Clouds, Mist, Sunset, Moon from Warton Crag

A Saturday afternoon early in January. The day after our Black Fell outing in fact. The forecast for the day was pretty dismal, except that around three o’clock the cloud and rain was apparently going to clear to give a final hour of sunshine to close the short winter day. And it did. The transformation was so quick that it was quite stunning: blue sky suddenly seemed to materialise where all had been grey and gloom.

I’d planned ahead – I would head to Carnforth to do some grocery shopping, but pause en route for a quick jaunt up Warton Crag. I found a path I’d never followed before, which gave a very pleasant stroll to the top. I didn’t stop to take photos – the views were clear, extensive and glorious, but they would be so much better from a higher vantage point I thought, and besides, I wanted to reach the summit in time for the sunset.

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But when I got there, a low blanket of cloud had rolled in off the sea. The Cumbrian Fells were obscured.

The bay was only hazily visible…

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And the coast to the south and the Bowland hills were missing from the view too….

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But as you can see, the sun was suffusing the thin layer of cloud with colours and the cloud was still rolling through, shifting and tearing, putting on a real show.

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There were a few other people at the top, chatting, taking photos and enjoying the spectacle.

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Gradually the cloud was thinning and clearing away.

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And the sun was inexorably sliding towards the horizon.

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As soon as the sun finally disappeared, the temperature appreciably dropped. Or maybe it just felt colder. When I checked my watch, I could hardly believe that I’d only been watching for about 15 minutes – I took so many photos, and I felt like I’d been there an age.

In the meantime, the Lake District hills had reappeared to the north…

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As I turned to head back to the car, I noticed that the moon was already high in the eastern sky. The shadowy bulk to the right of the moon is Ingleborough.

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My new camera does pretty well with hand held shots of the moon (switched to black and white mode and with the exposure compensation turned down as far as it will go).

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Having found a path which was new to me on my way up, I followed my favourite old familiar one on the way down. It follows a limestone edge and on this occasion gave great views of a thin smear of mist rising across the salt marsh and the fields.

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And of the lights coming on in Warton, Millhead and Carnforth and the flooded fields which surround Warton every winter.

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The moon and Ingleborough again. It was, for all intents and purposes, dark when I took this shot – I’m amazed how much colour it has in it. I’m quite excited about the potential of my new toy!

Not bad for a walk that lasted around an hour and half.

Clouds, Mist, Sunset, Moon from Warton Crag

Black Fell

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Castor and Pollux, Leiber and Stoller, eggs and bacon, Weller and Worthington*, cheese and pickle, Cooke and Moore, Boswell and Johnson – some things are destined to always be associated in our minds, and whatever individual merit each half of the partnership has, we none the less feel that the whole is somehow greater than the sum of the parts. I have a feeling that, to a certain extent at least, walkers who know them feel much the same way about Holme Fell and Black Fell. Guide books certainly often pair them together. The chap I met one wintery morning above the Wrynose Pass, who was close to finishing bagging the Birketts, had them both pencilled in for an afternoon walk later that day, once he’d polished off some Coniston Fells. But here’s the curious thing – I’d never been up Black Fell, even though I’ve climbed Holme Fell a few times over the years, including once since I started recording my walks here.

So, with a forecast for some half decent weather (but with strong winds and some wintery showers predicted too) and  wanting to get the kids out for a wander, something in the vicinity of Loughrigg, the same sort of low fell walk, with good views, relatively easily earned, but easy retreats available too, was deemed appropriate, and Black Fell seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

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We parked in a National Trust car park, just off the A593 Ambleside to Coniston road, which gave us instant access to the delightful cascades of Tom Gill, which is the stream which flows out of Tarn Hows.

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These were worthy of the admission price alone – I’ve been to Tarn Hows before, but I don’t think I can have been this way – what a treat!

