Woodwell Two Times

Another cold and frosty day. Fine weather still, but the sunshine was more intermittent today. This morning all of the kids joined me for a trip to Woodwell. We took the field path to Silverdale Green and then went along the cliff-top to Hollins lane before doubling back to Woodwell.

King Alfred’s Cakes on a dead tree trunk.

The jew’s ear fungus that we saw on Christmas Eve had dried to husks, but the oyster mushrooms were still there, if not looking quite as appetising as they had.

Woodwell pond was frozen over…

…and A and B enjoyed throwing stones at the ice, until B skewed one sideways and hit A on the head. I’ve been reading The Book of Idle Pleasures (a Christmas present from TBH) and breaking ice with sticks, stones or heels is one obvious omission – perhaps they’re planning a volume two.

We saw lots of other walkers out and about, but we had Woodwell to our selves until an old lady passed with her dog (we had passed her on the cliff-top too).

“Have you seen a heron?” she asked,”I saw one yesterday and the day before, but as soon as somebody walks up it flies away.”

We hadn’t, although we did see one near here on Christmas Eve fishing in a garden pond. However, as soon as she was gone, there it was wheeling around above the field next to Bottom’s Wood.

We found an old kettle in Bottom’s Wood…

…and wondered if anybody had been trialling stoves hereabouts. Doesn’t look very lightweight though.

Later, I headed back the same way on my own, but then continued to Heald Brow. It’s a National Trust property of open areas, rocky outcrops, thickets of thorny shrubs and some mature trees. The NT information board shows a single path looping round the area and back to the right of way, but in fact the area is criss-crossed by paths. Not having been here for a while, I took a tour. At the back of the field, where it abuts woodland, a buzzard dropped lazily out of a tree and with a couple of wingbeats was twenty yards further back in another tree. It didn’t stay there long enough for me to attempt a photo unfortunately, but was off again with a plaintive mewing call.

Frosty ant-hills at Heald Brow

I dropped down the steep bank to the salt marsh at the end of Quaker’s Stang and then walked beside Quicksand Pool to Jenny Brown’s Point where lots of ducks and waders were probing the mud of the bay. In fading light I returned by Jack Scout, Hollins Lane and the cliff-top path. Almost home, I heard the call of a tawny owl. It seemed close, perhaps in one of the oak trees behind the house. I stared hopefully into the darkness and the branches of the nearest tree, seeing nothing until, like the buzzard, the owl took to the wing. Within seconds it was swallowed up by the night.

Woodwell Two Times

Hutton Roof

Saturday was again cold and bright (and the weather has remained so despite forecasts to the contrary). With in-laws on hand to child-mind we had long planned to escape for a child free walk in the Lakes. Baby S had his own ideas, however and decided to stay awake most of the night, which meant that we took advantage of the opportunity to have a lie-in and a late breakfast. As a result we chose to stay closer to home and walked from Burton, starting just after midday.

We parked on Vicarage lane, which is the minor road heading for the hamlet of Dalton, and set of along the bridleway named on the OS map Slape Lane. The footpath sign at the beginning told us that we were heading for Burton Fell. Almost immediately we encountered a toposcope giving a guide to the Lakeland fells which were ranged before us. Despite their modest elevation the houses on the edge of the village here have a magnificent view, although it is somewhat marred by the proximity of Holme Park Quarry.

Slape Lane is a narrow path bounded on both sides by hedges. I would guess that it is a byway which has been in use for many, perhaps hundreds of years. About a kilometre along the path, another right of way leads of to the right, crosses a couple of fields and apparently just stops at the edge of a huge field marked on the map as both Pickles Wood and Lancelot Clark Storth. I had a strong feeling that this was a nature reserve and we decided to head that way since it seemed to offer an interesting route to the summit of Hutton Roof Crags. Where the right of way ended we didn’t find the half expected information board or map, but decided to chance it anyway. As it turns out, we found out later that  both this and the areas immediately north and south of it belong to the Hutton Roof Crags nature reserve. There is access to the large area of woodland marked on the map as Storth Wood and Dalton Crags form the road south of Dalton – something which I shall have to investigate in due course. On the east side of Hutton Roof Crags, the hillside and woodland around Cockshot Hill, which I have often admired from the right of way below them, has also been designated as access land.

We followed a good track up through the woods and emerging into more open ground were treated to excellent views. Although it was cold, it was also very still and sunny. We picked a likely spot and enjoyed an al fresco lunch.

Seasoned with fresh air and expansive views, a flask of tea, a cheese and chutney sandwich and a piece of my mother-in-laws Christmas Cake tasted finer than anything the lardi-da cafe at Skelwith Bridge (where we had intended to eat) could possibly have offered.

Paths seem to criss-cross the nature reserve and having stuck close to the north wall of Lancelot Clark Storth, we now picked up a path which crossed limestone pavements to the south east corner where a style gave access to the trig point.  At 274m, Hutton Roof Crags is the highest of the little limestone hills that surround the lower end of the river Kent and its tributaries. Like many small hills it has superb views and it has the added distinction of being a Marilyn.

