Out There: Island gets our seal of approval

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We’ve had a bitterly cold winter but at the weekend we all enjoyed some slightly milder and sunnier weather.

As the forecast was so good my husband Mark (aka Sparky) suggested venturing across Morecambe Bay to enjoy the delights of Walney Island.

We headed for South Walney, an area of incredible natural diversity.

Our destination was the South Walney Nature Reserve which is run by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Driving along the winding single-track road to the reserve was a magical experience. To our left the magnificent Piel Castle dominated the horizon and to our right the glittering waters of Morecambe Bay beckoned.

A friendly woman from the trust gave us some information about South Walney. We discovered that Walney is the largest of a group of seven islands at the tip of the Furness peninsula.

The island is 16km long and about 1km wide.

It is relatively flat and is covered with rolling sand dunes.

The South Walney reserve is particularly well known for its huge colony of lesser black backed and herring gulls. Approximately 22,000 pairs breed with lesser black backed gulls outnumbering the herring gulls.

However, on our visit we saw more herring gulls than black backed gulls. Several of them dive-bombed us as the nesting season is drawing close.

Likewise, Walney’s eider ducks made their presence known. Everywhere we went we could hear their unusual Frankie Howerd-esque call.

Eider ducks are relative newcomers to Walney, first breeding in 1949.

We watched 100s of them on our three-mile ramble around the island.

I was particularly impressed with the way the route was signposted and the information boards were packed with enlightening facts.

Half-way round the route we came across Walney’s lighthouse which was constructed in 1790 for the purpose of directing ships carrying sugar from 
Jamaica. Today the lighthouse is the only remaining keepered lighthouse in Britain.Earlier inhabitants of Walney included Angles, Scandinavians and monks.

The island has a number of different habitats and is also known to attract seals.

Sadly, the seals evaded us on our visit. I’m already looking forward to revisiting South Walney in the summer months. Details of walks and special events on Walney are available from http://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/ or call 01539 816300.

Back at home in Caton we have been keeping the birds well fed as they prepare for nesting. The only problem is that our new cat, Mitzy, also has a taste for bird food.

I put a pile of mixed seed on top of a wall for the birds to eat but when I looked out of the window Mitzy was scoffing the lot. She is well fed but she can’t resist snacking on the bird seed. Maybe she thinks she’s a bird!