Tarn Hows is an popular area of forest and parkland near Hawkshead, containing a large tarn and visited by over a million tourists a year. It was landscaped by a wealthy industrialist in the 1860s and later acquired by a Mrs Heelis (better known as Beatrix Potter), who sold half of it to the National Trust and left them the remainder in her will. It was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1965.
Like many popular places in the Lakes, it you don't have to go far to escape the crowds. We left the level paths by the tarn and headed up onto Tom Heights, finding some dainty-looking damselflies
and the odd beetle
, as well as some fine (but still hazy) views
. More winged
wildlife diverted us on our way towards Black Fell, a modest but well-placed hill just off the Cumbria Way.
The route there took us through Iron Keld, a once-densely-forested area that has been drastically thinned by the Trust in recent years. The pervasive haze meant that we could see little more than a nearby ladder stile
when we reached the summit, but the views soon opened up to reveal Coniston Water
(with Tarn Hows in the foreground), Windermere
(with Ambleside on the left) and the Langdales
, as well as nearby Wetherlam
Heading back down to Tarn Hows, we joined the multitude for a circuit of the tarn and almost immediately encountered a section of water much frequented by a certain variety of winged insect. As I stalked my favourite prey
with the camera, Alice sat on a grassy bank and marvelled at the huge numbers of damselflies that swarmed all about her. The sun and abundance of suitable habitat
nearby had obviously produced a bumper crop of the little blue blighters.
We encountered a few other residents
as we wandered happily through the shady woodland
and enjoyed the beautiful tarn
. Sure, there were lots of gorgeous fells
in the distance to tempt us, but it was good to enjoy - and take our time over - a gentle walk for a change.