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Natural History

Meeting Details

What we do

During the summer months i.e. April to September inclusive, our meetings are held outdoors at varying locations, twice monthly on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. We gather at the agreed venue at 2.00 and plan to finish at 4.00–ish. We meet whatever the weather.

Winter meetings, from October to March, are on the second Wednesday of each month starting at 2;15pm, with refreshments at 1.45pm. Some members have opted to be winter members only.

We are all learning from each other; some members have a great wealth of knowledge and are happy to share. Our list of suggested topics is endless and we are looking forward to plenty of exploration and learning in the months ahead: do join us if you wish to learn or have expertise to offer – you will be very welcome.

It would be wise to check with Sarah Harvey re field trips in case there have been changes or if you need more information.


August 2018

A busy summer programme began with panoramic views from Eycott Reserve. A prime example of how agricultural land can successfully be transformed into thriving multi-habitat land within ten years. Cranberry, Marsh Cinquefoil and the tiny fungus Pleated Inkcap topped the bill. The Barkbooth bluebells were at their best in May with the unusual Parsley Piert located the following day. A bird watching visit to Barbondale produced sightings of 25 species in two hours. Close views of Red Starts and Pied Flycatcher were memorable. A searing hot day on the limestone pavement on Little Asby Common near Orton did not deter us. We were rewarded with specialized ferns followed by orchids and Ragged Robin in the lush water meadow at Tarn Sike. We look forward to a butterfly visit to Smardale in late July. Last outing: Private viewing of Beatrix Potter’s fungi paintings with the curator at The Armitt Museum, Ambleside on WED 12 Sept. 10.15am. We still need 20 people for this list so this event is open to all other U3A groups. Please contact me.

Winter Programme at Castle Street.

10 Oct- ‘The flora of the Dales and Search for the Lady’s Slipper Orchid’- Prof J. Lee

14 Nov- ‘Nethy Bridge, Gannets at Spey Bay and Abernethy Forest’- J. Wiltshire

12 Dec- ‘Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands’- M. Dewey

May 2018

Details of each trip with car share points and suggested routes will be provided. All outings £2 unless U3A member leading.


2 May: Eycott Hill Reserve, nr Keswick. Meet: 11am on site. CWT leader Imogen Rutter to accompany us. May see: Mountain Pansy, Marsh Cinquefoil. Stunning views.

16 May: ‘Barkbooth Bluebells’, nr Crosthwaite. Meet: 10.30 a.m. on site but parking very restricted, car share essential. Help member Janet Antrobus locate Parsley Piert and Early Purple Orchid amongst the bluebells.

6 June: ‘Barbondale Birds’. Meet: 11.00 a.m. at FB in Barbondale. Join RSPB enthusiast Keith Williams for 2 mile ramble in beautiful scenery.

27 June: Little Asby Common, nr Orton. Meet: 11.00 a.m. on roadside. Local expert Eve Borrino to lead us around this SSSI limestone pavement reserve. May find the ‘Dowly Tree’, rare ferns and Bloody Cranesbill.

25 July: ‘Smardale Butterflies’, nr Newbiggin on Lune. Meet: 11.00 a.m .at reserve car park. Look for Northern Brown Argus and early Scotch Argus with butterfly expert Chris Winnack.

12 Sept: Private viewing and introduction by curator Deborah Walsh to Beatrix Potter’s fungi watercolours at the Armitt Museum, Ambleside. £3 p.p. Meet: 10.15 a.m. at reception. Places strictly limited so get your names on the list quickly!

Since our intriguing Xmas talks by members Jan Wiltshire and Barbara Blatchford which introduced us to the Redstarts of Scout Scar, Digger Wasps and the wildlife secrets of a small garden we have enjoyed two more well-attended lectures. Geologist Mike Dewey provided fascinating fossil photographs to support ‘The Development of Flight’ and explained the meaning ‘opposite birds’. RSPB expert Richard Evans brought us up to date with the current ‘State of Nature in 2018’ in February and we look forward to an intriguing talk: ‘The Ague: a History of Malaria in Cumbria’ by Prof. Wilkinson to end our winter programme.

