Further Tales of Incompetence and Evening Hills

Pines of Cragmire Plantation

I seem to have let things slide a bit around here once again. I’ve left several hilltop sunset moments unrecounted, for a variety of reasons, mostly related to camera muppetry.

I have no photos to offer of the first of these evenings, not because I didn’t take any, but because the light was so low it wasn’t really worth taking any, and the end results weren’t very satisfactory. Around a month ago now, when the days were as long as they come, I’d planned a late visit to Brunt Knott which sits above Staveley on the east side of the Kentmere valley. Things, however, don’t always go as planned and I had begun my walk very late, even for a long June evening. What’s more, a rather splendid day had clouded over and so, somewhere above Potter Tarn, I decided that the light was insufficient to get me to the top and back and turned tail. So – a bit of a flop in some ways, but a very pleasant walk none the less, most memorable for the very strident oystercatcher by Potter Tarn which must have had a nest nearby, judging by the belligerent attention it paid to me.

Cragmire plantation and the Howgills 

I also have no photos of the second walk, which happened a few days later. Once again my plans didn’t run smoothly. This time I’d arranged to meet my friend T again, who had accompanied me on Ingleborough not so long back. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten about a late meeting at work and left him sitting in a lay-by wondering what had happened to me. Luckily, T’s a very forgiving chap and eventually we were parked on the Littledale Road on the North –Western edge of the Forest of Bowland. It was a cracking evening and we had a fine and sunny walk – sandwiches and a cuppa on Clougha Pike then over Grit Fell to Ward’s Stone. It was a little hazy and there was a covering of cloud to the north and west. For that reason, we didn’t really see a sunset as such, but when the sun was low it was reflected, a deep red, in the waters of Morecambe Bay. Beyond the Bay, Black Combe glowed pink, presumably catching that reflected light, since we were seeing it’s eastern flank. It was a really odd phenomenon, and it would have been good to see whether a photo could do it justice. What’s more I had a new camera to try out: my Dad has down-sized to an upmarket compact and has donated his old DSLR to me. He gave me two camera bags too. And he was very specific about which one actually had the camera in it. Only an idiot would take the other bag and leave the camera behind.

I’ll let you connect the dots.

Hazy view of the Lakeland Fells 

We had a proper bona fide sunset, a real beauty, looking across the bay from the top of the hill behind Lancaster in Williamson Park. We were there for the Play in the Park, an annual promenade performance, this year an unusual retelling of the Robin Hood story, set in a dystopian future (thoroughly recommended – the play that is, not the dystopian future). Because we were there for the play….I hadn’t thought to take a camera.

Valley of.... 

The photos here were all taken on an evening ascent of Scout Hill. Unless you live locally or collect HuMPs or trig pillars you probably don’t know it. It’s a modest hill, 285m, and there is no access to the top. But we can see it from our bedroom window and I’ve long wanted to investigate. As a self-confessed wuss, I’ve been deterred by the need to trespass, but after reading about Mike Knipe’s visit earlier this year, in which any mention of shotgun-toting “get-orf my land” types was notable by its absence, I decided to give it a go.

Standing Stone? 

And I didn’t regret it. It has tremendous all  round views.

If you can ignore the masts on the top that is.


There was a huge bull in the field which has a footpath through it, but I gave him a wide-berth and he didn’t seem too interested in me. (The one I’d encountered in the fields near Side House on Potter Fell had been, to my mind, all too interested in me and I’d resorted to trespass then too, in order to avoid him.)


The lanes around Scout Hill are decidedly minor – single track with long grass growing down the middle, but it’s possible to pull off the one on the north side directly opposite the bridleway. A well made track heads through the gate from the road there, but the right-of-way follows the wall. The flowers on display – lousewort, bog asphodel, ragged robin – all love wet ground and I imagine that during a wetter spell of weather you might want something more robust than the sandals I was walking in.

Ragged robin 

It was a beautiful evening and I was snapping away with gay abandon – the only draw-back being the hordes of clegs in attendance, seemingly waiting whilst I was distracted by my camera before they took lumps out of me.

Setting sun I 

Sadly, I’d also temporarily forgotten the very careful instructions my Dad had given me about the camera’s autofocus. So I have a lot of blurred photos.

Setting sun III 

These are the best of a very poor lot. Better than no photos at all I suppose.

Low sun

Now, can a bear of very little brain adjust to a camera which needs to have a little think before you can take a photo? We shall see.

Whilst this sweltering weather continues, I think I shall be more inclined to go swimming than walking anyway. We all swam in the Kent again recently and the water was, if not actually warm, a good deal warmer than it was last year.

Further Tales of Incompetence and Evening Hills

Rare Duke of Ellington Butterfly Spotted

Lady's-slipper orchid

Every year I post photos of one of our local rarities – the lady’s-slipper orchids. Usually with an admonition to get out and see them whilst you can. This year, I’ve been a bit tardy and I’m afraid to say that you’d be a bit late by now. These flowers, Cypripedium calceolus – the little shoe of Venus, were once common in the North of England, but, having been on the brink of extinction here, are now making a comeback thanks to reintroduced specimens grown at Kew gardens. The project began in 1983, but it was only as recently as 2009 that reintroduced plants produced seed-pods. The orchids have been planted at numerous, generally secret locations, with Gait Barrows being the well-publicised exception. The large yellow lip is designed to temporarily trap flies which are then well covered in pollen as they escape.


In all honesty, this evening walk wasn’t principally about seeing the orchids. The day before, whilst the boys and I were exploring the environs of Rydal Beck and spotting redstarts amongst the trees, TBH and A cycled to Gait Barrows and found there crowds of excited naturalists viewing the lady’s-slippers, but also pointing out to A and TBH a ‘Duke-of-Ellington’ butterfly. Otherwise known as a Duke of Burgundy. The Duke of Burgundy is in need of the same sort of helping hand as the Lady’s Slipper. Once associated with primroses growing in coppiced woodland, the decline in coppicing has seen the butterfly become reliant on cowslips growing in limestone or chalk grassland. Too much grazing, or shade of their food-plants, and the delicate balance is disturbed. I’ve never seen them in all my many visits to Gait Barrows and this evening was to be no exception.

I did find a brown silver-line moth:

Brown silver-line moth 

Since mine was an evening – rather than a weekend – visit, I didn’t meet crowds of orchid or butterfly enthusiasts. Just one other chap who, like me, was grovelling around on the floor taking photos of the flowers. He’d caught the train up from London that day and would head home again the next day. Just to see the lady’s-slippers. Maybe I don’t feel quite so bad about missing the Duke of Burgundies again.

Somehow, a month has slipped by since then. A busy month admittedly: Silverdale has two big weekend’s in June, first our Field Day which I was up-to-my-elbows in organising and then the Art Trail which, it seemed to me, was bigger and better than ever in it’s ninth year.

Meanwhile, in the fields roundabout, the tractors have been out night and day, harvesting the grass for silage. This one…


…belongs to the National Trust and has had a stay of execution.

Rare Duke of Ellington Butterfly Spotted