At World’s End

I can see why it is called World’s End. The steep slopes round out to extensive moors covered in reddish brown heather, dark green gorse and pale tussock grasses. As far as the eye can see there is nothing but a seemingly desolate undulating landscape, dropping into gullies and valleys, before rising steeply once more. The top is unforgiving to trees, the harsh wind stunting any that try to rise above the shelter of gully walls. One such gully is packed with conifers, a scattering of dark green amongst a predominant stand of brown larch that have lost their needles. I can imagine the original inhabitants of the sheltered valleys below, walking up out of the tree belts onto such an endless expanse and thinking it was the end of the world. Even in today’s modern world, there is a real sense of seclusion walking up onto this open place.

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World’s End

Clouds race across the sky, pushed onwards by an unforgiving, cold wind. Ice covering frozen muddy puddles cracks under foot. The cold wind numbs cheeks and brings tears to the eyes.  The wind pushes the clouds on, revealing cracks that break into bright blue sky, spilling sunlight over the hills and casting a warm glow over the heather.

Despite the apparently bleak landscape there are plenty of signs of life, not least in the tiny flowers on the heather. A stonechat flits up and over the heather, perching on top of a prickly gorse bush. On the far horizon a raptor briefly soars over the ridge. Then among the patches of cut heather there are signs of the bird we would particularly like to see. A small cluster of pellet shaped poop from black grouse.

Black grouse poop

We continue on up the path winding its way through the heather. Then, something makes me turn. Whether it is the whale watcher in me, that little voice of experience that tells you when all are looking one way to look in the opposite direction or simply luck that made me turn to look behind us. Flying in a direct line only a short way above the heather are two distinctly shaped birds. Black with a flash of white on the wing, a rotund belly and a forked shaped tail. Black grouse!

We loop round on ourselves and encounter more black grouse flying ahead. Then two more birds jump up from the heather just in front of us. Like the black grouse they are plump, with a rotund belly. Unlike the black grouse they are deep reddish brown all over with little white in the wing and a round short tail. These are red grouse. Before we reach the road there is time for one last flypast of a magnificent black grouse.

It has been a wonderful morning at World’s End.

Black grouse

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