Back To Jenny Brown’s

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A Sunday stroll. One of our favourite routes: down through Fleagarth wood to the salt marsh, round to Jenny Brown’s, Jack Scout and home again via Woodwell.

The kids are posing here on the remnants of the bridge which, when I first moved to the area, used to cross Quicksand Pool, but which was laid low by the moving channels hereabouts.

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The channels are continuing to shift, and the old wharf is now under threat of being undermined.

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It may not last much longer. Soon afterwards we heard that moves are afoot, sponsored by local charity Morecambe Bay Partnership, to get an archaeological survey organised, involving local people. I put my name down as a volunteer, but couldn’t think in what capacity I might be qualified to assist, apart from perhaps as a hod-carrier, or chief cook and bottle washer.

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The wharf is already damaged.

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I wonder what will be turned up, and whether a bit of sleuthing will reveal the purpose of these mysterious odds and ends.

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Close by, to the north, low tide shows the remains of a long stone embankment stretching a mile into the sea, the remains of a controversial land reclamation scheme. An Act of Parliament (1874) permitted the Warton Land Company to enclose an area stretching from Jenny Brown’s Point to Hest Bank. Work began in 1875, building the embankment from limestone extracted from the quarry at Jenny Brown’s Point, but proved much more difficult than had been expected by the surveyors and engineers. In 1885 the company was declared bankrupt.

from the website of the Mourholme Local History Society

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Just a couple of weeks later there was a local history weekend in the village (of which more anon). I attended a talk about the Matchless disaster, subject of a new book.

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Here we are in the Gaskell Hall, just after the talk. It was absolutely fascinating, setting the accident in context. I have to confess, I hadn’t previously heard of the ill-fated Matchless.

Just beyond the remains of the embankment is the site of a boating disaster – the sinking of the Matchless in 1894. A pleasure boat sailed from Morecambe with 33 passengers, taking the much-travelled route to Grange, and carrying a cargo of millworkers holidaying in Morecambe. A sudden squall caught the boat broadside, rolled the boat over, and resulted in 25 passengers drowning. 8 others, together with the boat’s skipper, were saved by other pleasure boats. The inquest that followed was brief and hurried, and seemed to be something of a whitewash.

from the website of the Mourholme Local History Society

Matchless Sketch

Many of the victims were from Burnley. I think I shall always think of this tragedy when I visit Jenny Brown’s from now on. And also of the image of Barnum and Bailey’s circus crossing the sands with elephants amongst their company, which was another story we heard that weekend. What a sight that must have been!

We searched for, and found, fossils in the cliffs below Jack Scout.

S also found…

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….a sponge.

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Crepuscular Rays

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Jack Scout seat.

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Traveller’s Joy.

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The Bay from Jack Scout.

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This is the Wolfhouse, named for this crest and its motto: Homo homini lupus.

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A bit of lazy internet research reveals that this is (or maybe) a quote from the comic play Asinaria by Titus Maccius Plautus from 194BC. It’s more normally quoted as ‘Homo homini lupus est’ – Man is a wolf to man. Not the cheeriest thought, but in light of the total disregard for safety which led to the loss of life in the Matchless disaster, or in Morecambe Bay’s other great tragedy 110 years later, when the cockle-pickers were drowned, perhaps depressingly accurate at least some of the time.

That’s a very sombre note on which to end an account of what had been a most enjoyable saunter!

Back To Jenny Brown’s

Reasons to be Cheerful

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Another garden wildlife interlude. B found a colourful spider in the garden – we know the drill now, we have a field guide with a few, wholly inadequate, pages on spiders, but they could give us a start and then the internet would help us to identify our neighbour. First, however, we need lots of sharp photos from every angle.

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And that’s where the project fell down. This was one fast moving spider. It ran across his shirt, it abseiled away on gossamer threads, it just wouldn’t sit still for a portrait. So: I think that it’s an orb web spider, perhaps, but then I’m stuck. It diverted and delighted us for a few moments though.