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Now, I have to confess, I’ve never truly understood the fuss that’s made over Tarn Hows. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, obviously, and a lot of people hold views diametrically opposite to my own, but a lot of people are simply wrong: it’s a reservoir surrounded by conifer plantations. Nothing wrong with that particularly, but….I’m not sure that it can carry the weight of the hyperbole that’s heaped on it. Tom Gill is much more entertaining.

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Now that we’d gained a little height, it was already proving to be a very, very windy day. Some members of the party were agitating for their lunch. It’s a perennial problem on family outings. And it’s not principally the kids who chafe. TBH still hasn’t let me forget that we missed the lunchtime serving at the pub when we last climbed Holme Fell, and that despite the fact that we were still well looked after when we did arrive. We spent a while, therefore, searching for a suitable, sheltered picnic spot.

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This was it. Not really very sheltered, just less not sheltered than anywhere else we tried.

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Then we were climbing towards the summit of Black Fell. The wind was making it quite hard work, especially for walkers carrying a little less ballast than yours truly, i.e. all the rest of the family. The reward was the expanding views on all sides. Little S was particularly keen to have a view of ‘Coniston’. He didn’t seem very sure whether it was the lake, the village or the mountain of that name which interested him. The Houses at the village primary school are Coniston, Scafell and Kent, so that was partly what had sparked his interest. And it transpired that one of his class mates has climbed Coniston Old Man and has been regaling her peers with tales of her derring-do. In the long term, I’m obviously keen to exploit the competitive spirit this seems to have kindled in S, but in the short term I told him that Crinkle Crags, which we climbed together in the summer, is higher, and he was immensely satisfied by that. From that point on, it was important for us to identify Crinkle Crags from the surrounding hills.

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“It’s over there!”

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Tarn Hows, Coniston Water and Coniston Old Man from Black Fell.

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Windermere from Black Fell.

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As if the wind wasn’t enough to contend with, the top of Black Fell brought the additional delight of a fierce hail shower. Fortunately, this rocky outcrop provided a pretty fair measure of protection and we hunkered down for hot blackcurrant and snacks.

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Another view towards the Langdale Fells.

It had originally been my intention to incorporate Holme Fell into the walk as well, but time was marching on a good deal faster than we were, and the kids were finding the wind trying – trying to bowl them off their feet for the most part. So we picked up the path which shadows the road through the valley between Black Fell and Holme Fell. If you are thinking of following this route, be warned that the path opposite Yew Tree Tarn is very sketchy and I suspect little used. We did bump into a roe deer using it however.

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* Weller and Worthington – I realise that I might have undermined my argument somewhat by posting a link of Frank Worthington’s amazing goal for Bolton against Ipswich, when he was no-longer playing alongside the wizardry of Keith Weller, but I’ll always think of them together. Here they are crafting a goal in tandem. Great team that, Lenny Glover, on the other wing, sticks in my mind too. I also realise that, as a Leicester fan, it’s probably significant that I’m clutching at crumbs of comfort from the early 1970’s.

This was fun though.

Black Fell

Loughrigg Fell

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Between Christmas and New Year, TBH’s parents came to stay for a couple of days. We left them and the children alone together for a day so that they could enjoy their rights to spoil and be spoiled without any interference from us. That’s my excuse anyway.

As we so often do when we have some free time together, TBH and I headed for the Langdale area. (Our first outing together was Jake’s Rake on Pavey Ark, but that’s another story.) We weren’t particularly early getting off, and it was, unsurprisingly, very busy, so by the time we’d found somewhere to park it was almost lunch time. Fortunately, a short stroll along the Brathay (or is it still Langdale Beck hereabouts – I’m never sure?) brought us to Chesters at Skelwith Bridge. Which was insanely busy. But we were quite fortunate in our timing and soon got seats and I have to say that the medley of salads we shared went a long way to demonstrate why the place is so popular.

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My plan had been to walk one of the variations of one of our favourite walks – Skelwith Force, Colwith Force, Little Langdale and over the hill back to Elterwater, but when we’d finished lunch the sun shine was gently nudging me in another direction.

