Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd Anelog

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With high-tide generally falling around the middle of the day and therefore not much beach on offer at that time, we did a tiny bit more exploring than we sometimes do when we are on the Llyn, which is to say: some. We have once before been down to the end of the peninsula, but that was 7 years ago, and at that time the Llyn coastal path hadn’t been opened, so today’s walk wouldn’t have been possible.

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Bardsey Island.

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Former Coastguard lookout station on Mynydd Mawr.

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The coastal heath on Mynydd Mawr, with its patchwork of purple heather and low-growing, yellow gorse looked wonderful, and the sea, a fairly mundane blue in my photos, was a scintillating, almost unreal seeming, glittering turquoise in the flesh.

It was also breathtakingly clear – this was the day, my kids have reminded me, when TJF correctly picked out the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland, whilst his Dad and I poured scorn on the idea, trying to persuade him that it was Anglesea he was looking at. In our defence, he had first tentatively suggested that those distant hills were in Pembrokeshire, which was patently ridiculous. So honours even then. Sort of.

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Two views of Mynydd Anelog.

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I suspect, but can’t recall, that this walk was Andy’s suggestion. Certainly he, and some of the others, have done it before, but for us it was a revelation. I took many, many pictures of the view along the coast and fell steadily further behind the group.

Then, with distractions closer to hand as well, the situation only got worse…

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Having been wrong about this before, I hesitate to offer a definitive opinion here, but I’m pretty sure that this is a male Linnet and not a Red-poll, the grey head and black tail-feathers being the deciding features.

I think that these gregarious black caterpillars are almost certainly destined one day, hopefully, to be Peacock butterflies.

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I’ve been a bit worried about Peacock butterflies. They are generally very common close to home and probably the most regular visitors to the Buddleia bushes in our garden. But until recently I’ve hardly seen any this year, and none in the garden. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so thorough when I pulled out all of the nettles I found in our flower beds a while back, since this is the caterpillars food-plant.

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As we dropped down into the gap between Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd Anelog we were sheltered from the wind and there were lots of butterflies about. This…

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…Wall Brown can stand in for them all. It’s not a species I see at home, although apparently it is present in the area.

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Common Fleabane.

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Looking back to Mynydd Mawr.

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Carn Fadryn see through intervening rain, the Rivals just about visible on the left.

We had a few spots of rain as we left the top of Mynydd Anelog (after our customary summit sit-down rest), but then the weather held off long enough for most of the party to have made it back to the cars, or near enough. Most of the party: TBH and Little S and I had been dawdling on the minor lane – I was introducing Little S to the delights of foraged Sorrel from the road verge – so that we were caught in the next fierce shower, which was first hail and then a really drenching rain. It wasn’t sufficient to put a dampener on a really excellent walk however.

Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd Anelog

Carn Fadryn Clearing

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It’s as sure as night following day, as predictable as a collapse of England’s top-order, as inevitable as unsettled weather during a British summer: the end of July finds us heading once more for Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula to meet old friends for a brief holiday together. Rather less predictably, this year we arrived on the campsite first, in daylight, and in glorious sunny weather to boot. Having pitched the tent, we headed down to Porth Towyn for what became a staple of our stay: an evening on the beach.

The following day was Little S’s birthday, and so we left the plan for the day to him:

“Climb Birthday Hill and then go to the beach.”

Birthday Hill, or Carn Fadryn, as it is known to the locals, can generally be seen from the campsite, but that morning it was shrouded in cloud. Not a lone cloud moreover, but merely one of the many hulking bullies currently lurking threateningly across the entire sky. The forecast, however, was for improving weather, and by the time we’d driven the rather tortuous route round to the village of Garnfadryn, where we always park for our walk, the cloud was lifting although not yet clear of the summit.

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The kids staged a snail race in the road, there being an astonishing number of snails about, no doubt enjoying the morning damp. A large Garden Snail, christened by the kids Usnail Bolt, was proclaimed the popular winner, despite the fact that the contestants all resolutely ‘ran’ in different directions.

The walk was, as ever, an absolute delight with the usual all round views.

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And, if anything, an even better crop of Bilberries than those we’ve previously enjoyed.

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We perhaps didn’t see quite as many butterflies as we normally do, but only because it was very dull still as we climbed. By the time we had reached the top the cloud had dispersed and we found a spot out of the wind to sit and enjoy the view.

