Today was the day for the strenuous hike up onto Cronkley Fell. Into the bargain I had also promised Belinda that we'd take in High Force too so it turned out to be a mammoth walk!
Beginning with 11 Black Grouse at Langdon Beck and 2 Short-eared Owls on the drive over from Weardale we parked in the small carpark at Forest-in-Teesdale and set out to hit the fell via Cronkley Bridge. Beside the road was a nice patch of Perennial Cornflower and when we hit the climb up the fell a pair of Wheatears were quickly followed by an even better pair of Ring Ouzels. Once at the top we were faced with several large fenced enclosures and the disappointment that most of the target flowers were not yet out. Damn this late spring! A great but rather bizarre find were 4 Spoonbills circling the fell a few times before heading off! A pair of Golden Plover on territory showed extremely well but I'd not lugged my big camera and lens all the way up there. We sat and had lunch at the summit trig point to the cacophony of the colony of Black-headed Gulls breeding on the pool. Examination of plants revealed hundreds of Spring Gentians, plenty of Spring Sandwort, Mountain Pansy, Hoary Whitlowgrass and then, finally a bona-fide Teesdale Violet! A load of Wood Anenome in one of the enclosures looked very out of place and got me going for a minute thinking they may have been something far more interesting. A lovely group of pristine Early Purple Orchids (unusually showing unspotted leaves) graced one of the fenced areas. Continuing what had become a bit of a trudge we finally made it to High Force and my only Dipper of the trip whizzed through. A curious area of Juniper 'forest' held good numbers of Mistle Thrushes, Chaffinches, Willow Warblers and a single Cuckoo.