November 2017

Members located four species of bat using detectors during our exciting twilight walk at Leven’s Park in July including Britain’s largest bat, the Noctule. Our flower enthusiast Janet Antrobus helped us to identify the flora at the quiet CWT reserve-Burns Beck Moss and Ian and Angela Royle added nine species of birds from Killington Reservoir to the long list that day. Despite a raging Sept gale in the woodland canopy above mycologist Helen Speed led us around Cliburn Moss for a fascinating foray to end our well-attended summer programme of outings. 44 colourful species of fungi were found including the splendid Birch Webcap and the delicate Hare’sfoot Inkcap. We began our winter programme with Patricia Howell of the Woodland Trust giving us an enthusiastic talk about its aims, work and her favourite trees. We look forward to Philip Cropper’s ‘The Seasons of the Year in the Lune Valley and the Lake District’ and hope to end 2017 on a ‘homemade mince pie note’ with two members’ talks. Jan Wiltshire will discuss ‘Flora, fauna and stories behind my photographs’ and Barbara Blatchford will treat us to ‘Autumn Wildlife in a Small Garden.’ (This Dec meeting will start later at 2.30pm) We welcomed 22 new members from the Sept open morning. (Do remember you are welcome to join just as a summer or winter member.) Winter programme:

10 Jan: The Development of Flight – Mike Dewey (NB: later start 2.30pm)

14 Feb: The State of Nature in 2018 - Richard Evans (RSPB)

14 Mar: The Ague: a History of Indigenous Malaria in Cumbria and the North – Ian Hodkinson

July 2017

Our busy and well-attended summer programme took us to CWT Brown Robin Reserve to learn about ancient ‘corduroy tracks’; ‘gatling trees’; that Small-leaved Lime trees ‘walk’ across fields and that the rare Rock Whitebeam grew here. N/Trust staff at St Catherine’s Footprint described how this unique eco building was assembled using straw and wool for the walls and insulation. An unusual Balsam grows here and is the food source for the rare Netted Carpet Moth. In May ‘Boglife’ project members showed us a Harvest Mouse nest, Slow Worms and the Ospreys nesting on the Roudsea Wood Mosses. Ingleborough NNR gave us stunning views and weather all day. Our expert leader showed us many botanical treasures including at least five species of orchid. We hope to use detectors to locate plenty of bats in Levens Park during our evening Bat walk; explore Burns Beck Moss with our own botanist Janet Antrobus and finish the programme in September with a fascinating fungus foray! Last summer outing: WED 13th SEPT to Cliburn Moss 10.45 a.m. (car share: leave 10.00 a.m. Morrisons)

Winter Programme at Castle Street Centre

11 Oct - ‘Talking trees’. Patricia Howell (Woodland Trust)

8 Nov - ‘The Seasons in the Lune Valley and Lake district’. Philip Cropper

13 Dec - Members’ Special (and mince pies!) Jan Wiltshire and Barbara Blatchford will treat us to ‘Out and About with a Nature Writer’ and ‘Beyond the Arctic Circle’.

March 2017

Monthly- April to Sept field trips (not August) usually Wednesday.

Details of car share points and suggested routes will be provided. All outings £2 unless when U3A members are leading.


Wed 12 Apr: Brown Robin CWT Reserve, Grange. Meet: 10am in Grand Hotel car park. 2hrs with Warden Tony Saunders then bird watching along the prom at high tide.

Wed 3 May: St. Catherine’s N/T ‘Footprint’, Windermere. Meet: 10.30am on site. Hear about this Centre’s unique ‘green’ construction and walk through the bluebell woods with Ranger Bruna Remessa.

Wed 24 May: Roudsea Wood Mosses. Meet: 11.00 a.m. on site. Join BogLife project members and N/Eng Warden John Dunbavin to learn about their valuable research in this unique habitat.

Wed 14 June: Ingleborough limestone flora. Meet: 11.00 a.m. Horton station. Locate the stunning Bird’s-eye-Primrose with N/Eng Warden Colin Newlands on a moderate 3 mile walk in beautiful countryside.

Thurs 6 July: EVENING Bat Walk in Levens Park. Meet: 9.00 p.m. at old A6 layby before Levens Hall. Join local Bat Group expert Shirley Martin. Use detectors to locate Daubenton’s bats. (Restricted numbers.)

Wed 19 July: Burns Beck Moss and Killington Reservoir. Meet: 10.30 a.m. on site. Member Janet Antrobus to show us around this SSSI-a rich area for bog plants.

Wed 13 Sept: Fungus Foray to Cliburn Moss. Meet: 10.45 a.m. on site. Mycologist Helen Speed to be our guide around this gem of a reserve.

Since the fascinating Xmas talks on fungi and the Burren, members have enjoyed two more well-attended lectures. The CWT Marine Conservation Team described their essential protection work in the Irish Sea zones and we learnt about Quahogs! In Feb we welcomed our local naturalist author Jan Wiltshire who transported us to the atmospheric Farne Islands with artistic close-ups of sea bird plumage and ‘Jackson Pollock’ eggs! We look forward to the last winter talk - a Virtual tour of the eastern CWT reserves (a ‘first’ for our group).

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