Clougha Pike

(Or Unexpected Bonus 2)

Out on my own for a post-work walk.

Across the peat and gritstone moorland of Clougha Pike on the edge of the Forest of Bowland. Overhead an everchanging sky. Underfoot springy heather and bilberry. (I shall have to return when they are purple with flower and loaded with berries respectively.)

The views over the Bay, and of the sinuous curves of the Lune where magnificent. So where the views of the Lakeland fells.

Nearby on Caton Moor the wind turbines where stately in their slow rotation.

I have colleagues who were prominent in the successful campaign to prevent an extension of this wind farm, but if I’m honest, I like them. I know that many people feel that they are a blot on the landscape, but I think that it’s important to remember that our landscape has been very much shaped by man. The moors themselves only look this way because they are managed for grouse. I crossed several areas today where the heather had been burned, or where the regeneration process had begun and the tough old heather had been superceded by short tender new plants. The rattle of grouse calls was my constant companion on this walk. At one point I had three of them clacking at each other with me stuck in the middle. I was surprised by the vivid scarlet of their combs. I also often heard the weird burbling call of curlews. At one point whilst I was concentrating on where I was putting my feet a soft bass ronk ronk made me look up to catch the eye of a raven. He was following the edge, as I was, but his ascent was enviably effortless and he soon disappeared over the summit. A shiny black millipede narrowly avoided being crushed under one of my clodhoppers. Watching it crawl across the peat was fascinating. It’s tiny legs came together in a series of triangles which then seemed to flow along its length.

Ingleborough’s dark shape is recognisable from any direction. I don’t envy the Brigantes in their hill-fort on the top.

I had some sandwiches in my rucksack for my tea and precious little else. Not for example, a hat and gloves, which would have been welcome as I ate the sandwiches sat amongst the gritstone boulders slightly below the trig point.

On my way down, I passed this squat tower. It evidently once had a door in it, but that has been ‘bricked-up’. I have no idea of its purpose, but the area around it is a jumble of rocks, half-built walls and shelters. I suspect that some form of quarrying or mining has been carried out here.

Finally – is this mackerel sky?

Advertisements
Clougha Pike

Simple Pleasures

Although the kids were all awake early, it was chucking it down and I first sent Amy and Ben to bed to listen to audiobooks, and then to wake up their grandparents. After a luxurious lie in, I took Sam out for his mid-morning nap. Since he hadn’t slept too well in the night I put him in his buggy. The rain had stopped and the cloud was beginning to break up with odd patches of blue apparent. The cold breeze didn’t deter Sam who soon fell asleep. We crossed the field to Stankelt Road and took Slackwood Lane to the viewpoint over Leighton Moss.

I could hear screeching Jays even before we reached Myer’s Allotment; I briefly saw two white rumps before they disappeared into an ivy covered tree. I could hear one of the birds for quite some time afterwards – it sounded very angry. I remembered today to look for the white violets on the corner of the Row and they were exactly where I remembered them. Two cock pheasants loosed their startled squawks: one had a white band on its collar – the other didn’t. I remember my cousin Paul mentioning this variation in male pheasants – are there two distinct species? In every other respect they appeared to be identical.

The gardens of the Row played host to an orchestral feast of birdsong. I traced a familiar twittering to a blue tit, and then heard two more repeating the same refrain. A bird that I couldn’t identify from either its plumage or its song, sang beautifully from the upper branches of a high tree. Perhaps it was some kind of warbler? We certainly used to get blackcaps in our garden when we lived here. Near the far end of the Row a greenfinch sang a single rasping note repeatedly.

By the time we reached Eaves Wood large patches of blue dominated the sky and the sun was beginning to mitigate the effect of the cold wind. I saw a woodpecker in almost the same spot as yesterday. This time I saw it bouncing up a branch before I heard it and when it did give voice it was with a strident Pip pip pip rather than the chuckling I heard yesterday. The wood ants were busy again, but not in such large numbers. A second woodpecker caught my attention and as I stopped to watch it, I noticed first some long-tail tits and then on a tree trunk immediately in front of me – a treecreeper. I haven’t seen that distinctive profile for quite some time.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Shortly after arriving home I was sitting here at the computer transferring my photos when a blackbird decided to use the birdbath just beyond the window.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

We had to do some shopping, which wouldn’t normally make it into my blog, be we were all impressed by the Austin 7 we parked next to:

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

After the supermarket we’d promised the kids a walk up Warton Crag. Sam wanted some milk and a clean nappy first, so while Angela dealt with that, I took Amy and Ben to have a look at Warton Rectory.

It’s the ruins of a medieval manor house, early fourteenth century I think the information board said.

