Capturing Criffel

Views from the Cumbrian coast across the Solway estuary to Criffel a 570m hill in Dumfries and Galloway are worth savouring. This is a hill with a majestic outline that draws the eye to the west as you journey around the Cumbrian coastal plains on a Secret Solway Tour.

Looking across the Solway estuary to South West Scotland, the seasons and the changing light give differing personalities to Criffel. On a soft, calm misty morning Criffel can almost float in a suspended state above the estuary, seeming like ‘middle earth’ to those of a Tolkien persuasion. On summer evenings Criffel becomes a slumbering dragon with a wondrous fiery sun setting behind it. On stormy grey winter days Criffel turns into a foreboding and implacable being.  Sometimes mystical, secret, or serene, and always changing, fascination for the mercurial nature of Criffel has made photographing this beautiful hill a favourite Secret Solway pastime.

The name Criffel is thought to be from Norse language, meaning ‘Crow’s hill’. With flanks covered in bog cotton,heather and bilberry, inhabited by skylarks, Criffel looking down over Loch Kindar and across the Solway Firth to Cumbria in England, has born witness to the deeds of many through the centuries. The lives of the Carvetti tribe or ‘Deer people’ who lived on the Cumbrian Solway plains and the Novantae tribe of south west Scotland would have been watched over by Criffel. As would the arrival of the Romans, and then the Vikings to the Solway shores. Viewing the passage of pilgrims, reivers, smugglers and others, Criffel has also born witness to the tragedy of lost lives of many fighters and travellers who through the ages failed to safely cross over the dangerous sands and waters of the Solway estuary. A hill with tales to tell and a reason for visiting the Cumbrian Secret Solway coast.

 

 

Secret Solway Starlings

Secret Solway Starlings

 

Solway Starlings beginning to flock as night time arrives.

Just before 4.00pm on a cold, clear winter evening we arrived at the Easton junction on Burgh marsh near the  Solway estuary in Cumbria, UK. Having been told that as night arrived starlings were beginning to gather here in large numbers in the trees and on the telegraph wires, we wanted to try and photograph a starling murmuration with a sunset backdrop. Yes the birds were there, not as many as last year at  the nearby Watchtree Nature Reserve when it was thought that over fifty thousand birds were roosting and not as many as the hundreds of thousands seen in previous years at Gretna Green, but there was the beginning of a Starling murmuration. The birds took to flight as the light began changing. We snapped a photo of them beginning to flock together with a backdrop of Criffel mountain in Scotland and then they headed south east only occasionally looping back round towards us, but not so that we could get another photograph. They stayed low in the sky, and did not bunch up tightly nor form shifting shapes in the sky as we have seen in previous years. Without warning the birds suddenly dropped down into fir trees. Perhaps it was just too cold for flying around.   The number of Starlings might increase over the winter months - there may still be the chance later in the season to get that photograph.

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Dramatic Solway Skies

Solway skies

Locals frequently say there is always something interesting to see when you are out and about exploring the Solway coastline and plains.   An evening walk along the Solway coastline after a heavy  rain storm in the summer, thought the light was lovely so took a few photos..... another dramatic Solway seascape and sky.  After many years of knowing the Solway, it still fascinates and surprises.   http://solwayconnections.co.uk/secret-solway/

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