Dryads, Wryms and Damsel Flies

It’s sad when the wind brings down trees in the woods. Of course the result can be a sunny glade where woodland flowers will flourish, or an opportunity for new saplings to establish themselves without the tree canopy blocking out the light. The fallen tree can provide homes and nourishment for an entire ecosystem.

Where would Dryad’s Saddle be without dead trees?

We found these today in the woods near Haweswater. I’ve read that this is the biggest natural lake in Lancashire, although it’s fairly small.

I think that I’ve mentioned before that the Lake is allegedly inhabited by a Wyrm, but I haven’t seen it, or the Dryads or the Otters that are also rumoured to be here.

We did see today the electric blue of damsel flies enjoying the sunshine:

And many flowers that appreciate the boggy margins of the Lake, like Guelder Rose:

And Irises:

There are more Irises and also Ragged Robin fringing the nearby pond, Bank Well:

And in Lambert’s Meadow we found a single Orchid which I think might be a Heath Spotted Orchid:

Dryads, Wryms and Damsel Flies

If You Go Down to the Woods Today….

I never was lost in the woods in my whole life, though once I was confused for three days.

Daniel Boone quoted in ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’ by Rebecca Solnit

I’ve ben a bit confused with my blogging these last few days, but I hope to get back on track with a visit to the woods. On Friday we drove to Grizedale Forest in the Lake District. Much of Grizedale is commercial plantations, but it has become a very popular destination because there is so much to do there.

There’s a playground where you can find out what it feels like to be a spider (or a fly?):

The woods themselves are dotted with sculptures:

Some of which are also musical instruments:

Or shelters to play in:

The meadows are full of flowers:

Like Water Avens:

And Lady’s Mantle:

Generally a great place for a day out.

If You Go Down to the Woods Today….

Nature’s Playground

Took the kids into Eaves Wood today. They balanced on fallen tree trunks, climbed in a favourite yew, played in a hollow behind the yew – which Amy christened Macca Pacca’s house – waved sticks about, drummed with their hands and feet on the fallen beeches I found last night, and stopped for a snack in the in the root hollow left by those beeches.

Ben is surprisingly fond of woodlice and so was thrilled when we managed to pull some bark off one of the trunks:

At the edge of the new clearing created by the demise of these beeches are two more beeches which I imagine must look pretty similar to the way that the pair that fell must have looked:

I was standing close to an ash tree on the edge of the clearing when the earth moved. Angela says that she saw me jump. It was another bright but very windy day, although here in the woods we could hardly feel the wind. Standing back a little we watched as the movement of the upper part of the tree made the ground around the roots gently rise and fall as if the earth were breathing. One of the roots of was lifting clear of the ground and a crack appeared alongside the trunk. The soil here is very thin and the wood is full of large trees that have fallen.

Sycamore’s seemed to be my favourite trees today. Firstly we saw leaves spotted with tiny red lumps:

I think that these are the eggs of some insect, and I remember that when we were kids we used to call them spangles, but I don’t suppose that’s a proper name.

Many of the sycamores in the wood have this bright orange lichen on their trunks:

The seeds of the sycamore are hidden away under the leaves and could easily be missed:

Having said that, my favourite trees in Eaves Wood are really the mature beeches (even better standing up then lying down!):

At Cynthesis you can find posts enlivened by photos of heart-shaped leaves, stones, shadows…etc. I’ve been on the look out for hearts in our woods and beginning to think that either the woods are deficient in hearts, or that I’m just not looking in the right way. Finally, today I came across a heart-shaped tree-stump. Unfortunately, the photo I took was a bit of a dead loss. But shortly after the tree stump I noticed this ivy leaf on a dry-stone wall:

What do you think? Almost there?

Nature’s Playground

A Time of Gifts

A bright and sunny day today, but very windy. I took a late stroll this evening into Eaves Wood. The woodland floor was littered with leaves and the occasional branch. In a new clearing close to the path lay two large fallen beeches. The trees must have been virtually twins and now lay away from each other but with their roots making two walls sheltering the single hollow that their fall had left.

I thought that perhaps the trees had fallen today, but then realised that the branches carried leaves, but that those leaves were brown and dried, suggesting that the trees have been down for some time. Also someone had used logs and large flakes of bark to build a crude roof to finish off the natural shelter between the roots.

