Jurassic fossil hunt

Jurassic fossil

Steve took a day off from running a sea kayak trip on the Dorset coast to go on a fossil hunting walk among the Jurassic rocks of this world heritage site.  Starting at Lyme Regis we soon found ourselves with plenty to look at including giant ammonites, corals and crinoids.  The Jurassic period lasted from approximately 200 to 145 million years ago and followed the mass extinction at the end of the Triassic period.  The sedimentary rocks along England’s south coast have captured and  fossilised the remains of the abundance of creatures as they fell to the sea bed and were covered in silt.  The rock this later formed and which was raised by tectonic movement, has provided a palaeontologist’s delight charting the recovery of marine life following this 4th extinction event.  This was most likely caused by an increase in atmospheric CO2 over an 18 million year period as a result of much increased volcanic activity; it contrasts markedly with the current, incredibly rapid rise in CO2 which is driving the present human-induced climate emergency and 6th mass extinction.

By |June 28th, 2022|Environment & nature|Comments Off on Jurassic fossil hunt

Castle Crag, Borrowdale.

Castle Crag, Borrowdale

A beautiful  day saw us heading to Borrowdale for a relaxed wander up Castle Crag through the pretty, deciduous woodland with spring flowers and lots of birds busy in the warmth.  Rather than approach from Rosthwaite, we went for the adventurous option and took our shoes and socks off to wade across the river near the Bowderstone.  Castle Crag is the only fell on the list of Lakeland mountains under 1000ft, though what it lacks in altitude it more than makes up for in stature as its dominant, craggy presence in the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ makes it a visible sentinel from far to the North.

Significant slate quarrying and mining took place on Castle Crag and it bears the slate tips and excavation scars associated with that.  Most notably, it has the slate ‘cave’ on its North Eastern flank which was inhabited by Millican Dalton (1867-1947) for over 50 years.  Dalton, the so-called ‘Professor of Adventure’, gave up his job as an insurance clerk in London to live rough in the Lakes during summers; he survived by offering guiding to visitors and built rafts to paddle and sail down Derwentwater.

The photo shows the view North from the summit with the memorial plaque to the local war dead on the left.

If you’d enjoy Steve’s support for a day in the hills, or a half day like this one, please get in touch to discuss your needs: 07796 213817 & steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk

By |April 20th, 2022|Environment & nature, Mountain walking|Comments Off on Castle Crag, Borrowdale.

Hodge Close Quarry

Hodge Close Quarry

Hodge Close Quarry at Tilberthwaite by Coniston is an excellent reminder of the Lake District’s industrial past.  Mass tourism and the associated services which now support that burgeoning sector, are a relatively recent phenomenon.  Prior to the current situation the area was exploited for its mineral riches and stone: haematite and coal mines in the West fed steel works and ship building; graphite mines in Borrowdale led to the pencil factory in Keswick, wolframite mining on Carrock Fell produced tungsten, there were galena mines aplenty (lead and silver) and, of course, the copper mines at Coniston to name but a few.

Quarries are also prominent in Cumbria with granite extracted at Shap and Threlkeld, limestone also at Shap and, more commonly, slate at many sites such as Kirkby in Furness, Honister and Hodge Close.  Hodge Close was used for building and roofing slate from the 1800s up until the 1960s.  It is a large, steep-sided, flooded pit with many of the original tunnels and workings now submerged.  It has become a popular place for divers, wild swimmers and rock climbers to visit, though, as in our case, it is also an interesting place to just descend into and look at – especially with autumn sunlight and colours enhancing the spectacle.  If you would like to visit there is a path down to the big tunnels (image), though great care should be taken around the quarry edges and be mindful that the water is very deep and very cold.

By |October 27th, 2021|Environment & nature|Comments Off on Hodge Close Quarry

Here be Dragons!

Southern Hawker

Not quite Game of Thrones, but you don’t need to go far from your doorstep to find some amazing creatures.  This exquisite female Southern Hawker dragonfly was well-camouflaged and perching inconspicuously alongside the River Glenderamackin.  We spotted her during a wild flower walk and, whilst dragonflies are voracious predators, they pose no threat to humans.

Conversely, we did also see Giant Hogweed which certainly does pose a significant threat to humans in that touching any part of the plant can cause very serious burns and long term damage.  Giant Hogweed, Hemlock and other toxic and poisonous plants are frequently encountered in Cumbria and the UK; being able to identify them correctly and understand their dangers is important if we are to avoid being badly affected by them.  Children are often most at risk of harm as they are more likely to encounter such plants whilst roaming and exploring and may not perceive them as a threat.  If you’d like to improve your ability to identify such plants, as well as the many which are not dangerous, then Steve will be pleased to help.  He can also aid your quest for dragons!

By |August 3rd, 2021|Environment & nature|Comments Off on Here be Dragons!

Lakeland Summer walks

Green Veined White

The recent hot weather has allowed us some very enjoyable days out in the Lakes and Dales.  As well as running days of family rock climbing in Borrowdale and a fun caving trip in the Yorkshire Dales with three energetic children and their parents, we also managed a more sedate day walking in the South West Lakes.  Steve was able to find a quiet area for a day’s walk despite the crowds elsewhere – we encountered five other people all day and enjoyed having the hills to ourselves.  We also had some excellent Lakeland views and great wildlife and wild flower spots (image of green veined white butterfly).

