Fruitless search for the long-leaved sundew: Country diary, 26 October 1970

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KESWICK: I wonder if most people realise how many hours one can spend in the countryside and see little, how many miles walk and only find expected things? Yesterday was, for me, mostly a day of expected things. There has been a kingfisher on Derwentwater lately but I have not seen it, nor have I seen the immature golden eagle rumour offers and yesterday – though I hunted carefully – I could not find the long-leafed sundew in the Borrowdale bog where it used to grow.

It was a day of cold showers and northerly airs which had a threat of winter. The wind chased white-edged waves scurrying before it up the lake, bent the willows and the hedges in the marsh and seemed to search into every corner in the higher valley. The sundew-bog was very wet underfoot and the pools, fringed with bright green pondweed, were brown with peat. Gold birch leaves floated there, too, and branches of red haws, ripped off by the last gale, lay on the moss. It is not, perhaps, a sensible time of year to look for any sundew – sundew is red all the year round and now red and gold are the dominant colours in the bog. There are deep red sphagnum mosses, red leaves of tormentil and the orange-red of dead asphodel heads, all distractions too, an occasional pink head of cross-leaved heath left over from summer, a few purple scabious, very vivid, greentrails of bog pimpernel and most unexpected of all – a lot of blue flowers on the milk wort. I bent over the bog (toes and fingers cold) and heard, high up behind me on the crag, a sharp crack, a rending slither and the crash of falling rock – a reminder, if one were needed, of what almost any mountain can do without any warning at all.

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