Sunday, 24 June 2018

Post 486 - Fundraising for Fabulous Owls - Stage 1

Hey everyone, today's post is a little update.

Where it all started - the walk and, well, me too really!
A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I was going to do a bit of fundraising to see if I could help the BTO Owl Appeal to raise more money to be able to understand how to help these wonderful but struggling creatures. It's going ok so far. I set a target of £2,000 as I just didn't know what would be a good or realistic target. So far I'm up to £350 or 17% of that target. That's 3 and a half times more than I raised last time I did something like this so I'm pretty happy but hoping to make it much better yet.

Amazing countryside and weather.
So my challenge is to walk the Nidderdale Way, 52 miles around some amazing Yorkshire countryside. I'm doing the Nidderdale Way  because of my connection with the Wild Watch project, I'm its youth patron, and this year they've been doing a lot of work with Owls, so it all seemed to fit nicely.

The first challenge though has been trying to find time to fit it in! I'm not set up for backpacking so I'm doing it with Dad when we can get lifts there and back. Happily this weekend, with the weather being so amazing, Mum was able to drop us off and my Grandad picked us up at the end of the stage.

So late morning we were dropped off by Mum in Ripley. I started with stage 4 as Ripley is a bit special to us, it's where Mum and Dad got married, so I decided to start here. We set off from the castle and headed out into the countryside. The route was lovely, taking in fields, passing through woods, crossing little babbling becks and gently taking us on a meandering route though the AONB. We passed a deserted medieval village which I couldn't make out - I will need to explore better when I have more time, and continued on until we hit our first point for a little break at a lovely village called Shaw Mills.
Heading on to Brimham Moor

We didn't stop long as we had a timetable to stick to as Grandad was under instructions from Mum to pick us up a set time as we had friends coming for dinner. So we headed off on the next stretch which was just as nice through more fields, woods, along streams and passing some lovely places like Brimham Lodge. We followed the route of a Monks Wall and enjoyed the view.

A bit of a surprise find!
Then suddenly as we went through a gate the terrain changed. We were suddenly into the moorland of Brimham Moor. That was the first surprise, the next was quite alarming at first as there was a funny grunting - what was it - well pigs of course! Two of them cuddled up sleeping. Never seen that before!

We passed through Brimham Moor and we could see  a few of the rock formations which Brimham is famous for but we also enjoyed Skylarks flying high and singing and a lovely Fritillary butterfly that was too quick to see exactly what it was.

Some rocks at Brimham.
We'd been enjoying the walk and the scenery a bit too much, taking our time, enjoying the views and the wildlife we saw along the way and time was escaping us a bit so we pressed on and got as far as Glasshouses before we had to get picked up. So I'll have to do the little stretch into Pateley Bridge next time. To be honest though I like stopping, admiring the views and exploring the wildlife so I think it's going to take me longer than I thought!

Thank you to everyone that has donated so far, I really appreciate it and so will the Owls.

If you haven't yet but could see your way to helping out then you can donate on my Just giving page:

I'll keep you updated as I do more!

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Post 485 - Lord Lieutenant & Cracking Cairngorms

Hey everyone, I don't know where the time goes these days but glad I've finally found the time to write up a little blog about a recent visit I had to the Cairngorms. 

This trip came about because I was lucky enough to be awarded the North York Moors National Park Trust Young Ranger Award. It was the first one they did and I was amazed to win. The prize was some cash to put towards visiting another national park and I had to attend a prize giving ceremony at the Moors Centre at Danby to be presented with my prize by the Lord Lieutentant of North Yorkshire Barry Dodd. 

This made us both laugh
 - but I really didn't thump the Lord Lieutenant!
I mention this in particular as it was great to meet Barry and he was a really nice man, he wrote me a lovely letter afterwards that I have hung on my wall congratulating me and being very nice about all the things I do for nature. He also laughed at this photo we took at the ceremony where it looks like I'm thumping him. I promise I wasn't! That's probably treason! So it was very sad to hear whilst I was in the Cairngorms that Barry had died in a helicopter accident. I didn't know Barry well or for very long but it was a pleasure to have met him.

It was a bit of a strange co-incidence to hear the news whilst on the trip that the award made possible but it made me all the more determined to get the most out of the opportunity. So what did I do?
A random stop and a Redstart!

Well, I had an amazing nature filled week of course. The weather was amazing too, clear skies and warm days all week. 

