Terracotta Warriors.

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A few less photos in this post compared to the last (mammoth) one. Not that there wasn’t just as much of interest to see at the World Museum in Liverpool, in particular in their Terracotta Warriors exhibition, but it was quite dark in the exhibition, and extremely busy, so I didn’t take many photos and of those I took most are quite blurred.

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The exhibition, which covered a substantial period of Chinese history and several generations of royal tomb burials, was absolutely fascinating. I was particularly struck by this huge bronze bowl, which weighs 212kg and was buried on top of a pit filled with terracotta strongmen and acrobats – apparently the bowl would have been lifted by strongmen as part of a performance.

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We’ve been to the World Museum before, in fact this was Little S’s fourth visit, since we recommended the Egyptology section of the museum to the local primary school. On this occasion, we were joined by family fried X-Ray who’d expressed an interest in seeing the exhibition way back at the start of the year when we booked the tickets. The World Museum is always a great place to visit and we did the full tour again, including a planetarium show. We were hoping to have time to visit Liverpool’s Central Library again too, and/or the Walker Art Museum, but didn’t, partly due to the all too familiar incompetence of Northern Rail (I’ll spare you the details).

 

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Terracotta Warriors.

Mouse Will Play

Eaves Wood – Arnside Tower – Far Arnside – Park Point – White Creek – Blackstone Point – New Barns – Copridding Wood – Arnside Knott – Redhill Woods – Hagg Wood – Black Dyke – Silverdale Moss – Gait Barrows – Hawes Water – Moss Lane – Redbridge Lane – The Row – Hagg Wood

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Big clouds and the beach at Far Arnside.

The best day of my solo week was the Thursday, which was windy and changeable, but which also brought quite a bit of sunshine. Because the forecast wasn’t great, I decided to stay close to home again.

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Sloes.

Last autumn, I collected some sloes with a view to making some sloe gin. I was a bit early and the sloes hadn’t had their first frost yet, but I’d read that you can just stick them in the freezer and achieve the same affect, which I duly did. I’m sure that I warned TBH about the sloes. Well, fairly sure. Anyway, she forgot, and added the sloes to her breakfast smoothie one morning, thinking they were frozen blueberries. The resulting smoothie was more crunchy than smooth, being full of bits of the stones from the sloes and it was also mouth-puckeringly tart.

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Marooned tree-trunk.

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I’ve posted pictures of these fossilised corals from Far Arnside a couple of times before.

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They aren’t always easy to find, which doesn’t make much sense, I know, but I was pleased to find them again on this occasion and spent a happy few moments seeking them out on the rocks.

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Vervain?

This delicate and inconspicuous plant bears slender spikes of pale lilac flowers. It is hard to understand why our ancestors regarded such a modest and unassuming plant as immensely powerful.

from Hatfield’s Herbal by Gabrielle Hatfield

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Can’t think that I’ve noticed this plant before, but there was quite a bit of it blowing about in the stiff wind on the rocks hard by the shore. It was apparently sacred to the Druids, widely regarded as a panacea in the Middle Ages, and thought to be both used by witches and proof against witchcraft.

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Looking along the shore towards Grange.

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A similar view taken not too much after the previous photo. You can see that the weather was very changeable.

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Burnett Rosehip.

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The Kent Estuary.

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A Tellin. I don’t know whether it’s a Thin Tellin or a Baltic Tellin, but I was interested to read that the creatures which occupy these shells can live beneath the sand at densities of up to 3000 per cubic metre.

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A shower on the far bank.

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Meathop Fell across the Kent – bathed in sunshine again.

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The Kent at New Barns.

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Big Clouds over Meathop Fell.

After our stay in the Tarn Gorge, where most flowers seemed to have already gone over to seed, I was on the look-out to see what was still in bloom at home. The refreshing answer was that there was so many things flowering that I soon lost count.

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Sea Plantain.

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A Hoverfly on a Hawk’s-beard. I wish I could be more specific, but Britain has several species of Hawk’s-beard and over 250 kinds of hoverfly and I can’t be sure about either of these.

