Trip reports

Journey to and from the Island of Mull

Heather and scots pine

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

then heading to the RSPB Old Moor reserve near Doncaster. Black clouds, heavy showers and sun accompanied us on route. We stopped at the farm shop on the A17 for tea/toast, arriving at Old Moor at 12 noon. A good journey with no traffic problems. We had our lunch in the bittern hide, but no bitterns were heard or seen although our other sightings were good. Leaving at 5.0pm, in the car park feeding station we saw our second bullfinch of the year.
Old Moor is nestled in the land of the heart of the Dearne valley. In summer the grasslands are ablaze with butterflies and orchids. In winter the reserve is an important stopping-off point for duck, geese and swans-plus 8.000 golden plovers!
Our hotel was the Travelodge at lake side in Doncaster. This lake was dug from land that was an old air field site during WWll and a civilian airfield between 1934-1992. There was also a Ministry of aircraft production factory, Westland Lysander and Wellington bomber repair facility. After dinner we had a walk around the lake a nice evening
Wednesday 16.5
Awake at 5 am blue skies, brilliant sunshine we left the accommodation at 9 deciding to visit RSPB Blacktoft Sands. Blacktoft Sands hides on the south bank of the river Ouse were it widens to become the Humber Estuary.and the tidal reedbed is the largest in England. Our journey also took us through Goole, a large seaport. Goole is a busy port with shipping links to mainland Europe and the rest of the world. The docks handle large amounts of cargo both import and export. Cars timber and grain are the three of the major imports. The port is situated in East Yorkshire, roughly in the centre of a triangle formed by the linking the cities if York, Hull and Doncaster. A canal network is also used to transport goods from the port further inland. We left at 12 noon continuing onto Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve stopping for lunch on route. Sightings were low but quantity good. At Bempton in the late 19th century, shooting parties in boats would sail under the cliffs and shoot nesting seabirds. This senseless killing prompted, the vicar of Bridlinton, Rev Barnes Lawrence, to organise a committee of naturalist and local people to campaign for the bird to be protected.
As well as being appalled by the killing, they argued that the poor local people of Bempton suffered, as there were fewer eggs for the climbers to collect and sell.
The seabird preservation, Act was passed in 1869, the first act of Parliament to protect birds. This was followed much later by the protection of bird's act 1954 which made egg collecting illegal, therefore bringing to an end the practise of climbing.
After viewing all points we left at 5 pm for our b&b in Scarborough. Scarborough is often known as Britain's first seaside resort going back to the 17th century when the spa water was originally discovered. Today people go for holidays where they can walk over a road bridge made of iron dated 1827. This was built during the great steel and iron industry was at its best. Scarborough is divided into tow bays-North and South bay with a castle on the headland
Thursday 17.5
Our journey today took us to the N.T Nunnington Hall The roots of the estate are based in 1249 when a medevil was first recorded at Nunnington and from these early beginnings, the house and estate have been shaped by many different owner, notably the Fife's in the 1920.Transformers of the hall and staunch supporters of the Jacobite cause, opposing the deposition of James11 and the succession of George1. Richard Graham's inheritance of the hall in 1965 and involvement in the remodelling of the property's south front to reflect French architectural fashion. In 1839 the Rutsons brought the estate, but it only became a family home when Margaret Fife inherited in 1920. She and her husband, Colonel Ronald D'Arcy Fife, renovated and enlarged the hall .in 1946 Mrs Fife bequeathed Nunnington Hall to the National Trust and her daughter Susan Clive and her family were tenants until 1978.We then travelled to Northallerton booking into The Bull for two nights b & b. We then spent the afternoon with friends.
Friday 18.5
Spent today at the RSPB Saltholme reserve. The industrial heritage of Salthlome dates back to the salt, iron and chemical works of the mid 1800s.Now restored for wildlife, Saltholme is still surrounded by the industries of the Tees Valley.
1824, a map of the river Tees shows "Salt Holmes", which is proberly a house set in farmland and marshes.
1833, Clarence Railway opens on the north bank of the Tees to transport coal to Port Clarence.
1854, Clarence Ironworks begin operating on the north bank of the Tees.
1958, A map of the area shows farm buildings at `Salt Holme` along with marshland and manmade drainage channels.
1863, A layer of rock salt is discovered 00 metres underground when sinking wells foe fresh water at the Middlesbrough ironworks.
1880s, Saltworks produced salt for industry and households by heating brine pumped up from the underground layer of rock salt. One ton of coal is burnt to produce two tons of salt.
1984, The output of salt from the 55 brine wells located on both sides of the river Tees reaches its peak at over 300,000 tons.
1911, The Transporter Bridge opens to carry people and vehicles across the river Tess.
1929, ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) digs clay from the fields around Saltholme Farm for its cement works.
1936, ICI takes over the saltworks and rents Saltholme Farm to test fertilisers.
1939, A heavy artillery station with four anti-aircraft guns operate during World War 2 to defend the industries and town along the Tees.
1950, Land reclamation continues along the Tees.
1966, An oil refinery is built at the mouth of the Tees on reclaimed land called Seal Sands.
1972 The nuclear power station starts operating at Hartlepool.
1997 Saltholme Pools are designated as a Site of Special interest in recognition of the internationally important numbers of waterbirds they support.
2004 Teeside Environmental Trust become owners of the site and form a partnership with RSPB. The creation and restoration of wetland habitats includes the digging of the new pools, ponds and a lake.
2007 The RSPB sign a 99 year lease covering the site.
2008, The new centre is built on the site of the old Saltholme Farm.
2009, `Saltholme: the wildlife reserve and discovery park opens to the public.
