Eckchen

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…

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Eckchen

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…

…celandines…

…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

Tadpoles and Bullfinches

A bit late with this one…

On Easter Monday we took a family walk (9 of us) to the Wolfhouse Gallery for lunch. It was warm and sunny and we were able to sit outside to eat. Actually, we always sit outside whatever the weather or season, so that the kids can play on the swings, slide and climbing frame, but on this occasion it was a pleasure to do so.

We walked there via Woodwell and found the pond full of life…

Something lurking…

Tadpoles!

And lots of ’em!

By the pond the golden saxifrage was flowering…

And in the woods below the cliff, the first bluebells I’ve seen flowering this year.

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Later in the week, the pair of bullfinches were back on the feeders. This time they were much less skittish and stayed on the feeder for quite some time. The male was pretty coy and always kept the feeder between us, but I had a good chance to photograph his drabber companion…

It seems to me that bullfinches nearly always come in pairs – are they proverbial for there fidelity and loyalty? Or are they just serial monogamists?

Tadpoles and Bullfinches

…And Back

During our wander round to Arnside, it struck me that over of the last year or so, some of our most memorable days have been spent walking to, from or in the vicinity of Arnside. I was thinking of the time that we were briefly marooned at New Barns by a very high tide, around a year ago. Or the bright cold walk along the estuary which kick started 2009, or my weekend hostelling trip last summer. The common factors of these outings, apart from location, are sunny weather and my daughter A. On our present trip she had early decided that she wanted to walk home from Arnside even though that was not part of our original plan. I had told her that she could, expecting that she would tire, or that her resolve would crumble when she saw others setting off in the car, but I underestimated her. I was doubly surprised that she stuck to her guns when everybody else decided to take the easy option. So just the two of us for the return journey then…

We climbed up through the Ashmeadow estates grounds. There are permission paths around the grounds which we haven’t explored properly – we must come back for a better look soon. A was very impressed with the information board about the wooded grounds and praised the detail and colour of the map on the board. She had clearly taken careful note because as we passed picnic tables and a wooden arch she said: “They were on the map Dad, it’s like the map is coming to life.”

A steep climb up Redhill Road was rewarded with excellent views and cowslips on the verge. We climbed through Redhill Wood and onward across the open field on the north side of Arnside Knot, A talking ten to the dozen, me saving my breath for the climb.

As I have said before, Arnside Knot is an Insignificant Hill with Disproportionately Magnificent Views. Hills that we had glimpsed form the estuary could now be seen in their place and be more easily identified. In particular, a hill seen quite prominently from near White Creek, which I had thought might be Fairfield, I could now see was Stoney Cove Pike, with Wansfell below it.

Looking over the Kent Estuary and Cartmel Fell to the Coniston Fells

Over the viaduct. Stoney Cove Pike above Whitbarrow on the right. Fairfield very prominent right of centre. Hellvelyn in the centre. Distant Skiddaw, just visible through Dunmail Raise left of centre.

Howgill Fells

I have a hare-brained scheme for an Arnside Knot Skyline long distance route taking in all of the hills which create a horizon from the Knot. It would be pretty challenging and very eccentric – Black Combe, Caw, all of Lakelands higher fells, the Howgills, the hills along the fringes of the Dales including Ingleborough, the Forest of Bowlands northern rim, but then taking in Snowdonia somehow too, since I have seen the hills of North Wales from here (but only once).

Maybe A will walk it with me one day. She does enjoy reaching a summit…

She also has an amazing memory and wanted to pose on these exposed beech tree roots for the simple reason that she did the same when we passed this way last summer.

As we emerged from the woods on the Knot it was evident that big changes are afoot in Middlebarrow wood…

Where all of the alien conifers have been felled…

Leaving some very tall and spindly trees, mostly birches, and some more substantial yews. Hopefully, this is the first step in a process of restoring more natural woodland.

We passed Arnside Tower Farm, where a very growly dog upset A.

And then Arnside Tower itself…

The blackthorn has been flowering for a while, but climbing through the wooded fringes of Holgates we were passed through a tunnel of spiky bushes and were struck by the very strong scent of the flowers…

In a small open glade a peacock butterfly fluttered past. I’m not generally very successful in photographing butterflies and this one was too fast for me. We waited a while and two or three more passed through. Eventually one sat still long enough…

“You can’t beat a butterfly Dad”

Nope. Nor can you beat a sunny day and a walk in good company.