Also, further to yesterday’s post and its mention of ‘Great Lives’: there are 270 episodes on the iplayer. I don’t know whether that’s all of them, but it seems likely. It’s enough to be going on with anyway. I’ve just listened to Linda Smith and Charlie Gillett discussing Ian Dury with Humphrey Carpenter, from 2003. I didn’t know that the programme had been presented by anyone other than the inestimable Matthew Paris. Ian Dury and Linda Smith, what an unexpected and wonderful combination.

A short post, so here’s some of Mr Dury’s words:

You’ll See Glimpses

You’ll see.

They think I’m off my crust as I creep about the gaff.
But I’m really getting ready to surprise them all,
Because I’m busy sorting out the problems of the world.
And when I reveal all won’t they get a crinkly mouth.
I’ve given my all to the task at hand unstintingly.
When it’s all over I’ll rest on my laurels.

Here for a moment is a glimpse of my plan:
All the kids will be happy learning things.
The wind will smell of wild flowers.
Nobody will whack each other about with nasty things.
All the room in the world.

They take me for a mug because I smile.
They think I’m too out of tune to mind being patronised.
All in all, it’s been another phase in my chosen career,
And when my secrets are out they’ll bite their silly tongues.
All I want for my birthday is another birthday.
When skies are blue we all feel the benefit.

Glimpse Number 2 for the listener.
Everyone will feel useful in lovely ways.
Trees will be firmly rooted in town and country.
Illness and despair will be dispensed with.
All the room in the world.

They ask me if I’ve had the voices yet.
They don’t think I know any true answers.
It’s true that I haven’t quite finished yet.
When it all comes out in the wash they’ll eat their words.
I’ve got all their names and addresses.
Later on I’ll write them each a thank-you letter.

Before I stop, here’s a last glimpse into the general future.
Home rule will exist in each home, forever.
Every living thing will be another friend.
This wonderful state of affairs will last for always.

This has been got out by a friend.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Stony Hazel and Rusland Moss

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The first Saturday of September and another one of those windows of opportunity which I so often seem to refer to these days. The Dangerous Brothers were still rehearsing their high-wire act in County Durham, later that day I would be chauffeuring the rest of the family and our friend R up to join them, partly so that we could collect the boys and rescue their grandparents, but also because TBH and R would be competing in the Great North Run the following day.

So, I made an early start with the intention of a walk in the Rusland Valley. I didn’t have a plan for parking, but wondered whether the verges by Rusland Church would be accommodating. They were. I don’t suppose you would be very popular parking here on a Sunday morning, and you have to choose your spot carefully…..

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I had a quick gander inside the church…

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It’s quite a large church, considering how isolated it is. There are no houses roundabout at all, it must serve several small communities.

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I took a  tour around the graveyard, looking for one headstone in particular, beneath the Corsican Pine….

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The last resting place….

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…of Arthur and Evgenia Ransome.

I have to confess that I haven’t read the Swallows and Amazons books, which I suppose might be a little unusual for a Lake District enthusiast. Last year we saw a dramatisation of Swallows and Amazons at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. Very good it was too. I tried reading it with the kids a while back too, but it didn’t seem to fire their imaginations and we didn’t get very far. I think the vocabulary was a bit of a stumbling block for them. In one of those curious coincidences, a couple of days later I was listening to ‘Great Lives’ on the way home from work, and lo and behold, it featured Labi Siffre proposing Arthur Ransome. Fascinating to discover that Ransome’s second wife, also buried here, was Trotsky’s secretary when Ransome met her. Rather marvellously, it appears that the BBC make all thirty odd series of ‘Great Lives’ available on the iplayer. The Arthur Ransome one is here. Have a listen and decide for yourself whether his life was ‘great’. It was certainly interesting: he was sued by Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde’s lover, was a journalist and double agent during the Russian revolution, as well as a very successful children’s author.

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The Rusland Reading Rooms are opposite the church. I would have liked to have a poke around in there too, just out of curiosities sake, but had to settle for a few photos from outside.

