Sale Fell

P1070182

Skiddaw, Carl Side, Dodd, Bassenthwaite Lake, distant Derwent Water.

Cub camp for Little S; he and two friends needed dropping in Seathwaite at the bottom end of Borrowdale at eight o’clock on a Friday night (the day after my walk on Hollow Moor). Of course, I volunteered for the job! It was a glorious evening and driving down Borrowdale I was struck by how crag girt the fellsides are and my mind was busy with the various options open to me for a late stroll.

When we arrived at the campsite however, it was clear that the boys needed some help erecting their tent, a triple hoop tunnel affair with which they had no previous experience. We were hampered somewhat by the maddening distraction of a cloud of midges which were feasting on every square inch of exposed flesh. By the time the tent was shipshape and just lacking an odd peg or two, all I wanted to do was get in the car and get away from the ravening hoards. I set off with the intention of driving straight home, but I hadn’t driven far before I began to reconsider my options. It was now quite late to be starting a walk, I needed something not too ambitious, and I hit upon the idea of a smash-and-grab raid on Sale Fell.

P1070186

Lothwaite Panorama.

This modest little fell boasts three Birkett summits, Lothwaite, Rivings and Sale Fell itself. From a inspection of the map this seems excessive, but the photos above show the late evening view from Lothwaite across Bassenthwaite Lake to the bulk of Skiddaw. It’s a fabulous panorama and it would be a great shame to miss it by only heading for the higher summit of Sale Fell.

P1070183

Sale Fell from Lothwaite.

The paths across the fells are broad and well used; I’ve never ventured this way before, but clearly these are well loved hills, perhaps with the local walkers who have them on their doorstep. Certainly, despite the late hour, I met several other people that evening.

P1070187

Sale Fell from Rivings, two other walkers just about visible on the top.

P1070192

Sale Fell

Hollow Moor, Cocklaw Fell and Skeggles Water

P1070085

Another post walk escape, on a beautiful summer evening. I parked by the village rooms in Kentmere despite the signs warning me that, it being polling day, the parking was needed – it was very quiet and it didn’t seem likely that hoards of people would be arriving to register late votes. I’d cast my own vote before work and so could head into the hills and leave all thoughts of the neverendum behind. (I wish it were as easy to do that now!)

P1070087

Almost from the off, the path climbing out of the village gave great views. I was also very busy trying, and failing, to photograph the many and varied butterflies which were in evidence.

P1070091

P1070093

I didn’t have to climb far before the butterflies I had been seeing were supplanted by…

P1070098

…Small Heath butterflies, which I would continue to see for much of the walk, until the sun began to sink and the temperature had dropped too low for butterflies.

P1070104

Bird’s-eye Primrose.

I thought that this…

P1070106

…looked quite like Lousewort. Turns out that it is Lousewort, and the plant which I have been wrongly identifying as Lousewort is actually Marsh Lousewort. So now I know.

P1070110

A first view of Skeggles Water.

On the slopes of Green Quarter Fell I got rather over-excited about a large orangey-brown butterfly I saw. For no sound reason at all, I decided that it must be a Large Heath, which are rare and confined, in the UK, to a few northern locations. When it finally settled I managed to get some photos and…it wasn’t a Large Heath, but a tatty, faded Painted Lady. I haven’t posted any photos because they were very poor. I also saw Red Admirals again, but they were completely uncooperative on this occasion, and refused to pose for photos.

Birkett comments on the fine view of Upper Kentmere which the summit of Hollow Moor affords and he has a very good point…

P1070129

I was thinking that in the winter, with the sun low in the southern sky this would be a prime spot from which to take a photo of the Kentmere horseshoe.

P1070128

I’d been expecting to find a fair deal of wet and boggy going underfoot, but had been pleasantly surprised. As I dropped towards the top of Shaw Beck however, I encountered ground so suspiciously mobile that I wondered whether I could get across it. There was no actual water visible but a strip about two yards wide ran down the hillside with completely different vegetation than the surrounding grassy heath. There was Bog Bean flowering (my photo didn’t come out too well, which is a shame because its quite a striking plant) and also this…

P1070135

…unusual purplish flower, which I recognised  as Marsh Cinquefoil, although I’m not sure how I knew because I’m pretty certain that I’ve never seen it before.

I followed the wet ground ‘downstream’ until it became an actual beck and therefore much easier to cross.

P1070139

P1070141

Cocklaw Fell, in all honesty, turned out to be a bit of an non-event, but it was another Birkett ticked-off I suppose and it did bring me to a wall, busy with meadow pipits, which lead me down to Skeggles Water.

P1070149

P1070152

I felt some apprehension about my plan to walk around the far shore of Skeggles Water, there being no path marked on the map and the ground looking from a distance to be very flat and so probably liable to be boggy and impassable.

