Whitsun Treadings I : Round the Coast to Arnside


Beach near White Creek on the Kent Estuary.

How does staying at home become a great holiday? Have some old friends over to stay who are the kind of house guests who make life easier rather than more stressful and who are adept at chilling out and taking thinks easy.


Early Purple Orchids on Arnside Knott.


A view from the Knott looking across the estuary.


A rare, warm, sunny moment. 75% of the Sherpas and Funsters family take a post-pie digestion rest prior to the next onslaught of over-catering, which almost certainly featured Avocados.


Tree climbing. Note Dangerous Brother too high in the tree, probably trying to scare the Shandy Sherpa, certainly succeeding in scaring me.

This was the first of several short local walks during our week. It’s a classic route, oft reported upon on the blog over the years – round the coast to Arnside, pie in the pie shop on the prom, linger in the playground in Arnside enjoying a brew courtesy of Andy’s diddy stove, then back via the Knott. Incidentally, I’ve started to read Patrick Barkham’s ‘Coasting’ – a friend at work lent it to me. It recounts visits to numerous National Trust coastal properties, one of which I notice, is Arnside Knott. I’ll probably produce some sort of half-arsed review when I’ve finished reading it, but I’m expecting to enjoy it because I liked both ‘The Butterfly Isles’ and ‘Badgerlands’.

Andy’s longer version of the same day – with more text, more, and better, photos (although some of them are spoiled by some foreground blimpage) can be found here.

Whitsun Treadings I : Round the Coast to Arnside

Grayrigg Forest


So here we are in the midst of evening, post-work walking season and I’m not doing as well as I would like to, what with one thing and another – dodgy knee for a while, non-existent summer, various other commitments – conspiring to keep me safely at home. Here’s some photos though from an occasion when I did get out one evening in mid-May. I almost sabotaged the event before it got properly started however – I had, as usual when the opportunity presents itself, thrown some gear and a selection of maps into the boot of the car the night before. I generally take maps of the South Lakes, the Forest of Bowland, the Western Yorkshire Dales and the Howgills. That way I can jump into the car after work and head where the fancy takes me. On this occasion it took me to Tebay; I wanted to repeat a walk I did many moons ago on the western edge of the Howgills and enjoy a picnic tea on Fell Head high above the Tebay gorge. At Tebay I parked briefly to check the map and decide whereabouts I should park along the Fairmile Road. It was then that I discovered that I’d packed all the maps I’d intended to, and even one extra stowaway, except for the Howgill map I needed. I was a trifle annoyed with myself. Soon I was driving again, this time along the A685 towards Kendal, trying to work out how to salvage something from the evening. I stopped in a large layby, I can’t remember why now, and found an access map on a information board:


With this handy map stored away on my camera I was well equipped for a little outing up Grayrigg Forest I thought – especially since I could see a route to the top from the layby. The evening was saved!

The route of ascent was really pretty obvious – follow the slight ridge which separates Little Coum and Great Coum….


…giving a nice steady climb away from the gorge, surprisingly dry underfoot.


Lying outside the National Park, Grayrigg Forest doesn’t appear in either Wainwright’s or Birkett’s lists of Lakeland Fells, but it is really rather magnificent. It is a Marilyn – so it provides some reward for the dedicated list-ticker. 



Where the ridges which enclose Little Coum meet there’s a smattering of cairns….


Even at this relatively modest altitude there was a surprisingly cool breeze blowing so I chose a sheltered spot to have my picnic and brew.


Grayrigg Forest summit – looking South: Arnside Knott and the Kent Estuary visible on the horizon (just about).

I’ve climbed Grayrigg Forest once before, many years ago. It stands above Borrowdale to the north and I walked a round of the lower end of the valley, starting with Grayrigg Forest, following the ridge to Combs Hollow and then returning via the ridge to the north of Borrowdale, culminating on Jeffrey’s Mount. It was a fine day which sticks in my mind principally because of the bird-watching it provided – I saw a number of stonechats and, I’m pretty certain, even though it seems unlikely, a single red kite, presumably one of the reintroduced population from Harewood over in Yorkshire.


Grayrigg Forest summit – looking West towards the Scafells and the Coniston Fells.


Rather than retrace my steps to the car, I decided to follow the northern ridge down to Birk Knott. A gateway would, I was sure, present an opportunity to cross the wall and then I could drop directly back to the gate from the road by which I’d entered the access land. Except a gate never did materialise. I followed the wall further and further northward and down into Borrowdale, eventually meeting a cross wall which took me down to the stream west of Birk Knott. Not to worry – there was plenty of light available to extend the walk. And if I hadn’t diverted I may never have spotted this neat little nest…


…belonging to a meadow pipit I think.

