A Walrus Speaks

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings

Sorry, the kids have been watching ‘The Sound of Music’. And prompted me to think about the Joy of Lists. Particularly those with heterogeneous elements…

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

Which brings me, in a round about way to this…

A good day on the hoof should include: (1) a section of river or canal, (2) a Formica-table breakfast, (3) a motorway bridge, (4) a discontinued madhouse, (5) a pub, (6) a mound, (7) a wrap of London weather (monochrome to sunburst), (8) one major surprise.

I’ve been fighting an unequal battle with Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital, but at least before I was routed from our latest skirmish, I found this coherent sentence to take away as booty. And muse on. What are my criterion for a ‘good day on the hoof’?

Actually, I’d been thinking about this for a while anyway. When we stopped at Ninebanks, just before Christmas, and I climbed to Greenleycleugh Crags with my friend the Adopted Yorkshirewoman,  I found myself trying to explain why I felt that 2010 had been something of an Annus mirabilis for me, at least in terms of walking. But why? Because I got out more? Partly yes. Because I felt fitter and climbed more hills? Yes – again, but that’s not all there is to it. Truth to tell – I couldn’t really articulate the enormous privilege I felt at times last year, and I found myself enumerating a list of highlights:

an invasion of redwings and fieldfares; ice-floes in the Kent; a hunger emboldened robin following me on Arnside Knott; a lizard on Meall nan Tarmachan; a slowworm above Cockley Beck; frogs and eels and nests and red deer and maybe, almost an otter at Leighton Moss; sundogs; a supernumerary rainbow; the cloud lifting of Watson’s Dodd; a sabre wasp; a scorpion fly; clouds of goldfinches on Warton Crag; the shiny multi-coloured Chrysolina Menthastri on the day when a buzzard dive-bombed me; the broad-bodied chaser near Haweswater….

Major surprises.

So – I realise that I like number 8 in Sinclair’s list. Last weekend’s walk included ‘(1) a section of canal’ and, unusually, (3) a motorway bridge. There is ‘(6) a mound’ on Summer House Hill – what’s left of the summerhouse itself – although we didn’t visit it. The weather conditions changed through the day too.

I’ve been trying to devise a list of my own. So far I’ve got (in no particular order):

(1) A hill or viewpoint.

(2) A stretch of water – river, lake, tarn, stream, mere, pond, sea.

(3) Good company (could be my own company).

(4) Plenty of stops. (For tea, or breathers, or photos or all of the above)

(5) Woods.

(6) Plenty to see – doesn’t have to be major surprises: could be a sunset, a cloudscape, a starling roost, red deer on The Nab, a rook playing catch above Allen Crags, grass of parnassus flowers catching the sun, a running fox or a barking roe deer in Gait Barrows, lady’s slippers….but there I go again with my lists!

So – a challenge: what are the elements which combine to make your idea of ‘a good day on the hoof’?

PS – you might also think about signing the petition here, to protest about the proposed (scandalous) sell-off of Forestry Commission land.

A Walrus Speaks

Wellies Walk


After my day-off last weekend it was TBH’s turn this weekend, but my parents were on hand to tend to the herd, and TBH hadn’t made any arrangements for her day so I suggested that she might like me to join her for a walk. She readily accepted (although she later accused me of being crafty).

“What sort of a walk do you fancy?” I asked, having already perused OL7 for easy Birketts we might bag.

“One with a nice place to eat in the middle. And I want to get there before it stops serving.” Some people can bear a grudge.

This wasn’t quite the species of answer I had been looking for – I was after the sort of summary which might proceed a walk in a guide book: river bank, low fell, woods, moderate walking on good paths. I sometimes forget that we don’t all share the same criteria for what makes a good walk. I devised a route which included all of these: river bank (twice), low fell, woods, moderate walking mainly on good paths (although not, I suspect, on the low fell) plus a few tarns and a good place to eat in the middle. One day I might walk it. But not this time: in cramming all of those things in I had ended up with a walk which had ignored TBH’s unstated but most important criteria: not too far.

Not to worry – I went back to the drawing board and came up with something which had the added advantage of starting on the doorstep – which was handy because we were non to early to set-off.

Cloud was beginning to gather, but there was much blue still on display. After two days and three nights during which the frost hadn’t lifted everything was coated in white. We started in Eaves Wood and were soon passing Haweswater, which had more than it’s usual contingent of ducks since, being deep, it had only partially frozen. We crossed Yealand Allotment and then followed the low ridge of Cringlebarrow.

This field, in a fetching white/green two-tone decor on this occasion, is completely surrounded by woodland. It’s one of several in the area like this – we passed through another later in our walk. I couldn’t begin to explain why, but I really like a field with woods all-around. Each to their own I suppose.

