In town on my lunch break today, I couldn’t resist browsing one of the book stalls in the street market. I picked up a copy of ‘The Common Ground’ by Richard Mabey. I’ll read anything of his and this is one I haven’t seen before. It’s a litle unusual in that it was commissioned by the Nature Conservancy Council. I may report more when I get round to reading it. I have an ever expanding backlog of unread second hand books. What a luxury. I have several books on the go at present and a number of passages mentally noted as pertinent to this blog.

This is from ‘Sea Room’ by Adam Nicolson, which tells the story of the Shiants, three islands in the Hebrides which he was given by his Father:

In the autumn of 1765, Rousseau went to live on the tiny Ile St Pierre, set in the Lac de Bienne in northern Switzerland….He botanised with patience and care and had a plan to write a book about this most precious and protected place. People might mock, he thought, but love of place can only attend to minute particulars. ‘They say a German once composed a book about a lemon-skin,’ he later wrote. ‘I could have written one about every grass in the meadows, every moss in the woods, every lichen covering the rocks.’

I was out for a brief walk this evening across the Lots to the Cove. The sun was setting, although it wasn’t as dark as the first photo above suggests. TBH and I had seen the early purple orchids on our last visit, but it had been very dark then. They are taller now. And growing in great profusion…

…with a few cowslips thrown in for good measure. Shakespeare apparently referred to these orchids as ‘long purples’ which is entirely appropriate. I don’t know why my camera insists in rendering them as pink.

No post about a walk to the cove would be complete without a photo of this view…

…of which I shall never tire. Here’s Rousseau again on the Ile St Pierre:

I was able to spend scarcely two months on that island, but I would have spent two years, two centuries and the whole of eternity without becoming bored with it for a moment.

In Eaves Wood on Sunday I noticed that the Ramson flowers were beginning to emerge. Today, in the wood at my back on the cliff-top and on the verges on Cove Road, they were in full flower.

I must soon fit in a visit to Bottoms Wood, which is carpeted with Ramsons, to drink in the spectacle and the garlic stench.

Whilst I was admiring the view, two black-headed gulls noisily chased the almost inevitable heron. I couldn’t see whether the heron had a fish, but I imagine that was why they were in pursuit.

Another exciting recent find on the book front was ‘Journey through Love’ by John Hillaby. I’m slowly collecting all of his books. I picked this one up at the marvelous Carnforth Book Shop over Easter. I haven’t started reading it properly but I did dip into the first chapter and found this…

Goethe says that in order to understand the world or, as he puts it, to comprehend the power of nature, it’s necessary to select an Eckchen, a small corner of it for contemplation.

And finally from tonight’s walk, something which I wasn’t expecting to see in this particular small corner of the world…


Country Life and Caudale Moor

Uncle Fester, the ginger whinger, an old Manchester mucker came up for a flying visit yesterday evening. We saw Show of Hands at the Brewery Arts in Kendal. Folk music. But very good none the less. Aran sweaters weren’t obligatory, and nobody was seen to sing with a finger in their ear. Incidentally, Show of Hands were excellent and are still touring – well worth a punt if you get a chance to see them. They’re in Hull tomorrow night apparently. I’ve embedded a video at the bottom of the post if you want to get a flavour of their songs.

Over a post gig beer we discussed possibilities for a walk today. It had to be reasonably short because I had to be able to get back and do some parenting this afternoon. We had a few ideas but a lunch break on Stony Cove Pike was favourite. This is a walk that UF and I have used when time was short before. By parking at the top of the Kirkstone Pass it’s possible to climb a relatively high hill with minimal effort and time needed.

Stony Cove Pike and Thornthwaite Crag.

I was pleased with our choice for a further reason: on Easter Sunday as we walked along the Kent estuary into Arnside we could see a hill to the North East and my brother-in-law asked me what it was. I didn’t know, but tried to convince him, and myself, that it might be Fairfield with Seat Sandal below it. I doubt if he was very convinced – I wasn’t, but I couldn’t think of another hill in that direction which would be so bulky. It was only later, as A and I climbed Arnside Knot and I could see it again in the context of the hills around it, that I realised that it was Caudale Moor with Wansfell in front and below it. How satisfying then to have a chance to climb it just a fortnight later.

Although the cloud was high, it was exceptionally hazy. We had a reasonable view from the top over the Langdale Pikes to Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, the Scafells and Great Gable. The hills around Patterdale and Kentmere were also seen to good advantage. But the clarity of those views was not what it might have been. And more distant views were absent altogether. It seemed odd to be on Stony Cove Pike on a day of high cloud and not be able to see Morecambe Bay.

Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke

The walking was pleasant with the air full of the sound of skylarks. Once they stop singing and plummet to the ground they are pretty hard to spot.

Can you pick one out here?

The walk was a simple one – up the hill, butties behind a wall on the top, back down the same way. As we returned to the car we seemed to be on the edge of a weather system – to the north Brother’s Water and Place Fell were sunlit, to the south the sky was brooding and dark. In fact just after we reached the car and set off towards home it began to rain and we saw flashes of lightening.

