Thursday, 25 February 2016

The English Lake District - Virtually

The Lake District is intimately associated with English literature of the 18th and 19th centuries and WilliamWordsworth's poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", inspired by the sight of daffodils on the shores of Ullswater, remains one of the most famous in the English language. Out of his long life of eighty years, sixty were spent amid its lakes and mountains. Along with his companion Romantic writers, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey became known as the Lake Poets.

At Telrunya - Forest of Dreams
Romanticism, the leading literary movement in England for more than half a century, was caused by the unprecedented social and economic changes of the 18th century Industrial Revolution, which visited a cataclysmic change from simple home manufacturing and farming to enforced wage slavery on the people. The 'Enclosure' of common lands spread all over Britain in the 18th century and deprived the people of  their subsistence, they were subsequently forced to work in the new factories.

However mechanization without a thought for peoples wellbeing, brought new social evils. The diseases of industrial towns flourished, along with the misery of child labour, underpaid workers and loss of freedom. Life for many became a hollow parody of its earlier pastoral peasantry as the people were imprisoned in the new industrial towns. Their suffering led to the first organised strikes. Inspired by the French Revolution, Irish peasants plotted a rebellion against English landlordism in 1798, which was cruelly downed in blood. The British government also took the lead in the counter-revolutionary wars against France.

At this time, the belief of progressive-minded people in the ideal nature of the new economic system, was broken - people with a conscience for their fellow man looked about for solutions. A new humanist movement arose among artists, authors and musicians to voice this view.

As they saw it, the cold application of reason had led to the dehumanisation of man with its heartless persuit of profit for the wealthy by exploiting and disenfranchising the poor. The new humanist writers therefore made emotion the driving force of their works. Some among them, poets, seized with a panic to escape the modern world of an industrialised slavery, wanted a return to the bucolic earlier times when people lived on and by the land. These poets became known as the Romanticists. They spoke for the English farmers and Scottish peasants who were ruined by the Industrial Revolution. They idealized the patriarchal way of life during the Middle Ages, a period that seemed to them harmonious and peaceful. Their motto was "Close to Nature and from Nature to God", because they believed that nature put man at peace with the world and in communion with god. (source)

The poets William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Robert Southey (1774-1843) belonged to that group. They were also called the Lake Poets after the Lake District where they lived and where they found inspiration to fuel their poetic calls for a more harmonious world in touch with nature and through nature with god.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
A variety of other poets and writers also made visits to the Lake District or were bound by ties of friendship with those mentioned above. These include Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sir Walter Scott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Arthur Hugh Clough, Henry Crabb Robinson, Thomas Carlyle, John Keats & Lord Tennyson among others. The Lake District is mentioned in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice; Elizabeth Bennet looks forward to a holiday there with her aunt and uncle and is "excessively disappointed" upon learning they cannot travel that far.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
At Netherwood virtual Lake District
During the early 20th century, the children's author Beatrix Potter was in residence at Hill Top Farm, setting many of her famous illustrated books in the Lake District. Potter loved animals from an early age and had various pets that she made drawings of. Her parents rented Wray Castle near Ambleside and this is where Potter fell in love with the Lake District. As an adult, she lived most of her life in the Lake District, which inspired her to write her books, in particular The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She also painted and sketched the Lake District’s landscapes. After her death in 1943, she left her 14 farms and 4000 acres of land to the National Trust, on the proviso that her favourite home, Hill Top at Sawrey, was opened to the public and left unchanged.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
The Lakes has also been an inspirations for many notable artists. Some of the most famous artists to depict the region in their work have been Alfred Heaton Cooper and William Heaton Cooper.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
The Lake District town of Ambleside was home of influential German artist, Kurt Schwitters who has been credited with influencing modern-day artists such as Damien Hirst and Anthony Gormley. Schwitters worked in several genres and media, including Dada, Constructivism, Surrealism, poetry, sound, painting, sculpture, graphic design, typography, and what came to be known as installation art. He is most famous for his collages, called Merz Pictures.

