On the Shores of Loch Lomond

It’s the story of land and water,
of nature in its pure wildness,
that will endure.

It’s been a crazy sort of year. My beautiful dad passed over to the eternal summerlands late July. I moved home twice. I’ve been here, there, and everywhere… sometimes without even flexing a muscle. I’ve written thousands of words for lovely people and magazines, and time has surged like a storm-kissed river, carrying me away and away. It felt appropriate to retreat for a few days before the year fizzled out, to find some stillness, and where better than on the timeless shores of Loch Lomond.

After a journey of four hours, Fen and I find ourselves at the stunning holiday lodge by the water, and it feels like we’ve entered a magical realm far removed from the world’s weary chaos.

My heart fills with gratitude for such a treasured spot. It’s so peaceful and the only sound is bird song and whispers from water and air.

It occurs to me that it’s over 6 years since my last visit to Loch Lomond, but it’s as if no time has passed at all. On my previous visit, I was in experiential research for my next novel – yes, the one that has still to be completed! I realise that much has happened since then… joys and sadness; beginnings and endings; life.

Being back here, I consider whether it will reignite my passion for writing this particular novel, but conclude that the fire of it has never left me. As dramatic as it sounds, my debut novel, Light Weaver, took more from me than I’ve probably ever shared. It took my time and the roof over my head, and I’ve been navigating the aftermath of that experience. Although I made a start on this Scottish based novel, the business of living has stolen the hours needed to continue.

I may write more fiction at some point, but other writing and projects inspire and feed me better right now, and I’m joyful and at peace with where I am. Being here again brings me to this sense of clarity.

So here, in November’s embrace, I meditate on the ever-changing light. I sing and dance. I sit by the water listening to its secrets. I let memories surface – memories of my dad, my earth family and friends, and of the wonderful moments forever being created with Fen. I allow my eyes to fill and my heart to overflow. But mostly, I’m present – absolutely present – aware of the gift of this precious space in nature.

I watch the birds on the water… a swan family, little grebe, great crested grebe, gulls; and the birds on the land… robin, wren, blackbird, crow. Like the birds, I’m on the edge between this place and another, and this is where I love to be.

Loch Lomond, the largest inland stretch of fresh water in Great Britain, once known as Lake of the Elms, is jewelled with more than 30 islands, including one that has a colony of wallabies! Munros and rocky peaks, green glens and woodland, surround the loch, becoming more or less – depending upon the mist and light.

There are stories here, for sure… of people that have been before and will arrive long after I’ve gone, but it’s the story of land and water, of nature in its pure wildness, that will endure.

I know that I will leave this otherworldly realm on the shores of Loch Lomond without really leaving at all, feeling richer and stronger and more vital for having spent time well within its healing embrace. Here on these bonnie banks, I am restored, and ready to continue my journey.

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The Dance of the Starlings

Travelling through West Lancashire late afternoon, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture one of the most beautiful and hypnotic sights in nature… a murmuration of starlings.

It’s not the first murmuration I’ve seen, but it’s possibly the largest. This isn’t surprising as I was on a country lane close to WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre, where some 50,000 starlings are currently roosting this autumn. It’s the largest number of starlings the Centre has ever seen.

The dance of the starlings begins around 4 pm, just before dusk, when the birds return to their roost. They give an aerial display that is enigmatic and unforgettable. This lasts for approximately 20 minutes before they land in the reed beds and settle for the night.

One is left wondering how and why. How do they fly together in vast numbers so flawlessly? Why do they do it? I love to think that they fly the way they do for pure joy, but there are possibly practical reasons, too. Flying and swooping as a flock might make it difficult for falcon predators to target one bird, and the energetic flight might help to generate warmth for the flock before their long night’s roost. But who knows for sure? The birds, no doubt.

Nature is full of magic and mystery, and this is just one of many marvels that is always a joy to see.

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To Autumn in South Lakes

This place will always be full
of beginnings and endings for me,
and traces of old and untold stories.

A visit to Cumbria is a treat and especially in-between seasons. Trees and hedgerows begin to show their autumn tints in the late summer sun while swallows swoop and soar, testing their wings in readiness to fly south.

Despite the afternoon heat, the light gives way to cooler evenings, and there’s anticipation in the air of something unfathomable.

