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!