Sightings good although the weather was cloudy, damp with showers, but we had an enjoyable day spending 5hrs on site.
Saturday 19.5
We left at 9 am on route a visit to N.T Acorn Bank Garden and Watermill The manor was sold by the Crown to the Dalston family in 1544. Sir Christopher Dalston was knighted by King James in 1615. He married Anne, the daughter of Sir William Hutton of Penrith.
The Estate changed it's name in the early 1930′s and became Temple Sowerby Manor when it was occupied by poet and writer Dorothy Clough and her second husband Capt. Noel McGrigor Phillips.
Dorothy wrote and was more widely known under the name Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, also know to her friends as DUR. She was the niece in Law of Lord Brotherton and inherited part of his Estate upon his death.
Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby
Restoration of both the house and gardens was to become a key part of life for the couple. Some of the internal woodwork repairs and commissions were undertaken by 'The Mouseman of Kilburn,' Robert Thompson.
Following the sudden death of Capt. Phillips, Dorothy handed the property to the National Trust in around 1950. It then reverted back to its original title of Acorn Bank.
There has almost certainly been a mill on the site of Acorn Bank Watermill for hundreds of years, although the current building dates from the first half of the nineteenth century. The mill was the manorial mill of the Acorn Bank Estate also known as Temple Sowerby Manor for a while, and the miller was a tenant. The earliest mention of a mill, so far located, is in 1323 when the estate passed from the Knights Templar to the Knigts Hospitaler. At this time the mill gave an annual income of £4.Evedenca from the buildings and machinery suggest that the present building dates from about 180 though an internal inscription from1823 may date from the time of construction. There has been a number of additions and alteration since then. The machinery suggest that substantial changes were made around 1840 when a French Burr millstone was installed.
We spent a couple of hours, leaving at 1pm stopping in Glasgow for dinner, arriving in Balloch at 5.30pm and booking into our b & b. We went for a walk to Lomond Shores (found at the bottom of the Loch Lomond). We also stopped to listen to a song thrush continuing back to Balloch (it's a circular walk). Passing over the bridge were we saw a Merganser. Balloch is at the north end of the Vale of Leven, straddling the River Leven itself. It connects to the larger town of Alexandria and to the smaller village of Jamestown, both of which are located to its south. To the east of the town lies the major local authority housing scheme in the area known as 'The Haldane' or 'The Mill of Haldane'. Balloch railway station is a terminus of the North Clyde electric train service from Glasgow. With its accessible location at the southern end of Loch Lomond and just off the main road from Glasgow to the West Highlands, it is an important centre of tourism. The largest number of boats cruising on Loch Lomond leave from here. It contains Balloch Country Park and Balloch Castle. Balloch is at the southern end of the first Scottish National Park. The town has a number of hotels, inns and pubs, and there are cruises leaving from Balloch up Loch Lomond. The Glasgow to Loch Lomond cycle path ends at Balloch. The new Balloch road bridge over the river Leven is believed to have reduced the number of people jumping into the river. The town is a popular place on a summer's day, with people flocking to it from Glasgow and Dumbarton.Scottish Band Texas frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri moved to Balloch as a young child and was raised there. Celebrity Colourist Hugh Hammil lived in the Haldane from 1968 to 1974. "Lochfoot" in the Jean Robertson novels of Jane Duncan is partly based on the town.At 56 degrees N, Balloch is at about the same latitude as Moscow.
The journey was long today, 198 miles 5hrs driving time. Sitting writing this at 8.45pm the sun has come out and the cloud breaking up revelling blue skies.
Sunday 20.5
After leaving Balloch we stopped at Inveraray, a nice little port used for fishing and a jail dating back 200yr`s ago. Inveraray is a Royal Burgh in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It is on the western shore of Loch Fyne, near its head, and on the A83 road. It is the traditional county town. We headed to N.T Crarae Gardens. Azalea/Rhododendrons are coming into bud and flower. The National Trust acquired the garden in 2001.We spent around 4hr`s there before continuing on to Oban. Once booked into the b&b we went to ferry terminal for our ferry tickets. A cluster of houses, shops and attractions can be found around the harbour in Oban, a town where fishing is still popular off the coast today. Ferries depart for the outer and inner Hebrides. Oban also has the reputation for being the sea food capital of Scotland and has a rich history from the early maritime industry to the development of roads and railways connecting the town to other ports of Scotland. It also played a part in WWll when Australia, Canadian and U.S air crew plus RAF flying boats operated from the bay.
Mull the largest of the inner Hebridean Iles and if you follow the coastline to Tobermory distinctive colourful houses add areal charm and the town was used in the popular children's television series Balamory.
Monday 21st
Today we travel to Mull (the main purpose of this road trip) After booking out of the b & b we moved our car due to the parking charges to the other end of town as our ferry was not due to sail until 11.45am, arriving on Mull at 12.30pm. The ferry was on schedule and the crossing was calm with blue skies and sunshine with a sea breeze. When on land it became very warm with the temperature reaching 19c. Our journey to B.B was on a single track road with passing places and a real rollercoaster of a route. We went through Tobermory then continued on to our b & b called Tigh-Na-Mara in Dervaig. Not being used to the roads the journey was 7 1/2 miles and should have taken us 30.min`s but being out in the wilds of nowhere it seemed to take for ever and left us thinking have we done the right thing but once we arrived what a beautiful scenic setting by Loch Chumhainn, quite and peaceful.
