A sea of heather features in part six of the Rosthwaite to Dock Tarn nature writing series.
It can be read as a stand-alone piece; however, if you haven’t already done so, you may wish to read the previous parts first (oldest to most recent): The Clapping Wood Pigeon, The Fiery Robin, A Peacock Butterfly, The Greenbottle Fly, and The Birch and the Blue Tit.
A Sea of Heather
Having climbed Great Crag’s forested fell-side, I now find myself on a much more forgiving gradient where I saunter through vast tracts of tall bracken and blossoming heather, their green and mauve vibrant and vivid due to being soaked in the afternoon sun.
The upper reaches of the beck, the same beck that I became acquainted with down in the forest, form an arresting feature that cuts through the landscape. White rapids, governed by the law of gravity, cascade over rocks and stones along a narrow gully as they go gallantly on their way to Derwent Water and beyond.
Even up here, drystone walls crisscross the terrain, their structures conforming with incredible exquisiteness to the uneven topography of the crag. Despite them being manmade, the walls fit surprisingly harmoniously into the environment, at least visually, no doubt in virtue of their one hundred per cent natural and only ingredient: unprocessed stone. But of course, a barrier is a barrier, natural or not, and so I am sure that many a mammal would prefer their absence.
As I gradually gain altitude, the bracken lessens and the profusion of heather increases, creating an unbroken sea of pinks and purples. I zoom in on a stem. Minute, pale pink flowers, like micro-sized lilies, throng its length, overwhelming the green of the rudimentary leaves.
The neighbouring shrub must be a different variety, for each flower’s magenta-toned petals are fused to form a hollow, egg-shaped, polyp-like chamber that houses the precious reproductive organs within. The flowers do not reside along the length of the stalk but instead teem around the terminus.
Continuing on, I amble over one last brow to arrive at a breath-taking hilltop oasis, a secret only seen by hikers, a treasure tucked away in the fells. It is a tarn—a small mountain lake—a permanent accumulation of water inside a shallow, upland, heather-lined basin. It even has an island—a little island with little birch trees.
Lily pads float endearingly in the shallows; and regarding their flowers, as of yet, only one or two have managed to break free from their cocoon-like calyxes to spread their delicate wings.
Water lilies are not the only form of aquatic vegetation; green reeds composed of single vertical stalks are scattered loosely across the lake, giving the body of water a balding pattern.
After my initial scan of the scene, I tiptoe down to the water’s edge in hopes of discovering some creatures that call this place home.