I had a very sketchy plan for my walk, setting out through these woods, marked on the 1:25000 OS map as Stony Hazel, but on the 1:50000 as Thwaite Moss. Whatever their name, they were very atmospheric, but none of my photos seem to capture just how nice they were.

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They were full of exuberant fungi.

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Once again, you can see here that it was raining a little. It was another day of mixed weather.

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I reached the far side of the woods, with a little waterfall on Force Beck.

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By the gardens of this rather attractive old mill, a reminder I suppose, of an industrial past for this apparently sleepy rural backwater.

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I hadn’t decided at this point, where my walk would take me next, and now made the slightly crazy decision to try to follow the beck. This proved to be quite tricky going, but quite charming when I stopped fighting the vegetation and stopped to look about.

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I always enjoy yellowed leaves floating in water, but they’re very difficult to photograph satisfactorily, something to do with the way light reflects off the water I suspect.

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I had hoped that I would be able to cross the beck and pick-up the track (not a right-of-way) on the far bank, which heads toward Quaker’s Wood. When I realised that wouldn’t really be feasible, I cut back to the path and thence back to Rusland Church, from where I set off along a minor lane towards the hamlet of Rusland Cross.

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The hedgerow provided interest, and breakfast. I was fascinated by this artfully rolled leaf…

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….like a small cigar. I saw several more of these through the day. Always hazel leaves, always incredibly neat and compact. I have no idea what creature is inside and whether it is pupating, or nesting or hibernating? (Actually, the latter seems a bit unlikely in a deciduous leaf.)

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Handsome Lakeland barn on the outskirts of Rusland Cross.

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Coach-house dated 1850, at the Hall at Rusland Cross.

I took the bridleway down to the right of the Hall which led me to Rusland Pool…

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..and, once across the bridge, into Rusland Moss.

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So that’s twice this year I’ve been here, having not visited for many years. I crossed the Moss to Low Hay Bridge, walked across to Hulleter and back across the Reserve again.

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I was having huge problems with my camera at this point, in fact, I thought it might be about to die on me. I did manage to get some photos of more fungi.

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And of the expansive views.

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But not, sadly, of the woodpeckers and nuthatches, which were flaunting themselves in a fashion so frustrating that it was hard no to suspect that they knew that my camera was playing up.

The camera has subsequently made something of a recovery, although the lid of the battery compartment bulges even more alarmingly then it did before, and it‘s held together with gaffer tape, which looks a tad Heath-Robinson.

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One more point of interest from the walk to report – I crept up a driveway to sneak a view of this building, marked on my map as a cross, but, I notice, on the most up to date OS map, now appearing as a red square.

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A red square, for non-map addicts, has no connection in this context toRansome’s friends Lenin or Trotsky, but represents a hostel. This is still a Meeting House, but the stables have been converted for use as a basic independent hostel. Details here. Must admit, I’m quite taken with the idea of staying there, partly because of the quiet and lovely location, but also because I’d like to see what the Meeting House is like inside. (Even as I write that however, I’m remembering that I’ve been in the Meeting Houses in both Lancaster and Warton and that, unsurprisingly, there’s nothing very remarkable to see.) Another handsome building though. And now we know why the wood behind it is ‘Quaker’s Wood’.

Rusland

Stony Hazel and Rusland Moss

A Short Stroll Along The Shore

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With members of our little tribe now working or studying at four different schools we had a staggered back to school arrangement. The boys had a weeks more holiday left when I started back and had gone away to County Durham for some peace and quiet. (Peace and quiet for those of us left behind, obviously.)

On the Thursday afternoon, with the sun still beating down, TBH, A and I decided to get out for some fresh air. We didn’t go far. Just down to the Cove and then a little way along the shore.

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The ladies decided to cool their feet in the channel, whilst I took a closer look at this rockfall…

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Part of the charm of the outdoors is the way things change with the seasons and the weather and even the time of day. We’re well used to seeing the course of the channels in Morecambe Bay changing for example, we expect it, and the changes are frequent and sometimes quite dramatic, but I was bit taken-aback to find these large boulders and the matching scar where they had tumbled to the beach. The striking colour revealed is evidence of the haematite present, which was quarried nearby at Red Rake at the back of The Cove.