Dervaig is a small picturesque village at the north end of Mull Dates back to 1799, when Alexander Maclean, the laird of coll established a planned village here. This comprsised 26 houses and cottages linning both sides of a single street, each with its own garden and with common grazing provided for residents` livestock. By late 1800`s the village could boast two inns, along with a bakery, a shop, a post office and a Smithy. A stone plaque over the door of what is now the post office in the main street reveals this to have been built a Dervaigs Reading Room in 1898.It went on to serve as the village hall for over a century until the recent arrival of a much larger hall standing above the village alongside the road to Tobermory. Today the village boast two shops, but only one inn, the Ballachroy which opened alongside the main road in 1608 thus predating the village it now serves by almost two centuries. The original church serving the area was replaced with another on a location close to the bridge crossing the river at the head of loch a`Chumaian. This was replaced by Kilmore church, which was built in 1904/05 on the same site as its predecessor, with its white pencil shaped tower, Kilmore church must be one of the most easily identifiable and most attractive churches in Scotlane.The drive from Tobermory is along a twisting single track road with hair-pin bends, just one of routes favoured in the Isle of Mull rally which is held every October.
Later that evening we took our telescope out to watch the loch and had good sightings.

Tuesday 22nd
Today took us back to Tobermory and a walk of 5 1/2 km to Aros Park taking in coastal route/waterfalls and Lake Lochan. The park was created during the second part of the 19th century by the Allan`s, a shipbuilding family from Liverpool. It is probable that Aros Park was conceived as a highland retreat as was the fashion with so many of those who made money during the rise of the industrial age. However it soon became the sole concern of its owners, who always welcomed the folk of Tobermory into the grounds. Today, the remains of the estate are cared for by the forestry commission who continue the tradition of welcoming visitors. We also looked around the town with colourful houses. Later that evening we went for a local walk, seeing our third Bullfinch of the year and also returning to our loch with the scope but it was very quite tonight so we turn in only to be greeted with a knock on our door to say that the otter was around in front of the house. We jumped at the chance to see it and spent about 40min`s watching the otter with binoculars and telescope fishing for food and up on the bank eating his catch, "brilliant".
There were two high tides, one at 7.30am the other at 7.30pm In the evening it was, when were out there, it fascinating watching it.
Wednesday 23rd
Today was our sea eagle island tour day with a 9.30am pick up right outside the gate of the b &b where we are staying. We picked up another 6 at the pub in the village. We set off for the north part of the island with many stops looking for wildlife with tea, lunch and comfort stops on route. Calgary is a popular area for its beach the beach is broad and sandy. The sea is an idyillic blue if you catch it in the right weather conditions. The name comes from the Gaelic calaghearraida, which translates as the meadow beside the bay. Ulva bay was another stopping point. The sea eagle was seen through the telescope and flying but at a distance; many small birds were also seen, plus golden eagle, marsh harrier. Otter, common and grey seals were also present. Our guide was Arthur Brown who he has been on the island for 13yr`s and was a mind full of information. We returned to the b & b at 6pm with a day of beautiful weather. Later sitting outside enjoying the evening, then went for a late walk to the Old Byre tucked away in Glen Bellart near Dervaig.
Thursday 24th
We went walking up around Glenmore castle area, walking the Ardmore and coastal route totalling 5miles. This was mostly forestry and birding was low. But we had been rewarded with 4 cookoos, 3 Buzzards, 2 Songthrush and we think we heard a Crossbill. We then drove up to the castle. This is situated on the Northern tip of the Isle of Mull near Tobermory, Glengorm Castle overlooks the Atlantic and has views over 60 miles to the Outer Hebrides and Islands of Uist, Rhum and Canna. The Castle was built in 1860 and sits at the headland of Glengorm's vast area of coastline, forestry, lochs and hills. Glengorm truly stands apart from the surrounding Western Isles, already known for its dramatic scenery, due to its tranquillity and sheer natural beauty.
After returning to the b & b we spent the rest of the evening sitting outside.
Friday 25th
We decided to take a trip to Staffa/Fingles cave, but before we went out we were informed by Cathy our bb lady that the otter was around so out with the scope and bino`s and spent an hour watching but then decided we'd better make our way to the ferry for Staffa. After arriving at Ulva we had our lunch as our ferry was due at 2 pm. Ulva is a hamlet on the Hebridean island of Mull on it`s west coast. Ulva ferry is on the shore of Ulva Sound and the ferry connects Mull and the island of Ulva .Ulva primary School is located at Ulva ferry rather than on the islands of Ulva itself. There were 30 people altogether and sea journey was good, arriving at Staffa the boat went as close as possible into the cave entrance and then on to the landing point. We walked along to the cave entrance which is very impressive. We then walked up to the top of Staffa finding puffins and sat watching them fly in landing as close as they dare to us. They say they are more inquisitive about us than us them and could have spent all day there watching them. On our return to the ferry we were told a Corncrake had been seen, but we only heard it and as time was short we had to move on. Our return was good arriving back at 6pm.
Staffa owned by the Nation Trust for Scotland is famed for Fingle`s cave Truly a wonder of the natural world, immortalised musically by Mendelssohn. Staffa was once seriously believed to have been constructed by a race of giants The proof?-evidence of `cement` sticking the basalt columns together! The `Staffa suite` which covered an area of 13 square miles was the first of many lava flows that formed Mull.Fingle`s cave, this natural wonder is due to a small fault which can be seen at the topof the cave. Over the last 10,000 years columns have been eroded from this plane of weakness by the powerful Alantic surge.the cave is a natural cathedral but not made by giants as once believed. The cement that can clearly be seen between the columns is the mineral calcite put there naturally. We made our way back to the b&b around 7pm, again sitting outside as `the weather has been absolutely fabulous with temperatures in the car reaching 27c.
