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…

Warton Crag Fort

…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

Buff-Tip Caterpillar

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The latest in a series of posts which begin with the phrase: “Dad, come and look at This!”

I can’t find this striking caterpillar in my field guide, but a bit of internet sleuthing reveals it to be a Buff-Tip Moth, Phalera bucephala.

Probably not most likely to be seen crawling down our pebble-dashing, these caterpillars are usually gregarious and feed on a variety of plants together. The fact that this one was seen alone, on our wall, on a sunny day in September makes me think that it was searching for a place to pupate.

I hope that my identification is correct, and that I’m also right in thinking that this caterpillar has pupated in and around our garden, because this is a fascinating moth. In it’s adult form it does a stunning impersonation of a chip of birch twig…

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This is a photo I took back in 2010 at one of the excellent Moth Breakfast events at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve. We have two birch trees in our garden, so it seems reasonable to assume that we might have these moths in our garden. It makes me determined, next May and June, to finally getting around to improvising a simple moth trap to see just what we can find in our garden. At the moment I’m reading ‘The Fly Trap’ by Fredrik Sjöberg – it’s a delightful book, though I’m hard-pressed to explain why I’m enjoying it so much. The book has several themes – the motives of collectors, the joys of living on an island, the life and works of the naturalist and explorer René Malaise. Sjöberg is an entomologist, specialising in Hoverflies and one of his themes is about the joys of sitting put and letting nature come to you. Sounds like a plan.

Links:

http://ukmoths.org.uk/species/phalera-bucephala/eggs/                                                       More images and information about Buff Tips

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Fly-Trap-Fredrik-Sj%C3%B6berg/dp/184614776X                 ‘The Fly Trap’ by Fredrik Sjöberg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Malaise                                                               Wikipedia’s entry on René Malaise.

Buff-Tip Caterpillar

Crookdale Horseshoe

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A much anticipated post this one, in one quarter at least. Seasoned followers of Beating The Bounds will remember my old friend CJ, who has appeared on this blog on many occasions. Some while back he polished off the Wainwright’s. At the time, I tried to convince him that bagging the Birkett’s would be a suitable project for him to embark upon next, and I’m pleased to say that he has seen the light and is now busily pursuing that course. And so it was, right at the end of the summer holidays, that we parked-up, close to the end of the little minor road into Crookdale, and set-off on a round of Crookdale, to pick up some lonely Shap Birkett’s.

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The summit of High House Bank (I suspect).

I should say, right at the outset, since CJ seems to be relying on me to be Watson to his Holmes and to document his exploits, that we successfully ticked-off High House Bank, Robin Hood, Lord’s Seat, Harrop Pike, Great Yarlside, Little Yarlside and What Shaw.

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Robin Hood (quite possibly).

The photos suggest that we had pretty good weather. In fact, the forecast had been quite mixed, but in the end we had very little rain, and came off quite lightly. The Shap fells aren’t always very enthusiastically reviewed, but this was mostly very pleasant walking, hardly spectacular, but well worth a visit, I thought.

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Last time I saw CJ (at X-Ray’s 50th party at the Gregson in Lancaster) he was demanding to know why I hadn’t got around to posting about this walk, and I’m afraid that now, at this remove, my recollections of the day are a bit sketchy. I know that we somehow managed to fill a long days walking with talk – one of the pleasures of walking with CJ is that the conversation is broad-ranging, often amusing and never flags.

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At one point, CJ almost stood on this pair of mating dragonflies. I’m pretty sure that these are Common Hawkers – ‘a large, powerful, but wary hawker, most common in late summer in upland areas of northern and western Britain’.

Birkett isn’t very encouraging about the ridge to Harrop Pike…

‘Harrop Pike lies a considerable distance and height away at the head of upper Crookdale. The terrain of rocky knolls and peat hag do not allow it to be easily reached from here.’

But CJ wasn’t too sure whether he’d climbed it before, and to me it seemed a more logical route than to drop down into the valley and climb out again, so we continued and stopped by the large cairn there for a bite of lunch.

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Looking back to Yarlside Crag.

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In all, a very satisfying outing, and I hope that CJ and I will be bagging some more Birkett’s soon. Maybe we’ll manage to entice X-Ray out for a wander too, you never know.

Crookdale Horseshoe