Fell Ten Foot Park

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I found some more pictures from A’s birthday outing, as related in the previous post. These were on TBH’s camera, although I took quite a few of them.

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These show our makeshift tarp lean-to. You can see it was pretty marginal. Subsequently I bought some more guys, taught myself some knots (with a little online tuition) and, on another trip to Fell Foot Park we built something much more sturdy.

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The kids took great delight in building themselves a mock campfire.

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So much so that A tried again when we got to Aldingham, but she struggled with the wind.

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More photos from Roa Island….

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A Butterfish and a Shanny.

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Broad-clawed porcelain crab. Apparently those long whip-like antennae are indicative of the fact that this is not a true crab, but is in fact more closely related to lobsters. It’s very flattened body and claws are an adaptation for living under rocks .

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The ‘porcelain’ refers to the texture of the exoskeleton. It’s a very hairy crab, but this one was so coated in mud that we couldn’t really tell.

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A spider crab. They attach weed and pieces of sponge to themselves as camouflage.

So, why ‘Fell Ten Foot Park’? (Those of a nervous disposition might not want to read this part, it involves the clumsiest of the Dangerous Brothers and a trip to A&E).

Cutting a long story short, we’ve been to Fell Foot Park, and indeed several other local National Trust properties, several times this summer. We’d bought some inflatable canoes (of which more anon) and were there to try them out for the first time. We were later arriving than we had planned and decided to have lunch before taking the boats out.

‘Can we go to the park Dad, while you get lunch out?’

Fell Foot has a children’s play area. But they didn’t go to the children’s play area. Oh no. They went and climbed a tree. It had only just stopped raining. The tree was slippery. You can guess the rest. The ‘ten foot’ part is based on B’s estimate as recounted first to the paramedics and then to the A&E doctor. As he fell Little S hit a branch with his chin. I don’t know how the branch came out of it, but it made a bit of a mess of his chin. All fixed now however, although he still has a fairly livid scar, but it’s under his chin and isn’t too obvious.

The National Trust staff, the paramedics, the nurses and the doctor at the hospital, and the people who witnessed his fall and went to help him were all brilliant.

We joked with S that he was banned from any more tree climbing, but we were back at Fell Foot Park before he had his stitches out and what did he do there? Climbed trees of course.

Posted in Crab, Roa Island, Rock-pooling | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Roa Island Rock-Pooling Again

A’s birthday. We went to Fell Foot Park for a picnic lunch. This was the first of many visits over the last couple of months. Actually, we’re now calling it ‘Fell Ten Foot Park’, but that followed a later visit, and that story will have to wait.

On this occasion we tried to make a shelter with some trekking poles, a couple of tarps that somebody gave us, we can’t agree on who it was that donated them, and a few odd tent pegs and guy lines which were knocking about in a box in our garage. Unfortunately, it turned out that there was only one guy and a piece of very stretchy, thin bungee cord, the original purpose of which completely eludes me. Quite surprisingly, despite the strong swirling winds, we eventually managed to erect a reasonably durable structure. The kids were disproportionally excited by the whole palaver and I’ve subsequently picked up some more guys in a sale and am even contemplating buying a larger tarp – anything which keeps the kids entertained in the outdoors is worth considering.

Later, we met some friends on the beach at Aldingham for a very windy and therefore quite fierce Birthday barbecue. I managed not to singe the meat too much I think, although the same can’t be said for the flimsy beach tent I put up to try to provide a bit of a wind-break, and which now has a few prominent scorch marks.

Birthday girl with crab 

After that, we were back to Roa Island to gate-crash a meeting of a local Marine Conservation group. We’ve done this before: some of our friends are members and they tip us the wink as to when rock-pooling events are planned. I have to say that the group are exceptionally friendly and it’s great to be there in numbers, partly because between a few of you more things are spotted and also because some of the group members are very knowledgeable and happily identify finds and share their knowledge.

A has always been a bit wary of crabs. No – that’s an understatement: she’s always been inclined to squealing and running away whenever crabs are present. But today she suddenly discovered her inner crab-fiend. There were several other children there who were also a bit reluctant to handle the abundant crustaceans – A became crab ambassador, coaxing them to hold steadily larger crabs as their confidence increased.

B with shore crab 

The dangerous brothers, meanwhile, have never really had any such qualms, although S looks quite pensive here, I’m not sure why.

S with crab, looking slightly pensive. 

Shore crab 

Long-suffering readers will know that we’ve been to Roa Island a few times before. There are always reliably huge numbers of shore crabs and edible crabs, but I was thrilled to find, under some weed by the jetty….

Porcelain crab 

….a Broad-clawed Porcelain Crab. (The light wasn’t great, so the photos are generally not up to much, but I haven’t seen one of these before and was very happy to now.)

We arrived a couple of hours before low tide, and the water was already as low as I have seen it before. When low tide came around, we were able to explore much further into the channel then we ever have before. Down on the edge of the water every small pool or over-turned bit of seaweed was teeming with life.

