It was raining, the light was poor, this is the least blurred of several photos I took. Last time we saw our visitor was at night, so this was the first opportunity for a picture. I don’t think that this is the same hedgehog that we regularly saw last summer – it looks smaller.

Anyway, since hedgehogs eat snails and slugs and other garden pests, this one has probably already done much more work in our garden than I have this year, so she/he is very welcome.


One for sorrow, two for joy…

So…as you may have gathered, I haven’t really been ‘beating the bounds’ much of late. Partly that’s due to other distractions – work and the European Cup mostly. But partly it’s also due to a post-spring lethargy. Hill Wanderer sums up my feelings about summer in this post, but some of the highlights include paths over grown with nettles and brambles; midges, ticks, wasps, horse flies and anything else that bites; flowers that have finished and wilted. Ransoms particularly – so early to appear and so emblematic of the coming spring to me – droop and decay with astonishing rapidity once they have flowered. Bottoms Wood looks like it has been flooded and drained leaving the ransoms flattened and yellow. Other disappointments are harder to pin down – everything is lush and attractive but somehow the vibrancy and urgency of spring is lost. The lethargy feels to me like a general condition of the season, an external and general malaise and not just personal laziness.

The antidote of course is simple and involves getting of my fat arse and actually going for a walk. (Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I went for a saunter) 

After a couple of days of gales and torrential rain, today was beautiful. I was late getting out and the light was low.

Bindweed is flowering now. It’s a gardener’s nightmare – a vigorous climber that strangles other plants, the long strings of bone white roots snap easily and each piece left in the ground sprouts to form new plants. They are pretty though.

Thistles are common, prickly and easily over-looked. But I think that I can see more equiangular spirals here, so I’m happy.

I walked down to the Cove and across the Lots. There was barely a cloud in the sky and little wind. it was very peaceful. A Kestrel flew overhead. A Heron fished in a channel. Six Oystercatchers burbled past. I tried to get close to the Heron, but as usual failed miserably.

I’ve posted photos like these next ones many times before. I probably will again, but I never tire of this view, so I hope that you will indulge me.

A second Heron was now fishing not far from where the first had settled on the far side of the channel.

As I left the Lots I could hear Magpies chattering form several different directions. In pairs and threes birds crossed and re-crossed from tree to tree. I’m nor sure whether what was going on was essentially sociable or some kind (phoney) turf war, but I can’t recall hearing so may Magpies singing together before.

One for sorrow, two for joy…

Radius of Activity

Regular readers will know that sharing a love of the outdoors with my kids is a particular concern of mine. A while ago I read a thought-provoking article in the Spring edition of Broadleaf ( Incidentally, it’s worth joining the Woodland Trust just to get their magazine – the quality of the articles and photography is very high: the cover of this issue was stunning.)

Here’s a quote:

One study has shown that the area around the home where children are allowed to roam on their own – known as their ‘radius of activity’ – has declined by almost 90% since the 1970s, when many of the current generation of parents where growing up.

Then I came across the following headline from the Guardian on the excellent blog Walking and Writing:

…was visited by social services after an anonymous caller reported her for allowing her seven-year-old son to walk to school alone.

Today I’ve been looking at How Risky is Life? some teaching materials published by the Bowland Trust for the mathematics classroom that:

tackles something that affects (and impoverishes) people’s lives, liberties and happiness – the mismatch between real and perceived risk.

(Pupils) learn that mathematical thinking is essential for putting risks in perspective and that the media focus on stories rather than information.

I tend to chide my Mum for being a mother hen (sorry mum!), but now that I’m a parent myself I’m quite inclined to cluck a bit myself. The accusation is obviously not well founded anyway, because my own most vivid memories of Primary School are of the walk there and back with three friends.