So – a short but enjoyable romp. And three more Birketts ticked off – Caudale Moor, Stony Cove Pike (yes they are pretty much the same hill) and St. Raven’s Edge. That’s eleven now from my arbitrary target of seventeen for the year. Wainwright is more miserly and we only get one tick for his list.

Country Life and Caudale Moor

Heron Sunset

On Monday evening, TBH and I made the most of a final evening of baby-sitting grand-parents and got out for another ‘stomp’ to a haven of peace and tranquility. A heron was silhouetted and reflected in the channel again, like some prehistoric fisherman.

The tide was coming in, but the tide was only beginning to flow upstream and was gentle and calm, in keeping with the evening and not at all like the cross-currents, tidal bore and rips that can arrive with the incoming tide.

The remnants of the sunset was a subtle wash of pastel shades reflected in the mirror water.

The Lots were resplendent with a tiny forest of early purple orchids, which will have to wait for better light conditions before playing a starring role in their own post!

Heron Sunset

As Much Stopping As Walking

On Sunday afternoon my Dad and I managed to get out for an hour for a wander through Pointer Wood, Clark’s Lot, Burton Well Wood and Lambert’s Meadow. Like the walk that Rob commented on from a recent post, this walk was ‘as much stopping as walking’. Dad was a very patient companion and helped me find likely subjects, then waited whilst I crawled around looking for the right angles.

Part of the reason for heading this way was that I expected to find cowslips. They were flowering, but they were diminutive.

Still, worth seeking out.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the fact that the early purple orchids would be flowering too.

In Pointer Wood a wide gryke on the edge of the limestone pavement was spectacularly full of primroses.

In amongst them my dad spotted this…

…which is a primula seeded from a garden, or a natural variation?

I noticed this tall slim tree a few weeks ago when I visited with baby S.

It seemed to me that it might be a gean, or wild cherry, but at the time the only clue I had was the bark…

I made a mental note to come back and see it flowering to confirm my suspicions. It seems to me that it’s very tall for a cherry, but it is now flowering. In fact behind it there is a second cherry, equally tall, also flowering. Because of their height most of the flowers were high above us…

…but there were some closer to hand…

From Burton Well a tiny stream flows into Lambert’s meadow. Where a bridge crosses the stream it widens slightly into a small pool…

In and around the pool marsh marigolds…

…were flowering…

We spotted several of these emerging from the pool…

Any suggestions as to what it is?

The surface of the pond was busy with pond-skaters, which were tracked by interesting light-rimmed shadows on the pond floor a few inches beneath.

I have a vague idea that this has something to do with the way that water effects light, but I’m afraid that I don’t really grasp the science. I was once gain reminded of the dark blobs and brightly coloured complex boundaries of the standard depiction of the Mandelbrot set. The pond floor was also covered in a criss-cross web of tracks left by a little community of pond snails, which being roughly the same colour as the mud were hard to see and even harder to photograph.

The rest of the meadow was liberally dotted with cuckoo flowers…

…which look small and white even from near by, but have a rather splendid pink pattern on close acquaintance.

On Bottoms Lane, these tall weeds flourish, which I haven’t got round to identifying yet…

The flowers are hardly spectacular; I prefer the downy unopened flower buds…

Finally, in Hagg Wood, one of those scenes in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. For once, I’m reasonably happy with the photograph…

The path through the flower strewn woods leading towards the afternoon sun. What this picture doesn’t quite show is that amongst the abundant wood anemones are bluebells, and that some of the white anemones, having more recently opened, are still attractively tinged with pink…

As Much Stopping As Walking

Kendal Castle

Yet another fine sunny morning. We had an hour to kill before lunch at the Brewery Arts Centre and a theatre trip for TBH, A and B. What better way to spend that hour than a walk on Castle Hill and a wander around the ruins of Kendal Castle.

A and B were very excited and had run ahead and begun to explore before we joined them. S also ran but his little legs don’t generate much speed and he had to settle for bringing up the rear with his grandparents.

According to the information boards dotted around the castle it was built in the early thirteenth century and was occupied by the Barons of Kendal until it was abandoned in 1597. Katherine Parr who was Henry VIII’s last wife was from Kendal Castle.

Although it’s ruined the castle has plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.

After following their granddad onto this tower…


…the children decided that it was a dungeon and had soon imagined that they were prisoners there…

We climbed every available staircase and examined every extant room…

Troutbeck Tower

…and then walked around the moat to view the battlements from there.

There was more ivy-leaved toadflax growing on the walls. Also this…

which might be maidenhair fern.

Castle Hill is all of 93m, but none the less, like most castles, Kendal Castle is a fine vantage point with views over Kendal and on a clearer day of the hills of the lake District.

It’s also possible to pick out some of the road bridges over the Kent as it passes through Kendal – a reminder of unfinished business.