Whether you seek solitude or enjoy the hubbub in the popular areas Steve will be happy to support your Lakeland walking adventure.  He’ll also be pleased to help if you’d like to try climbing or caving too!  Get in touch on 07796 213817 or steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk

By |July 31st, 2021|Environment & nature, Mountain walking|Comments Off on Lakeland Summer walks

Ronas Hill, a mountain with latitude!

Ronas Hill

At 450m Ronas Hill is the highest point in Shetland.  Whilst running his recent sea kayak weeks in the UK’s most northerly islands Steve took the opportunity to spend a non-paddling day exploring this little visited granite plateau.  Despite its relatively lowly height, Ronas Hill and the surrounding peaks are the only sub-arctic terrain in the UK outside the Cairngorms.  What they lack in height compared to their southerly cousins they make up in latitude as, at over 60 degrees north, they experience similar temperatures, extreme winds and significant swings in light levels across the year.  This has led to a rounded, wind scoured and ice shattered environment with rare and unusual physical features such as solifluction terraces and fell field.  Ronas Hill also sports about 15 species of rare arctic alpine plants such as Alpine Lady’s Mantle, Alpine Azalea and Moss Campion.

Whilst there are no defined paths, Ronas Hill is a relatively straightforward walk in fine weather, though strong wind and/or cloud would make it an entirely different proposition.  The views from the summit, which, like Steve, you may well have entirely to yourself, are spectacular, taking in Northmavine and Yell to the north and Eshaness, Papa Stour and Foula to the the south west.  There’s also a neolithic burial chamber on the summit plateau.

If you’d like to share Steve’s broad environmental knowledge in any of the UK’s mountains and hills, or just be able to relax and enjoy your mountain walk with expert support, Steve will be pleased to hear from you and happy to help.  Get in touch at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk or call on 07796 213817.

By |July 12th, 2021|Environment & nature, Mountain walking|Comments Off on Ronas Hill, a mountain with latitude!

Hebridean heights

Hebrides walking

Whilst running his recent self-sufficient, wild camping canoe trip into the remote interior of Harris & Lewis, Steve built in a day off from paddling so we could enjoy the the surroundings and walk in the hills.  In order to get the best view possible we ascended Creag na Lubaig which provided a spectacular panorama north across Lewis (image) and south into the Harrisian mountains with Clisham clearly visible as the highest point in the Hebrides.

If you’re keen on venturing into the hills and mountains anywhere in the UK Steve will be able to support you.  If you’d like to combine your mountains with other outdoor adventures Steve has plenty of opportunities to do that too.   Have a look at what’s available at www.stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk and get in touch at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk or call 07796 213817

By |June 12th, 2021|Environment & nature, Mountain walking|Comments Off on Hebridean heights

We may be able to recommence guided activities soon.

Keswick Guided Walks

The government has indicated that we will be able to offer professional, organised outdoor sport and activity from March 29th.  If this happens as scheduled Steve will be pleased to assist with any mountain or other outdoor activities with which you would like some support. Please get in touch to discuss your interests and needs – we’ll be delighted to hear from you and will do our best to help.

To reassure you, we are, and will continue to be, very keen to work within all government regulations and guidelines in regard to Covid-19 so as to best protect ourselves and our clients from infection.  We are taking this disease very seriously and have no intention of taking any unnecessary risks.

By |March 10th, 2021|Environment & nature, Mountain walking, Winter mountain walking|Comments Off on We may be able to recommence guided activities soon.

Thirlmere nature walk

Guided nature walks

We had an interesting nature walk along the west shore of Thirlmere spotting a good range of birds, some interesting bugs, butterflies and flowers and these Shaggy Ink Caps (Coprinus comatus).  Also known as Lawyer’s Wig, these large fungi are usually found in late summer and Autumn, they can be up to 40cm high – these ones were certainly big!  They are edible when young i.e. before the gills blacken, though, as with all fungi, very great care should be taken when picking mushrooms for food as misidentification can lead to severe poisoning and even death.

If you’re interested in a guided nature walk either as a standalone experience or as part of a mountain day then please get in touch with Steve who’ll be very pleased to help you.

By |September 28th, 2020|Environment & nature|Comments Off on Thirlmere nature walk

The year of the butterfly

Nature walks

It’s been an excellent year for butterflies (and other invertebrates) due to the early and prolonged warm weather the UK experienced from March.  This has not been harmed by the reduction in traffic and pollution due to coronavirus restrictions.  Covid-19 lockdowns have also encouraged increasing numbers of us into the outdoors where many people have been reacquainting themselves with nature and developing a connection with the UK environments.  We’ve had many good days out engaging with wildlife, including 15 species of butterflies so far.  The Peacock in the image is widely seen, we’ve also encountered Common Blues, Ringlets, Tortoiseshells, Graylings, Skippers and, perhaps most notably, have twice seen the rare Mountain Ringlet whilst out in the Lakeland Fells.  These are only found in England in the Lakeland hills between 500m and 800m living on matt grass.

If you’d enjoy a day out spotting butterflies or engaging with any other part of our natural history please get in touch with Steve.  He’ll be pleased to hear from you and happy to help.

By |August 28th, 2020|Environment & nature|Comments Off on The year of the butterfly
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