In the event, the going was rough and pathless, but the only significant obstacle…

P1070156

…is surmounted by a sturdy bridge.

P1070166

P1070165

P1070164

The walk from Skeggles Water back to the car took me past two lonely ruins. This…

P1070171

…is the larger of the two.

P1070172

Heading back down into Kentmere.

Hollow Moor.PNG

Hollow Moor, Cocklaw Fell and Skeggles Water

Orchids and Egrets

P1070028

River Bela

A Tuesday evening and another dance lesson for A, meaning another brief window of opportunity for a wander. I took an oft-repeated circuit along the River Bela to where it meets the Kent, then up on to the course of the old Milnthorpe to Arnside branch line and finally back along the road to the car.

P1070029

Whitbarrow and the Bela.

The sun was shining, but dark clouds threatened to the east and south; it seemed only a matter of time before the rain would arrive.

P1070030

Dark skies over the weir.

P1070031

Dallam Bridge

This Grey Heron was much further from my lens than the one which I photographed at Attenborough recently, but I decided to try to capture its antics anyway…

P1070038

It seems it was having some success…

P1070043

P1070050

Whitbarrow Scar across the Kent Estuary.

The orchid triangle didn’t disappoint; the Twayblade has finished flowering, but there were new flowers to replace those…

P1070055

I’ve posted a few pictures to show the variety in shape and colouration.

P1070062

This middle one is, I suspect, Heath-spotted orchid, whereas the other two look more like Common spotted-orchid, but then orchids hybridise so who knows?

P1070065

P1070058

I’ve walked past these woods a couple of times this year, on Monday evening outings, and noticed quite a cacophony of bird noise. I assumed that somebody was keeping some kind of poultry in the woods.

P1070081

But I should have known better…

P1070083

A friend told me years ago that there was a heronry here. As I watched – and fat rain drops began to fall – several Little Egrets  and a Grey Heron flew to and from the trees.

P1070074

Not the sharpest photos, I know, but its so rare that I manage to catch birds in flight that I’ve decided to post them anyway.

P1070075

Orchids and Egrets

Haystacks

P1060998

Fleetwith Pike

My old friend JS had just one more Wainwright to bag. He is, I think, the most well-organised man I have ever known (I say ‘man’ advisedly, I’ve worked with a few women who would give him a run for his money) and typically he had planned out his Wainwright bagging so as to leave the last for his 50th Birthday. When I saw him down in Nottingham a few weeks ago he invited me to join him and I didn’t need to be asked twice.

P1060999

Buttermere.

The forecast wasn’t great, but for most of the day the weather was pretty kind to us. We met in Buttermere village and walked along the southern shore of the lake before climbing towards Scarth Gap.

P1070001

Haystacks.

I’d dragged B along for the walk and JS’s sisters and a brother-in-law were also in the party. The pace was very leisurely, which suited me just fine. I could see that B was getting a little restless however, so we took an off-piste route, seeking out some easy scrambling.

P1070002

Fleetwith Pike again.

P1070004

Seat and High Crag.

P1070005

North-Western Fells over Buttermere.

P1070008

Panorama.

P1070006

B enjoying some unexpected sunshine.

We saw a couple of these…

P1070016

…large, hairy caterpillars. I think that it’s a Hairy Oak Eggar Moth caterpillar. This one didn’t move at all and was still in exactly the same spot when we came back down. If it had chosen a spot in which to pupate, then it had chosen badly because it was right on the path.

In the little tarn between the many small knolls on the top, B spotted a newt floating just below the surface of the water.

A champagne lunch was planned for the summit, but some members of the party, not regular walkers, objected to the ‘rock climb’ where the path crossed some slabs just below the top, so the champagne was quaffed a little way short of the top. I’m pretty sure it tasted just as good as it would have done a few metres higher. Having traveled in a rucksack, the bottle had had a good shaking and the cork rocketed skyward most impressively.

P1070023

A family party with champagne. The bobble hats had all been especially knitted for the occasion.

We returned by exactly the same route. The weather had done us proud, but as we were almost back to the lake shore path the heavens finally opened, and when the rain came it came with a vengeance. We’d been waiting for the others, but now decided to make a beeline for the car. B was nonplussed as the path became a stream and we were both quickly soaked, but it wasn’t far to the car, and we both had a change of clothes in the boot, although we had to run the gauntlet of the midges as we changed.

I’m not sure how many Wainwrights I have left to bag – some I’ve never done, and others I’ve been up many times, but not since I started keeping a record. Maybe I should be taking a leaf out of JS’s book and thinking ahead – which one should I choose to finish on? And who would I invite to join me? (And carry the champagne?).

