Great Landscapes Festival 2022

Great Landscapes offer endless opportunities for physical, spiritual and mental well-being but they are also under threat and, in our busy lives, we can take for granted the true beauty and importance of what is above, below and all around us.

Wildlife Crime Office, West Yorkshire Police

I reached over to hit the snooze button on the alarm clock, with a disapproving shuffling from a bemused wife in the bed next to me. It takes me a few seconds to recall why my alarm was making this awful noise at this godforsaken time, especially on one of my rare days off. Then it hits me that I was heading north to grab a summit sunrise shot and any reluctance to get out of bed quickly turns to excitement. I was up, dressed, and out of the house with my rucksack on and a strong coffee in hand.

My choice of venue today was Brock Crags in the Far Eastern Lakeland Fells, and as I walked from the car park at Hartsop the daylight starting to win the battle over darkness, I knew that I had to get a shifty on.

As I got higher up the hill and away from the noise of the river the sound of the dawn chorus started filling the air. Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Raven, Red Grouse all contributing to the glee club with an occasional Cuckoo and Wood Pigeon sounding further down the valley.

Just short of the summit I stumble across a sight straight from a scene of American Werewolf in London; at least half a dozen dead sheep scattered around a small tarn and either victims of a lightning strike or some ancient Lakeland sacrificial ceremony.

A couple of minutes later and I arrive at the summit cairn where I disturb three red deer but they are well out of sight before I can get my camera out.

My breathing has now returned to normal and I can now hear the full glory of the dawn chorus with a lone Skylark suspended right above me taking center stage, such a shame that this melodious creature is on the red list of endangered species.

After a few minutes the sun shows itself and I manage to grab a few photos with the skylark keeping me entertained as I play with the camera settings.

I then turn my attention to the cotton grass that has carpeted the area and grab a few more images before packing the camera away and heading back down to the village for a Mountain Leader workshop.

This is turning into a favourite past time of mine, if you have never experienced a dawn chorus at the top of a mountain then give it a try I can’t recommend it enough.

Experiences like this are not only good for the soul but they are a great reminder of how lucky we are to have such an abundance of wild life on our doorstep.

This is one of the reasons that I became a Wildlife Crime officer, to try and ensure that mornings like this are available to everyone and they help keep me focused in my normal world of mutilated badgers, stuffed Goshawks, and smuggled ivory tusks.