A Sunny Stroll

Blue skies; oak trees coming into leaf.

Trying to dispel the back-to-work-blues today by recalling a couple of short pre-prandial strolls.

Over the last several days we have been enjoying a wonderfully settled spell of unseasonably warm weather. Being at home you might think that I would be taking advantage and beating the bounds with a vengeance, but in fact I didn’t do a great deal of walking. The kids were content to play in the garden and so we’ve spent much of our time there – barbecuing lunches and even reading a book in the sunshine – haven’t had the chance to do that since…well, since I don’t know when.

The first stroll began with a trip to see some friends on the Row to lend out the book in question, having finished it: ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel (which I can heartily recommend). I also had an opportunity to have a sneak preview of some of the work which will be exhibited on this year’s Art and Craft Trail, and to watch some of it being produced. (If you live nearby or fancy a weekend in this neck of the woods the art and craft weekend would be a fabulous time to visit.)

I don’t know if it’s all the sunshine we’re having but it seems to me that many that many of the dandelions I passed as I continued on my stroll were particularly tall and featured enormous blooms.

I was headed for Haweswater….

…which is a very secretive little lake, hard to see properly from almost any vantage point.

A heron laconically flapped over as I headed down to the lake. As I came back I caught a brief glimpse of a large raptor overhead – I think that it was a marsh harrier.

Crossing Sixteen Buoys field I heard a bird call, an insistent ‘seep-seep-seep’ which I traced to one of two robins.

The robin on the right was back and forward to the ground and was clearly passing food to the other bird, which I assume is a fledgling.

I wasn’t the only one enjoying the dandelions.

I came back through Eaves Wood, partly to check on the toothwort which I suspected I would find there: I did and it transpired that it was in slightly better nick than the toothwort near Haweswater – it seems to be thriving too and has spread over a wider area then I remember it covering. The low sun was doing a fine job of lighting the new beech leaves and displaying their wonderful pale green – a favourite feature of this season.

I think that the second stroll will have to wait for another post since my duvet is calling to me.

A Sunny Stroll

Gaitbarrows Trees

When I attempted recently to draw up a list of elements which come together to make a ‘perfect day on the hoof’, Lisa corrected a few omissions from my list. One of her suggestions was:

Things to smell – pine, spruce, saltwater, wild roses, skunk cabbage (haven’t made that one yet)

The first thing that struck me as I set-off along the path around Haweswater yesterday evening was the heady scent in the air. But what was the smell? If I were a cleverer writer I would say something like: burnt nutmeg, rosemary and an undercurrent of chocolate, but in fact I couldn’t begin to decide how I would describe what my nose was picking up. The best I could manage was: the smell of the earth and the air cooling after a long warm spring day. But as I continued on my walk I did pick out some of the elements of the overall complex blend as they each in turn became more or less prominent in the mix. When I walked between two banks of blackthorn, white-over with blossom, the scent of the flowers was overpowering – rather sickly sweet, but I realised that the same smell was a major factor in the overall mix. When I arrived back by the lake, having left it for a turn around the Gatibarrows limestone pavements, I recognised that the water and the lake itself provided a strong base-note in the chord. Almost back at the car I realised that I could smell the horses which graze the field by the wood, though I couldn’t see them.

Spring is of course in full swing now and there were flowers everywhere. In the woods cuckoo pint, violets and in one spot that I know of old toothwort – although they seem to be almost finished – I wonder whether that’s down to settled fine weather we’ve had? (For photos of this unusual flower see this previous post.) In more open glades or field edges the violets were joined by primroses and cowslips and a few cuckoo flowers. (Earlier in the week we took the kids to Sandscale Haws on the Duddon estuary near Barrow – it has a beach which is unusual near here. In a damp area between dunes cuckoo flowers were blooming in profusion. Elsewhere in the dunes there were many wild pansies.)

As I crossed the fields on my way to the limestone pavements I could see a pair of roe deer in the long grass by Little Haweswater. I’ve seen deer here before at this time of day and know that from this distance and in this light photos don’t really work. I tried anyway, but with predictable results.

By now tawny owls were hooting and perhaps I should have been hurrying back to my car, but I was draw away from the path by a a blob of brightness above the pavement…


…or seeds. I think that these are seeds or fruit. Wych elm?

‘The Wild Flower Key’ supports that hypothesise because the seed is in the centre of the fruit which isn’t the case for English elm.

A neighbouring tree had buds just opening….

Now that I was looking I saw that there were several similar trees scattered around. Because trees grow singly out of the grikes, the limestone pavement seems to be a good place to get to grips with different kinds of trees.


..are relatively common.

‘The Wild Flower Key’ warns that “Willows can not be identified by using catkins alone.”, but with that caveat it seems that these might be the male flowers of goat willow. Presumably this is a dioecious (there’s a handy word for those times in Scrabble when you end up with a fistful of vowels) because it was on other trees that I found what I think are the female flowers…

There were many yews, some of them neatly cropped as they emerged from the grikes – roe deer are very fond of yew. Junipers also spread low over the rock…


Ash are very common….

One reason to come this way was to answer a query from my friend Z – would I be able to find the spot where the lady’s slipper orchids were planted last year?


Sadly I couldn’t find the lily-of-the-valley which I know flowers nearby. On my back to the car in the gathering dusk a roding woodcock flew overhead.

Gaitbarrows Trees

Greater Langdale Round

 Or: Knock Three Times

After a night of high octane pub-quizzing in Keswick, CJ and I drove in convoy over Dunmail Raise and parked in the National Trust car-park in Langdale. From Keswick we’d been able to see at least some of the lower hills and it hadn’t been raining, but we’d been in the cloud over Dunmail Raise  and the cloud had been very low, and a steady light rain falling, ever since. We were soon in the cloud as we climbed the path beside Stickle Ghyll (or Mill Gill depending on who you believe). Even in the rain Langdale is popular and there were many other walkers on the the path. We met a couple of parties with kids who had turned back because they were unhappy about the point where the path crosses the stream – it did involve standing on submerged rocks, but wasn’t too bad. Anyway – the path on the right bank continues up to Stickle Tarn I believe. When we arrived at the tarn the cloud was so dense that we couldn’t see the far bank – but we could see lots of small fish with a dark stripe on their sides.

CJ was keen to try Jack’s Rake. At the back of my mind a little (timid) voice was telling me that I didn’t fancy Jack’s Rake, but I didn’t listen to it and accompanied CJ up to the base of the scramble. I hadn’t got far up the steep and wet beginning of the rake however before I decided that it definitely wasn’t for me on this occasion.

CJ continued up the rake and I retreated and then turned up easy gully. Again – a little voice was speaking to me, a vague recollection: “You did this before and got stuck near the top”. But again I didn’t listen: to my cost. After a very steep climb I found the gully blocked by large boulders. Clearly this route is used but I couldn’t see any easy way to get past the boulders and so reluctantly had to descend back to the base of the gully and the start of Jack’s Rake again.

I was at least rewarded with a short-lived gap in the clouds and a view down to Stickle Tarn:

Of the beginning of Jack’s Rake:

And back up ‘Easy’ Gully:

I worked my way around the base of the cliffs and eventually hit the more conventional path up Pavey Ark. CJ was patiently waiting on the top – I was doubly glad that he had waited since I had discovered that I had packed the wrong map in my rucksack – a real comedy of errors.

Navigation from Pavey Ark to Thunacar Knott and from there to Harrison Stickle proved to be surprisingly tricky in the fog. We weren’t the only ones struggling and the we bumped into some other groups more than once, exchanging cheery ‘Have you found it yet?’ type queries.

From Harrison Stickle it became much easier and we made good progress over Thorn Crag, Loft Crag….

…and on to Pike O’Stickle.

Dropping down across Martcrag Moor we finally emerged from the cloud. Indeed the cloud must have lifted because looking back we could now see Pike O’Stickle:

Although the Langdale Pikes had been our main objective we had thought that we might well continue as far as Rossett Pike, and with the prospect of some views we decided to do just that.

 Looking across drumlins to Black Crags and Buck Pike.



Rossett Pike

As we left Rossett Pike CJ drew my attention to a bird skulking nearby behind a rock…

It’s a dotterel.

It didn’t seem unduly concerned and I was able to take a few photos before it eventually flew off with a whirring call.

Rossett Pike again.

It was very late when we finally made it back to our cars. I think of all the walks I have written about on this blog, this is the one which I have found the most physically demanding. And I’m still stiff several days later. (Although I did manage a little pogoing the following evening when I went to see The Undertones at the Manchester Academy with X-Ray – but that’s another story.)

Greater Langdale Round

Over the Crag…at Last!

Another sunny Thursday. Circumstances have conspired against my walking commute home from Carnforth, but this week I was able to reinstate the habit – hopefully for the first time of many. I had to be home in order to go out again, so I took the most direct route: through Carnforth, Millhead and Warton, over the Crag and down to Cragfoot, across Quaker’s Stang, Fleagarth Wood, Hollin’s Lane, Clarke’s Lot, Pointer Wood, Silverdale Green and home. The route across the fields between Millhead and Warton is once again flooded (see above) after heavy rain earlier in the week.

On Warton Crag most of the blackthorn is liberally covered in small tight red buds, but I found some open blossoms.

View North from near the top of the Crag – over Arnside Knott to the distant Lakeland hills.

Is the beacon pole leaning a little more on each visit?

Wood Sorrel leaves – very tasty in a citrusy sort of way.

What’s this – a gear test for some sort of minimalist bivvy/tent? (With over ambitious firewood pile?)


…it seems not.

The ‘little tent’ was fenced off and on one of the fence poles a small plastic dogbowl held….

The uppermost fly was still frantically swimming around in circles. Presumably this was an expected consequence of leaving the bowl out and is part of the survey? I wonder whether there is something in the liquid in the bowl to attract so many insects?

Wild cherry flowers.

By contrast with higher on the more exposed south face of the Crag, down at Cragfoot all of the blackthorn was flowering.

Barrowscout Fields.

The bridge where the railway crosses Quicksand Pool.

Which has several small stalactites and one larger calcium carbonate feature.

Ground ivy.

Over the Crag…at Last!

The Best Little Walk?


Not so long ago I was musing on the elements which come together to make a ‘good day on the hoof’. On Saturday just gone I had a day with my friends M and F which must have come pretty close to perfect. Halfway decent weather is clearly a prerequisite: the forecast had been dreadful and the early part of the morning was wet, but fortunately F is very attached to her duvet and by the time we were climbing Gummer’s How the sun was shining and out of the cold wind it was very pleasant. Gummer’s How must get bored with being described as a Lake District mountain in miniature, but ‘the cap fits’, and so it was a little disconcerting to arrive on the top to find a small herd of cows sunning themselves there.


 M and F on Gummer’s How.

The views – south across the Kent estuary, east to the Howgill fells and north along the Lake to the higher fells of the lake District – are stunning.


“a lovely little pool among the hills, long and narrow, beautifully indented with tiny bays and headlands”

Nathanial  Hawthorn on Windermere quoted in ‘The Tarns Of Lakeland Volume 2: East by John and Anne Nuttall

There are many larch trees on the slopes of Gummer’s How and they were flowering, the tiny spiky red flowers looking like miniature pine cones.


Birch Fell, another Birkett, is covered with forestry, we probably found the top – it was hard to tell, and after a bit of forest bashing we found a slight path which follows the boundary of the forest down to a boggy right of way which in turn took us to the road at Lightwood.

On the verge we found large round leaves with flower-stalks between.

It looked rather like butterbur but the flowers were white. I’ve since discovered that there are two introduced species of butterbur with white flowers – white butterbur and giant butterbur. So this will be one of those then…

A fairly long section of road-walking here was justified by the lunch stop which fell roughly in the middle of it – The Mason Arms at Strawberry Bank. Be warned however – the food is quite pricey, and don’t order the baked mushrooms as a main course, as F did, unless you are on a severe diet. What’s special about the Mason Arms is the beer however – a sign outside boasts that they serve 200. I had a couple of very pleasant tipples – I did cause some consternation at the bar when I asked for a Bos Keun*, partly because they didn’t have it, but also because the bar man hadn’t heard of it. I remember having it here a couple of times before – the last of them on my stag weekend almost 10 years ago. Perhaps the pub has changed hands since then?

A short walk from the pub is St. Anthony’s church. Built in 1504 it’s in a secluded spot away from the road. The churchyard was full of daffodils. The roof looks to be almost new and from the outside the great antiquity of the building is only really apparent in the windows.

Inside the old beams in the roof…

…and some of the church furniture are evidently very old. In the photo above you can see two box pews – used, I believe, to help the gentry to keep themselves separate from the hoi polloi – and on the right a triple-decker pulpit dating from 1698 apparently.

This painted panel is very like the ones which B and I saw last spring in the nearby church at Witherslack and I wondered whether they were by the same hand. Perhaps, having had a chance to re-examine the pictures from last year, this is not by the same artist – but it is the same coat of arms, that of Queen Anne – I wonder why she had such a fan club in the Winster valley?

From the church a path took us up across the road and on to the open fellside where a path, not marked on the OS map, takes a steep climb to the excellent viewpoint of Raven’s Barrow.

Looking across the valley to Whitbarrow and Yewbarrow.

The map shows a monument on the top:

It’s a large and very tidy cairn with a built in seat (although you need to be quite petite to sit comfortably). There’s no indication of what this monument might commemorate, but there is a lot of scratched graffiti, some of it quite old, which F is perusing here.

Shortly beyond Raven’s Barrow is Heights Cottage which has an interesting history. All of the doors are padlocked and the building appears to be unused now – but it is also obviously being looked after – it looks like the near right corner of the wall was re-pointed relatively recently for example.

“Used as a Quaker Meeting House until the 1920s, this was built in 1667 to comply with the Five Mile Act, which prevented a Non-conformist preacher from living or teaching within 5 miles of a town.”

from The Tarns Of Lakeland Volume 2: East by John and Anne Nuttall

From here it was a short walk back to the car, passing a couple of small reservoirs. First Middle tarn:

And then Sow How Tarn:

Which even has a boathouse, the roof of which sports a weather-vane with, appropriately, a decorative pig:

And which, this weekend at least, also had a resident pied-wagtail…

So…great weather, great company, great views, nice beer, a bit of history, some stretches of water. Is this ‘The Bestest Little Walk In the Lakes’? Quite possibly not – if you have a suggestion for a better one I’d be very glad to hear it!

Thanks to the Shandy Sherpa I now know how to add maps to my posts.


M’s sat-nav said 10km. But it also said 570m of ascent which can’t be true (a lot less then that surely?). Bing maps gave the distance as 6.21 miles. So, about 6 miles, some boggy bits, one bit without a path, a modicum of up and down, free parking. What else could I tell you? Oh – two Birketts, one of which (Gummer’s How) is also an Outlying Fell. And Raven’s Barrow might be an Outlying Fell too.

*I’m not in the habit of drinking 10% beers – I didn’t remember it being so strong and it didn’t taste like a barley wine.

The Best Little Walk?

Butterbur and Excavations

Woefully behind as ever. A week and a half ago: ferrying A to pre-exam ballet lessons in Milnthorpe again, I took the boys too, knowing that they would enjoy the path beside the Bela I had walked earlier in the week. It gave them an opportunity to lob great boulders into the water and me a chance to take photos of the butterbur whilst the sun was shining.

Later in the week I had a short post-work stroll to Pointer Wood and Clarke’s Lot. There were many more violets…

And an ants’-nest mound which had been comprehensively hollowed out.

I know that both green woodpeckers and badgers will dig into these mounds in search of ants to eat. This time the culprit had left footprints….

….which I don’t think belong to either a woodpecker or a badger, but I’m not at all confident of a positive ID.

Butterbur and Excavations