Tiny spider crab 

We found no end of these tiny spider crabs. There are at least three species found in UK waters and I wouldn’t like to say which of those these are.

Another weed covered spider crab 

They adorn themselves with weed, or sponge – we found one covered in sponge but my photos are just too blurred to use.

Another tiny spider crab 

This one doesn’t have the weed clothing and the slightly thicker front legs make me think that it might be a Scorpion Spider Crab, but I wouldn’t take my word for it if I were you.

Brittle star 

By this time A had switched her focus to Starfish and Brittlestars, which were equally abundant and wonderfully varied.

A's starfish collection 

We also spotted a Lion’s-Mane Jellyfish again, although this was much smaller than the one we saw before, and indisputably dead.

A few fish were found, including several Butterfish. I got better photos last time….

Wriggley butter fish 

….but I do like the way that this conveys the fish’s ability to squirm and slide around dry parts of the beach.

This one…

Shannie 

…is a Shanny, I think, and they too can survive out of the water, at least for a while.

With the tide being so far out, we saw lots of sponge too. I’m going to tentatively say that this….

Sponge covered rock

…is Estuary Sponge, but as always, I stand ready to be corrected.

Posted in Crab, Fish, Roa Island, Rock-pooling | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Interlude – Garden Entomology

Remember the potter’s wheel? I do which is a bit odd, since when I looked it up, I found that it was shown on the BBC in the 1950s and I’m not old enough to remember that far back.

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This post is the blog equivalent of those short interlude films – a bit of filler before another proper post comes along. I think the beeb could bring their interludes back – couldn’t be any worse than half of what’s on telly already.

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If they did, mind, it would be The Great British Pot Throw-Off or some such. Like the Generation Game, but po-faced. Instead of five minutes of images with some light classical music, we’d get an hour of tedium, probably with an over-the-top voice-over in an attempt to rack-up the non-existent tension.

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It could be presented and judged by a ‘national treasure’ -  Grayson Perry seems ideally qualified.

Enough of that – I’ve never watched those competition programmes – baking, dancing, skating, tumbling, diving etc – so my rant is based entirely on supposition about just how dreadful they might be, if they’re at all like I imagine them to be. 

Having holidayed at home this summer, we had the chance to spend a fair bit of time in the garden. Often I was cooking on the barbecue when I was out there, but one particularly warm, sunny day, I had a happy half hour photographing butterflies and other bugs which were on and around a buddleia bush.

Red Admiral III 

Apparently, the name of the red admiral may refer to the butterflies resemblance to an ensign or naval flag, raised when an admiral is aboard a ship.

The Red Admiral’s scientific name Vanessa is one of science’s in-jokes. The original Vanessa was the nickname of a teenage girl tutored by Jonathon Swift and was based on her real name of Hester Vanhombrugh, that is, ‘Van-ester’. It seems that she and Swift had an affair and that he celebrated her ‘bright looks’ in his poem ‘Cadmus and Vanessa’.

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I assume that this is a large white. Although I often see white butterflies skittering about, they seem reluctant to pose for photos and they are one of my numerous blind-spots when it comes to identifying the various species.

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Apparently, in Lincolnshire, during the Napoleonic wars, they were known as Frenchmen, presumably lumped in with the enemy due to the damage their caterpillars do to cabbages and other brassicas.

Peacock I 

The peacock used to be know as the peacock’s tail.

The Peacock’s scientific name, Inachis io, alludes to an ancient myth which explains the origin of the peacock’s tail. Io was a seduced nymph, the daughter of King Inachus. In order to disguise Io from his wife’s prying eyes, Jupiter turned her into a heifer. Io, still helplessly lovely and desirable even in the form of a cow, was given to the care of Argus, a heavenly herdsman whose hundred eyes made escape impossible. At length, her father discovered Io grazing in a field. The winged god Mercury helped her to escape by telling Argus a long and immensely boring story that resulted in every one of his eyes closing in sleep. Then, rather unsportingly, Mercury got out his sword and cut his head off. This displeased Jupiter’s wife, but she managed to collect all of Argus’s eyes and attached them to her favourite bird, the peacock, ‘covering its tail with jewelled stars’.

Peacock II

Comma

The lovely comma, with it’s raggedy edged wings, is named for that small white punctuation mark on the underside of its wings. In France it’s called Robert le Diable because of the shape of its wings. It’s something of a success story, which makes a nice change: it’s spreading northwards at a rate of ten kilometres a year.

That’s it – interlude over for now. Are any of your one hundred eyes still open, Argus?

The quotations above, and much of the other information, come from Bugs Britannica by Richard Marren and Richard Mabey. I haven’t delved into that as often as I have into its companion volumes Flora Britannica and Birds Britannica, but I can see that I need to rectify that error.

I read that the Northen Lights may possibly be visible unusually far south tomorrow night. Keep your eyes peeled.