Recently Tate Britain hosted Schwitters in Britain, the first major exhibition of his late work. This show focused on the period after Schwitters’ arrival in Edinburgh as a refugee on the run from Nazi Germany in 1940 where he had been persecuted as one of the so-called "degenerate artists" until he died in Kendal in 1948, and it referenced the Merzbarn, a work that the Tate now acknowledges as “one of the key lost works of European Modernism”.
Landowner Harry Pierce, offered Schwitters the use of an empty shed on a small estate in Elterwater. Ian Hunter, from the Littoral Arts Trust, which now owns the site, describes it as "at the epi-centre of British modernist movement'' - "I'd say to those down south, you have the Tate Modern, we have the original." And it is not the area's only claim to fame. "One valley away from here you've got Wordsworth, with his early support of the French revolution," Ian Hunter said. "Two valleys away there's Ruskin [who championed the cause of Victorian "modern painters"]. It's an extraordinary alignment of revolutionary cultural thinking. "From high romanticism to modernism in three valleys."

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
Alfred Wainwright was born in 1907, and at 23 went to the Lake District for a holiday and immediately fell in love with the natural beauty of the Lakelands. He is well-known for his seven Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, which he made while working in the Borough Treasurers Office in Kendal in 1941. His handwritten and hand-drawn works of art have inspired all fell walkers for the last 40 years. A recreation of the Borough Treasurers Office in Kendal where he worked is exhibited in The Kendal Museum of Natural History.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
At Netherwood virtual Lake District
There is nothing quite like the Lake District in the rest of England. The Pennines foreboding and austere, the Peak District is too small in scale to astound. By contrast with these The Lake District is the one place where nature seems truly awesome. Artists, poets, walkers and nature conservationists alike continue to find that the landscape here provokes the specific ‘way of feeling’ that Baudelaire considered crucial in 'romanticism'. It is the way the trees and rocks frame views down majestic valleys, the play of light on distant crests, the squat stone buildings that seem to have tumbled from  rock faces to assemble themselves deep embeded in the verdant rich turf.

At Netherwood virtual Lake District
At Telrunya - Forest of Dreams
The Lake District is rich in folklore, legends and superstitions shaped by the local landscape and centuries of colonisation by Teutonic, Scandinavian and Norman settlers with the traditional legends accompanied their cultures. Its large, imposing landscapes have nurtured stories of giants, while more hidden corners are a breeding ground for sightings of elves and fairies too.

Once part of the ancient kingdom of Rheged, the southern province of a realm of Brithonic Celts which stretched from the English Lake District to the river Clyde in Scotland, the modern county of Cumbria lies on England's north western border. Uther Pendragon, father of the legendary Arthur, is said to have ruled here in the 5th Century, and few areas of Cumbria lack some association, however tenuous, with Arthurian legend. However, while the wind-blasted fells appear to have held particular spiritual importance for these post-Roman Celts, the stone monuments that dot the bleak landscape are of far older origins, with a long history of probable ritual or religious use.

The stone circles in Cumbria in general are of such antiquity, being the earliest stone circles in the whole of Europe. There is a vast range of types, from the vast monumental circles at Castlerigg, Swinside and Long Meg, to the standard early bronze age circles of about 100 ft in diameter as at Casterton and Elva Plain, to diminutive rings associated with alignments and burials. Some are associated with henge monuments such as Mayburgh.

Wherever you hail from or may be going to, The Lake District has been and will  continue to be a source of inspiration for all that is best in our world. Living in harmony and cooperation with the spiritual immanence of nature in her most beautiful, remembering to care for the well being of our fellow man as well as our priceless and irreplacable natural heritage of wildlife and creatures.

If there is a heaven on Earth, i'd say it is to be found here....

Daffodils by William Wordsworth (1804)

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Epic of Hedgehog Noah and the Great Flood

The Epic of Hedgehog Noah and the Great Flood

Here's a tale of true Cumbrian spirit,
Of a Hedgehog with fine character and distinction and merit.
It all happened in the winter time not too long ago,
In December through February before coming of snow.

