Feeling the Seasonal Rhythm

The closer I am to nature the happier I am. I love to be alone with the winds that come up from the other side of the world, to be alone with these hills, some of the oldest on our planet. I like to feel the seasonal rhythm, to be conscious of the rising sap in spring, the maturing of the growth in summer, the tonic of the autumn, the sleep of winter.

Robert Gibbings from Coming Down The Wye

Yesterday I heard the naturalist and writer Sir John Lister Kaye on the radio. His new book ‘At The Water’s Edge’ is about the circular walk that he has walked daily for the last thirty years. He advocates making a connection to the minutiae of nature. I can’t manage the same walk every day, but I did manage  several short walks at the end of last week and also yesterday. One down to the Cove and the others up to the Pepper Pot, in various company but always around sunset.

In Eaves Wood a new area has been fenced off and coppiced…

Our unexpectedly wintery winter continues and conditions change at the Pepper Pot from day to day…

  The sunsets have not been as spectacular as they can be, but satisfying none the less…

At the cove the interplay between sky and water, clouds and river channel are endlessly fascinating. It’s a very peaceful spot and ‘the inevitable heron’ is once again regularly present. It could be a different heron each time of course.

I’ve read both of the Robert Gibbings books which I bought over t’internet. Perhaps the best recommendation I can give is simply to say that I have every intention of seeking out some of his other books. They are very gentle books, full of anecdotes. Although he clearly has an affinity for water, it’s clearly not the only liquid that he’s fond of and his stories are as often from the bar at his local pub as from the riverbank. Of the two I read I think that ‘Coming Down the Wye’ is the most satisfying. The woodcuts in both are excellent.

Feeling the Seasonal Rhythm

Devil’s Bridge and The Devil’s Tongue

The day after my Quaker Stang walk was sunny and bright (and cold). We drove to the Dales to take a look in White Scar cave, this is the entrance on the slopes of Ingleton. It’s obligatory of course to have named features in show caves and White Scar Cave is no exception. One of the many is The Devil’s Tongue. I didn’t take my camera, it was far too wet in there, but here’s a link to somebody else’s flickr page.

Afterwards we stopped off in Kirby Lonsdale for a short walk by the Lune.

The view from Devil’s Bridge.

It seemed to me that in the sunshine this rook’s plumage was full of purples and greens but in the photo it just looks plain old black.

Devil’s Bridge and The Devil’s Tongue

A Doorway to…Quaker’s Stang

Way behind. As ever. Not just with blogging, but with just about everything else too I suspect. So…last Tuesday: another window of opportunity, this time provided by a prearranged play date for TBH and the ankle-biters. I decided to catch up on some jobs around the house and some paperwork from work.

Only kidding…I decided to get out for a walk whilst the going was good. Just after I walked past this obviously long-neglected doorway, which connects a road with a woodland, a buzzard languidly lifted from a tree in the woods and effortlessly glided away across the field opposite. Momentarily I had a fantastic close-up view, but by the time I fumbled my camera into life the buzzard was beyond the range of my zoom.

Not to worry, just a little further down the road a volery (that’s the term apparently) of long-tailed tits tumbled from branch to branch and I craned back and tracked their cavorting with my camera…

In Fleagarth wood I was puzzled by white patches high on the branches of several trees I passed. Then I found one further down within my reach, and some on the ground, and realised that they were the remnants of a very heavy hail shower which had fallen earlier.

Ivy and fungi on a fallen tree.

The path traverses the hillside on a descending line, and when I reached the bottom I decided to head across Quaker’s Stang.

Which is a sea defence, a long low mound separating the salt-marsh on the right from the soggy farmland on the left.

Salt marsh.

Quaker’s Stang construction

Greylag geese in the fields.

From Quaker’s Stang I headed to one of the RSPB hides looking out over shallow pools on the salt marsh …

(The cloud on the right was much more blue than it looks here – it was quite unreal. It looked like it was probably chucking it down across the bay in Barrow)

There were groups of pee-wits standing in the water (I said that it was shallow) and pairs of teal, mostly upended with only their behinds above water – I’ve discovered that I can use the electronic zoom on the camera as an aid for identifying distant birds – I haven’t produced great photos yet, but it’s useful none the less.