Ben decided that it was a ‘Dragon House’ and went hunting dragons. Amy pointed out that the windows are like church windows.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

The children have not been up Warton Crag before, although it’s only a couple of miles from home. It’s another modest hill, a little higher than Castlebarrow, but like many small hills it has views out of all proportion to its size. Even as you begin to climb you have fantastic views of the Forest of Bowland and across the Lune Valley to Ingleborough:

The views across the salt marshes to the bay can also be breathtaking.

Sometimes the sky makes the view. (For a brilliant photographic essay – a beautiful and informative lesson on clouds and meteorology see Alistair’s post here.)

The path follows a limestone edge – this meant a little scrambling for the kids which they loved. Soon it skirts the top of a large quarry. A substantial flock of jackdaws were wheeling and diving below us. The quarry is now a car park and a fair sized flock of birdwatchers had congregated there. Even from high above we could see the tripods, scopes and cameras. Hopefully they appreciated the noisy jackdaws, but I’m reliably informed that this is a birding hotspot at the moment because ravens, peregrines and (I think most importantly) a chough are all roosting here.

Turning away from the quarry we had to contend with short climbs up limestone bluffs and with prickly thickets of blackthorn. A bullfinch’s crimson breast stood out dramatically against the bold blue sky.

At the top a little rocky perch provides great views northward.

To the Lakeland fells:

The water below the woods is Leighton Moss again. Beyond is the Kent estuary. In the very centre of the picture it’s possible to pick out the distinctive outline of the Langdale Pikes.

Here’s the Kent estuary again, behind it Whitbarrow Scar and behind that you can just about see some snow on Fairfield and Hellvelyn.

The top of the Crag was a Brigante hill fort (as was Ingleborough) although you wouldn’t know it now. This beacon was built in 1988 as part of a celebration of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Beacons like this were apparently situated and manned in coastal areas all around the country and were lit to warn of invasion.

The kids were less interested in the views than in the cartons of apple juice they had carried in their rucksacks as provisions.

Just beyond the trig point, ground ivy was flowering, the first I’ve seen this year. The woods here were carpeted with the spikes of bluebell leaves: we shall have to come back in a few weeks.

We took the woodland path down.

Which was in places very muddy. Ben took particular delight in this and each new wet sloppy bit of path was met with squeals of delight. I’m sure that he would share e.e.cummings view that the world is ‘puddle-wonderful’.

Amy was very struck by these misplaced Easter island heads:

And we wondered whether Andy Goldsworthy had been at work on this fallen tree:

I enjoyed watching a nuthatch skilfully negotiating the branches of a tree.

We finished the walk with much the same view as we began:

Simple Pleasures

Second Sight

Another early start for the kids. Knowing that a busy day was in prospect, and that the forecast was for the weather to deteriorate (which it did) I put Sam in the baby-carrier and took him for an early walk. I decided that it was time to get back to Middlebarrow wood to look for the ‘green flower’ that I didn’t find when I went looking for it in January. Since it was a lovely sunny morning I opted to pop up to the Pepper Pot first. Although we had missed the dawn chorus by quite a margin the birds were still in pretty full voice. I noticed lots of blackbirds singing this morning and am beginning to be able to distinguish between blackbirds and song thrushes.

I took the steepest most direct route up Castlebarrow which meant that I passed this beech, which I rarely resist the temptation to photograph:

Although it was sunny, there was a cold breeze, and when we reached the Pepper Pot the view was hazy:

The wooded hill on the left is Warton Crag. Behind that is the high stretch of moorland around Ward’s Stone, the highest point in the Bowland Fells.

From Castlebarrow there are two routes to Arnside tower. I usually take the shorter more obvious route so today I decided to try the other. I haven’t been this way for some time; I’m not sure why because it’s a delightful path. It crosses an area of limestone pavement:

Before dropping down in a shallow gully:

Any sufficiently large grassy clearing here is colonised by mounds like this:

It’s an ant hill. Not as spectacular as the wood ants I saw last weekend, but if you root around in the soil with your fingers you often find the small yellow ants that make the mounds. Something has been digging in this particular mound. Green woodpeckers eat ants, but judging by the scale of the damage, perhaps this is the work of a badger, who are apparently also partial to ants.

I briefly left the wood at Arnside Tower.

Stepping into the ruin to take some photos I disturbed a group of jackdaws flying around the ramparts. They flew away over the fields. I noticed that many of them had twigs in their beaks. The fields and the woodland fringe here was also noisy with rooks.

Back in the woods there are breeding pens for pheasants. Although I didn’t see any today I could hear both the anxious rattle that they make when disturbed (not unlike a grouse), and their less panicked two note hoot. For more on pheasants (including recipes) see Tom’s post here.

Near the pens were a series of holes dug between the roots of trees. I suspect that it was a fox’s earth – I imagine that a family of foxes would get through quite a lot of pheasant.

