January: Boots on, let's go!
We all look for a way to blow away the cobwebs at this time of year, and there is nothing better than a bracing walk in the great outdoors. There’s so much to see and do on the west shore of Windermere; whether it’s hiking you enjoy or building dens, there is something for everyone.
Listen out on a windy day
The west shore offers a wonderful lakeside walk, perfect for a family amble. For those who are sticking to their New Year’s resolutions it is also popular with runners and cyclists. Many choose to start their walk at Claife Viewing Station and Courtyard Café. Surrounded by woodland and nestled at the top of a small slope, Claife offers endless views across Windermere. We have had plenty of windy weather over the past of couple of weeks which has meant that many visitors have been enjoying the eerie whistle of the Aeolian harp. Named after Aeolias, the ancient Greek god of the wind, the wind blowing across the strings in the wooden box produces an atmospheric and slightly spooky tune!
Follow the trail along the lakeshore where you’ll be sharing the wood with buzzards, foxes and a whole host of birds who call the woodland their home. Make sure you keep your senses sharp! Look uphill into the trees and you can often see roe and red deer peering out from behind the large oak trees. For much of this walk, the path hugs the lakeshore, offering the perfect opportunity to look out for more wildlife. On a sunny day cormorants balance on posts and rocks, standing tall and spreading their wings out to dry. The gaggling geese are almost permanent residents down by the shore. Look out for the native graylag geese which have pale pink legs and bright orange bills.
Hidden in hedgerows
Our ranger team and volunteers spend a lot of time creating hedgerows across the Lake District. They are a vital habitat for many species, and support around 80% of our woodland birds. As you follow this path you will see some beautiful examples. Take a closer look and you can spot blackberry, common yew and horse chestnut, and in spring you will find a variety of wild flowers entangled amongst the branches. If you are lucky, flocks of woodland birds with flit ahead of you as you wander.
Step back in time
There is much archaeological interest along this route, including charcoal burning platforms. These earthen platforms burned charcoal, which was used in the production of iron. Astonishingly there are over 185 platforms which have been recovered in the woods along this trail. Many are easily visible from the path, so keep your eyes peeled! Nearing the end of the Lakeshore path you will enter into the parkland of Wray Castle. Follow the path along the railings up to the castle, or along the wooden jetty and spot the grand gothic boat houses.
Many families enjoy walking this route, and there are many fun activities you can do along the way. In the woods just below Claife Viewing Station you can find the perfect little clearings to build dens. There are plenty of sticks and twigs to spare! If you are passing through the Courtyard you will spy our bird feeders. Sit a while and see what appears. Are you brave enough to hold a scary (mini) beast? Perhaps a spider, worm, woodlice or a beetle. As you walk through the woodland by the lake see if you can find one. Remember that you're a giant compared to the creature, so be gentle, and put it back in its home once you've held it!