Returning to the Lake District and, in particular, South Lakes brings a sense of home-coming. As soon as the Lakeland fells come into view, my spirits lift and I feel a resurgence of energy, story, magic, life.

This is Light Weaver country. This is where I met the characters in my first novel. This is where something extraordinary seized my imagination while liberating my soul.

A richly-coloured, undulating quilt of fells, pastures, crags, lakes, shores, rivers, forests and hideaways is woven with the fabric of human, animal and other seen and unseen life.

The ever-changing light makes more or less of what is here and simply intensifies the transience of each moment.

This place will always be full of beginnings and endings for me, and traces of old and untold stories. I’m entwined with this landscape for reasons that partly remain a mystery, and this is why I keep returning with a happy heart filled with sparks of possibility.

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Evening Scenes

A barn owl quarters the spent earth
while a field mouse scurries for cover.

As summer surrenders to the wild atmospherics of autumn, nature prepares for its seasonal transition.

Travelling back to base-camp one evening across the Cheshire and Lancashire plains, it’s clear that the nights are quickly drawing in.

There is something spell-binding about the fast-fading light, which creates a transient palette of colour and hues.

Smoke grey clouds streak the sky, remnants of earlier sharp showers, and the landscape begins its routine merger with the night.

Upon reaching the west coast, a burning pink and orange tinted ribbon is all that remains of the sunset, but the grey cloud blooms have cleared to leave the most magnificent blue sky made richer, perhaps, by the energy of recent solar flares.

Moths begin to storm the road over the moss. A barn owl quarters the spent earth while a field mouse scurries for cover.

These evening scenes, though fleeting, remain with me long after the day’s journey ends. What simple nourishment for the soul.

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Exploring Halsall Village

With summer coming to its close,
there was a moment of peaceful reflection.

We often find ourselves passing through the pretty West Lancashire village of Halsall en-route to somewhere else. On this occasion, we decided to stop for a while to enjoy a leisurely wander.

Surrounded by low-lying mosslands, which stretch out west to Ainsdale and Formby sands, the parish of Halsall, with a population just under 2,000, stands on a slight rocky ridge close to the ancient market town of Ormskirk.

At the heart of the village is St. Cuthbert’s church, a designated 1 listed building, dating from the 14th century.

The church is situated amidst beautiful trees and lovingly cared for gardens. In the church yard, there are grave slabs from the Middle Ages and there is even a gravestone for a Mr James Bond.

On the day of our visit, we were drawn to nature’s abundance. Damselflies sunbathed and birds sang from the branches of all the beautiful trees here. The light was so beautiful. The hydrangeas glowed, and so did we.

If you find yourself in Halsall, look out for the sculpture by Thompson Dagnall, which marks the commencement of the Leeds and Liverpool canal. You’ll find this near the bridge at Saracen’s Head. If you’re ever passing through the village in June, you might be lucky enough to see the annual scarecrow festival. A must see!

With summer coming to its close, there was a moment of peaceful reflection.

After time spent well beneath a rare blue sky, we journeyed on across Halsall Moss looking for the phantom hitchhiker who has been known to haunt these lonely roads. We didn’t see him on this occasion, but perhaps we’ll meet him on our return. In Halsall, we have the feeling that anything is possible.

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Walks in West Lancashire

Nature endures. Nature always finds its way.

As summer reached its height, we took a stroll along the West Lancashire and Sefton section of the Cheshire Lines path. Forming part of the Trans Pennine Trail, this 346km coast-to-coast route, which was once a railway line, runs from Southport to Hornsea.

It is in these fields and woods, an ever changing patchwork divided by the silvery threads of rivers and brooks, where we’ve seen owls, hares, and deer.

On this occasion, as we stood on the bridge of Downholland brook, a grey heron made an appearance along with the stealth sky pilots that are swallows, swifts and martins. Although they were going about their daily rituals, feasting on late summer’s offerings, we were treated to an avian air show like no other.

The riverbank was sweetly covered with clover and a myriad of grasses, plants and wildflowers. A common blue butterfly – a female – flitted around us before settling in the abundant green.