Posted in Butterflies, Garden | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Mostly Concerning Food

Mixing cookie dough

Some time ago I wrote about hearing Michael Pollan on Radio 4’s Food Programme, and how interesting I found what he had to say. One of the things he was talking about, was the importance of involving children in the kitchen and the process of producing family meals.

Rolling the dough 

Our kids don’t regularly cook, but they help out now and again, and from time to time they are quite keen to have a go. On this occasion, S had won a Cookie Dough kit at the first Silverdale Food Fair and, naturally, wanted to use it to make some cookies. The cookie dough mix included was a year past it’s use by date, as it turned out (some prize!), but we could manage a biscuit recipe and the necessary ingredients, surely? We could.

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By the time the boys had reached the stage of decorating the biscuits with icing pens their sister was back at home and was keen to join in.

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This all happened during the World Cup. Perhaps inevitably, this cookie….

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….a Little S creation, was christened Lionel Messi.

Since hearing Michael Pollan on the radio, I’ve read ‘In Defence of Food’, the source of his oft quoted maxim ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants’. I was quite surprised by how gripping I found it. Since then I keep periodically returning to books about food and its production. I read ‘Animal, Mineral, Vegetable’ which is a mixture of memoir, polemic and recipe book and tells the story of how novelist Barbara Kingsolver (and her family – who also contributed to the book) attempted to eat locally produced food for a year, much of that food grown or reared on their own Virginia small-holding.

At the moment, I’m part-way through Raj Patel’s ‘Stuffed and Starved’ which covers global food production and distribution, farming, GM crops and such like. He argues that the mechanisms which produce the burgeoning problem with obesity are exactly the same as the causes of global hunger.

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You’ve already seen S’s birthday cake, eaten on Carn Fadryn. This is another one, which TBH made for his party at home. It was a Cowboy Party. No difficulty with getting the candles to stay lit on this occasion!

Has all of this food for thought (sorry!) had an impact on the way I shop and eat? Well, yes, up to a point. I haven’t started to keep turkeys or chickens like Barbara Kingsolver did, and we still don’t grow many of our own veg, but I have been trying to eat seasonal, local produce as much as possible. In the summer, and with several Booth’s supermarkets nearby, that’s been relatively easy to do – I can generally buy English grown, or in fact, for the most part, Lancashire grown veg and have a fairly good choice of fruit too.

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Some things, obviously, don’t grow in Lancashire. When the English asparagus season finished, I stopped eating asparagus, which wasn’t a great hardship because I don’t think the Peruvian stuff is as nice anyway. I’m not eating as many avocados as I did, though I haven’t stopped altogether. I’m still drinking tea and eating chocolate, although Stuffed and Starved’s revelations (to me anyway) about child slavery in the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast has me thinking again about that.

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Hmmm, seems slightly inappropriate to accompany text about child slavery with photos of my daughter cooking. Not that there’s any coercion involved: she’s become quite keen. Baking cakes and making soup have been part of her repertoire for a while now. She’s recently turned her hand to sweets, making peppermint creams and cinder toffee. I told her that bread-making was surprisingly easy, and she proceeded to dent my ego by proving me right and turning-out a near perfect loaf at her first attempt.

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I’ve been thinking of veering off topic and posting something about food for while, but this post was finally precipitated by another Radio 4 programme. I thought I’d get something out there whilst that programme was still available on the iplayer. This week’s ‘Book of the Week’ is Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens’. The third programme, ‘The Agricultural Revolution’ suggests that wheat wasn’t domesticated by mankind, but rather the reverse, and that wheat (and other food plants) have duped us into accepting a fairly raw deal in order to provide the conditions in which they can flourish. This is pretty much the case that Michael Pollan was making in the TED talk I embedded in my earlier post.

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I was also taken by the idea, from the first programme, that mankind’s original niche might have been as a sort of lower-class scavenger, waiting for the food-chain topping predators, and then other pack animals, hyenas and such like, to finish with a carcass before using tools to break the bones and eat the marrow, food which other creatures couldn’t generally access. I’m sure that would go down well with the ‘Paleo Diet’ people who seem to regard bone marrow broth as some kind of panacea.

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So: not about walking then, or even about ‘thinking about walking’, but more ‘other stuff’ for a change. It’s not a recent development for me to be thinking about food when I’m not ‘thinking about walking’, but I haven’t always considered in the past the processes by which our food reaches our fridge. The food choices we make have a profound effect not only on our own health, but also on the state of the planet, and the health and well-being of all of it’s inhabitants. It seems to me that an interest and concern for those issues dovetails quite neatly with an interest in the natural world, but I suppose I should leave you to decide on that one.

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I’m sure that I’ve only scratched the surface in my reading, and I don’t feel like I have all, or indeed, any of The Answers, but I know that its something I shall continue to mull over.

Happy eating!

