Doctor’s Orders

 “How do you get to work?” – “I drive” – “Well that’s no good, you’ll have to take the train so that you can get a walk in each day.”

So with that sound advice ringing in my ears, I have been taking the train again. Which is how, last Friday I found myself walking past Warton church as the clock chimed five having got off one stop early at Carnforth to walk home over Warton Crag. It was a lovely afternoon, warm and bright, the views as I plodded up the crag were excellent, but too hazy for great photos unfortunately. Under the trees on the crag the bluebells were on the point of opening and the anemones and wood sorrel were already showing to good effect…

But it was tree and shrub flowers which caught my attention, particularly on the bridleway down to the crag road. There were ash flowers emerging…

…and fully opened…

Sycamore (again) with flowers emerging with the leaves…

Blackthorn…

Wild cherries…

Hanging tassels of flowers on currant bushes (planted or naturalised?) on the verge of the track. Tiny gooseberry flowers. Emerging leaves on the whitebeam…

These yellow flowers…

…on a tree I didn’t know, but now suspect to be Norway maple. Another tree I didn’t recognise, also without leaves as yet, had clusters of yellow flowers or seeds…

(Sorry about the photo) which lead me to believe that it is some sort of elm, maybe wych elm.

After leaving the woods on Warton Crag, I returned via Quaker’s Stang and Fleagarth Wood. When I turned on to the track which leads towards Quaker’s Stang, and the RSPB car park for Morecambe and Allan hides, I found myself noisily honked at by six adult greylag geese who were shepherding a gaggle of goslings.

Two of the adults flew off, whilst the rest took to the dyke beside the track to avoid me.

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Doctor’s Orders

Unfurled

The day after we returned from Cornwall (so over a week ago now – as ever, I’m way behind) I took A and B for a walk in Eaves Wood. Of course they were there to climb trees and to revisit the den they had helped to build on our previous visit.

Whilst they were busy climbing I was at liberty to take a look around and see what I could find to interest me. Perhaps even more than spring flowers, it’s the emergence of leaves on trees which really heralds the arrival of a new season for me. In Eaves Wood the hazel leaves were out…

…but what is the hairy stemmed proboscis at the front?

I particularly like new beech leaves when they hang pale and limp, like washing hung-out on a windless day, but they hadn’t quite reached that stage and I was more taken with the colours and textures of the opening buds from which the leaves were emerging…

Sycamore buds are enormously cheerful…

And the leaves can be equally colourful, for a while at least…

Meanwhile, down amongst the leaf litter I noticed a great deal of activity.

I’m pretty sure that this is pardosa lugubris a wolf spider which doesn’t build a nest, but which hunts on the woodland floor. Lugubris is ‘mournful’ perhaps because of the very dark colouring?

I wonder, do wolf spiders hunt in packs? There were certainly a lot of them about in a very small area.

The kids were very busy now, having found another den which somebody had built. (We think that we know who.)

They were intent on adding a bark roof, but eventually I dragged them away and on up to the Pepper Pot.

Where the blue moorgrass (?) was flowering.

Yew flowers.

Unfurled

Scurvygrass

 

Like Alexanders, not common in this area but abundant in north Cornwall, and also once grown in kitchen gardens. We saw it around Tintagel and elsewhere near sea-cliffs. As the name suggests, it was prized for its vitamin C. However, Richard Mabey writes that it is ‘unpleasantly bitter’.

Captain Cook is known to have taken quantities of Scurvygrass on his famous voyages…

Hatfield’s Herbal Gabrielle Hatfield

Scurvygrass

Alexanders

Not something that we find growing in this neck of the woods, but in north Cornwall thriving on unshaded road verges. Once a staple of kitchen gardens, and apparently a native of the Mediterranean introduced by the Romans.

In ‘Food for Free’ Richard Mabey suggests pickling the flowers, using young leaves in salads and cooking blanched pink stems like asparagus. I didn’t try the leaves so I can’t report on the flavour, but it was certainly popular with a wide variety of insects.

One plant I examined had this…..

….thing….quite large, pink-striped, not a leaf I don’t think?

