Autumnal Images

The rowan in our garden has no leaves left at all and yet I find that I haven’t posted any autumn leaf pictures. The following pictures then are gleaned from two walks in Eaves Wood earlier in the week. The first quite a long one with A, B and my friend Uncle Fester…

B is grasping the Pepperpot geocache in his mitt and is about to initiate Uncle Fester into the joys of caching. Uncle Fester was on the first of two flying visits to see bands – Nine Below Zero and Show of Hands again. This was the second time that we’ve seen Nine Below Zero at the Kendal Brewery Arts Centre and it confirmed our suspicion that Nine Below Zero fans – at least in the Kendal area – are very tall. How odd.


Different leaves decay in quite different ways, for instance the black spots peculiar to sycamore. Oak on the other hand turn brown around the margins, and yellow within that brown border, leaving a green area within the yellow. Once they’re completely browned and fallen they seem to have a waterproof property – on a wet day when other leaves are glossy with damp and are sticking together in great papery lumps, oak leaves still retain their individual status, their shape and the seemingly unique property of collecting water droplets…

Sometimes it’s the colour of a single leaf which stands out…

Or it’s shape, size or situation.

Sometimes it’s the general colour all around..

Of course, there’s more than leaves to look at. There’s been a lot of fungi in the wood this autumn – mostly I haven’t photographed it or remarked upon it here, but here’s one odd looking one which I did take a picture of…

This one has to go in (despite the poor focus) because it comes as close as I’ve managed to come in my search for heart-shapes in nature.

And there, for now, I shall leave it, except to append this quote from G.K.Chesterton, encountered, like E.V.Lucas, in the pages of ‘Modern Prose’, from an essay ‘A Defence of Nonsense’ which begins by favourably comparing Edward Lear with Lewis Carroll, but then, as so often (or always?) with Chesterton, moves on to matters spiritual.

Religion has for centuries been trying to make men exult in the “wonders” of creation, but it has forgotten that a thing cannot be completely wonderful so long as it remains sensible. So long as we regard a tree as an obvious thing, naturally and reasonably created for a giraffe to eat, we cannot properly wonder at it. It is when we consider it as a prodigious wave of the living soil sprawling up to the skies for no reason in particular that we take off our hats, to the astonishment of the park-keeper.

It was the idea of a tree ‘as a prodigious wave of the living soil sprawling up to the skies’ which first stuck in my memory, but on reflection there’s lots here to admire – the choice of the not at all reasonable giraffe as an example, and the image of pompous, mustachioed Edwardian gents doffing their hats to city park trees. The sentiment’s an interesting one too, whether you agree or not.

This simple sense of wonder at the shapes of things, and at their exuberant independence of our intellectual standards and our trivial definitions, is the basis of spirituality…

Autumnal Images

On Finding Things

…finding things is one of the purest of earthly joys.

E. V. Lucas from the essay On Finding Things

I found this gem on Saturday, in a very short essay. The essay is in a book, Modern Prose whose title has rather overtaken it since it was first published in 1922. My copy is the fourth edition from 1926 and it cost me a pound at a local second-hand bookshop. It’s small and rode snugly in my back-pocket when I took the kids and their friend S to the village playground on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful warm sunny morning – perfect for sitting in the park reading a book, or so I thought – but the kids wanted help with the zip wire, and then S’s Dad joined us and filled me in on the local geo-caching scene. So I had to come back to E. V. Lucas on Saturday night. I enjoyed reading the essay – even though, or perhaps because, I felt like taking issue with much of what it had to say. After a promising start it strikes a rather less positive note:

I have, in a lifetime that now and then appals me by its length, found almost nothing.

Lucas enumerates his lifetime’s finds: a couple of brooches, a carriage key, sixpence, some pennies, ‘a safety-pin, a pencil, some other trifle’. By coincidence, when we were out on the fell last weekend my friend GP found a tenner lying on the hill-side. Apparently, this was not the first such find he has made and there was some jealous comments about his good fortune. I couldn’t recall ever finding anything of pecuniary value whilst out walking although, on reflection, I did once find a perfectly good Silva compass sticking out of the peat on Black Hill in the Peak District. When I pulled it out of the bog, I half expected to find a sunken hand grasping it. I used it for years, but then lost it myself – perhaps somebody else found it and then used it in turn?

The disappointing ‘half-century’ of paltry finds which Lucas describes is surely a result of his narrow focus on what kinds of things he hopes to discover. Actually, there’s a hint in the essay that his attitude may have been quite different to what he implies, when he refers to a ‘a great moment, once, in the island of Coll, when after two hours of systematic searching I found the plover’s nest’. So – who was E. V. Lucas? A little bit of lazy internet research throws up thousands of links, all of which (well – the first couple anyway) lead to different pages containing the same article. Poor E. V.  suffers the indignity of having his writing described as ‘insipid’, but my sympathies are enlisted when I read that he wrote a column for the Sunday Times called ‘A Wanderer’s notebook’, and that one of his books was an anthology of poetry called ‘The Open Road’. Perhaps I’ll unearth one of his books some day when I’m browsing the dustier shelves of a second-hand bookshop somewhere.


Our weekend had got off to a fantastic start when we ‘found’ a band which we had never seen before and which we very much enjoyed. We went to the Brewery Arts Centre at Kendal with our friends T&A to see the African Jazz All-stars. We didn’t really know what to expect – I wanted to go in case they turned out to be like the African Jazz Pioneers – whom I’ve loved for years after GP (yes him again) played one of their albums repeatedly on a long drive down to the Alps one summer. All we had to go on was this one clip I found on Youtube:

Happily, the gig was tremendous. TBH has been playing my meager collection of African jazz CDs around the house ever since (although I’m not sure that I’ve convinced her of the merits of Fela Kuti. Yet). The only disappointment was that the Malt Room at the Brewery had been set out with tables and chairs making it very hard to dance.