Looking back to a lone hawthorn tree on Quaker’s Stang.

Rather than retracing my steps across the stang I opted to follow Quicksand Pool, the stream which drains Leighton Moss. There’s no right of way: I’m not recommending trespass – if you get prosecuted, persecuted or just plain old buckshot whilst trampling somebody else’s grass, don’t blame me – it’s just that sometimes curiosity gets the better of me. The stream runs arrow straight…


…kept that way by boards mostly just below the waterline but in places exposed…

Eventually the stream is allowed to find it’s own natural course…

The tide occasionally submerges the salt-marshes leaving an odd assortment of natural detritus and jettisoned waste.  Amongst them this crab shell…

Over in the Forest of Bowland it was clear that the rain and hail which fell here in the morning has fallen as snow there…

Oddly, although Clougha Pike was not white over like the higher Ward Stones, the fields below Clougha were clearly snow-covered.

The camera helped me to pick out pin-tails, oystercatchers and mallards feeding in great numbers on the mud beyond Jenny Brown’s Point.

Morecambe Bay.

At Jack Scout the singing of Greenfinches alerted me to quite a large flock of them in amongst the thorny shrubs. In land, to south, north and east, the cloud was breaking up and revealing the blue beyond as the last of the light dragged itself reluctantly away.

A Doorway to…Quaker’s Stang

A Winter Palette

Another brief window – I decided to take myself of to the woods around Haweswater, at least partly because I always try to make at least one visit here whilst the snowdrops are flowering.

I found much to keep me entertained on this walk, but principally it was the colours, which is perhaps a little unexpected in a winter woodland. I think what first tuned me in to the colours on offer was the leaf litter around the snowdrops. On the drier slopes above the leaves are burnt sienna but down here closer to the lake where it is wetter they are a rich deep brown, dark sienna perhaps, and a perfect foil for the snowdrops.

As usual, I spent a little time grovelling around trying to get photos of the hidden green and yellow patterns inside the snowdrop flowers.

But the first of several short showers dissuaded me from persisting for too long. Back on the path above the root ball of one fallen tree revealed a sandy orange soil…

Whilst just a little further on another showed instead a crumbly black humus, again providing a perfect backdrop, this time for the fungus growing on the roots…

The same fungus sprouted from the base of a standing tree just across the path…

In places the fungus was growing underneath the bark and seemed to be forcing the bark off, which can’t be a good sign for the longevity of this tree.

Many trees here, and in Eaves Wood and probably elsewhere in the area have graffiti carved into them. Today the damp gave the bark on this tree a deeper colour which served to display these examples of the form to great advantage…


Another tree was losing its bark and I noticed that raised patterns on the bark continued on the bare wood of the trunk…

I crossed the open field at the end of the lake and was struck by the pattern created by these distinctive fallen leaves (what kind?), dark on one side, pale on the other, against the greens and yellows of the soggy grass.

A polyp fungus or a hat to grace any hippy?

Trees reflected in the stream connecting Haweswater and Little Haweswater.

For some reason I decided at this point to depart from the path and take a closer look at Little Haweswater. Unlike its neighbour it is shallow and both surrounded by and full of trees, which makes it hard to get a satisfactory photo…

Having diverted a little i was tempted to continue by a little trod which followed the far side of the low limestone ridge which the path runs below. There were many old coppice trees here in what looked to be the line of an old hedge.

This sizeable moss-covered ash being the largest example I saw. A pair of jays squawked as they flew across the field behind.

Ivy embraces its host.

More patterns on a tree shedding its bark.

Hazel Catkins

A Winter Palette

Snowdrops, Blackbird, Roe Deer

Half-term is here and we’re holidaying at home. So, plenty of opportunities to be out beating the bounds then. Except when you’re at home it’s so easy to arrange to do all those things you would get done if only work didn’t get in the way. A brief window of opportunity presented itself between bringing one car back from a brake fluid replacement, and waiting at home for Autoglass to arrive and replace the windscreen in our other car.

The snowdrops in our drive have been flowering for a while now, but there are few signs of daffodils. My first port of call on this walk was the bank on Cove Road where, in the last two years, primroses have flowered early in February. I suspected that this year would be different after the prolonged cold snap we’ve had, and that proved to be the case.