You can find more (better) pictures, including an aerial one, and some history of the Castle here.

Kendal Castle

Two Stomps

It’s not so much what you see as what you are seeped in.

Alice Oswald

This quotation comes form a review in the Guardian. I have to confess that I originally read it as:

It’s not so much what you see as what you are steeped in.

Which I prefer. Perhaps it was a typical Grauniad misprint. Either way I can see that at some point I shall have to investigate Alice Oswald’s poetry.

The last couple of evenings, with the light lasting that bit longer, and with my parents visiting, TBH and I have been able to get out for an hour or so for ‘a quick stomp’. On Friday night we climbed up the Pepper Pot and then walked along the spine of the hill before heading back down through the trees. The light was generally too low for photographs, but we were rewarded by the remnants of the sunset which we had missed – soft fat cumulus clouds turning purple in the darkness but with their edges glowing pink with the last rays of the vanished sun.

Last night we were even later and photos were out of the question. TBH was frustrated by my inability to stomp as fast as she would like, but at the Cove even she was content to stop for a while and take it in. The sky was cloudless and deep blue rimmed with an orange glow. The channel in the bay was quicksilver bright by contrast with all around it. Silhouetted against that mirror surface the distinctive angular form of a heron, stalking patiently and as we watched striking into the shallows with its rapier beak. Did it catch something – I thought perhaps it had, but in the half-light it was hard to tell. We watched it continue to fish. Bats flickered around us in the unseasonly still, mild air. Two crows cawed from the trees above us on the cliff-top. Pure magic.

Sycamore leaves bursting from their bud.

Two Stomps

A Thousand Unimagined Pleasures

With a little free time yesterday afternoon, I decided to head off in the general direction of the Pepper Pot. I stepped out of the front door to be regaled by this blackbird. He was too busy singing to mind me taking a few photos. In fact he was still there warning off all-comers when I returned just over an hour later. And what an hour it was, packed with interest and incident. This is W.H. Hudson writing about getting to know the South Downs:

No sooner had I begun to walk on and to know and to grow intimate with them than I found they had a thousand unimagined pleasures… – a pleasure for every day and every hour, and for every step, since it was a delight simply to walk on that elastic turf and to breathe that pure air.

W.H. Hudson Nature In Downland

I was intent on Eaves Wood, but I found plenty to distract me before I got there. The verge on the corner of Elmslack Lane was peppered with flowers…

…honesty, forget-me-nots, dandelions, daffodils, celandines and blackthorn nearby in the hedge. Each is beautiful in its own right, but what I enjoyed, and what is much more difficult to capture in a photograph is the overall impression – the total picture formed by the juxtaposition of colours and forms.

Garlic mustard…


…and dandelions…

…were all flowering in the hedge bottoms.

Whilst in the hedge itself new sycamore leaves were unfurling like creased, leathery dragon’s wings…

This is yellow archangel…

…which is a native plant, although this variegated variety must be a garden escapee.

On the drystone wall behind – the tiny flowers of ivy-leaved toadflax…

…which is not native, but which grows without interference or assistance on lots of the drystone walls in the area.

Green alkanet…

…is another naturalised plant, which flourishes on many verges and in tucked away spots…

At the edge of the wood, bluebells…

…beginning to open. The dog mercury is also in flower. Not the most prepossessing of plants, it is however ubiquitous in local woods, and I decided to try to capture its essence for this blog. I took several photos, none particularly successful, but whilst I was messing about, I spotted this specimen on the dog’s mercury…


I was most excited. I received the Collins Complete British Insects for Christmas and here was a first opportunity to use it in anger. Apparently, this is a green shield bug – “unlike any of our other shield bugs”. “This bug usually darkens before hibernation and may be deep bronze in late autumn.”.

He was very agile and I followed him as he began a journey through the dog’s mercury..

Meanwhile the violets have been flowering for a while…

A large and rather haphazard nest  in a tall  and slender tree was penduluming back and forth in the strong breeze.

Intrigued, I abandoned the path and followed a slender trod uphill hoping to get a close look at the nest. In fact I soon lost sight of the nest, but I did find this discarded ready-cooked pancake…

…which was actually some kind of fungus.

Amongst the more mature beeches, little light gets through and the floor is generally carpeted with old beech leaves, here thrown into some relief by the cuckoo pint leaves growing through the leaf litter…

The point in the year when the new beech leaves appear is a special one. For just a few days the leaves are soft, limp and downy. If the sun shines they even shed a lemon light in the woods.

Almost immediately, the leaves begin to darken and toughen up on their journey to becoming the long-lasting brown husks which on saplings and low branches will cling to the branch through an entire winter (known as marcescence apparently). On the full-sized version of this picture the detail of the patterns within the leaves is quite impressive. It’s possible to imagine that somehow the secret structure of the leaves is revealed.

Cuckoo pint flower.

A Thousand Unimagined Pleasures