The views of the Lakes are good but rather distant. Similarly the Bowland Fells. The best views are of the hills across the Lune valley:


Crag Hill, Great Coum and Gragareth

Calf Top and the Middleton Fells – which TBH pointed out look quite Croissant like – reminiscent of old volcanoes we climbed in the Auvergne.

Navigation on Hutton Roof crags can be surprisingly difficult. It has a topology quite unlike anywhere else I have been, with humps and hollows, limestone crags, and much of it heavily wooded with thickets of low thorny shrubs and brambles. The nearest comparison I can think of is trying to find your way on Kinder Scout, although that’s not a particularly helpful analogy.

Since TBH had not been here before (have I really not been here for 8 years?) we wanted to explore properly and so took the path that follows the wall down towards the village of Hutton Roof, before following another path through a larger example of the sort of dry valley that is common here. Many of the features here are named – Uberash Plain, the Rakes, Potslacks, Uberash Breast. Is this Blasterfoot Gap?

The trees growing from the cliff gave me another entry for the Crooked Tree Competition:

It was great to be out on a day with such clear blue skies – they are far and few between and normally when they arrive I always seem to be lamenting the fact that I’m stuck at work.

This short-cut brought us to the Limestone Link path (which runs from Kirby Lonsdale to Arnside). With shadows lengthening we followed that round to the road which runs through between Hutton Roof Crags and Farleton Fell.

A short stroll down the road brought us to the far end of Slape Lane which would take us back to Burton. Shortly before rejoining our outward route, we reentered the Hutton Roof Crags nature reserve…

and this time found an information board and a map:

I like the idea of including maps in my posts (but perhaps not with trees and me reflected in them).

As we neared Burton, the sun was setting…

…but not before lighting up some bramble leaves to fuel my latest obsession…

Hutton Roof

Transformational Magic

Managed to get out for brief forays in Eaves Wood on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day, which were both bright, sunny pleasant days, although Boxing Day was quite cold. Both walks began with my usual companion on foot rather than on my back:

He walks very quickly for a toddler, but does like to stop occasionally to examine a particularly fine patch of mud or to throw stones into puddles. And why not?

On Christmas Eve he climbed up the hill to the edge of the wood, but then tired and having retired to the carrier was soon asleep. Shortly after he dropped off, I noticed a beech leaf by the side of the path, held in an upright position by the other leaf litter, and catching the low-angled winter sun.

I was captivated…

…and snapped away…

Only a few weeks ago I was enjoying the woods made unfamiliar by fog, but here they were equally transformed by the magic of the light.

In strong light the bark of some trees really comes into its own, particularly Scots pine and birches, although these photos don’t manage to capture what it is that I see.

I was on the look out for more leaves catching the sun, and although I found them, none of them were quite so satisfying as the first. (But there are many experiences in life of which that is true!) The best that I found was an oak leaf…

However, whilst looking for backlit leaves, I noticed some fallen branches in a shady spot under a tree which seemed to be limned by flame. My first thought was that the dead branches still held some leaves and that they were catching the sunlight, but on closer inspection I found that it was papery bark peeling from the branches themselves.

We returned to the same spot on Christmas Day and, finding the same effect, it was only then that it occurred to me how lucky we were that in deep shade some light would filter through at just the right angle to create this spectacle.


For this walk S and I were joined by the rest of the clan.

And yes – one of our number was armed, armoured and in search of dragons to slay.

At three years old a wood can be a deeply magical place.

A can find her own way to the Pepper Pot and rushed on well ahead of the rest of us. ‘Are you lost?’ one party of walkers asked her.

Transformational Magic

Christmas Eve Strolls

To Woodwell…

…with the whole family, who looked out the geocache hidden nearby…

Just past the solstice, the woods hold symbols of both autumn…

Dog Rose leaves.

And the regeneration to come…

…with what are surely new leaves on some of the honeysuckle.

On the cliff-top path we found a log covered with oyster mushrooms. We’re quite partial to a bit of foraging, but elected to pass on this occasion. We also spotted more jew’s ear fungus, which is allegedly edible, but which I always choose to pass..

I hope that you have all been enjoying more appetising looking repast over the holidays!

In the afternoon we attended the Christingle service at the local church, much of the attraction of which is the sight of a packed church entirely lit by hand held candles. We walked home by candle light – the kids loved it. My camera has a ‘candle light’ setting, which produces a ‘Joseph Wright of Derby‘ effect…


Christmas Eve Strolls

Bonsor Mine

I didn’t get particularly far in my wanderings at Coniston, but I did walk up to the ruins of Bonsor mine a couple of times. The mine is above the youth hostel, alongside Red Dell Beck…

There are lots of shafts in the area, and the remnants of several buildings.

The crag across the Coppermines Valley is Kennel Crag, with Raven Tor lurking in the mist behind (the Coniston Old Man ridge is somewhere behind that).