Grayrigg Forest

One to remember if you need a quick and quiet outing cheek-by-jowl with the M6.

Grayrigg Forest

Indolence Time: Buckbarrow


I didn’t take any photos on the Sunday of our Bank Holiday Weekend. The best that can be said of the weather is that it wasn’t as rough as it had been during the night – which was one of those nights in a tent when you lie awake listening, during moments of relative calm, as a wave of wind comes roaring down the valley, crashing through the trees until it hits the tent and sends it into another paroxysm of shuddering. After a very wet night, increasingly creatures of habit, we eventually opted to repeat last year’s Sunday outing and spent an afternoon between the beach at Seascale, beachcombing and throwing a ball around, and Mawson’s cafe and ice-cream parlour, which once again was a very big hit.


On the Monday, after a bit of campsite faffing about: leisurely breakfast, taking photos of a goldfinch in the trees by the tents etc, we eventually all set off for a mass hike up Buckbarrow. There was a farm yard to navigate first, where there were cute and very tame lambs to be stroked….


…and a not quite so cute donkey which also wanted a share of the attention…


Then a short, sharp climb brought us to a superb little spot for lunch….


Our provisions stretched to a rather fine little picnic complete with fresh tea with the aid of the pocket rocket stove I’ve treated myself to.


I was pretty happy sitting in the sun enjoying a brew, but apparently it was time to move on.

Still, moving on wasn’t bad either….


From the top of the crags here it a pleasant knolly ramble around to the top of Buckbarrow. Little S was, as usual, doing his best to test Andy’s cardiac health by selecting routes which would take him into exposed positions on vertiginous crags. I think all the kids appreciated the opportunity to chose their own route (with some guidance in the case of Little S!), picking out easy bits of scrambling to string together.



B at the top.

Then, just beyond the summit…


…another sheltered spot for second lunch, brews, sunbathing, a snooze, a natter etc.

The boys rarely keep still for long, but stashed at the bottom of my pack, for just such eventualities, I keep….


….a pocket kite.


It folds smaller than a small handkerchief and weighs next to nothing, and it kept all three of us amused for quite some time.

Sadly, all good things have to come to an end, and with time marching on, we needed to get back to the campsite to pack-up and take our tents down. (The good people of the inestimable Church Stile campsite having allowed us to leave our tents in situ to dry after the Atlantic Storms of the night before.)


We split for the descent, with one party heading off in a hurry, down a steep direct route to get the inevitable mass football match started, whilst the rest of us took a more circumspect route which detoured down into Greendale Gill again, via this large, lonely and very tidy cairn.


One of the Tongue Gills again.


Greendale Gill.

The first part of our route back through the woods to Nether Wasdale was accompanied by a stunning profusion of wildflowers. The primroses were the most impressive, but sadly my photos really don’t do them justice at all.


Wood anemones.


Wood Sorrel


The mass football match was in full swing when we arrived back. Sadly, for all concerned, it was to be deprived of it’s most cultured right-boot because I had to take the trailer tent down. There was one more treat in store however – a meal in the Strands Hotel before we all departed for our disparate homes. A brilliant weekend – roll on next year.

You can read Andy’s parallel account of the weekend here.

Indolence Time: Buckbarrow

Indecision Time: Greendale Tarn and Middle Fell


The Junior Sherpa, The Adopted Yorkshire Couple, The Shandy Sherpa, The Beach Funster. Dr R discretely out of shot somewhere?

You’ll know those conversations which just go round in circles; it’s pretty clear what most people involved think, but nobody wants to make a decision? The kind of dead end back and forth typified by the scene with the vultures in the Disney Jungle Book film?*

First I say, “What we gonna do?” Then you say, “I don’t know. What’cha wanna do?” Then I say, “What we gonna do?” Then you say, “What’cha wanna do?” “What we gonna do? What you want…” Let’s do SOMETHING!!!

Well, we’d had exactly that sort of round and round discussion: It’s raining, the forecast’s diabolic, let’s make it a valley walk. I’m for carrying on. Well my (knee, groin, foot, ear….choose your own favourite) is playing up, I’d settle for turning back. I don’t know, it’s a shame not to climb a hill when we’ve got the chance. Then again, it is pretty foul….etc, etc, etc

Since there was no ‘crazy-looking bunch of bones’ on the horizon, we needed an idea to break the deadlock. I suggested that we amend our plan to climb Middle Fell by it’s South-Western Shoulder and instead follow Greendale Gill up to Greendale Tarn and then assess the situation again. I’m always a bit surprised when my suggestions carry the day, but on this occasion that’s precisely what happened. (Nothing to do, I’m sure, with the sulk which would have followed if I hadn’t got my way!)

