Words & Wildflowers

7 June 2020

*Trigger warning* - Before reading, I wanted to just note that in this post I talk about the pandemic, how anxiety and depression have affected me over the past few months along with the mention of medication and therapy.

I've been contemplating what to do with this little blog of mine over the past couple of weeks. It's been a big part of my photography journey over the years and has helped me grow my passion. I've seen this blog change so much, right from the beginning, turning from sharing my day to day lifestyle favourites and slow living moments to sharing my love for the great outdoors, photographing the seasons as they go by. And most recently in the past year I've documented adventures from across the UK, sharing a new found love for following hiking trails and nature reserves from across the Peak District, Lake District and more. But since my last post, a lot has changed. This has probably been one of the most difficult posts I've written so far. The past two months have seen some of the most toughest days I've had to endure. Anxious during the difficulties and uncertainty of the pandemic and lockdown, starting a new job amongst many changes, family woes and finding myself falling into a dark place again.

I've struggled to accept what's happened in the world, struggled to accept how this could have happened. How one moment life was bursting with plans and new beginnings and then suddenly it all gets turned upside down. I've had days of not eating, coming home from work with headaches, falling asleep early but waking up feeling like I haven't slept at all, and times of suddenly overcoming this feeling of dread and panic when my mind starts to think too deeply into what is going on in the world. I've tried medication recently but I didn't think they were right for me and so my therapist and I have been working on coming to terms with everything and finding ways to control my anxiety. It's going to be a long and tough process but I'm trying my hardest to get through it all. The pandemic has affected us all in some way and with our own personal struggles added on top of that can add extra to what we're going through already.

Nature has always been my way of escape. It's always been my way of finding inner peace again after going through struggles with my anxiety. Even through the most difficult days, I've got myself outdoors and surrounded myself by nature and wildlife. I've been walking through my local nature trail and beside the canal and I've surprised myself with so many things I haven't noticed before around the area that's so close to home. I've noticed so many birds that I didn't realise were living in the trees such as goldfinches, long tailed tits, chiffchaffs, nuthatches and treecreepers. I've always enjoyed seeing the bright and colourful display of wildflowers in the spring and summer months, but I never noticed the way the evening golden hour sunlight shone upon the flowers and trees. I've had some amazing encounters with wildlife lately, watching a nuthatch swoop in and out of a bird box, held out my hand to allow a damselfly onto my hand and saw little blue tit chicks inside a nest in an open tree trunk.

I've been trying to find good moments amongst the difficult days and it's been moments in nature where most of the good has come from. I've been watching Spring Watch over the past two weeks and there's been many mentions about how being outdoors can help your wellbeing and I really do believe it to be true. And so I bring myself back to making a decision about the blog. I've had ideas about deleting certain posts and starting over again and even deleting the whole blog entirely. But alongside getting outdoors in nature, writing has always been something that has been helpful for me. I've talked about my struggles with anxiety in the past on the blog and I connected with others who had been going through similar difficulties with their own mental health. After writing this post I thought I would take things one step at a time and maybe begin sharing more about nature and wildlife.

I'll leave this post here and I'll be back sometime soon.

Back to Buttermere

2 April 2020

It's a difficult time for us all right now, but throughout these tough times, all we can do is hold on, try our hardest to stay positive and know that we will get through this. My anxiety has been up and down over these past few weeks, but I've been trying my hardest to do things to help me keep calm and relaxed and also get myself back into therapy sessions. I've been getting out to my local nature trail a few times in the week, just to get some fresh air and listen to the birds sing in the trees. It's been nice to see more of spring coming to life, with flowers popping up everywhere and green starting to appear on the trees. I've been getting back into writing again and I thought I would still continue to share previous adventures and nature pieces on the blog. I thought I would start by sharing a few photos from our trip to Buttermere in the Lake District a few weeks back.

We visited Buttermere in the Lake District for the first time last year in spring and absolutely fell in love with the place. The lake itself is surrounded by mountains and if on a clear day where the water is still, you'll be able to see the reflections of the tall mountains upon the water. There's a path that takes you around the whole of Buttermere lake and there's just so much to see along this circular trail. We didn't complete the circular trail the first time we visited, but I'm glad we did this time as we didn't realise that there are Highland cows halfway along the trail!

The water seemed to be a lot higher than the first time we visited as the large rocks we saw in the water had now been covered. It was a rather moody, cloudy day but the mountains looked spectacular and we spotted a dusting of snow on top of them. Whilst taking photos of the mountains across the lake, there were two ducks who kept greeting us, knowing that we had food in our pockets for them. And not to mention the Herdwick sheep that were grazing in the fields too nearby.

Once we had taken a few shots of the mountains across the lake, we set off for our walk around the lake. Although it's a circular walk around the lake, it had varied terrain and parts where you could wander off through the trees, beside babbling brooks and along the pebbles at the edge of the lake. We were very happy to see the Highland cows towards the bottom of the walk, who were sat lying on the grass enjoying the views surrounding them. The other side of the walk took us up some rocks and through a tunnel and we could see the dramatic mountains on the other side with a rushing waterfall and patches of snow. We then ended up back at the start again and gave the rest of our seeds to the ducks and watched as they waddled away happy along the lake.

