Welsh Castles IV – Powis Castle

This castle – much further north then the previous three – was used as a stopping off point to break our journey home. As you can see it is not ruined like the other three we visited which means no charging around on the battlements, but on the other hand it means amazing treasures inside (including may from India due to Clive of India’s connection with the house) and a stunning garden.

The orangery.

Welsh Castles IV – Powis Castle

Welsh Castles III – Carreg Cennen

Carreg Cennen is stunningly situated on a bluff on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. It’s a favourite spot of ours and I think that this is our fourth visit.

TBH inexplicably puts herself in the stocks.

An Archer’s view.

Battlement harebells.

From the castle we watched a large raptor circling, we think probably a red kite.

Probably the most exciting thing about this castle is the descent into…

…and exploration of, the cave below…

We almost made it to another castle later that same day. In the grounds of Dinefwr Castle we came across this medieval encampment…

It was raining quite hard and we were glad to get under the shelter and to listen to the knowledgeable re-enactors  talking about and demonstrating cooking, calligraphy and fletching. The boys got to handle a variety of different swords and then played some ancient games…

Here they are stabbing their sticks through thrown quoits. You can also see the small bucklers which they used to deflect a ball which was thrown at them.

When the weather failed to improve we elected to try the drier environs of Newton House, which is within the same park, and to leave Dinefwr Castle for another time.

Welsh Castles III – Carreg Cennen

Welsh Castles II – Llanstephan

Laugharne Castle sits at the mouth of the Taf and Lllanstephan likewise dominates the mouth of the neighbouring Tywi estuary (and there’s another castle at Kidwelly on the far side of the Tywi, which is also well worth a visit, although we didn’t fit it in this time).

Both Laugharne and Lllanstephan are owned by Cadw, the Welsh heritage people, but unlike Laugharne, Llanstephan is outide the modern village, unmanned and free. What’s more, having climbed the hill to the castle in a shower we had the castle entirely to ourselves. We’ve been to Lllanstephan once before, but didn’t make our planned visit to the castle – I’m glad that we tried again: it’s a fabulous place.

The main gatehouse is the most intact building and it’s possible to climb to the top of the tower on the right. It’s also possible to climb the right hand tower in this building….

…although that does involve an actual climb to begin with and is probably not what Cadw intend. The hill on which the castle sits is small, but none the less the castle has great views along the estuary.

After our trip to the castle, and a spot of lunch in the excellent cafe behind the village store and post office,we went down onto the extensive beach beside the estuary.

Castle Hill seen from the beach.

Welsh Castles II – Llanstephan

Welsh Castles I – Laugharne

To begin at the beginning: we are just back (well a week back actually) from another holiday in Wales. We stopped in Laugharne where Dylan Thomas lived for many years and which I think was the model for Under Milk Wood. Although we did other things – a marvellous sunny day on Pendine Sands, a dire shuffle around a ‘chocolate farm’ tourist attraction – we seemed to spend a lot of our time visiting castles: hence a series of brief posts on Welsh Castles.

Laugharne is a pretty cool castle – we were particularly pleased to look around because on our previous visits to Laugharne, which were around New Year, the castle has always been shut and we’ve had to content ourselves with a walk around the outside. The castle has a tall tower with a spiral staircase to climb – always a bonus. In the centre of the photo above you can see A and B practising their archery with the bow-and-arrows they had just bought in the gift shop.

Jackdaws on the battlements.

Welsh Castles I – Laugharne

Bannerdale Round

Angle Tarn

A splendid walk in the excellent company of my old friend CJ. My increasingly obsessive peak-bagging has brought me to a corner of Lakeland which is quite unfamiliar to me. We parked near the old church in Martindale…

…and after a little navigational hiccup, by climbing Beda Head which is the first prominent bump on the long rising ridge of Beda Fell. That ridge eventually brought us to more familiar territory on Angle Tarn Pikes, where we even enjoyed a little sunshine.

Brother’s Water from Angle Tarn Pikes.

From Angle Tarn Pikes we scorned the path and traipsed over Cat Crag to the slightly underwhelming ‘summit’ of Brock Crags. The steepest climb of the day followed taking us on to Rest Dodd, from where a broad and boggy ridge – with genuine Black Peak style peat hags – led us to the Nab.

CJ is also a bagger and had the relevant Wainwright guidebook with him. Apparently the Nab used to be inaccessible – Wainwright issues stern guidance that the land is private and that trespassers are not welcome before going on to give five pages of details which make it quite clear that he must have trespassed. There is no such restriction today, although we didn’t see any other walkers there and judging by the faint path it isn’t a particularly popular route.