Haystacks

Haystacks

Black Combe

P1060930

Painted Lady.

A hot and slightly sticky evening, after a hot and slightly sticky day at work. The forecast was for the weather to deteriorate, but not out in the Western lakes, so I’d driven round for an evening ascent of Black Combe. There’s a spot to pull off the main road just by Beckside (see map at the bottom of the post) and from there I’d followed the path to Fox and Goose Cottages and then uphill on a path between two hedgerows which seemed in danger of disappearing under the greenery; I wondered whether I might end up regretting the fact that I was wearing shorts and not armed with a machete, but I managed to emerge relatively unscathed. (It’s not just nettles that I need to avoid – I tend to react quite badly even to grass seed-heads).

A surprisingly broad track curls up around the hillside and I was very glad of it’s reasonably gentle gradient. The bracken was busy with insects, among them many small butterflies or moths, but none were obliging when my camera was in hand. Not, that is, until I reached more open ground close to the ‘summit’ of White Hall Knott (spot height 311m on the map). In that area a couple of Painted Ladies were displaying quite cooperatively.

White Hall Knott is one of those Birketts which, with only a single, solitary contour to call its own, looks, on the map, like a rather arbitrary choice. In the flesh, it’s quite appealing…

P1060932

White Hall Knott.

And, even on a hazy evening, it has a pretty admirable view down the Whicham Valley…

P1060933

…and across to the Duddon Estuary…

P1060934

Some aspects of the ascent had put me in mind of another hill, a firm favourite of mine, Carn Fadryn on the Llyn Peninsula – a broad and gentle path, bracken busy with orange butterflies and day flying moths, some hints of bilberries (although not nearly as abundant as on Carn Fadryn), views to the sea and Painted Ladies at the top.

As I plodded up White Combe…

P1060935

…I was wondering about Painted Ladies. These were the first I’d seen this year. Although we get them in our garden at times, in previous years my first sightings have often been on top of Carn Fadryn. Painted Ladies, like Monarch butterflies in North America, migrate over several generations. Although the migration of Monarchs is more famous, Painted Ladies migration is much further, beginning in Africa and ending north of the Arctic Circle. The existence of a return migration was only confirmed in 2012, it had been missed because the butterflies can fly quite high, at an average altitude of over 500m on their southbound trip. This made me wonder whether they use coastal hills, or maybe just hill-tops generally, as navigational aids, or maybe just as staging-posts on their mammoth journeys?

P1060936

Looking back to White Hall Knott.

As well as the butterflies, the hillsides and skies around were busy with birds – Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. I think that this…

P1060937

…was the latter. Not a very sharp photo I know, but it does demonstrate their steep, singing, display flight which is so characteristic of the hills at this time of year.

White Combe is not really a summit at all, just the end of a long broad shoulder, but it does have a substantial cairn…

P1060938

And guess what, at least two resident Painted Ladies…

P1060942

The Red Admiral is another migratory butterfly, a close relative of the Painted Lady.

P1060941

They don’t seem to share any familial affection however: every time the Red Admiral landed, one of the Painted Ladies would fly at it and drive it off. Which is something else I’ve previously observed on Carn Fadryn.

P1060947

There were quite a number of hoverflies about too. This one might be Sericomyia Selintis. But, then again, it might not.

From White Combe a longish and levelish and very enjoyable plod followed, heading for Stoupdale Crags.

P1060953

Thin, but pronounced, paths made the going easier than it might otherwise have been…

P1060959

Stoupdale Crags turned out to have one of those plateaued tops where every knoll looks slightly higher than the one you are currently occupying.

P1060962

Buck Barrow and Whitfell from Stoupdale Crags.

P1060963

Meadow Pipit (I think) amongst Cotton Grass.

P1060964

For another Day: Stoneside Hill, Kinmont Buck Barrow, Buck Barrow, Whitfell, Plough Fell.

P1060965

The way ahead: Whitecombe Screes, Blackcombe Screes and Black Combe from Whitecombe Head. The left-hand skyline would be my descent route.

P1060970

A shiny ground beetle (which I can’t find in my field guide).

P1060971

Looking back to Stoupdale Crags.

P1060976

Black Combe summit.

P1060977

Black Combe South Summit.

I’m pretty sure that the last time I was up here, I camped by this little tarn. That was another summer-evening, post-work outing, but on that occasion a Friday night and hence the freedom to camp out and stop to have breakfast on Black Combe.

Tonight, I still had tea in my bag – a humongous pasty I’d bought, on the drive over, from the excellent bakers in Broughton-in-Furness. (A Community not a Shortcut say the signs on the edge of the village).

P1060980

I sat by this enormous and slightly ramshackle cairn to eat it, with a view of the blanket of low stratus stretching away over the Irish Sea and sending a finger of cloud up over the River Duddon.

