Home Alone

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Gait Barrows – Moss Lane – The Row – Bottoms Lane – The Green – Stankelt Road – The Shore – The Cove.

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Silverdale from Castlebarrow.

When we returned from France, for the rest of the family three weeks under canvas stretched into four weeks. After just one night at home and a frenzy of laundry and repacking they were all camping again with their respective guiding and scouting units – the DBs with the Scouts, TBH as leader of the local Guides and A with the Explorer Scouts. They were all on the same field though, at the Red Rose international camp (I’m not sure if these things are still called jamborees?). Although there were scouts and guides from around the world at the camp, for us it was very local, just a few miles down the road at the Westmorland County Show-ground near Crooklands, which was fortunate, since in the hasty repacking many items had been forgotten.

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A (very hairy) Hoverfly.

That left me at home ‘on me tod’. Although these photographs show lovely blue skies and sunshine, the weather that week was generally atrocious and it’s a testament to the the organisers and our local leaders that the kids all had a wonderful time on their very damp camp.

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Limestone pavement at Gait Barrows.

Left to my own devices, I naturally tried to get out for walks as often as possible and, with the weather the way it was, and all the driving I’d recently done, I opted to stay close to home when I did go out.

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Orpine.

In fact, since the end of the summer and through the autumn my walks have mainly been local – I’ve been beating the bounds quite a bit and have lots of walks to catch up on, with lots of photos of all the old familiar things – local views, flowers, butterflies, leaves, trees, rocks, bugs etc. You have been warned!

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Devil’s-bit Scabious.

This is the the tall plant which caused my much confusion last year. The flower-heads seem to stay closed like this for a very long time before opening and revealing the more familiar scabious form.

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Common Darter.

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Elderberries (I think).

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Sloes.

This being late summer, there were berries everywhere. Mostly they weren’t ripe yet, but fortunately the blackberries were. This was the first of many blackberry fuelled walks.

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Blackberries.

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Mushroom.

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Forage!

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More mushrooms.

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Tea!

This has been a bumper year for autumn fungi, which started with an abundance of field mushrooms. I remember something similar happening after the long, hot, dry summers of 1975 and 1976. And going out with my Mum foraging for mushrooms. Although, since I almost certainly didn’t eat mushrooms then, being as fussy a child as my own kids are now, I wonder if I’ve made this up. Mum?

Anyway, fried in plenty of butter, these mushrooms were delicious. I also like to eat the small ones raw, just after picking them. There’s no taste quite like it.

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Gait Barrows.

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Red-tailed Cuckoo Bumblebee (perhaps), on Devil’s-bit Scabious.

Cuckoo Bumblebees don’t collect pollen for their larvae, but instead take over the nests of their host bumblebees, in this case Red-tailed Bumblebees. Although I am, as ever, tentative with my identification, what makes me think that this is a cuckoo bee are the lack of pollen baskets and the very hairy legs, both of which are apparently tell-tales. This species is one of many insects which has been confined to the south of Britain, but is now spreading northwards with the changing climate.

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Hawes Water.

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Home Alone

A Final Wander Along the Tarn

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The title just about says it all, really.

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Right at the end of our trip, we decided to have a little stroll upstream, along, and mostly in, the River Tarn.

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There’s a small village just beyond the campsite, on the opposite side of the river from the road, which we wanted to take a peek at. It’s supplied by means of a cable stretched across from the road and we were intrigued.

On the way back to the campsite, those of our kids who had accompanied us, along with TBF, decided to swim, but soon discovered that the water was mostly too shallow….

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One of the great pleasures of our trip to France for me was the exotic flora and fauna we got to see, but on this occasion I was equally excited to spot a pair of Dippers…

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In my mind at least, these birds are closely associated with the rivers and streams of the North and so seem like old friends from home, and I was delighted to see them.

In equal measure, it was a shame that our time spent holidaying with old friends was coming to an end. It had been a fantastic trip.

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On final thought about the Tarn: it rises in the Cévennes, not too far from where we were camped, and runs through a limestone gorge and yet the pebbles on the river bed were in every conceivable hue and texture of rock imaginable. I was reminded of the diversity I marvelled at on shingle beach on a Baltic shore, when we visited years ago.

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So: if the Cévennes are limestone hills, where do all of these other, patently not limestone, pebbles originate?

A Final Wander Along the Tarn

More Views from the Jonte

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After our underground adventure, there was still a nature trail to enjoy in the grounds of the show cave.

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The Jonte valley is perhaps not quite as spectacular as the Tarn, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

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The nature trail was short, on a rather rough path, but it certainly held plenty of interest.

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Wall Lizard.

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This looks different than the other lizards we saw during our trip. I think that it might be a Large Psammodromus. B had just spotted another lizard, which he told me was really long. The Large Psammodromus has an extremely long tail, which unfortunately we can’t see here, but also the dark stripe with pale borders.

Griffon Vultures were flying around the cliffs below us, sometimes quite close, but whilst I have many photos, not one of them is in focus and sharp. We did see several birds on a nearby ledge however…

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I think that these two might be juveniles.

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Giant Banded Grayling.

There were more Marbled Whites about too, but my photographs didn’t come out too well.

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My guess is that these are some sort of Dianthus, something like our own Cheddar Pink which flowers in July and August and likes limestone. I noticed today that we have similar flowers in our own garden, still flowering in late October, which is a nice reminder of the summer.

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On our return journey we drove down the Jonte valley to it’s confluence with the Tarn, stopping to admire the views and the sight of many more vultures soaring around the cliffs high above.

More Views from the Jonte

La Grotte de Dargilan

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The purpose of our journey to the Jonte valley was to visit a show cave, la Grotte de Dargilan. Both the Dordogne and the Cévennes, being limestone regions, are dotted with caves, including many show caves. In fact, we’d driven almost directly past another show cave to get to this one, having decided that, from the leaflets we’d seen, this one looked the better bet. We lunched on a sunny terrace with a great view of the gorge and then joined our group to pass through an unprepossessing doorway in the hillside.

The cave was discovered, I think, by someone following a fox. Similar stories are told about Victoria Cave in the Dales and the famous Lascaux cave in the Dordogne. The huntsman will certainly have had a surprise when they found themselves in a vast cavern, stuffed full of amazing stalagmites, stalactites and flowstone features.

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As a boy, family visits to show caves in the Peak District were a favourite treat of mine. I’ve since done a little bit of caving and have also visited most, I think, of the show caves in the Dales, but I’ve never seen anything half as spectacular as this.

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There was so much to see that features which might have been considered highlights elsewhere were passed without comment by the guide.

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I took no end of photos, but, in the strongly contrasting light, the results were a bit hit and miss. I’m glad to have the mementoes, however.

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The huge scale, variety and sheer number of features was breath-taking.

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The tour took over an hour, and in truth I would have appreciated a little longer to take it all in.

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Mostly the tour guide spoke only in French and we were happy to ignore him and just look about us, but at one point he switched to English to explain that we would now be descending to ‘the best part’ of the cave. I was a bit sceptical about the claim that things could be any more impressive.

But he was absolutely right.

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We came to a long, high and relatively narrow passage where one wall was completely covered in tiers and tiers of flowstone.

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It was huge.

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And absolutely astonishing.

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Dargilan is known, apparently, for it’s coloured limestones. Minerals in the flowstone have dyed the rock in a variety of pinks, corals, yellows, white and cream. Here…

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…the dividing line between two different colours was amazingly sharp.

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The cave had one final surprise, a column, 17 metres tall I think, again covered with intricate flowstone features…

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I think most of the party enjoyed it immensely. B claimed to be underwhelmed:

“It’s just rocks though, isn’t it?”

But he’s a wind-up merchant and you have to take the things he says with a pinch of salt.

La Grotte de Dargilan

An Excursion to the Jonte Valley.

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We didn’t travel away from the campsite often when we were in the Cévennes, but we did have one grand day out. The journey itself was interesting, giving us another opportunity to look down into the Tarn Gorge.

And also to enjoy some more roadside entomology.

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It seems that as well as a bewildering variety of Grayling butterflies, the Continent is also home to several similar species of Ringlets. This is one of those. It looks very like a Marbled Ringlet, but online sources refer to that as an Alpine species. I remember seeing something similar when we visited the Vosges, although revisiting my post from the time I can see that it was perhaps slightly different. And also, to my surprise, a photo of what looks very like a Silver-washed Fritillary, so that I may have been wrong about never having seen one before.

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I can’t find this tiny moth, either in my field guide or online, so I don’t know what it’s called, but I do know that it’s stunningly patterned.

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This is a Red-winged Grasshopper, similar to the Blue-winged variety which featured in a recent post. You can’t see the bright red flashes which appear, to startling affect, when the insect hops into flight, but you can see the red hind-legs…

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Marbled Ringlet?

The drive over the higher ground was pleasant without being spectacular. It brought us to Meyrueis…

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In the valley of the Jonte, a tributary of the Tarn.

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Above Meyrueis, we stopped again briefly at a small hillside chapel – Notre-Dame du-Rocher…

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I enjoyed the contrasting colours of these flowers…

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And have included this second photo because of the tiny, pale Ladybird in the top left corner of the white flower.

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Gatekeeper.

We were soon underway again, heading for the excellent Grotte de Dargilan, of which more to follow…(eventually).

An Excursion to the Jonte Valley.

Sainte-Enimie

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This, I hope, is Sainte-Enimie*, a small village upriver from our campsite which we drove to in an absolute downpour. (*I’m relying on Andy to correct me if I’m wrong.)

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It was a fetching little place, very charming, and I took lots of photographs, which, in the gloomy conditions, was probably a little optimistic on my part.

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When we returned to the campsite, it was to find that, if anything, the weather had been even worse there, with hail as well as rain, and that the cloudburst had left everything liberally spattered with mud, and our event shelter looking like a fully-furnished paddling pool. A few days later, when we were leaving for the long haul home, this area of France had terrible floods, so I suppose we were lucky really.

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Sainte-Enimie