Swimming Loch Ness – the celebrations

I ended my last blog on the Loch Ness swim rather unsatisfactorily – there were no pictures of the victorious quartet – indeed it was all rather dark – most people were rather cold and everyone just wanted to to go home! Well to get around this unfortunate situation we all decided to meet up next day on the very beach we had been 18 hours previously to celebrate (this time it was sunny and light).

Swim 14I am a witness to these events – not the director – the credit for ideas behind this series of pictures must go to the swimmers, especially Andrea!

Had it been light and had everyone come ashore together it would have looked something like this

Swim 19Four honorary wild highlanders – quite right too

Swim 16Time for some fizz – well deserved – I had some too! Thank you very much.


Swim 17Cheers and look how far it is down the Loch…

Swim 18The swimming caps are thrown into the sky in celebration …. at least I managed to capture one of them.


Swim 22Lochend

 I have updated the Flickr account with some more pictures – I am promised more in the future …….

Swimming Loch Ness

Yesterday I was witness to a very impressive achievement. 4 ladies swam the entire length of Loch Ness (23 miles) in a relay without wetsuits! Holy moly I hear you say – indeed! We started the expedition at 5.15am at Fort Augustus and finished just after midnight – over 19 hours of swimming. Water temperature in Loch Ness was around 12 degrees……

The weather started off quite nice but did deteriorate as the afternoon progressed producing some heavy rain and waves on the Loch. I think we might have missed the worst of the English storms but only just. Here are a few photos from the event.

Swim 1The swimmers, boat crews and officiators the day before we plan to go – note blue sky and flat loch

Swim 2The swimmers – Pauline, Andrea, Helan and Caroline – raising money for the Devon Air Ambulance Trust, the RNLI on Loch Ness and a children’s respite home in Dorset – Julia’s House

Swim 35am on Saturday 19th July – getting ready to go

Swim 45.13am and Caroline is about is start the day off

Swim 5Caroline swimming with one of the three support boats

Swim 86am sun comes over the mountains of the Great Glen and reflects on the loch

Swim 6Hi Mum – hope you have a good day!!

Swim 7A swimmer followed by the convoy

Swim 9As the day progresses the gloom, mist and rain descends

photoHere is the weather map showing what happened next. Not a great day for swimming, watching swimming or photographing swimming!

Swim 11The bay at Lower Foyers

Swim 10A swimmer changeover – Pauline’s finished her hour and Caroline has just started hers.

Swim 13Here is Lochend at 10pm – still 2 hours to go

Swim 12

Andrea’s ashore with hubby Ian and son Ethan.

The photo set can be seen here – will add some pictures in the coming days.

Sorry haven’t got any better pictures of the end – it was dark, late and were standing in the wrong place despite the long wait and it all happened rather quickly. A big thanks to all involved – lots of money raised for charity and it has highlighted a great sport in a fabulous part of the country – fancy giving it a go?


Blown away by Glen Affric

We visited the legendary Glen Affric National Nature Reserve yesterday – first time I’ve been and I was blown away. What a place – miles and miles of Caledonian pine forest, rivers, lochs and uplands. Owned and managed by the Forestry Commission – brilliant. Seems very much like a wilderness to me.

Glen Affic 1The River Affric just up from Dog Falls

Glen Affic 2A mighty native Scot’s pine

Glen Affic 7You can almost see an ancient face in the pine bark

Glen Affic 8Coire Loch – home of the rare northern emerald dragonfly

Glen Affic 6Water lilies on the loch

Glen Affic 4Scotch Argus- new species for me

Glen Affic 3A large Carabus ground beetle

Glen Affic 5Hound of the wild, grey shadows beneath the trees, stalk through our dreams….

Glen Affic 9Great interpretation – simple but effective

Climbing Ben Nevis with the snow buntings

I am currently on holiday in Scotland and yesterday I finally climbed Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in Britain at 1344 metres – something I have wanted to do for over three decades. It is a good climb! Here are a few photos from the day.

Ben Nevis 1The start of the climb just up from the Ben Nevis Inn

Ben Nevis 2Lochan Meall an t Suidhe – just past the half way point

Ben Nevis 6Amazing views out west down Loch Linnhe

Ben Nevis 3Even had to cross a snow field near the summit – in July!

Ben Nevis 5Looking pretty pleased with myself at the summit

Ben Nevis 4I was not alone! Ben Nevis summit is a busy place.

Snow bunting

And the highlight was this male snow bunting on the summit – indeed there were lots of snow buntings at the top but I fear I was the only person who noticed them …..



Grasshoppers and crickets making their summer appearances

The life cycles of many insects are complex and even magical – I’m thinking here of caterpillars turning into pupae and then emerging as butterflies. Some insects have an altogether more simply development. Grasshoppers and crickets emerge from their eggs as tiny versions of the adults they aspire to be – they then grow through series of enlarging instars until they are fully grown. By July most grasshoppers and crickets are fully grown. Here are a few pictures of some common species out and about on Dartmoor now.

Meadow grasshopperMeadow grasshopper

Meadow grasshopper 2Meadow grasshopper – its a female

Short winged coneheadThe short winged conehead

Dark bush cricketThe dark bush cricket

The River Dart in Hembury Woods

Hembury Woods to the north of Buckfast in the Dart Valley is a magical place – it is an ancient woodland over 350 acres in extent and is home to some of our most quintessential Dartmoor species. It is one of the jewels in the National Trust’s crown. I was there earlier this week with our Lead Ranger Mick Jones to discuss how we might go about repairing the damage to the river path which has been caused by the recent floods and high visitor usage.

Here are a few pictures from the day.

Hembury 1The River Dart

Hembury 2A sharp shower mottles the river’s surface

Hembury 3One of the little waterfalls

Hembury 4Betony is in flower at the moment

Hembury 5Honeysuckle – so important for the resident dormice

Hembury 6The entrance to the main car park halfway up the hill

Black and yellow longhorns all over Parke

In the space of less than an hour I found (well bumped into really) 4 different black and yellow longhorn beetles (Rutpela maculata) in the wet meadows and woodland edge at Parke. Unusual to see so many individuals in such a short space of time and so close together. (Some sources give Rutpela maculata the common name of the spotted longhorn).

Ruptela maculata 1These are pretty distinctive beetles – I particularly like the black and yellow stripped antennae.

Ruptela maculata

These adult beetles live for about 4 weeks but the larvae live for up to three years in damp rotting wood of various broad-leaved trees particularly birch.