We were soon dropping down to Yealand Conyers. East of the Yealands is a small corridor of low lying land passing through limestone hills on either side. Cheek-by-jowl within that corridor are the A6, the main railway-line to Glasgow, the Lancaster Canal and the M6. We crossed the A6 and our path took a bridge over the railway, but we had to go under the motorway. Although everywhere else so far the ground and any surface water had been frozen, in the underpass and beyond were a huge puddle. The local farmer seems to be using the underpass as a handy garage and had parked machinery on the few dry patches. With little alternative except lengthy detours we waded through the underpass and then negotiated the almost as wet and far muddier track beyond by clinging on the barbed wire fence and tottering  on half submerged fence-posts.

Crossing the canal was far less traumatic. There is a bridge handily nearby.


This is one of the eight Tewitfield locks. This northern part of the canal is no longer navigable and the locks don’t have gates.

And so it was that we arrived at Greenlands Farm (which has diversified and is now part open farm and part retail park) and the excellent Wellies Cafe with slightly soggy feet. To give them their due, neither staff nor shoppers blinked an eye at our mud-spattered attire and dripping boots. Lunch was very fine. (TBH couldn’t decide between white-bait and pate so we ordered both and some rarebit and shared them  Tapas style.)

Lunch was a leisurely affair with some postprandial paper reading to boot, but eventually we dragged ourselves away for the return leg of our journey.

A single bridge took us back over the canal and the M6…

This time it was the railway line which proved difficult: the gate where we expected to cross was padlocked, but a very minor detour to another path took us under the line (this time dryshod). A minor road took us back into Yealand Conyers, past the Catholic St. Mary’s…

..which sadly was locked up.

A couple of field paths and a minor lane took us up to summer house hill.

Where we were warmly greeted. What kind of bull are we being warned about? As usual when there is a sign, it was pure bull****.

I was treated recently to a brief but fascinating slideshow of old postcards of this area, one of which showed the old summerhouse which stood on this hill. I was surprised by how substantial is was.

The view from here is magnificent. On this occasion the Lakeland hills were seen above a layer of mist, Gummer How the first dark line and the Coniston Fells behind…

The same mist blanketed the bay, Black Combe barely poking its head above the layer.

At Leighton Moss many of the meres are frozen over…

We paused at the visitor centre to pick-up a few items from the shop (of which possibly more later). And then set-off back across the golf-course.

As we crested the rise by Bank Well we found that the sky was engaged in a light show…

…which intensified as we neared home…

My parents bought me a pedometer for Christmas, so I’m going to imitate proper walking blogs now by appending some walk stats:

Steps: 26899

kcal: 1375

km 13.44

Although I can’t verify their veracity. The last for instance is based on a totally arbitrary stride–length of  50cm, which I chose to enter without any attempt to calibrate out of sheer laziness. Now if I only knew how far this walk really was….

Wellies Walk

After the Deluge

Aira Force

It rained. Rained again. Paused. Then rained some more only heavier and with added spite. On Saturday afternoon X-Ray called in to pick me up and drive us both to CJ’s in Keswick. CJ’s house is beside the river Greta which rolled by brown and quick and threatening. On Sunday morning it continued to rain torrentially so we nursed our hangovers and watched the end of the one-day international. Cricket doesn’t do much for me and I was beginning to get twitchy when it finally stopped raining at around noon. With limited daylight left we decided to head for Gowbarrow.

This had the added spice of an ascent beside Aira Force.  Spray was rising off the falls like smoke which obscured the view to a certain extent but still it was most impressive.

Just beyond the falls we turned right to climb towards Green Hill. This route gives great views along both arms of Ullswater. CJ and X-Ray had climbed Gowbarrow together before. As we approached Green Hill summit X-Ray came over all Captain Oates: “I’m holding you boys up. You’ll get cold. I’ll add an hour to the walk.” He turned back for the car and the National Trust tea-shop. To be honest – I’m not sure that his heart was really in it.

 CJ on Green Hill

“Are you recording my Birkett’s?”

I suspect that CJ is beginning to crumble – he’ll be ticking off the Birketts with me before he knows it. Green Hill isn’t really a summit at all, but it is a fine view-point and CJ opined that it perhaps shouldn’t have been omitted by Wainwright. I think it’s helpful to think of Birkett’s list as summits and notable viewpoints. With added pointless humps.

I’m not specifically recording CJ’s Birketts but I can probably work it out from my blog posts. I did point out that it might be harder to work out which tops CJ had decided to dip on any particular day – giving the example of Broad Crag back in October. I might have added Great Knott in November.

Anyway, to keep my records straight and indisputable I’ve started to take summit photos…

 CJ on Gowbarrow.

From Gowbarrow there were views northwards along a ridge of fairly indeterminate lumps (all Birketts) leading to Little Mell Fell…

And further west the distinctive shape of Great Mell Fell with a hint of blue sky behind…

All for another day. We turned south and back to Aira Beck, which has more to offer besides Aira Force.

High Force for instance…


Or this fall, unnamed on my map, where the beck piles into a narrow rocky trench…

…turns through 90 degrees and then churns and boils in the tight gorge…

When we reached the car-park X-Ray was deep in his book.

A short outing but it will have to suffice as my January fresh-air fix.

After the Deluge

The Bare Bones Of It

He was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery. He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple.

‘He’ is Mole, heading:

towards the  Wild Wood, which lay before him low and threatening, like a black reef in some still southern sea.

I haven’t been getting out often enough or going far enough of late, but on Sunday B – with whom I am reading ‘Wind in the Willows’ – joined me in an attempt to get ‘down to the bare bones of it’.

The sun was shining and over Eaves Wood the sky was blue but to the west the sky was forbiddingly black.

“Look Dad magpies!”

In fact it was a large mixed flock of rooks and jackdaws, the rooks digging purposefully whilst the jackdaws mostly wheeled overhead. Beyond the rooks, curlews were presumably seeking similar pickings.

On the Row we watched a solitary fieldfare in a garden. Not too surprisingly the rain that the leaden skies had promised had now arrived and the blue patch above Eaves Wood had been supplanted by a (slightly feeble) rainbow.

By Moss Lane we found a huge clattering of jackdaws, this time without their cousins the rooks and apparently more intent on some serious foraging.

Stripped of their finery the trees do reveal some of their secrets – further down Moss Lane we watched a greater spotted woodpecker furiously hammering on a trunk.

Not the most revealing photo of a woodpecker! And the crop I attempted is no more informative. But I do like the way that small flash of colours stands out against the mass of bare branches.

By the time we had rounded Haweswater B, who had set off at a fine pace, was now beginning to dawdle, but he was absorbed in stripping the bark from his stick….

In the steep-sided dip by Challan Hall mews we startled a heron. Unusually, although it did take to the wing, it didn’t go too far before landing again.

We returned home via Eaves Wood. The sun was shining again, the blue sky had returned and was providing a perfect backdrop for the trees above us. Even an occasional visitor to this blog will surely have noticed that I need little excuse to take photos of trees, especially silver birches which certainly come into their own in the winter when the striking bark and delicate branches are seen to best advantage.

The birds we saw provided interest and talking points throughout the walk. We also saw blue and great tits, thrushes and blackbirds, oystercatchers, robins, a kestrel, a pair of bullfinches, and some woodpigeons…

Later the pair of us were out again for our more standard weekend outing to the Pepper Pot, this time with the rest of the family and some friends. The kids charged around gleefully, TBH chatted to her pal and I enjoyed the late afternoon winter’s light.

The Bare Bones Of It

Boundary Riding

Mike's Beating The Bounds Pic

from the Mike Moon Postcard Collection

Another get together of outdoor bloggers? Could be – note the beards and soft-shell fabrics.

Actually it takes us back to where this blog began almost three years ago – with the idea of beating the bounds. This, according to the flag held by the man on the left (who looks like the Skegness Jolly Farmer),

…is from the Silverdale Boundary Riding of 1895 (I think, the last digit of the year is hard to read).

2011 is a bicentennial year for Silverdale. There have been homes and farms here for much longer than 200 years, but the significance of 1811 (I think) is that that was when Silverdale became a parish in it’s own right. Many events are planned to celebrate that anniversary, one of which is a beating the bounds walk. I can’t imagine that there will be such a fine display of facial hair this year, but hopefully I will be there to document the event.

Some of the men are barefoot, and it looks as though the assembled men and boys are stood on sand/mud rather than grass. When I first moved to Silverdale there was an extensive grassy foreshore. Photographs in Brain Evans excellent guide to the area show that foreshore extending further South along the coast than it did when I knew it. Now it has almost entirely gone. Apparently the channel of the Kent moves back and forth across the estuary in a cyclical fashion. At present Grange has a foreshore. In time that too will disappear and ours will return.

Thanks to Mike for sending me the photo and prompting this post.

Boundary Riding

The Holly and the Ivy

The holiday season has been and gone, the decorations are safely stowed away for next year and I’m back at work. Somehow I’ve managed to let the blog slip again – not that I have a lot of walking to report upon. We did stroll for lunch at the Wolfhouse Gallery a couple of times, and of course there were walks in Eaves Wood.

I haven’t seen the mobs of waxwings which have apparently been marching up and down Stankelt Road bearing banners and placards with slogans like ‘We’re over here chump, how can you miss us?’, but there were redwings and fieldfares in Eaves Wood, and after last winter’s cold-snap I’m much more aware of what I’m looking for when there are mixed thrush flocks about.

I also managed to get a photo (of sorts) of one of the pee-wits in Potter’s field:


Before the thaw arrived and left everything sodden, we had some very fine days and an impressive build up of frost.

Frost ‘flowers’ on the ivy.

Probably appropriate to follow with…

I made it down to the Cove once too, where the frost picked out the trees beautifully.

From Cove Road.

Here is the crew after the candle-lit service on Christmas Eve:


A belated Happy New Year to all who drop by.

The Holly and the Ivy