Posted in Food | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Crinkle Crags with the Boys, via Crinkle Gill

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In previous years we’ve usually had another foray to look forward to after our camping trip to Wales, but after our family centred holidays in Switzerland this winter and Virginia last summer, we felt that a little belt-tightening might not go amiss. Also – there’s lots of good stuff on our doorstep, so why not enjoy it?

To that end, not long after we were back from Wales I took the boys to Langdale for the day. (Originally A had intended to be with us too, but she wasn’t feeling too well unfortunately.)

We parked in the National Trust car park by the New Dungeon Ghyll pub, being far too late to get into the smaller car park more conveniently situated a little further up the valley. This meant that we started our route with a walk through the meadows beside Great Langdale Beck, with the unexpected consequence that Little S was attacked by a cow. Well menaced anyway – I suppose we were probably being quite loud, and we were in the middle of the herd – cows and their calves. One of them charged at S, there’s not really any other way of describing it. S fell backwards and screamed and the cow stopped. When I got between S and the cow she feinted at me too – I’d thought at first that she was trying to get past us, and that the ‘threat’ to S had been unintentional, but now I was convinced of quite the opposite.

I picked S up and dusted him down – he was shaken but unhurt. He was also a lot braver than I would have been in the same circumstances and agreed that we would continue past the herd again, this time staying closer together. The couple behind us, who had a small dog with them, decided to turn back. The cows had moved a little further away from the path and this time we were quickly through the gate without further incident.

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The kids were all keen to go Gill Scrambling –although their concept of that sport seems to involve total immersion in the water, which is not quite what I had in mind. I thought we would follow Crinkle Gill up onto Crinkle Crags – a quiet and very interesting way up to the top, which I’ve done three of four times before.

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As we’d driven through Langdale, I’d already had a presentiment that all might not go exactly according to plan – the weather had been reasonably settled I’d thought, so I was surprised to see that Stickle Ghyll was a white ribbon across the hillside. All went well initially however, as we followed Oxendale Beck to the second footbridge and then diverted from the footpath into Crinkle Gill.

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The boys were very excited, couldn’t wait to get their hands on the rock and their feet in the beck, and we were soon boulder-hopping our way upstream.

The slopes to either side steepened and the banks closed in…

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This rather innocuous looking little fall proved to be a bit of a crux…

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It maybe doesn’t look like it here, but there really was quite a bit of water coming down it, the noise was, I think, a bit intimidating, and for those with short legs it was a challenging little problem. We managed to negotiate a way past it, but B and I both got quite wet in the process. S kept dry by the simple expedient of throwing himself at slimy, unpromising holds and relying on me to catch him. Faced with several more small falls the boys both decided that discretion was the better part of valour and we retreated.

We found a rather delicate little traverse out of the ravine and then climbed steep slopes to some slabs on the shoulder where we stopped to survey the damage, change our socks and eat some lunch.

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Crinkle Gill

At this point, S would happily have returned to the car, and perhaps, in retrospect, we should have done that. He found the ascent heavy-going. I initiated the boys into the cult of ‘step-counting’ -  something I’ve been meaning to post about for an age, and perhaps will get round to sometime soon (when I’ve caught up) – and that helped for a while (Briefly – paused for a breather every 100 steps and for a longer rest every 500 steps) . He perked up too when we managed to string some crags together and make a bit of a scramble out of the route, but it wasn’t really until we had another lunch stop that he finally got his second-wind.

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Pike O’Blisco.

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Look at that view!’ 

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‘It’s steep!’

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Looking to Bowfell.

Eventually though, we arrived on Gunson Knott…

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And then reached the top of Crinkle Crags….

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We’d started late and then made fairly slow progress – it was five o’clock by this time. At least that meant that it was quiet. There was one other party on the top – coincidentally, another chap with two boys.

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Coniston Fells

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Langdale Pikes

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Great Langdale.

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It’s a long old way via Three Tarns and down The Band, and really, the boys did very well, spurred on by the promise of ‘another ginger nut when we reach’…whatever prominent landmark I could see below us.

We passed back through the same cow field on the way back to the car, but they paid us no mind this time.

Stopping on the way home to stock up on victuals, we were thwarted again: the chip shop we tried was closed and we had to settle for petrol-station bought snacks.

I’m hoping to try something like this with the kids again, but feel that there’s a steep learning curve here: I remembered this route as a remote and picturesque way up Crinkle Crags with a modicum of very easy scrambling, but for the boys it was much more challenging than I had anticipated. The unexpectedly high water levels didn’t help. Back to the drawing board!

Anyway, I shall remember the day, with it’s steadily improving weather and air-clarity as one of the high-points of the summer, and I hope that the boys won’t be too scarred by their experience!

Posted in Birketts, Wainwright bagging, Walking | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Harlech Castle

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The size of our party fell from sixteen to three; from four families to just part of ours. The boys had very firm theories about what we should do with our days. We went to the circus in Pwllheli (they twisted my arm). And we must do a castle, they said. I’m was much happier with that idea. We’ve done both Beaumaris and Criccieth on recent visits, and Caernafon several times in the past. Andy suggested Harlech for a change of scene – which was a great idea.

