An Eventful Walk Home

On Friday after work I got off the train one stop early, at Carnforth, and walked home from there. I’d had a peek at the map in the morning and so knew that in Millhead if I took the first turn after crossing the river Keer I would find a footpath across the fields to Warton which was both shorter and more pleasant than walking along the road. I walked through Warton, admiring the old cottages which line the main road and then entered Hyning Scout Wood. It was very different than when I took the boys there back in April – the trees are all in leaf now and the wood was deeply shaded. It was a bright and sunny day however and I enjoyed seeking out spots picked out by sunshine which got through the canopy. I was hoping for a good display of bluebells, but I think that I was a little too late: there still were plenty of bluebells but they were beginning to be swamped by brambles and ferns and saplings which were now in leaf.

Light and shade in Hyning Scout Wood…


I left the wood at its far end, crossed a field, a road and another field which brought me to the top of Summer House Hill, above Leighton Hall.

There are several benches on the hill and the view – over the hall to Morecambe Bay and over Leighton Moss and Arnside Knot to the hills of the Lake District – is superb. I didn’t have sandwiches with me (something to consider for next time) but I did have a large juicy braeburn apple in my bag and stopped to savour it with the view.

Leighton Hall

My onward route took me under a copper beech by the hall…

…and past Leighton Hall Farm, where there seems to be a major renovation underway, and where I knew I would see and hear swallows. This one was just about to leave the telephone wire when I caught it…

  The path to Yealand Storrs winds away from Leighton Hall Farm (next time?)

As I walked closer to Leighton Moss I began to notice fluffy seedlings blowing in the wind, it was only when I got the the causeway that I realised that they were willow seeds.

  I’m not sure what this umbellifer is (I’m still hopeless at umbelliferae) but you can see that it is coated with willow seeds and that some are escaping in the wind.

Glowing alder leaf.


I was pretty preoccupied with the light, and the way it was catching things, but remembered to stop to take a photo of the deer tracks which had been pointed out on Wednesday night…

I looked up from taking that and saw…

Three deer. There really are three here, but the middle one is very well hidden in the reeds. So much so that for awhile I lost it.

I took lots of photos. Mainly of the deer…

…but also of this heron which was fishing nearby…

…and which was much more spooked than the deer seemed to be.

A fourth deer appeared, and then a fifth by the edge of the water. How many more were hidden away in the reeds? Eventually I decided to move on and give the deer an opportunity to cross over the causeway.

 Yellow flag irises.

Unlike red deer, I often see rabbits on my walks, but they are rarely as accommodating as this youngster was when it comes to posing for photos:

In amongst alder trees I was led on a merry dance by a large group of long-tailed tits. It was gloomy, and they never seem to sit still for long so I didn’t get any even half decent photos, despite my best efforts. There were young in amongst the flock – I saw a bird pass food to a fledgling.

The best of a bad lot (of photos that is).

Getting close to home now, I joined my usual, much shorter walk home from the station, but made a slight diversion ( as I have several times recently) to visit the lady’s slipper orchid…

…which is extremely rare in the UK. (Hopefully I will have more to say about this later in the week)

Blackbirds, which are noisy, vociferous birds at the best of times, seem to get even more excitable as the shadows length into evening and I was regaled by several on the final leg of my journey…

And finally…

…this is one of the many bunnies which I normally encounter when I’m on my way home. When I walk past they leap effortlessly on to the drystone wall which borders Hagg Wood and then wait for a further move from me.

An Eventful Walk Home

Bloomin’ Bitterns

Emphatically not a bittern, a black-headed gull in fact.

Every week this month there has been a ‘Wednesday Walkabout’ in the evening at Leighton Moss – a guided walk with the advertised intention of hearing bitterns booming. This year only one bittern has been heard at Leighton Moss and that only intermittently and not recently. For various reasons the first Wednesday Walkabout I managed to make was this week, the last one, and not surprisingly we didn’t hear any booming. I seems that I’m a bit of a jinx where bitterns are concerned. In January I twice went on the equivalent guided walks hoping to see a bittern, but didn’t. I’ve lived in this area for nearly twenty years and I’ve never seen a bittern (although I have heard them booming).

Never mind, the light was fabulous and there were plenty of other birds to see and hear. We listened to reed and sedge warblers, which I wouldn’t have been able to pick out on my own. We had good views of a couple of marsh harriers. We saw a reed bunting perched high in a distant tree, a first for me. On the meres there were pochard and tufted duck, swans and coots. There were also some great crested grebes, one of which had a chick riding on its back. I tried using the digital zoom on my camera again.

Maybe a tripod is necessary!

We saw tracks on the narrow paths through the reeds which the red deer make (of which more in a later post). We saw otter spraint near a bridge over one of the streams. 

