Honeycomb Rock

Honeycomb Rock

On a recent visit to Skye we examined these amazing honeycomb rock formations at Elgol.  Geologists are not absolutely certain as to the process which creates this effect, though the most common explanation is salt weathering (haloclasty): In coastal environments, salt water penetrates any cracks or fissures in the rock surface and then dries and expands in any warm weather.  Salts may expand by up to three times as they dry and crystallise and may crack and fracture the rock as they repeatedly do so.  This is similar to freeze thaw effects but in this case may lead to this pitting and honeycombing of the rock.  It usually occurs in sandstone formations as is the case in Elgol.  Interestingly, it is an effect sometimes seen in sea walls, which rather demonstrates how quickly it can occur.

If you are interested in learning more about the environment around you, Steve will be happy to help.  He runs natural history and environmental outings to suit your needs and interests.  Get in touch at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk and on 07796 213817

By |April 16th, 2024|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, natural history|Comments Off on Honeycomb Rock

Ermine in Newlands


Whilst out in Newlands recently we had the good fortune to have an ermine running along the hedgerow beside us, the first time we’d ever encountered a fully white coated stoat in the Lakes.  Ermine actually refers to the dense white winter coat of the stoat (Mustela erminea), though not all stoats turn fully white in winter: those living in warmer climes may only partially change colour, or not change at all.  Stoats are fearless predators with the ability to take prey much bigger than themselves – they can kill a rabbit with a bite to the back of the neck.  The stoat is our second smallest mustelid; it has a black tip to its tail and has a bounding gate, which is a good way to differentiate it from the smaller weasel (the world’s smallest carnivore), which runs while remaining level and has no black tail tip.  The mustelid family in the UK is also represented in the wild by badgers, otters, pine martens and polecats.  American mink are the descendants of escapes from fur farms, whilst ferrets are domesticated, selectively bred polecats.

If you’d like to know more about the nature on your doorstep, Steve will be happy to help.  He offers guided nature and mountain walks on which to explore and explain the environment around you.  Get in touch on 07796 213817 or at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk

By |March 26th, 2024|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, Mountain, natural history|Comments Off on Ermine in Newlands

Gone to the Dodds

Winter Wind Sculpture

Steve ventured out on what seemed likely to be the last day of Winter conditions as the weather turned to the West with impending storms from the Atlantic.  With the wind speeds already very high and the wind chill severe, a walk from Thirlmere up to Sticks Pass and back over the three Dodds and Clough Head was the order of the day.  Visibility was still excellent despite the mini-blizzard of spindrift blasting across the surface.  Only a few competent and appropriately equipped folk were about in these challenging conditions.

Even in the Lake District, the difference between valley conditions and those experienced on the summits can be very significant – as was the case on this day.  If you would like support to venture into such environments safely and with a very experienced guide, Steve will be pleased to help and advise.  Call him on 07796 213817 or email steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk

By |January 22nd, 2024|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, Mountain, natural history, Winter Mountain Walking|Comments Off on Gone to the Dodds

Blencathra in Winter

Halls Fell Ridge

The recent snow and freezing temperatures led to the winter mountaineering gear being dusted down for a foray up Hallsfell Ridge and down Doddick Fell on Blencathra.  A great walk with fabulous views was had in excellent conditions.

If you’d like support to take advantage of these fleeting winter mountain opportunities either in the Lakes or Scotland, Steve will be pleased to help.  He can ensure that you have the appropriate equipment and, more importantly, know how and when to use it.  He can be contacted on 07796 213817 or by email at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk

By |January 22nd, 2024|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, Mountain, natural history, Winter Mountain Walking|Comments Off on Blencathra in Winter

Mell Fell

Mell Fell

Plunging temperatures encouraged an afternoon foray up both Great and Little Mell Fell.  The image is from Little Mell Fell looking West towards Great Mell with Blencathra beyond.  Interestingly, The Mell Fells and adjacent Gowbarrow are comprised of conglomerate from the late Devonian geological period (c375 mya).  which lasted from approximately 420 million years ago until 360 million years ago.  These are the only Devonian rocks in England and are a sedimentary rock formed from water transported alluvium in a desert environment.

If you are interested in broadening your knowledge of the outdoor environment – or would just like some support for your winter walking adventures, Steve will be pleased to help.   Just get in touch at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk or call 07796 213817.

By |January 16th, 2024|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, Mountain, natural history|Comments Off on Mell Fell

A punctuated walk

Cumbrian Comma

A warm early Autumn day found us on a quiet woodland walk.  We came across a wild rose bush festooned with rose hips.  It was also covered in butterflies enjoying the sugar from the hips as they split open to release their seeds.  Whilst the majority of the butterflies were Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta), we did also spot a pair of Commas (Polygonia c-album) and managed to photograph them whilst perching.  The Comma typically emerges in March to April and the brood emerges in June and July.  There are two forms and the hutchinsoni form will, if the weather is suitably warm, have a second brood which emerges in August and September.  The hutchinsoni form has more brightly coloured upper wings with paler underwings, though has the distinctive white comma mark on the underwing as with all of this species – hence the name.  The butterfly in the image is a male, as identified by its more deeply indented, serrated wing edges and stronger markings.

