Monday, 4 July 2011

In search of Tufty

As a small child I was a member of the Tufty club - a brilliant idea by whoever thought of it as they made children take notice of road safety using a series of animations featuring a Red squirrel called Tufty Fluffytail that were narrated by Bernard Cribbins. Sadly since those days squirrels are mainly grey and so am I.

There are still pockets of Red squirrels remaining and I do occasionally see them in the Lake District but in the last few years they have been encouraged to thrive in woodland just outside Hawes in Wensleydale. A Red squirrel trail has been created and although 9.5 miles in total the prospect of seeing Red squirrels had Mrs WoldsEnd and I driving to Hawes and setting off on the walk.

A Nikon D300s and 300mm F4 made the rucksack quite heavy but off I went with a Nikon P7000 hanging round my neck. We were soon enjoying the countryside views.

Stopping to empty the contents of a flask we were passed by a flock of sheep being herded up the country lane. I just managed to rescue my rucksack before the sheep dog cocked his leg!

The road was littered with sheep droppings so we thought it quite funny that somebody had thought a dog waste bin was needed in this spot - I wonder how much that cost.

Climbing up a hill the views got even better.

The route took us through a field with cows. 

Passing the main group of standing cows and calves we were a little shocked to see a large bull a few feet away from us. Thankfully he turned out to either be friendly or not bothered to do anymore than watch us pass.

On reaching some woodland we heard the noise of heavy machinery as tree felling operations were underway. Looking at the map we saw a footpath through the wood that would avoid this and soon came across the sign showing us the way. In the midst of the wood we found the path blocked by wind fallen trees with a notice telling us to follow the tape around - the tape had also suffered from the ravages of the weather and was not easy to follow but we eventually found the path again. On leaving the wood we were pleased to see footpath signs across the fields but they deposited us in a farm yard and we could not find the route. Thankfully the friendly occupants of the farmhouse were outside enjoying the warm weather and helped us on our way. We rejoined the trail crossing a stream and quickly crossing a field to avoid the horse-flies that tried to bite before we noticed them.

Shortly after that we reached the Red squirrel viewing point and were very pleased to see one near the feeder. As the squirrels appeared so did thousands of biting midges making it quite an ordeal to stand still with a camera. The light was not good and as I was using a 1.7 teleconverter on the lens (thereby loosing 1.5 stops of valuable light) I had to increase the ISO as much as I dared and use a slow shutter speed - it is very difficult to keep a camera and long lens steady when being bitten by thousands of midges. I endured the ordeal until I could stand it no longer and got some photos. I noticed the squirrels having a good scratch so maybe they were also being bitten. Midge repellent will be essential for our next visit!

 The feeder has been especially designed to deter Grey squirrels the sheep skull is for the squirrels to gnaw on for calcium.

With our mission accomplished we set off back - choosing the road to avoid the forestry work and bull and using Tufty's best road safety advice.