of scent, which is quite characteristic.   And outside the forests, a lot of Scotland smelled of bog-myrtle, whereas Cumbria smelled of sheep, and Wales smelled of farmyards.   I could almost tell where I was with my eyes closed, just by sense of smell!

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