If you are interested in discovering and understanding the nature on your doorstep, but would like some guidance and support, Steve will be very pleased to help.  He runs all manner of natural history and environmental days and walks on demand as required.  Get in touch to chat about your needs on 07796 213817 and at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk

By |October 1st, 2023|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, Mountain, natural history|Comments Off on A punctuated walk

Barf & Lord’s Seat


We had a great day out in the heat on Barf, Lord’s Seat and in Whinlatter Forest.  Following a brief to avoid the crowds and to provide something rocky, steep and adventurous we scaled Barf straight up from Thornthwaite.  This route is not for the faint hearted or physically unfit (not an issue in our case) as it comprises steep scree and exposed crags.  It did though, meet the requirements and a grand day out was had by all.

Those driving along the A66 past Thornthwaite will likely have noticed the large white rock high on the side of Barf.  Local folklore has it that in 1783 the Bishop of Derry, who was staying in the Swan Inn at the foot of Barf, wagered he could ride his horse directly up to the summit. Unfortunately, the horse fell or died part way up (some versions say the bishop also was killed, though records show he died in Italy in 1803 of gout).  As a memorial to these exploits or, perhaps, the horse, the staff of the inn (and latterly the village residents) painted the prominent rock on the route white, a tradition which has endured to this day.  There is a smaller white painted rock at the foot of the route known as The [Bishop’s] Clerk.  Whatever the truth of the various tales, Barf does provide a route to its summit which is exciting and interesting and which does go past The Clerk and The Bishop enroute.

If you’d like Steve’s assistance with your mountain adventures please get in touch on 07796 213817 or steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk.

By |September 7th, 2023|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, Mountain, natural history|Comments Off on Barf & Lord’s Seat

Butterfly Bonanza

Speckled Wood

A walk through the woods in the current hot weather demonstrated the boost provided to butterflies conferred by the current hot and calm weather.  Amongst the myriad Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Small Whites we spotted this, somewhat bedraggled, Speckled Wood male (pararge aegeria).  You’ll notice that he’s missing his right antennae and his wings are damaged.  This could just be as a result of age related physical wear and tear, and/or due to the aerial battles which the males engage in.  The Lake District is the normal northermost point for this species, though there are some small isolated populations in lowland Scotland.  Their range extends over 700km North to South and comprises four subspecies – all slightly different and adapted to more or less sunlight and warmth.  For example, the subspecies in the Lakes has the largest wings to aid thermoregulation in our more varied and cooler climes.  Of course, man-made climate change is likely to have a significant impact on all butterfly species: in the case of the Speckled Wood, it may extend its permanent range northwards.

If you are keen on natural history and would like to engage with and learn more about the environment around you, Steve will be pleased to help.  See the webpages and call him on 07796 213817 or email steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk to discuss your needs.

By |September 7th, 2023|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, natural history|Comments Off on Butterfly Bonanza

We’re going batty!

Bat Roost

A recent walk in an unfamiliar area caused us to happen on this structure.  We were initially unsure as to what it was, though closer inspection revealed it to be a bat roost.  As with many other of our wild creatures, bats have had their habitats disturbed and destroyed by human activity to the point where numbers are hugely reduced – to critical levels for some species.  It was therefore heartening to see a local community wildlife trust trying to provide for bats (and other creatures) with this artificial roost and other wildlife friendly installations.

If you’re keen to explore nature and to learn more about what’s hiding on your doorstep, and what we need to take greater care to protect, Steve will be happy to help.  Get in touch for natural history and environmental walks at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk and on 07796 213817

By |May 30th, 2023|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, natural history|Comments Off on We’re going batty!

Walla Crag

Walla Crag lichens

A group of Indian women who had been to university together 40 years ago, and who now live around the world, had a reunion in the Lake District.  Steve was asked to provide a day out to engage with the environment, so a walk along the shore of Derwentwater with a traverse of Walla Crag to Keswick provided a fitting excursion.  The weather was kind and a super day was had with lots of interesting natural history, stunning views and not a little exercise!  We were keen to enjoy the vistas and also to examine the flora and fauna – including these different lichen species on a hawthorn tree.

If you would like Steve’s support for your day out in the Lakes, whatever your needs, he’ll be pleased to hear from you.  Please get in touch on 07796 213817 or steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk

By |April 28th, 2023|Environment, Keswick Guided Walks, Mountain|Comments Off on Walla Crag
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