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Mallards.

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Sea Campion.

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Another hoverfly – possibly Helophilus Pendulus.

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And yet another kind, also unidentified.

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Creeping Thistle and, I think, a Mason Bee (22 resident British species).

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Mason bees, although closely related to social wasps, are solitary hunters which stock their nests with various insects to feed their larvae.

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Sea Aster.

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Yet another kind of hoverfly, perhaps a Drone Fly, this time on Yarrow.

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And another, on Common Knapweed, I think.

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This has been quite a year for fungi, and this walk was no exception, with many different sizes, colours and forms seen.

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A rather faded Brown Argus butterfly.

This area is unusual because it’s on the northern limit of the Brown Argus and the southern limit of the Northern Brown Argus, but has both species. I’ve rarely seen either though, so this was a bit of a bonus.

In Greek mythology, Argus was a giant with a hundred eyes.

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More fungi.

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Bedeguar Galls, home to wasp grubs.

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Common Darter, this colouration is typical of older females.

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The view from the Knott, excellent though it was, was curtailed somewhat by clouds obscuring the larger hills of the the Lake District, which, to some extent at least, justified my decision not to head for the hills for a walk.

I stopped for half an hour, to sit on a bench and make a brew. I chatted to a couple of chaps I’d met earlier in the walk and was also befriended by a wasp, which was apparently fascinated by my phone and insisted on crawling all over it.

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A bumblebee on what looks like Marsh Woundwort, although it wasn’t growing in a remotely marshy spot.

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Blackberries – I ate plenty during this walk.

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A male Small White (I think).

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That bumblebee again. I can’t see any pollen-baskets, so is it a male or a Cuckoo Bee?

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Arnside Knott pano (click on this, or nay other, image to see larger version on flickr.

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Bittersweet.

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Painted Lady.

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Leighton Beck.

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Greater plantain.

A common plant with many names: Broad-leaved Plantain, Rat’s-tail Plantain, Banjos, Angel’s Harps. To the Anglo-Saxons it was Waybread, one of their nine sacred herbs and another powerful medicinal plant. I remember playing with these as a child – gently pulled away from the plant, a leaf would bring with several long thin fibres – the challenge was to get longer ‘guitar strings’ than your friends. Who needs Fortnite?

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It wasn’t only me enjoying the blackberries!

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Heron.

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Middlebarrow and Arnside Knott.

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Unidentified Umbellifer.

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Arnside Knott across Silverdale Moss.

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Little Egret.

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These look like mutant Blackberries, but in fact they are a related species: Dewberries. They have fewer segments and are so juicy that they tend to disintegrate when picked. In my opinion, they’re superior to blackberries. They’re apparently more common in Eastern England, but I now know several spots where they grow.

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Speckled Wood.

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Orpine.

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More fungi.

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Grasshopper (possibly Common Green Grasshopper).

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This is the field adjacent to the one where I found lots of mushrooms just a couple of days before. All along this track there was a new rash of small mushrooms.

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A little later I passed through another field with, if anything, even more mushrooms.

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Banded snail.

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Of course, mushrooms are fine in the field, but even better with a piece of rump steak and a creamy blue cheese sauce….

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Fine way to finish a fine day.

Mouse Will Play

As The Crow Flies

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – The Row – Bank Well – Lambert’s Meadow – Burtonwell Wood – The Green – The Clifftop – Woodwell – Bottom’s Wood – The Lots – The Cove.

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A dull and damp day, so I didn’t take all that many photos, except of the host of insects which were feeding on a clump of Devil’s-bit Scabious at the edge of Lambert’s Meadow. None of them came out too sharply, but I’ve chosen this one of a hoverfly because I liked the neat pattern on it’s abdomen.

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Red Bartsia.

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Water Mint.

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Speckled Wood.

And finally, not really relevant to this post, but here’s a song by the brilliant Tony Joe White, who died last week…

It seems odd to me that he wasn’t better known.

