Home from Lancaster

 

As the train is nearing Silverdale station from the South it passes Barrow Scout Fields on the right and the pools by Morecambe and Allen hides on the left. Briefly it is a fantastic slow-moving hide. On Wednesday I watched a marsh harrier flying low over the reed beds in one of Barrow Scout Fields. On Thursday I was surprised to see a stag’s head appear above the reeds. Perhaps six point antlers.

On Friday I didn’t take the train, because I’d decided to walk home from Lancaster. It’s something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while and with the longer evenings and a half-term break just beginning this seemed like the perfect time. Initially my route took me up past the Castle, which until March this year was still functioning as a prison. Parts of the castle have been open for tours however, but I must admit that somehow I’ve never got around to taking a tour. Next year is the 400th anniversary of the notorious Lancashire Witch Trials, which took place here at the castle, and perhaps when there are commemorative events on we might finally get round to it.

The castle sits on a hill above the River Lune and there are often great views of the Lakeland hills from there, but it was hazy and so I had to make do with the more immediate views of the castle itself and of the Priory Church which is adjacent to it.

From here a path drops down a steep hillside, with an open field on either side, towards the river. A slight diversion brings another piece of Lancaster’s history into sight – the remains of a Roman bath house…

It was after I took this photo that I realised that I had once again come out without a memory card in my camera and was therefore relying on the cameras limited (but very handy) internal memory. It was almost like using a film camera, except that I could of course still take pictures and then delete them. So, if you are restricted to just a handful of photos, which ones do you keep?

Well certainly a family of ‘ugly ducklings’ which I saw on the Lancaster Canal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Last year I followed the Lune out of Lancaster to Caton, but I found the Lady’s Walk path – tightly hemmed in on both sides by dense trees – a little oppressive. This time I crossed the river and followed the opposite bank. This turned out to be a much better bet with many more views of the river and of the aqueduct which takes the canal over the river.

The Russian comfrey I saw on the bank of the canal and the many mallard families didn’t, I decided, merit precious space on my camera. I don’t suppose that I would have been fast enough anyway to get decent shots of the many herons I saw along the canal. But the three geese I saw on the far bank had to be photographed, partly because I didn’t know what they were, but mainly because they looked so odd.

When I got home and looked them up I was surprised that they didn’t seem to be in my RSPB field guide. Or evident anywhere on a website Google found for me called ‘Geese of the World’. But a little more digging revealed that a domesticated species called Chinese geese can have this orange protuberance and will also, when feral, cross-breed with greylag geese.

I  passed a lone fisherman. Looking into the murky water of the canal I thought he must be overly optimistic, but a little further on, and several times after that, I saw small fish swimming near the bank, so perhaps not.

At Hest Bank I left the canal and walked by the coast and the Lancashire Coastal Way. This gave several miles of pleasant level walking (only one slight rise over Red Bank). The grassy foreshore was speckled with tiny red flowers which I now know to be Sea Milkwort.

On a few occasions I have reported in this blog my fruitless pursuit of blue butterflies. This…

…common blue clung to a plantain head by the path and sat quite patiently whilst I got a close-up.

There was a cold wind blowing, and as I rounded a turn inland to follow the banks of the River Keer the sun disappeared and I realised that my hands were beginning to feel quite numb. I pulled my work shirt over my t-shirt and that seemed to be sufficient extra insulation to do the trick. I stuck hard by the bank of the Keer until the path petered out, and then carried on anyway. Eventually I had to climb a fence and a locked gate to get onto the road but not before I had seen a striking magenta flower of what I believe to be common vetch – although if that’s what it was, I’m not sure that it is particularly common in this area.

I left the Coastal Way from the Crag Road on Warton Crag, taking a path which I don’t think I’ve followed before up onto the crag. As usual on Warton Crag I passed through open areas and some scrub. Where the path passed through a sort of tunnel in a hawthorn thicket I paused, listening to an unfamiliar bird chatter. As I waited a party of long-tailed tits bobbed overhead in the branches of the hawthorn, closely followed by a group of blue tits. Further up the hill I found a patch of hillside completely colonised by mint and ran my hands through it to release the aroma.

I had a sandwich and some fruit left over from lunch and stopped here, with a great view out over the bay, for some tea.

From the top of the crag, my route took me down to, and across, Quaker’s Stang, then up to Heald Brow – where what I thought was Quaking Grass still hasn’t opened to look like it does in the field guide – so perhaps I was wrong. As I crossed Heald Brow I saw two roe deer bucks. The first made me chortle as it was hard on the heels, seemingly with, a rabbit which made me think of Bambi and Thumper.

The whole journey took around six and a half hours. My pedometer gave the route as just a little shy of 15 miles, which I suppose is probably not too wide of the mark.

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Home from Lancaster

8 thoughts on “Home from Lancaster

  1. sue says:

    I have been following your blogs for some time now. I find them very informative and entertaining – and the photography is stunning! I live part of the week in South Cumbria and the other part in Manchester (where I have to work!). I am now finding myself turning on the computer as soon as I get into work and looking at your latest blog. I find it very comforting to know that my time in the city is temporary – and I’ll soon be returning to the fantastic place that is ‘home’ and not too far away!! – keep up the good work!

  2. beatingthebounds says:

    Danny – would that I could always be so green!

    David – thanks.

    Sue – how very kind of you to say so. I visited a home in South Cumbria today with the most amazing views. We are lucky to live in such a wonderful part of the country.

  3. What a great way to commute home. It’s your post work walks that are inspiring me to get out more. I try and do a midweek walk on my way home at least once a week now (I’m a couple of posts behind). Mind you I think walking home from work in Bristol – 72 miles – might be a bit challenging although I do love the energetic stroll from my desk to the sofa at the end of long day when I’m working at home

  4. beatingthebounds says:

    I’m always at least a couple of posts behind!
    I started doing a lot of walking in the evenings when I lived in Morecambe and then even more when I moved out here. When I worked in Morecambe we had a little unofficial club who regularly went up to the Lakes together after work for a walk and then a pub meal. If you can get on to the hills in the evenings you almost garuanteed to get them to yourself.
    That 72 mile walk – could you string together a good route over a few days?

  5. Actually that would be a pretty decent route. Start by walking over the Severn Bridge, walk up the Wye valley to Monmouth and then across the low hills near Skenfrith, White and Grosmont castles and home

  6. beatingthebounds says:

    I thought there was probably a good route there. One of these days, over a very long weekend perhaps? Is there scope to turn it into an extended version of one of our country pub-crawls? Now there’s an idea!

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