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We took the minor road to Tarn Foot and then the rather lovely path round Ivy Crag, which I’m not sure I’ve ever walked before. It was popular, but with views like this one….

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….why wouldn’t it be?

A number of paths cut up from that one towards the top of Loughrigg.

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The gain in height broadened the views…

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Loughrigg Tarn and the hills around Langdale.

Whilst low winter sun and golden crepuscular rays added to the colour and drama of the scene…

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Eltermere and the Coniston Fells.

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TBH on Loughrigg summit.

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Fairfield Horseshoe.

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We cut down from the top on a path not shown on the map below, although it is on the OS 1:25000. The big building in the centre of this photo is High Close YHA. We’ll be staying there later this year, with the usual crowd plus many more old friends, and something like this route would probably be ideal for a massed families wander.

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We discovered that the woods around and below High Close all belong to the National Trust and are access land, so we had an unexpectedly pleasant route back down to the valley and our car.

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Smashing day out that. More please!

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Christmas at Home

 And The Strange Case of the Topless Toposcope

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So – the title says it all really: we spent Christmas at home.

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Well, there’s a little bit more to it than that: my brother and his family joined us from Switzerland and my Mum and Dad came to stay too. Short local rambles were very much the order of the day.

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Our kids seem to have forgotten loom bands, but this years other big craze (for them at least) of whittling sticks is still be going strong. I’m more in to ‘whittling on’….

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Eagle-eyed patrons of this blog may have noticed, in a recent post ,that next to the Pepper Pot, which is really a monument built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, a smaller structure has appeared….

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…. which is a toposcope, similarly erected in honour of the sixtieth year of the reign of our present monarch….

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On Christmas Eve, B and I were up and about whilst everyone else was still sound in their beds, so we decided to catch the sunrise from the Pepper Pot…

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…and we discovered that the scope, from the toposcope, had disappeared already.

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I don’t know why. I’m no Royalist, but I hope it wasn’t vandalism.

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I’ve done quite a few sunrise and sunset walks of late; I have a feeling that they may be a bit of a feature of 2015.

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And, with the help of my new camera, I think that photos of Robins may also be a feature of this year. Here’s one from the tail-end of last year…

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Me made several visits to the Cove and its little cave. It was different every time, from calm and sunny with the tide well out, to wild and windy with very high tides and and proper waves (which is a bit unusual on the Bay).

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The boys love ice. They get very excited whenever the local ponds (in this case Banks Well) freeze over. Their thought process seems to be something like: “Fantastic: ice! I wonder if I can smash it?”

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A Merry Christmas to all our readers!

(I know, I know – think of it as a really early goodwill message for next Christmas)

Christmas at Home

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend

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The weekend before Christmas is a special one in our year, since it brings another of our regular get-togethers with the gaggle of cronies now known to us as Our Camping Friends. Not that we were camping. We aren’t that hardy, well not all of us anyway. Once upon a long ago we used to congregate in one of our homes – wherever the host was generous enough to offer, which meant, presumably, that they could overlook the bad behaviour of the previous year and the potential for randomly strewn Quality Street and/or Brussel sprouts under their sofa, not to mention turkey fat stains on the kitchen lino and partially cooked potatoes on the lawn. These days we rent a hostel for the weekend (and I ought to add, don’t leave any food rotting in inappropriate nooks and crannies). This was our twelfth such weekend and for the second year running the venue was The Old School Bunkhouse in Chapel-le-Dale.

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It’s a perfect spot – it has a large kitchen where the adults tend to gather to mainline tea and reheat old stories, but also a large living room which the kids annexe for the weekend. It sits slap-bang between Whernside and Ingleborough and if we were ever to get any decent weather whilst we were there, no doubt it would be the perfect place from which to launch ascents of one or other of them. Sadly, once again the principal characteristic of the weather was its wetness.

