Sea Wood, Aldingham, Birkrigg Common

In the car we’d been listening to Michael Hordern read ‘Prince Caspian’. I suspect that Michael Hordern could have made almost anything interesting to listen to, but the kids are quite Narnia obsessed at the moment. A has begun to read the books, the kids have all seen the films – in fact they had watched ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ at the flicks the day before with their mum whilst I was painting – and they are already busy preparing their costumes as characters from ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ for World Book Day. Today their mum had taken over the painting duties (fiddly stuff involving gloss paints and woodwork – beyond my meagre capabilities) and I was making a virtue of necessity and taking the rest of the crew for a staycation exploration day.

At the beginning of ‘Prince Caspian’ Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy unexpectedly find themselves in a wood, by a shore. They soon find a stream across the beach, and then the ruins of Cair Paravel in which they find a well. In the cold and the mist we embarked into a wood, by a shore. The kids soon found a rivulet issuing from a black plastic pipe. Just into the wood we found a mysterious ditch…

…at the end of which there was……a well!

…or something the kids were happy to believe was a well. I soon found that my companions had been renamed Peter, Edmund and Lucy. Lucy found a rough circle of erratic boulders, which she announced were the ruins of Cair Paravel’s keep and the magic was complete.

Whilst their imaginations ran wild, I was noticing that the Ramson leaves are much more advanced than the ones I spotted earlier in the week in Bottoms Wood near home.

 Spent puffballs.

We followed the lower edge of the woods and when we ran out of wood we turned about and came back along the foreshore.

 Sea Wood

Lucy had turned to beachcombing and was filling her pockets with stones and shells…

The boys were enjoying the mud and puddles and scrambling on the low cliffs. They were particularly taken with one twisted oak, the roots of which had been exposed by erosion, leaving a a space into which they climbed – a den which they were very reluctant to leave.

 Crab apples in the shingle.

Sea Wood is a Woodland Trust property, and has been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time. We would have missed the delights of Aldingham however had we not been alerted to its potential as a lunch spot by Danny at Teddy Tour Teas. So thanks Danny! Our lunch wasn’t as elaborate, or mouth-watering, as Danny’s but we enjoyed it none-the-less.

We couldn’t find all 27 of these, but were fascinated but those we did find.

I think that they might be Large White chrysalides (plural for chrysalis apparently).

Aldingham has a beach of sorts, which was also a big hit. We don’t expect to find sand on the fringes of Morecambe Bay and were very excited to find it here.

 More beachcombing. St. Cuthbert’s in the background.

Parts of the beach were shale. with a fabulous variety of shapes and shades in the stones.

Naturally, beyond the thin strip of sand, the mud and pools of the bay exerted an strong pull on the boys.

They also enjoyed this overspilling trough…

The pipe beyond it seems to be superfluous now.

Superfluous except as a balance beam for S. Both boys were keen to climb on the remnants of this groyne too. Perhaps the explanation for why there is a beach here at all?

We found a few balls like this on the beach…which I think might be fish eggs? That’s what I told my kids anyway, so if anyone can elucidate further…?

On the verge of the lane just back from the beach, butterbur flowers were emerging and by the wall of St. Cuthbert’s (this is one of the spots were St. Cuthbert’s remains are said to have rested apparently)….

….common speedwell?

 Aldingham Hall.

The final part of our triumvirate, another long anticipated visit, was the small stone circle on Birkrigg Common, just above Sea Wood and not too far from the road.

From whence we repaired to Ulverston and ‘soft play’ for them, Earl Grey for me.

We very much enjoyed our day and the strong consensus was that we shall have to return to all 3 locales for further exploration. Perhaps when the sun shines.

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Sea Wood, Aldingham, Birkrigg Common

Paint Drying

 

Half-term. Naturally it’s been grey, raining and miserable. I’ve had painting to do anyway, but yesterday when things finally brightened up, I needed to leave a coat of emulsion to dry and so took the opportunity to stretch my legs.

When I walked home via Jenny Brown’s Point a couple of weeks ago I noted some coiled green cylinders poking through a roadside verge and assumed that they were cuckoo pint leaves. The cuckoo pint leaves are now beginning to unfurl….

