Chicory, Crabs and Small Magpie


An evening stroll which started late (a few moments after Spain beat Portugal and booked their place in the quarter finals of the World Cup). The evening before had brought thunderstorms and some heavy rain – quite welcome after the prolonged dry spell we’ve had. There was still some blue in the sky – and some dramatic clouds – but the sun had already set and I would be once again taking photos in the dark.

The verge along cove road has been entirely colonised by tall blue-flowered plants…

I’m not familiar with this plant, and I’ve struggled a bit with my various wildflower guides. They may be chicory – the flowers apparently close, as these have, when the sun is not shining. This is the chicory whose roots are used to flavour some coffees. (Although one of my books says seeds rather then roots.) If it is chicory, I should have plenty of chances to go back to see the flowers open since it has a very long flowering season.

I don’t drink coffee these days (still love the smell though), but I never did like chicory blends. How’s this for an unusual use of a herb (quoted in Hatfield’s Herbal).

For a Woman that hath great breasts

Oftentimes anoint her Paps with the juice of Succory, it will make them round and hard: If they be hanging or bagging, it will draw them together, whereby they shall seem like the Paps of a Maid.

Succory is an old name for chicory. This may all be a bit premature given that I’m not actually sure that this is chicory. I’m feeling reasonably confident since I took a photo of the leaves:

Which are toothed and higher up clasp the stems, which fits with chicory.

Post sunset cove sky.

Along a tide-line at the top of the shingle I noticed that there were many small crab carcasses and lots of hopping insects.

On the clifftop I noticed a plant with clusters of small white flowers and fine feathery leaves. I can’t identify it and hope to go back soon to get some better photos.

On the Lots, the grass was parched and yellow, except in the hollows which were little oases of green dotted with buttercups and white clover flowers.

At the far side of the Lots I noticed a moth flapping about. When it settled on a bramble flower I decided to have another go with the flash on my camera(previous attempts have not been very successful).

This is the micro-moth the small magpie.

A larger moth fluttered past but wouldn’t settle to be photographed, but this bumblebee couldn’t have been more settled – I couldn’t decide whether it was feeding or sleeping very comfortably on a bramble flower mattress.

Chicory, Crabs and Small Magpie

More Moths

A chalk carpet.

All photos from the moth breakfast. All identifications provisional and tentative.

Buff ermine.

The background here is egg-box – placed in the traps for the moths to perch on. The black above is the plastic of the trap itself.

Light emerald.

Dusky brocade……perhaps.

White ermine.

Like a glam rock star, or Vegas period Elvis.

Foxglove pug.

Eats foxglove.

A carpet moth. Possibly grey pine carpet or spruce carpet. Can anybody help?

Pale tussock.

The cinnabar.

The snout.

Don’t know. The engrailed moth perhaps?


Common white wave and….?

Clouded border.

Peppered moth.

One of the other breakfasters, a very generous chap who gave B a marsh harrier badge, was telling me that peppered moths are his favourite because they provide evidence for evolution, and because their evolution was studied in the Lickey Hills near Birmingham.

Treble lines.

The flame.

Buff-tip on a birch twig, which is what it is imitating.

Don’t know….anyone?

Poplar hawkmoth.

Striking, like the on above – I ought to recognise it at once, but instead can’t find it anywhere in the field guide. So we still have no idea what it is.

Garden carpet.

Another fetching but unidentified moth.

There were lots more – a small angle shades, a beautiful golden Y and more which I can’t identify.

More Moths

Moths for Breakfast…..Again

Saturday was a busy day, helping to set up and run our annual village Field Day. A was an attendant to the ‘Queen’, B and S won the team fancy dress as George and the Dragon. They all enjoyed their races, especially S who wanted to run everyone else’s too. The sun shone, the bunting fluttered in the breeze, the brass band played. It was like something from Miss Marple, but fortunately without the murders. When the event was over and the field tidied up those of us who had been involved in organising or tidying up stayed on for a barbecue, rounders, water-pistol fights and football. It made for an usually late night for the kids.

Never the less we were all up early on Sunday to go to the Moth Breakfast event at Leighton Moss. Last year A and I went and enjoyed it enormously. So this year we took B and my Mum and Dad along too. B was tired and once he had tucked into his bacon and eggs, slipped his hand into mine: ‘Want to go home now Dad’.

OK – entertain me!

Fortunately, once the traps were opened he was captivated…



…poplar hawkmoth. Look at those antennae! The moth was flap furiously here and was eager to be away. I didn’t get to hold it like B, but….