Indeed, when the Adopted Yorkshireman came in from his habitual pre-dawn yomp, looking like the proverbial drowned rat, he was prepared to admit that it was ‘almost not worth going out’ which is as damning as he ever gets. Still, it did brighten up later that day and we managed to encourage/cajole/browbeat/bribe the kids to join us for a mass hike along the lanes and tracks around Chapel-le-Dale.

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Looking toward Ribblehead Viaduct.

We even had a little blue sky.

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A barn by the track near Bruntscar.

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Another view toward Ribblehead.

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The kids enjoyed fording Ellerbeck Gill so much that they did it again and again. Wellies were definitely the wisest choice of footwear.

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I think some of them found the stream so enticing that they were tempted to follow it upstream to look at the falls. They did look good!

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Whernside almost emerges from the cloud.

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The return leg of our walk brought us past this arresting sculpture…

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…which has had a chequered past.

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Judging by the luxuriance of the moss on this wall, the wet weather we’ve experienced here is normal service. Just below here we stopped a while to peer down into Hurtle Pot.

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Chapel-le-Dale’s diminutive church.

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Some of our party had a very soggy walk back to the church the following day to swell the congregation at their Carol service.

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When we arrived back at the bunkhouse, Ingleborough was almost cloud free and the weather was looking as promising as it had all day. (As it transpired, as promising as it would all weekend). So some of us resolved to get out again, after a quick bite of lunch.

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And, in short order, we did just that.

This time we were a little more ambitious and headed up to Twistleton Scar, after one minor navigational mishap whereon we strayed into the fields by High Scales – the farmer came to point us in the right direction: I think he was a little annoyed, understandably so, but he was very pleasant and helpful even so.

The cloud was drifting across Ingleborough in a highly tantalising way, seemingly threatening to unveil and reveal a great view, without ever fulfilling that promise.

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Never-the-less, the edge of the scar here makes for magnificent walking and I shall definitely have to come this way again soon.

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Looking down to Ingleton.

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A Twistleton scar erratic.

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The bunkhouse kitchen.

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On the Sunday, the weather was irredeemably awful. Some of us – the Shandy Sherpa, the Adopted Yorkshirewoman and I – took all of the kids around to Kingsdale to have a gander at Yordas Cave. It was wet. Very wet, both outside and in.

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Such was the volume of the water in the stream through the cave that when we crossed the mid-stream flow Andy and I felt it necessary to hand the kids across one-by-one.

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We took them down to peer at the waterfall through the ‘window’ at the end of the cave and I think that they all enjoyed their little adventure. You can find some marginally better photos of Yordas Cave from my summer evening visit last June.

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Due to the generosity of the owners of the bunkhouse, we had the option to stay quite late on the Monday, before we all set off to wend our ways home. The photograph above gives a feel for the weather conditions. This was during a brief, relatively pleasant spell.

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We had a little wander to investigate Winterscales Beck. Generally it runs underground here, but not today. This…

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…is a footpath. Earlier in the morning The Adopted Yorkshirefolk had found themselves on the wrong side of the beck, after another rain-drenched walk, and had waded through when it was running very deep. It had already subsided somewhat by the time they’d persuaded the rest of us to have a look, so naturally we hooted with derision and told them to stop exaggerating and making such a fuss.

Maybe next year we’ll get some sunshine. Or snow. Or even a little less rain would be a start.

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend

What Camera?

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Early December – I’m still more than a month behind!

For quite some time now, well over a year I reckon, I’ve been debating about buying a new camera. Much as I’ve enjoyed the Olympus, it has been physically deteriorating for a while now. And I’ve had a feeling that it’s performance has begun to slide somewhat too.

But what to buy? I haven’t even been able to decide what kind of camera to buy, let alone what model. The convenience and relatively low cost of another bridge camera was tempting – after all, I have liked the Olympus. But the pocketability of a compact also had some attractions. Then again, for many years I used an SLR and I seriously considered upgrading to a DSLR. Then there’s the mirror-less cameras to consider, and consider them I did. At great length. I drove myself, and perhaps several other people, mad going over it again and again, reading reviews, shopping around. Several times I was convinced I had finally made a decision, but could never quite bring myself to make a commitment, put my hand in my pocket, sign on the dotted line etc etc.