Saturday 26th
Before making our way to the ferry, we made a visit to Kilmore Church. Cathy, our b&b owner was born on the island and married in the church. Her father was also the smithy on the island and her husband and sons are employed in the logging industry. Both her sons are also involved in the Rally of Mull that takes place in October.
On roads that we might reach 20mph the rally cars average 60mph!!
We took the "weak road" (there a lot of those on the island) through the valley. This road was not bad as the logging company have improved it making the passing places wider due to the need to get the logging trucks to the ferry. Our ferry was on time, the crossing was pleasant sitting on top deck outside as the weather was again blue skies and warm. We had lunch in Oban then setting off Irvine for a one night stay with the journey time of 4hr`s. After checking in we had a walk to a place called Beach Park which even at 7.30pm was busy with families and young adults, but we felt it was a troubled town.
Irvine is a new town on the coast of the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire, Scotland. According to 2007 population estimates, the town is home to 39,527 inhabitants, making it the biggest settlement in North Ayrshire. Irvine was the site of Scotland's 12th century Military Capital and former headquarters of the Lord High Constable of Scotland, Hugh de Morville. It also served as the Capital of Cunninghame.The town was once a haunt of Robert Burns, after whom two streets in the town are named: Burns Street and Burns Crescent. He is known to have worked in a flax mill on the Glasgow Vennel. Despite being classed as a new town, Irvine has had a long history stretching back many centuries and was classed as a Royal Burgh. There are also conflicting rumours that Mary, Queen of Scots stayed briefly at Seagate Castle. To this day there is still a yearly festival, called Marymass, held in the town. Irvine is the birthplace of the present Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon and the former First Minister of Scotland, Jack Mcconnell. Its twin town is St-Amand-les-Eaux in northern France just outside Lille.

Sunday 27th
We made our way to Stanrear for an overnight stop, stopping on route at Girvan for a walk along the coast.
Girvan is a burgh in Carrick, South Ayrshire, Scotland, with a population of about 8000 people. Originally a fishing port, it is now also a seaside resort with beaches and cliffs. It lies 20 miles south of Ayr, and 30 miles north of Stranraer, one of the principal ferry ports from Scotland to Northern Ireland. After lunch visited the RSPB Mull of Gallaway and lighthouse nature reserve which is the most southerly point in Scotland, with splendid views across the Irish sea to the Isle of Man and Ireland. On clear day the Cumbrian fells appear on the horizon. The Mull is flanked by 85 metre cliffs, which show almost vertical layering of greywacke rocks, sculpted over millions of year by rain, sea and wind. and are home to more than 3,5000 pairs of breeding seabirds. Perched high on the top of the cliffs is the lighthouse with its 26 metre high tower. Built from a design by Robert Stevenson it came into use in 1830. Today it`s light is powered by an array of sealed-beam electric lamps, flashing away every 20 seconds. Since it`s automation in 1988 the lighthouse has been remotely monitored from the Northern Lighthouse Board`s Headquarters in Edinburgh. On our return we had a short stop at New England Bay, the tide was so high and nothing was seen. Later that evening we took a walk along Stanraer's coast road. Stranraer's life as a town really began in 1595 when Ninian Adair applied to King James VI to give Stranraer trading rights and a market. In the 17th and 18th centuries the town quickly expanded due to trade in textiles, tanning and fishing.Stranraer, much like Cairnryan, has it's history centred around the port with the first harbour being present in the mid 18th century. Further construction of the port occurred in the 1820s with the construction of the west pier. By the 1830s steam packets were making regular trips to Glasgow, Girvan and Belfast. Next came the railway to Stranraer in 1861, which, in those days came direct from Dumfries. The following year, the railway was extended to meet right up with the harbour and link up Portpatrick too. It was in 1862 when the official ferry service to Belfast in Northern Ireland began. In 1863 the east pier was constructed and Stranraer was designated as the Royal Mail office for Ireland. In 1872 the ferries to Ireland changed their destination to Larne whereas today the ferries go to Belfast again.Stranraer and nearby Kirkcolm played an important role in the war with Winston Churchill himself taking a trip in a Boeing flying boat from Stranraer to the USA in 1942. Flying boats were stationed at Kirkcolm and the Supermarine Stranraer was named after the town. Now no longer a port, after Stena Line moved their ferry services closer to the mouth of Loch Ryan, (near Cairnryan) in 2011, the town has been planning a redevelopment for the past few years. Stena Line, who use the port today, use the HSS, a huge high-speed ferry to augment smaller conventional ships. But this had to go slowly when it entered the loch because of its wash that would hit the coastline some 30 minutes later (this we did witness)and because of the shallow channel. There is so little water at low tides that even the conventional ferries had to slow down or their sterns and propellers could hit the bottom
Monday 28th