Beside the path, I came across what I was looking for – Green Hellebore:

After finding this clump I was confident that I would find many more, because that has been the case in the past, but not today. The flowers are unspectacular, but quite pretty on closer examination. The woodland here is commercial forestry, but apparently this footpath will be closed for part of this year whilst many of the conifers are felled, with the long term aim being to restore more natural woodland. I was making a real effort to listen carefully as I walked today and that paid dividends when a I picked out the call of a jay. I found the jay high in a tree, but not it’s companion which I could hear calling from the other side of the path. As I watched, the jay began to make a mewing call which I would normally associate with buzzards rather than jays. (Unless a buzzard was nearby throwing it’s voice.)

To get back into Eaves Wood I walked across the open end of Middlebarrow quarry. The quarry is no longer used and it has been extensively planted with trees. Despite its vast size, the quarry is quiet well hidden and very rarely spoils views of the area.

I climbed a little to a good vantage point over the quarry. I could hear stacatto chuck chuck noises across the quarry and when I looked more carefully a large party of jackdaws was flying along the cliff-face near to the top.

In Eaves Wood, a soft laughing chatter alerted me to the presence of a woodpecker, which I watched for a moment in the treetops.

The path along the edge of Potter’s field now has quite extensive patches of flowering violets in a variety of colours. Including these nice lilac ones.

Nearby a single plant was also flowering in spectacular fashion:

I think that it’s honesty.

Second Sight

Blue True Dream of Sky

For the last couple of days we have had drab monotone grey skies and drizzly dismal weather. As if in sympathy I’ve been under the weather myself, having come down with the same disgusting cold that the rest of the family suffered over the weekend. Some relief today on the weather front at least: after another grey start, the skies cleared and we had a mild and sunny afternoon.

When I got home from work Angela’s parents were here and Angela and Ben were waiting to take me out for a walk. Ben was on his push-bike and really enjoyed freewheeling over the humps and hollows of the Lots.

This is the Kent channel taken from the cliff-top path near to the Cove. As you can see: plenty of blue sky, a few fluffy cumulus, but above them some strips of parallel clouds with a fairly well defined top edge and a more ragged bottom edge.

I’ve looked in my book, I’ve tried Google Images, but I can’t decide whether these are cirrostratus or not. Can anybody help me out?

As you may have gathered, I’m quite keen on clouds at the moment, but I’m not averse to a clear blue sky – not that we see them in this neck of the woods very often. They do make an excellent backdrop, for instance to this blackthorn blossom:

It looks like there’s a lichen growing on the blackthorn.

Yes, look – like little grey corals. I’m even more ill-informed about lichens then I am about clouds. But…I did borrow ‘Lichen’ from the Collins New Naturalist series from the library last week. So let me see……

Blue True Dream of Sky

Blog Project 2

This is Sir Edward Grey a contemporary of Ramsay MacDonald. When MacDonald was elected to the house in 1906 Edward Grey was already Foreign Secretary. He is most famous now for this quote from the outbreak of the First World War: “The lights are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

MacDonald would also go on to be Foreign Secretary, whilst he was Prime Minister. They belonged to different political parties and had very different backgrounds: Grey was Viscount Grey of Fallodon, MacDonald was the illegitimate son of a farm labourer and a housemaid. It’s interesting to speculate none-the-less that they may have at some time discussed their mutual love of the outdoors.

Grey wrote “The Charm of Birds” a book chiefly about birdsong which he describes disarmingly in his introduction as of “no scientific value”. It is however extremely readable, and his enthusiasm is apparent on every page. I particularly liked this passage form the introduction:

One who reviews pleasant experiences and puts them on record increases the value of them to himself; he gathers up his own feelings and reflections , and is thereby better able to understand and to measure the fullness of what he has enjoyed.

It could be my blogging manifesto. Along with this from Loren of In A Dark Time:

The best reason I’ve found to keep blogging is that it keeps me doing precisely the things that I most enjoy doing, like walking, birding, and reading poetry.

Well…no more posts about early 20th Century politicians for a while at least. I’m off to brew a cup of Earl Grey – named after a relative of Sir Edward, and then I shall write-up today’s brief but enjoyable jaunt.

Blog Project 2

Wanderlust

“The wanderlust is perhaps the most precious of all the troublesome appetites of the soul of man. It makes him keep in his cupboard a friendly old suit of comfortable wear that has paled under the fervent eye of the sun, and been matured by dust and mud and rain, and with that, a pair of honest boots nailed like the oak door of an ancient keep which of themselves direct one’s way o’er moor and fell and bog and bypath away from the offence and clamour of cars and trains; it saves his soul from being lost in the vain attempt to keep itself alive by indulging in the vices of the smart or the flashy inanities of those to whom the jewels of life are paste or glass; it keeps his windows open to the winds of heaven and his heart to the song of birds. What better service can be done either to the body or the soul of man?”