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Heather.

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Bell Heather.

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Very pale Bumblebee, not sure which kind.

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Usnail Bolt.

The weather stayed fair and we did get down to the beach later for mass cricket, tennis and a bit of a swim. Is there a better way to spend a birthday?

Carn Fadryn Clearing

Summertime Blues

And oranges, greens, browns, purples, yellows….

Almost a proper post-work walk this one, since it was the evening of the last day of the summer term. I was out a little earlier than I often am, which meant sunshine for a change and lots of colour. I chose to go back to the Hawes Water and Gait Barrows area.

In the woods I followed a large wasp or hoverfly hoping to see it land. I lost it, but then spotted this apparently besieged beetle…

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I think that this is a Common Sextant Beetle – Nicrophorus vespilloides. I thought that maybe the small brown mites covering the beetle – which I’m pretty sure was dead – were eating it, or had possibly even killed it, but it turns out that the truth is far more interesting and surprising…

“These [Sextant] beetles perform an important service in getting rid of carrion – dead small animals and birds. Males and females cooperate to bury this matter, by digging beneath the bodies to provide a food supply for their larvae.

Adults show an incredible maternal care for the larvae, something very unusual in the insect world. They fly in search of new sources of food at night and readily come to outside lights. They are often seen to be host to very tiny pinkish brown mites which are not parasites but feeders on moulds which would otherwise spoil carrion as a food source for the larvae. These mites use the beetles as a way of getting about. This beetle is commonly seen at light in gardens, often in company with a related, all black species, the black sexton.”

Source

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I’ve had a bumper year for Common Lizards, which is great. With the sun shining I wasn’t at all surprised to find a few more on the boardwalk by Hawes Water.

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Unlike the ones I’ve seen at Foulshaw Moss, these all had their tails. They were very varied in colour.

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Blue-tailed Damselfly.

The lizards weren’t the only ones basking in the sun.

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This one, it seems to me, is more blue than green, somewhat to my surprise.

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Three lizards this time, not a bad haul.

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Hawes Water.

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Meadow Brown.

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“The Robin’s Pincushion (also known as the ‘Bedeguar Gall’) is a gall caused by the larvae of a tiny gall wasp, Dipoloepis rosae. It is widespread and common, and can be found developing on the stems of wild roses during late summer, acquiring its reddish colour as it matures in autumn. The grubs inside the gall feed on the host plant throughout the winter and emerge in spring as adults. The adults reproduce asexually and only a tiny number are male.”

Source

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Male White-tailed Bumblebee?

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Wild Basil again (the same plant).

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Froghopper – very different from the last one I saw.

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Meadow Brown.

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Mating Gatekeepers.

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Betony.

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Rather tired Common Spotted-orchid.

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Small Skipper on Betony.

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Look at that tongue!

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I had a bit of a wander around an area of limestone pavement which I don’t think I’ve explored before. A surprisingly diverse range of plants seem to thrive in the grykes.

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Hart’s-tongue Fern.

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Maidenhair Spleenwort.

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Eyebright.

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Great Mullein.

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There were lots of these plants, growing in clumps, with strappy leaves, very dark stems and flowers which don’t seem quite open yet. I’ve had several ideas about their identity, but have eventually discounted them all.

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With it’s succulent leaves, this looks like some sort of stonecrop, but also remains a puzzle. Maybe when it’s flowering fully I’ll be able to identify it?

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Ploughman’s-spikenard.

I was intrigued by the name of this daisy, so had a peek in ‘Flora Britannica’:

“True spikenard or ‘nard’, was an expensive, spicy perfume made from roots of a Himalayan plant…”

I’m not sure why Mabey says ‘was’, since a google search elicits many offers of expensive cure-all Spikenard essential oils.

There are, apparently, several references to Spikenard in the Bible, both Old and New Testament*.

Ploughman’s Spikenard is the poor-man’s English alternative. The “roots have a strong aromatic smell. They are sometimes dried and hung up in cottages as room-fresheners.”

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Dark Red Helleborine.