We had a short walk along back streets and then crossed three fields and two bridges to the school. In the winter we slide down the tarmac path that crossed the first field. In the spring we stuck ‘stickyweed’ to each others jumpers or collected frogspawn, tadpoles and stickle-backs in jars (for our teachers – how grateful they must have felt!). In the summer we caught butterflies amongst the thistles and nettles by the railway siding. And in the autumn we put ‘itching powder’ from the haws in the hedgerows down the back of each others clothing. If a train went past it was imperative not to be standing on the ground or you would catch ‘the dreaded lurgy’ – which often meant running and jostling to climb onto the small handrail on the bridge over Johnny’s  Brook or hanging from the top of the high sides on the ‘Tin Bridge’ that crossed the railway itself (hoping that it wasn’t a long goods train with hundreds of carriages). Similarly the cowpat spattered kissing-gates on the route were considered unclean and untouchable and only one kick was allowed to get through them. This required a carefully weighted kick: too light and the gate wouldn’t bounce back enough for you to get through, too heavy and the gate would bounce back too quickly and hit you in the face. The field on the far side of the railway line still showed the ‘ridge and furrow’ of medieval farming. On the east side was a stand of elder and hawthorn on a slight mound which was a disputed ‘den’ used by our ‘gang’ but also by other boys from the village.

I haven’t been back for years. Johnny’s Brook long since disappeared under a housing development (whilst it was a building site it became an even better place to play), but the ridge and furrow field is still there as far as I know. I hope that at least some children still get to walk to school that way.

Radius of Activity

People In Glass Houses

Down to the big smoke last night for a meeting today at the DCSF. What’s that you don’t know the acronym? That’s the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Who decided on that particular running order I wonder? It used to be the Department for Education and Skills; before that it was the Department for Education. No doubt it will have a new, even longer title before too long.

The meeting took place in a airless space. A circular room with glass walls, which looked out on to an open plan office (‘No-one has their own desk these days!’) surrounded by glass walls revealing more open plan offices with….

Nested goldfish bowls. Almost appropriate since I felt like a fish out of water. At least I knew why I had been invited which is more than could be said for some of the participants who were having a Kafkaesque experience.

What a boon after four and half hours of tube, Euston station and trains to arrive home in daylight to moving air, grass, trees and water. So much greenery. I like to visit London, but I much to prefer to come home.

This was taken during our walk on Sunday. I think that it might be my favourite photo of the year so far.

People In Glass Houses

Doctor, Doctor

Last night we had guests and some of us took a post-prandial stroll to the Woodlands – CAMRA pub of the summer 2007 for this area. On the way a plaintive mewing attracted our attention to a large fluffy ball sitting on a branch. A recently fledged owl. On the way home it was still partially light, although pretty late. We bumped into a hedgehog snuffling along our path.


This splendid fellow has been in a field by Eaves Wood for several weeks, but he is very camera shy. Today was the best opportunity that I’ve had and he still wouldn’t face toward me:


Today we were joined for our walk in the woods by A’s friend S and by Dr A and Dr S (my brother-in-law and his wife). I believe his doctorate may be for climbing things. He certainly provided the kids with a memorable tree-climbing experience today:

An old beech and its fungus provided another point of interest:

Honeysuckle is flowering all over the wood:

The numerous distractions along the way meant that we were along time getting to the Pepper Pot, but when we did we met friends from the village.

There was a good view of Ingleborough today:

And out in the Bay we could see the sponsored walk from A’s primary school (we would have gone but it was a bit too far for the children):

Finally, I wrote about Tutsan and its alleged properties a while ago, but didn’t get a photo of the flowers open. Here’s some from Eaves Wood:

Doctor, Doctor

Looking At Old Photos

Between hayfever, work and the European championship, I still haven’t been out for a walk since the weekend. I did find the old photos that I’ve been looking for though. One of the joys of old photos can be the unexpected juxtapositions that they throw up.

This is the Langdale Pikes, taken I think from the point where the stream flows out of Elterwater. I took it back in 2000 whilst on a walk with my Mum and Dad.

The next photo on the film looks like Little Langdale Tarn, presumably taken on the same day.

And then:

My first view of the Cordillera Blanca. Taken from a headache inducing pass at around 4000m on a drive from sea level at Lima, where I apparently took no photos at all, to the mountain town of Huarez.