Later, looking over my photos of the evening, I was alarmed by some photos of the view from the public hide which showed so many small blurred dots in the sky that I thought that the lens must be dirty. Eventually, I realised that in fact the dots were actually the swifts hurtling and screaming their way around the sky.

Bloomin’ Bitterns

Green-Winged Dryads and other Curiosities

Or: An Evening Stroll Around the Lots

Dryad’s Saddle

Which is the walk which has most often appeared in this blog over the last two years? Possibly through Eaves Wood to the Pepper Pot – although there are several possible routes once you’re into Eaves Wood so maybe those would need to be subdivided accordingly. No similar diversity of choices on my bog standard evening trot around the Lots and the Cove, but that would be the other contender for my most oft repeated walk. There may not be much option to vary the route, but there is always something new to see. The Dryad’s Saddle appears every spring on the same tree in the shady lane which runs past the house. At the start of the week I had noticed small nubs emerging from the bark and by Sunday evening they were already quite large.

The light was gorgeous and this horse chestnut was catching that light beautifully. On the Lots a confident blackbird hopped about amongst the meadow flowers…

Speaking of meadow flowers, the Lots are rich in orchids.

A ‘tall’ early purple orchid.

There’s even a little temporary National Trust sign giving some information about the orchids which are early purple orchids and green-winged orchids. In the past I’ve been frustrated trying to tell the difference between the two, or indeed whether or not I have actually found any of the green-winged variety. The sign gave a handy tip: early purples tall flower spike, spotted leaves, green-winged shorter flower spike and unspotted leaves. It took a little searching since the early purples were definitely in the majority, but…

I found one!

The thin distinctive stripes are not present on the early purple orchids at all. Next time I’ll have a better idea what I’m looking for.

The orchids weren’t the only attraction. I’ve often posted photos of bird’s-foot trefoil before, but the colour variation in this unopened flower…

And in this little group…

…prompted me to post some more.

The low sun was catching the dandelion seed-heads  and making them glow. My photo didn’t catch it unfortunately…

By rights, a walk around the Lots and the Cove should include a sunset seen from the Cove…

Green-Winged Dryads and other Curiosities

Bee Happy


The weather has begun to change now, and we’ve had a couple of days of cooler temperatures, but on Saturday last, summer was in full swing (and we have to take our summer when we can because it may well rain for the whole of August if the last two summers are anything to go by). After what seemed like several hours on the foot pump, we had a new paddling pool up in the garden, and a garden full of children hoping to enjoy it. The bees decided to swarm again.

You can’t really blame them. Our loft space was not turning out to be the des-res that it had first appeared to be, what with a local bee-keeper having made several visits and attempts to remove them. So they uped-sticks and moved on. The air above the garden was full of bees (TBH tells me up to 40000 in a swarm) and the hum was astonishing. The kids were frightened and retired to the safer environs of the TV. I stuck it out for a while, hoping to light the barbecue, but when bees began to land in my hair I decided that a little discretion was called for…

Soon the air seemed to clear somewhat but one section of the hedge at the bottom of the garden was very busy. After a while, it became clear that he bees were building a new nest in the hedge. Because of its position it was difficult to get a good view, but it seemed to be conical, the surface was crawling with bees, and after little more than a hour it was already quite sizeable.

The bees, most of them anyway, have now gone to a new home in a hive not far from here, but we have souvenirs from our loft…

Honeycomb (without much honey in) and a carrot for scale. Quite a large carrot…perhaps a ruler might have been a better choice?

You can see here that the hexagons on the reverse are perfectly offset, presumably for strength. Clever innit?

Bee Happy

My Commute

I’ve been catching the train to work for a week or two now. Which means about a mile across the fields in the morning. On the way home I often come back the same way, but if time allows I try to take a longer route. Perhaps across Lambert’s meadow or into Eaves Wood. One day last week I went via Leighton Moss, Trowbarrow quarry and Eaves Wood. Last night I went through Fleagarth Wood to Jenny Brown’s Point and through Jack Scout, Woodwell and Bottom’s Wood. On the edge of the salt marsh I saw a pair of large dragonflies unlike any I have seen here before – they were very broad bodied and had striking black and yellow colouring. My field guide suggests that they were probably four-spotted chasers since the other alternatives are not found this far north. I didn’t have my camera unfortunately.

The photo of a chaffinch above was taken on Monday morning when I started my working week with a walk to Arnside for an appointment, and then caught the train in to Lancaster from there. The chaffinch was singing loudly from a branch just above my head and didn’t seem very perturbed by my presence – he was much more upset when a blue tit had the temerity to land nearby. He soon chased it off.

