Wild Peaks, Pikes, Screes & Grykes
Gills, grykes, clints and screes might not be in your vocabulary yet, but when you go wild in stunning Cumbria, these new words will trip from your tongue as you soak up a sense of freedom on top of one of our fabulous fells.
The cool temperature and strong winds that brush your cheeks create conditions that support the heath and grassland that stretch across the mountain ridges and summits. The weather stunts the growth of many species, but a carpet of different grasses survives, this intermingling with mosses and dwarf shrubs such as bilberry and crowberry. Amidst the low mat of vegetation, the keen eye can spot the creeping branches of dwarf willow, growing just a few centimetres high, or maybe alight on the insects that can tolerate this extreme environment, or the rare dotterel - a small, wading bird sometimes to be seen feeding here.
On our mountain flanks, sheltered ravines, known as gills, provide a haven for a more lush flora, including woodland and meadow species. Mountain flowers such as roseroot, mountain sorrel and various saxifrages sprout in niches on these inaccessible ledges. The ring ouzel is also often in these environments and, if you linger on the crags and screes, you may hear its distinctive three note call, as long as you are not distracted by the sight of peregrine falcon hunting around the rock faces.
Whilst the Lakeland fells owe their creation to volcanic action, Cumbria's mountains are surrounded by a fringe of limestone. The most recognisable limestone structures are the impressive pavements, comprising blocks known as ‘clints' and fissures called ‘grykes'.or ‘grikes'. Hidden in the latter, away from hungry, grazing animals and the merciless drying wind, you can find notable plants such as hart's-tongue fern and the angular solomon's-seal. The trees that grow here are often much older than they appear, becoming almost like natural bonsai. If you want rare, we can give it to you, the Lancastrian whitebeam growing nowhere else in the world than on the limestone structures around Morecambe Bay!
High above the rest of our landscape - and a world apart from it - a wildlife with its own personality and tenacity awaits discovery. Walk tall and you can experience it!
Find events and activities in Cumbria's Wildlife world over the coming months!