Blog Site by Appointment to His Regal Majesty the Maalie King

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Maalie's Five lake Adventure - Part 2

I woke up in my X-trail at first light, and sensed something was wrong. I could hear the trees blowing and the cloud cover had increased in the night and the wind had got up quite strong. I heaved myself into a sitting position, looked out of the side window and saw that Lowes Water looked quite gloomy and in no state for kayaking. I brewed a pot of tea on my camping stove, ate a banana and decided to set off straight for home for a hot bath.


Wastwater is renowned as being the deepest and the most austere of the English Lakes

The hot tea seemed to restore my energy and so I decided to return home via Wast Water (which was on my list) just to look at it. As I arrived, the wind seemed just a little lighter, it was not actually raining and so I decided to have a go.

Wastwater is 260 feet deep and has the steepest scree slopes in the country, and being rather exposed there is little surrounding vegetation, giving it a rather austere outlook. Nevertheless, I launched and paddled over to the far side and cruised at the foot of the scree banks.

The scree slopes at Wastwater are as steep as is is geologically possible for them to be.
They are rarely stable long enough for vegetation to grow to any extent

The scree descends at that angle for 260 feet down under the water

I nose in to the foot of a scree slope and look right up.
Not for long, the next rock slide could happen at any moment!

Coniston Water

By the time I had finished with Wastwater, the weather was deteriorating rapidly. But Maalie had set his target as five lakes, so five it must be! I headed to my familiar Coniston Water and sat in the car reading Dan Brown until the rain stopped. But it didn't! So I launched anyway, but visibility was very poor in the drizzle, so no stunning scenic photos on offer here, I'm afraid!

Coniston Water in the drizzle. The wind is getting up too. Well, I need practice in the rough...

Is that a sail I see before me? So I'm not the only madman to venture out today

As a blue sail disappears into the misty drizzle,
it is time for me to get home for that long-awaited hot bath!

And I enjoyed every minute of it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Maalie's Five Lake Adventure - Part 1

The advertisement for my new Feel-Free Nomad Kayak claims: "It will soon become your friend". I was keen to put this claim to the test with a tour of some of the more remote lakes in Cumbria's Lake District. Setting off from Maalie Court at 5.00am, I launched onto Derwent Water at exactly 8.00am on a flat-calm clear morning.

Derwent Water

The hills of Borrowdale reflected in the calm of Derwent Water

I head off towards an island in the lake with the fells of Skiddaw as a backdrop

A group of Cormorants soak up the early morning sun on a rocky outcrop in Derwent Water

Crummock Water

After an hour and a half of exploring Derwent Water, the boat was back on the roof rack of my X-Trail to head up into Borrrowdale towards what is claimed to be the prettiest sight in Cumbria, namely Buttermere. Unfortunately there was nowhere close enough to the lake edge to park and launch the boat and so I continued on up to Crummock Water.

By midday, a gentle breeze was just rippling the surface of Crummock water

Looking north on Crummock Water, with cumulus clouds above the lake

I pull ashore on an island in Crummock Water in order to admire my boat from the shore.
It already feels like it is becoming my friend

Incidentally, Crummock Water was given an alternative name in honour of my Norwegian ballerina friend Helén during her visit to the Lake District in May 2005. We named it Helén's Water.

Helén poses en attitide (left) at the edge of Crummock Water (a.k.a. Helén's Water) in May 2005, and in costume (right - this photo from her FB).

After exploring Crummock Water, I adventured forth to the smaller lake of Lowes Water.

Lowes Water

Evening at Lowes Water, looking South. The lake is renowned for its population of pike and though I tried fishing for a couple of hours, I did not catch one

A call of nature obliges me to find a concealed haven
in which to pull ashore for a few moments

By the time I came off Lowes Water it was time for my evening meal, cooked on my camping stoves, and then to settle down for the night. After a day of beautiful weather, the clouds appeared to be gathering in the evening gloom. But I still had two more lakes to explore...

That will be a story for my next post!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The March-Auen

A year ago I described the woodland flood plain that borders the River Danube between Vienna and the Slovakian border near Bratislava, known as the Donau Auen. There is another river, the River March, that flows south along the border of Slovakia and Austria that feeds into the Danube near Hainburg, a little upstream from Bratislava. This river similarly has a forested flood plain, known as the March-Auen, which I was able to visit recently.

The River March near the village of Marchegg;
Slovakia is on the far bank and Austria the near bank

Much of the March-Auen is conservation area, in particular the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) reserve just north of the village of Marchegg. At this point the River March regularly floods its banks, inundating the surrounding meadows and forests creating what is more typically eastern European marsh landscape. The area is enormously rich in birds and other wildlife, with many species of raptors, both species of stork, River Warbler, woodpeckers, owls and Kingfisher. The reserve at Marchegg is one of the top priorities for wildlife tour groups visiting the area.

The White Stork colony at Marchegg is one of the largest tree-nesting colonies in Europe

The Au-forest is inter-laced with wet pools, a rich habitat for wildlife

The retreat of recent flooding leaves a tangle of fallen trees, assisted by the work of beavers

Research along the River March - the bird-ringing station near Hohenau an der March

Wildlife of the March-Auen includes the Red Squirrel...

...the Suslik (Ziesel) which can be found on higher, drier ground...

...and deer may be surprised as they graze in the meadows between the forest groves

Birds of the region include the blue-headed form of the Yellow Wagtail

And as a rare special treat, an Imperial Eagle soars over the March-Auen forests

Monday, July 12, 2010

Maalie is afloat again!

Yes, after being boat-free for a number of years, I am now on the water again! The craft is a kayak in the "Feel Free" range, the "Nomad" class. Light and robust, it can be managed comfortably by one person and is ideal for exploring the Cumbria lakes and rivers; and on the sea in fine weather. A small wheel in the keel at the rear allows it to be trundled from the car to any launching place.

Putting my Feelfree Nomad through its paces on Coniston Water in Cumbria

Venturing further out as I get the feel of the kayak

A view of the Old Man of Coniston from the cockpit

The kayak is light enough to be lifted onto the roof of my X-trail
where it sits on an inflatable roof rack

My thanks to Jill of Windermere Canoe and Kayak for her patience in kitting me out!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

An armchair tick...

I have already described the compulsiviness with which birdwatchers compile lists of bird species they have seen in a year. Lists may relate to their county, country, garden, or even on their route to work. The acquistion of a new species for a list is known as a "tick": hence, "year tick", "garden tick", "holiday tick" and so on. The most important tick of all is the "life tick" (also known as a lifer) which gets added to one's "life list" when seen anywhere for the very first time.

I had to wait until retirement before I added Imperial Eagle to my life list. It was the Spanish sub-species (i.e. "race" or "form") which I saw in Extremedura in April 2009.

Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti, Extremedura, Spain, April 2009

My next Imperial Eagle was the "Eastern" sub-species which I saw in Burgenland near the Austria/Hungary border earlier this year. Very exciting, of course, and a new tick for my Austria list. However, being only a "sub-species" I could not claim it as a "life tick".

I have only recently discovered that taxonomists have since got to work with their DNA analyses and have proclaimed that the Spanish sub-species and the Eastern sub-species are sufficiently genetically and ecologically distinct as to be regarded as quite separate species, rather than mere sub-species.

An Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, flies overhead at the March-Auen, Austria, 2010

Hooray! That's good! As I sit in the comfort of my arm chair as I type this, I can add Eastern Imperial Eagle as another "tick" to my life list without doing any extra work!

This is known as an "armchair tick"!