…And Back

Easter Sunday walk to Arnside…

A glorious warm, sunny day, much like the day before. We left a car at Arnside and then set off from home to walk there via the coast. ‘We’ was TBH, A, B, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, the Doctors A and S. Baby S stayed at home with his grandparents, since he wouldn’t want to be carried, and the walk was too far for him. (And he could enjoy the undivided attention of his grandparents and be spoiled rotten.)

We began with an ascent of Castlebarrow, where A remembered the location of the geocache and gleefully shared that knowledge with the uninitiated members of the party. Dr A recounted participating in a colleague’s project which involved tracking the movements of a study group using wrist worn GPS. Apparently he got some funny looks on the tube since people thought that he was electronically tagged. This sounds like the same sort of thing that Google offer using your mobile phone. Why anyone would want to have their every movement monitored is beyond me. I’m put in mind of a remark by Borges to the effect that God can understand the locus of a man in the same way that we can grasp a simple geometrical shape.

From Castlebarrow we left Eaves Wood, crossed Holgates Caravan Park and then a couple of fields to Far Arnside. The small camp site at Hollins Farm had spread into several additional fields for the bank holiday weekend. Presumably evidence of the much touted new popularity of British camping holidays in the face of flaky sterling. Through Holgates’ annexe and into the woods. This section of woods is the best locally for daffodils, but this year we have missed them at their best – most were looking a little dried up and sad. The path drops down to the shore – we sat on the shingle for an early picnic stop. Well – the adults in the party did. A and B were far too busy exploring, clambering on the rocks and throwing stones.

A found some substantial pieces of drift wood…

From which her uncle created a sculpture…

Whilst we lunched, a coastguard hovercraft sped across the Morecambe bay mudflats…

…and stopped close by…

…to warn some other walkers that the tide would shortly come rushing up this modest channel and might cut them off. We know this because the little family group paddled back across the channel and told us. My first encounter was with their dog which leapt up and left my shorts liberally covered in wet mud. ‘She’s always doing that, she’s a nuisance’. To which there are many obvious rejoinders, all of which I swallowed since experience suggests that people who can’t control their dogs (or indeed their kids) are very rarely grateful for pithily expressed advice.

Gazing out into the bay, it was possible to make out a bore rushing along the main river channel to the north.

The kids had discovered a much larger piece of driftwood, which they had christened ‘the bridge’, and were having great fun balancing across it.

Naturally we adults felt compelled to join in. The Doctors decided to cross in opposite directions…

….which inevitably led to difficulties in the middle…

We rejoined the cliff-top path. A commented on the coconut scent of gorse flowers.

I remember photographing this same bush last year under very different conditions.

A little further along the path, I met an old colleague, now retired and looking very well on it. As we talked the bore that the coastguard had warned of passed, expanding the channel most impressively. As is often the case a couple of sea birds rode in on the first wave. Later we would see Kayakers doing the same thing. Are the seabirds simply enjoying themselves in the same way that the Kayakers are?

As we rounded the corner towards White Creek, we dropped down on to the sands.

From here it’s possible to follow the river all the way into Arnside, but with the tide rising fast we decided to cross the salt marsh with its many pools…

…to White Creek and take the shortcut from there to New Barns. In the wooded caravan park at White Creek, the anemones were basking in the sun…

 

At New Barns, just as had been the case when we visited this time last year, a mole catcher had been at work, and had left gruesome evidence of his efficiency…

It’s very sad that it seems likely that this is the only way I shall ever see these shy creatures.

From New Barns we took to the riverside again. This enabled me to add a short stretch of the river Kent that we missed in our visits earlier in the year. From the field by Grubbins Wood, I heard a strident, unfamiliar song and after a little searching amongst the riverside trees, found the culprit.

We often see Nuthatches on our garden feeders, but they never stay long enough to be photographed. This one posed for several shots, of which this was my favourite since it was caught mid-song. You can hear the song here.

The footpaths had been busy, as might be expected on a sunny bank holiday weekend. As we approached Arnside we passed several fishermen – we watched one land a fluke. There were also a few dinghies out on the estuary enjoying the high tide and the stiffening breeze…

I used to do a little dinghy sailing with my Dad when I was a kid. I must work out how to share that pleasure with my own nippers short of forking out for a boat.

The tide, although not at its highest point, was well in, and the wet muddy condition of the path suggested that there may have been some very high tides of late.

We arrived at Arnside prom, and the the car, at the same time as another Coastguard vehicle – this time an amphibian thing with caterpillar tracks, much to B’s delight.

We sat on the promenade and enjoyed a well earned ice-cream.

Easter Sunday walk to Arnside…