This week we had a good crowd up at Sweden Wood with its stunning views and huge terraced walls. The walk up is a bit steep and we get funny looks wandering through Ambleside with a strimmer, loppers, shears and bow saws! The walk takes us past the lovely Folly of Friendship and Beauty which stands in the grounds of the Victorian Eller How. Apparently the folly was built by Henry Boyle in the late 19th Century and visitors’ names from the time are carved into the stones, including William Wordsworth.

Folly of Friendship and Beauty

A walk around the wood led to a list of tasks for the day: sheep removal, path clearance, removal of a fallen tree over the bridleway, tube removal and packing up, and a wall gap to fix. The wood was looking lovely and the views were stunning. The foxgloves towered above the vegetation, the only downside being the swarms of midges that kept appearing out of nowhere. Apparently it is the lady midges who bite and they were suddenly attracted by our breath and smell. Despite only being 2 – 3mm across they can be extremely annoying. 

Foxgloves though are rather more interesting - usually known for being poisonous. According to the Harvesting History website, they are also called Fairy’s Gloves, Witches’ Fingers and Fairy Thimbles. These names refer to the flowers resembling clusters of gloves and the idea that areas where foxgloves grow naturally are maybe inhabited by fairies! Maybe the fairies could magic away the midges for next time….

The plant actually dates back to 1000AD, but was cultivated in England in the 1400s. Although poisonous, it has medicinal uses. By the late 1700s it was used as a heart stimulant, for coughs, epilepsy and swollen glands. Apparently Van Gogh used it for epilepsy but a side effect is yellow vision, which it is believed greatly influenced his art and why he often used yellow paint! As the saying goes, please ‘don’t try that at home’!

So now we know how the mind of a sheep worked (see last week's diary), we decided to try the theories out on removing four sheep from the wood. Alas we had no Fiona Bruce masks, but we did smile and didn’t shout. Result? Well the sheep walked calmly towards the gate, job done! Somehow I don’t think we will be so successful at High Borrowdale removing our furry invaders.

Our hardy band of volunteers

John and Matthew worked tirelessly with the strimmer on the paths. We removed several boughs from a fallen tree that was crossing the bridleway, fixed a wall gap and packed up a load of tree tubes ready for removal in the future. Despite care, sometimes, though rarely, accidents on steep ground such as at Sweden Wood do happen. One of our team took a fall, but it was fantastic how David and Gabrielle in particular were straight in there helping and supporting. Gabrielle has just retired from being a trauma nurse in a big Manchester hospital so her skills came in handy. The injury could have been so much worse, but we wish Reg a speedy recovery.

Next week it is dry stone walling at Mazonath. Join us by booking at https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/Event/monday-17th-june-2024-mazonwath-dry-stone-walling

Meanwhile, I am sure my car is still full of midges this morning…