Next stop was Newton Stewart where we visited RSPB nature reserve Wood of Cree. The Wood of Cree is on the east bank of the River Cree 4 miles (6.5 km) north of Newton Stewart. It is on the minor road from Minnigaff to Glentrool, or from the A714 south of Bargrennan. The Wood of Cree is in the heart of the Cree Valley and is the largest ancient woodland in southern Scotland. This RSPB nature reserve is now part of the Cree Valley Community Woodland Trust. It is hoped that the Trust will link the fragments of native woodland in this valley, creating a continuous belt of woodland from Newton Stewart to Glentrool. This will enhance the biodiversity of the area and create a greater visitor experience to this beautiful part of Dumfries and GallowayThe reserve supports a whole array of species of wildlife, too many to mention in this short note. To give you a flavour and a feel of the place, in spring violets and primroses give way to carpets of bluebells before the leaves open and provide deep shade. The steep side burns are home to many specialist plants including rare mosses and liverworts. The carpet of bilberry is a sight worth seeing. The wood supports a wealth of summer migrants and it noted for its numerous pairs of pied flycatchers, wood warblers, restarts, and tree pipits as well as resident species such as barn owl, tawny owl, great spotted woodpecker and buzzard. Dipper and grey wagtail breed along the banks of the tumbling burns that flow through the woodland the reserve is split by a public road on one side is the main wood and of the other the River Cree. The river valley adds another dimension to an already diverse site. Open water, rich herb fen, tall swamp which in turn creates the perfect habitat for otters, duck, frogs, toads and a range of dragonflies. The waterside marshes and meadows are home to water rails, grasshopper warblers, reed bunting and sedge warblers. In winter the riverside viewing platform is an excellent site for watching goldeneye, teal, mallard and whooper swans. Although we are poorly off for mammals in Britain this reserve more than its fair share. Roe
and red deer are resident, while fallow deer have been seen on occasions. Red squirrels do occur in low numbers and the rare pine martin has been recorded. As already mentioned otters a regularly seen on the river. Various species of bat occur on the reserve, 8 in total. Due to the trees sudden burst of leaves because of the warm weather not a lot was seen although there was plenty of song but the birds were hidden by foliage. After lunch we went to Wigtown Osprey viewing project on the top floor of the county building. They have cctv footage of the birds, including video of last years chick. So far this year the adults have not returned but a male has been seen in the area and two juveniles seen. This project was set up in 2002 and this is the first time there has been no nesting. An article published on Friday 18 May 2012 Wigtown Bay's ospreys have surprised everyone this year by pulling a bit of a vanishing act. The pair, 'EP' and 'HD', have nested in the bay since 2007, and would normally have arrived back from Africa by mid-April. Northerly winds have caused many migrating birds delays this spring, but with other ospreys now seen in the area, it seems likely that the Wigtown pair will not be making an appearance this year. Andrew Bielinski, from RSPB Scotland said: "It's a bit of a mystery why the ospreys haven't returned, but these are wild animals so you always have to expect the unexpected. Ospreys undertake an incredible migration, flying over 3000 miles from Africa to the UK, so it's possible that something has happened to one, or both of the birds en route. Or it could be that they've simply chosen a new nest site this year, which ospreys are also occasionally known to do."
We then made our way down to the harbour to a hide but again very quite. This area is more into winter birding. We made our return via the RSPB Crook of Baldoon, their newest reserve in Dumfries and Gallaway. They say in spring the wet grassland provide the perfect nesting place for lapwings and a refuelling stop for wading birds on long journeys north. Being late May we could have been to late, also the grassland was very dry and the ground cracking and we only saw one lapwing nesting.
Tuesday 29th
Onto Dumfries stopping at RSPB Ken-Dee Marsh reserve on our way. From the hides we saw a great spotted woodpecker feeding young (we were alerted to this by a sound that sounded like a clockwork toy made by the youngster), we continued to other hides, the first one not a lot of activity, the second we had sightings were the great spotted woodpecker and a nuthatch on the feeder; again plenty of song. We made a decision to go the Kite feeding station at Havenston. This feeding station is only 20 minutes drive from the RSPB Scotland's Ken-Dee Marshes Reserve or the towns of New Galloway and Castle Douglas and around 50 minutes drive from RSPB Scotland's Mersehead Reserve or Dumfries, and so can be easily integrated within a good day's wildlife watching at any time of the year. Red kites have been congregating at Bellymack Hill Farm since the first year that they were reintroduced to Galloway. This may have been due to the prevailing SW winds which approach the hillside and create updrafts of air, enabling kites to ride the air effortlessly above the hill. The feeding station allows on lookers to get a close firsthand experience of these gregarious birds when they come in to feed There are viewing areas situated around the feeding area, including a hide above the field, where commanding views can be taken in of kites being fed scenic Galloway countryside and kites perching in trees and shrubs, nearby. As the population of kites rises in Galloway, they will expand in range and chances of seeing these birds further afield will increase. Viewing these birds at the feeding station is probably one of the most dramatic ways to encounter the species, up close as they display and interact with other kites. Supporting the trail helps the local population of red kites by making them a financial asset to the area. With thirteen red kites illegally poisoned in South West Scotland by 2005 (and three more since the release period ended), the kites, like other birds of prey, need support from people in these communities to help them establish a viable breeding population in Dumfries and Galloway. Even though RSPB Scotland do not directly (i.e. financially) support or manage the feeding station (which operates as a private farm business), it does recognise that this venture, responsibly managed, does help to attract more visitors to the area and thus results in better support for the kites, by local businesses and communities. For this reason, the RSPB will be present at the feeding station on some days throughout the year, to provide more information about the project and engage with visitors on the kite trail to strengthen public support for these birds of prey.
What a brilliant display, the kites seem to start gathering at 1.30pm for the feed at 2.0pm. They look lovely just soaring around above and as the skies were blue their colouring look great.