  …it did land on my shirt.

Moths for Breakfast…..Again

Green ‘n’ Red

This is a ‘shiny green blow-fly’ and therefore may well be a greenbottle. Seen…well, almost anywhere, but I photographed this one In Eaves Wood on Thursday night.

I was acting as a temporary helper with a group of young people making a visit to the Pepper Pot. On the Limestone around the Pepper Pot on King William Hill I noticed….

A colourful seed-head. And another….

…which is herb robert a small but colourful crane’s-bill or geranium.

Biting stonecrop flowers were beginning to open, and……

….pockets of wild thyme (I think) seemingly growing out of the rock.

Green ‘n’ Red

Martian Sunset

I was writing a post (a couple of posts back) one evening when I glanced out of the window and lost my train of thought. Beneath a dramatically dark and overcast sky, sunshine was gilding the woods beyond the Row.

  Whilst I was outside taking photos, the sunlight moved on to Farleton Fell and also began to blush some of the paler clouds with orange and peach. It seemed like a good idea to find a vantage point looking west in case the sunset was spectacular.

And indeed sunlight was streaming under a cloud and fanning across the sky in a very pleasing way.

Martian Sunset

Yellow-Tail Moth Caterpillar

B arrived home from school last Friday with a shoe-box full of hazel leaves and some very furry caterpillars. His school favours outdoor learning and his class have been touring each others gardens. In one of them they found these caterpillars and for some reason we ended up as custodians over the weekend.

I’m fairly confident that they are yellow-tail moth caterpillars.

I don’t think I remember ever being encouraged to be curious about the countryside around me when I was at school. We did used to take frogspawn in to school every spring though, for some reason we thought that our teachers were pleased if we did.

Yellow-Tail Moth Caterpillar

Fail Better


On Saturday we had things to do in Kendal. I had thought that afterwards I might walk home along the Kent, but by the time we had looked at kitchens and windows and had some lunch it was clear that my original plan was far too ambitious. Another time. However, TBH was taking the kids to Lakeland Wildlife Oasis which seemed a convenient distance, so I walked back from there instead.

My route was improvised as I went. From Wildlife Oasis, which is on the A6, a road runs along the edge of Hale Moss. I followed that briefly, but then what looked on my map likely to be an unmetalled road or a long farm driveway (not a right of way) turned out to be a well walked path closely corralled by two high hedges.  I find on my newer map that it’s marked as a ‘road used as a public path’. It took me to Hale Head Farm which seemed to be a tiny hamlet of perhaps four or five homes, and had I continued it would have taken me to the village of Hale, but I turned right up to Fell End Farm then right on to the road and hence onto a path into the woods on Hale Fell. All of this was new paths to me, which is most unusual so close to home. Once in the woods I soon joined the Limestone Link path, which I have walked before and that took me to the splendid limestone pavement seen above, and then down to Slackhead.

At Slackhead there is an unusual shrine set in an alcove in a wall:

According to Wikipedia this is Saint Lioba (or Leoba). Why she should be here I’m not sure. I think a visit to the imposing parish church in Beetham is called for – might be the place to find out more.

From Slackhead it was back into the woods to climb Beetham Fell and visit the Fairy Steps. On route I made a short digression from the path, drawn by a dead tree heavily decorated with dryad’s saddle…

Whilst I was taking photos a roe deer raced through the trees behind me. It was much to quick for me to get a photo.

Even the dryad’s saddle seems to have moved out of frame!

The Kent Estuary from Beetham Fell.

At the top of the Fairy Steps I sat and drank some tea, took a long draught of the view and supped a few essays from J.B. Priestley’s Delight (about which more perhaps on another occasion).

Tiny salad burnet flower.

The fairy steps.

Wild strawberries (not as ripe as they appear).

The path which descends through the trees towards Hazelslack Farm has one section which is always wet and muddy. Even today it still was, despite the very dry spring we’ve had. I presume that there must be a spring of some sort there in the woods. In the meadows of long grass I thought that I saw a blue butterfly. It was small, had it’s wings closed when I saw it, and the undersides weren’t blue, so quite why I thought that it was blue I’m not sure. Had I managed to get a photo then perhaps I might be able to identify it from my guide books, but I didn’t. I also saw a blue butterfly a while back on the Lots – this one was definitely blue, but although I chased after it for a while , once again I didn’t get a photo. On my way home from work recently I found a woodpeckers nest high above the path in a dead birch, I was drawn initially by the noisy demands of the nestling but after several visits managed to see both the youngster poking it’s bright red-crested head out of the hole, and a parent visiting the nest.