Infact it began with the most terrible floods,
When Cumbria submerged under Storm Desmond' scuds -
And half the wide world - well, of North England at least,
Below waters submereged, South England slept till it ceased.

As days rolled into nights and weeks into wondering,
The good people of this land united despite political blundering.
And many sorts of care they sent from kind hearts everywhere -
To help with housing and drying, heating and eating prepare.

To restore businesses and byways and bridges - those needing,
But not much thought in this time for our wildlife or its feeding.
Creatures and living things suffered the unspeakable end,
Swept across counties and fields, beyond life sadly transcend.

For the wild animals- birds- insects, the flood was a calamity...
Indiscriminate death struck beak-claw-wing, web and anttenaey.
Apocalyptic and Biblical in potent and style,
The preeceding rains saturated everyones mile.

Forty days, fifty nights and countless many more,
Torrents of heavy waters did relentless downpour.
That fluminous floodtide flyped our commonweal to extinction,
Its like was unseen despite the hydrologists prediction.

Plunging upon us without warning or caution,
No shape of its own nor a pause to its auction.
As the offspring of El Nino, of climate change and plutonium,
Outbid itself onward in joyless wetdrenched pandemonium.

Natures Judgment rained heavy that night on the land,
For mankinds environmental havoc unplanned.
Sparing neither sacred space nor people's public ground,
Greedily the flood waters raced all around.

Global warming the cause for those who can see,
Of cataclysmic upheaval in Gulf Stream - like a banshee.
Creating a convocation of waters finical in their fury,
Falling, swoosh-galling in their appalling abjury.

A Hedgehog hidding from somwhen waterish did declare,
To the welkin above, his will to survive overcoming despair.
'I call to you to stop your heartless cold waters',
He cried out as he swam, rushed and burrowed to new quarters.

Underneath waters and waters and wetness without end,
He swept swiftly down rivers that on his life did intend.
Calling in alarm to the dark minister of the storm,
He hooted and honked - across Fell lands he swarmed.

Past sodden amphibians and limpid land dwellers,
For dry land Hedgehog paddled, with his propellers.
Past Neolithic Shap to Kendal by Kent,
Hedgehog found a hillside to hang on to, his energy spent.

Eventually the raw raintide did lessen its beratement,
Of splashing relentless - at long last an abatement.
And in the stunned silence as waters backdated,
Fellow voyagers across land found themselves translocated.

In the silt slurried earth where we all make our home,
Every creature now surviving went out to roam.
Amidst this sodden turmoil the Hedgehog scurried forth,
And found a wooden shelter in our garden, west by north.

As covenant storms were over, a rainbow raised high,
Resplendant and bright in the returned new blue-sky.
And in his shelter, lets call it an Ark for the moment,
The Hedgehog's name became Noah, for Natures atonement. 

Nocturnal in his new home Noah sings beneath the moon,
Softly and gentle of the earth and the wonders unknown.
His breath is quite gaspy and tuneful - if not musical quite,
Noah's the epitome of Cumbria - he's doing it right.

c.Titus.L. 2016 

This poem is to celebrate the arival of Noah the Hedgehog in our lives after he has survived the trauma of Storm Desmond December 5th 2015 in Cumbria.

Hedgehogs are now a protected species in the Uk 
 There is a Petition to give the hedgehog better legal protection to reverse its decline. Please sign the petition  

Following information gratefull shared from Hedgehog Street....

Where do hedgehogs live?

