From Saltholme to Haweswater… and back again

Last week, Visitor Experience Intern Laura Pringle travelled from RSPB Saltholme in industrial Teesside to our rural Haweswater base, on a trip to explore the distinctions between our two sites. Here she shares her mini-adventure with us…

It’s cold.

It’s dark.

It’s windy.

But with a badger sighting imminent from the sheltered Hawswater badger hide, the cold and wind is all but forgotten!

Hello everyone, Laura here, the Visitor Experience Intern at RSPB Saltholme. Today (Thursday) is the penultimate evening of my trip to Haweswater, which began on Tuesday. It’s 6:30pm and I am writing from the badger hide with a cup of tea to keep me warm.

Coming to Haweswater has been a great experience and has also been quite eye opening. It is extremely different here than at Saltholme, in both a landscape sense and a logistical sense.

Landscape wise, Haweswater is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, and is almost as remote as you can get. Saltholme, on the other hand, is a wildlife haven surrounded by industry and has flourished because of the industry, not despite it. Saltholme is also rather flat, whereas Haweswater, right in the heart of the Lake District, is definitely not. It has been incredible hiking the hills this week and admiring the breath-taking valleys, waterfalls and hillside this area has to offer. This was particularly so on today, where myself and a team of other volunteers spent the morning climbing up Mardale Valley to plant over 100 saplings between us.   

Haweswater additionally is completely different to Saltholme in the sense that it is an RSPB reserve without a visitor centre. As such, a visitor experience role here, is visibly different to mine at Saltholme. Haweswater’s exceptional Visitor Development Officer Heather has spent the year organising, promoting and running specialised events to attract locals and tourists alike, including the highly successful Rut Strut events, which gave visitors the unique opportunity to see Red Deer rutting in all their glory. The badger hide is another big draw here at Haweswater, and visitors regularly come to spend time in the hide waiting for and watching the badgers- and it has been a great success! Haweswater has had a 100% sightings rate with their badger hide since it opened to the public in the Summer.

Some of my highlights this week have been getting up close and personal with the wildlife here at Haweswater. It was lovely to spot a red squirrel while driving up to Mardale today and to see a glimpse of a dipper while walking around Naddle Forest on Wednesday. And with the badger that has just appeared here at the badger hide, only a handful of metres away from where I’m sitting, I’ve made it a highlight hattrick! This is the second time I’ve seen the badgers here and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of their antics. Using their noses they snuffle around looking for food; and bound along to other logs to see if there is food hidden there. And yes, there is food hidden there – the staff at Haweswater place a little food out every evening for the badgers and they seem to love it!

I think it’s time for me to leave the badger in peace and head back into the warmth of the farmhouse. I’ve had a wonderful evening to complete a wonderful day and expect tomorrow will be the same.

Well, that’s it from me and Haweswater. I’ve had an amazing time and will, of course, be visiting the Lake District again soon.

Until next time, Haweswater!

– Laura