This year seems to have been a good one for red grouse on the managed moors of Northumberland. A walk up Watson’s Pike, a couple of days ago, took us out on to the well-tended heather above the green valley of the Devil’s Water. The clear air of early October gave us long views out towards the coast and north to Simonside. The heather on these hills has been a carpet of colour but only scattered sprigs were still in bloom, being visited by a few hardy bumblebees. However it was the red grouse that were the most prominent feature of the walk, their distinctive call was to be heard near and far over the hillsides and they shot up from under our feet in groups of up to twelve at a time. Even as we dropped off the hillside into the pastures surrounding the farms red grouse were still to be spotted on the walls.
It has been a very dry September, particularly the second half, and the moor was dry underfoot. As we dropped down to the aptly named Grouse House the vegetation changed and the ground suddenly became divided by small flowing streams. These emerged as springs along a clear line on the hillside providing clear water to the burns that feed the Devil’s Water and then the Tyne.