The journey was long but we made the best of it by taking nice quiet routes where we could. That was rewarded by nice views and on one little stop we pulled up right next to this Redstart.

We stayed right next to Craigellachie National Nature Reserve in Aviemore which was amazing in itself. Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warblers, Roe Deer, Peregrines, Heron were some of the things I saw on a few walks I had here. On the second night I walked up to the top of the hill with Dad and was rewarded with some fantastic views over the Cairngorms.


I had one or two special trips lined up as the North York Moors National Park kindly put me in touch with the folks at Cairngorm National Park so I was able to organise a few things.

A Wheatear at Glen Tanar
The first was a land rover safari on the Glen Tanar estate, which is next to the Queen's Balmoral Estate. This was a really interesting visit. Not only did we see some fantastic wildlife, like a Green Hairstreak, Osprey, Ring Ouzel and Wheatear, but we learnt all about the way the estate is managed. Glen Tanar is managing the estate a bit differently to a lot of the estates in Scotland and is very conservation focused. We saw lots of work that they are doing to allow the moorland to revert to woodland. The landscape isn't 'Sheepwrecked' and the only animals that are shot on the estate are deer but only to control their numbers and keep everything in balance. You can pay to go Deer stalking here but it is nice to know that the money is used to help the estate be maintained for forestry and conservation.  The land rover safari was a great way to see a lot of the estate and what it is doing. You even get a little picnic half way round and that's where I was able to see the Green Hairstreak and a big Wood Ant nest.
Cairngorm Summit

Snowbunting in summer plumage on Cairngorm
The second trip I'd organised was with Natural Retreats to have a look around the top of Cairngorm. I was looking forward to this as I was hoping to see a few nice species like Ptarmigan, Dotteral, Mountain Hare and Snow Bunting. We met our guide, Ruari, at the Ranger Station and headed up the hill. A big advantage of a guided tour is that you can use the railway to take you most of the way up the hill. Otherwise if you want to go to the summit you have to walk up. Well with all the walking I was doing that week it was nice to use the railway and Ruari told us lots about it, how it worked and how many people it carried up and down the hill. I found it strange that on a clear sunny very warm day with incredible views ( I could see the five highest peaks in the UK and I was on the sixth highest) that I was there in the off season. Winter and skiing is the busy time.

Dotterel on Cairngorm
So, off the railway and on to the top of the hill. Looking back down the hill, there were amazing views as the only clouds you could see were clouds of pine pollen blowing off the trees way down in the valley.  Rurai told us all about how special and delicate the environment on the top of Cairngorm is, it has lots of national and international designations as it is such a special environment. Ruari was explaining how they maintain it and how easy it is for it to be damaged so they have to manage visitor numbers and routes very carefully. That's why you can't normally use the railway to get up the hill and then go for a walk around.

Amazing views and sky on Cairngorm
What a place though. Amazing views and I got to see Dotterel, Mountain Hare and Snow Bunting on that trip up. Later in the week I went back and got to see a Ptarmigan too. Ruari was a great guide and what a fantastic job he has!

There was more to come of course. Dad had also found out about a Badger hide run by a wildlife group at Boat of Garten. We met up with an amazing champion for nature Alan Bantick. He told us so much about what he had done in the area including being one of the lead people for reintroducing Beavers back into Scotland. He'd set up the hide in the 1990's and has had all sorts of people visit it with him like Chris Packham and Nick Baker. 

Badger at dusk
We met up with Alan just before dusk and he drove us to the hide. Once there he set things up, basically putting a bit of food out for the Badgers and swapping out a memory card in a camera trap. I think we were there about five or ten minutes and then the Badgers started to emerge. I think I have only ever distantly glimpsed a Badger once before as where I live is mostly arable farms. So it was an amazing experience to sit and watch up to six or seven badgers at a time foraging, playing and grooming. It was an amazing experience that will stay with me for a very long time.

No King Eider but I did see a lovely Slavonian Grebe
Aside from that we spent the week exploring different areas, Lochs, the Coast and different bits of the Cairngorms. I got to see a few Red Squirrels and Seals but I didn't see everything I wanted, King Eider was one species I'd hoped to see, but it didn't matter as I had an amazing time. 

I'm very grateful to everyone that made this trip possible, the North York Moors National Park Trust for the award that made this possible and to all the people in the Caringorms, especially The Glen Tanar EstateNatural Retreats and Allan Bantick, that helped me to get the most out of the visit. I will definitely be back!

Hope you enjoyed,