Tag: holiday cottages

Lake District Stargazing

Lake District Stargazing

It’s just over a month until the Cumbria Dark Skies Festival, a celebration of the fantastic Lake District stargazing opportunities.

National Parks remain some of the most unspoilt, darkest places in Great Britain, providing us with the perfect opportunity to really explore our star-studded skies throughout Autumn and Winter. From first-time stargazers to astrophotography experts, the wonder of the night skies will never cease to amaze.

Where to stargaze

Our Matson Ground cottages offer some excellent stargazing opportunities thanks to the dark skies overhead. Whether you’re staying in one of our Windermere cottages, or one of our Ullswater cottages, if the skies are clear the sight is simply spellbinding.

Alternatively, you could venture out. Ennerdale, Wasdale and the Borrowdale valley are some of the best places in the Lake District to really soak up the night skies. But closer to home, Grizedale Forest is pretty easy to get to and has a number of car parks. There are also a number of stargazing events at Grizedale, including star gazing if the skies are clear.

Alternatively, head up to the Langdale Valley, where the steep-sided valley shelters the Langdales from any town lights, meaning minimal light pollution. The ideal place to really connect with the night sky.

Lake District Stargazing Tips

There are a number of things you can do to really enhance your stargazing experience. We’ve highlighted a few below:

Adjust your eyes. It can take up to 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so factor in enough time ahead of your stargazing.

Use red light to maintain your night vision – for instance, paint the end of your torch with red nail varnish, or cover with a red sock or simply use a back light from your bike – anything to avoid bright lights.

Wrap up – at this time of year it can get cold, so make sure you’ve got some warm and cosy clothing with you. And take something you can put on the ground so that you can stretch out.

Binoculars / telescope – both will help you see far more than just with the naked eye. Even a pair of binoculars will increase what you see by a factor of up to 50.

Stargazing apps – there are plenty of apps for your phone which will give you the names of the stars and constellations overhead.

Check the moon calendar – the last thing you want is to be stargazing when there’s a wonderful full moon!

The Importance of Dark Skies

We’re not the only ones who love dark skies. Lack of light pollution is a welcome sight for so many animals. After all, about 60& of animals are nocturnal, following the light of the moon and the stars. If you’re out and about stargazing there’s a chance you might also see bats, foxes, deer, badgers, owls, hedgehogs… the list goes on. However, light pollution can disrupt their sleeping, feeding and breeding behaviour.

They are also critical for our own wellbeing. For thousands of years we’ve looked up at the night sky and seen the Milky Way, wondered at shooting stars and pointed out the constellations. Nowadays, it’s estimated that over 80% of the UK population has never seen the Milky Way, due to the increase in light pollution.

In short, dark skies are critical to wildlife and to our own sense of wellbeing. A star lit night is a truly uplifting sight, and one that we tend to remember. So let’s hope that this sense of wonder continues for generations to come.

Photo credit: Paul Mitchell

Summer on the Estate

Summer on the Matson Ground Estate

Summer has definitely arrived in the Lake District and the Matson Ground Estate is in full swing. The holiday cottages are full of guests enjoying this beautiful part of the world and life on the farm is as busy as ever.

We’ve had great weather and made lots of silage, a store of winter feed for our cattle and sheep, while our colleagues have been conducting surveys on grasses, flowers and moths.

Grasses and Flowers Surveys

As part of our Countryside Stewardship agreement, we regularly survey the grasses and flowers. This provides us with vital information about the health of the fields and wetland areas. The scheme helps us to look after and improve the environment by, amongst others, conserving and restoring wildlife habitats, increasing grassland biodiversity and preserving historical features on the landscape.

One plant which we have in our wetland areas is this pretty, yellow Bog Asphodel, Latin name Ossifragum. Did you know that Ossifragum literally translates as bone-breaker? This unassuming plant acquired this violent name because it was believed that the livestock that grazed on it developed brittle bones. But don’t worry, there’s no truth in it. It was actually the calcium-poor pastures that caused the problem.

Bog Asphodel, Latin name Ossigragum

Moth Survey

Reedbeds and wetlands are important habitats for many species of moths throughout the British Isles. As July is a particularly good time for moth populations in these habitats, we were looking forward to the survey results. And with the weather on our side we were not disappointed!

Our surveyors trapped the moths in a lightbox overnight, catching 515 moths in total, spanning 100 different species. The best moth find of the night was the round-winged muslin, which was only the third recording for South Cumbria since 2000. However, the prettiest moth of the night was this lovely Elephant Hawk Moth.

We were thrilled with the findings. Moths are a fascinating yet often overlooked group of insects and an important part of the UK’s biodiversity, as they pollinate plants and provide food for birds, bats and other wildlife. However, since the late 1960s total moth numbers have declined by around a third.   We hope our wetland projects, and many others nationally, will help the recovery of moth numbers.

Elephant Hawk Moth