Out at eight this morning heading for Milnthorpe. In Eaves Wood the birdsong was constant and bewildering in its variety. I heard the distinctive liquid croaks of a raven and looking up saw two birds flying very close together. Although my first thought was that it was a pair of ravens I quickly realised that in fact it was a raven being harassed by a crow. Later in the day I saw a crow doing the same thing to a buzzard which I’ve often seen before, but I can’t recall seeing a raven receive this treatment. I kept hearing a two note song which seemed familiar, but which I couldn’t place. It was only five minutes later, as I crossed the railway line at Waterslack, that I realised that I had been listening to chiff-chaffs and that it sounded familiar precisely because I have been watching the warblers section of my British Birds DVD in an attempt to learn the chiff-chaff’s song. On the path near Haweswater I heard them again and finally tracked the singing down to an LBJ in a small tree beside the path. It’s hardly a spectacular bird, but the satisfaction I felt was considerable none the less. A nuthatch perched on the edge of a hole in a tree trunk and dipped its head inside, presumably to feed young in an unseen nest.
A while back, by Silverdale Moss, I noticed a large tree split in two by a fissure through its trunk. It’s a huge Ash and it’s still standing and flowering in profusion. With little wind this morning the two halves of the tree weren’t beating together like last time.
On Beetham Fell I came past a stand of beech all in leaf. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t noticed that the beech leaves had emerged in Eaves Wood, but as the day progressed it transpired that most other beeches were still bare. Why then were several trees ‘out’ here? Because they share the same favourable conditions? Or does one tree come into leaf and then release a ‘tree hormone’ which encourages the others to follow suit?
Whatever the reason, the season of new beech leaves is a magical time. Bright sunshine to illuminate the leaves was the missing ingredient today, but I still enjoyed their arrival. In the first few days the leaves are pale and limp and hang overlapping to produce a full palette of lemon greens.
In Dallam Deer Park most of the deer were out of sight, probably down by the river Bela which seems to be a favourite haunt. This group were available for photos though:
Very considerate of them to pose. They are part of a large herd of tame fallow deer.
I had seriously underestimated how long it would take me to get to Milnthorpe and I was half an hour late arriving. Fortunately, nobody seemed to mind and the D of E group that I was joining to supervise for part of their practice expedition weren’t ready to set off anyway.
We walked back through the deer park.
Back through the hamlet of Haverbrack, where I couldn’t resist this huge barn (surely ripe for convertion):
And back to Beetham Fell and the Fairy Steps. At the Fairy Steps the path passes through a narrow chimney in a small cliff. Getting the large packs full of camping gear down the tight squeeze proved to be quite a challenge for the girls. Fortunately the view kept me occupied whist they were hard at work (I was only there to observe and advise – it is meant to be a challenge!)
The hill on the left is Arnside Knot and the river is the Kent.
After lunch near Hazelslack farm it began to spit with rain. The group decided to don cagoules, overtrousers and rucksack covers and so the rest of the walk was accompanied by waterproof rustle. I opted to bide my time and despite occasional flurries the rain mostly held off until after I got home. A field near Hazelslack had been cleared of gorse and was resplendent with cherry blossom, marsh marigolds, violets, cowslips, bluebells, anemones, speedwell, daises etc. My young charges were too busy gossiping to notice but when we passed an early purple orchid I felt compelled to point it out to them. They are such nice kids that they humoured me and contrived to convey genuine interest for at least 30 seconds.
Unusually, a field on Arnside Moss had been ploughed. The shiny black soil looked like peat and was liberally covered in silver limestone boulders.
We followed Black Dyke beside the Railway Line and the edge of Middlebarrow Wood to Arnside Tower, then crossed Holgates Caravan Park into Eaves Wood. At the top of Elmslack Lane we parted company – they had a tour around Silverdale left to complete before they reached their campsite, I was five minutes from home.