Where we would spend some time acclimatizing and drinking coca tea before heading into the mountains. The big beast in the background is Huascaran, the highest mountain in Peru. I tend to think that I have a poor memory but this photo brings Huarez flooding back – the hummingbirds in the Hotel garden, the friendly locals calling us Gringos, the great bars and beers, the fervour of the local support for their national team in the Copa America, the huge queues and the heavily armed guards in the bank. I can almost smell the place.

Looking At Old Photos

Arnside Weekend II

Cooked Breakfast at the Hostel might have been the highlight of the trip for A. She even had enough left over to make a sausage sandwich to pack up for her lunch. By the time we set off after breakfast, it was already hot. Climbing above the village gave us excellent, if some what hazy views of the Lakeland Fells. It looked as though anyone who had started early (or camped high) in the Eastern Fells would be enjoying a temperature inversion, and a sea of clouds in the valleys.

Looking down to Arnside and the viaduct. The Youth Hostel is the large building on the left, formerly an private school. Our room was the Porter’s Room.

Last time we were on Arnside Knott together we met one of these fellows:

This time we saw loads. He’s like a Woodlouse, but a little bigger and blacker. I have no idea what it is – I must treat myself to a Field Guide for insects.

We climbed to the topograph (not quite the top) and then beat a hasty retreat into the shade of the woods on the other side of the hill.

We see squirrels all the time in the woods, but they rarely pose for photos:

A loved the convoluted roots…

…of this huge Beech:

The hollows held spider’s webs, pools of water, and piles of last year’s Beech Mast:

We stopped for snacks and drinks by Arnside Tower (one of many refuelling stops this trip). There were Jackdaw’s around the tops of the walls again. Maybe they roost here like the famous Ravens at the tower of London. How could I engineer it that I could have the time to come this way often enough to be sure? Although I must admit, that now that the Hayfever season is in full swing, the delights of a daily long walk don’t appeal quite so much as they would do otherwise.

The wall tops were also rampantly infested with Oxeye Daisies:

We climbed back into Eaves Wood, by an unfamiliar route. A insisted that we return to the Pepper Pot and her efforts were rewarded by more wild strawberries. From there she was able to navigate the way home to lunch.

Arnside Weekend II

Arnside Weekend I

Walked with…

… to nearby Arnside to stay at the youth hostel. It was a 24 hour holiday, setting-out after lunch yesterday and arriving back for lunch today.

We started in Eaves Wood, climbing to the Pepper Pot in the environs of which we found lots of wild strawberries:

Tiny but sweet, succulent and very tasty. ‘Like eating the sun’ was A’s verdict.

We walked through Far Arnside and then along the coast. The coastal path at this time of year is a feast of wildflowers. It always strikes me as odd that lime loving plants like Rock Rose flower here, but also ericaceous Heather. Something to do with pockets of acidic soil created by volcanic ash a long, long time ago.

Two things to look out for along here are the Burnet Rose:


And this:

Which I think is Bloody Crane’s-bill. I was only aware of it growing along this cliff-edge path until today when we found it again in a less frequented part of Eaves Wood.

The petals, please note, are heart-shaped, like some Dog Rose petals:

Whilst I was taking my photos, A made a collection of mementoes: flowers, grasses, wood and bark, some wool, hazelnut shells and from this path mussel shells presumably dropped up here by a seabird. We also found the shattered remnants of a crab.

In places the path is almost squeezed out by the trees and shrubs.

(The pale leaves in the foreground are Whitebeam)

And occasionally the path diverts into the wood. We were both struck by this spiky, bulbous growth in a tree trunk:

Over the years since I moved to this area, the foreshore at Silverdale has eroded away. Meanwhile a new salt-marsh has appeared at White Creek where there used to be beach:

Thrift flowers here and on the cliffs:

Behind the salt-marsh is a steep shingle bank which the tides still occasionally wash.


In a buttercup meadow…

…on the last leg of our outbound journey, we found some Lady’s Mantle. I’ve posted pictures of the flowers before, but the leaves are the real joy of this plant, especially when it has been wet, because of the way they collect drops:

The hostel was comfortable, the meal huge and palatable. A was dead beat after her ‘100 mile’ walk. The sun set on a very enjoyable day.

Arnside Weekend I