Hazelslack Tower.

I was heading for Silverdale Moss and on a short section of road walking I was stopped in my tracks by a very pleasant aniseed scent. It evidently came from this umbellifer with very large long seedheads…

I tried the leaves and they had a mild and pleasant aniseed flavour, but apparently I should have tried munching on the seeds too. This is sweet cicely which was once added to stewed fruit because the plants natural sweetness reduced the amount of sugar needed.

Some brambles nearby were flowering and were covered in bumble bees. I snapped away with the camera and took a whole host of useless blurred shots. Never mind. Now that I had started to look, the diversity of different insects (not all bees) was fabulous. One stood out – much bigger than the others with very striking black and yellow stripes like a wasp – it might have been a wasp….

…but this, the sole picture I have, is not much use for identification purposes.

Oak apple.

Lime flowers about to emerge, what kind of lime? – I’m not sure but I think I know now what to look for next time I encounter a lime.

After Hazelslack Farm the path crosses a stream, and shortly after two more streams – all three were dry, in sharp contrast to the soggy path on Beetham Fell.

Leighton Beck bed – no water.

This did give me an opportunity to photograph from the streambed the little footbridge which crosses Leighton Beck here.

The footbridge – it’s made from two large slabs of limestone…

This is an area in which I almost invariably see a buzzard. And when I see a buzzard I almost invariably try to take a photo, and almost invariably fail. The autofocus seems to be the problem, but this time I did get a picture…

…this cropped version is not as sharp as I would like, but it’s a start. What was it Beckett said, something about failing better…

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

(What did we do before search engines?)

So this is my best failure to date on the buzzard photo front.

A damselfly on a huge burdock leaf. (Not sure which type – very hard to tell.)

I was now on the path along the edge of Silverdale Moss, which passes my old friend The Cloven Ash…


I think that maybe the gap between the two halves of the tree has widened since last time I came this way.

But still standing.

Grass seed-head (can’t do grasses – anybody?)

In the woods near Haweswater I stopped by another very busy patch of brambles. Although there were once again many bumble bees, my eye was caught by a couple of very striking hoverflies in natty two-tone outfits…

This is volucella pellucens, which according to my field guide is ‘very fond of bramble blossom’.

The bramble flowers all seemed to be drooping so that the flies hung underneath which made them a little tricky to do justice to.


The next focus of my attention was much more obliging.

Although he moved several times, he kept returning to this dead stalk, his wings loudly whirring like a playing-card fastened to catch the spokes of school-boy’s bike. I say ‘he’ advisedly as this is a broad-bodied chaser and the female is yellow. I’m pretty sure that I saw two females on the edge of the salt-marsh a few weeks ago. I’m also pretty sure that this is the first male I have ever seen. In the flesh that is – I’ve seen them before on other blogs – mainly I suspect at Bogbumper who always has great photos.

Whilst I was snapping away and trying not to chuckle too loudly at my sudden good fortune, this landed nearby…

I must admit that I took it for a moth, because of its thick and hairy body, but I was wrong, it’s a butterfly, a skipper, I think a large skipper (but I’m a bit tentative about that!).

And then (boy the photo opportunities were coming thick and fast)…

…a blue-tailed damsel fly.

Is there a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? And since we dabbled in Beckett before…

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

Well – the sun certainly shone, and if there was nothing new, well then there was a cornucopia of sights and sounds which were new to me.

Fail Better

Taking Pictures in the Dark

A late start.

I’d walked across the fields and along the clifftop, by the time I reached Heald Brow the sun was already setting. I dropped down the steep bank to the salt-marsh to see a buzzard take-off from close-by with something substantial in it’s beak, possibly a small rabbit. It landed on a stunted hawthorn growing out on Quaker’s Stang, but minutes later doubled back and perched in a tree beside the path I was following, kew kewing softly as it perched.

Unfortunately no amount of polishing seems to improve on this silhouette image, but this is still, I think, my best photo yet of a buzzard. Buzzards are reasonably commonplace here. On most walks I would expect to see at least one, but in rural Leicestershire in the 1970s they were, as far as I know, completely absent, which in part at least perhaps explains why I still feel such excitement every time one circles overhead or launches itself from a nearby tree.

Across quicksand pool to Warton Crag. 