We’d been standing by the bridge in the tiny hamlet of Greendale, having walked there from our campsite in Nether Wasdale – the destination for our annual May Bank Holiday get together. The party comprised the usual suspects, minus some who had elected to race, maypole-dance and eat cake at the Wasdale Show, but with the welcome addition of our friend Dr R who had driven round from Silverdale for a walk.

So we set-off alongside Greendale Tarn, all that is, except for Uncle Fester, who isn’t easily diverted once he’s hit upon an excuse not to go for a walk, and who’d headed back to the campsite. Which meant that he missed the droves of young people dressed in bin-bags who passed us en route to who knows where; and that he also missed the relatively sheltered and relatively dry spot we found for, in the circumstances, a really quite pleasant lunch and brew stop (pictured above).


Having reached Greendale Tarn, and the weather having improved a little, contrary to the pessimistic forecasts, we decided to continue and take in Middle Fell. After another round of back and forth, about whether to take a direct route to the top, or instead to head toward the ridge and then turn back to the summit, we eventually split into two parties.


I’ve really come to enjoy these broken Lakeland slopes, because with a bit of care, it’s usually possible to string a route through craggy ground which gives a pleasant impression, or perhaps I should say illusion, of exposure, without actually being at all difficult or risky.


This was a case in point and I found a few places to do some very easy scrabbling to take my mind of the effort of the ascent.


We met up again on the top, and although the views were a bit limited…


…it was frankly, great to have some views after such an unpromising start to the day.


Tongue Gills

We finished by descending the shoulder we had intended originally to climb, below the imposing crags of Buckbarrow.


A victory for ‘flap(ing) over to the East side of the jungle’ in my opinion.

Middle Fell and Greendale Tarn

*I am aware that there’s more than one Disney Jungle Book film, but I prefer to ignore the existence of all but the first.

‘Indecision Time’ incidentally, is a song from Hüsker Dü’s magisterial double album ‘Zen Arcade’. If you like your melody swathed in a wall of noisy distorted guitar, you’ll love it.

Indecision Time: Greendale Tarn and Middle Fell

An Evening in The Lower Hide


‘Get yourself to the Lower Hide at Leighton Moss, a pied-bill grebe has been spotted near the back of the mere, and there are otters regularly showing too.’

This from my friend and colleague the Proper Birder one lunchtime some time ago. I didn’t let on that I didn’t have the foggiest what a pied-bill grebe might be, but I did act on the advice. It’s not entirely surprising that I wasn’t au fait with that species of grebe: it’s an American bird, a rare visitor to these shores and so a real twitcher’s delight.


It was a bit of a gloomy night, I’m afraid and my photos are very disappointing. I couldn’t see any unusual grebes, but there were lots of other birds to watch, in particular a pair of greylag geese with chicks who were hanging around right in front of the hide. I was snapping away at all of the airborne birds which whizzed past. None of the photos came out too well, but one really surprised me…



Since it is pretty clearly of an Osprey and not the high-flying gull I’d thought I was photographing. I’d finally spotted an Osprey at Leighton Moss. Without realising. It’s a good job the camera was paying attention.

A marsh harrier came swooping low over the hide a few times and in better light I might have got some really good photos.


Next time.


Some more Proper Birders arrived, plainly in expectation of seeing the misplaced grebe and within minutes of arriving they had found it. It wasn’t at the back of the mere by the reeds; it was ducked down amongst the mare’s-tails close to the hide. I saw it; another visitor let me peer through his scope. And, as we strained our eyes in the failing light, an otter swam across close by the grebe’s hiding spot. Great evening – shame about the photos!

An Evening in The Lower Hide

A Blackthorn full of Bees


Possibly Bombus Lapidarius the Red-tailed Bumble-bee.

A short, sunny, evening stroll this, never straying far from home, but full of surprises.


The first of which was an abundance of very cheery wood anemones in Holgates Caravan Park.


In point of fact, there were hosts of other spring flowers too, but the anemones were the most striking.



It was a terrific evening for birds. Nothing out of the ordinary, just lots of them flitting about and plenty in fine voice too.


Blue tit.

Just beyond the caravan park I was delighted to find a blackthorn extravagantly in bloom. I’d been anticipating the blackthorns flowers for some time, now here they were in profusion.


I suspect our local bees were even more pleased than I was, they were certainly waiting in attendance in great numbers.


Could this bee another female tawny mining bee?


There was an enormous variety of bees on the blackthorn, but they always seem reluctant to pose, so I only managed to photograph a few.


This might be Bombus Terrestris but don’t hold me to that.


This seems to me to be the Platonic bee, the archetypal black and yellow rugger shirted hairy bumble bee.


It might be Bombus Pratorum. Or it might not.


I was very happy chasing the bees with my zoom lens. A chiff-chaff and a song thrush in the trees behind were providing a suitable soundtrack. Another warbler was deep within the blackthorn bush, offering tantalising glimpses without ever being sufficiently clear of the surrounding branches for a decent photo.

Eventually, and slightly reluctantly, I dragged myself away and went in search of the hellebores which had brought me this way in the first place.


I found some, but they were on the wrong side of a fence so I wasn’t able to rummage under the leaves to find the shy green flowers which were probably lurking there. Not to worry, a pair of coal tits burst out of a thicket and landed close by in the hedge.


Ash trees, like blackthorn, flower before they come into leaf. These…


…are female ash flowers. The gender of ash trees is a complicated business. But we shan’t concern ourselves with that today, because just after I’d passed Arnside Tower…


And was climbing back towards Eaves Wood, I spotted high above me in another ash tree….


…a blue tit apparently eating the flowers. I watched until the blue tit flew away, and was replaced in the trees branches by another tuneful song thrush.


More gawking than walking on this outing, but immensely satisfying none-the-less.

A Blackthorn full of Bees

Hutton Roof Ramble


A first post work bimble of the year. I came across this path, which climbs up from the car park at Plain Quarry, on one of our orienteering visits.



A pair of jays flew ahead of me in quick bursts, perching tantalisingly almost in view each time.


This thrush was much more obliging.


I’m sure I’ve said this many times before on the blog, but Hutton Roof is always great value – there’s plenty of interest close to hand and the views are terrific.


Warton Crag and Morecambe Bay.


Looking towards the Forest of Bowland.


Trig pillar and Ingleborough in the background.


Looking toward the Lakeland Fells




Middleton Fells


Hills around Bullpot Farm


Haven’t had a photo of a robin for a while. It was a great evening for birds, I could hear more than one cuckoo and the shrubs on the hillsides seemed to be thronging with busy birds. I tried to take photos of a meadow pipit, some warblers and several tits, without much success, but at least robins can be relied upon to pose.


Since ant mounds seem to have become, like robins, another regular feature here’s one which has doubled as a picnic spot. I’ve noticed halved hazelnut shells clustered on mounds before. I suppose the diner has an elevated position from which to keep a look out whilst enjoying a substantial repast. The Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs by Bang and Dahlstrom (not Bang and Olufsen, hi-fi geeks!) informs me that neatly split shells like this are the work of an adult squirrel.


I was improvising a meandering loop around the common and back to the trig. There’s a great deal of open access land on and around Hutton Roof, much of which I’ve never explored. This stile was beckoning me into one such area, on the north side, heading down towards Cockshot Hill. On this occasion I resisted the temptation, reasoning that I would be heading away from the sun and in to shadow, but I shall have to go back soon and see where this leads me.


Ingleborough in shadow.


I think that this notable feature is Blasterfoot Gap, but if I were you, I wouldn’t take my word for it.


Blasterfoot Gap again. Perhaps.


Farleton Fell with the Lakeland Fells behind.


Another limestone edge.


Limestone Pavement.


Eventually I wound my way back to the trig and then retraced my steps back to the car. Some time I shall have to bring a stove and some warmer clothes to watch the sunset from here.

Hutton Roof Ramble

A Spring Saunter–Primroses and Toothwort


Almost, but not quite, a final fling of our Easter break; the following day, a Sunday, B and I went to an optimistic barbecue in sunshine and a very gusty wind.


Anyway, the boys and I had a bit of a local wander. Where were the girls? Shopping I think.


Our route took us through Clarke’s Lot, where the primroses were in fine form.



Then through Burtonwell Wood to Lambert’s Meadow…



Wood anemone.


Past the pond at Bank Well and along The Row to Eaves Wood.


