15 December 2003

Ullswater: A Frowned on Hobby.
One of my favourite hobbies is, by a large number of people today, very much frowned on. I was first introduced when I was at Sharrow Bay and continued with it when I came to Kidside.

Well I suppose I must let the secret out and tell you it was bird’s egg collecting a popular hobby by boys and adults sometimes, going back many generations. Today birds egg collecting is a dirty word as far as environmentalists are concerned and some ordinary people too. But in those days it was not so, endangered birds of today were common in the 1940s.

I used to travel all around the district both at Sharrow Bay and later Kidside on my bike seeking breeding sites for species I did not have. My total of various species was miserably short on the list of possible types but I enjoyed what I did find. When at Sharrow Bay I heard that some of the seagull species and water birds nested on the Penrith sewage works land so a friend and I biked to Penrith, found the sewage works but we were on the opposite bank of a river, most probably the River Eamont or it could have been the River Lowther. Fortunately the riverbed was wide and the river shallow and we waded across. On reaching the far side we found scores of nests of both gull and wader species that I was short of for my collection. We quickly collected samples of the different kinds and proceeded to explore further. Suddenly there was a distant shout and a figure waving his arms headed for us. It was time to leave we thought for it was the works caretaker and he looked angry.

We picked up our booty, collected our shoes and socks and waded back across the river. Drying our feet we didn't rush, the angry man wouldn't cross the river after us and risk getting wet, he knew we would be gone on our bikes in a trice before he could reach us.

Returning to Pooley Bridge, the evening was late and when we reached my friends house I found my father waiting for me, anxiously wondering what had happened to me. The time was close to 9 p.m. and I had been gone since early morning. He didn't chastise me at all, no sharp words or even “don't do it again”, but then my father left all the discipline to Mum.

A Second Story

Arriving at Kidside I found that different species of birds were present in the area. One I remember vividly was finding a magpie’s nest over the rear high hedge of a house across the paddocks from Kidside. I had never seen a magpie's nest before but I did know they could be a vicious bird. I climbed the apple tree and eyed the nest and waited a while, noticing no activity from the big round mass of twigs before me, I noted the entrance hole and wondered, should I? I plucked up courage and slowly put my hand in the nest hole ready to jerk it back but no magpie was present, but I did feel the roundness of 2 eggs present and I took 1 for my collection.

Another new species I found was near Kidside House in the paddock by the Stainton Beck was a tree creeper. I saw this small bird running up and down the trunk of a large tree pecking here and there for small insects. Although I had never seen this small bird before I recognised it immediately. I watched for a while and then saw the tree creeper disappear into a hole in the trunk. I climbed the tree and found the nest with 4 eggs present behind the loose bark and I took 1 egg.

After I left home I think my egg collection was taking up valuable space and a few years later Mum took the opportunity to dispose of it to one of the sons of the farm worker living in the workers house attached to Kidside Farm. I was a bit miffed at the time but I realised later the collection had gone to a good home.

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