This must be my third visit, I think. In my teens I had a holiday in Harlech, coincidentally just with my dad and my brother. I don’t remember coming to the castle, but we were camped on the links between the town and the huge sand dunes, right beneath the imposing castle, so surely we must have done? I’ve certainly been here with Andy, long before we had any kids and when there was no real excuse for us to charge around the battlements pretending to be knights. But we did exactly that.

The castle sits on a large dome of rock in a really commanding position. It’s another of Edward I Welsh fortifications.

Harlech Castle 

The views from the top, of the coast and the mountains of Snowdonia, are magnificent.

View from Harlech Catle 

The castle was taken by Owain Glyndwr during his war with the English, and was his residence and headquarters for a few years. His second Welsh parliament was held here apparently.

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The song ‘Men of Harlech’ was apparently inspired by a lengthy siege during the Wars of the Roses, when Lancastrian forces held on much longer here than they did elsewhere.

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It’s almost like they knew we were coming!

Touring castles with the boys is great fun; their enthusiasm for exploring every nook and cranny is infectious.

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Although I sometimes worry that they’ve overstepped the bounds of what is acceptable visitor behaviour, when they start crawling around in some dusty hole.

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We wandered around both the inner and outer wards at ground level.

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Climbed the only tower still open to visitors, which has an awful lot of steps!

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And also toured the battlements, where the relatively low wall made me feel slightly nervous.

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In common with just about every castle we’ve visited, Harlech was slighted after holding out against the Parliamentarians during the Civil War. Fortunately the ordered destruction wasn’t very thoroughly carried out and although materials were later taken from the castle to provide stone for buildings in the town, there’s still plenty here to see and enjoy.

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After the castle, we picnicked on a nearby sports field and then walked down towards the sea. We never really made it to the beach, because the boys…

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…were captivated by the dunes of Morfa Harlech and ran around exploring those, whilst I ‘looked after our stuff’ and settled down out of the wind to do some serious reading.

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They claim that I dozed off, but I maintain that I was just resting my eyes.

Posted in Camping, Castles | Tagged | 2 Comments

Towyn Farm – A Coastal Stroll

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And then, almost everybody went home. Even TBH and A left, since they were booked into a Guide Jamboree camp. Originally, the boys and I were planning to head home too, but then it dawned on us that we might as well have a little more time by the coast. (Okay – we live by the coast, but a little more time by the Welsh coast, were there’s sand and cliffs etc. rather than an endless expanse of mud.)

Three of our friends stayed for one more day, but then they were due for a few days in the Lakes.

After the fine weather we’d been having, the day began rather cool, with a strong, blustery wind. We opted for a short excursion along the coast path.

The gorse along the cliff-tops here, and the gorse which covers the lower slopes of Caryn Fadryn, are covered with large, elaborate webs. The centre of each has a opening leading into a webbed tunnel…

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You can see that this one has snared a couple of ladybirds, a smattering of dewdrops and also a litter of flotsam, I can’t decide what it all is. This is the home of a labyrinth spider, agelena labyrinthica. B and I had seen several on Carn Fadryn a couple of days before, they lurk in the entranceways of their lairs, but tend to scuttle away when you peer in at them.

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I’m puzzled by these photos. I think that there are two spiders here, both of them agelena labyrinthica, locked in an embrace or a macabre dance of death? I’m only speculating.

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The coastal walking is lovely here. We should enjoy it more often. On this occasion, with the strong wind, there were waves crashing onto the rocks and beaches, which is unusual: this stretch of coast is often sheltered from the prevailing winds.

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I’m always intrigued by this small building, half built into the cliff-top, and by the ramshackle collection of huts which back this natural harbour, unnamed on the OS map.

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Nearby, there’s also the remnants of what must have been a very exposed house.

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And just across the headland, another natural harbour, Porth Ysgaden.

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We stopped here for drinks and snacks and to explore the rocks and tide-pools, which were large and full of small fish.

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With the weather brightening the majority vote was that would should head back for lunch and then the beach. I was outvoted, but have to confess that the beach was enjoyable – the waves were big enough the make bodysurfing viable, which is not normally the case. The kids also played a warped version of boules in which they kept reinventing the rules and adding water hazards, and which they seemed to find endlessly amusing.

Posted in Friends, Spiders, Walking | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Carn Fadryn – Birthday Hill

Male gatekeeper

Gatekeeper (male).

It’s a long old drive from North Lancs down to Tudweiliog. The children are much more patient* than I ever was in these circumstances and it’s actually fairly rare to hear a plaintive ‘Are we nearly there yet?’

Still, they can get a little restive at times. This year, as we crested the pass which takes us through the hills and onto the peninsula, we had a beautiful view along the coast and they were asking where the campsite was in relation to what we could see. As I tried to explain, little S cut in:

“Is that Birthday Hill Dad?”