In Eaves Wood the wood ants were very busy. On the really large nest near to the ruined cottage, there were several winged ants in amongst the others, an indication of an imminent swarm?

(More about swarms later)


A clump of crosswort on the road opposite Arnside Tower Farm.

Bird’s-foot trefoil

In the woods on Arnside Knott I spotted an unusual blackbird…

None of the photos I took came out too well I’m afraid…

But they do at least reveal that this particular blackbird has a significant amount of white. I think that it’s fairly common, called leucism apparently.

In the mornings I often encounter a heron fishing at Bank Well. I’ve also seen jays in the trees a few times. Tonight I heard the yaffle of green woodpecker from an oak tree in a field. I waited a while and was rewarded with a brief flash of yellow and green as it flew into the trees of Hagg Wood. It’s the first green woodpecker that I’ve seen for quite some time.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, yesterday bees swarmed just outside our bedroom window. I was at work and missed it but returned to find small dead bees on the floors in many rooms of the house and a few bees still buzzing around the edge of the roof outside our bedroom. They were there again today. Do we now have a nest in our loft space perhaps?

My Commute

Wansfell Skanking

Windermere seen from Wansfell Pike.

Last Saturday, the ankle-biters packed off to Blackpool zoo with their grandparents, TBH and I were able to head off for a walk in the Lakes. We parked in Troutbeck and had a pleasant climb from there up to Wansfell. Reaching the summit from the east side gave great ‘surprise views’ as the last couple of yards opened up a view to the west of the Coniston Fells and then the hills around Eskdale and Langdale. Perhaps even better was the view south over Windermere and to Morecambe Bay.

We found a spot out of the wind for lunch and tea and then followed the ridge, still quite boggy despite the dry weather, to Wansfell Pike, where the view is even better (because Wansfell Pike isn’t in the way).

Leaving Wansfell Pike towards Ambleside.

A dor beetle (or something like it).

Our descent route took us into the woods and past Stock Ghyll Force….

Having stopped to look at the falls we noticed a pair of grey wagtails and a pair of dippers. It seemed that the wagtails probably had a nest on the far bank of the stream. One of the dippers was clearly intent on driving the wagtails away from it’s territory. We watched the dippers fishing – quite impressive just how long they can stay under the water.

In Ambleside TBH wanted to check out the gear shops hoping for something to replace her high altitude jeans and maybe a bargain or two. Afterwards we repaired to Lucy’s on a Plate for more tea and a light snack of humus and baba ghanoush. As a result we were fairly late leaving Ambleside for the walk back over via Jenkin Crag.

Windermere from Jenkin Crag

At Skelghyll we once again watched dippers fishing in a stream. They seemed to be delivering food to a nest under a bridge – the chicks, out of sight under the bridge, kept up a constant barrage of noisy demands.

Later, with baby-sitters on hand, we were out again. This time to hear Wailing Souls play at the Brewery Arts centre at Kendal. Not a band I’m particularly conversant with, but, it transpired, rather magnificent. A highlight for me was a reggae version of the Doors ‘Love Her Madly’. There is a version of it being played live on Youtube, but it’s very raw, so here’s one of the songs from their set which I did recognise.

Wansfell Skanking

Clark’s Lot Flowers

From a short stroll last Sunday afternoon with all of the kids and their pal S. Clark’s Lot is a good place to visit at the moment with lots of cowslips and early purple orchids. Also cuckooflowers…

And dandelions gone to seed…

Once again there a spot where a gap in the limestone pavement seems to provide just the right environment for primroses to thrive…

Close by there, and near to a couple of flowering cherry trees, a tree is blushed pink with blooms. I suspect that it is an apple of some description.

It’s the unopened buds which give the tree it’s pink tinge…

Clark’s Lot Flowers

Harter Fell

The sprogs on Jubilee Bridge (built 1977)

Eskdale is difficult to get to from…well, just about anywhere. We drove over the Wrynose and Hardknott passes and the kids look very relaxed in this photo given that X-Ray and I were both still feeling pretty green after the many hairpins, even despite the fact that I had been driving. We were there to climb Harter Fell, a route selected after much deliberation because I thought it would be within the kids capabilities. It was another of my Christmas present days out and X-Ray and I had arranged to meet for a walk quite some time ago. We hadn’t planned on having A and B along with us, but so much the better. Like the previous four ‘Christmas present days out’ it was clear, bright and sunny, although the breeze was cold. Not sure how long my lucky streak can continue.

The path we took climbed at a pleasant steady gradient quickly giving great views over the valley.

Over Eskdale to the Scafells, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Hardknott.