Alexanders

Tintagel

On our drive down in the car we had listened to tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table so an early visit to Tintagel seemed appropriate. Our visit to began with a picnic in the garden of the old post office, our second picnic in the garden of a National Trust property that week since we had stopped at Mosley Old Hall on the way down. The ‘old post office’ is actually a 14th Century farmhouse. We really appreciated the sheltered garden because there was a very bitter wind blowing.

There isn’t a great deal left to see at Tintagel Castle and what there is, is medieval; so very old, but not far enough back to be the birth place of the legend, although there was something here before apparently. The setting is fantastic though.

The tide was in, so we didn’t get to visit Merlin’s Cave which disappointed the boys who I think fully expected to find a dragon in residence.

The Castle Garden.

 

After two years of fruitlessly waving my camera around and taking photos of empty sky, I finally caught a bird in flight!

Tintagel

An Early Morning Walk

Our first morning at Woodford started very early, a consequence of general excitement and the very thin curtains which let the morning sun stream into our rooms. South of the farmhouse the fields dropped away into a steeply wooded valley which winds its way down to the Coombe Valley and then to the beach at Duck-pool. We didn’t get that far, but with the chiff-chaffs, chaffinches, robins and great tits singing their little socks off, it made for a great start to the day. At least until S fell on a muddy stretch of the path!

An Early Morning Walk

Floral Dance

Down in Cornwall everything was a little ahead of home, so that there were even more spring flowers to enjoy. The distinctive banked hedgerows were home to many flowers, particularly primroses which were almost ubiquitous.

Elsewhere the primroses were mixed with other flowers with, in my opinion at least, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts:

With the primroses on this one small stretch of bank were violets,

barren strawberries,

and ground ivy…

Down in the woods the bluebells were threatening to emerge and in a boggy section in a valley bottom we saw a magnificent area lit up with golden saxifrage.

Stitchwort.

Floral Dance

Woodford Week

“You’ve got a good tan. Which part of the world have you been to and how did you get back through the volcanic ash?”

Last week we were away in sunny Cornwall, in a holiday cottage attached to a working farm in the village of Woodford near to Bude. The kids loved the farm, particularly the dogs…

…Buster and Megan, but also the tractor rides, feeding the sheep and the lambs…

..climbing on the haystack and generally charging around…

Lots more to report, and as ever way behind, so expect many short posts in an attempt to catch up.

Woodford Week

Another Series of Sorties to Assorted Spaces

Or Radius of Activity II

A number of short trips to report on. On Good Friday the boys and I sped down to Woodwell. We hoped to see frogs in the pond but found only frogspawn. Later S was on his bike again, this time joined by his sister A and I…

It was her idea to go out – she wanted to join the vicar and a few parishioners on a walk across the Lots which included several stops to read the passion from the Gospel of Saint Mark. A bit of a departure for me!

On Saturday we were in Eaves Wood. Climbing up Elmslack Lane towards the wood we saw several brimstone butterflies, our first of the year. As we entered the wood we bumped into friends and the children (of all ages) climbed trees, carved names on tree trunks, collected sticks and ended up building a den together…

We played hide and seek, as we often do. I took some photos from one of my hiding places…

Balancing on tree trunks is another great woodland activity

On Easter Sunday, whilst the girls were at church, the boys and I had an outing to Hyning Scout Wood. It’s just a couple of miles away, on the outskirts of the village of Warton. (Or should I say that the village of Warton is on the outskirts of Hyning Scout Wood?). But despite its proximity, I don’t know it well and the boys have never been there before. It’s definitely somewhere that is worth further investigation. There are a number of sizeable sweet chestnut trees in the wood…

…and although the nuts are reputed not to ripen this far north I have occasionally found palatable ones locally in the past. There is also an abundance of wild gooseberry bushes. And large areas of bluebell leaves, which bodes well for a few weeks time…

The boys had a whale of a time. We found a small hollow which proved to be the source of endless fun. They decided that it was their rabbit hole…

They climbed up the steep banks at the side…

…and then leapt back in again…

They grubbed around in the leaf-litter looking for mini-beasts…

Or a millipede curled up in the prickly remnants of a sweet chestnut shell…

The sun shone briefly and a nearby tree-stump was very comfortable to sit on, if I’d had the foresight to put a book in a pocket I would have been as content as the boys were to go no further. But I eventually persuaded them to go a little further. They were OK, they found more tree-trunks to balance on…

This one was host to the fungi King Alfred’s Cakes…

Another was huge, and very rotten (it made disturbing cracking sounds when I balanced on it).