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Apparently, I was missing out on shoals of tiny fish which were hurrying about in the shallow channel.

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But there were bigger fish too, quite a few of them it seemed. We saw the splashes as they sprang from the water from time to time, and this heron..

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…seemed to be finding rich pickings, when we weren’t disturbing his fishing.

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I’ve cropped these already, they aren’t as sharp as I would like, but you can see a successful catch below.

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It really was all wonderfully peaceful and not solely because the Dangerous Brothers were away terrorising their grandparents.

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TBH and A headed home at this point, but I extended the saunter just a little by heading up Stankelt Road to Sharp’s Lot.

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There’s a wilding apple tree there which seems to produce a lot of fruit every year. Last year I was bit late in visiting it. This year I was too, although at least there was still some fruit on the tree.

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The apples are pretty tart, not as tooth-curlingly sharp as crab apples, but not really dessert apples. I imagine they’d be good for jam, but I’m only guessing really.

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This year seemed to be a bumper year for hazelnuts. Certainly, the large tree which hangs over the bottom corner of our garden was shedding large quantities of nuts for a few weeks. Although many of the shells held disappointingly small kernels when you cracked them.

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Acorn.

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Sloes.

Another autumn has passed without my fulfilling my regular promise to myself to make some sloe gin. I don’t like gin at all (something to do with drinking it in inappropriate measures in the dim and distant past, perhaps) but I do enjoy sloe gin. And I suppose that’s the problem – if I make some, I’ll only end up drinking it, which is probably not advisable.

A Short Stroll Along The Shore

Another Interlude

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“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

Jerome K. Jerome

Another instance of the boys finding something fascinating in the garden and fetching me and my camera to enjoy it.

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Watching this spider deftly spin this wasp, well half of a wasp I think, and neatly wrap it in silk was really something.

Here’s one which was already hanging in the larder to season….

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Of course, once one thing has attracted my attention and has me gleefully snapping away, I’m inclined to start to look to see what else I can find. There were lots of hoverflies about, but I was more interested in this harvestman….

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…mainly because, until quite recently, I didn’t know that they existed. Not a spider, but related, it doesn’t produce silk, so can’t spin a web, nor does it have fangs, but it catches small prey using hooks on its long legs.

This forest bug, photographed on a different day, had a lucky escape – I was pruning a hazel which grows a good deal faster than the beech hedge it has invaded and so can often look a bit like a straggly cuckoo-in-the-nest when I spotted this bug on the underside of a leaf, just as I was about to shove it into the shredder.

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Another Interlude

Claife Heights and Latterbarrow

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I think that this was the day after the one we spent paddling on Windermere from Harrow Slack, if not it was at most a couple of days later. I was back at Harrow Slack, but without the boats or the rest of the family, with the prospect of a free day and a chance to get out for a walk. The forecast was pretty mixed, so I’d opted for a wander around the low hills above Windermere rather than anything more adventurous. And indeed, there were a few drops of rain in the air as I embarked on the steep climb away from the lake shore.

Still, there’s usually something to brighten the way, on this occasion, these tiny….

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….but rather splendid Small Balsam flowers. Introduced from South East Asia apparently.

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Keen on shade and lime-free, nitrogen rich soils, and seeming very happy in these Lakeland woods.

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I’m finally beginning to remember to take lots of photos when I find something new I want to identify, and having a record of the shape of the leaves was very helpful here (meant I could rule out some very wide of the mark ideas I initially had).

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Growing in amongst the Small Balsam, but with much larger, more insistently showy flowers, were a relative, Touch-me-not Balsam, which is, apparently, our only native Balsam.

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It’s Latin name is Impatiens noli-tangere and both names refer to the explosive nature of the seed heads. (Impatiens – impatient or not-allowing, noli-tangere – do not touch; the Latin and popular names are essentially the same.)

