I closed the front door behind me without any clear idea of where I was going. I was spoilt for choice. For a while I’ve wanted to head for Trowbarrow quarry to examine some fossil remains which I have recently read about. But I didn’t want to take the car, and probably didn’t have enough light to get there and back on foot. Then again, I need to get back to Lambert’s Meadow to check on the progress of the Horse-tails or Mare’s-tails growing in the stream there. Or, with a newly acquired tele-convertor on my camera, perhaps I should make for the Cove to try to capture a better image of my friend The Inevitable Heron. In the end, my feet led me across the field towards Stankelt Lane – in the wrong direction for any of those options. Perhaps my feet knew more than they were letting on.
I noticed that the holly growing by the wall was flowering – not something I think I’ve ever particularly noticed before. TBH had already been out for a post putting the kids to bed stroll, so I had a late start, but it’s getting to that magical time of year when the sun doesn’t desert us for long each night, and I still had some fine evening sunshine at least for the beginning of my walk. I’d been impressed by the way that sort of golden evening light had been captured by Colin, on his own local patch, and hoped to achieve something similar…
Maybe next time then. Always good to have a challenge on the go. Or a few challenges.
Nearby the mayflower was opening on a hawthorn, although most weren’t quite there…
I’ve noticed a few swallows and martins on my evening rounds of late, but a pair of swifts flashing overhead were my first for the year. Anyone who had the good fortune of watching my antics trying to photograph them will have had a real hoot as I lent back, pointed my camera skywards and waved dizzily around trying to keep up with their dashing flight. Obviously, I didn’t get even a blurred photo for my troubles.
As I crossed Stankelt road, a woodpecker alighted high on the trunk of a horse chestnut…
By now a plan had formulated and I took the path through Pointer Wood and Clark’s Lot towards Hazelwood.
Pointer Wood was underlaid with ransoms as you can see. In Clark’s Lot the many hawthorns were bedecked with fully open blossom, perhaps more advanced because of the relatively sheltered position.
From Hollins lane I watched a buzzard wheeling and quartering. I had lost the sun now, but he was bathed in a ruddy glow and frankly seemed to be enjoying it.
Fleagarth Wood is even more spectacularly colonised by ransoms then either Pointer Wood or Bottoms Wood.
I paused to listen to a birdsong – a single repeated note which I thought sounded something like a greenfinch, but perhaps more throaty and insistent. I didn’t spot the songster, but was rewarded with the haunting calls of an owl. I’m making very slow progress in my attempts to master identifying birdsong, but I have just ‘got’ chaffinch. I was walking up our drive last week, listening to a liquid song, not the equal of a robin or a blackbird, but reasonably musical. The song finished with a single rasping note that immediately reminded me of a greenfinch song. I bet that’s a chaffinch I thought and waited until I found the soloist in the branches of a lime. It was, and since then I’ve heard the same song many times, and have often been able to confirm that it is a chaffinch singing. Now that I know what to listen for, it seems extraordinary that I’ve never differentiated the song of this very common bird before.
The path from Fleagarth Wood down to the salt marshes is a good place to walk when the hawthorns are flowering. There are several here grown from shrubs into small trees. Even the hawthorn almost entirely smothered by ivy had blossom poking through. The woods near the top of Warton Crag were washed with the glow of an unseen sunset.
By quicksand pool…
I faffed about trying, Quixotically, to photograph the small groups of black-headed gulls flying past, or the oystercatchers, shelduck and, I think, teal, by the pool itself. Clearly with the extra zoom afforded by my new lens I shall need more light, or indeed some light, to get sharp images.
On the road near Jenny Brown’s point a blackbird with a beak full of worms hopped about seemingly unperturbed by my presence.
On the cliff-tops at Jack Scout, with the shelter of a slight rise behind me, I was out of the biting east wind for the first time. A large flock of gulls by the opening to the small cove at Cow’s Mouth were raising a cacophony, but when they moved they left a sudden stillness. I heard the plash of a shelduck landing in a channel, I thought that I could hear the mud of the bay – although that seems a little crazy now.
In that soft pale light, with pools drops of mercury on the bay and the wet mud catching the orange afterglow rimming the cloudless sky, I felt at peace, enormously contented.
Huge crane flies rose gently skywards like improbable alien spacecraft, apparently impervious to the gusty wind. On the northern horizon the distinctive outline of the Coniston fells, where I walked at the weekend, stood out clear as day. I wanted to catch every detail: the drifting daddy-longlegs, the wind stunted trees silhouetted on the headland beyond Cow’s Mouth, the grass seed heads on the cliff edge…
And this I realised, is what I miss about wild-camping. The absence of any deadlines or imperatives to move on. The ability to chose a resting spot at any time, on any whim. I wished that I had a good sleeping bag, a bivvy bag and a stove with me, and that I could hunker down and wait for the returning sun to gently wake me.
As I turned and climbed back into the wind, heading for the bat filled lane past Gibraltar Farm and home, I was serenaded from the depths of a dark thicket by what must have been the Paganini of the blackbird world. A virtuoso performance of tumbling riffs and trills, which unusually, no other blackbird chose to challenge.
An evening to treasure.