The bark was cracked, like flesh wounds…

,,,and had lifted slightly away from the trunk so that when I tried drumming on it I found that it made a wonderful drum.

I couldn’t see the sunset – surrounded by trees as I was – but the colours in the sky indicated that it must have been stunning.

On my way home through the dark woods I heard an owl or probably a couple of owls calling, it seemed from somewhere very close by, but try as I might, I couldn’t find them in the trees.

The dark shape of a roe deer skittered across the path in front of me.


Amy has a few days of school, so what does she want to do? Recreate school here at home. This afternoon she made us all sit down for an Assembly and proceeded to give out certificates to each of us for achieving our Next Step. Mine was for learning to use my new camera. Unfortunately, Amy has difficulty with b’s and d’s so I appeared on my certificate as ‘Mark – bad’. When Angela noticed this she got a bad case of the giggles, which started me off and I ended up spilling half of a cup of tea down my shirt.

I also discovered today that Tom of Wigger’s World had chosen to award me this:

Thanks Tom!

Apparently these are the rules:

1) Award and Link to 5 blogs that make you think and/or make your day.
2) Acknowledge the post of the award giver: Tom’s Make My Day Award Post

3) Tell the award winners that they have won by commenting on their blogs with the news!

In thinking about which Blogs to pass on an award to (a pretty tricky decision), I thought about when I open google reader and which Blogs I look for new posts on first.

One of those is most definitely Wigger’s World, where the award came from in the first place! A link from Tom’s site, whether it be a recommendation or participation in Skywatch always guarantees a significant increase in traffic to my blog. This is a testament to the popularity of Tom’s blog and the camaraderie of the community of bloggers that gather there. It’s fair to say that Tom regularly makes several peoples’ days, because of his posts and his generous and thoughtful comments on other blogs.

My friend Andy has a theory that as soon as he has discovered a product that he really likes, then it is discontinued and disappears from the supermarket shelves. He could undoubtedly give lots of examples, but the only one that I can recall is individual rhubarb pies with a layer of custard inside them. He seems to think that there is a link between his patronage of a product and its almost immediate disappearance. As paranoid conspiracy theories go, it seems both unusually trivial and personal.

However, I’m beginning to see how he feels because it seems that many of my favourite bloggers are taking (hopefully) temporary breaks. So I make these awards in the hope that each of then will soon once again be making my day. In no particular order they are:

A Time of Gifts

Fairy Steps

This morning we drove to Cockshot Lane for a walk on Beetham Fell. We were into the woods straight away and came across these Aqualigea’s.

It’s quite a way from any gardens so they’ve done well to seed themselves here.

After climbing a very awkward leaning style we were in fields and lush long grass. We played follow-the-leader so that the kids wouldn’t mind walking in single file. Ben found a pheasant feather, which is almost as good to wield as a stick. He had been carrying a stick I but I took it off him after a couple of accidental whacks. Amy decided to eat some clover. She seems to be none the worse for the experience.

Near Hazelslack Farm, the grass was shorter and there were Rock Rose:

In the garden at the farm this peacock was calling loudly…

…but his two female companions seemed completely impervious to his strutting and shouting.

Nearby a pair of Guineafowl fussed and pecked:

The day had started bright, but by now a few dark clouds had appeared and we felt the odd spot of rain. Fortunately, the weather recovered from this point and the rest of the day was sunny, although the wind was quite cold.

From the farm the path is rocky and arrow straight. It climbs steadily until a blue rock face apparently bars any further progress:

But the path seeks out a fault in the rock…

And we pass through with ease:

Remarkably, before Arnside had its own Church, this was the coffin route over which the dead were carried to be interred in Beetham. The rock wall on the right has a rusted hinge fixed to it as if this passage were once gated.

Ahead a second band of rock once again blocks the route. This time the way ahead is more obvious, but more tricky:


Ben on the Fairy Steps

Local legend has it that if you can climb to the top without touching the sides then you are granted a wish. Amy assures me that she made it, and that from now on all of our rain will fall between Monday and Wednesday, guaranteeing dry weekends.