This passage is taken from the introduction to “Wanderings & Excursions” by James Ramsay MacDonald, published in 1925 when he was Prime Minister. He was also a keen hill-walker. I came across this book recently in our excellent local second-hand book shop. On the whole, it’s clear why his fame rests on his political career. But I have enjoyed some parts of what I’ve read. I’ve been thinking of posting this quotation for a while and was finally prompted to get round to it by Solitary Walkers post about wanderlust.

Wanderlust

Sap Rising

Ben woke up early again, and once Ben’s awake nobody else can sleep for long. So I was out with Ben and Sam in the double-buggy fairly early this morning. As if to emphasise that fact the first person we passed was the milkman.

Along Stankelt Road the rooks were out in force, sitting in pairs on chimney pots and in trees crawing noisily. As we got close to Pointer Wood I could hear a woodpecker drumming, and as we followed the road along the edge of the wood the drumming got very loud, but although it must have been nearby I couldn’t see the woodpecker.

Somewhere close to where Stankelt Road becomes Slackwood Lane, Sam fell asleep. Ben, bless him, had hugged Sam until he dropped off. The road drops down a hill which gives great views over the yellow reed beds and Rorschach blob pools of Leighton Moss.

We turned into The Row, where we lived until a couple of years ago. This corner is another good place to find white violets, but I was so absorbed by Myer’s Allotment that I forgot to look for them. Myer’s Allotment is a field owned by a butterfly conservation group. It has open areas of grass and limestone, some mature trees and lots of scrubby thickets of thorny bushes and brambles. The topmost branches of two tall trees set well back from the road seemed to be festooned with rooks. But they were apparently sitting calmly and silently. Most unrooklike. The allotment was generally busy with birds. I could hear robins, thrushes and blackbirds singing, and probably lots of others too that my untutored ears can’t differentiate. The distinctive squawking of a pair of magpies made me turn to the golf-course on the other side of the road, and as I watched them wing across the fairway a similar, but less harsh call drew me back in time to see a jay coming in to land high in a tree. I waited expecting to see a second jay and very shortly my patience was rewarded. I was only bemoaning the fact that I haven’t seen any jays for ages over on Tom’s Blog last week and here they are! Another example of my desires made flesh? (well feathers).

After the pastel pink of the jays’ bellies, the next birds that caught my attention were a couple of pairs of bullfinches, the brash cerise of the males is quite hard to miss.

Approaching down the lane I saw somebody else with a double buggy. It was Matt with his lads and their spaniels. They live in our old house. Matt told me that he would normally go into Eaves Wood rather then coming down the lane and I immediately decided that I would go that way home, rather than following my intended route along Park Road.

Alongside the Row is Bank Well:

On hot summer days a good place to see exotic looking dragonflies and on balmy summer evenings a top spot for bats. It looks like quite a lot of clearing-up of encroaching vegetation has taken place on the road side. I had been expecting to see Colt’s-foot flowering somewhere soon, and here it was on the verge of the pond:

Entering Eaves Wood through the Jubilee Wood car park – so called I believe because it was purchased by the village and presented to the National Trust in 1977 the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee – I spotted a dead birch which has clearly been used as a drumming post by a woodpecker. It had several large holes in it, one of which went right through the trunk.

I passed another dead birch, the same one as yesterday. It still hasn’t admitted defeat and is still spilling sap from its severed trunk:

This view from the edge of Eaves Wood back towards the village

shows a good view of the route that I often follow along the edge of the last field by the white houses and past the large farmhouse slightly left of centre in the shot.

Yesterday in Eaves Wood I saw two corvids building a large nest and wondered whether they were Ravens. Today, walking below these birches:

I heard a ronk ronk call that makes me think that I may have been right.

Just as we were leaving Eaves Wood Sam woke up. Ben was overjoyed and it was only now when he started to sing and laugh and roar that I realised what a great effort he had been making to keep quiet and let Sam sleep. Normally Ben has just two settings: asleep and very loud, so he did very well.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Later we all went to….. Woodwell ,where else? This time Amy had a self-appointed mission to collect some water from the waterfall because she has a ‘recipe’ for fairy perfume and three drops of rainwater is the first ingredient.

Yesterday I noticed a number of trees whose branches seemed to be covered in small dark balls. I assumed that it had something to do with buds opening and leaves appearing, but today a fallen branch confirmed my suspicions:

It looks like a half-ripened blackberry with its nodules of black, purple and ruby red, but in fact it’s one of the black buds of Ash which is in the process of coming into leaf.

Walking by gardens and through woods we get serenaded by a succession of territorial robins. This one sat in a bush in the vicarage garden:

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Sam needed a late nap so I was out again, this time accompanied only by Sam in the buggy. I went down to the ‘beach’, and took the following pictures of ominous clouds over the Bay:

Sap Rising