Saturday, 9th May 2015 (Day 6, week 18)
Aiming for 1000 miles in a year
Total so far: 339.6 miles (12.5 miles this week)
A discussion over a glass of wine about all the lakes and reservoirs in Cornwall and Devon with Mr O last night, resulted in a visit to Stithians Lake today. Although it’s just up the road, we haven’t walked here before. We were nearly put off by heavy rain this morning, but encouraged by the weather forecast which predicted sunny spells later in the day, we decided to go for it – and they were right, it turned out to be fine, and a splendid walk it was too!
Stithians Lake is managed by the South West Lakes Trust (swlakestrust.org.uk) which looks after conservation and provides a lovely setting for camping and lots of outdoor activities like sailing and wind surfing. We stuck to walking needless to say!
Stithians Lake Country Park circular walk (5 miles)
The visitor centre is a hive of activity with wind surfers and sailors preparing to get out onto the water. I’m amused to see, stuck to a door, a chart for measuring your fish (should you catch any). I was wondering, when we went to Porth Reservoir and the angling competition was in progress – how do they judge these things. Mr O tells me that they go by weight – all the fish are weighed and the biggest one wins. Well – here they are measured by being held up by their tails!
Right at the start of the walk is a lovely bird hide looking out over the wetlands to one end of the lake. We take a while watching a gaggle of Canada geese on the water and trying to identify what we think are a pair of diving ducks. Luckily the bird hide has some lovely posters on the wall with all the likely birds and wildfowl we might see and after a bit of umming and aahing we begin to think that what we can see are in fact Little Grebe. This is exciting for me – I haven’t seen these before! Mr RR gets out his phone and plays the call of the Little Grebe from the birdsong app. They are! Little Grebe!
The RSPB book tells me that they are very secretive and more likely to dive than to fly, in fact they dive when they are disturbed and emerge out of sight amongst nearby vegetation. Small groups form in sheltered waters and the call is a loud horse-like whinnying and we hear this across the water as the pair we can see meet up with a couple of others.
The route around the lake is clear and the views across broken only by the windsurfers and yachters (is that a word??). Interestingly the lake is reputed to be one of the windiest inland waters in England, and today it’s living up to that reputation!
A lovely seat is provided part way round from where you can sit and watch the water sports.
Amongst the birds we see are buzzards, dunnock and sedge warblers but we can hear others all around. As we get to the dam, swallows are darting too and fro, presumably after the large flies which have been circling us all the way – I think they’re mayflies, though the skill of fly identification is not one I intend to pursue, far too complicated even with my trusty books.
Work on the Stithians dam began in 1962 and it was opened in 1967 following the flooding of the valley including 274 acres of farmland and three country houses.
The pathways are lined with buttercups and daisies and dandelions. There are some bluebells and lesser stitchwort. We also spot wood anemones and cuckoo flowers.
The Cuckoo flower has sinister connections in folklore – with some believing that if you picked it you would be bitten by an adder before the end of the year and others declaring that bringing it indoors would lead to the house suffering a lightning strike. Probably because of these adverse feelings about it – although is is a herb – it has been seldom used in medicine. It is safe to eat and can be substituted for water-cress in salads for example.
Eventually our route leads us onto a road and we walk carefully along it for a mile or so before finding the way back to the lakeside track. On the way we can see a group of gulls, cormorants and egrets down on the lake, and coming across a bird hide we step in to get a closer look.
On the track back to the visitor centre a couple of Canada geese fly close overhead, honking loudly, and a bit of quick camera work just catches them above the bright blue of the lake.
We end our morning with a cup of tea and toasted muffins at the lakeside cafe, sitting in the sun and watching all the activity on the water. Lovely.
Associated artwork for Ricketyrambler by Mr RR: