High Close Weekend

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And so, in the virtual world of this blog, we reach November and a very wet weekend spent at High Close Youth Hostel above Langdale in the Lake District. Our regular group of old friends, with whom we regularly meet up, are approaching 50 (well some of us are, some are well past 50 and some still have a fair way to go). By way of celebration the Mad Man booked the entire hostel and, widening the net, invited a whole host of old faces to join us. It was an interesting weekend – almost all of my oldest friends were there, people I’ve walked and holidayed with for 30 years, whose weddings I’ve attended, whose children I’ve watched grow up, but then there were many more people there whom I knew 30 years ago but have barely seen since. I think that there were 56 of us all told so there was plenty of conversation to be had.

Which is a good job, because the weather was dreadful – and this was before the arrival of storms Abigail through Frank. On the Saturday, during a slight lull in the hostilities, some of us had a wander up Loughrigg – I set off slightly ahead of the group, as is my wont, and didn’t see them again until the summit due to some injudicious navigation on their part (they went a long way round). The photo above was taken on our circuitous descent route when we sheltered in Rydal Cave which isn’t a cave at all, but rather a former quarry which used to provide roofing slate.

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On the Sunday morning it actually brightened up briefly, long enough for me to take an early stroll down through the woods of the High Close Estate…

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…to the road at the bottom…

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…but by the time I was following the stream back uphill it was raining heavily again.

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Later a small band braved the weather to wander down to the falls at Skelwith Force and back again, but it was foul whilst we were out and my camera stayed firmly in my rucksack.

It would have been nice if the sun had shone, if only for a while, but it was great to see everyone and I don’t think we allowed the weather to put too much of a damper on the occasion.

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High Close Weekend

Not November

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There’s a gale already raging outside as the latest winter storm rolls in off the Atlantic. These photos then, from the end of October, taken during a family stroll around Hawes Water and back home, are the antithesis of everything we’ve experienced since they were taken, full as they are of light, warmth, blue skies, butterflies, and leaves of myriad colours. Although November’s long since gone I’m put in mind of this poem by Thomas Hood, which, I’m surprised to find, I don’t seem to have shared through this forum before:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
November!

November seems to be doggedly persistent this year having dragged on for at least twice it’s allotted interval now. I hope it exhausts itself soon.

Not November

An ‘At Home’ Weekend

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Of course we’re often, in fact usually, at home at weekends, but this weekend, the first in October, was different in as much as it was our annual get-together in Silverdale with our friends, a gaggle of whom had come over to stop. As so often seems to happen on these occasions we walked to Arnside and back on the Saturday and didn’t get around to climbing Warton Crag on the Sunday.

We were duty bound to go to Arnside – it was the Apple Day, which happens once every two years and which we always try to attend. Everything apple related was on offer – apple-bobbing, apple-peeling, apple-juice, an apple-pressing demonstration, information about growing apples and making cider…oh, and of course, welly-wanging. No, I don’t see the connection either.

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I bought a mixed bag of different apples to try – I particularly liked the Charles Ross.

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In addition to general apple-related festivities, local and national conservation charities were represented, various traditional crafts were demonstrated and lots of people were selling foodstuffs of various kinds.

The boys were most excited to see the pennants flying in the orchard which they had helped to decorate at school.

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On the Sunday we visited the Burtonwell Wood Rift Cave, an attraction which was enjoyed by children of all ages…

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Then we wandered down to Jenny Brown’s point, stopping on the way to chat to the small group working on the excavations around the old chimney there.

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Since our friends always visit in autumn their visit always coincides with the flowering of the ivy and the frenzied feeding of wasps, bees, butterflies et alia which seems to ensue.

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Not too dissimilar from the scene in our kitchen on the Saturday night when we all shared a take-away from our local curry-house, although nobody went so far as to stick their proboscis into the Handi Achar.

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Traveller’s Joy.

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A highly enjoyable weekend getaway without any need for stressful travelling on our part. Marvellous!

An ‘At Home’ Weekend

An Entomologist on Arnside Knott

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Another day of blue and sunny skies and an afternoon, post rugby walk up the Knott and back with B. The interest started before we left the house, with a visiting row deer in the garden. Unusually, I was in the garden at the time – most of the time deer will only visit when we are safely ensconced in the house.

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A Speckled Wood.

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On Heathwaite – a clearing on the wooded ridge which leads down from the Knott towards the sea – B and I had fun exploring the many large meadow ant hills. Most of them seemed to have at least one resident spider and B also enjoyed catching grasshoppers.

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The view South to Warton Crag and the Bowland Fells.

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Red Admiral.

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Arnside Tower.

An Entomologist on Arnside Knott

Two Walks by the Bela

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More ‘Creative Use of Odd Moments’, or ‘Excerpts from the Diary of a Taxi Dad’. On a Monday evening A has two consecutive dance lessons in Milnthorpe; this creates a welcome opportunity for a bit of a daunder and since Dallam deer park and the river Bela’s confluence with the Kent are both conveniently close by it’s natural to head that way for a look-see.

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TBH generally does this particular taxi-run, because Monday night is also the appointed niche for my social life, such as it is, but with the evenings drawing in I snatched the opportunity to forgo the delights of the Lancaster City Quiz League and to get some fresh air and a little exercise instead.

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This last photo was taken near the end of the walk, when it was, frankly, almost dark. These two Fallow Deer bucks, part of a domesticated herd kept in Dallam Deer Park, stood out a ghostly white under the spreading shade of a riverside tree, seeming to concentrate and reflect the light of the recently risen moon. I was surprised, given the relative darkness, that the camera managed to capture an image.

A week later I took a more direct route to the level ground beside the Bela’s final few yards, having missed the sunset the week before by dallying elsewhere.

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I still missed the sunset, but the afterglow wasn’t too shabby.

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There was a chill in the air which had me regretting choosing to wear shorts.

Two Walks by the Bela

A Promenade to Heysham

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Left a child at a birthday party in the West End of Morecambe, two hours until pick-up, hardly worth driving home, but just about time for a stroll along the promenade to the headland at Heysham, an old favourite walk from many years ago when I lived in Morecambe and, since I relied on public transport to get about, often tried to find walks to do straight from my own front door.

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You can tell that this was a while ago: back in September it was, before the deluge started, and it was still possible for the sun to shine.

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I didn’t really have time to explore properly at Heysham – for instance I’ve never been into the ancient church of St. Peter’s, something I must remedy next time I am ferrying children to this vicinity.

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Hard by St. Peter’s is the ruin of St. Patrick’s, which is also extremely old and atmospheric.

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Quite hard to find a great deal on the internet about St. Patrick’s. This sign from the site itself…

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…is at least as informative as anything I could find elsewhere.

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The rock cut graves are very small. Understandably perhaps, given the effort which must have been involved, but I remember reading, in Lacey and Danziger’s excellent ‘The Year 1000’ that the Saxon, Viking and later Norman people who lived in England around when it’s thought that these were sculpted, were generally well-fed, tall and long limbed.

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Sadly, I didn’t have time to linger, but the walk back was lovely, with large mixed flocks of seabirds on the shore providing distractions along the way.

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Another option for my next taxi–outing to Morecambe would be take TBH for Afternoon Tea in the sun lounge of the Midland Hotel.

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I might feel justified then in aiming my camera at the restored Art Deco interior and in particular the Eric Gill sculptures there…coming (soon?) to a blog near you…

Links:

Reviews of ‘The Year 1000’ on goodreads

A History of the Midland Hotel

A Review of David Constantine’s award-winning short-story ‘Tea at the Midland’

National Trust page about St. Patrick’s

A Promenade to Heysham

All Wrapped Up

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You probably have to be of a certain age and disposition to know that ‘All Wrapped Up’ was a double compilation of some of The Undertones finest moments. The album sleeve featured a photo by John Pretious showing fellow graphic design student Cath Johnson wearing a dress made from raw meat and cellophane and accessorised with a string-of-sausages necklace. To put it mildly, it wasn’t to everyone’s taste; in fact it caused something of a hullaballoo. Now, I know – though I don’t understand – that not everyone shares my admiration of spiders. So I should warn you that if, inexplicably, you feel indifferent or even ill-disposed toward our arachnid neighbours, then you should probably look away now; this post consists principally of lots of close-ups of a spider at work, and like the Derry punksters LP cover, it might cause some people offense.  

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The beautiful blue hue in the background of these photos is not the sky, or rather, it is the sky, but seen indirectly, reflected in our kitchen window. I suspect, but can’t remember, that I was on the other side of the glass, washing-up, when I first noticed this spider busily wrapping up a meal for storage purposes.

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I’m pretty confident that this is Araneus diadematus named for the cross which occurs on its back. A common and widespread species, which is found right across Europe and North America, which might explain why, unlike many less well known species of spider, it has numerous common names – garden spider, diadem spider, cross spider, or crowned orb weaver.

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I’m sure that I’ve used this well-known Jerome K. Jerome quote before:

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

But it bears repetition.

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I don’t need much encouragement to abandon the dirty dishes in the sink, but it would have been a crying shame to miss the deft way in which this spider swathed its prey in gossamer. At times the spider was delicately spinning the fly, presumably shrouding it in the process.

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Once the carcass was all wrapped up, the spider rapidly carried it, hanging by a thread, up to the top of the web.

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Apparently the colours of diadem spiders vary quite considerably, from ‘extremely light yellow to very dark grey’, but maybe that’s as much to do with the quality of the light rather then an inherent feature of individual spiders….

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I remember assuming, at the time, that what the spider was busy dressing was a bee, but now I’m not so sure.

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These large daisy type flowers growing in a bed adjacent to the window were full of hoverflies.

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The spider’s prey could easily have been one of these darker hoverflies.

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In fact, the wonderful Indian Summer we enjoyed in September and October, and which seems so distant now, was in full swing and our garden was generally very busy. The buddleia was host to a wide variety of butterflies for a change.

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I think that this sunbather is probably a Common Darter.

And, now that I was on the lookout, there were plenty more spiders to be found…

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Now – if I could just get outside, with or without my camera, in some light like this….

Links:

More about the ‘All Wrapped Up’ Cover.

More about Araneus Diadematus

All Wrapped Up

Strolling Home Over the Knott

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An opportunistic evening ramble. I scrounged a lift to Arnside and walked back over the Knott.

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That’s it really.

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A bit of fresh air, a little light exercise, some pretty spectacular views.

Oh, and two surprisingly large harvestmen apparently having a little tussle…

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Now that dark morning and evening commutes are here, a walk like this seems an enormous luxury.

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Strolling Home Over the Knott

Warton Crag Hill Fort

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Another Heritage Open Day, and another guided walk organised by Morecambe Bay Partnership. I hadn’t booked this one, but having enjoyed the previous day’s outing on and around Piel Island, and having always been intrigued by the presence of a hill-fort practically on our doorstep on Warton Crag, decided that it would be a shame to miss this opportunity to find out more.

Apparently, until relatively recently, the ruins on the crag were obvious on even quite impressive, but….

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….since most of the crag came into public ownership as nature reserves, it has become heavily wooded, and I’ve never been able to find any tangible sign of former occupation. The walk, and the talks which accompanied it, were fascinating. Finding out about this artist’s impression of what the Crag may have looked like…

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…was worth the entrance fee alone. (Not that there was an entrance fee.) The painting is by John Hodgson, and I’d love to have a framed print of it on my wall.

A group from an archaeology evening class in Lancaster have been carrying out what has clearly been a pain-staking and very thorough survey of the remains on the hill. With the help of one member of the class we toured the area and looked for some of those ruins. 

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The walls are extremely difficult to spot, even when you are almost standing on top of them. Apparently, they are a bit easier to find in the winter months when some of the undergrowth dies back. We saw some photos taken after an area of trees had been felled and one section of wall there was quite clear and easy to see.

On our trip, this…

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…was about the clearest view we had. The wall was a bit more obvious than the photo suggests, but it would still have been very easy to walk past it without noticing.

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Bright and sunny like the previous day, it was also reasonably warm, so that bees and butterflies were out and about.

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Warton Crag Hill Fort

Across the Sands to Piel Island

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Sheep Island with Piel Island behind.

Onward and upward, to September and the 2015 Heritage Open Days. There are always lots of interesting events on that weekend across the UK; if you aren’t already aware of the event, then I would recommend that you get acquainted with what’s on offer in your area in 2016.

We chose to join a guided walk organised by the rather wonderful Morecambe Bay Partnership.

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The event will include a guided walk across the sands from Walney Island to Piel Island, led by expert guide John Murphy who will be accompanied by eminent local archaeologist Rachel Newman. 

On Piel Island, Rachel Newman will provide an in-depth tour of the castle ruins, whilst informing visitors about the archaeological investigations undertaken during the 1980’s and hearing about challenges of excavating on a island.

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It was reassuring to have an expert guide on hand. I’ve wandered a little on Morecambe Bay over the years, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like the area close to Piel Island, where the sands disconcertingly wobbled and squirmed like a jelly. The beach was raised in long ridges and furrows, not dissimilar to the medieval field patterns which surrounded the village in which I grew up. You might expect the tops of the ridges to be the driest and safest ground on which to walk, but on the contrary, they often seemed to be the most unstable and conspicuously colloidal: betwixt and between, neither sea nor strand but a treacherous hybrid of the two.

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Roa Island.

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Once on Piel we were treated to an unexpected bonus: the landlord and landlady of ‘The Ship’ are traditionally King and Queen of the island, and today they were knighting two worthy subjects.

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A curious ceremony involving some dressing-up, a short speech, the conventional dubbing with a sword…

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…and then a booze shower:

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As we began our tour of Piel Castle, S and I were distracted by the seals visible, if somewhat distantly, on the beach at the southern tip of Walney Island. I tried to use the zoom on my camera to get S a clearer view of the seals, and was surprised by how clearly Blackpool Tower could be seen in the background.

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Since then, these seals have hit the news..

Seals have used the protected South Walney beaches to haul out and rest for decades. The colony found here are usually older bulls no longer able to control a harem on breeding beaches and sexually immature younger males and females.

But now the reserve could be becoming a breeding colony. Pup one was born almost three weeks ago, then pup two was discovered on Sunday when it was believed to be a day old.

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I really enjoyed the guided tour, but it’s a while ago so I shan’t attempt to regurgitate any of the details. In fact , the principal impression I took away is that surprisingly little is known about the castle, because it so infrequently appears in written records.

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Regular readers will know that I love a good ruin. Tight winding staircases, a dingy dungeon, or lofty battlements all enhance the romance and I was hoping that we might have special permission to access the battlements, but sadly we didn’t. Maybe next September?

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One reason I may not remember too much detail from the castle tour is that little S, once he’d satisfied his curiosity about the seals, discovered that he desperately needed to discuss his feet, one of which was uncomfortable. It transpired that he had managed to pick-up odd wellingtons: to be fair, they looked the same, but were different sizes. Consequently, he returned across the sands barefoot…

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All in all, stunning day out, which was rounded off with an unscheduled fish and chip supper in Ulverston, where, unbeknownst to us – at least before we arrived to find roads closed and streets thronged with people –  the Lantern Festival was in full-swing – all very spectacular (I didn’t take any photos sadly).

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Some links:

Heritage Open Days

Morecambe Bay Partnership

The Ship Inn

Piel Castle

Walney Island Grey Seal Colony

Ulverston Lantern Festival

John Murphy is a former mayor of Barrow, and seemed to have inexhaustible funds of jokes, anecdotes, nature lore, local history, patience and good humour. I gathered that he regularly runs guided walks in and around Walney, and would have liked to include a link, but I can’t find anything on the internet which doesn’t relate to walks which have already happened. Probably worth googling next summer if you are interested.

Across the Sands to Piel Island