It's been another mild week in the northern Lake District. There is a kaleidoscope of colour on the fells, in the woods along the Borrowdale Valley and in the hotel grounds. Bountiful red rowan berries in particular stand out on their now leaveless trees. This has also been a bumber year for plums, damsons and crab apples. One pleasant way to enjoy the outstanding beauty is to hire an electric bike from e-venture in Keswick. The hills of Honister and the Newlands Valley will never be so difficult again!
This week it has been beautiful in the Borrowdale Valley. Unusually for late October, the leaves are still so green. Derwentwater sparkles in the afternoon sun as geese gather to fly toweards Keswick and sunlit Skiddaw beyond. Last night a blood red moon rose late into a starry sky. There is a calmness everywhere, with no hint of wind - allowing the smoke from home wood fires to spiral slowly upwards.
The Unesco heritage assessment team stayed at the hotel this past week as part of its review of the Lake District's application for world heritage. During their visit, they had a chance to enjoy the beautiful Borrowdale Valley and some of its finest products during dinner, such as our popular Hogget dish from lamb sourced from Yew Tree Farm down the road. It was good to see the collaboration between local farmers, the National Park and the Forestry Commission working together to achieve this status.
It's been a week of wonderful weather in Borrowdale. Brown bracken dominates the hillsides in the valley. The horse chestnut and sycamore trees, on the road from the hotel to Keswick, are the first to turn yellow. The field next to the hotel is full of herdwick sheep, down from the fells. And in recent night they have been joined by a stag, which has kept us awake with its autumnal nocturnal noises.
It's raining this morning in Borrowdale and quite cool. The maple and sycamore trees in the hotel grounds are now turning brown. Autumn is coming! The birds must know this as they are in a feeding frenzy at the feeders. The blue tits, great tits and chaffinches enjoy the multi variety seeds. The woodpecker only eats the peanuts. The siskins seem to have the nyger seeds to themselves. A robin has reappeared and takes what it can from the grounds. And occasionally a nuthatch joins the party. There is so much satisfaction simply sitting in the hotel conservatory taking in the scene.
Despite some lovely warm days, there is an autumnal feel in the Borrowdale Valley this week. Red rowan and rosehip berries brighten the woods - more than we have seen for many years. Browning bracken and purple heathers colour the hillsides. The nights are drawing in. Earlier in the week the rising and luminous full moon moved through the colours of the rainbow. As I write this, a red squirrel is running through the hotel grounds.
Derwentwater and the Borrowdale Valley feature stongly in the new film version of Swallows and Amazons, released this weekend. In the film, there are great views across the lake of Catbells, St Herberts Island and the high hills behind the hotel. The landing pier at Keswick gets a brief look in. The Cumbrian weather doesn't disappoint either as dark, cloudy skies alternate with summery days - much like our experience here over this past week.
The joys of Borrowdale. Early in the week storms struck down many branches from trees in the hotel grounds. Any yet later in the week the tempreature rose, Derwentwater sparkled in the sunshine and the hillside heather bloomed in a profusion of purple. The valley farmers have taken advantage of this warm weather to cut the grass one last time for the winter feed.
There was time this week for a wonderful walk from the hotel up the beautiful Borrowdale valley. The route was Grange to Castle Crags, then along the Allerdale Ramble to Seatoller and back to the hotel along the river Derwent. All in about 15 km in three hours. The path crosses a number of gills - Broadslack, Lavery and Tounge - which flow gently (at this time of the year) into the Derwent. It's cool, clear waters providing plenty of scope for families to swim, raft or simply sit on its banks with a picnic.
It's been raining the past couple of days but the gorgeous green lushness of the Borrowdale Valley is appealing to the eye. The bracken in particular, across the river from the hotel on the slopes of Maiden Moor, is at its brightest best. And Derwentwater's low levels of water seem surprising. In the hotel bog garden, the purple and pink astilbes and blue hydrangeas offer wonderful contrasts to the ubiquitous greenery.
