So much work to do at the moment that I’m dizzy from the effort of not thinking about it (thinking about it induces a kind of vertiginous panic that I’d rather avoid.) So did I stay in to catch up? Was I distracted by the UEFA Cup Final on the box? Of course not – I needed some fresh air therapy.
I parked by Barrow Scout Field and stepped out of the car into the fabulous song of a Peewit. He was displaying over the mere – twisting and turning, stalling and spiraling, swooping low over the water. True aerial acrobatics. I thought that by now the Lapwings would all be paired up and that this kind of exuberant showing off would no longer be necessary, but apparently not. I tried to photograph him but consistently ended up with empty sky. This Canada Goose was a more obliging subject.
In the fields on the other side of the road there seemed to be a Greylag Geese crèche with several large families of Goslings, but they were too far away for me to be sure.
At Crag Foot there are a few houses and an old stone chimney which is all that remains of an old sawmill. I took a path from here that takes a rising line above Leighton Moss across the lower slopes of Warton Crag. The path alternates between open fields and woodland. There were Cowslips and spikes of Bugle. The Hawthorns all seem to be in flower now:
Apparently ”legend links the hawthorn with licentious pagan and medieval rites to greet the advent of summer’. But paradoxically Hawthorn is also associated with Joseph of Arimathea, ‘owner of the tomb in which Jesus was placed after the Crucifixion, and who is alleged to have subsequently visited Glastonbury.
You can see what Proust (and Solitary Walker) had to say about Hawthorn here.
The Moon loomed large in the sky…
…and seemed to presage something magical, something wild and mysterious.
On the margin of the woods I found the Moon’s gift: an area full of Early Purple Orchids:
I’ve never found them in such profusion before. My field guide tells me that ‘for centuries, the plant has been associated with love and reproduction, and until fairly recently was used as a love potion’. Perhaps not surprising when you consider the etymology of the the word Orchid:
From Latin orchis, from Greek όρχις ‘testicle’.
This is because of the resemblance of the tuber to that part of the male anatomy.
‘According to the early Greek physician Dioscorides, this plant was used by married couples in Thessaly to determine the sex of their future children.’
Between the lovelorn lapwing, the Silly Lovers in the lane, the licentious Hawthorn and the love potion Long Purples it feels like nature has a message for me.
But these orchids are also associated with the Crucifixion: they are said to have grown beneath the Cross and the spots on the leaves are drops of Jesus’ blood. So: a very mixed message then – the sacred and the profane? Perhaps, blundering around with my camera, shaking spent batteries in an attempt to prolong their life, I missed the chance to encounter un amant mystique.
(Incidentally if you don’t know Gavin Bryars ‘Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet’ here is the new shorter version featuring Tom Waits – the original is 20 odd minutes and well worth seeking out)
Further into the wood this glacial erratic beached whale was glowing with the last of the sunset’s light.
This area is scattered with large boulders, often of fantastic shapes. Just after this I came across two lying next to each other, each with a perfectly flat face. Perhaps in the past they were one boulder, but if so it must have been some great chisel that split them asunder.
My route continued to climb steadily, eventually arriving on the summit of Warton Crag.
Despite the fact that on this still night I could hear the traffic on the motorway behind me, and that I know that this hilltop was a hill-fort prior to the arrival of the Romans a couple of millennia ago, I think that this is possibly the wildest spot in the area. It’s something to do with the rocky outcrop on the top and the views of woods and sea and distant mountains. I wish that I could bottle that feeling, but then…perhaps not. If it wasn’t earned it wouldn’t be quite the same.
The woods around the top fulfilled my expectation by being carpeted by bluebells. The green of May woods with an undercoat of cool blue was just the therapy that I needed. Amongst the greens and the blues I suddenly felt that I could almost be underwater – ‘in a marine light’.
Returning to my car I walked along a track called ‘Occupation Road’. The name has always intrigued me and I shall have to look in to the story behind it. Woodcock flew unseen beyond the trees. Bats flickered overhead and past my face. I love the way they fly – our very own nocturnal hummingbirds. I watched one regularly turning abruptly through ninety degrees like a fly consuming Pacman.
Back at Barrow Scout field the pools were shining with more reflected light than the sky seemed to be offering. A single white swan ghosted across the back of the mere.