There is an uneasy chill on the breeze. We see how humans attempt to tame and master the land and elements, yet nature overcomes. Nature endures. Nature always finds its way. 🌿

I’m sure we’ll be back here before long, and perhaps we’ll explore the route by bicycle. That will certainly please Fen.

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Birkrigg Stone Circle

There is something about Birkrigg stone circle, situated on a hillside south of Ulverston, that never fails to captivate me.

The incredible views from the elevated common overlooking Morecambe Bay certainly makes this site so special, but there is an energy here that is tangible and full of mystery. I can’t help but wonder what has taken place on this common in far-off days. 

We first visited this circle with lovely friends one winter not so long ago and returned early this month on a breezy late summer’s afternoon.

Birkrigg stone circle, also known as The Druid’s Circle, has two concentric stone rings. Apparently, there are only around 30 such circles in the UK and nothing else like this in Cumbria.

The inner circle consists of 10 stones and the outer circle has about 15 stones, although some are obscured by grass and bracken. It is also said that there are several bronze age tumuli on the common although we haven’t explored these yet.  Perhaps we will on our next visit.

Having visited quite a number of stone circles over the years, Birkrigg leaves a lasting impression. Time stands still here and I always have a distinct feeling that we’re not alone.

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Summer Evenings on the Shore

How soon will sea and summer breeze
erase footprints in the sand?

This stretch of beach, flanked by ​ever moving ​dunes and sea, was all ours in the lingering​ late evening heat.​ ​

We walk​ed​, barefoot, pausing often to observe the ever-dancing light on water cast by the slow-setting sun.

Here, on this north west England coast, is where Jean Sprackland spent a year gathering inspiration for her beautiful, award-winning book, Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach. Here is where my younger self spent long ago summers with my parents and brothers.

Will we see remnants from the Star of Hope? What about mermaid’s purse? Not on this occasion, but there are plenty of footprints and curious sea treasures strewn across the tide rippled shore.

How soon will sea and summer breeze erase footprints in the sand?

I meditate on this sense of transience: the ever turning tides of life. It would be all too easy to become caught up in what is past and what is yet to come, but I hold steady in this rare breeze. That is all we can do when sailing into the unknown.

Soon, it’s time to go, but not before dancing to the song of the sea and setting sun.

This life is so miraculous. My heart is filled with gratitude​ for every blissful moment​.

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Exploring the Borders

Voices carried on this windy brow
with songs from yesterday for tomorrow.

I recently journeyed south, exploring the invisible lines between England and Wales. What a joy to marvel at the beauty of nature in this extraordinary pre-summer heat. Sun-glazed trees, hedgerows, and fields beamed with life, and every shade of youthful green fluttered in the gentle air.

My heart danced, watching sun and cloud paint an ever-moving picture on the cat’s back of Black Hill. Roads, seldom-travelled, were thickly populated with wild abundance. The earth felt solid here, unshakable, ancient, and infused with magic.

Swallows swooped before me. Buzzards circled high above. Crows beckoned me onwards. No longer was I following a map, but the compass of my heart.

Climbing higher, past nature reclaimed ruins, I found a church on a windswept brow between somewhere and nowhere. There was no one here – at least not living. The road was empty. No one came past. The church doors were closed. Yet I felt the presence of human life all around me in echoes of forgotten conversation and a tidal wave of emotion.  Voices carried on this windy brow with songs from yesterday for tomorrow. I listened closely to the stories, and added my own song to the collection of voices that lifted like the skylark against the tender blue.

Eventually, I found my way back into the everyday realm with its bustle and noise and irregular rhythms, sad to leave the rare, timeless places my heart and the birds had taken me to. But what a joy to find that there is still enchantment in these lands where nature thrives and where passing souls can be present for a while. Moments to be cherished.

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Walks in Late Spring

Such a joy to be in nature’s domain, walking along quiet lanes in the late spring sunshine.

In wild green verges, butterflies and bees flit from one wildflower to the next, feasting on comfrey nectar.

Buzzards circle higher and higher, wings sun-glazed, oblivious to the tale of Icarus, while closer to earth, swallows swoop in fearless flight.

From the water’s edge, mayflies ascend with but a day of life to enjoy the gentle air.

This age-old scene of nature’s rituals and rich beauty fills me with poetry and song, and I dance along, pausing often to marvel at the miraculous.

☆~♡~☆

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