Monday, 28 March 2011


The railway and the A66 were not the only users of the Stainmore Gap. One thing that I remember as a regular visitor to the Summit Box during my childhood was the extraordinary number of birds that used the pass on migrations. I wonder if any of our friends in the Cumbria Wildlife Trust have made any scientific studies of this?

One winter afternoon maybe in 1958, an hour before dusk with no trains due until the teatime train from Darlington to Penrith, I tramped along the track to the stone farm accommodation bridge that crossed the tracks as they started to dip downhill towards Barras and just before the derelict platelayer's cottages. It was a dull gey world with flurries of snow and standing on that bridge I was surrounded by millions of starlings migrating west to east.

I just couldn't resist the temptation to throw an odd snowball in their general direction; of course they just parted and flew either side of it. But the flock literally was that dense - so many many starlings that they had to veer to left and right to avoid a single soft ball of snow. And those feathered squadrons must have been passing for at least an hour. Amazing!

Does this still happen I wonder?

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