There’s another tree here, by the path, which is infested by toothwort. It’s those adapted leaves on the stem which lead to the name. They don’t serve as leaves in a conventional sense since they don’t photosynthesise, hence the lack of green. They are parasitical, living entirely on nourishment from the roots of a host tree, usually hazel, although I’m pretty sure that this – I say ‘this’ because one plant will throw up several flower stalks over quite a wide area, spreading under ground – I’m pretty sure that this plant wasn’t on a hazel.


Another common name is corpse flower, either, I’ve seen suggested, because of the lack of colour, or because the plant was known to grow above a buried body, which is a bit of a grim image, given that it’s a parasitical plant.


A Spring Saunter–Primroses and Toothwort

Latterbarrow Picnic


After Foulshaw Moss we travelled the very small distance to another Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve at Latterbarrow. It’s a small reserve with masses of parking available on a section of the old road which was superseded by the current A590. It’s also a marvellous spot. And very quiet. In the couple of hours (or more) that we spent there we didn’t see any other visitors.

One of the striking things about the meadow here is the abundance (and in some cases size) of the meadow ant mounds.


I’d been thinking about these kind of nests after Emily’s question regarding them in a comment and so now, with TBH and A content to lounge in the sun, the boys and I took the opportunity to investigate at leisure.


They’re composed of extremely fine soil and often have a slightly different mix of plants growing on them than the surrounding turf has.

This one had a very showy display of flowers of barren strawberry (looks really like wild strawberry but the big gaps between the petals are the give away – don’t wait here for tiny, sweet red fruit, they aren’t coming).


Of course, once you start to look closely, you notice other things – like this seven spot ladybird. Many of the mounds had one or two ladybirds. Ladybirds are predatory – I don’t know if they eat the ants, but they compete with the ants over aphids (which the ants ‘farm’ milking them for sap – there’s a fascinating description of this relationship in ‘Buzz In the Meadow’ by Dave Goulson).



Look closer still and some of the barren strawberry leaves and stems have a coating of bright orange rust, a fungi, at least I think that’s what it is.


Many of the mounds have been savaged by predators a bit larger than a ladybird; both badgers and green woodpeckers are apparently fond of snacking on meadow ants.


I don’t know what did the damage in this case, but it might have been a badger. This area seems to have a large population and not too far away we found…


…a neat and tidy badger latrine. Very fastidious animals badgers.

Although the partially destroyed mound had other scat…


…on it too. Not sure what animal this is from.

Poke a couple of fingers into a mound and you’ll soon find a patrol of small defenders coming out to check you out….


With the sun shining, and lots of wildflowers on show, there were quite a few bees about. I’m aware that many bees live in burrows. I’ve even seen them disappear into them occasionally. But one advantage of grubbing around looking at ant mounds for a while turned out to be an unexpected encounter with a bee. I noticed a bee, in a particularly fetching orange coat, land nearby and when I located it again was surprised to see that it was digging…


You can see the spoil it was kicking out onto nearby leaves with its hind legs.


It had soon disappeared completely from sight. I’m going to tentatively identify this as a female tawny mining bee, which my ‘Collins Complete British Insects’ says ‘is unlikely to be mistaken for anything else’. I wished I’d watched for a while longer now because apparently, she, like the ants, builds a mound – ‘a volcano-shaped mound around her nest entrance’.

On the other hand, I don’t even have a tentative suggestion for these tiny white flowers which were growing on another ant mound. Any ideas anyone?


The blackthorn was finally beginning to blossom….


And a couple of buzzards were circling overhead.



Peacock butterfly.


Tortoiseshell butterfly.

Terrific picnic that. Will have to do it again sometime.

Latterbarrow Picnic

New Boardwalks and Returning Ospreys at Foulshaw Moss


Time was fast running out on our Easter break, but the sun was shining and it was almost warm (much, much warmer than it has been today here in June-uary anyway).

Since my last visit to Foulshaw Moss the new boardwalks had been completed and the track I walked along last time is now under what looks to be quite deep water….



Indeed, the last small section of boardwalk before the raised viewing platform is floating on barrels and wobbles quite thrillingly as you cross.


TBH and A saw several lizards and there were quite a few butterflies about. B also spotted a Marsh Harrier. But the reason I’d suggested calling in at Foulshaw was on the off chance that the Ospreys which successfully nested here last year might have returned. They had, arriving just the day before I think.


“I saw them, I saw them – two white blobs!”

I had to check his expression to see whether S was being sarcastic, but he was bouncing about with excitement so I guess not.

New Boardwalks and Returning Ospreys at Foulshaw Moss