On Sunday the pleasant sunshine had evaporated to be replaced with more familiar cold wet cloudy autumnal weather. Naturally I took the boys for a walk in the woods. We were joined by CW and a gaggle of kids – some of them hers, some borrowed. The kids mostly coped exceedingly well with the inclement weather. They expected to find a bear in the woods and when none appeared took it in turns to roar and play the part.

Of course kids love finding things – and when they’re little it can be almost anything – sticks, stones, leaves, fungi. At the Ring of Beeches they played hide and seek, finding each other, until they found this low branch which turned out to be perfect to sit on and bounce:

We’ve often noticed how much more our kids enjoy a walk when they have some friends for company, and this was no exception. Even soaking wet through on the exposed top of Castlebarrow most of them managed to raise a smile:

On Finding Things

Swinside Weekend II

That’s the Swinside Hotel there – in the centre of the picture. With Swinside Farm B&B just across the road where we were staying. Latrigg is prominent in the background, dwarfing the town of Keswick, with the bulk of Blencathra and Skiddaw capped by cloud behind.

Sunday started much less promisingly, with heavy rain and strong winds. It had begun to brighten as we set off though and waterproofs were only donned in one of those farcical routines in which the rain stops at the exact moment when you’re kitted up and ready to start walking again. The climb up Rolling End was steep and I soon had my waterproofs stashed back in my bag. Just short of the top we stopped for tea. By now the sun was shining and we had found a sheltered spot in which to enjoy the improving views. (Well, to be fair…I didn’t find the sheltered spot, I staggered up to find everybody else enjoying the sheltered spot. Perhaps some recompense for the day before when I staggered up to the top of Dale Head to find everybody else sitting in the mist shivering?)

Our sunny perch. Swinside Hill centre, Skiddaw and Blencathra behind, now almost clear of cloud.

Skelgill bank and Cat Bells.

The Newlands Valley and yesterday’s route – Maiden Moor and High Spy on the left, Dale Head centre, Hindscarth and the long descent ridge on the right.

Our rest/stop was further enlivened by this Fox Moth caterpillar:

Which was feeding on the heather…

…or perhaps just enjoying the view like we were…

Our onward route took us over Causey Pike and then Scar Crags.

The ridge over Scar Crags was very exposed to the wind and the weather had deteriorated a little – whilst it looked fine back over Causey Pike…


It was a little more ominous ahead…

From the col before Sail, with some of the party facing very long drives home and some feeling the effects of yesterday’s walk (well I was anyway) we decided to turn back towards the pub and our cars.

An excellent weekend all round – fine company, fine food, fine weather, great walks. When will we be doing it again?


Addendum – Bagging stats.

Twelve Birketts over the weekend, eight of them also Wainwrights. That brings the Birkett tally for the year to 37 – more than twice my arbitrary target of 17. Can I grab 14 more before year’s end to top triple the target? The tension is palpable. (I wouldn’t hold your breath!)

Swinside Weekend II

Swinside Weekend I

Swinside Hill with Bassenthwaite behind.

Had a fabulous weekend with a bunch of old friends staying at the Swinside Inn and Swinside Farm B&B in the Newlands Valley. We’d all left our kids with grandparents and hastened from all points to a late Friday night muster in the bar at the Swinside. A forecast for a bit of everything weatherwise on Saturday – some showers, some cloud, some bright spells – seemed to be belied by cloudless clear blue skies on Saturday morning, but the clouds had left their kids with grandparents and converged on the lakes with much the same singularity of purpose as our own speeding motorway journeys the night before. We got the drizzle as we climbed above Derwentwater on the prow of Cat Bells. (Yes there really is a hill in the Lake District called Cat Bells and all because of the tragic story of Keswick Ginger and the ghostly tinkling that can occasionally be heard on the fell….or perhaps because the name is a corruption of Cat Bield and the area was once the haunt of Wild Cats.)

Inexplicably I’m not the last to the top….”somebody tied my boot laces together” fumes the Shandy Sherpa

As we reached the top of Cat Bells, our second Birkett for the day – Skelgill Bank having passed by unrecognised as such – the sky was clearing and we had fine views of Causey Pike (of which more in another post).

Just beyond the busy summit we sat down (some might say slumped in my case) to drink in the views and the tea from our flasks (and lungfuls of air in my case).

The first of many lunch stops. Notice the Adopted Yorkshireman (centre) modelling ‘the grunge look’ circa 1990 on behalf of the Victoria and Albert Museum costume collection.

We ambled on (well…I ambled on – the others waited patiently every so often) over Maiden Moor…

Looking back to Cat Bells. Skiddaw and Blencathra almost clear behind.

…where naturally we felt compelled to sit down for a while. Then diverted slightly to the cairn on Blea Crag (to my surprise not a Birkett despite having a name, a prominent cairn and very nearly a contour line of its very own) for…well – a sit down.

Looking to Maiden Moor from the cairn on Blea Crag – Skiddaw and Blencathra playing hard to get again.

More sitting down followed on High Spy (probably) and at Dale Head tarn (definitely). A long steep climb (that’s how my legs remember it anyway) took us into the mist and up to our highest point of the day on Dale Head. We stayed in the cloud round Hindscarth Edge to Hindscarth…

The magnificent seven.

… and for much of the long ridge we descended back to the Newlands valley. A quick visit to the tiny Newlands Church (too dark now for photos I’m afraid) and a very, very long road walk (that’s how my legs remember it anyway), brought us back to the pub, a hot shower, foaming mugs of ale, steaming mounds of food, the Jacuzzi, a team of Swedish masseuses…..

Well…some of the above.

Swinside Weekend I