The water in Quicksand Pool is as low as I think I’ve seen it. On the far side of this narrow rivulet the edge of the salt-marsh runs down to the river Keer. The beach just below the salt-marsh looked to be unusually firm and sandy and it occurred to me that a walk in that direction, where there are no paths and access is difficult, would be quiet and potentially interesting. I was idly debating the wisdom or otherwise of wading across Quicksand Pool to reach that far bank when the tide came racing up the channel as if to underline the lunacy of that idea.

The tide boiling up the channel.

At Jenny Brown’s Point I found a comfortable place to sit and watch a motley collection of birds gather and then depart from a rapidly dwindling island of sandbar.

The sandbar.

The lone heron left first, then the four curlews, which had huddled together in the shallow water just off the island as if distrusting the strident gulls and oystercatchers. The gulls lifted in large groups and flew low over my head, wheeling and dipping and bickering as they went. The oystercatchers departed in squadrons, flickering low over the water, looking in the low light like a ghostly v of ripples arrowing across the bay behind an invisible boat. The odd cormorant flew past, a ragged patch of night sky sent ahead on a scouting mission. When the last of the oystercatchers moved on, so did I.

The currents caused by the tides here confuse me: sometimes they seem to run north up the coast, but at other times, as tonight, they flow south.

This tide brought large floating islands of…..? I couldn’t say for sure what they were, but I suspect great rafts of brown scum.

To the north the folds of the coast and the hills beyond faded into ever softer tones of grey. I snapped away in the darkness, to no real avail, but quite contended none the less.

Taking Pictures in the Dark


Sometimes we read something and for one reason or another it really resonates. We read it at just the right moment, when we are most receptive to the message or the mood it conveys. Perhaps it articulates a thought which has been stirring in our own minds, just waiting for a nudge to bring it into the spotlight of our attention. Andy Stothert’s article in the July TGO did something like that for me. As I was reading it and chuckling along, a little chap in the brain department was jigging about, hand in the air, trying to draw my attention: “Hey, hey, that’s what we were telling X-Ray about last time we were out!”

Remember the numskulls? In….the Beano or the Dandy? I have a terrible memory….

The article, stated baldly, is about how walking with a dog changed Stothert’s approach to hill-walking so that rather than following a predetermined route he simply followed the dog, and about the joys of that unplanned approach, of stravaiging. Which wasn’t quite what I was telling X-Ray about – or perhaps it was and I just didn’t realise that fact at the time.

A couple of local walks from last week have passed without commentThe photographs here are drawn from those outings.Firstly, an insect which B found. He is fascinated by creepy-crawlies and has a knack of finding and catching them. I have no idea what this is.

During the course of our walk I bombarded X-Ray with suggestions for other routes we could be taking, or of routes nearby I’ve followed in the past. From Arnison Crag I sketched out the possibility of contouring round below Birks to Coldcove Gill, to follow the gill to Gavel Moss and then to breakout up to the left to Lord’s Seat and what looked like a rather nice ridge onto Gavel Pike.


It did rain occasionally last week and I took this because of the raindrops, but then realised that I don’t know what kind of leaf this is. It was pretty large – too big (and too long) to be the hazel I initially took it for.

On St. Sunday Crag I regaled X-Ray with stories of wandering around Ruthwaite Cove below Nethermost Pike looking for the diminutive Hard Tarn. I think I told him several times about the steep climb into Link Cove below Hart Crag and the rewards for attaining that unfrequented spot. When, with a bagger’s zeal, he asked about routes onto Angle Tarn Pikes, which we could see across the valley, I advocated Angletarn Beck – “not much of a scramble, but you’ll have it all to yourself”.


There’s a pair of jays somewhere above these hazel leaves – I could hear them, but only glimpsed them briefly.

In retrospect, much as I was enjoying the walk, I think I was also kicking against the tyranny of my current obsession with list-ticking and peak-bagging. I was remembering that sometimes less is more and that maybe one hill by a ridge less travelled might be as good or better than a nine-tick day, and that the freedom to decide to abandon a planned route to follow a stream which looks promising, or to seek out a secluded tarn, is an important part of why I head into the hills.

Flowers and seeds together on Sycamore.

Not that I’m intend to stop ticking off the Birketts – just that I should perhaps calm down a little bit – there’s no rush. And using the list is taking me to some slightly off the beaten track spots anyway: Arnison Crag doesn’t have a major highway up it like it’s loftier, Wainwright neighbours, the long, rough mostly pathless ridge between Harter Fell and the Hardknott Pass is one I probably wouldn’t have explored but for the two Birketts along it.

So – peak bagging with some stravaiging thrown in. Might struggle to sell that to X-Ray though, he has his own ‘minimum effort’ philosophy which doesn’t sit well with that idea.