Buttermere Valley

Adventuring RSPB Leighton Moss Nature Reserve

14 March 2020

Last week we decided to escape away for a long weekend away in the Lake District, one of our favourite National Parks in the UK. On our way up to the Lakes we stopped off in Arnside & Silverdale for an explore around Leighton Moss RSPB nature reserve.

We've been absolutely loving visiting different RSPB locations over the past few months and Leighton Moss caught my eye as I was looking for places close to the Lake District. It has the largest reed bed in the north-west England and is home to some spectacular wildlife. We were glad to have decided to put our wellies on before starting our walks, as most parts of some of the trails were flooded and we found ourselves wading through the water towards the hides and through the trails.

We walked in through the visitor centre and out into the garden trail where we saw lots of bug and bee hotels, hedgehog homes and bird feeders. We walked over to a little pond where a female duck was floating on the water with her beak tucked into her feathers. She woke up as we walked over to the pond and was happy to come and sit with us, but much more happy about being fed some seed! We walked over to the bird feeders which had a lot of attention from chaffinches and blue tits, that we saw swooping to and from each feeder. I spotted a pheasant which appeared from below the feeders, who seemed very friendly and came up to us in search for some seeds. I couldn't believe how close we were to a pheasant and Dan even hand fed the pheasant some food!

There was this peaceful energy sweeping through Leighton Moss, we felt so relaxed walking through the trails and taking in the views and all the wildlife that was surrounding us. We walked across the boardwalk amongst the reed bed and then along the trail for the Causeway hide and Lower hide. As we made our way towards the first hide we heard plenty of geese and ducks and saw many types of birds flying overhead and looking out of the windows in the Causeway hide we could see the mountains in the distance.

On our way to the Lower hide we wandered through a path that took us amongst the trees and we came across a bench that had some seeds left on the arm rests and we watched as the birds swooped down from the trees to take some of the food left for them. We stopped off at the Lower hide to eat some lunch whilst watching the geese fly over the wetland and took some photos of lapwings and cormorants that we spotted by the edge of the wetland. We then set off, wading again back through the flooded trail path until we reached the spot where we had left seeds for the birds. We spent a while taking photos of the little blue tits, great tits, robins and chaffinches that were in the trees and collecting seeds. I decided to grab a handful of seeds and hold out my hand towards the birds and within a minute or so a great tit swooped over our heads and landed on my hand to take some seeds!

We made our way to the Skytower to have a look at the view across Leighton Moss, where we could see the views of the mountains in the distance and Morecambe Bay the other side. As it was starting to get later, we walked towards the other hides that we were yet to explore. On our way to the Tim Jackson hide and Grizedale hide Dan spotted a robin who was perched singing on a tree branch. I walked slowly over to the robin and held out a couple of seeds in my hand and straight away the robin flew onto my hand and was sat for a while pecking at the seeds. Dan had a go too and held out some seeds and the robin flew straight onto his hand to take a few seeds. We also fed some ducks who waddled up to us on our way to the hides!

After exploring the last two hides we made our way back to the start and back to the garden again where we left the last of our seeds for the birds.

RSPB Leighton Moss & Morecambe Bay
Trail guide

Exploring Middleton Lakes

24 January 2020

Over the past month or so we've been out and about exploring some of the RSPB's nature reserves where we've come across so much wildlife. Dan has been experimenting with wildlife photography and so I've been enjoying taking on a bit of wildlife photography for a change. We recently visited Middleton Lakes, which is located not too far from Tamworth, which is surrounded by beautiful wetland, meadows and woodland in the River Tame Valley. Ever since our visit to the Osprey Centre in the Cairngorms, where I hand fed the little Coal Tits, I was determined to hand feed some more birds and so we bought along a bag of seed to bring with us on our walk.

We arrived at Middleton Lakes and as soon as we made our way across a boardwalk beside a reedbed we spotted blue tits, robins and plenty of other birds swooping down from the trees and taking food from the feeders. I put down some seed on the ground and watched as this robin jumped down from a branch and took a couple of seeds with him, he seemed rather happy to be fed some seeds as he kept coming back and forth for more food. We set off into the woodland area following the path through the trees. We saw another little robin chirping away on a branch in front of us and so I held out my hand with a couple of seeds and amazingly he swooped down and took some seeds from my hand. We continued through the woodland and out into the open again where we saw a bunch of logs standing up together with seeds scattered all over them. We stood and watched for a while as lots of birds swooped down from the trees and landed on the logs where the seeds were. We spotted blue tits, robins and nuthatches take the seeds and fly back to the trees.

After taking photos of the birds at the logs, we carried along the path where we spotted another robin up in a tree. I held out my hand again with some seeds and the robin straight away flew down onto my hand. I just couldn't believe how long the robin sat on my hand for and it even posed for the camera! We walked over a bridge along the canal, and set off along the wetland area where we walked beside lakes and reedbeds and stopped off in the Lookout hide. The winds were picking up and it was starting to rain and so after walking around the lakes we decided to head back towards the woodland again to see if the birds we still there. After taking some more photos of the birds and laying out the rest of the seeds, we headed back to the car for some lunch and a coffee.

