Catherine Kay is the Education Officer at the Wordsworth Trust. She read Romantic literature at St Andrews and has an extensive knowledge along with a love and passion for her subject. Away from the museum she immerses herself in popular culture; reads Heat magazine and watches Made in Chelsea.
The kind of person you’d take your proofreading to. The kind of person you’d want on your quiz team.
We’ve been friends for many years and one warm sunny afternoon last October we took a trip down to Force Falls to watch the migrating salmon leap the cataract on their way to the spawning grounds.
You need to get your eye in. We arrived an hour or so after high tide and didn’t have to wait long before we saw them, tentative at first, lifting their heads above water to check out the falls before making the great leap. Occasionally one would mistime its jump, landing in the boiling, foaming water at the base. It’s a spectacle we associate with rivers in the Yukon or Nova Scotia, but here we were a few miles south of Kendal watching one of the greatest shows on earth – the only thing missing were the grizzlies.
Most creatures, humans being one of the few exceptions, have magnetized sensors in their bodies; an internal GPS that taps in to the earth’s magnetic field, enabling them to accurately navigate empty skies, oceans and featureless plateaus over years and thousands of miles, returning, in the salmon’s case, through the rivers and tributaries to the gravel pits where they were born four years earlier. The urge to reproduce is greater than the obstacles nature puts before them and they’ll overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties in order to return.
The Lake District National Park is a menagerie: indigenous animals such as deer, badgers and birds of prey are visible on an almost daily basis, but the sight of those big Atlantic salmon leaping the waterfall was something I neither anticipated nor expected. It really was quite special.
The salmon migrate in October. To get to Force Falls take the Hincaster turn off on the A590 and go down the cul-de-sac running parallel to the road and river for around 800 metres. The Falls are on the left beside a farmhouse. The salmon arrive around an hour or two after high tide in Morecambe Bay.
Song of the Wandering Aengus
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
and moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in the stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame.
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
Catherine’s recipe for Fish Pie
250ml fish stock
250ml milk (plus a bit to put in the mashed potatoes)
350g assorted fish
1 bay leaf
750g mashed potatoes
1 leek – washed and sliced
50g plain flour
1tbsp fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
A generous handful of grated cheese
Heat the oven to 180⁰ C, gas mark 4
Pour the fish stock and milk into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer
Add the fish, which should be in bite size chunks – use either all one sort of fish, or a mixture (I always add a few prawns too) of fleshy, non-oily fish like salmon or cod.
Add the bay leaf and poach for 5 minutes.
Remove the fish and put to one side; don’t throw the poaching liquid away as you will be using it later.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sliced leek and cook for 5 minutes until the leek is soft.
Add the flour and stir well, then pour in the poaching liquid and stir again; turn the heat up and cook for about 3 minutes until the sauce has slightly thickened. Turn the heat off; remove the bay leaf, then add the fish, chopped parsley and some salt and pepper.
Put the mixture into an ovenproof dish and leave to cool slightly.
Cover the fish mixture with a thick layer of mashed potatoes – make sure your fish mixture is not too hot when you do this, otherwise the potato will sink. The resulting mush will be edible, but won’t look it.
Sprinkle grated cheese over the top.
Put the dish onto a baking tray (in case it bubbles over during cooking) and bake for 20-30 minutes (until the sauce is bubbling under the potatoes)
Serve with vegetables of your choice – I favour frozen peas, and would advise against cauliflower on aesthetic grounds.
This recipe should feed 4 people.
nxt week: A Sorry End