It was.

Grasshopper 

He was referring to Carn Fadryn (or I notice, Garn Fadryn on new information boards which have been erected), which we do generally climb every year, and often on his birthday. This year he was adamant when we asked how he wanted to spend his day: climb Carn Fadryn and then go to the beach. Perfect day.

Spider 

I’ve written about Carn Fadryn often: the butterflies and labyrinth spiders, the amazing views, the bilberries, the iron age fort. It’s a small hill, but it punches well above it’s weight.

The horde on the summit 

The ‘camping friends’. Well, most of them.

Actually, this year the weather was a little murky and the views weren’t all they might have been. (Fortunately it rapidly cleared and by the time we got back to the cars it was scorching again, so S got his beach fix.)

I think we all enjoyed the climb none the less. TBH had brought cakes, and even candles to the summit, although the strong breeze meant that it was pretty much impossible to get all of the candles lit simultaneously.

Trying to light the candles 

S didn’t seem to mind.

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Male Wall Brown 

Wall Brown (male).

The birthday boy - laden with loom bands 

Our little crowd have been captivated by the loom band craze just like the rest of the world’s children apparently have+. Here Little S is modelling the look, with, I think, everybody’s loom band bracelets.

The 'naughty nine' - well seven of them.

The kids have taken to calling themselves ‘The Naughty Nine’, which, since they aren’t at all, is very sweet. I realise that there are only seven of them here. I suppose the other two must have been getting into mischief. Putting rocks into Andy’s rucksack hopefully.**

*Audio books on the CD player are largely to thank for that I think. At the moment, the whole family is gripped by the chronicles of Skulduggery Pleasant, especially when read by Rupert Degas, who produces an astonishing range of different accents and voices. Michael Morpurgo stories are a firm favourite too, although I struggle with how decimatingly sad they often are.

“This one’s OK Dad”, they’ll tell me, and then, half-way through, when the central character dies of a brain tumour having suffered being orphaned, deported, enslaved, brutally beaten and alcoholic,  on top of losing his best friend and his adopted mother, they have to reassure me that it isn’t going to get any worse.

+Their enthusiasm may just be beginning to wane.

**An ignoble thought. He made me a cup of tea at the top with his very expensive whizz-bang stove.

Posted in Butterflies, Friends, Grasshopper, Spiders, Walking | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Towyn Farm, Tudweiliog – Mostly Sunsets

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A bit of an annual ritual this, or two in fact, first going to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula for our camping get-together, to start the summer, and then blogging about it, usually somewhere nearer to the end of the summer. This was our eighth trip in nine years – I suppose recommendations don’t come much higher than that.

The gratuitous fry-up picture? Well – the weather was scorching, at least to begin with, and almost all of the cooking happened outside. As usual, I was extremely methodical in the run-up to our trip and had made and frozen both a chilli and a Bolognese sauce to bring with us. Shame I left them in the freezer at home. Never mind – we managed.

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All the usual stuff happened – digging and stuff, swimming, snorkelling, crabbing, beach cricket and tennis, messing around in our inflatable dinghy. I didn’t see as much this year snorkelling as I have before, not sure why, a few crabs, one of them a spider crab, a few small fish, but to be honest just the colour and variety and motion of the seaweeds is enough to bewitch me. Rubber rings seem to have become a firm favourite – keeping the kids happy in the sea seemingly for hours on end. Throwing a Frisbee, and even sometimes catching it too, was also a big favourite this year.

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Later in the week, there was even some good body-surfing to be had, which is unusual at Porth Towyn, at least when we’ve been there.

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‘Little’ S always has his birthday whilst we’re away. Can’t be bad. Here he is enjoying a well chosen gift. I’ve actually posted about S and his affection for bubbles before. I was surprised to find that was four years ago.

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Sunsets are always a feature when we’re camping at Towyn. I made a bit more of an effort to take photos this year. They don’t compare to the real thing, but here’s a sample….

Tudweiliog sunset I 

Tudweiliog sunset II 

Tudweiliog Sunset III 

Tudweiliog Sunset IV 

Tudweiliog sunset V 

Tudweiliog sunset VI 

Tudweiliog sunset VII 

One evening a few of us watched the sunset from the cliff-top (there were people still swimming, I wished I was one of them) and then walked along the coast path out to a point. The orange glow along the horizon was in some ways even more enjoyable than the more spectacular sunset had been…

Tudwieliog post-sunset

A couple more posts to come about our holiday – we didn’t neglect Carn Fadryn for example, and we managed to squeeze in a trip to a castle.

Posted in Beach, Camping, Friends, Sunset | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Ease Gill, Great Coum and Crag Hill

Bullpot Farm

This is Bullpot Farm, actually no longer a farm, but now the headquarters of The Red Rose Cave and Pothole Club. It’s the perfect spot for the club because it’s right by…

Bull Pot 

Bull Pot, which is one of the many entrances, and exits I suppose, to and from the Three Counties System, Britain’s longest and arguably most complex cave system. There are several more potholes dotted around this area.