From Cove Road I took paths up the hill towards Eaves Wood. The paths pass between and even through gardens. In one of them a kestrel glided away from a tree-roost as I passed. As usual I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to capture any images. However, in Eaves Wood I had much more luck with a local resident which I quite often see briefly, but have rarely managed to photograph…

This roe deer buck watched me for quite some time. I was able to move a little to get a clear, if distant, view. The light was poor but I tried the ‘available light’ setting on my camera which presumably ramps up the ISO setting. Even so – you can clearly see that the deer’s antlers have a covering of soft fur.

When this buck finally turned and disappeared into denser tree cover a doe followed, not lingering long enough for me to get a photo, but then a second doe appeared and this one paused, apparently to browse for food amongst the leaf litter.

I thought that this doe was smaller than the other two deer. She also seemed to be unaware of my presence. She rooted around by the base of the tree in the right of this photo and then, after standing up,  crouched slightly and shook herself, just as a dog would after emerging from water.

Snowdrops, Blackbird, Roe Deer

Another Saturday Stroll

A Saturday outing with the kids. An improbably mild day for February. The boys were on their bikes. We visited many of the usual spots: the village coffee morning*, Woodwell to ‘fish’ with sticks, a new stop at Kayes where they’ve branched out into baking – delicious sour dough breads, the Wolfhouse gallery for lunch and back via the sweetshop.

Out of the blue, S asked “Dad can we go camping with Grandma ‘laine?”. Which sounds like a good plan to me, and will surely meet with my mum’s approval.

Nothing else much to report. Just a very pleasant few hours out.

*This weeks additions to the rising tide of unread books slowly filling the house: ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, ‘Brick Lane’, and ‘Be My Enemy’ by Christopher Brookmyre.

Another Saturday Stroll

More Words On Water

We were in Kendal on Sunday, in front row seats, for a first visit to the theatre for little S.  I thought it was excellent, B beamed and chuckled appreciatively all through the performance. S did well considering his age but a few minutes from the end said: ‘Go home now’. A  – dancer, performer and experienced theatre-goer of 6 qualified her after-show enthusiasm with the thought that it might have been better ‘with more words’.

Afterwards we found a playground down by the river Kent. A brief walk by the riverside yielded a dipper, a pair of goosanders, a grey wagtail and numerous amorous mallards. Not bad I thought for the middle of a town.


I was reminded that in the January sale I picked up a copy of ‘Along the River Kent’.

It’s a curious mixture of personal anecdotes of family exploration of the area, stories related by acquaintances made on those visits, local history and old photographs of the area. Perhaps not a classic, but given the fact that I’m making my own exploration of the river, very interesting.

I’m also working my way through ‘Connemara: listening to the wind’ by Tim Robinson, which is fascinating. In a letter to the artist Richard Long, quoted in the book, the author says:

…my subject matter is the web of placelore.

Which seems a pretty fair description – anecdotes and history very closely tied to precise topographical descriptions of localities significant to the anecdotes. With lots of bonus natural history thrown in.

As ever where books are concerned, my inbox is filling much more quickly than my outbox. Today two new internet purchases arrived: ‘Coming Down the Wye’ and ‘Till I End My Song’ both by Robert Gibbings.

These are complete impulse buys. I investigated Gibbings solely because he was responsible for the woodcuts I admired in the copy of ‘The Charm of Birds’ which I read a couple of years ago. What I read intrigued me and I decided to seek out his books. ‘Coming Down the Wye’ is a fairly self-explanatory title, but I didn’t realise that ‘Till I End My Song’ is about the Thames until I opened it tonight. His first book about the Thames is called ‘Sweet Thames Run Softly’ from a line by Spenser which in its entirety runs…

Sweet Thames run softly, until I end my song,


You can read more about Gibbings here or at ‘Caught By The River’, whose book is also on my ‘to read’ list.

That’s all from me tonight…I’m going to bed to read a book!

More Words On Water

Selside Pike and Branstree

Or: More Bagging with X-Ray

Or: My Favourite Christmas Present II

The weather forecast predicted wide-spread fog and hinted at the possibility of a cloud-inversion in the Lake District. We began our drive this morning in mist, although we occasionally emerged into sunshine and it seemed that the mist was light and would soon burn off. In fact we hadn’t got far north before we’d left the mist behind and emerged into clear skies and sunshine. We parked by Haweswater and picked up the excellent zigzagging path which is the old corpse road connecting Mardale, the valley which Manchester Corporation flooded to produce Haweswater, to Shap where Mardale folk were buried before Mardale had it’s own church. The path passes the remnants of a couple of small buildings, one of which can be seen above.