We doubled back to find an old stalkers path – the reason that visitors were barred is that the area was a deer park  – there are still signs warning that the area is used for deer conservation. As we descended towards Yewgrove Gill we spotted a group of deer and watched them cross below a waterfall in the gill.

As we contoured around the hill and then walked down the valley we saw many more groups of deer – I’ve never seen red deer in anything like these numbers in the Lakes before. Many of the groups had this year’s fawns with them…

Bannerdale and the neighbouring Rampsgill, which meet below the Nab to become Martindale, are both very quiet and must be ideal for the deer. I will definitely come this way again.

CJ and I had both been struck by the strange building in the valley here, not built in the local style, green with a red roof and a veranda all around it. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of it, perhaps because the rain which had been threatening to arrive on and off all day, had finally arrived. It’s called the Bungalow and is available for holiday lets. More interestingly, it was a hunting lodge built for a visit by Kaiser Wilhelm.

Bannerdale Round

Eaves Wood Landmarks

A’s birthday.*

“So, what do you want to do on your birthday?”

We didn’t need to ask twice – she reeled off a menu for each meal and a complete plan for the day. Part of that plan was a walk in Eaves Wood – it’s good to see that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree!

Of course, a walk in the woods actually means climbing trees and  revisiting old dens. Somebody gave A some Usborne Spotter’s Guides for her birthday. They remind me of the old eye-spy books which I remember with great affection. So we were looking for wildflowers and ticking off and collecting points for the ones we found.

For the kids a walk in Eaves Wood must progress via a series of familiar landmarks: this old coppiced beech is The Climbing Tree, but later they would expect to visit The Best Climbing Tree which is a yew. From there they know how to find The Root House – where a pair of beeches have fallen away from each other leaving a hollow sheltered on both sides by their roots – or The Witches Garden which is a set of limestone steps – the name comes from a game they played there some time ago.

Perhaps this stunted oak, near the the Pepper Pot, will become a new station in our itinerary since it too turned out to be good to climb…

  My own walks too link familiar landmarks – The Cloven Ash, The Inevitable Heron, The Lichen-toed Beech, The White-Violet Verge. Patrolling these spots and seeking out seasonal  landmarks which mark the passing of the year – the daffodil wood, the bird’s-eye primrose meadow, the winter starling roost – have become as important as annual rituals as the marking of birthdays.

Speckled Wood

* Yes – this was some time ago – I am once again hopelessly behind.

Eaves Wood Landmarks

Supernumerary Rainbow

I was sitting with S in his room as he drifted off to sleep, reading, perhaps appropriately, ‘Cosmic Imagery’ by John D. Barrow a great book to dip in to on just such an occasion, when that call went out again – “Dad, Dad come and look at this.”

Two very intense complete hoops – it took me a while to find my cameras and the photos are not a patch on how it looked at the time, but…as well as the reversed secondary it’s just about possible to see inside the principal rainbow a fainter band which is a supernumerary rainbow. There’s a scientific explanation here.

This crop is not exactly sharp but it is possible to see the extra colours inside the violet.


The next day we were enjoying sunshine in the garden when they were at it again. This time they wanted to show me a slowworm which their mum had found in a flowerbed. Very beautiful – and not particularly slow when we picked it up. No photos  this time sorry – but there is one here from earlier in the year.

Supernumerary Rainbow

Enchanter’s Nightshade

A walk from home around Haweswater. We used to live nearer to Haweswater and often walked around it. Now, although I still walk that way from time to time, I tend to think of it as a bit far for an evening, when time is often limited. TBH tells me that I should be able to walk it in an hour, but I’ve never been a quick walker and then, of course I stop so often to listen or watch or photograph etc. And then there are digressions or sometimes I turn back thinking that I have missed something. Still, even I can manage it in an hour and a quarter, so although it was quite late I decided to head that way.

I started by climbing into Eaves Wood along the edge of Potter’s Field. There is usually a bull and his harem in this field at this time of year. I’m not sure whether this is the same bull as last year, but if it is he is not as camera shy as he was.

This plant is abundant in Eaves Wood. Through the spring and early summer it is flowerless, and the leaves have always troubled me because I have never been able to work out what it is.

In the summer, when the shade is at it’s deepest, tiny white flowers appear when almost nothing else is flowering below the tall trees in the wood.