It's often the case that the weather is very mixed at this time of year, and this year is no exception. Yesterday was wet, windy and miserable. Today has been dry, sunny and warm, no doubt a welcome relief for the many visitors for the annual Keswick Convention which started this week. The town, as ever, is busy but Derwentwater still provides plenty of chance for quiet escape. Later this month (on the 24th) there is an open day - one of only five each year - at the house on Derwent Island. Joseph Pocklington, an 18th century eccentric built his Georgian style house on the island, adding to its rich and facinating history.
This month marks that 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter. Although she is more usually associated with Hill Top, Near Sawrey, she did spend some of her early life at the Lingholm Estate on the western shore of Derwentwater. This recently refurbished estate offers opportunities to enjoy the fell views, take the Keswick Launch, browse the gift shop, have lunch in the cafe or tour the small gallery dedicated to her work in this part of the lakes. Alternatively, on a drizzly day like today, the hotel's conservatory provides a superb vantage point to watch the action at the bird feeders, where juveniles join their parents to enjoy the variety of seeds.
It has been a little cooler this week in Borrowdale; though not cool enough to deter day trippers take to the Keswick launch for a pleasant hour or so on Derwentwater. It's difficult to imagine a more tranquil place to be in such eventful times. There is flocking towards Honister, the bickering mallards, the buzzards soaring up at King's How. Back on land the roaming red squirrels dart daringly from tree to tree.
It seems that this is the time of year when the greenery of the Borrowdale Valley is at its most lush. The, as yet uncut for hay, nearby meadows, now free of grazing sheep, offer a vibrant range of greens; punctuated with the brilliant yellows of the buttercups. The mostly mature trees in the hotel wood - the oaks, sycamores, ash and birch - are in full foliage and colour contrast with the aptly named copper-beech. This year foxgloves have emerged in numbers in the spaces left from the previous pruning of the rhododendron shrubs. The grounds provide peaceful places for quiet contemplation.
The hills in Borrowdale beckon the keen walker at this time of the year. But there are always plenty of options to the extertion of ascending (and decending) the fells. Such as the Derwentwater Walk, a ten mile waymarked walk around the lakeshore. This takes in the Ruskin Memorial at Friar's Crag, the Hundred Year Stone (which marks 100 years of National Trust care of the lake) and the Chinese Bridge, a bridge and boardwalk project to protect the wetlands of the river delta. If this is too peaceful the Keswick Festival throughout this week offers a contrast of brass bands, songs of praise and concerts in the market square.
It looked for a moment last week that Cumbria might be on the verge of issuing a drought warning - six months on from the December floods. This week though, tremendous thunderstorms have reverberated around the Borrowdale Valley. Today, Derwentwater has a milky translucence and low clouds cling to the woods above its shores obscuring the crags. The hawthorn blossom, which had flowered late but bountiffuly this year, was mostly washed away by the rain. But there have been beneficiaries, particulary in the hotel's bog garden where primula candelabra and bistort provide contrasting colour to the lush greenery.
The weather this week has been wonderful. And the Borrowdale valley has so many vantage points from which to enjoy the surrounding, stunning scenery. One very special perspective is gained from a canoe - bring your own or hire one from Platty+. Derwentwater was calm for our trip across to St Herbert's Island. The water levels were so low, we were able to pull our canoe up on the pebbly beach and walk around the island - very Swallows and Amazons. On the return, the millpond was disturbed by the Keswick steamer, packed to the gunwales on its way to Brandelhow. Back at the hotel, sitting in the shade with a cool glass of lager, our resident male Mallard and his mate waddle over to say hello.