This was the last of my post-work evening strolls this summer – and from my point of view the best. The sun was shining again – it was hot in fact.

Path 

My plan is simply described – drop down to Ease Gill, follow the stream bed up, climb to the summits of Great Coum and Crag Hill and then take a more direct route back down to the Farm and my car.

A week before I’d abandoned my plan to climb remote, untrammelled Baugh Fell on a pathless 10 mile route, following a stream almost to the top and returning over rough moorland, because I’d decided that it was too ambitious for an evening walk. This time I planned to climb remote, untrammelled Great Coum on a pathless 10 mile route, following a stream almost to the top and returning over rough moorland. What changed in that week? I don’t know – the sun was shining and continued to shine, this was a walk I’d done many times before and maybe that familiarity gave me confidence, and then I’m almost always ready to overestimate my meagre fitness.

At Bullpot farm I helloed a lady walking her dog. She was the last person I saw until I got back to my car around 5 hours later.

At 306m Bullpot farm gives a nice headstart to the climbing for a lazy hiker like me. Sadly, from there I had to head down to reach Ease Gill.

I’m not sure whether this…

The dry waterfall 

…is the feature named on the map as Ease Gill Kirk, or whether that’s a little further downstream. (I’ll take a look down that way next time!) You can see here an important feature of Ease Gill – it has no water in it, not in this section at least. There’s a small pile of boulders at the bottom of the fall facilitating it’s ascent by the bold and agile. I have climbed it in the past, but I seem to remember that I then couldn’t get up the next, higher section. This time I just went around.

It wasn’t just me that was enjoying the sunshine – this was to be a walk packed with wildlife encounters and in particular the butterflies were everywhere. I can’t think when I’ve seen such a diversity, there were whites and fritillaries on the wing, I saw skippers and one very dark butterfly which I couldn’t begin to identify. On several occasions I spent quite some time trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to photograph them.

Female common blue 

I think that this is a female common blue, but if she is, she must be very faded since both sexes generally have orange markings on the undersides of their wings.

A bird of prey hurtled past, swinging between the low trees above my on my right. I don’t know what it was, but thinking back, it had a pale, barred chest and was moving very fast, so it may have been a peregrine. Two buzzards, circling and calling ahead made me cringe a little. Even though they are so much more common than they once were I’m still always thrilled to see them, but I’m a bit more circumspect about their presence these days, after what happened a few summers ago.

In the lower reaches, Ease Gil is generally dry, although every now and again there were puddles and pools to catch and throw back the blue of the sky.

Ease Gill 

Somewhere near here I passed what I presumed to be a dig. A small drystone enclosure had been built around a hole covered by a battered pallet. The wall presumably to prevent the pothole flooding if and when the streambed has water in it. Further upstream I would see numerous small caves and resurgences, all part of the Three Counties System I imagine.

Ringlet 

Ringlet (I think)

Common Blue 

Common blue. Probably.

The dry streambed led me to a small limestone bluff, within which…

An actual waterfall 

…a very enclosed passage with water in it! And an actual waterfall!

From this point on, the stream alternated between wet and dry.

Bridge 

I saw several small frogs during the walk.

Small frog

I had just snapped a couple of photos of this little fellow, on whom I had almost stood, I turned and almost stood on…

Juvenile grey wagtail 

…a juvenile grey wagtail. A week before I’d spent maybe 15 minutes trying to photograph a pair of grey wagtails, but they were constantly on the move, too far away and in too much shade. This bird couldn’t have been more obliging. It sat in the sun practically between my feet. Hopped a few yards away…

Juvenile grey wagtail II 

…and then led me up the limestone gorge…

Limestone gorge 

…hopping and fluttering, never too far away. A very trusting little chap. I took loads of photos. Meanwhile his/her parents were doing their collective nuts. Flying overhead and then veering away – showing their innocent offspring how to escape. Eventually, the youngster cottoned on and left me to the gorge and my walk.

Ease gill again 

Frankly, it was delightful. Once upon a time this was something of a favourite route and I can’t believe I’ve neglected it for so long. Back before the the Access Laws were passed, this walk always had the added frisson of a possible meeting with an irate landowner, although it never actually happened to me, and it’s quite possible, probable even, that the shotgun wielding loon only existed in my imagination.

Ease gill again II 

More gorge.

Limestone gorge II 

Even more gorge.

Another dry waterfall 

Another dry waterfall.

Eventually, the gorge comes to an end and the valley opens out.

The slopes open out 

The stream still alternates, wet and dry.

Water again! 

Where the valley narrows again, there are several small falls.

Waterfall 

Once again, I initiated a wildlife encounter by almost standing on an unfortunate creature…

Huge frog 

…an impressively huge and strongly marked frog. S/he was down amongst tall sedges and so difficult to photograph.

