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  • Julie Muller

CRAGSIDE : A Summer Stroll beside NELLY'S MOSS

Updated: Mar 29

Two dogs sitting on the bank of a large silvery surfaced  lake with pine trees in the distance
Bruno and Shep enjoying the view at Nelly's Moss

One of our favourite walks at Cragside follows the perimeter of the Nelly Moss lakes. These two lakes formed an important part of Lord Armstrong’s hydroelectricity projects and provided electricity for the whole of the Cragside residence.

It is possible to walk up to the lakes from the main car park. Although it is a bit steep and gravelly in places, it only takes about twenty minutes. However, most humans prefer to drive their cars along the Carriage Drive up to Crozier car park especially if they have young humans with them. There is an amazing adventure playground here on which to play.

Nelly’s Moss lakes are always so peaceful whenever we visit them. The first part of the walk, which follows the Carriage Drive, was a tad hot to our paws on this bright sunny day, but it didn’t take long before we left the hard surfaced road behind us and began to walk under the shade of the trees at the edge of the lake. The water looked so inviting. It would have been so lovely to go for a swim if we had been allowed to - but that wouldn’t have been very kind to all of the birds that choose to live here. The roots of the trees seemed to be reaching towards the lake as if they, too, would like to dip them in the cool lake water. The ground was soft and springy under our paws as we skipped over them.

As usual, there were lots of birds on and around the lake, and all of them seemed to have their own favourite places. The moor hens and coots were dabbling amongst the reeds , whereas the braver swans and ducks were paddling far out in the open water. As for the geese, they were just happy sitting on the shore and hissing at us. I find them very scary!

We continued through a thicket of leathery leaved rhododendron and coral berry bushes on to the second lake. Here a wall held back the water which spilt and cascaded over the sides to form a soggy wetland below it .Finally we could dip our dry dusty paws in the water and take a long cool drink – it was deliciously cold.

At the very end of the second lake, we were confronted with even more geese who hissed and honked at us and refused to move off the path. We gave them a very wide berth.

A small wooden bridge was ahead of us which crossed over a fast-flowing flume of water on its way to enter the lake. We trotted across it as quickly as we could. I am not very keen on bridges!

Above us we heard a loud whirring noise and two white swans glided past, flapping their wings, on their downward trajectory towards the lake – there was a loud splash as they made contact with the water.

In front of us, we could see the dam which separates the two lakes from each other, and also a wooden boat house – the perfect place to shelter if it rained!

Beneath the dam, there appeared to be a small stream flowing between the two lakes and we went to take a closer look at it as it trickled under a wooden bridge. As we peered into the water below, we were amazed to see a large shoal of dark coloured fish. As our shadows crossed their line of sight they darted off and hid from us. Bruno and I strained our eyes to see them, but they had vanished.

We decided to return to the boathouse and follow the path along the right-hand side of the lake. Here, the path crosses huge uneven slabs of rock and winds its way through large boulders interspersed with bright yellow broom, gorse, and purple rhododendrons.

It was enormous fun for us as we skipped and jumped through and over the boulders, but it wouldn’t be any good for any dog or human less steady on their paws.

Above us there were immense slabs of rock, and these were adorned with a multitude of humans , some sitting, some lying , all bathing in the late afternoon sunshine.

Across the other side of the lake, we could see where we had started our walk and all of the colours and shapes of summer were reflected in the mirror-like surface of the water.

It is always lovely walking this walk – whatever the weather or time of year as there is always something new to see or discover – and what’s more – there isn’t a hill in sight!!!

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