And I’ve finally managed to work out what it is: Enchanter’s Nightshade. A very evocative name for a fairly insignificant plant. It has an interesting story:

In the 16th century, a Flemish botanist named Mathias De l’Obel tried to identify a magical plant which the early Greek physician Dioscorides had named after the mythical sorceress Circe. His first choice was bittersweet, which supposedly acted as a good luck charm. But his choice later fell on the enchanter’s nightshade, which still bears the botanical name of Circaea lutetiana – lutetia being the Roman name for Paris, where De l’Obel and other botanists worked. Before that the Anglo-Saxons had used the plant – which they called aelfthone – as a protection against spells cast by elves.*

This, I think, is limestone woundwort. The more widespread and less spectacular hedge woundwort has been flowering for a while and I had wondered why I hadn’t seen any of these, but they obviously flower later.

The year is marching on and I noticed this sloe with the dusky purple of autumn, although most of the other sloes are still an unripe green…

I’ve photographed this dead tree many times – this time it was the way the sun was catching some of the uppermost branches which struck me. Haweswater is visible beyond the tree.

In the same field I found eyebright…

…and lady’s mantle. Whilst I faffed about photographing them, I could hear quite a cacophony from the woods around Haweswater. Two birds, the culprits of all of the noise, flew over and landed in the dead tree. Everything about their outline, their movements their flight, the way they clung to the tree made me think that they were green woodpeckers, but against the sky i couldn’t see any colours. However, having listened online to the call of a green woodpecker, I am now absolutely confident that I was right. I walked back to the tree hoping to see them better and to perhaps get a photograph, but they were soon away again to another tree further away.

The small open field at the end of Haweswater is dominated by hemp agrimony…

…, but there are flashes of yellow from ragwort and this flower…

…which grows very vigorously in many local gardens, and which I have yet to identify. Earlier in the year there would have been many yellow flags too, but they are done flowering now and where the flowers were there are now huge green pods which look like they ought to be a tasty addition to a stir-fry.

There are also a huge variety of umbellifers. I really must make a start at  distinguishing hogweed from cow parsley etc.

One fluffy pink and white creation played host to these black-winged yellow-bellied bugs which sadly I also haven’t found in any guide books.

Whilst I was in the field, I heard the noisy calls again and one of the woodpeckers flew directly overhead before landing in a tree across the field.

On this walk, and during my longer walk back from Nether Kellet last week, I found and munched on some very juicy dewberries. The plant looks like a bramble, but seems to be more low-growing than blackberries and as you can see the fruit has fewer segments. They are also so juicy and delicate that they really have to be eaten immediately – even between hedgerow and mouth they can disintegrate leaving you with purple fingers.

It took me a while to find some ripe blackberries for comparisons sake, and when I did it was too dark by the hedgerow to get anything other than a very shaky picture – so, in the interests of my readers I picked a few, and then ate them to dispose of them responsibly. Very nice they were too.

By the time I was crossing the fields towards home, the sun had long since set and darkness was fast descending. The walk had taken me an hour and three-quarters. But…


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.


I was reintroduced to this gem by an old poetry anthology which I picked up, with several others, at ‘a book fair’ – or a charity second-hand bookstall at Leeds Childrens’ Holiday Camp at the weekend.

* from ‘The Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Britian’

Enchanter’s Nightshade

Bittersweet and Bartsia

Another short walk with TBH. (Children once again tearing lumps out of their Grandparents.) We went to the Wolfhouse Gallery and didn’t find what we were looking for, but the walk was very fine. On the way back we went via Heald Brow.

Hedgerow bittersweet.

We seem to be having a bumper summer for fungi. Near to this specimen were a couple of smaller more orange ones.

I didn’t know what this was when I took the photo. Rather eerily, I’ve just opened one of my flower books on an arbitrary page and found the same plant looking back at me. It’s red bartsia, which Linnaeus named after his friend Dr. Bartoch.

Bittersweet and Bartsia

Rainbow over the Bela

TBH and I had been in Kendal (looking at oak flooring if you must know) and had intended to squeeze a short walk in on the way home. The weather was very changeable – sunshine and showers – a rainbow day. We were in two minds, but eventually opted for a little trip along the Bela. We started our trip accompanied by a full double rainbow. (Admittedly it’s a bit hard to see the second one in the photo above.)

Large fish were leaping from the river making impressive splashes.

A good example here…

…of how the sky inside the rainbow appears paler than the sky outside.

This little walk punches well above its weight. We were soon on the pancake flat land leading out to the Kent estuary and the eye is led by the high ground either side of the Kent valley to the distant hills of the Lake District.

Rainbow over the Bela