Two Short Walks

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Half-term. A week at home because it’s nice here and well…it’s cheap. Does wonders for our carbon-footprint too, our not jetting off to the Seychelles. Many trips out to report on, firstly: two short walks with the kids.

Lured by the prospect of otters or bearded tits, last Saturday A and B joined me for a wander around Leighton Moss.

Now, I like bird-watching as much as the next man., but…..Well, actually, probably not as much as the next man if the next man is content to get his fix of outdoors whilst packed  into a hide with other birders like sardines in the proverbial tin. Usually when I visit Leighton Moss it’s early or late in the day and the place is pretty quiet. I’ve never seen it as busy as it was on this occasion. By the grit trays, which are there to attract bearded tits, I watched B squirm through the crowd, oblivious to the many tripods carrying thousands of pounds worth of cameras and telescopes and decided that we would forgo the pleasure of bearded tits on this occasion. At the Public hide and at Lower hide we struggled to get space by a window, but didn’t see any otters when we did. They were probably showing-off their synchronised swimming routine outside Lillian’s hide. We did see a marsh harrier and the kids were thrilled with the cormorants drying their wings on posts in front of Lower hide.

The second walk was an excursion into Eaves Wood. This was S’s idea.

Pink snail shell 

We scrambled up rock faces, clambered in trees…

The Climbing Tree 

….found several dens to play in, and, with autumn in full swing now, also enjoyed heaping up fallen leaves and then kicking the pile into the air.

Kicking Leaves

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Two Short Walks

A Wet Weekend

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A bit of a view from the Pepper Pot.

The payback for having lush green countryside on all sides is that now and again it rains. It can be a bit of a drag, but it’s particularly galling when you have a houseful of guests looking forward to exploring all of the places you’ve been whittling on about at great length at every opportunity. I suppose the sensible thing to do might have been to stop indoors and play games, drink tea, tinkle on the old Joanna, play ‘old anecdote bingo’, drink more tea etc. Which we did for a while at least. But we also dragged the kids out for some fresh air and a good dousing in the great outdoors.

On the Saturday we climbed to the Pepper Pot, walked through Eaves Wood to Waterslack and then around Haweswater.

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Earthball explosion – although you can’t see it here, the ground all around this tree trunk was also covered in small brown fungal balls.

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Rest stop by Haweswater.

The weather was damp and grey without being especially vile.

On Sunday (when I took no photos at all), we climbed Arnside Knott via Heathwaite and back by Arnside Tower and Eaves Wood again. The rain was more persistent, and out of the shelter of the woods where a cold wind was driving the rain, it was especially vile. From Arnside Knott where a fabulous view of the Lakeland fells might be expected, we could see nothing because we were in the cloud.

Despite the best efforts of the weather to spoil it however the weekend, seemed to be a great success and will hopefully become another regular feature in our annual round of get-togethers. Perhaps we will remember it more for the catching-up and the take-away curry, but next time the sun is going to shine. Honest.

A Wet Weekend

First Name Terms*

A hawker

A little while back now: a drizzly weekend was rescued by the visit of many old friends (of which more later perhaps) and by a bright and sunny Friday evening. From my home-bound train I spotted a red deer stag in the reed beds of Barrowscout Fields and so it seemed the obvious choice, once off the train, to head away from home and towards the reed beds of Leighton Moss. Crossing the causeway at Leighton Moss between tall reeds, meres and occasional stands of alder, what struck me was just how quiet it was – no cacophony of gulls, no scratchy of warbler’s songs. But there were a few dragonflies about.

A hawker again

I watched the jinking flights of two dragonflies for a while. They disappeared together amongst the alders at the side of the path and when only the larger of the two re-emerged I looked for the other amongst the alder saplings. Without that clue I don’t think I would have spotted this elegant chap resting on this stem, despite the striking blue blobs. I’m pretty sure that this is not a migrant hawker, like the one I photographed at Gait Barrows back at the end of August. I think that it might be a common hawker, but frustratingly, because of the angle it was perched at, and because it was above head height, I couldn’t see the distinctive markings on the abdomen which might confirm that identification.

Leighton Moss view

My favourite Leighton Moss view.

A friend who lives nearby, but not all that nearby, was telling me recently that she had seen the egret roost at Leighton Moss, and that she was suitably impressed. I was a bit put out – egret roost? Really – how come I haven’t seen, or heard about, this? From the public hide I thought perhaps I could see some egrets in distant trees. I walked around to the Lower Hide, thinking I would have a better view from there, but although I was sure that I could see the relevant clump of trees, now I couldn’t see any egrets at all. A marsh harrier flew low over the far side of the mere, close to the trees where I thought there might be egrets and in the wake of the harrier’s passing a host of pure white birds flew up from the trees and briefly circled, seeming to savour the heavy wind, playing as rooks and jackdaws will in gusty conditions.