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Anyway, both plants were plentiful here, and most welcome at a time when not much is flowering in the deep, late-summer shade.

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You don’t climb very far on this path before you encounter….

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…The Viewing Station. Built in the 1790s and now undergoing significant repair work under the auspices of the National Trust, this building had tinted viewing windows – with different coloured glasses meant to simulate the views during different seasons and even, through a lilac window, the moonlit view. Later, I read, dances were held here. The National Trust plan to restore the building and eventually open a cafe.

By the time I was reaching the top of the hill, the sky was clearing and it was getting quite warm. The views were only partial ones, but enjoyable none-the-less. That’s Belle Isle down there, the near shore being the one we’d paddled in the lee of.

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There’s quite a network of paths across the Claife Heights area and I had the option to turn right to head for High Blind How the highest point in these hills, but instead I went left and downhill.

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Towards Far Sawrey….

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This is the Village Institute in Far Sawrey…

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Silverdale has it’s own Institute, and after a recent coup, a new committee has been inviting suggestions about what should happen to it’s building and field and how they should be used. Ideas seem to have flooded in, some of them quite radical. My main concern is that the field isn’t too messed about with, so that the sports which take place there on our Field Day can continue. But I do like the idea of some picnic tables.

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And perhaps a sign like this one.

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I resisted the temptation to join the crowds at Hill Top in Near Sawrey, Beatrix Potter’s former home and struck off uphill once again. It was very pleasant, easy walking. Just after I crossed Wilfin Beck I paused for a few minutes to watch the antics of a pair of Nuthatches in the trees by the path.

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On the verge of the broad track, I noticed a Small Copper sunning itself…

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And when I’d taken a few photos of the butterfly, I realised that there was a grasshopper sat almost alongside…

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And then, that there were actually three grasshoppers, not just one…

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I wonder sometimes, just how much I miss when I’m out, because it’s so easy to pass interesting things by unknowingly.

These are definitely grasshoppers, the short stubby antennae distinguish them from crickets, but further than that I have little confidence. Grasshoppers vary enormously. These might be Field Grasshoppers I think. Maybe.

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Now that my attention was focused on the track’s verges, I realised just how many different flowers there were to see…

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Harebells.

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I assumed that this was Yarrow, but now realise that it’s a related plant – Sneezewort, Achillea ptarmica from ptarmos the Greek word for sneezing. An old medicinal plant used for colds, but also recommended by the herbalist Nicholas Culpepper for toothache.

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A vetch.

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A yellow one. (I know, I was doing quite well there for a while.)

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Eyebright.

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Devil’s-bit scabious.

Part of the reason for coming this way, was that it would take me past Moss Eccles Tarn….

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…which once belonged to Beatrix Potter.

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Apparently Potter and her husband used to come up to the tarn to row a boat and fish on summer evenings.

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Quite a mixed herd of cattle of various shades, shapes….

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…and sizes on the open ground above the tarn.

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I’m not overly fond of sharing a field with a bull. Fortunately, he wasn’t the least bit interested in me.

This….

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..is Wise Een Tarn. With a view of the Langdale Pikes behind. The higher hills were generally hidden in the clouds all day, so this was a rare view. Claife Heights feature in Wainwright’s outlying fells. He says that the tarns here are all reservoirs, none of them appearing on nineteenth century maps. Real or man made, they’re all quite attractive.

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I don’t know who owns the tarn, but I envy them their secluded boathouse and boats – what a spot to wile away the weekends in!

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Another little reservoir.

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Mint.

The next section of the walk took me into the forestry plantations, which I suppose might have been tedious, but for the fact that there was a profusion of large and colourful fungi to distract me.

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I’m afraid I’ve made no attempt to identify these. One day perhaps I’ll get to grips with toadstools, but they’re very difficult to tell apart.