This is a view across some of the ruins down to the spoil heaps around the hostel…

The mine entrance was dank, running with water, and blocked off after a few yards with sheets of corrugated iron.

Across the valley a cutting rounds Tongue Brow, staying remarkably level as it contours…

Following the cutting round its purpose soon becomes apparent…

…the sluice gate indicating that it must have carried water at some time between Bonsor and Paddy End by Levers Water Beck. At one point a tunnel has been created through a small crag. But why go to such effort when there is an abundant supply of water at either end?

Copper was mined in this valley from somewhere around 1590 and stopped in 1942. In very wet and windy conditions it was hard to imagine, but easy to sympathise with, the lives of the men who worked those mines.

Bonsor Mine

Coniston Coppermines

We had a long weekend away with old friends at Coniston Coppermines Youth Hostel. The weather wasn’t always great, but the company more than made up for that.

Maybe a howling gale outside provides the best conditions for catching up and celebrating another imminent Christmas together.

Some of the assembled crowd – none of whom are scruffy.

The kids were mostly content to play in the hostel. S is always happy if he has somebody else’s shoes to wear:

But we did all manage to get out for occasional bouts of fresh air. And if it rained quite a bit, well at least the streams were running high as a result.

This is Low Water Beck:

There are no end of mine workings in the area to investigate…

and on Monday the weather even brightened up very briefly…

You can see the rest of my photos here.

Coniston Coppermines


I often see squirrels on my walks, but they rarely sit still long enough for me to even get my lens cap off, never mind take a photo. Darren manages to get plenty of photos, I don’t know how – must be all the sitting still for brew stops.

When I noticed this chap at the base of an oak in a field by the Row, he was so still, and I was so far away, that I began to doubt my initial idea that it was a squirrel.

But not only did it pose for this shot, but after S shouted and it climbed the tree, it posed again in the bole.

I think that the acorns must have been just to good to be distracted from. It certainly looks like a well fed squirrel.


Vegetable Potential

In a brief window of opportunity on Sunday I took S out for a quick turn around the village, combining a fresh air fix with an errand by dropping off a birthday card for a friend on the Row.

Although It will be a few more weeks before I have been blogging for a year, I have a real sense of having come full circle, of having run through the seasons. This walk, although shorter, was very like the walk which I recounted in my first post. Everything was damp, especially the atmosphere. Familiar views had disappeared in a grey miasma. And yet I was struck by how much of interest there was still to see. Magpies and rooks flew from tree to tree, oystercatchers and curlews were probing the fields with their hooked beaks, wrens and robins hopped about the hedgerows. The hedges were once again festooned with droplets. Rather than focus on individual drops I tried to capture the overall effect of a prickly wall illuminated by tiny fairy-lights.

If nothing else the second picture captures the pervasive damp and gloom. But in the woods the beech saplings still have their leaves which seem almost orange in the absence of much other colour, and the evergreen of holly, yew, ivy and moss seemed all the greener in the low light.

A tree stump on which I found jew’s ear fungus on that January walk, now has fruiting bodies again. Of course the fungus was there in the wood all along, the mycelia invisibly feasting on its host, biding its time. I have that same sense about the countryside round about generally. It is coiled. Brimming with potential. All of the changes and events that will follow in the next cycle of seasons, and that I will  witness in the next year of walking and gawking, are already present. Biding their time. A vegetable energy coded into the landscape.

It’s really quite exciting.

Vegetable Potential


The word ‘temple’ comes from the root ‘tem’, to cut – a forest clearing. The inspiration of those who made civilisation’s first temples and churches all over the world, was the forest. You can see it in the pillars, the arched roofs, the decorated ceilings. For the gods walk in the forest. If you walk in alone, deep into the heart, you will feel their presence. They speak in the terrible silence. You may walk through the trees, down the naves, and suddenly, in this place of massive trunks, great brooding boughs, and below this spreading green canopy, you are about the altar. And you are really alone. Alone as a person in pain, or close to death. You do not quite know why this is the place. This glade of all glades.  But you are suddenly an intruder. You walked into it the master of your fate. You had a purpose. You suddenly forget what it was.For a voice says, ‘Be still’. And if you have the courage to heed, and wait, you will be on the brink of knowing.

A forest has depth. You walk through woodland. You walk into a forest. A hundred doors close behind. A hundred open up before. You are engulfed in an environment just as free and natural as the sea shore, or the mountain peak. There are three things that cut a man down to size – the sea, the mountain, and the forest. And there are three journeys that can make towards self-knowledge, and to glimpse the immense reality of life – down to the sea, up to the mountains, or into the wilderness. But you must leave as much as possible behind.

Strange how these things happen isn’t it? I have been meaning to post these passages from John Wyatt’s The Shining Levels for some time but on the day that I finally get round to it, I find that they could almost be companion pieces to the quotes from Herman Hesse that Solitary Walker has posted.