I continued from lower hide, on the path which curls around to Storrs Lane and which has recently become a favourite. I noticed several places where the rich black mud close to the perimeter fence had been heavily churned. Whilst examining the prints in the mud, I looked up and looking back at me, not 10 yards away, were three red deer hinds.

Red deer hinds

Of course, they were away pretty swiftly, but they stayed in view and I eventually found a vantage point where I could see them through the trees.

Three red deer hinds

It soon became apparent that these three were part of a larger group and I watched perhaps 20 deer as one after another they elegantly hopped over a fence and disappeared across a field. The last across was a fine stag.

Red deer stag

Whilst I took the photos I was noticing that the scene behind the deer was also impressive – late sun illuminating autumn colours with dark sky behind and a sliver of rainbow. Rainbow? Hang on…

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It was soon raining, and continued to do so as I passed the gnarly old horse chestnut onto Storrs Lane.

Storrs Road Rainbow

But there was the compensation of a full rainbow however (couldn’t squeeze all of it into a single frame sadly).

And as I walked along the lane I did finally have a good view of the egret roost…

Egret roost

Could there be a better way to relax at the end of a working week? What a privilege it is to have this on our doorstep.

*The title is filched from the post – On the Benefits of Exploring your own Backyard – a book review, but a lot more besides.

First Name Terms*

Heatwave

Backlit autumn bramble leaf

A Friday night commute at the tail-end of our recent Indian Summer. I stayed on the train as far as Arnside and walked along the the promenade and then beside the river for a while. The tide had been very high that afternoon and had left the path covered in several inches of liquid mud, so I decided to climb away from the estuary and up and over Arnside Knott.

Small tortoiseshell on ragwort

The sky was an electric blue and and I was mentally rubbing my hands together with glee at the prospect of all the lovely autumnal colour photos I would take in the woods.

Silver birch, Arnside Knott

But then it clouded up. Not to worry – it was a good leg-stretcher none-the-less. And the next day I was back in Arnside with the boys at an ‘apple day’. It was hot again.

Apple-bobbing

There were various apple-related events and stalls, but it was watching the lads apple-bobbing which I shall remember.

Apple-bobbing 2

B isn’t even very fond of apples, but he was determined to get one – despite, or perhaps because, of how wet he got in the process.

Got one!

Heatwave

Greenburn Round

Stepping stones - tongue gill

The day after our Alcock Tarn – Loughrigg circuit we walked the horseshoe around Greenburn: Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag. A convenient path starting directly opposite the Traveller’s Rest took us to these stepping stones across Tongue Gill just upstream of its confluence with the River Rothay. I waited with my camera poised, but nobody fell in. Spoilsports.

On a small rock by the stream we saw our first caterpillar of the day, the first of what would turn out to be many, ‘flowing in and filling up my hopeless heart’. Or something like that.

Knotgrass caterpillar? 

This could be a knotgrass caterpillar, but I’m not sure.

The delightful stroll up the south-east ridge of Steel Fell, although so close to the Dunmail Raise highway, is clearly not often used and the sunny bowl of Greenburn, with its pools and waterfalls, is unknown to many visitors and usually quite empty of people.

A Lakeland Mountain Diary A. Harry Griffin

We were on that south-east ridge, and it was fairly quiet, and the ‘sunny bowl of Greenburn’ looked not only empty of people, but also well worth exploration. I added it, along with Rydal Beck from the day before, to my list of places to visit when the chance arises.

Green burn 

Green burn.

I spotted a small frog and tried to catch it, having pontificated about how to tell a frog from a toad the day before. It disappeared into the bracken beside the path and in seeking after it I knocked something from the bracken…

Curled Broom Moth Caterpillar 

…a very distinctive broom moth caterpillar.

There were lots of these brightly coloured chaps to be seen as we progressed up the ridge.

Broom moth caterpillar 

I wondered whether they were out and about looking for somewhere to pupate.

Another broom moth caterpillar 

We also spotted this…

A brown caterpillar 

..brown caterpillar which I have been unable to identify. Like the broom caterpillar it had a yellow stripe, but also that rather stunning pattern of speckles.

Climbing Steel Fell 

The crew snaking along the path like a…well, a caterpillar.

Helm Crag 

The Rothay valley and Helm Crag.

Still climbing Steel Fell 

Approaching the summit.

Looking towards the Langdale Pikes 

Looking towards Langdale.

Steel Fell view - Thirlmere, Skiddaw and Blencathra beyond 

Cairn close to the summit of Steel Fell, Thirlmere, Skiddaw and Blencathra beyond.

On the ridge 

On the ridge to Calf Crag.

Brownrigg Moss 

Unnamed tarn near Calf Crag.