I’ve been enjoying the return of birdsong on my walks for a while now, but yesterday the birds seemed to be particularly….well – full of the joys of spring. This robin….

…alighted on a branch just behind me in the hedge, less then a yard away, and was quite happy to pose for a photo whilst in full voice. In Eaves Wood, a bewildering variety of songs almost always seemed to trace back to great tits, but one insistent chip, chip, chip alerted me to the presence of this chaffinch which eventually settled into a more familiar throaty song.

Clearly, at the tail end of February it would be a bit previous of me to announce the arrival of spring, but it can’t be denied that something is afoot.

 

New life is thrusting its way into the light.

The hazel catkins, with us since the dim dying days of last year, have opened out and taken on a pink tinge.

I’m often impressed by the colour of this tree trunk. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, by the colour of the lichen covering this tree trunk?

And, with no leaves on the surrounding trees, the sun shining, and a nice contrast provided by the leaf litter, this was a perfect chance to snap a picture.

 

I only paused briefly by the Pepper Pot…

…before making my way down through the wood and then the village to the Cove.

Another very bold robin sat on one of the benches above the Cove, inches away from a couple of walkers who had stopped for a rest. The Lots were very busy with couples, families and dog-walkers – everyone was making the most of the clement weather whilst it lasted.

I always admire this rooftop clock-tower when I pass it, which is often, but I don’t think that it has ever made it into my blog before. It’s an extension of, and across the road from Bleasdale House. The house is now a residential school, but was formerly a convalescent home for the Bradford Dyer’s Association, a Red Cross hospital during the First World War, and before that a private home. (These facts gleaned from David Peters ‘In and Around Silverdale’). Could this have been part of a stable block?

The weather vane…

…seems to portray some sort of mythical beast. A griffin? A phoenix? A dragon? I’m really not sure. And what does it have in its mouth?

Paint Drying

Snowdrop Season

After the rains of last Sunday we had a quite a few relatively bright days in the week. Wednesday, in particular, was clear and sunny and when we arrived home from work I dragged TBH out for a quick stroll. It being late, the best of the sunshine was gone, but it was still good to be out. I had no doubt in my mind about where we should go – to Haweswater where I knew that the snowdrops would be flowering in the woods.

There TBH had to wait patiently whilst I observed the annual ritual of grovelling in the leaf litter trying to take photos from underneath the low-growing plants to capture the intricate and hidden details of the apparently plain and simple white blooms.

I enjoy visiting this particular corner where the snowdrops thrive as an experience in its own right, but I also relish this as the first term in a periodic sequence: the snowdrops presage many other visits to Gait Barrows over the course of the year to find toothwort, bird’s-eye primrose, yellow flags, lily-of-the-valley, lady’s slipper, grass of Parnassus….

Haweswater itself is secretive and it’s difficult to get a clear view or to take decent photos so I was pleased to get these reflected pines despite the lack of colour.

This tree stump…

….often has oyster mushrooms growing on it. These are less of a seasonal marker – a search of previous posts throws up references to oyster mushrooms in both June and December (twice), all of them seen on a log on the cliff-path above Woodwell, although I know that I’ve also seen them many times here before.

The trees by Moss Lane were full of jackdaws.

And in a field beside the road, the first lambs we’ve noticed this year.

Snowdrop Season

A Good Day for Waterfalls

Tilberthwaite Gill

There was a spell last year, a prolonged and magical escape from the inevitable, when the mere act of choosing a day for a lengthy walk seemed to guarantee clear skies, sunshine and  stupendous views. The walks were exhilarating and I felt almost blessed in some way. But at the same time, the longer my good fortune went on, the more I began to feel a sense of foreboding: this couldn’t last, payback was coming, the watching Gods must surely be sporting with me, biding their time, planning my downfall. Well, my inner pessimist was right: it didn’t last, the bubble burst, the debt was recalled; the rains came. I was whinging this weekend about my recent ill-stared forays into the hills to CJ, who seems to be doomed to share in my amphibian explorations. I enumerated a list of grievances: Arthur’s Pike and Bonscale Pike, our walk back from Wasdale to Borrowdale, our ascent of Gowbarrow. Days about which, if you were a glass half-full sort of person, you might say that they were a least good days for waterfalls. The occasion for this whinging was another walk with CJ. Another good day for waterfalls.

We’d met in the car-park by Tilberthwaite Gill and set off up the south side of the gill, through the spoil heaps and mine workings. We were heading for Steel Edge, which I had a vague recollection of having climbed and enjoyed before. “It’s a grade one scramble” I told CJ although I hadn’t bothered to check this fact in the guide book. Nor was I entirely sure that starting on the south side of the stream was the right thing to do – there would be some stream-crossing to do and now that we were climbing I began to wonder how easy that would be. In the event, even with the gill running quite high, the stream crossing presented no problems. The rocks on Steel Edge were greasy with damp and I found myself hoping that the scrambling would be as straightforward as I recalled from my previous visit. In fact we reached the top of the ridge, joining the wide and bulky south ridge by a small tarn, without really finding any scrambling of note.

From here the climb was very steady. As we climbed, the hillside and path became increasingly obscured by snow. Or, well,….white stuff which looked like snow, but which was thawing in the rain and which splashed and sloshed when we stepped in it. There had been, to my surprise, a bit of a path on Steel Edge, but this south ridge, rising gradually from behind Coniston Coppermines is, I suspect, little walked and with the snow to disguise it we couldn’t always find a path. We worked on the basis that uphill was the right direction. Pretty soon we came to a prominent cairn. “Is this the top?”. Well…it didn’t quite correspond to my recollections of the top of Wetherlam, but it did seem to be downhill in every direction from here, so it has to be the top, right? I took a bearing for our descent route, followed that bearing for a couple of strides and found myself looking down a forbiddingly steep slope. Nope, that’s not it. Check the bearing. Check the map. Peer over the edge again. Scratch head. Check the bearing. Check the map. Peer over the edge – still much too step. So – either I’m doing something horribly wrong with the compass, or we aren’t at the top. Where else could we be? Nothing on the map suggests any prominent tops before Wetherlam itself – nothing with even a solitary contour of its own. CJ wolfed down some coffee and a sandwich whilst I wondered what to do. It was really very cold, and between standing around for a few moments and fiddling with map and compass my hands had become quite painfully chilled. In the end I decided, more for lack of a better idea than for any other reason, to continue along the path we had been following. Within seconds the whole mystery was cleared up: the mist had fooled me and created an illusory descent ahead, in fact the ground only dropped very slightly before rising again. What had looked like a distant hillside was in fact just the continuation of our ridge. Before long we were at the genuine top and soon after were following the bearing I had wanted to follow before, but this time on less suicidal terrain. Nonetheless it was still steep. The map suggests a benign shoulder with steeper slopes either side, both with some crags. In reality all is pretty rocky and some care was required picking our way down, especially with the slippery melting snow over the rocks. We found a path, and followed it slightly below and to the left of the ridge, but in taking care where we put our hands and our feet we dropped a little too far below the ridge and once again found ourselves faced with increasingly steep ground ahead. This time I was fairly confident about what had happened and the remedy was obvious – to contour back right until the angle eased and hopefully we found the path again. We found less steep ground and eventually the path and descended below the snow to where all of our onwards paths had become streams.

The hillside to the north of Tilberthwaite Gill is pocked with old levels and shafts. It is also dotted with Birketts more plentiful than pimples on an adolescent chin. I had considered incorporating some or all of these into today’s walk to add to our tally of two so far (Wetherlam and Birk Fell Man), but frankly I was wet and cold and ready for a change of clothes back at the car, besides which I these would all be new tops to me and I decided that I would prefer to visit on a clear day. Of which, of course there will soon be more – in my list of wet days above I realise now that I had omitted to mention fine days on Pike o’Blisco  and our mammoth walk over Glaramara and Scafell Pike to Wasdale, which came between the wet days. Roll on spring!

A Good Day for Waterfalls

Crag Foot and Quicksand Pool

The days are lengthening. The snowdrops are out and have been for a week or more. The birds are busy in the trees – I’m sure that I saw a magpie with nest building material in its beak last week. At the weekend foul weather and domestic duties kept me from taking advantage of the improvements, but on Tuesday after work I took a scenic route back from the train station. I climbed uphill by the road and then turned through Fleagarth Wood.

On another (fairly) recent walk from the train station I walked with Mike, who used to be our neighbour (and who supplied the boundary riding postcard I posted recently). He asked whether I had noticed the spot along the Row where a dog fox crosses the road regularly. Had he seen it? No. Then how did he know? Because of the smell. When we reached the place Mike was referring to, by Bank Well, sure enough there was a faint but distinctively sharp scent. Now I thought that I could detect the same aroma in Fleagarth wood, but when I stopped to sniff again it seemed to be gone. On Sunday evening, driving home from a family trip to the swimming baths, we saw a fox cross the road ahead – so they are about – just very elusive.

When I emerged from the woods on the edge of the salt marsh, Warton Crag was glowing golden in the late sun and a window at Crag Foot was catching the sunlight and throwing it back like a signalling mirror (see above). Although I was enjoying the light I was a little disappointed – the golden glow spread southwards along the coast, lighting the windows of the buildings along the sea front at Morecambe and previous experience led to me to believe that I would miss the sunset as I wouldn’t reach Jenny Brown’s Point quick enough to see it. I hadn’t factored in the time of year – the sun set further south in the western sky than I had anticipated and I had a chance to watch it from the muddy bank of Quicksand Pool, by Jenny Brown’s cottages.

By the time I did reach Jenny Brown’s Point the sun was gone, but it had left fabulous colours in the sky to soften the blow of its departure.

This afternoon the light was superb once again, the best view being of Warton Crag again as we passed it in the train – the trees amber in the sunlight and the sky behind egg-shell blue with huge scraps of blue-black clouds. This time I took a route through Eaves Wood, where there has been more tree felling and scrub clearing up by the Ring of Beeches.

Crag Foot and Quicksand Pool

On the Hoof

Three walks to report on. The first, late on Saturday afternoon, with friends small and large, from the Leighton Moss car park to Trowbarrow quarry and back via the golf course. Very much an amble this one with lots of opportunities for scrambling on the rocks and boulders of the Trough for the kids.

One surprise – this orange ladybird, halyzia 16-guttata, on a tree trunk on the edge of the quarry. It seems that this type of ladybird has become more common in the UK as it has begun to live on sycamore and ash. At this time of year ladybirds are usually dormant, so what this one was up to (not much whilst we watched) I’m not sure. Looking for information on ladybirds I found this helpful site.

 Trowbarrow Quarry.

Sunday afternoon’s walk took me past an old friend – the Cloven Ash. I think the gap is getting wider. But I might be wrong. We’d come via Eaves Wood and Haweswater and were now following the trough again (although a little further north). We followed it to this bridge – where R and S examined a geocache. R has placed a new geocache nearby, part of a series on or near the parish boundary which he is organising to celebrate the village bicentenary.

From the new geocache, we took a peek at the remnants of Coldwell Limeworks. Around the ruin there has been lots of tree-felling – R thinks that it’s the RSPB removing sycamores. Bad news for orange ladybirds! I knew that the RSPB had bought Silverdale Moss, but not that they owned this woodland too.

Yesterday after work, I left the railway station in the wrong direction for home, and took a turn instead around Leighton Moss. I was hoping to catch the starling roost. I only saw the starlings briefly. But for about 10 minutes, I watched them wheeling in a huge cloud, about 100 yards away across the reed-beds. They’re fantastic to watch, but also, as I watched, many of the birds seemed to alight on the reeds for a moment – the sound they made as they all lifted into the air again was amazing. Finally the original cloud of birds was joined by a zeppelin of starlings from the north, and moments later by a long worm from the south and the new larger host sped away westward across the moss and were lost to view.

On the Hoof