It was then onto Barste brick visitors centre rich in local history and bursting with wildlife, and has a story of Hill Fort on Barstobrick Hill dating back 1500 years, and Neilsons Monument which commemorates the life of James Beaumont Neilson who invented the Hot Blast process steel making. And views stretch across the Solway Firth as far as the Isle of Man and Cumbria We had a late lunch then on to N.T.S Threve nature reserve and to our delight they had an Osprey platform and yes a female on egg with the male near by. The osprey have been nesting for 5yr`s and the male was the original bird but the female new. We then went to the two hides and walked the rest of the path back to the car park with excellent views along the way. The National Trust for Scotland managed Threave Estate provides a safe haven for many species of birds, mammals and insects. The estate covers some 1500 acres and contains a wide range of habitats, including farmland, woodland, marshes and a two mile stretch of the River Dee.Five bird hides are situated along the River and marshes providing excellent opportunities to observe resident and migrant species. Waders are common in Threave outside of the winter months, using the long tussocky grass and mud ringed pools for nesting; they include oystercatchers, lapwing, curlew, redshank and snipe. With numerous otter holts along the River Dee and miles of drainage channels throughout the estate, spring is the time to catch a glimpse of these secretive mammals. In summer, ospreys have been breeding here for a few years, the pair have been nesting at Threave since 2009, when a new nesting platform was installed. The nesting site for these ospreys is on the banks of the River Dee. Recently installed hides provide excellent real-life views of the birds. Willow and grasshopper warblers can also be seen. Red kites appear over Threave as local farmers cut their silage around the wildfowl reserve. Also a good time to see flocks of redwing, fieldfare, and, sporadically, waxwings. In winter the wetlands echo to sounds of pink footed, greylag and occasionally a flock of the elusive Greenland White fronted geese from October onwards. As water levels rise on the River Dee, flooding surrounding grassland, whooper swans, widgeon, teal and pintail all appear. Marsh and hen harrier, buzzard, peregrine falcon, sparrowhawk, kestrel and most recently goshawk all favour the rich pickings to be found on the marshes throughout winter months. A long but very good day.
Wednesday30 th
Early this morning the mist was down heavy, but we still went out today to RSPB Mearsehead, stopping on route at Drumburn view point. With the tide out we did have some sightings of Shelduck and Oystercatcher. We continued to Mearsehead with scenery and wildlife that's typical of this region. Stroll along the nature trails and use the viewing hides to explore at your own pace. Spring is particularly magical, when the wet meadows fill with lapwings and skylarks, not to mention butterflies and wild flowers. You might also see a roe deer. And in the autumn, thousands of barnacle and pink-footed geese start to arrive for the winter, creating a not-to-be-missed spectacle. We went into two hides and found a few species, then walked up to the coastal walk to find the tide was out further and we were unable to see anything. We discovered that the tide was due in at 8pm so we made our way back to Dumfries. William the Lion made Dumfries a Royal Burgh in 1186. In the late 12th century a castle was built at Dumfries but it was demolished in the early 14th century. In 1395 Robert III gave Dumfries a charter. (In the Middle Ages a charter was a document granting or confirming a towns rights). By then Dumfries was a flourishing market town. It was also an inland port. Wool and woollen cloth were exported from Dumfries and luxuries like wine were imported from France and Spain. Spices were also imported. In Medieval Dumfries there were the same craftsmen you would find in any town such as fleshers, skinners, glovers, shoemakers and bakers. However because of its position near the border Dumfries suffered during the conflicts with England in the 14th and 15th centuries. The English burned Dumfries several times. Dumfries also suffered an accidental fire in 1504.In the 13th century Franciscan friars arrived in Dumfries. Friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach. Franciscan friars were called grey friars because of the colour of their costumes. Devorgilla Bridge was first built in 1431. It was named after King John Baliol's mother. Through the years 1500-1800 Dumfries remained a busy market town. It was never a manufacturing centre although there was some leather tanning and shoemaking. The Midsteeple was built in 1707 as a court and prison. Carved on it is an 'ell', an old measure for cloth. In 1959 a map of Dumfries as it was in the time of Robert Burns was added. Dumfries gained its first newspaper in 1721. The Theatre Royal dates from 1787. When Robert Burns exchanged the role of farmer for that of Exciseman he moved with his family from Ellisland Farm into a tenement flat in Bank Street, Dumfries, close to the Whitesands and the River Nith. The family lived here from 1791 until 1793 when they moved to a better quality house in Mill Street (now Burns Street). He died there in 1796. Robert Burns was laid to rest in the Burns Mausoleum in 1815. Dumfries at that time was a lively town of some 5,600 inhabitants, mostly living tightly packed into tenement closes of red sandstone. The town was a busy port and in 1792 Burns was promoted to the Dumfries Port Division of the Excise, the River Nith flowing through the town, with Devorgilla's Bridge and the caul or weir which was used to drive the town's watermills. The Whitesands, where the town's livestock markets were held is on the right.
In the 19th century Dumfries remained a market town for the surrounding area. It was still a busy port but in the 20th century the port went into decline and eventually ceased altogether. In the 19th century there was a tweed making industry in Dumfries but it petered out in the early 20th century. In the 20th century industries in Dumfries included rubber, canned milk, knitwear and hosiery. Like all towns in the early 19th century Dumfries was dirty and unsanitary. Dumfries suffered an outbreak of cholera in 1832. However conditions in Dumfries improved in the later 19th century. The existing Greyfriars Church was built in 1868. Also in 1868 Robert Smith was hanged at Dumfries. It was the last public hanging in Scotland. A statue of Robert Burns was made in 1882 and Dumfries library was built in 1904.In the 1920s and 1930 council houses were built in Dumfries. Many more were built after 1945. St Michael's Bridge was built in 1927.Dumfries grew rapidly in the 20th century. By 1951 the population of Dumfries was 26,000. Today the population of Dumfries is 32,000. In 1997 Dumfries was voted the Best Place to Live in Britain. Dumfries is known as 'Queen of the South'. We walked down to the Whitesand along both sides of the river which in winter is good for goosesanders and goldeneye.