Although there was some welcome rain this week, there have also been some beautiful, clear, blue sunny days, each which started with red and mauve morning sunrises. The view from the hotel conservatory window has some constants - the vibrant colours of the pansies in the window boxes, the frequent visitors to the bird feeders - and some surprises - this week a jackdaw, some wood pigeons, small white butterflies and, high over head, buzzards basking and soaring in the warm air. Down the Borrowdale valley in Keswick there is chance to spot some of the 48 individually decorated lamb figures located by Go Herdwick, a fund raising project by the Calvert Trust charity, created as a follow up to the 60 life size ewe models set out in March. For an appreciation of the versatility of Herdwick and other native sheep, Woolfest in late June in Cockermouth, offers opportunities to learn about British wool and spinning, knitting and crocheting.
Last week's awakening azaleas are flowering this week. And they are not alone. In the wood in the grounds, the rambling rhododendrons are bursting into colour after the punishing pruning two years ago. Dog violets, wood sorrel and wild strawberries have emerged in the secluded shade. Bluebells too, although on a small scale compared to the romantic splendour of Rannerdale, near Loweswater, up over the other side of Honister. And one lone, lopsided apple tree is in bloom, basking earlier in the week in the sparkling sunshine. Away from the peace and quiet at the hotel, Keswick is crammed with visitors to its Mountain Festival.
"I didn't realise there was so much green in the whole galaxy." This is a line spoken by Rey, the young heroine in the film Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. The scene was filmed in Borrowdale and there are some terrific shots in the movie of the hills around Derwentwater. And it's great to appreciate the beauty in the valley without having to go to the local cinema. In the grounds, the cherry blossom is out, the sycamores are fully in leaf and the sessile oaks are on their way. Even the azaleas in the Cumbrian garden are now in bud.
We have been rewarded this week with siskins visiting our niger seed feeders. They exist happily alongside our regular visitors - woodpeckers, blue and great tits and all manner of finches. The first cuckoo of the year has been heard in the woods behind the hotel, as has our resident owl, hooting each evening after dark. And there have been plenty of other rewards this week: the sights and sounds of the lengthening spring days here in Borrowdale. The sunsets have been stunning, a riot of pinks and reds; the trees have burst into leaf up and down the valley; and the lambs bleat constantly for attention.
The hotel garden parasols, which were so necessary during last week's warm sunny weather, looked somewhat forlorn this week as snow fell in the Lake District. Whilst this unexpected snow brought the gritters out and momentarily caused confusion for lambs and spring flowers alike, it added a dramatic backdrop to the hills and crags of Borrowdale, on the drive down the valley from Keswick. Boisterous birdsong brightens the early morning walk around the hotel grounds. We have put out niger seed feeders this week, which the Goldfinches love and the hope is that Redpolls and Siskins will also soon find a food source they favour.
What a wonderful week of warm weather in beautiful Borrowdale - crisp mornings, brilliant blue skies and starry nights. The red deer have left the hotel's grounds, moving up higher into the fells until the late autumn, leaving the plants in the bog garden free to flower. This week has brought forth the rich purple pompom 'Drumstick primulas' (Primula denticulata), which provides a pleasant colour contrast with the variety of yellows of the 'Primroses' (Primula vulgaris) and 'Marsh marigold' (Caltha palustris).
It's a lovely time of the year for a walk in Borrowdale. There are so many options from the hotel front door, including the 'Borger Dalr' walk, a walk from Grange to Castle Crag which reveals some of the grand geology of the area. It is described in detail here by the National Trust. Mankind has lived and worked in the valley for over a thousand years, burning charcoal, mining for slate, copper and graphite and of course farming. And the new born lambs seem to be enjoying the spring sunshine!
The daffodils are in full bloom this week in the Borrowdale Valley. And today, a glorious day of warm sunshine and blue skies, the birds - Blue Tits, Goldfinches, Woodpeckers amongst others - are in a spring feeding frenzy at the feeders in the hotel garden. 'Catbells', across Derwentwater, beckons to keen walkers to "come and climb me - the views from the top are stunning". At each end of the valley, snow remains sprinkled on the higher peaks. Looking north, one can never tire of admiring Skiddaw's timeless majesty above Keswick town.