Day 5 – Walking the Edges.
A last minute cancellation from his climbing partner meant that my housemate had to change plans and so I got to spend a lovely day walking in the Peak District National Park with him. Robbie decided where we were going as we went along, which suited me fine as he knows the area so much better than me. I love driving but it was quite nice to be a passenger for a change and be able to take in all the scenery. I saw a buzzard being mobbed by a crow above the road, a kestrel and even a little stoat run across in front of us! There were some cute villages with beautiful houses too – I love the stone they use to build around that area, it’s so distinctive. It was kind of grey and hazy as we were driving up but in the short time it took to reach Chesterfield, the sun had come out and it was getting pretty hot. We parked somewhere (near North Lees campsite?), sun-creamed up and set off along the top towards Burbage North Edge.
I’m quite excitable when it comes to being outside and surrounded by beautiful countryside. Robbie was warned by my other housemate (who recently accompanied me walking bits of the Cantabrian coastline) before we left that I would probably stop every few minutes to look at something (insects) and that I’m prone to tripping/slipping/falling over. I feel that this is an undeserved reputation, although I did end up needing stitches on my recent trip to Spain… Anyway, today I was on my best behaviour and only stopped to look at the really interesting inverts, such as the striped millipedes (Ommatoiulus sabulosus) and this wonderful hairy Oak Eggar moth (Lasiocampa quercus) caterpillar…
We stopped for lunch by some boulders just off the path between Burbage North Edge and Burbage South Edge. I watched the birds and Robbie watched the climbers. Throughout the day he talked a bit about climbing and showed me a couple routes he wants to do. It’s well interesting but it’s like a whole different language. I suppose it’s the same with anything when you get to a certain level. I’ve only been climbing twice outside and the last time was 6 years ago at Cheesewring, Bodmin Moor with other volunteers and keepers from The Monkey Sanctuary. I’d really like to try again sometime but I don’t think I’d be very good at it… although I’m not so scared of heights and things anymore 🙂
Looking for invertebrates is much easier… Today I saw a few butterflies, including a Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) and a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). There were a couple of blues and plenty of whites flitting about and I was very restrained in not chasing them through the scrub with my camera. There were quite a few beetles too and I spotted my first nomad bee species!
One of my highlights though was spotting two ring ouzels (Turdus torquatus). Robbie had told me about them before: how they nest in the crags at Stanage & Burbage and in the breeding season there are signs to stop climbers from doing certain routes near the nesting sites. Ring ouzels were red-listed in the Birds of Conservation Concern 4 report, published in December 2015, due to a population decline of over 50% in 25 years (according to BTO statistics, between 1991 and 2012 ring ouzel numbers fell by as much as 72%). This area in the Peak District National Park is a bit of a stronghold for them, with great gullies and crevices for nesting and lots of heather coverage too (which apparently they like). I saw the first one when we were having lunch and originally I thought it was a juvenile female blackbird (Turdus merula) but the shape wasn’t quite right and there was a bit more of a sheen to the feathers which had light edges. Female ring ouzels lack the prominent white crescent moon but the pale edging on their brown feathers gives a ‘fish scale’ like effect, distinguishing them from female blackbirds. The second ring ouzel was a male that flew across the path a little way in front of us. I described it to Robbie as ‘like a blackbird but with a white ring around it’s neck’. He said ‘maybe it’s a ring ouzel’ (which had been kind of a theme throughout the day) and so I thought he was joking but when we looked it up it was spot on 🙂
We ended up doing a (kind of) figure of eight centering the millstones at Stanage Edge and extending in one direction towards Burbage South Edge and over Higger Tor, then in the other direction to the end slab of Stanage Edge and back down to the car park. I have to say that I lived up to my clumsy reputation by tripping on a downhill slope and ended up rolling on the ground (obviously exaggerated for comic effect and I’m sure I could have kept my balance if I’d have felt that way inclined…ha!) Hopefully my housemates won’t think I’m too much of a liability and we can go out again sometime soon 🙂
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