Thursday 31st
The weather has changed today with mist and rain; the rain accompanied us all the way to Kirby Lonsdale, where we went to N.T Sizerg castle and gardens. The Sizergh Estate was granted to Gervase Deincourt, by Henry II, the first Plantagenet king in the 1170's. On the marriage of Gervase's great-granddaughter, the heiress Elizabeth Deincourt to Sir William de Stirkeland in 1239, the estate passed into the hands of the Stricklands. A well documented history of the Strickland family exists in the Sizergh muniments. The castle was originally a sixty feet high solar tower, of limestone rubble, with walls up to 3 metres (10 feet) thick, dating from medieval times. The name Sizergh originates from the Old Norse word 'Sigarith' meaning a dairy farm. We were going on a tour of the house but this was fully booked so we decided to visit RSPB Lieghton Moss nature reserve. Leighton Moss RSPB reserve is a nature reserve in Lancashire, England, which has been in the care of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds since 1964. It is situated at Silverdale near Carnforth, on the edge of Morecambe Bay and in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Leighton Moss contains the largest area of reedbeds in north-west England, along with lagoons and woodland, and provides habitats for many species of wildlife, including bitterns and red deer. As a wetland of international importance, it was designated a Ramsar site in 1985. It is an Important Bird Area. So on with wellies and wet gear and off we set and spent 6hr`s there visiting all 7 hides. Our sightings were good and various young including a red deer male and female with young. The rain cleared and it became humid

Friday 1st
Misty and dark clouds followed us around Kirby Lonsdale, a very quaint town. Our b&b, called the blue pig is a grade 2 listed building approx 1680. Orignally known as the white lion it is situated at the top of mill brow which was originally known as Kings St. This was the main rd into Kirby Lonsdale until 1820 coach and horses had to cross devils bridge and travel along the bank of the river Lune until reaching Mill Brow. At this point they had to stop and attach large bulks of wood by chains onto the rear of the coach ready for a full speed of gallop up Mill brow, if the horses faltered the bulk of wood acted as a break to stop the coach rolling down the hill. As the horses passed swine market (adjacent to the Blue Pig) the passengers first view of an inn would be the white lion near the junction of what is now Market St and Main St. In the 1900`s this residence was privately owned by the William family and sold Sunday papers whilst their neighbour next door acted as the local laundry. The back entrance to the Blue Pig opens onto Swine Market were Bonnie prince reputedly stood on the stone cross and invited the malice of Kirby Lonsdale to join him in his northern quest . Swine Market is one of the most photographed area of Kirby Lonsdale being situated in the oldest part of the town next to St Marys church which dates back to the 9th centaury. The property reverted back to private when it ceased selling papers, it then became a call centre and later a shop. In 2007 this grade11 listed building was granted planning permission and after mant months of hard work the Blue Pig was born.
Legend has it that Devils bridge was built by the devils and tells of an old lady who sked to cross the bridge to tend her cows. The devil demanded a payment in the form of the first soul to cross the bridge. The old woman foiled his plan by sending her dog across first.
So it was then on to Morecombe Bay where our map told us the RSPB reserve was located at Hest Bank, but when we arrived there was no evidence of their presence and again we were caught by the tide being out so far even the scope was not adequate. We did see various gulls, heron and oystercatcher. A linnet was also seen in all it`s glory with a nice red breast. The sandflats and saltmarshes of Morecambe Bay are vital feeding grounds for a quarter of a million wading birds, ducks and geese. It's the second most important estuary in the UK and is protected by European and UK law. We're involved in the conservation and management of the whole bay and own a significant area of saltmarsh and mudflats between Hest Bank and Silverdale as a nature reserve. During the hour before high tide, spectacular flocks of waders gather to roost at Hest Bank.We drove on to Morecombe Bay, parked in the surrounding area and walked along the seafront to the Beck jetty, about 6 miles return in total. Morecambe Bay is a large sandy bay in the north west of England, reaching from Walney Island in the north to Fleetwood in the south. The Bay is the largest continuous intertidal area in the whole of Britain.covers an area of 310km2 and consists mainly of intertidal sandflats and mudflats. Morecambe Bay has more than 5% of the UK's total area of saltmarsh. The Bay is broad and shallow with a large tidal range of up to 10.5 metres at spring tides and an ebbing tide that can fall back to 12km. The flood tide rushes into the Bay with the speed of 'a good horse'. Tidal bores can reach speeds of up to 9 knots and can cover an area the size of a football pitch in minutes. Several rivers flow into Morecambe Bay including the rivers Kent, Keer, Leven, Lune and Wyre. The Kent is one of the fastest flowing rivers in England. Up to 200,000 people live and work around the Bay. We did have some lunch in between and noticed at 5pm the tide had completely gone out. We did see a flock of waders flying but we had no binoculars or scope, but as always when you need them you haven't got them. A very poor birding day today but the weather turned out great, blue sky plenty of sun and great views across the bay.