There was barely a breath of wind and despite it being February with frozen ground, snow on the hills, ice in shaded parts of the lake etc I was soon very warm and divested of all my warm gear and walking in a t-shirt. We didn’t see many other walkers today, but one guy who passed us was in shorts, which may have been taking things a little too far.

Anyway, although X-Ray professes to a single minded Wainwright bagging approach he acquiesced when I suggested a short diversion to take in the knobbly cairned top of Brown Howe which is a Birkett.

From there a steady pull took us up Selside Pike. As we climbed it became progressively easier to string together patches of nice firm compacted snow which was a delight to walk on. We sat for quite a while on the top, enjoying the view of High Street and its neighbours and of Cross Fell in the Pennines.

We continued over High Howes, which is unnamed on the OS map, and then dropped past two small frozen tarns…

Beyond which we could see a strange dark obelisk rising out of the hillside. We thought that it might be the thing out of 2001. Or a ventilation shaft for a mine deep under the hill, or some sort of religious monument. When we got closer…

…we were none the wiser.

Close by there were more stone structures atop Artle Crag…

…from where it was just a short walk to the top of Branstree. I couldn’t persuade X-Ray that we should continue round on to Harter Fell so we finished with a gentle descent back to the car and another good zigzagging path where the slope steepened near the end.


A stream side tree beset with moss and ferns.


Driving home we finally did see our cloud inversion. As we dropped down the long hill on the M6 towards junction 36 we saw a vast sea of cloud stretching away southwards.  When we entered the cloud it was dense and dark and cold. Quite hard to credit that it was the same day. Apparently at home they had a sunny morning but then the clouds gathered and the afternoon had been foggy and dank.

Selside Pike and Branstree

Grasmere Weekend

Hopes may rise on the Grasmere
But honey pie, you’re not safe here
So you run down
To the safety of the town
But there’s panic on the streets of Carlisle
Dublin, Dundee, Humberside
I wonder to myself….

Sorry – I have no better reason for quoting that then that we spent the weekend in Grasmere. (If you are of the Smiths generation you probably have the tune in your head now. Have you got to ‘Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ’ yet?)

A friend rented Thorney How youth hostel and a small portion of the population of the village decamped to the Lakes for a very fine weekend. (With a few other old friends thrown in).


On Saturday almost our entire party went for a walk together. As you can see, beautiful blue skies, long shadows and the remnants of some snow– another cold, clear, crisp winter day. Shortly after this S decided he would rather ride in his Houdah than walk so I ended up carrying him for most of the rest of the day.

We climbed Helm Crag, which gave us good views across towards the hollow which holds Easedale Tarn. The rocky lump on the right of the photo is Tarn Crag, the snowy swelling behind it, High Raise and the stream with the  prominent white waterfalls is Sour Milk Gill. I climbed Tarn Crag and High Raise last January, and had intended to continue on to Helm Crag, but didn’t have enough daylight, so it was good to get there this time.

Helm Crag is ideal for a party like ours with lots of small children – small enough to be manageable, but steep and rocky in places so giving the feel of a proper mountain adventure.  Near to the top, we crested a rise and a new vista opened up…

Seat Sandal and Fairfield

The summit even has a nice airy exposed feel to it….


On Sunday we were out again. Another fine day, although the very bitter wind was a bit much for the smaller kids and we had to curtail our wander around Grasmere (the lake) and cadge a lift back to Grasmere (the village) for Gingerbread from the famous shop and tea and cake in a cafe.

Throwing stones into Grasmere (which wasn’t entirely frozen over).

A poor photo of A and B. Helm Crag across the lake left of the large gap which is Dunmail Raise, named after an early King in the area who died in a battle here I think. Helm Crag has the ridge shadowed on one side and sunlight on the other.

A and B again. B is wearing my hat and managing to look cheerful although he is frozen. Much of the rest of the walk is spent singing ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ which works it’s magic and cheers him up.

Grasmere Weekend