A Broom Moth Caterpillar4 minute read


A dark banded morph of a broom moth caterpillar features in this piece of my nature writing, which is based on a hike from Buttermere to Bleaberry Tarn in the Western Lake District.

A Broom Moth Caterpillar

Funnelling down through the Buttermere Valley are winds that seem intent on blasting me off my feet. My ears are flooded with tempestuousness and my nostrils inundated with freshness. I feel my face firmly pressed upon while I witness the whipping of Buttermere’s water.

I attempt to adapt, at once, to the force that confronts me. Instead of resisting the wind’s power head-on, I turn slightly to the side and in so doing become more streamlined. I place my feet square and bend my legs at the knees, my posture transformed into something reminiscent of a martial arts self-defence stance.

Despite the necessity to adjust, I embrace this torrent of energy, for I feel more alive in its presence than in its absence, this exciter of the senses a welcome accompaniment to the rugged scenery that surrounds me.

At the opposite end of the lake, Fleetwith Pike stands with notable prominence, its limpet-like form seemingly suctioned to the earth’s crust.

Although the wind sweeps with staggering strength, it is coupled with a sky that is coloured a prepossessing blue, which is prettified further by white, shapeless clouds, which, like the waves that course across Buttermere’s surface, shift with astounding celerity towards me.

The dynamic qualities of the clouds above are reflected in their shadows onto the geography below, triggering constant changes in shades of colour and in the texture of land and water alike.

Once sufficiently entertained by the interactions between water, wind, light and land, I betake myself to the bosky, lower quarters of a nearby fell-side. I ascend a steep footpath lined with embedded stones that have been laid down by man in an effort to reduce soil erosion. Just several metres along this path, I find myself surrounded by trees, mosses and ferns where no trace is to be detected of the vigorous flow of air that drives through the valley. The roar of wind in my ears is replaced by the faint, dulcet tweets of a distant titmouse, and then silence.

The swathe of woodland does not extend very high and so I am soon very much above and beyond it. To my surprise, however, the wind up here is far less intense than down in the dale. Furthermore, from here on out, the gradient of my intended route is relatively gentle, and so I amble leisurely, and in the company of sunshine, all the way to Bleaberry Tarn.

Upon nearing the tarn, Nature presents me with a plush, purple expanse that stops me instantly in my tracks, a huge blanket of heather in full bloom which rises up the slopes of the nearby Red Pike, a fell that forms part of the back wall of the half-open hollow in which Bleaberry Tarn is situated.

After admiring the sheer beauty of the scene before me—the sea of purple, the grey-blue Herdwick ewe and her white-faced, black lamb swimming in the thick of it; the striking red footpath to the summit of Red Pike; and the rugged, green-and-grey cliffs of the neighbouring High Stile—I slowly approach the tarn.

As I reach the small, crystal-clear, roughly circular corrie lake, something catches my eye amongst a patch of bilberry by my feet. With a length of only an inch and a skin intensely rich with pigment, the tiny creature elicits a kneel from me in order to observe it more attentively.

It is an invertebrate with a cranium coloured in a pale, pink-hued red comparable to the rock of the pike on which it crawls. The back and flanks, in stark contrast, are striped along their length with lemon-yellow, white and black, but the black bands are not plain, solid black, but rather pair up with a creamy, pale pink to produce a pattern almost reticulate, the detail incredibly intricate, striking squiggles and curlicues laced delicately throughout.

What’s more, with the sun’s essence shining upon him, this dark-banded morph of a broom moth caterpillar glows with unfathomable radiance, as if the light shines out of him from within, the convoluted markings of the dark bands accentuating the effect to mesmerical proportions.

I watch as the luminous moth larva completes the consumption of a leaf, then, as he heads over to the next one, I decide it’s time for me, after a quick exploration of the tarn, to head on home.

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