Saturday 2nd
After a two night stay and also finding out why the name of The Blue Pig was so called (because it was near the swine market), we continue our journey down with the weather being blue skies but then cloudy with showers on route to our next stop, Chester. On the way we visited N.T Hare Hill gardens, then continued to the Dee estuary after hitting heavy queues of traffic on M6, but thanks to our "sat nav" it guided us around the problem and we arrived at RSPB Burton Mere wetland reserve. Burton Mere Wetlands the Dee Estuary straddling the border between Cheshire, England and Flintshire, Wales. It is run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and incorporates their older Inner Marsh Farm reserve. It lies near the village of Burton, about 3 km south of Neston. It includes areas of marshland, woodland and arable fields. The site consisted of tidal mudflats until the late 19th century when it was reclaimed during the building of the Wrexham to Bidston railway line. The resulting land was used for grazing and duck shooting and was later used for arable farming. The RSPB bought land for the original Inner Marsh Farm reserve in 1986 and the reserve opened in June 1992. Three shallow, freshwater pools were created as well as a footpath leading to a hide overlooking the pools. Because of restrictions from the local council, the RSPB did not publicise the reserve and access was originally for members only. There is a small car park at the end of an un-tarmacked road, signposted for Burton Point Farm, off Station Road. The reserve was enlarged by the purchase of land at Burton Marsh Farm in 2006 and Burton Mere Fisheries in 2008. New wetland areas were created along with additional visitor facilities including a reception hide, toilet block and a new entrance and car park. The reserve was renamed Burton Mere Wetlands in September 2011 when the new section was officially opened by the television presenter and naturalist Iolo Williams. Further paths and screens are planned including a path linking the old and new sections of the reserve. Birds include a variety of waders through the winter and migration seasons including significant numbers of black-tailed godwit, spotted redshank, greenshank and ruff. Winter also brings many ducks including pintail, shoveler, teal and wigeon, as well as small numbers of Bewick's swan and whooper swan. Birds of prey can be seen over the marsh, from the reserve or from nearby Denhall Lane; these include short-eared owl, hen harrier, marsh harrier, merlin, kestrel and peregrine falcon. Breeding birds include good numbers of nationally declining waders such as lapwing and redshank. Avocet also breed on the new pools. Yellow wagtail, skylark, sedge warbler, reed warbler, lesser whitethroat, grasshopper warbler and reed bunting all occur. A colony of little egrets and grey herons breeds in a nearby woodMammals on the reserve include harvest mouse, water vole and European hare. Daubenton's bats feed over the wetlands. Insects include the wall brown butterfly and the red-eyed damselfly. The pools on the reserve are surrounded by reedmace, sea club-rush, grey club-rush, soft rush and hard rush. Area of damp grassland contain marsh foxtail, floating sweet-grass, creeping bent and soft rush. Wild flowers include marsh marigold and fleabane. New hides have been built to a traditional design, like the ones we used to have at Minsmere. And once again we were delighted to see another Bullfinch, we think 6? Plenty of avorcet chicks and many other youngsters coming along, very good site.
Sunday 3rd
Weather awful today with rain, wind and very cool, the car recorded 9c a change from the highs of 25c. We walked into Chester this morning but was very early to do what we wanted , so off back to the Dee estuary to RSPB Ayr Point, a nature reserve at Talacre at the mouth of the Dee estuary in North East Wales. Close by stands the Point of Ayr lighthouse, the Gronant and Talacre sand dunes and the wide stretches of sandy beach at Point of Ayr.Bird watchers will appreciate visiting Point of Ayr and the Dee RSPB especially during the winter months, when, at high tide, the thousands of feeding birds are forced by the risingwaters onto the salt marshes and closer to the shore. The Talacre dunes nearby are also popular with bird watchers, and the beach offers possibilities for sighting migrating Terns, Gannets, Skuas, Leach's Petrel, Kittiwakes and other visitors to the Dee estuary and the Irish Sea. Among the sand dunes themselves, and the marsh behind the Point of Ayr lighthouse, can be observed Whinchat, Wheatear, Stonechat, Skylark and various Warblers. Talacre Warren (between the end of Station Road and the lighthouse) is a particularly good place to see migrant birds. We were informed by a local couple that the bird hide had been burnt down and not replaced. The sea was rough and windy and no sign of any birdlife apart from a skylark so we returned to our b&b after stopping for some lunch. I'm sitting here watching the royal barge going down the Thames and looking out the window with the rain still falling. This is the first bad day we've had.
Monday 4th
We visit our friends in Market Drayton and "chill out" today.
Tuesday 5th
Leave Market Drayton for our last visit of our journey. We decided to visit RSPB The Lodge at Sandy to see how the regeneration of the heathland was coming along. The Lodge is a nature reserve run by the RSPB, named after the building there, The Lodge, which is their headquarters. It is located south-east of the town of Sandy, Bedfordshire, in EnglandThe reserve sits on the Greensand Ridge, overlooking the River Ivel valley and includes areas of broadleaved and coniferous woodland, acid grassland and heathland. The area surrounding The Lodge was covered in heathland prior to the 19th century, when it was ploughed up for agriculture or planted with non-native conifer species for forestry. In 2005, work began to restore some areas of heathland. The aim is to attract species including Woodlark, European Nightjar, and Dartford Warbler Sandy Warren, part of the reserve, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest The site has two Iron Age hill forts, built about 700 BC; the most impressive, on Galley Hill, is a univallate fort, with obvious banks and ditches. 'Sandy Warren' later became a valuable source of rabbits for food.Around 1851, the 'Swiss Cottage' (which now serves as the reserve's visitor centre and shop) was built for Captain William Peel. When he died, the estate passed to his mother, and then to his younger brother Arthur Wellesley Peel, who built the large house then known as 'Sandy Lodge'. Arthur Wellesley Peel was an MP and Speaker of the House of Commons. In 1934, the house was sold to Sir Malcolm Stewart and the formal gardens were established.[3]After Princess Margaret decided not to buy The Lodge (having been advised that a public bridleway through the grounds was a security risk), the RSPB acquired it in 1961 The purchase was arranged by Tony Norris, then chairman of its finance and general purposes committee, who used his own money to facilitate the transaction and was, for one day, owner of the Lodge. It has been their headquarters ever since. On 13 October 2010, an unexploded bomb from World War II was safely removed from the grounds. It was very busy there with lots of families but not many species were seen and it was very quite in places. We had our last night in the Holiday Inn.
Wednesday 6th
We returned home after an excellent 23days, 14 different beds, 1897 miles, 142 bird species and 13 mammals seen.

Sue Bayliss