As The Crow Flies

Home Alone

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Gait Barrows – Moss Lane – The Row – Bottoms Lane – The Green – Stankelt Road – The Shore – The Cove.

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Silverdale from Castlebarrow.

When we returned from France, for the rest of the family three weeks under canvas stretched into four weeks. After just one night at home and a frenzy of laundry and repacking they were all camping again with their respective guiding and scouting units – the DBs with the Scouts, TBH as leader of the local Guides and A with the Explorer Scouts. They were all on the same field though, at the Red Rose international camp (I’m not sure if these things are still called jamborees?). Although there were scouts and guides from around the world at the camp, for us it was very local, just a few miles down the road at the Westmorland County Show-ground near Crooklands, which was fortunate, since in the hasty repacking many items had been forgotten.

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A (very hairy) Hoverfly.

That left me at home ‘on me tod’. Although these photographs show lovely blue skies and sunshine, the weather that week was generally atrocious and it’s a testament to the the organisers and our local leaders that the kids all had a wonderful time on their very damp camp.

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Limestone pavement at Gait Barrows.

Left to my own devices, I naturally tried to get out for walks as often as possible and, with the weather the way it was, and all the driving I’d recently done, I opted to stay close to home when I did go out.

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Orpine.

In fact, since the end of the summer and through the autumn my walks have mainly been local – I’ve been beating the bounds quite a bit and have lots of walks to catch up on, with lots of photos of all the old familiar things – local views, flowers, butterflies, leaves, trees, rocks, bugs etc. You have been warned!

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Devil’s-bit Scabious.

This is the the tall plant which caused my much confusion last year. The flower-heads seem to stay closed like this for a very long time before opening and revealing the more familiar scabious form.

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Common Darter.

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Elderberries (I think).

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Sloes.

This being late summer, there were berries everywhere. Mostly they weren’t ripe yet, but fortunately the blackberries were. This was the first of many blackberry fuelled walks.

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Blackberries.

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Mushroom.

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Forage!

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More mushrooms.

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Tea!

This has been a bumper year for autumn fungi, which started with an abundance of field mushrooms. I remember something similar happening after the long, hot, dry summers of 1975 and 1976. And going out with my Mum foraging for mushrooms. Although, since I almost certainly didn’t eat mushrooms then, being as fussy a child as my own kids are now, I wonder if I’ve made this up. Mum?

Anyway, fried in plenty of butter, these mushrooms were delicious. I also like to eat the small ones raw, just after picking them. There’s no taste quite like it.

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Gait Barrows.

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Red-tailed Cuckoo Bumblebee (perhaps), on Devil’s-bit Scabious.

Cuckoo Bumblebees don’t collect pollen for their larvae, but instead take over the nests of their host bumblebees, in this case Red-tailed Bumblebees. Although I am, as ever, tentative with my identification, what makes me think that this is a cuckoo bee are the lack of pollen baskets and the very hairy legs, both of which are apparently tell-tales. This species is one of many insects which has been confined to the south of Britain, but is now spreading northwards with the changing climate.

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Hawes Water.

Home Alone

A Final Wander Along the Tarn

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The title just about says it all, really.

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Right at the end of our trip, we decided to have a little stroll upstream, along, and mostly in, the River Tarn.

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There’s a small village just beyond the campsite, on the opposite side of the river from the road, which we wanted to take a peek at. It’s supplied by means of a cable stretched across from the road and we were intrigued.

On the way back to the campsite, those of our kids who had accompanied us, along with TBF, decided to swim, but soon discovered that the water was mostly too shallow….

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One of the great pleasures of our trip to France for me was the exotic flora and fauna we got to see, but on this occasion I was equally excited to spot a pair of Dippers…

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In my mind at least, these birds are closely associated with the rivers and streams of the North and so seem like old friends from home, and I was delighted to see them.

In equal measure, it was a shame that our time spent holidaying with old friends was coming to an end. It had been a fantastic trip.