After about an hour of steady plodding, X-Ray found a sheltered spot for some elevenses. The kids were beginning to flag, and the restorative effects of elevenses were short lived. But then we topped the steepest part of the climb and found ourselves in a playground of easy angled slabs and craglets. The rock is coarse grained and grippy and the kids perked up no end when we abandoned the path and tried to string a route together which stuck as much as possible to the rocks. B was firmly of the opinion that he could climb anything going, and to be fair to him all the evidence seemed to point that way. Certainly A and I couldn’t keep up with him. (X-Ray continued on the path; he seemed a little bemused by all of our unnecessary exertion.)

I’ve climbed Harter Fell before, but I think only once and it was many years ago. I’d forgotten about the rocky towers on the top: more fun for children of all ages. Although, it was fairly windy, and taking the kids up to the top of the highest was a bit hair-raising. We found a very comfortable spot at the base of one of the towers to eat lunch and, out of the wind, to bask in the sunshine. After lunch the kids were soon exploring the rocks again.

On top of one of the rocky towers (not the highest.)

We had a wander around to take in the views too, which were great in every direction. Two things stood out however, the view northwards to the high fells around upper Eskdale…

…and the view down on to the roman fort near the top of Hardknott pass…

Our onward route would take us down to the fort but first we needed to negotiate the long ridge down to the head of the pass. It is a craggy ridge, evidently very boggy in normal circumstance, although not too bad at present, and with only faint and intermittent paths. We took in two fairly insignificant bumps, which are never the less Birketts: Demming Crag and Horsehow Crag.

The ridge took us quite some time, but we eventually reached the top of Hardknott pass…

…from where there was an excellent view along the valley to the sea. For the first time we noticed that the Isle of Man was visible on the horizon (you can just about pick it out on this photo).

From the pass another faint trod took us round to the parade ground by the fort and then to the fort itself.

Horsehow Crag, Demming Crag and Harter Fell

X-Ray and the kids examine the remains of the grain store within the fort.

A corner tower.

The outer wall.

Every morsel of food and every drop of drink I had brought with me was gone and the kids still claimed to need more, so when we returned to the car we drove down to Dalegarth, the top station of L’al Ratty the narrow gauge railway line which runs up Eskdale from Ravenglass on the coast. When we set off again, however, they were soon asleep without really doing justice to the drinks and cake and biscuits I had bought them.

This walk – of four and half miles with 600m of ascent – had clearly been enough for them. It had taken us 6 hours in total, with over an hour spent at the top of Harter Fell eating, exploring and enjoying the views.

Harter Fell

Burns Farm Weekend

Castlerigg stone circle, a stop of on our Sunday walk last weekend.

A lazy and very pleasant Saturday morning spent on the campsite and then an ill-judged walk in the afternoon over Low Rigg in what soon became a torrential downpour yielded no photographs. Sunday was bright and clear but with a very cold wind. From the stone circle we took a stroll around the valley of Naddle Beck, which also yielded no photos, principally since I was carrying S on my shoulders and so had no hands free.

We found an excellent sunny and sheltered spot to enjoy our lunch and then shortly afterwards I left the party, who were heading back to the campsite, once again via Low Rigg. I turned in the opposite direction to climb the long low ridge of Naddle Fell, High Rigg and Wren Crag.

Blencathra from the summit of ….

The first, northern most top is the highest and is unnamed on the OS map. Birkett says that it is locally called Naddle Fell, where as Wainwright calls this High Rigg. Not to worry. It’s a broad ridge with lots of humps and hollows to be explored and I suspect after a less dry April there would have been a few boggy sections to endure.

View South from Wren Crag

From Wren Crag I descended to pick up a path which follows the valley of St John’s Beck  back to the campsite.

Sosgill Bridge

On Bank Holiday Monday I almost repeated the same walk, crossing Low Rigg and then the High Rigg ridge, but this time in the company of lots of kids and their Dads, and my childless friends GP and Uncle Fester.

B on the summit of Naddle Fell. Or High Rigg.

Near to Low Bridge End Farm we were menaced by this puffed-up Turkey…

We had a very pleasant day with great company, some sunny spells and the showers at least held off until we made it back to the tents. The walk was probably about seven miles which is as far as A or B have walked before (S went home with his Mum) and they managed it without complaint and without flagging.


This walk boosts my Birkett total for this year to 8, or 11 if I’m allowed to count the fact that I did the same three twice.

Burns Farm Weekend


Sometimes when I go out, I have something specific in mind which I hope to find,  and often having blogged about it before helps me to remember when to look. The Sunday after my Yewbarrow walk with B was a case in point – I went out looking for toothwort. There are two places where I know it grows, one in Eaves Wood…

…and one near Haweswater…

It’s a completely parasitical plant which grows on the roots of deciduous trees and so doesn’t have chlorophyll at all – hence no green. It’s an odd looking plant, but this bumblebee seemed to like it…