I’ve been wanting to find some of these since I moved to the area, without really being sure when or where to look. It’s part of the reason I was wandering around on the limestone pavement. I found several plants when I’d given up and was back on the path at the edge of the pavement. Sadly, they’d finished flowering and the flowers were dried brown husks. With one or two exceptions…

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Now I know where to start my search next summer. Roll on.

*  For example: “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.”

From the King James version of the Song of Solomon. As ever, reliably weird. On which note – it’s probably only me that read this and heard: ‘Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon. Going up…’ If you get the reference and can hear the theme tune now then that probably means that you’re a child of the seventies and your life too was blighted by useless sit-coms. (‘Wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food. Going up…’)

 

Summertime Blues

Lancaster: The Heights, Aldcliffe, Lune

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Another taxi-Dad related walking-window which involved staying in Lancaster after work to wait for A. I started on the footpath which runs between this field, which the kids tell me is called ‘The Heights’, and the Haverbreaks housing estate, which my former colleague Dr PH used to call ‘The Magic Kingdom’ when we ran along its private roads during our lunch breaks years ago.

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I’m not sure whether Lancaster is built on seven hills like Rome, but it certainly does lay on a series of modest heights, some of which, like this one, give excellent views. The hills in the background are Arnside Knott and the long ridge of Cartmell Fell, with the higher Lake District Fells behind.

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Lancaster Castle.

The path took me down to the Lancaster Canal and I turned south-west along the towpath for a time. On the far side of the canal, some of the gardens of the Haverbreaks houses run down to the canal bank. The gardens always look very pleasant, but I was more interested in the flowers growing in the shallow margins of the canal itself…

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White Water-lily.

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Flowering Rush

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Meadowsweet and Marsh Woundwort.

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A house in Aldcliffe.

I left the canal to take the lane into the tiny hamlet of Aldcliffe. This is less than a mile from where I’ve worked for the past 20 years (nearly), but I’d never been here before!

From Aldcliffe a path snakes down towards the Lune. For most of its length it was hemmed in by two very tall hedges and seemed to be a haven for a wealth of insect life, notably butterflies including several Red Admirals, some Speckled Wood and…

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Comma.

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Salt marsh by the Lune.

I had a choice of paths around Aldcliffe Marsh, but took the shorter, eastern option because I was already realising that I had underestimated the length of the walk, or at least how long it would take me.

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Rosebay Willowherb.

There were a wealth of flowers and plenty of butterflies along this section of the walk, but I took only a few photos because I was hurrying now.

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Great Willowherb.

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Green-veined White on Bramble.

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Gatekeeper.

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A (very vigorous) Melilot.

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Bumblebee with very full pollen basket.

Embarrassingly, after a stomp through town, I arrived, hot and sweaty, half-an-hour late for my rendezvous with A. Fortunately, she was very forgiving.

This route, and variations on it, have great potential for walks from work, just as long as I’m more careful with my time-keeping in future!

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Lancaster: The Heights, Aldcliffe, Lune

Summer’s Distillation

A late-evening, post-work wander in the Hawes Water and Gait Barrows area.

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Small Skipper.

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Common Restharrow and unidentified insect. Anyone?

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Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

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Wood Sage.

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After much deliberation I’ve decided that this is a Shaded Broad Bar Moth – it looks rather dull in my field guide, and perhaps in this photo, but was actually quite fetching with it’s range of different browns.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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There’s always something new to see – I spotted this plant and noticed that it wasn’t quite fitting in with the Betony growing nearby, being taller apart from anything else. It looked a little like a mint I thought, but the flowers were wrong. It smelled and tasted quite herby, but not minty. I’ve now realised that it is Wild Basil. (Sadly, not closely related to the garden variety).

You can perhaps tell from the light in the photos above that the sun was close to setting when I started my walk. After it had gone down, I diverted into the field between Challan Hall and Hawes Water. Down towards the lake I was watched by a Roe Deer…

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I think that this is a male, although it’s hard to see any antlers. The rut is due soon.

And beyond that, I could see another deer, this one accompanied by two fawns…

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Apparently twins are quite common. These young will have been born in May or June. Unusually, although Roe Deer mate in July or August, the fertilised eggs don’t develop for four months giving a very long gestation period and young which are born in spring rather than winter.

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Summer’s Distillation

Flowers of the Limestone Grassland II: Arnside Knott and Heathwaite.

