And yet,there is more, for we share this idyll with a colony of red squirrels and they visit our walled gardens every day.
To help you visualise our location straight away I would like to share with you this photo by Chris Sale, who has kindly agreed for its use. It shows our timeshare nestled under Skiddaw Little Man.
To see the stunning photos of this landscape photographer, please visit
Wildlife photography can sometimes feel like a waiting game, but when nature comes through your patience is always rewarded. Several weeks of 2017 were spent at Underscar, in different weather conditions, using different props, in order to discover more about the day to day life of the Underscar Reds.
Red Squirrel using the wisteria as a climbing frame.
Mike, the Underscar gardener has often told me how the Underscar reds use the many wisteria shrubs on the complex to get quickly to the feeders. Usually the wisteria is in leaf and flower. In November, as the shrub lost its leaves, I was so fortunate to observe red squirrels in acrobatic mode.
Up and down to the feeder.The outlook from the window at Manesty apartment was perfect armchair viewing. Can you spot the red squirrel on the plant?
Out of the corner of my eye I see a flash of red at the top of the wisteria. It was right in front of my camera as it stopped to watch me. I hardly dared breathe. Fortunately the squirrel started to relax in my presence as it made its way to the feeder.
This squirrel has double-jointed ankles that allow it to climb down branches head-first.
On its way back from the feeder the squirrel decides to enjoy sitting on the wisteria to eat the hazelnut. Red squirrels can recognise nutritious food by smell.
I would hope that in the spring/summer months visitors to Underscar will still spot the red squirrels making their way to the feeders. The wisteria will look very different in flower.
Whatever season of the year we visit Underscar I try to find the best backgrounds before I compose my shots. Sometimes I am really lucky and a natural prop will work for me. Staying in Stonethwaite apartment in November 2017,
I noticed at the top of the column step pillar an empty bird's nest. Could I get the red squirrels to come to me if I left hazelnuts in the empty nest?
Again I was lucky that a wisteria bush was twining itself
around this pillar.So a perfect climbing frame for the red to use.
At first the red squirrels would just come and take a nut and disappear straight down their wisteria climbing frame. After 3 days they started to stay and eat their nut.
This squirrel seemed very content to perch for up to 5 minutes and watch the comings and goings of visitors as they came up the many steps.The squirrel's thick fur isn't just for keeping warm either. A lifetime of rushing about tree tops is a prescription for bumps and bruises, so the fur protects them from brushes with thorns and twigs.Squirrels have excellent vision to judge distances in three dimensions.
Visitors in the summer months will see these wisteria branches holding beautiful flowers. I wonder how many of you will spot a red squirrel on the branches then? Thank you to Barbara Hedley for the use of the wisteria flower photographs.
Often the only sign of red squirrels in winter is their prints in the snow. On the ground they move in jumps like a rabbit, placing their front feet first, and then the hind feet in front of them. Pawprints are 3-4 cm long, and about 2cm wide.
This pawprint photo was taken by Kim Wright, our Underscar housekeeper. It shows the red squirrels making their way to the feeder near Derwent apartment.
Thank-you Kim for sending me photos of your Underscar winter.
In the month of November 2017 some mornings felt almost too cold to be squirrel watching. On a couple of mornings my camera malfunctioned with the cold.
One early morning I was rewarded with a magnificent sight to behold in the wild. I was aware that something was watching me eye to eye.
Winter meant that this red deer had grown a thicker coat to account for the colder weather.These coats are often brown or grey in colour, as the lighter coat blends more with the harsher seasonal environment.
After a few moments of staring at me this deer bounded back to its cover.
This coat will be shed again by the time summer comes, usually as a result of rubbing against trees and leaving large clumps throughout the forest.
Feeding hazelnuts in the November months makes sure red squirrels are in tip top condition when they breed. When the young are born in March there are many buds and catkins around to provide nutritious food.
At the beginning of this blog post I mentioned that I often employ props to attract the red squirrels. At Underscar in November 2017 this red squirrel nest was an instant attraction. It was made by "Cuddly-and-Thrilling" in Germany using real wool. In November each morning I would fill this with hazelnuts.
The red squirrel would go head first in the nest searching for its preferred nut.
Squirrel gymnastics are at their most impressive when launching themselves from dry stone walls onto tree branches.This red squirrel chose the same spot every morning to leap onto the woollen nest.
Leaping is an important trick, saving a squirrel from bounding across open ground and risking exposure to predators.
Leaping back to safety the long, bushy tail can act like a rudder for last second steering in mid-leap, and squirrels have whisker like receptor hairs on their forefeet to help them sense the right landing.
These adaptations are critical,because tree branches are rarely still. In autumn and winter when the wind howls, the twiggy canopy will turn into an obstacle of moving trapezes.
I was asked by another owner which was my favourite shot of the year. My answer was that it was a series of shots I took early morning in August 2017.
Photo cropped from the original taken by Chris Sale.
Here we see the timeshare property surrounded by woodland which is home to the Underscar red squirrel colony.