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I could have done with Beatrix Potter’s company. Before she was the successful children’s author we now know she became, she made a painstaking and very thorough study of fungi and lichen. She came up against the prevailing prejudices of her time and wasn’t able to present her findings to the scientific societies because women weren’t allowed to attend the meetings. We’d seen some of her watercolour studies of fungi at Wray Castle a few days before. (She visited Wray Castle with her father when she was eighteen, her first visit to the Lakes). I believe that there are more on display at the Armitt Museum in Ambleside, which, until now, has somehow passed me by, but I intend to investigate when the chance arises.

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Whilst I was in amongst the trees, the weather deteriorated: you might notice that some of the fungi look a bit damp. So was I.

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When I left the trees to climb Latterbarrow, it was chucking it down. Latterbarrow is another one of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells, and although it’s a mere 803’ above sea level, it’s an excellent viewpoint. I know that because I’ve been here before on a better day. On this occasion there was no view.

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Just the very tall obelisk, and two other walkers huddled under a pink umbrella on the far side.

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I remember a few years ago, sitting on Jenkin Crag above Winderemere and being surprised to see a stretch of water above and beyond the Lake. I’ve wanted to visit Blelham Tarn ever since. And I’m pleased that I did, but I don’t have any photos to show for it – the rain continued and I had a bit of soggy splodge down hill past the tarn to the Grounds of Wray Castle.

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It was a bit late in the day for lunch, but I hadn’t eaten mine, so I settled on the roots of a lakeside oak, by one of the Castle’s boathouses, and tucked in. It had briefly stopped raining, but when it started again, I was nicely shielded by the branches of the tree. I enjoyed watching the raindrops puckering the surface of the lake.

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All that remained was a pleasant stroll along the lake shore back to the car – the same route I’d cycled (twice) recently.

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The weather took a turn for the better again, and the views were very pleasant.

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The island on the right here…

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….is Thompson’s Holme, which I think will be one of our first targets when we get the boats out again next summer.

Claife Heights

Claife Heights and Latterbarrow

Hutton Roof – The Case of the Missing Trig Pillar

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Rumours about the demise of this blog are, I understand, circulating like wildfire, causing consternation and distress amongst our legion of fan. I thought I’d better do something about it, to whit: getting my arse into gear.

So -  back in the summer, when daylight, and even sunshine, were in plentiful supply, I was joined by A and B and our friend Beaver B (no, I shan’t explain….oh well, go on then, suffice to say it’s more to do with Boy Scouting than Wild-West-Frontier animal skinning type activities) for an afternoon stroll on Hutton Roof.

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We pulled off the Clawthorpe road and headed up via Lancelot Clark Storth, a Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve. Every time I come this way, I seem to find a different path to follow. So eventually we reached high ground in an unfamiliar spot and with no sign of the top. We followed a promising looking path.

Which brought us to a large cairn….

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…which I recognised. I’d climbed up to it, I thought, from one of the principal paths across Hutton Roof on a previous visit. "The main path is just down there" I said. But scrambling down the small limestone edge through dense scrub to a path which I vaguely recalled might be nearby didn’t seem a very attractive option. There followed a good half-hour, or maybe more, of wandering aimlessly in convoluted spirals and curlicues looking for a significant path, a recognisable landmark or the elusive trig pillar. Beaver B has a dodgy ankle, but if he resented my useless navigation and our fruitless search across broken limestone pavements and tussocky grasslands, he hid it well.

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B found lots of these elegant little snails in a tree. We tried some hazelnuts, which seem to have been both large and abundant this year.

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The heather was flowering. It always impresses me that this ericaceous plant grows on the limestone hills roundabout. I’m sure I read somewhere that this is a result of pockets of acid soil which date back to ash from the Borrowdale volcanoes.

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We never did find the top. Eventually we returned to the prominent cairn, and almost immediately found an easy way down to the path, which, it transpired, was exactly where I’d thought it would be. Which was little comfort after all the navigational incompetence which had preceded this realisation.

Fabulous spot Hutton Roof, I really should get there more often.

Hutton Roof – The Case of the Missing Trig Pillar