I know that I certainly can’t climb up there without being squeezed between the sides, and with Sam asleep in the back carrier I didn’t think that I could make it at all. I took a path which skirted below the cliff, intending to meet the others in a large clearing where a number of paths meet. When they didn’t initially show up I followed their route back towards them. I was struck by the light on this tree and the dappled light on the path:

I was surprised not to have come across them and so headed back the way I had come, only to find that they were just moments behind me:

On the way back down through the woods to the car, Ben waged war on the many wood ants criss-crossing the path. I was more interested in this low shrub..

…which I thought might be another garden escapee like the Aqualigea, but I find in my books that it is actually Tutsan, from the French toute-saine meaning all healthy. Herbalists laid the leaves over wounds and it does have antiseptic properties. In contrast to the amorous associations that every plant I came across a couple of weeks ago seemed to possess, Tutsan has a reputation for inducing chastity. Apparently, men should drink infusions made from the plant, and women should spread its twigs below their beds.

The leaves when dried are reputed to smell like Ambergris and so it is also called Sweet Amber.

These flowers are not quite open. I wonder if I can get back this way to see them when they are?

Fairy Steps

Head In The Sand

News on the radio this morning that this year’s ‘Good Beach Guide’ has just been published. We don’t really have any beaches here, at least not the sort that you might sit and sunbathe on, they are too muddy. But the cleanliness or otherwise of one of our ‘beaches’ – Cow’s Mouth just to the south of the village – is regularly a newsworthy item, since it has often been reported as the dirtiest beach in Britain. The litter there is flotsam and is due to the vagaries of the tide and the slovenliness of sailors rather than any local lack of civic pride. Thinking about it reminded me that our little kingdom between the Motorway and Morecambe Bay is only ever the focus of wider attention for all of the wrong reasons: Chinese cockle-pickers drowned in the Bay, a court case over a house crammed with neglected pets. I suppose that it is in the nature of news reporting to focus on the negative. The news is so shocking these days. The BBC news tonight was reporting not just on natural disasters, but on the rapid break up of the Arctic Ice-Cap. I know that I shouldn’t simply look away, but I think that I might grind to a halt if I actually properly absorbed the enormity of disasters current and imminent.

I set out tonight in search of particular flowers, but it was already late and since the sun was setting almost as soon as I set-off …

…I knew that I was likely to struggle for light.

Never-the-less, in a wet meadow there were Bugle, Marsh Marigolds, Cuckoo Flowers, Stitchwort, Buttercups, Ragged Robin:

and Yellow Rattle:

In the woods, Water Avens:

And this shrub, which I know has yellow flowers which I’m afraid I  might have missed this year:

Finally, this is Lady’s Slipper Orchid and is the flower that I came out to see.

A couple of years ago this very rare plant hit the national headlines when it was apparently  dug up during the night. Fortunately, as you can see, it’s still there, still flowering.

Head In The Sand

We’re Going On a Bear Hunt

Walked the same route again today, for the third time this week, but this time in reverse and with the whole family and Amy’s friend Sarah. The kids raced across the lots. The starlings weren’t so busy today. I did briefly see a head in the hole in the tree, but the children didn’t get to witness the birds feeding the chicks.

However, they were more than happy to get down to the Cove and plodge in the mud:

Then scramble up the rocks to the small cave here:

This little cave mouth always makes me think of one of the children’s favourite books ‘We’re Going On a Bear Hunt’ and the cave in which they eventually find a bear. Ben was clearly making the same association because he was expecting to find a bear too. He seems to have lost his fear of caves: back in January he became convinced that all caves were infested with Dragons and could rarely be induced to enter. He’s now keen to come back with a torch to explore further (he won’t get very far because they isn’t much to this particular cave.)

I explored the high-tide line at the back of the shingle.

I found a couple of pieces of this rusted, curiously light material. Could this be almost heart-shaped if you squint a bit and stand on your head to look at it? Cynthia over on Cynthesis finds hearts seemingly everywhere.

Silverweed, which thrives in the marginal spaces between land and strand, has now come into flower:

This plant also seems abundant and vigorous in these same unpromising spots:

Anybody know what it is?

I like the way the wind has given the cliff-top trees here a perfect manicured trim:

On the way home we found that Oxeye daisy flowers are finally opening up and showing off:

(See the previous post for more about the mathematical properties of this flower.)

We’re Going On a Bear Hunt