RSPB Middleton Lakes

Adventures of 2019

14 January 2020

If there's one thing I learnt about myself last year, is that I truly find my passion within spending time outdoors. It's helped me a lot over the past year, It's become almost like a medicine for my anxiety. As soon as I step out with my walking boots on, it soothes my soul and allows me to reset again. My troubles may still be there, but for a while those problems are moved to the back of my mind. Instead all I'm thinking about is what's surrounding me. The colours of the landscapes, how tall the trees stretch up to the sky, reflections in the lakes, birds chirping in the trees, fungi that sweeps the forest floors, squirrels bouncing along the paths and mist hugging the pines and mountain tops. 

I started last year dreaming of going on some big adventures, to visit the rugged landscapes of Scotland and the magnificent lakes of the Lake District. And that dream became true. I met Dan, my boyfriend and adventure partner, who I've shared all these adventures with. And with our first adventure in the Peak District, came adventures from across the Lake District and up North to the Cairngorms. We've been to all kinds of places, exploring new landscapes and revisiting our favourite places throughout the seasons.

Although with plenty of ups and downs last year and going through a really tough patch with my anxiety, the adventures were what kept me going and have still kept me going. I would love to get back into sharing adventures again on the blog this year and so I thought I would start my first post of 2020 sharing highlights from our adventures from last year!

Back in spring we visited the Lake District for the first time, spending a week away in Windermere. We visited some of the most famous lakes, exploring Buttermere and Crummock Water, Ullswater and Derwent Water which we were very excited to find out that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was filmed there! We also wandered through two of the Lake Districts biggest forests, Whinlatter and Grizedale, where we followed waymarked trails that took us deep into the forests. The Lake District has certainly become our place, we loved it so much so that we took a couple of day trips over the summer months.

Although not a fan of the heat in summer, we still ventured out to the Peak District. We walked along part of the Monsal Trail, that took us through dark and mysterious old train tunnels and along viaducts amongst the trees. We took an evening sunset walk at Mam Tor and the Great Ridge and went back to the Lake District to climb Walla Crag. We then travelled down South to visit the New Forest for the first time, where we explored the tall trees trail, walking amongst the tallest Redwood pines. We'll definitely be planning another trip to the New Forest at some point soon!

When autumn began to arrive, we embraced every single moment of it. Visiting Snake Pass and Ladybower Reservoir as the trees started to show off their glorious autumn tones. I had seen on Twitter that the Derwent Dam was overflowing and so we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get some snaps of the overflowing water down the dam! We explored a couple of National Trust locations, Calke Abbey being one of our favourites where we spotted plenty of fungi amongst the woodland paths. Sherwood Pines, which is part of Forestry England was also a favourite to visit throughout autumn, the morning light was beautifully shining through the canopies of the tall pines and glowing upon the sea of copper ferns.

Our week away in Scotland was next up and we travelled all the way up to the Cairngorms National Park. It's a trip away I'll never forget, with so much wildlife and beauty amongst the landscapes, the Cairngorms was purely full of magic. I had been struggling with stress before going away to Scotland, feeling overly tired and drained and having lots of different things on my mind that had been worrying me. But once we went away to Scotland, all of what I had been worrying about had just been pushed to the back of my mind. Each day was an adventure and we had printed off plenty of walks beforehand so we could choose a couple to walk each day. There was something truly magical about the lochs in the Cairngorms and the views of the mountains in the distance. We even went to see the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, where we went on a guided hill walk to part of the Cairngorm Mountain range and walked amongst the reindeers.

We just couldn't believe how much wildlife we saw whilst away in the Cairngorms. One of our favourite moments from the trip was walking back to the car amongst the forest beside Loch Garten and then spotting our first ever red squirrel in a tree! We then went off to the Osprey Centre and saw more squirrels, woodpeckers and hand fed little coal tits with bird seed.

We continued to embrace the last of autumn and walked amongst the ancient woodlands of Padley Gorge to capture the last of the autumn colours. We had yet to properly explore parts of Yorkshire and so headed out to the North Yorkshire Moors to visit Dalby Forest, which had been on our to-visit list for a while. Dan had purchased a new telephoto lens for wildlife photography and so we thought we'd give it a test run at Clumber Park, one of our favourite places to visit for seeing plenty of geese, swans, ducks and squirrels! We took a long walk around the lake, capturing lots of wildlife along the way. One of my favourite parts was watching the squirrels run up to us and chasing each other around the trees. We managed to capture a beautiful sunset at the end of the walk, which lit up the sky with soft pinks, peaches and purples.

Heading into winter we met deer and Highland cows at Lyme Park in the Peak District. Ever since visiting Scotland we fell in love with the Highland cows and were happy to see them in the fields at Lyme Park. To end the year we had some more animal encounters and visited WWT Martin Mere, where we saw many different species of ducks, geese and swans. We hand fed the geese and ducks and got to watch a spectacular view of thousands of wetland wildlife fly in across the mere for feeding time.

We're very much looking forward to plenty of adventures across all the seasons this year!