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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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Simple Pleasures

3 thoughts on “Simple Pleasures

  1. I have to sat how much I enjoyed your post Mark. You know now how much I like the countryside and at times through my health miss it. You have a way of bringing it to us… not just in fine pictures but words. Your love of these places and being out and about shine through each trip and post you make of it.
    The other thing I want to say is I find it refreshing to see such a nice family do what nice familys should do. Your love for your family is again evident in your posting. As a dad and now a granddad I want you to know that I think you are a great dad.. your children will grow up learning about this great island from you. I am sure they will be as much impressed with such views as the lastest toy or computer game. I feel honoured to just call here and read your posts.

    Tom

  2. What a wonderful walk. Great views, like you said. I’m looking forward to your observations of Summer, to see what your surrounding will look like then.

    Onward!

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