It didn’t look like it was raining before I left the house this morning, but as I crossed the field a fine drenching mizzle was blowing across like smoke. There were no oystercatchers about (the tide must be out!), and the crows and gulls were airborne flotsam tumbling in the wind.
Through Pointer Wood and Clark’s Lot and along Hollins Lane brought me to the path that descends through woodland down onto the salt marsh. Undeterred by the weather, the woodland birds were singing cheerfully. Apparently, the simple tee-cher call of the great tit which I heard so often in Weardale is characteristic, but only half of the story: great tits also have a bewildering range of other songs. (I gleaned this info from Birds Britannica by Richard Mabey and Mark Cocker). As I walked through the woods a great tit sitting on a nearby branch trilled in what might have been a second rate imitation of a robin. Shortly afterwards a robin gave a demonstration of how it should be done. Here’s a poser – why is it that the songs of woodland (and therefore garden) birds seem to us to be so cheerful and uplifting where as the birds of open spaces – I’m thinking of the crows and the gulls, and the curlew, dunlin and oystercatchers that I heard later – sound so desolate and mournful? It can hardly be something inherent in the calls – I can’t imagine that Curlews are any less happy with their lot than robins – so it must be something to do with our perception. Perhaps our response is hard-wired and reflects our prehistoric affinity with woodland and its sounds?
As the path begins to emerge from the woods, there’s a fine example of limestone pavement, with several trees rooted straight onto the rock, a tenacity that always impresses me.
On the opposite side of the path is an apparent botanical curiosity – an ivy tree.
Actually it’s a hawthorn which is completely swamped by ivy. Because there are several hawthorns here which have grown into shrubs or small mature trees – rather then being trimmed into a hedge – this is a good place to come when the ‘maytrees’ are flowering.
Just beyond here I dropped onto the marsh and walking into the teeth of the wind and the rain was very cold and very wet. The path follows a small stream which flows into Quicksand Pool the stream that drains Leighton Moss. Here a pied wagtail was skittering down the sandy bank only to be blown backwards to its starting position. I watched him try this several times, and since he didn’t seem to be about to abandon this sisyphean task, I left him to it.
A curlew glided across the marsh. On the sands large groups of dunlin trilled and cried.
I passed the old chimney, the remnants of a smelting works and then gained the road and a modicum of shelter. By now my thoughts were firmly centred on home, dry clothes and a hot cup of tea.
But when I reached Jenny Brown’s Point and went through the gate onto Jack Scout, I saw what I had been looking for on Friday: a magnificent display of daffodils. They were right on the cliff edge and as I tried to work out whether I could find a vantage point for a photo a flock of geese came flying past heading northward along the coast.
In the picture they look miles away, but to me they seemed pretty close, and also very low – almost at eye level. This is one of the groups from several that flew by. I couldn’t say for certain what kind they were, but I think canada geese.
The huge wall disappearing into the bay is what remains of a failed nineteenth century attempt to reclaim land from Morecambe Bay.
Later, as I was on St John’s Avenue and almost home – two blue tits on the road apparently fighting. More fighting tits!
After my walk, we took the children swimming. When we got home for lunch it had brightened up considerably so we decided to walk to Woodwell and then to treat ourselves at the Wolfhouse Gallery’s cafe.
With Amy and Ben on their likebikes its usually our turn to struggle to keep up. (Ben hasn’t fully woken from his afternoon nap here)
This is the ‘bear cave’ (according to Ben) under Woodwell cliff.
It being February, we sat outside (near the play area – we have no choice!).
It did give a great vantage point to watch a crow dive-bombing the tail of a buzzard – which no doubt had some tasty morsel that the crow coveted.