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Helm Crag and Loughrigg (centre).

Cloud-topped Eastern Fells

Looking over Steel Fell to Fairfield and Helvellyn neither of which will quite emerge from the cloud.

We perhaps didn’t have as spectacular a weekend as last year (see here and here), but the food, the beer and the welcome at the Traveller’s Rest were all excellent, the walking was pretty good, despite the weather, and at the end of the day the reason we were there was to catch-up on gossip old and new, rehash some ancient stories for the umpteenth time, share a few gags, spin a few daydreams, hatch the odd plot….and (I kid you not) discuss the infinite versatility of blancmange.

Greenburn Round

A Game of Two Halves

Rydal Hall Gardens

Manicured lawns, crocket hoops , mist lifting from a forested hillside. Last days of the Raj? Well, no: a wet weekend in the Lake District. The formal gardens belong to Rydal Hall, which we had walked to from our temporary residence at the Traveller’s Rest just outside Grasmere. ‘We’ was a motley collection of old friends, getting together for what is becoming a fixture in our calendar – the Adults Only Weekend. Not as racy as it sounds, just that for this weekend we palm our kids off on grandparents, whereas our Christmas Youth Hostel Party, Spring Bank Holiday Camping Weekend and LLyn Peninsula Holiday ,which are all also annual traditions, are decidedly family affairs.

We’d left the Traveller’s Rest in rain and our route had taken us steeply up to a misty Alcock Tarn and along the corpse road from White Moss to Rydal. It was still raining when we reached Rydal Hall and thanks to my leaky coat I was thoroughly soaked. I was happy to repair to the cafe there, which has had a makeover since my last visit, for tea, cake and delicious soup.

Rydal Hall

When we came out of the cafe it was possible to imagine that the forecast afternoon improvement in the weather was finally beginning to materialise, and since visitors seem to be welcome to wander around, we did exactly that. Rydal Hall is a Christian retreat and conference centre, belonging to the diocese of Carlisle. The house is 19th Century and is listed, but it was the gardens which intrigued me. They were designed, in 1909, by Thomas Mawson who seems to have crept up on me over a long period of time and has lodged himself in my consciousness.

Rydal Hall

There’s a fine Georgian building almost across the road from where I work which has a small green plaque alerting the passing pedestrian that the building once housed the offices of Thomas Mawson. Mawson also designed other lake District gardens which we’ve visited in the past: Holehird, Brockholes and Holker Hall. The garden at Hazelwood Hall in Silverdale is another of his designs.

Rydal beck, very full of water on this occasion…

Rydal Beck

…races through the grounds of the hall and past the formal gardens to…

Lower falls and the Grot 

…the Lower Falls which have apparently been the subject of paintings by both John Constable and Joseph Wright of Derby. The little stone building is ‘The Grot’ built in 1694 and one of the viewing stations built to provide a frame around a picturesque view for tourists when visiting this area was becoming fashionable.

The Shandy Sherpa and GM had already abandoned us long before to sample the delights of scrambling in a beck in spate, now TBH and JS formed another splinter group taking on the tat shops of Grasmere. After carefully explaining the route to them, I watched them head off in the direction of Ambleside before reluctantly handing them my map.

This left The Adopted Yorkshire Man in charge of the navigation and, true to form, he found the steepest hillside he could to drag us up. I suppose I should just be grateful that there was almost a hint of a path through the shoulder-high dripping-wet bracken.

At least things were at last genuinely beginning to brighten up…

Wansfell 

An apparent clump of white flowers on the slope ahead…

Grass with water-drops>

…turned out to be grass thoroughly decorated with water-droplets.

Grass with water-drops 2 

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Any excuse now to stop for a photograph was gratefully received, I think that these colourful seeds belong to a rush, but further than that I couldn’t speculate.

An old bomber thundered overhead and soon after we had reached a small top with expansive views.

Nab Scar and Heron Pike 

Nab Scar and Heron Pike.

Lanty Scar Tea Break 

Tea and butties on Lanty Scar.

From Lanty Scar it was a surprisingly long walk to the top of Loughrigg, although I suppose we didn’t take the most direct route. Loughrigg is a relatively small hill, not even as high as Alcock tarn where we had been earlier.

From the top…

Loughrigg Summit 

..most of the party made a fairly hasty retreat, but the AYM and I lingered, despite the chilly breeze, to play name that peak and to watch the play of light across the hills and valleys.

Langdale from Loughrigg 

Langdale.

Lingmoor from Loughrigg 

Lingmoor.

Grasmere

Grasmere.

We doubled back down Loughrigg terrace so that we could pick-up the lake-shore path. I was surprised to see that the yellow saxifrage which TBH and I saw earlier in the year, was still flowering. From there it was an easy stroll, in the last of the light, back to the pub.

A Game of Two Halves