Hedgehogs are found in most parts of Britain, apart from very wet areas and extensive pine forests. They are also often scarce in upland areas such as moorlands and mountainsides. Hedgehogs are predominantly a woodland edge species and can thrive in the mosaic of hedges, fields and woodlands that charaterise the British countryside.
Hedgehogs can be just as happy in rural or urban locations
As the name suggests they are often found near hedgerows, which provide ideal locations for nest sites, a good supply of invertebrates on which they feed, protection from predators and important movement corridors. The pastures used by farmers to raise cattle, sheep or horses are important foraging areas for hedgehogs.
Garden of Hedgehog Champion Joanne from Buckinghamshire

Gardens (and lots of them) provide everything hedgehogs need

Hedgehogs are also abundant in urban and suburban areas. Gardens provide hedgehogs with a plentiful supply of food, both natural and supplementary, as well as many potential nest sites for breeding, resting and hibernation. For these reason urban areas have become a stronghold for hedgehogs in recent years.
Percy the hoglet by Hedgehog Champion Sheila Lodey

Access between gardens is critical for hedgehogs

Hedgehogs have home ranges but are not territorial so will not fight to defend these areas. Radio-tracking studies have found that hedgehog home ranges vary during the year (and between sexes) but are on average around 10—20 hectares and they can roam an average distance of 2km on a single night. Male hedgehogs in the breeding season can cover up to 3km in one night in their search of females!
To help urban hedgehogs gardens need to be linked up so they have a sufficient area to roam – find out how to link your garden.

What do wild hedgehogs eat?

Hedgehogs are widely recognised as a potent ally in the garden, but what do they actually eat?

Hedgehogs mainly eat creepy crawlies

Hedgehogs are generalists and feed on a wide range of things, but the majority of their diet is made up of invertebrates (or creepy crawlies). We know what they eat from scientific studies that have analysed hedgehog poo or looked in the stomachs of hedgehogs killed on roads.
The most important invertebrates in their diet are worms, beetles, slugs, caterpillars, earwigs and millipedes.
Source: Wroot A. J. (1984) Feeding ecology of the European hedgehogThe big six invertebrates for hedgehogs
As well as these, they also eat a wide range of other insects, and more infrequently will take advantage of carrion, frogs, baby rodents, baby birds, birds' eggs and fallen fruit.
'Hog tackling a frog, by Hedgehog Champion Barbara WitowskaWhen you are putting out food for hedgehogs, you can replicate the hedgehog's natural diet by using unsalted nuts, mealworms and meat-based dog and cat food.

Diseases and parasites

External parasites of the hedgehog

Hedgehog fleas

Hedgehogs are renowned for having fleas. However, the fleas found on hedgehogs are actually hedgehog fleas (scientific name: Archaeopsylla erinacei) which are host specific, meaning they will not survive for long on any other species, be it pets or people. Occasionally hedgehogs can become infested with fleas but usually they will only have a few resident fleas which will cause them no harm.

Hedgehog ticks

Ticks are another common external parasite on hedgehogs. Usually an individual will have a couple of ticks on it though occasionally there are hedgehogs with heavier burdens. Ticks are commonly attached to the underside, behind the ears or the flanks of hedgehogs but they can occur elsewhere as well. Ticks are in general harmless to hedgehogs. However, a high parasite load can be indicative of sickness.
Ticks on a hedgehog by Emily Thomas
Ringworm can also be quite prevalent in hedgehogs, with around a quarter of the national population thought to be affected. Most hedgehogs show no visible symptoms and even those with severe infections can still show little sign of skin infection and can feed normally. Dry, crusty ears are one of the most common symptoms of a ringworm infection.

Internal parasites

Hedgehogs can be host to a number of different parasitic worms, with lungworm being especially prevalent in European hedgehogs. Lungworm infection can result in a dry rattling cough and can prove fatal if left untreated. A mild worm burden is to be expected in most hedgehogs but this should cause few problems to them.

Why are hedgehogs declining?

This issue is not a straightforward one as there could be many factors that are contributing to the decline of hedgehog populations. This is further complicated by populations declining in both urban and rural habitats where the pressures and changes in the environment are very different.

Research is underway to teach us more about why hedgehogs are declining and what we can do about it

PTES and BHPS are currently commissioning various research projects into the reasons for their decline and measures that could be taken to reverse the effects.
Photo by Hedgehog Champion Steve Dickerson from Bristol

→ Tell me more about the wider camapign to help hedgehogs in Britain