Country diary: across the hillsides of heather, the fallen parachutes of spiders


Blencathra, Lake District: Ballooning is an extremely effective dispersal method, despite its high mortality rate

It is a perfect day to be an aeronaut in the Lake District: bright and beautiful but with a steady breeze. A paraglider is spiralling high over the Vale of Keswick, well above the height of the felltops. A slight haze blurs the more distant fells into blue silhouettes, but on a clearer day, the views at that altitude could stretch from the Mournes to the mouth of the Tyne.

We crunch up a slaty path on Hall’s Fell, aiming for the summit of Blencathra, but a glint of something silvery draws my eye. The reefs of heather blanketing the fell are still flowerless and winter-dull, but they are garlanded with ghostly threads, which catch the sun to reveal a glossy shimmer.

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