It had also been host to some sort of fungi…

…I think that these ‘bootlaces’ may be honey fungus which kills trees, and also can make the wood fluorescent,  but I am probably wrong!

As we were leaving the wood we found a plant which is new to me…

…although curiously I recognised it as moschatel even before I got home and looked it up – clearly too much time spent pouring over field guides. The scientific name is Adoxa moschatellina. Apparently adoxa means ‘not worth mentioning’ and the flower is tiny and not immediately striking, but what the photograph doesn’t show is that five flowers form a cube – the uppermost one has four petals (that’s the one seen in the centre of the photo) and the other four each have five petals. It’s unusual nature lends it a little charisma.

Also by the edge of the wood we found the Hyning lime kiln…

That afternoon we (all of us but A who had been invited to join some friends for a walk by the Lancaster canal) were back at Leighton Moss for a very brief visit. At the pond dipping area we hoped to see frogs, but once again found only frogspawn….

…the trees reflected here are these alders…

…beyond which I briefly spotted one of the marsh harriers flying. Next to the nest which we have noticed before (see previous posts) a second has appeared…

This is a neater and more compact affair and the eggs are more difficult to see, although still evident. A moorhen was nearby and I assumed that this was its nest.

Water and sticks both exert a powerful influence on the boys, the conjunction of the two is irresistible.

We usually play pooh sticks here but they needed on this occasion to get a little closer. Fortunately they never got any closer than this.

Easter Monday was a bit of a wash out. Well…it was a bank holiday. But on Tuesday we were all back at Leighton Moss to join an organised Wildsquare walk…

Our guide, seen in the foreground here, was informative and witty and pitched it perfectly for the kids whilst still managing to point out many things which I wouldn’t have seen or heard or recognised without his help.

After Lunch at the visitor centre A and B walked home with me via Trowbarrow quarry and Eaves Wood. We passed the pond dipping area on our way and were able to confirm that the second nest is a moorhen nest…

On the path between Trowbarrow quarry and Moss Lane I spotted this skull…

I knew that B would be determined to bring it home, and he has.

He was keen to add this to the ‘rabbit skull’ which he was given last week. He was also very keen to identify this skull and helped me to search through my natural history library looking for help. We found none and so naturally fell back on Google, which led me to this blog which in turn brought me to this handy identification guide. Apparently the large gap between the incisors and the other teeth is typical of rodents and rabbits. Our skull has a second set of incisors behind the first making it either a rabbit or a hare. Which means that the ‘rabbit skull’ he was given isn’t a rabbit skull at all. Now that I’ve looked at it properly, I don’t think that it is a skull of any sort.

Anyway…bugs, dens, pooh-sticks, hide and seek, leaping, climbing, nests, skulls….it’s a wonder we ever find any time for our wii.

Another Series of Sorties to Assorted Spaces

Signs of Spring

It’s surely March of which it is said: “In like a lion, out like a lamb.”, but the first of April, after a dodgy forecast, had turned out sunny and surprisingly mild when, in the late afternoon, clouds suddenly gathered which rapidly led to thunder and a fierce hail shower which had it white over in moments. Since then we’ve had some mixed weather, not a patch on the beautiful sunny Easter weekend last year, but not as bad as the forecasts have predicted. After our proper winter this year, spring is finally in full flow.

This black-headed gull, which came to drink from one of the puddles in our drive, has it’s breeding plumage which means it actually has a black head (or at close range – a chocolate brown head) .

These starry lesser celandines in the hedge-bottom on Elmslack Lane were enjoying the sunshine which Easter Saturday brought.

We’ve seen wood anemones in several places…

yew flowers…

New leaves on the honeysuckle…

…and emerging on the sycamores…

…scarlet elf cup at Leighton Moss…

…willow catkins…

..and plenty of spring flowers…

We’ve heard chiffchaffs and drumming woodpeckers in the woods and seen swallows and marsh harriers flying at Leighton Moss. The early plants – dog mercury, arum lily and ramsons are clothing the woodland floor with green. These are the ramsons in Bottom’s Wood…

It’s all colour and action everywhere. Marvellous.

Signs of Spring