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Then, over the Black Friday weekend, my friend and colleague The Proper Birder emailed me to say that she intended to replace her own camera – with a direct replacement, exactly the same model she already owned, because she likes it so much. She was getting a good deal, did I want to order one, because she was going to the shop and could pick it up for me? I’d seen her photographs of exotic birds taken in the Caribbean, which were pretty stunning, and I’d also read several reviews of the camera and thought it might be the one for me. So I finally took the plunge and bought myself an early Christmas present.

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These photos are the fruits of my first trip out with that camera, a brief, early expedition to watch the sun rise from Castlebarrow, above the village. 

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What did I choose? A Panasonic Lumix FZ200 – another bridge camera. In the end I decided that having a huge zoom and a macro facility all without needing multiple lenses was perfect for me.

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The unique (as far as I know) selling point of the FZ200 is that, although its zoom is relatively modest by current standards (x24 where x50 is not unusual now) it allows a wide f2.4 aperture throughout the range of the zoom, letting more light in to the camera and therefore giving a better chance of getting good shots with the zoom in low light. Trying to take photos of squirrels running around in the trees on a gloomy morning with the Olympus for example would have been a complete waste of time.

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What Camera?

The Cloven Ash: a Retrospective

For many years, every walk along the path which skirts the edge of Silverdale Moss has been enlivened by an encounter with an old friend – The Cloven Ash.

June 2010.

Seen from its northern side it looked like a typical mature ash – magnificent, but nothing out of the ordinary.

But from the South, it was more obviously remarkable…

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…because of the cleft running through its middle.

March 2009.

These last two photos are from the first reference I can find to this tree on my blog, but even then I was making an intentional visit to it to see how it was getting on. I suspect that if I tried harder I could probably find earlier photos which document my relationship with this ash, but those pictures, if they exist, are harder to find because it was only in March 2009 that I started to think of it as ‘The Cloven Ash’, and call it that on the blog, which makes it easy to search for. The name in itself is probably part of the reason that the tree occupies a place in my affections – it always reminds me of Italo Calvino’s novella ‘The Cloven Viscount’ (which I probably had in mind when I coined the soubriquet). It’s a book that I love, and that I’ve read many times, along with its companions ‘The Baron In The Trees’ and ‘The Non-Existent Knight’ which form Calvino’s ‘Our Ancestors’ trilogy.

January 2010.

Every time I walked past the Ash I would convince myself that the cleft had grown slightly, and then decide that perhaps it hadn’t. I could never make up my mind.

June 2010.

February 2011. New fence!

Looking at the photos now: it was growing wasn’t it, a least a little?

On windy days, the two halves of the tree would sway slightly together and apart in a steady rhythm. I suppose I was rubber-necking really: continually revisiting the site of a potential accident.

And then this October just gone, on the way back from Beetham Fell with Our Camping Friends I was shocked to discover not only that…

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October 2014.

…half of the tree had gone…

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…but also that the fallen wood had been cut down in size a little and tidied up and that the sawn logs were covered in moss, suggesting that it had been down for quite some time. I suppose the fact that I’d missed that reflects the relative infrequency of my local walks of late.

And then, as I returned home from our lunch at The Ship in Sandside, a further outrage…

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…the other half had also toppled. The Cloven Ash is no-more!

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The dry-stone wall hadn’t come very well out of the disagreement.

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Although, I have, in a way, been gleefully anticipating the collapse of this tree and all of the destructive potential that implied, since I first noticed the fault line which ran through it, I am now, of course, very sad to see its demise.

I suppose I should greet the oyster mushrooms which had already sprouted from the base of the exposed trunk as cheerful messengers of regeneration and rebirth, like fungal Hare Krishnas . Only more grey.

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You can find references, and/or photographs of or about the Cloven Ash on older posts here.

The Cloven Ash: a Retrospective