P1060981

Sadly, it was much too murky to really appreciate what would have otherwise, I suspect, been a pretty spectacular sight.

P1060986

I know that this is already a relatively long post, by my modest standards, but I’m going to digress slightly to recommend another book which seems to me at least tangentially relevant to a blog about walking; I recently read ‘The Invention of Clouds’ by Richard Hamblyn; it’s ostensibly a biography of Luke Howard the amateur scientist who devised the familiar nomenclature used for clouds, but it digresses into the previous and subsequent history of nephology – the science of clouds – the status of the great Nineteenth Century populisers of science, like Humphrey Davy, the early history of ballooning and much more. I found it absolutely fascinating.

P1060984

Looking back to Stoupdale Crags and White Combe.

On my descent I initially followed the edge of the crags heading almost due East, but then found quite a good track, I would guess quite an old one, which made for easier walking, but which took me further south, down towards Hallbeck Gill (a tautological name). Eventually I had to contour round the hillside to get back on course for Whitecombe Gill. Next time I come this way, I’d like to try the ridge between Blackcombe Screes and Whitecombe Screes, which according to the OS 1:25000 is called Horse Back. (And incidentally, I wonder what kind of feature is Eller Peatpot, also named on the OS map?)

P1060994

As yet unidentified moth.

Black Combe

Black Combe

Attenborough

P1060877

Attenborough: the nature reserve that is not the venerable television presenter. The nature reserve, by the village of Attenborough, is where we met on the Sunday of our get-together. The very modern building above is the visitor centre, which has an excellent café; it seemed rude not to begin there with a cup of tea, and since sitting on the veranda in the sunshine proved so pleasant, we returned there later for lunch.

P1060873

A first stab at using the panorama function for group shots – it has mostly worked, but seems to have done something odd to David’s nose.

Obviously, I was in my element because there were lots of birds to photograph.

P1060881

Tufted ducks.

P1060904

There are several walking routes around the reserve, some of which also follow the banks of the River Trent. I was quite surprised how busy those paths were – this is clearly a very popular destination on a sunny summer’s day.

P1060908

Great Crested Grebe.

P1060889

Reed Bunting.

P1060891

I was quite chuffed to spot this male Reed Bunting; my previous attempts to photograph Reed Buntings at Leighton Moss have not been entirely successful. It was his unfamiliar song which first caught my attention. We watched as he set-off in pursuit of a butterfly, but he failed to catch it.

At the back of the visitor centre a hide is set between two banks of artificial Sand Martin burrows. It was mesmerising to sit watching the adult birds swoop in and then flit out again.

P1060902

They were very fast, and this is my least worst attempt to get a photo.

P1060910

This Grey Heron was much more obliging, posing calmly in a small dyke beside one of the busy paths.

P1060917

When I think of the many times I’ve tried to take pictures of Herons near home, and how infrequently I’ve had any kind of success, I’m amazed by just how placid and unafraid this Heron seemed to be. Maybe it’s a friend of the Bank Vole we’d seen earlier that same week; or maybe I’ve begun to emanate waves of soothing energy. Maybe.

P1060884

I took this photograph mainly for identification purposes, but even with this, and photographs of the leaves too, I’m struggling to decide which of the UK’s many endemic Crane’s-bills this is. Not to worry, I’ve posted it for its waves of soothing energy anyway.

 

Attenborough

Two Years On

P1060791

Two years ago, for the first time in many years, I met with some other members of the Further Maths class I was in whilst in the Sixth Form. That get together took place down in Norfolk. This time we were in a city riddled with sandstone caves.

Famous for an archer…

P1060798

…and the oldest Inn in England (allegedly – the back halves of some of the rooms are caves).

P1060800

The high windows of this windmill gave great views over the cityscape…

P1060804

Appropriately, George Green (1793 – 1841), the son of one of the millers here, was a mathematical physicist, famed for Green’s Function.

Later we took to the river in a rented boat.

P1060814

Very pleasant it was too. Music, chit-chat, a picnic, home-brewed beer, champagne. And lots of birds to see…

P1060817

P1060819

Most notably the Sand Martins whizzing over the river and in and out of nest-holes in the bank…

P1060813

They were much too fast for me to photograph. This is as close as I got…

P1060854

In amongst the Martins, gratifyingly, a solitary Kingfisher, the first I’ve seen in quite some time.

This Buzzard…

P1060829

…had me very confused hanging perfectly still above the riverside fields. I didn’t think that Buzzards could hover, but this one was using an updraft to maintain its position and presumably keep an eye on some tasty morsel below.

P1060857

Oh….did you get it?

Nottingham!

Two Years On