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On final thought about the Tarn: it rises in the Cévennes, not too far from where we were camped, and runs through a limestone gorge and yet the pebbles on the river bed were in every conceivable hue and texture of rock imaginable. I was reminded of the diversity I marvelled at on shingle beach on a Baltic shore, when we visited years ago.

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So: if the Cévennes are limestone hills, where do all of these other, patently not limestone, pebbles originate?

A Final Wander Along the Tarn

More Views from the Jonte

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After our underground adventure, there was still a nature trail to enjoy in the grounds of the show cave.

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The Jonte valley is perhaps not quite as spectacular as the Tarn, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

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The nature trail was short, on a rather rough path, but it certainly held plenty of interest.

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Wall Lizard.

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This looks different than the other lizards we saw during our trip. I think that it might be a Large Psammodromus. B had just spotted another lizard, which he told me was really long. The Large Psammodromus has an extremely long tail, which unfortunately we can’t see here, but also the dark stripe with pale borders.

Griffon Vultures were flying around the cliffs below us, sometimes quite close, but whilst I have many photos, not one of them is in focus and sharp. We did see several birds on a nearby ledge however…

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I think that these two might be juveniles.

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Giant Banded Grayling.

There were more Marbled Whites about too, but my photographs didn’t come out too well.

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My guess is that these are some sort of Dianthus, something like our own Cheddar Pink which flowers in July and August and likes limestone. I noticed today that we have similar flowers in our own garden, still flowering in late October, which is a nice reminder of the summer.

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On our return journey we drove down the Jonte valley to it’s confluence with the Tarn, stopping to admire the views and the sight of many more vultures soaring around the cliffs high above.

More Views from the Jonte

La Grotte de Dargilan

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The purpose of our journey to the Jonte valley was to visit a show cave, la Grotte de Dargilan. Both the Dordogne and the Cévennes, being limestone regions, are dotted with caves, including many show caves. In fact, we’d driven almost directly past another show cave to get to this one, having decided that, from the leaflets we’d seen, this one looked the better bet. We lunched on a sunny terrace with a great view of the gorge and then joined our group to pass through an unprepossessing doorway in the hillside.

The cave was discovered, I think, by someone following a fox. Similar stories are told about Victoria Cave in the Dales and the famous Lascaux cave in the Dordogne. The huntsman will certainly have had a surprise when they found themselves in a vast cavern, stuffed full of amazing stalagmites, stalactites and flowstone features.

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As a boy, family visits to show caves in the Peak District were a favourite treat of mine. I’ve since done a little bit of caving and have also visited most, I think, of the show caves in the Dales, but I’ve never seen anything half as spectacular as this.

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There was so much to see that features which might have been considered highlights elsewhere were passed without comment by the guide.

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I took no end of photos, but, in the strongly contrasting light, the results were a bit hit and miss. I’m glad to have the mementoes, however.

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The huge scale, variety and sheer number of features was breath-taking.

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The tour took over an hour, and in truth I would have appreciated a little longer to take it all in.

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Mostly the tour guide spoke only in French and we were happy to ignore him and just look about us, but at one point he switched to English to explain that we would now be descending to ‘the best part’ of the cave. I was a bit sceptical about the claim that things could be any more impressive.

But he was absolutely right.

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We came to a long, high and relatively narrow passage where one wall was completely covered in tiers and tiers of flowstone.

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It was huge.

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And absolutely astonishing.

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Dargilan is known, apparently, for it’s coloured limestones. Minerals in the flowstone have dyed the rock in a variety of pinks, corals, yellows, white and cream. Here…

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…the dividing line between two different colours was amazingly sharp.

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The cave had one final surprise, a column, 17 metres tall I think, again covered with intricate flowstone features…

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I think most of the party enjoyed it immensely. B claimed to be underwhelmed:

“It’s just rocks though, isn’t it?”

But he’s a wind-up merchant and you have to take the things he says with a pinch of salt.

La Grotte de Dargilan