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.

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Fail Better

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