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Monday, 21 April 2014

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Is mystery 'jelly' on Cumbria Lake District fells from outer space?

It has been said it comes from outer space – and now the strange slime known as Star Jelly has been spotted on the Cumbrian fells.

Star jelly photo
The white, gelatinous substance found on the fells

Samples of a mysterious blob-like jelly that has in the past left scientists scratching their heads is undergoing analysis after being found in the Lake District within the past week.

An algae expert at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, who has been involved in previous investigations into the appearance of the translucent jelly, is looking into the find, made by walkers in and around the fells of Patterdale.

A similar discovery in 1950 inspired the film The Blob when four policemen in the US state of Pennsylvania came across a huge disk of quivering jelly, measuring 6ft in diameter.

Some reports on the internet suggest the substance, given the name ‘Star Jelly’, is said in folklore to be left over from meteor showers.

Others say the strange goo could be the remains of frogs, toads or worms, though tests have been inconclusive.

The jelly’s sporadic appearance around the world has continually dumbfounded scientists, with reports dating back to the 14th century.

The last reported sighting came in 2009 when it was discovered in the hills of Scotland. Investigations failed to reveal any conclusive reasons for its existence.

Rob Shephard, 43, a holiday-cottage owner, of Patterdale, was one of the first to encounter the slime in Cumbria.

He said: “I know of at least five other people who have come across it in the past week, but as far as I know it has never been seen in these parts before.

“Within 20 minutes of a walk I came across the jelly myself.

“There were about nine or 10 blobs of it floating on top of some puddles. They were the size of my foot. I didn’t touch the jelly as it was pretty horrible weather so I just took some snaps and made my way down.

“But I will definitely be going up again and might try and put some in a container, although from everything I have read this stuff evaporates pretty quickly.

“I am not sure why this jelly has materialised but at first I thought it could have something to do with the rutting season.

“There are lots of stags in Scotland where the jelly has occurred before. But I would like to think meteor showers are involved.”

Tom Driscoll, 53, the owner of Patterdale village store, is also baffled.

He said: “I was walking at the weekend with my partner when we came across six or eight piles of the stuff. I touched it and it had the consistency of frog spawn but some pieces were as big as a person’s foot so I didn’t think it was anything that a human or animal could make.

“I have never seen such a thing before.”

Dr Hans Sluiman, an algae expert at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, was involved in the 2009 investigations and is looking at the latest samples.

He said: “At the time (in 2009) I put some of the material under the microscope.

“I was trying to determine if it contained algae. I discovered a few very small algae cells, but came to the conclusion these had entered the jelly via contamination with plant matter.

“I did discover that the jelly is made up almost entirely of water but was not able to find out exactly what it was.

“The trouble is that the jelly does not appear very often and once it has been brought down from the hills it is not very fresh.

“It is possible that it is down to toxic frogs that have been eaten by other animals and then spat out, but nobody knows for sure.”

Have your say

I found a couple of clumps while walking last week on a moor near Marsden, West Yorkshire. I took pictures of both clumps with my smartphone (unfortunately I left my DSLR's battery at home!). Both clumps consisted of several blobs of differing sizes, which were translucent on the edges and white/opaque in the centres where the blobs were thicker.
This wasn't frog spawning season, so I assumed that it was a fungus or perhaps something that had been regurgitated by sheep in the field. The weather was wet and very windy.

Posted by Ed on 3 November 2013 at 20:00

I was out for a cycle in the country in late November 2011 and whilst climbing a steep hillside in pasture I came across what appered to be some frothy matter about the sice of a large orange. Intrigued as to what it was, I decided to pick it up only for it to slither from my hands and wobble its way back into a complete ball and onto the ground. it had the consistency of slippery mucus and one ball was snow-white and the other, maybe because it was older and rotten, was a light yellow. There are many mushrooms in this area so I would guess at it being a free forming, rootless fungi, though whether it comes from the mycelium beneath the ground is a mystery! I looked this autumn in the same area and found none, maybe down to the huge rainfall this autumn. Nature never fails to amaze and intrigue. Take care all.

Posted by mark smith on 21 December 2012 at 11:14

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