Waterfall with Lady's Mantel 

I was impressed by the lady’s mantle growing beside this fall. I expect to see the alpine version in the hills, and often do, but apparently the larger leaved version is also endemic in British uplands.

Because I was following the stream or the streambed, I hadn’t had to give much thought to navigation. As luck would have it, I stopped for a drink and decided to take a peek at the map just, I realised, by Long Gill Foot, which was exactly where I had intended to leave the stream.

Upper ease gill 

In the past I’ve turned left hereabouts, heading up onto Crag Hill so that I could follow the watershed round to Gragareth, but I knew that I didn’t have the time for that on this occasion. I turned the other way, following Long Gill. A large bird perched on a fence post lifted lazily and in a couple of wing-beats was far across the valley – another buzzard, and a close encounter which was so brief that I didn’t even have my camera in hand before it was over. The climb was long and gentle, but I was beginning to feel a little weary. A host of LBJs entertained me – I think meadow pipits, and a wren emerged from a cavity in a drystone wall to berate me as only wrens can.

Much as I’d enjoyed the confines of Ease Gill, it was pleasant to finally have some more expansive views. It had been one of those warm, still midsummer evenings and looking back towards home (I think that’s Warton Crag on the left below) I wasn’t too surprised to see…

Balloon ride over Morecambe Bay 

…a hot-air balloon, which are pretty ubiquitous in this area when the weather is like this.

The ridge on to Gragareth looked inviting….

Gragareth 

Whernside is a neighbour, but Ingleborough is always more photogenic…

Ingleborough 

The Dentdale side of Great Coum is relatively steep, and I suppose I should have wandered over to take a glimpse, but time was marching on, so I continued round to Crag Hill, which, although a little lower than Great Coum, has a trig pillar and so feels a bit more like a  summit.

Trig pillar Crag Hill 

It was nine o’clock. I’d almost stopped for a bite of tea on several occasions, but somehow nowhere had quite seemed right. Maybe a meal on the top would be ideal? But now the light was running out, so I pressed on and ate a few tomatoes and some blueberries whilst I walked.

Descent route 

The descent route offered easy going at first, but the vegetation got taller, and therefore more obstructive the further downhill I walked. I was accompanied by clouds of small moths, or seemed to be. I couldn’t decide whether they were following me, which seemed unlikely, or if every square yard of the hillside had it’s own population which were taking flight as I disturbed the peace.

I’ve often enjoyed interesting encounters with wildlife here. On one particularly memorable winter walk, a sharp, clear day, I was down by Ease Gill Kirk when I saw a large pale bird behaving in a very peculiar way. I thought at first that it might be some sort of gull, but – no, where was it’s head and neck? The body seemed to thicken and get broader then stop abruptly. It was an owl! A short-eared owl I realised later:

In late winter and spring the short-eared owl may fly high up in display, calling with hollow, booming notes and clapping its wings rapidly beneath its body.

Quite extraordinary, it’s stayed with me, though it must be at least 15 years ago. What the description doesn’t say, is that whilst the bird is clapping its wings, those wings are no-longer performing their primary function and so it hurtles towards the ground.

The only other time I can recall seeing a short-eared owl was on a very cold day on the hills around Wet Sleddale. Haven’t been back since…now there’s a plan in the offing….

Last rays of the sun on Gragareth 

The alpenglow on the slopes of Gragareth alerted me to the imminent disappearance of the sun…

Final view of the sun

But that wasn’t a problem – at this latitude, at that time of year, there’s still plenty of light for quite some time after the sun has dipped below the horizon.

I came down Aygill, where I noticed another cave entrance amongst a jumble of boulders – what I now know to be Aygill Caverns – a cave system not yet linked up to the Three Counties System, although it’s known that the water from Aygill does flow through that way.

I arrived back at the car with a little light to spare, a bit tired, a bit muddied (I managed to fall over in Aygill) but extremely satisfied.

image

You can pick out my route here, I think. Long Gill is the one which has the dotted and dashed black line alongside it (I think the County Boundary). You’ll have to allow me some poetic licence for the 10 miles I quoted near the top of the post. It probably isn’t much short of that – I don’t know, I don’t really care either.

Some links.

If you want to read about the Three Counties System:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1296308/Into-abyss-Stretching-counties-70-miles-inside-Britains-vast-newly-pioneered-cave-system.html

(Sorry that it’s from Mail Online. My Granddad would be fuming, were he still around to fume.)

If you fancy spending a night at Bullpot Farm for the princely sum of £5:

http://www.rrcpc.org.uk/wordpress/accommodation-booking

If you want to hear the (slightly nerve-wracking) cry of a buzzard:

http://sounds.bl.uk/environment/british-wildlife-recordings/022m-w1cdr0001375-1200v0

Posted in Birds, Butterflies, Buzzard, Walking, Waterfalls | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments