Beating The Bounds

Every Wednesday a Silverdale Events Update lands in my inbox, a listing of what’s on offer each week  in our little community, which since there is often a lot going on is an excellent thing to have. Especially if what’s on offer is:

Saturday 21 May                                                                                                   9.30am Jenny Brown’s Point
Beating of the Bounds
Join the public party on this historic walk around the boundary of Silverdale village.
Wear suitable clothing, bring a packed lunch and drinks.
Return to Gaskell Hall at approx. 4pm for refreshments

As you can imagine, I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time. A was keen too and can be seen here with the gathering crowd, waiting for the off, not at Jenny Brown’s Point in fact but by the chimney which is all that’s left of a former copper smelting works.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. A and I had already had a bit of a walk by this point having come down by Woodwell and through Jack Scout. In A’s little rucksack she had a mountain of sugary snacks, a drink, a small picnic rug and a camera. When we stopped to find the source of a very musical serenade….

…,a song thrush atop a telegraph pole, I think that she may have reached for her camera even before I started snapping away with mine. With a school project on ‘minibeasts’ to complete she spent much of the day looking for creepy crawlies to photograph. Like a chip of the old block!

By the time we were passing through Jack Scout I was concerned that we might be late arriving at the start, but then we saw…

…the flag party arriving from their earlier start at Bard’s Well.

In the end, the start wasn’t quite 9.30, but we eventually set-off across Quaker’s Stang…

When we reached the road, the flag party left us, as they would often do through the day, to follow the parish boundary as closely as possible across private land…

…sending as they did so a large flock of geese wheeling into the air in alarm.

The rest of, meanwhile, had a police escort along the road…

…to Leighton Moss for a first rest stop, tea and snacks in the cafe, or on the benches in the car park. If you know the area you will know that we hadn’t walked very far at this point. This was going to be a leisurely affair. Still, I have nothing against plentiful and lengthy stops on my walks. I drank some tea and enjoyed the antics on the birdfeeders of a woodpecker and a squirrel.

We walked a little further along the road to a boundary stone…

Apparently it’s traditional to beat the boundary markers with sticks, or possibly to beat small boys with sticks near the boundary markers (perhaps that’s why only one small boy was brave enough to accompany us). There was none of that. Nor any poles decorated with milkwort, but there were some appropriate prayers said hear by the stone. I have no idea what the symbol on the stone signifies.

Shortly after we stopped at Trowbarrow Quarry for an early lunch break. A and I watched a jackdaw squeezing in and out of a narrow fissure in the quarry wall, presumably to and from a nest.

Walking along Moss Lane, to meet the flag party who have taken a more direct line along the boundary towards Haweswater, my eye was caught by a flash of brightness in the hedge.

A yellow-tail moth caterpillar. We once hosted a shoebox home for a group of these little wrigglers. I’m not sure that I ever told the sequel to that tale: when we returned the box to the kids school it was one short of occupants and a few weeks later our kitchen cupboards were graced by an adult moth. Not sure where it pupated.

Walkers and cow parsley on Moss Lane.

On the boardwalks by Haweswater I was dragged from another conversation by this amazing gold bug…

which is a leaf beetle, Donacia Vulgaris. There’s a goldbug in an Edgar Alan Poe story is there not? Fortunately this one didn’t bite me, although I reserve the right to obsessively search for hidden treasures. Like these….

…bird’s-eye primroses.

We passed the cloven ash and walked alongside Silverdale Moss. We waited a while for the flag party….

I kept busy photographing the flowers in the meadow. This rather fine display is from…

…mouse-ear-hawkweed. I usually throw my hands up in despair when faced with yellow daisies to identify, but I thought the very distinctive silvered and hairy leaves…

…might prove to be a good clue – and they were.

When I tried to photograph some yellow rattle…

I was interrupted when this…

…alderfly landed on my camera’s strap.

With still no sign of the flag party, we decided to detour slightly to visit Coldwell Limeworks…

This area too was full of distractions…


Pyrochroa serraticcornis.

Gall on lime leaf.

When the flag party emerged form the trees, looking a little bedraggled, we set off again. Once again, the boundary doesn’t have a path, but permission must have been granted for the entire party to stick to the proper route here and we followed the edge of Silverdale Moss.

There were lots of yellow flag, but whilst I was trying to get close enough for a photo, without being close enough to get wet, I was distracted by….

…a much less spectacular but distinctive plant, with a very stout stem and thick fleshy leaves…

….which is celery-leaved buttercup. And now I’m feeling very pleased with myself because I’ve identified both a yellow daisy and a buttercup. I’m still fighting shy of the speedwells I know, but the flower key is definitely working for me.

Arnside Tower.

Silverdale Moss.

And another chance to press Fitter, Fitter and Farrer into service with marsh horsetail.

At Middlebarrow quarry the kids briefly got their hands on the flag…

A and her friend B (our B was at a Birthday party).

We entered Eaves Wood – passing the patch of lily-of-the-valley which I mentioned in my last post – and then climbed to cross the high part of the hill. B pointed out some roe deer to us, but as usual they were long go before I had my camera ready.

When we reached the Cove the bad weather which had been forecast finally began to make an appearance with a few spots of rain. In the Lots the early purple orchids were finished the flowers looking blackened and burned. The green-winged orchids weren’t so advanced however…

The flag party had taken a longer route and we waited for them at the Gaskell Hall (named for the writer Elizabeth Gaskell) and enjoyed a slideshow and a cup of tea…

By the time the flag party arrived the rain had begun in earnest and they looked very wet.

Silverdale Beating the Bounds Walk

I heard various distances bandied about during the walk, but the consensus of opinions seemed to plump for about 11 miles. My pedometer gave just under 10 miles, but that included walking to the start and finish. Bing maps gave just over 7 miles for the route shown above. Take your pick, it’s a nice walk however long it is.

Beating The Bounds

More Naming and Noticing

I hadn’t intended to go out. I would be out later, I didn’t have a great deal of time. But the sun shone. And there’s so much to see.

I had some definite objectives in mind, but naturally there are incidental pleasures to be had too. Like the spectacular guelder rose flowers by the entrance to Gait Barrows. Whilst I took the photo, I could hear a bird in a tree above me giving voice to a full-throated  whistle. It wasn’t a song I knew, but when I looked I could clearly see the bird in question. Before I could get a photo it had moved to a more distant tree and a higher branch, but then it sat and sang it’s heart out.

It was against the light so the pictures I took aren’t particularly satisfactory but I think they confirm my suspicion that it was a blackcap. Warblers seem to be the birds of the moment.

The song was really quite impressive. You can hear a short sample on the RSPB website. Where we’re told that:

Its delightful fluting song has earned it the name ‘northern nightingale’

Which I rather like.

My friend Z wondered whether she would be able to remember where to find the lady’s-slipper orchids which were planted at Gait Barrows last year. She needn’t have wondered, English Nature have put up signs to lead the way to them. The single flower which I have visited every summer for years is in a very shady spot and, I always think, being solitary, is slightly sad. To see massed flowers waving in the wind and full sunshine was fabulous.

I suspect that you would have to see them soon if you wanted to catch them this year.

The other reason I wanted to visit Gait Barrows was because last year, right by where the orchids have been planted, I saw some lily-of-the-valley, but only a few flowers. This time there was a large area of healthy looking spears of leaves…

But again, very few flowers…

Could I be too late?

The next day, in Eaves Wood, towards the end of a longer walk, one of the (many) people I was walking with pointed out another large patch of lily-of-the-valley and said ‘In a couple of weeks they will be beautiful.’ I thought ‘Ah, in a couple of weeks. Good.’ And then I thought: ‘ I knew that they were there. How have I managed to forget that?’

By not recording it here.

More Naming and Noticing

On Stopping, Looking and….Knowing Stuff

There are several reasons why I like to stop and look at flowers. Perhaps the principal one being the stopping.

I was commuting home from Carnforth, over Warton Crag, and it being a Thursday the sun was beating down from glorious blue skies. (That’s the rule around here: Thursday afternoon = sunshine.) I thought that I was walking at a modest pace, but sweat was dripping from my brow and I desperately needed an excuse to pause and rest for a moment. Conveniently, at my feet tiny spots of pink and yellow demanded attention.

Unidentified tiny yellow flowers. Notice the fly which has helpfully posed in the background to give scale.

Looking, or to be more exact, taking photos is important too. My digital camera and its close-up lens have enhanced my walking pleasure no end. Then of course, there’s the flowers themselves in all their variety of form and colour.

Perhaps less obviously and slightly paradoxically (if it’s possible to have a ‘slight paradox’?), there’s the equal and opposite satisfactions of ignorance and knowledge. The tiny pink flowers I thought were dove’s-foot crane’s-bill. I knew this, or suspected it at least, because I’d seen them before in a meadow near the house, had photographed them and had then searched through my field guides until I found what seemed like a good match. The little yellow flowers I’d noticed  before, a while back, growing near the milkwort I photographed at Jack Scout. On that occasion none of the photos I took of them were very successful. None-the-less, I’d rifled through my guides – I’d found several plants with flowers which looked right, but none of them were described as creeping, low-growing plants, which is what these are. So they remain a puzzle.  And now I’m falling back on my standard method when I hit a dead-end and appealing to the clever people who read my blog to see if they have any bright ideas?

My enjoyment of this process – finding new and unfamiliar things: plants, birds, bugs, butterflies, fossils, clouds etc. – identifying and finding-out about them, is part of the reason that I keep obsessively quartering my home turf. And it’s predicated on ignorance: if I knew it already there would be no surprises, no conundrums and no need for the post-walk detective work. Maybe ignorance really is bliss. When I finally know it all, ennui will no doubt soon set in. No danger of that, fortunately.

Yet another advantage of leavening one’s walking with a little gawking, is that when you stop to look at one thing you soon notice other interesting things nearby. Like several 7-spot ladybirds down in the sward. Or, on the limestone edge, a natural rock garden…

The yellow flowers at the back…

…,which were widespread right along the length of the edge in a fetching yellow carpet, I thought I knew to be horseshoe vetch and I see, know that I can consult ‘The Wild Flower Key’, that not just the flowers, but also the leaves with their little indent at the end are very distinctive of that species.

The other oddity…

…didn’t seem to have leaves at all…

…and I was content to assign it to the vast collection of things with which I am not yet familiar. ‘Probably a lichen or some such,’ I thought – and since I can’t identify any lichens and don’t (yet) have a book to help me, effectively giving up on it, at least for now. But then the following night, when I was walking at Gaitbarrows (pictures and post to come), I was thinking about some flowers that TBH and I had seen on Loughrigg terrace. The flowers looked like a stonecrop, and when I looked in the books, like biting stonecrop in particular, but the plant we saw had narrow leaves which didn’t fit the bill at all. I remembered that I had seen, and naturally photographed, biting stonecrop at Gaitbarrows last year and went looking for the same plants to make a comparison. They weren’t flowering yet, but as soon as I found them – sprouting from the same cracks in the limestone pavement as they were last year – I recognised them as the same plant I had seen in abundant mats the preceding afternoon. So biting stonecrop then. The plant we saw on Loughrigg Terrace is still unidentified, for now at least.

Blue skies over Ingleborough.

On the short turf close to the edge tiny flowers were the order of the day. There were, amongst others,…

…rock rose..

…bird’s-foot trefoil…

…and eyebright. The eyebright is a good example of another phenomena I have noticed. I was very excited when I saw it and photographed it a few miles away in Langdale, but afterward realised just how common it is close to home. Since I finally ‘got’ the chiff-chaff’s song last year I now hear chiff-chaff’s for large parts of almost every walk I do, at least at this time of year anyway. When I photographed a scorpion fly in Eaves Wood last year, I saw it – with its huge proboscis – as something out of the ordinary, exotic, a lucky find – but now that I know what I’m looking for, I’ve seen several this summer already…

It seems that once I’m able to put a name to something, I’m more likely to notice it in future.

I broke off writing this post here, and tootled off to bed – it being well past the witching hour. As always, I needed a few pages to settle down with. I’m reading ‘Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It’ by Geoff Dyer. Almost the first words I read were:

Do you see things if you don’t know what they are?

And then:

Without words are you not only mute but partially blind too?

Dyer was thinking about architecture, rather then natural history, but it was startling to be presented with this thought just as I had been considering it myself.

Anyway, as I said, it seems to me that once I’m able to put a name to something, I’m more likely to notice it in future. So to that end, I think the green and slightly sparkly beetle on the bird’s-foot trefoil may be Oedemera Nobilis. If it is, it’s a female because the males have swollen rear legs. I’m not sure that Latin names have quite the same effect however, because I can’t usually remember them.

Eventually I turned away from the edge and the vegetation changed, alternating between open areas of bracken and dense thickets of briar and shrubs. There were still bluebells and early purple orchids. There were also, maintaining the theme of tiny flowers, although the plants are taller…

St. John’s wort.

I was soon at the top, where the views were, as they usually are, excellent. It had clouded over a little though and they weren’t as photogenic as they can be. I concentrated on the close at hand…

Red Admiral

On the verges of the Occupation Road, the bridleway which crosses the crag, I found more tiny flowers…

Thanks again to Fred Fly for posing to give scale.

…not especially pulchritudinous admittedly, but I liked the architectural spikiness of the leaves…

This, I’ve subsequently discovered, is common gromwell.

Down by Barrow Scout Fields I watched a lapwing flying acrobatically and an oystercatcher picking about on the exposed bed of one of the shrinking pools. The previous evening I had been on the Wednesday Walkabout at Leighton Moss. Very fine it was too with red deer, marsh harriers, a great egret and the wonderful rosy colouring of the breeding plumage of godwits. We’d seen and heard sedge warblers in the reed beds and the leader of the group had described how to distinguish the songs of reed warblers and sedge warblers. ‘The reed warbler’s song is a bit monotonous whereas the sedge warbler’s has a lot more up and down.’ Now there seemed to be warblers singing in every direction and I was sure that I could tell them apart. Now that I’ve listened to them both on the RSPB website I’m sure that I was deluding myself, but I was excited at the time. I spotted a couple of the birds in the reeds, and was pleased to get a photo, however imperfect…

Can you see it? It was a flash of white breast which caught my eye.

Here’s a cropped version…

Not great – but you can see a bold eye stripe, it’s under-parts are white and it’s singing from a prominent perch; all of which suggest that it is a sedge warbler. Perhaps I should keep a blog tick list for species of birds which appear in photographs here, rather like my Birkett tick list.

Of course, I’d stopped now and so began to notice things in the hedge in front of me…

…like an orb spider. And more small flowers…

..(with another extra) this time on a tall plant which I thought might be a bittercress of some sort, but I can’t find anything in my books with leaves like these…

So I’m stuck. For now. This plant was very populous. I was puzzled by…

…this striking stripy…what? It took me a while to work out that it might be a spider. Now I suspect that it is Tetragnatha extensa which:

When alarmed, typically aligns itself along plant stem with legs outstretched.

Collins Complete British Wildlife

Nearby an orange fly with a bold black strip and delicately veined wings like intricately leaded windows eluded a focused photo sadly.

As I crossed Quaker’s Stang an elegant copper boomerang winged overhead and then resolved into a hovering kestrel. Climbing towards Heald Brow I passed an area blushed blue with speedwell, and was then compelled to stop again by…

This gives me a first opportunity to use my ‘Collins Guide to the Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns of Britain and Northern Europe’ by Fitter, Fitter and Farrer. So…I think that this might, I stress might, be quaking grass and now I’ve seen what it might look when fully emerged I know that I need to go back to confirm that opinion. Obviously, you’ll be anticipating that having stopped I would find other things to hold me a while. Well, your right. I did. More tiny flowers…

This is salad burnet. The flowers are packed together in a ball – the red here are the stigmas of the female flowers. Here only one flower has opened…


..and you can see that it has two stigma. I thought at first that these might be male flowers…

..but now I think that they might be seeds.

Nearby there were clumps of stems with curled purple heads, the overall effect of which I have totally failed to capture. The individual flowers were worthy of attention too however…

Look closer still…

…and aren’t they a tiny forget-me-not? Early forget-me-not perhaps. I’m not sure.

Also close by..

….tiny white flowers on a plant with leaves making a pleasing star around the stem.

I would say that it’s woodruff, except they were so small and I thought that woodruff was taller.

And finally… that I do know, and which ahs appeared here a few times before – but these photos are better then any I’ve taken before.

Ground Ivy

On Stopping, Looking and….Knowing Stuff

A Wordsworthian Ramble

Rydal Mount

TBH and I had a day off together whilst my parents took the ankle-biters to a safari park. (S particularly liked the ‘bamboos’ which ‘can take a car to pieces’ apparently)

We parked at White Moss between Rydal Water and Grasmere, crossed the river which runs between the two, and then followed the shore of Rydal Water.  This took us away from our intended lunch stop in Grasmere which offended TBH’s natural instinct for preservation, but I managed to convince her that it wouldn’t be too far, and that Grasmere wouldn’t be shut if we were a little late for lunch.

We were soon at the far end of the lake and then arrived at the hamlet of Rydal. The Wordsworths lived here, at Rydal Mount, from 1813 to 1850.

Before we passed Rydal Mount we had investigated the small church here, St. Mary’s, built in 1824.

I’m a sucker for stained glass windows…

We followed the Old Corpse Path from Rydal. This is the route which was used to bring coffins from Ambleside to Grasmere before Ambleside had its own church. It’s a lovely route, a little way up the hillside and so giving excellent views across the lake. We passed White Moss Tarn – also known as Skater’s Tarn or Wordsworth’s Tarn – where apparently Wordsworth used to skate, and then dropped down past Dove Cottage another former residence of both the Wordsworths and later De Quincey, the famous opium eater, and his family. On a walk not dissimilar to this one a few years ago I looked around Rydal Mount and then did the guided tour at Dove Cottage. If you only have time for one, I strongly recommend Dove Cottage, where the talk given on the guided tour was absolutely fascinating. The gallery here is also always well worth a visit.

Silver How seen from near Grasmere.

We were ready for our lunch however and pushed on into Grasmere and the Riverside cafe where we enjoyed an excellent meal.

After lunch we made a visit to Saint Oswald’s, which unlike Saint Mary’s is, in part at least, a very ancient building.

Many members of the Wordsworth family, including William, Mary and Dorothy, are buried in the churchyard here.

We’d had odd short-lived light showers – the sort of day when as soon as you put your coat on you feel that you should perhaps take it off again. Now, as we began our climb towards Silver How, it began to rain more persistently. Our way was brightened by these little bog violets, butterwort…

One of Britain’s two insectivorous plants.

We were cheered also by the Ginger Chews, ‘produce of Indonesia’, which we had bought in Sarah Nelson’s along with some Grasmere Gingerbread as a treat for the kids. We both remember enjoying these sweets when we went to Indonesia several years ago. In particular, I can recall eating them when we walked on the Dieng Plateau and visited some temples and hot mud pools.

No danger of any hot mud pools on the Silver How plateau. Cold rain, yes.

Lang How in the foreground, right of centre, Langdale Pikes behind, raindrops on the camera lens.

I imagine that in better weather Silver How is a good place to sit down and take in the views, but we pressed on.

Grasmere and Rydal Water.

As we followed the ridge down over Spedding Crag and Dow Bank we continuously heard a cuckoo calling – first some where below us and then apparently from the trees ahead.

We passed a small tarn, unnamed on the map, full of bog cotton and…

…the delectable bogbean.

We descended past an area where there will shortly be, I suspect, a quite stunning display of foxgloves.

Emerging foxglove.

Helm Crag and Grasmere.

And then descended Loughrigg Terrace.  The hillside below the path was blushed blue with our native hyacinths, the sight and the scent were both tremendous.

(These last two photos courtesy of TBH – my camera’s batteries were out)

A Wordsworthian Ramble

It’s That Time Again!

The Lady’s-Slipper Orchid is flowering.


There’s due to be an open day at Gait Barrows, on the 2nd of June I think, for people to go and see the orchids planted there as part of the Kew Gardens scheme to re-establish a healthy wild population, but with the orchids flowering very early this year you have to wonder whether they will still be flowering by then.

I was walking home from the train station and had just seen a male broad-bodied chaser. (I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture on this occasion but here’s a link to one I took last year if you are intrigued.)

I decided to detour across Lambert’s Meadow.

The bugle is flourishing and has spread out from the edge of the field where I’m sure it used to be confined to.

That same spot is dominated by bluebells.

Water avens too seems to be spreading along the edge of the ditch from the woodland around Burton Well.

It’s That Time Again!

A Haweswater Round

Regular visitors will know that a walk around Haweswater is a regular pleasure for me, since there is a small lake of that name perhaps a mile from our house. Last weekend however I had more ambitious plans – a high level circuit of it’s Lakeland namesake. I had driven up in intermittent rain, thinking that I was destined for a rainbow day, but parked close to the village of Burnbanks, which lies below Haweswater’s dam, in pleasant sunshine. I hadn’t gone far when I encountered this chap, who seemed to be in some sort of hurry. I reckon it’s a garden tiger moth caterpillar.

This caterpillar is often called a woolly bear because of its dense coat, with long white-tipped black hairs on the back and chestnut hairs on the sides. The head is shiny black….Mature caterpillars are often seen trundling over the ground at high speed in search of pupation sites.

Collins Complete British Insects Michael Chinery

Burnbanks gives a satisfyingly high start and I was soon crossing rough slopes with the white of bog cotton and cuckoo flower waving in the stiff breeze and the small pink flowers of what I was pleased to recognise as lousewort down among the grass. I made a slight detour to pick up Pinnacle Howe (a bit of an insignificant knoll to be honest) and then cut back on a good track to do the same for Four Stones Hill. This at least has the benefit of a good view along Haweswater. Nearby the map shows ‘Standing Stones’. Given the name of the hill you might think that there would be four stones. But….

The map also shows ‘Cairn’ in the same gothic script and with a star which I think indicates some sort of ancient monument.

From there a short climb brought me to what felt like the first substantial fell of the day. It’s unnamed on the OS map. Birkett calls it Bampton Common, but in Aileen and Brian Evans ‘Short Walks in Lakeland – Book 2 Northern Lakeland’ it says that local farmers call this Great Birkhouse Hill, a name which has been used for one of the many knolls near Four Stones Hill on the OS map, apparently incorrectly.

Looking east towards Cross Fell in the Pennines.

It rained on and off as I traversed Low Kop (another slightly inexplicable Birkett) and then the long gradual moorland climb toward High Kop and Wether Hill. The latter has two broad grassy tops each with a 670m contour. Birkett says that the most northerly ‘is taken to be the summit’. Well I took the most southerly to be the top and I’m counting it regardless of any arguments to the contrary.

Just before I reached Wether Hill I met three walkers who’s first question, very direct, was: ‘Do you know where you are on the map?’ They’d come up from Howtown and were actually exactly where they wanted to be and now were heading down to where I had come from. The next question was: ‘You don’t have 11 friends following on behind somewhere do you? We’ve had a bet about how many people we will meet.’ I had to disappoint the questioner: not only was I alone, but they were the first other walkers I had met.

Now on the main High Street ridge, and following the old Roman road, I crossed Red Crag. Somewhere along the ridge here the nature of the terrain changes and from walking on hills with quite a Pennine character, suddenly there are steeps and crags and a quickening of the pulse. I was enjoying the views of Rest Dodd and The Nab which CJ and I climbed last year. On High Raise it began to rain in earnest. I’d been wearing my cag for some time, more to fend off the cold wind than for the short lived and light showers, but now I needed my waterproof overtrousers too. It continued to rain quite heavily as I contoured round to bag Kidsty Pike and then to climb Rampsgill Head, but here rather magically the rain stopped, the wind dropped and the sun came out, all in very short order. This was all the excuse I needed and I stopped for a first, and quite late, cup of tea and sandwich. Whilst I ate a raven landed close by, but sadly was away again before I could get a photo.

Kidsty Pike

By now, in the throes of Birkett bagging frenzy, I detoured slightly to include The Knott and then continued on to the high point of the day on Racecourse Hill (yes, really: there were race meets held up here in days gone by). I was in the cloud, but frankly I didn’t really mind – I was having a ball. So much so in fact that I blithely continued along the path by the wall which took me in the wrong direction. By the time I realised my daft mistake I was so close to Thornthwaite Beacon that I decided to bag that whilst I was at it. From there a good contouring path brought me to Mardale Ill Bell.

Harter Fell.

Upto this point, this route offers the peak bagger a low effort delight with not a great deal in the way of descent or reascent. Now I faced a couple of slightly more challenging climbs – the first taking me down to the top of the Nan Bield Pass – where I saw my last other walkers of the day – and back up to Harter Fell.

Small Water and High Street from the route up Harter Fell.

As I dropped off Harter Fell I saw three guys on trials bikes roaring through the Gatescarth Pass. Seconds later, to my surprise, they were bouncing and sliding their way over Little Harter Fell and then past me and on towards the summit of Harter Fell. They were noisy and smelly (and so were the bikes) and obviously to be frowned upon by all right thinking and upstanding members of the community. But, I must confess,  it did look like fun.

On Adam Seat I found this…

…which I think is a boundary stone. Later I found another with both L and H on it. I suspect that if I had had the whit to look at the other side of this one it would also have been engraved with an H.

As you can probably tell from the photos, the weather had improved again and on the way down to the top of the Gatescarth Pass I was briefly out of the wind and for a while it even felt quite warm.

The climb from there to Branstree was rather featureless and grassy and with my legs beginning to tire I needed to employ every trick in the book to maintain some interest – I know that I can get disheartened on dull slopes like this one and then my pace can slow as I stop to take frequent rests.

Fortunately, I was distracted, for a while at least, by…

..a spiny caterpillar. I can’t identify this one. Any suggestions?

As I neared the top I was watching this cloud and wondering – is it anvil shaped? The forecast I had heard on the radio had predicted thundery showers in the north in the afternoon and so I wanted to keep a weather eye on….well, the weather.

It was clear that somewhere in the Eden valley was being subjected to a fairly intense shower. And finally there was the rainbow which I had anticipated. As I watched, the colours of the little truncated rainbow became progressively brighter…

I’m not sure that this photo does it justice – at the time I was sure that it was the most incandescent rainbow I had ever seen.

Fortunately, there was little climbing left to do now – just a long walk over High Howes and Selside Pike, from where I liked the look of Swindale…

The Forces Falls on Mosedale Beck looked particularly worth a visit.

And then over boggy ground with many knolls some of which are Birketts and some of which aren’t, without any particularly obvious distinctions between the two.

Haweswater Round

It was half past eight when I finally arrived back at my car. I had been out for ten and half hours. But it had been quite a day. I think about twenty miles* and quite a bit of up and down. 21 Birketts in all, neatly doubling my total for the year. (Although some aren’t new – X-Ray and I did Banstree, High Howes and Selside Pike last year) (Actually I walked this entire route once before, about 10years ago, but that was pre-blog, so doesn’t count.)

*Bing maps said very slightly under 19, my pedometer gave 33.77km. The pedometer also said 49675 steps. Isn’t that 5 days worth of exercise all in one day? If I’d only eaten 25 portions of fruit and veg whilst doing it I could have lived on choc-ice and chips and sofa-surfed until Thursday!

A Haweswater Round


An early evening walk from last Friday (I’m almost as behind with my blogging as I am with my work – the two are not entirely unrelated), from the bridge over Quicksand Pool, around Jenny Brown’s point and back along the Woodwell cliff. There were many shelduck on the mud of the bay and I wondered whether a number of large burrows along the edge of the foreshore where home to shelduck nests.

At Jack Scout I noticed these tiny flowers down amongst the grass. The blue parts (which I’m sure were a deeper blue and less purple in the flesh) are sepals and the white parts are the actual flowers. There are several milkworts but I’m reasonably sure that this is common milkwort, polygala vulgaris.

I think that I saw milkwort on the hillsides when I was walking from Cockley Beck last year, and perhaps again on walk around Mosedale a few days ago. That may have been heath milkwort. Before that however, I have to confess to having been completely ignorant of its existence. It is small and, I suppose, relatively easy to miss, but not without some interest. Polygala is ‘much milk’ apparently and as a herb it has been thought to assist in the production of breast milk.


In the north of England, milkwort is called ‘gang flower’ and was a favourite plant for Rogation Week, a festivity also known as Gang Week, from the Saxon word gang, ‘to go’. The purpose of Rogation Week was to give a blessing to surrounding fields and livestock, and often involved a day when parishioners would walk (‘go’) around the edge of the parish, confirming the boundaries. This of course was in the days before maps. As part of the procession, children would carry a long pole decked with a profusion of flowers, among which milkwort was especially prominent. Records of these Rogation processions occur as early as AD 550 and the practice continued until the eighteenth century.

from Hatfield’s Herbal

Rogation Sunday is the fifth Sunday after Easter, so coming up soon. And another name for these parish boundary walks would be ‘beating the bounds’. I’m half tempted to adopt this little flower as the emblem of this blog, both because of its connection to beating the bounds and because I will associate it from now on with my growing awareness of what is around me as I walk.

For quantity and variety of birdsong Jack Scout is hard to beat. I tried and failed to get a photo of any one of several marsh tits which were buzzing busily about. Two song thrushes were having a duelling banjos moment; one was particularly loud and voluble and impressive. Perhaps it was the same feathered Paganini whom I’ve been beguiled by here before.


A Grand and Healthy Life

Just when we’d begun to forget what wet weather was like, I walked home from Carnforth and it rained. Never mind: I enjoyed the raindrops on the newish beech leaves and the bluebells in Hyning Scout Wood and most of all I enjoyed the smell of the rain falling on very dry earth and the subtle way that the scent changed depending on where I was.

More of a problem than the rain was the fact that somehow I had managed to pack odd shoes to change into to walk home in. Rather than face the humiliation (and discomfort – a lesser consideration!) of walking through Carnforth and Warton wearing one sandal and one shoe (I know – beggars believe), I opted to walk home in my work shoes. Result: very sore feet.

At this point I wanted to continue the comedy theme with ‘It’s a Grand and Healthy Life’ by local boy George Formby – if only to share a poets wisdom on the benefits of hiking (aside from getting wet and having sore feet that is).


Some chaps like a game of tennis, some like boating on the sea.
Some are fond of cricket or a ball they want to kick it
But there’s only one sport that appeals to me.

I love to hike, that’s what I like, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.
I tramp a mile, then sit a while
A bumblebee there in the grass comes and stings me on my elbow.
Down comes the rain and I get wet through,
I can’t blow my nose because it’s already blue
I catch a chill, and feel so ill. Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.

I love to hike, that’s what I like, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.
While tramping back, the night was black,
My girl tripped into a ditch I said, "you are a clumsy bounder."
She shouted help! I thought I’d begin
Pulling her out but she kept pulling me in
The ditch was high, we drank it dry, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.

I love to hike that’s what I like, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.
My girl and me, sat neath a tree
A great big blackbird with its claws came and tore off my girl’s jumper
When she got home she heard mother shout
You haven’t come home the same as when you went out
She hung her head and blushing said, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life

But it doesn’t seem to be available on YouTube, and it isn’t quite the same in writing, so here’s ‘Swimmin with the Wimmin’:

A Grand and Healthy Life

A Mosedale Round

Wastwater and the Screes from the southern end of Yewbarrow


The steep descent off the northern end of Yewbarrow. The Scafells behind.


Kirk Fell from the tarn on Looking Stead.

Scafells seen across Wastwater.

So what did you do whilst the Royal couple were getting hitched? Me and the kids were camping in Wasdale with a bunch of old friends. And very fine it was too. TBH opted to stay at home to watch the telly, but then drove up to join us on the Friday afternoon.

I’d managed to pack my camera but without a memory card in it, so I have no photographic record of most of the trip. I borrowed TBHs camera for my walk over Yewbarrow, Red Pike, Black Crag, Pillar and Looking Stead. As you can see it was a very fine day, with great views both of the local hills but also of the Isle of Man and of the Dumfries and Galloway coast right round to the Mull of Galloway. It was like this for pretty much the whole extended weekend. What the pictures can’t convey is just how windy it was. Which was…well, very windy.

Memories of the weekend:

The bluebell woods on our mass kiddie walk to Santon Bridge.

S climbing on the high parapet of the bridge over the Irt on the same walk, and then banging his head when I shouted at him to get down. I shouldn’t have shouted, but it was my immediate reaction when I saw how precarious his position was.

Cherry blossom blowing across the campsite like confetti.

Tents blowing across the campsite…just kidding. But we did wake up one morning to find the campsite had substantially emptied overnight and the bins were full of tents. Our tent was looking a little the worse for wear too – all of the rubber guying points along the front of the awning had split. Apparently further up the valley at the National Trust campsite things were even worse with about two thirds of the tents destroyed.

Starlings nesting in the toilet block. Pied flycatcher nesting near the washing-up area.


Hearing a cuckoo from the campsite and trying to get the kids to hear it whilst they still can.

The campsite we stayed at was Church Stile at Nether Wasdale, which I can recommend without reservation.

The walk above was about 10 miles, starting and finishing at the Overbeck  car park, with lots of up and down.

A Mosedale Round

A Feast of Flowers

Honesty and some garlic mustard.

This being the walk which didn’t quite make it into the last post, and which is now so over due for a write-up that some of the flowers featured might by now have finished flowering. Actually this first photo is from the previous walk and somehow was left out. The honesty seems to be very successfully colonising  this area.

This dead nettle springs up in the same spot each year along the perimeter of a field, and with its variegated leaves I suppose it’s probably an escapee from the garden on the other side of the wall behind.

A came with me on this short stroll. We went across the fields to Pointer Wood. The area in the limestone pavements where primroses seem to thrive has reached its full glory…


Unlike the it’s cousins the wild cherries which were flowering nearby, and which are of a very tall and thin and upright, this crab apple is small and spreading – it’s so bent that it’s almost a weeping apple.

It was laden with blossom and humming with insect life, particularly bees…

…but not exclusively…

The amazing weather we’ve had seems to have brought everything on early. The early purple orchids were looking particularly fine…



A Feast of Flowers