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A second day of the course organised by Morecambe Bay Partnerships to train potential grassland surveyors.

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A day spent on hands and knees examining plants, catching grasshoppers and picnicking  in the sunshine. Marvellous!

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Mating Meadow Browns.

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St. John’s Wort. (Perforate I think).

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Ragwort…

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…with Cinnabar Moth caterpillar and Soldier Beetles.

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Scabious. (Not Devil’s-bit – Small I think).

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Selfheal.

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Gatekeeper.

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Musk-mallow.

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Spiked Speedwell.

This is another rarity, featured in ‘Wild Flowers in Danger’. It’s found in East Anglia, in the Clifton Gorge in Avon, in Wales and in a handful of sites around Morecambe Bay. Part of the aim of the grassland project is to monitor this and a number of other rare species. Also, possibly to reintroduce this flower to other suitable sites, as has happened with Lady’s-slipper Orchid.

Flowers of the Limestone Grassland II: Arnside Knott and Heathwaite.

Lancaster: Lune, Freeman’s Pools, St. George’s Quay.

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Comma.

A Friday evening and we’re saying farewell to colleagues who are moving on to pastures new. The plan is to go straight from work: pub, pizzeria, pub. Since I’ve been avoiding both alcohol and pizza this year, this presents something of a challenge. We have to preorder our meal, which significantly reduces temptation, so I decide to skip the ale and just go for a tomato salad and small Quattro Stagioni. So, whilst my friends are collecting in a convivial hostelry, I squeeze in a short walk around Lancaster.

I park down on St. Georges Quay which is reasonably convenient for the restaurant and for a walk along the Lune and has some of the only unrestricted street-parking in the centre of town to boot. I set-off along the banks of the river. The bank here has a substantial area of waste ground, now given over to Buddleia, on which I’m disappointed not to spot a single butterfly. On the far side of the road a former factory site has been built upon; I haven’t been this way for quite some time and I’m surprised by the number of new houses which have appeared.

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Lune.

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Tall (or Golden) Melilot. I think, apparently very difficult to distinguish from Ribbed Melilot. Especially since both are equally tall, golden and ribbed.

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Evening Primrose. Another species, like the Melilot, which is both introduced and confusing: there are four species of Evening Primrose found in Britain, but they are hard to distinguish and hybridise anyway.

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Marsh Woundwort.

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Freeman’s Pools.

Although I know for a fact that I have been along this path before, more than once, I don’t remember the Wildlife Trust Reserve Freeman’s Pools. It’s one of several reserves near to the mouth of the Lune which I intend to explore at some point. I’d originally planned to continue along the river here, but time is tight, so I turn inland on the path which runs through the thin strip of trees which is Freeman’s Wood. In the wood I’m quite surprised to encounter a Jay.

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One of the many Loosestrifes. We have something similar in our garden, but the flowers are distributed up the entire length of the stem – I think ours might be Dotted Loosestrife. These look most like straightforward Yellow Loosestrife, except for the orange centre to the flowers, which is characteristic of other Loosestrifes. Ho-hum.

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The Comma again.

Back in town, I walk though Abraham Heights on Westbourne Road, before turning past the railway station to the castle and…

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Lancaster Priory.

Ordinarily, I would pop inside to have a gander, but our booking is fairly soon (and I’ve been in many, many times before). I also don’t divert to take in the foundations of a Roman Bathhouse, but do pause to photograph…

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…the view from by The Priory, across the Bay towards the lake District. The hills of Cumbria look a bit indistinct and unimpressive in my photo, but this view is actually excellent and during the winter I often came here at lunchtimes to take it in.

I head downhill, back to the quay.

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Maritime Museum.

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Richard Gillow was the son of Robert Gillow the founder of a Lancaster furniture company, thought to be the first to import mahogany to Britain. As well as importing exotic timber and exporting Gillows’ furniture, his ships also traded in sugar and rum from the Caribbean, wine from the Canary Islands, and were probably involved in the slave trade.

The old warehouses along the quay have been converted into homes and offices.

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Former Warehouses.

The pub with all of the hanging baskets outside is the Waggon and Horses where I’ve been a member of the Quiz team for many years.

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Lune and St. George’s Quay.

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Lancaster: Lune, Freeman’s Pools, St. George’s Quay.