New Barns on New Year’s Day

I don’t generally make new year’s resolutions, although I know that I ought to take a leaf out of Walkloss‘s book (or a post from her blog?) and make some kind of commitment to tackle my ‘wobbly bits’ . Another blog that I’m just catching up with – A natural history of Runswick Bay seems to be about one man’s deep engagement with the environment on his doorstep. Now…why does that sound familiar?

In a similar vein, I’ve been reading About Scout Scar by Jan Wiltshire and as a result I’m now itching to go back there to see whether I can find the fieldfares and redstarts, the scarlet elf cup and the autumn gentians that she has clearly regularly seen there (but which have passed me by on my visits). It’s as if she has mastered the jizz not just of the individual species but of the entire landscape.

As I say, I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but this last week an idea has germinated which might give me a new year plan…or a blog project. For many years I have harboured a vague ambition to follow the river Kent from sea to source. It’s a very short river – a couple of days would easily suffice. How satisfying to begin on a Saturday morning on the tidal mud of the estuary and to finish on the Sunday afternoon high above Kentmere on the slopes of High Street. But the fact is, on the odd occasion that I have a weekend all to myself, I shall be heading straight to the hills with old friends and not exploring the banks of the Kent.

So I have decided to try to tackle the Kent piecemeal. A series of walks, progressing up stream, probably circular, taking in a section of river bank and hopefully a nearby hill or view point. Once the requirement to fit the whole thing in to a weekend has gone, all sorts of possibilities open up. Both sides of the river could be explored. When the Kent is done, there would be the tributaries to consider, the Sprint, Mint, Gilpin, Bela, and Pool. After all the idea that a river has a single source is a ridiculous contrivance. In fact, there are very few stretches of the Kent which I have not walked beside or near to at some time over the years – this way I should also break some new ground.

With that end in mind, we began the new year by driving the short distance to New Barns near Arnside for our first family stroll of 2009. Yesterday was foggy and bitterly cold, with some flurries of snow. With the blue sky and winter sunshine returned, we could see as we approached Arnside, that the fog had left its mark: the woods on Arnside Knot were white with hoarfrost.

My plan had been to climb from New Barns up to Heathwaite, to follow the permission path from there down to White Creek and thus to start our perusal of the Kent by turning the corner from Morecambe Bay and walking the lower tidal reaches of the river. However, when we arrived at New Barns, the tide was out, and it seemed more sensible to do the route in reverse and enjoy walking on the mud and sand whilst we could.

There was ice everywhere, and A and B had soon discovered that the mud was unusually firm, although in places it still gave way and started sucking greedily at our boots.

We had a fabulous day here back in April and today was equally enjoyable, if a lot colder. There was ice everywhere. The retreating tide had left it in large sheets, isolated blocks like tiny icebergs and sinuous curves…

…which were great to follow.

There were ripple patterns of ice and sand…

…tiny rose ice sculptures..

…hoar frost on driftwood…

…and sea weed.

One bank of a stream was sheeted with ice…

…which on closer inspection was composed of long needles and delicate layered wafers of ice…

In some smaller hollows in the sand, ice had formed in some surprising ways, following the contours of the hollow for instance rather than freezing as a flat sheet, or freezing into discrete spikes…

And it wasn’t just the idiot with the camera who was enthused by the ice. The kids were finding that they could slide on it, stamp on it…

…chuck it around.

And after we discovered some icicles on the cliffs…

…they gleefully decided to feast on it.

“Suck this Dad, it’s delicious.”

B was all for collecting some to take home to store in the fridge.

This is an area that I always love to visit. There’s a great feeling of space and freedom here, and a wildness on the fringes of the wet Sahara of Morecambe Bay.

White Creek

In the end, we spent so much time playing with the ice that we decided to take a shortcut back to the car through the caravan park at White Creek. Heathwaite shall have to wait for another day. And although we walked ‘the wrong way’, downstream, this seems like an auspicious beginning to my modest project. One advantage of taking in both sides of the river will be the excuse to explore Meathop Fell…

…on the north side of the estuary, which I am only really acquainted with from afar.

In all, a good first step.

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New Barns on New Year’s Day

8 thoughts on “New Barns on New Year’s Day

  1. beatingthebounds says:

    Thank you both.

    I think that my journey up the Kent will be slow to mature – walks and posts may be far and few between – but since I see it as an exploration with no particular destination that doesn’t seem too important.

  2. Tony says:

    Pictures are great, enough to make me shiver just lucking at them. Our walk was much tamer, along the Med to see people taking the plunge then a cup of coffee in a beach side restaurant.

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