Dragons etc.

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Casterton Beck. (Actually unnamed on the map, so I made up an appropriate seeming name). Anyway, another Lune tributary!

B’s rugby training was switched to the playing fields at Casterton School. I forgot this was happening – B had some harsh words to say about that – but after we had wandered around cluelessly at Underley Park for a while, I remembered. More cluelessness followed, driving around looking for which part of the school we needed, and B was eventually deposited with his team. Since I’d forgotten about the change of venue, I hadn’t thought to look at a map for a suitable perambulation to wile away my time whilst waiting.

I decided to follow my nose to see where that took me and set off along some minor lanes which brought me round a loop and back to the village. Then I followed a track (I now realise, not a right-of-way. Oh well, never mind.) which brought me to an unusual bridge over the beck seen above and to an actual footpath.

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The Grange.

The path took me through some woods and then, after a right turn, to a rather spick and span looking Casterton Grange. No wonder it looks so neat and tidy: it’s currently up for sale, though I couldn’t find an asking price online; probably one of those cases where if you need to ask, then you can’t afford it! The house was built in 1848 for a vicar, David Barclay-Bevan. You might think a country vicar would struggle to afford such a palatial property, but he was independently wealthy, his father was a partner at Barclay’s Bank (source). The house was designed by Ewan Christian an ecclesiastical architect who restored Southwell Minster and Carlisle Cathedral and later went on to design the National Portrait Gallery.

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I’m not sure what tempted this ladybird out: it was cold and wet.

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Casterton Old Hall.

I think Casterton Old Hall is part of the school. This building dates back to seventeenth century. The Historic England listing makes me want to see the inside, especially the fireplace “with Tudor-arched opening, twisted wood, columns and overmantel with relief panels of busts, dragons, etc., probably of 1530-40 re-used”.

Later, I was out again for a short, local stroll in the fog.

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In Eaves Wood.

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Finally, this…

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…was taken a few days later when, looking out of the staffroom window at work, I realised that the sky was clear and the sun setting and so dashed out for a few moments, climbing the hill to the castle to try to catch the sunset from there.

Since that photo makes this a ‘Sunset Post’ I feel fully justified in appending a song. A Song of the Weather in fact:

I heard this recently on 6 Music. Not quite the stereotypical 6 Music tune perhaps, but then, I’m not sure what is. I remember Flanders and Swann for ‘The Hippopotamus Song’ which along with ‘The Runaway Train’ and a couple of Bernard Cribbins songs, ‘My Brother’ by Terry Scott, Alan Sherman’s ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah’ and, no doubt, numerous others, which will occur to me too late, once I’ve clicked on ‘Publish’, was a regular part of my Saturday morning radio listening when I was a nipper.

Bloody January again, indeed! Except, I quite like January: the sunsets are getting later, there’s snow, but also snowdrops and spring is on the way.

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Dragons etc.

Raven Crag and Bleaberry Fell

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It was getting towards the end of our Christmas break and I was itching to get out for ‘proper walk’, or in other words, a day in the hills. The forecast was for cold, cloudy but dry weather. I picked a walk from Brian and Aileen Evans’ excellent ‘Short Walks in Lakeland’ without really reading the description properly (of which, more later).

The walk starts near Castlerigg Stone Circle, where there’s a fair amount of roadside parking. I was eager to get off and since my return route would take me right past the stones, I didn’t bother to take any photographs of them in the morning. I ought to have foreseen that I would finish in the dark, I certainly would’ve realised that had I paid more attention to the guide book, but I didn’t, so you’ll have to go back to my last visit in 2010 if you want to see what it looks like.

As I was admiring the view in the photo above, a Kestrel flew across in front of me and landed in the hawthorn on the left. I stalked around the tree, expecting the falcon to be spooked and fly off again, but it didn’t, at least not immediately…

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I’d almost got a view which wasn’t obscured by twigs when it finally drifted away, but only as far as the wall on the far side of the field. I stalked once again, stopping every few strides to take a photo…

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I was really surprised how close he let me get.

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Naddle Beck, The Benn and Dodd Crag.

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Goat Crag and Dodd Crag.

There was evidently quite a bit of work going in the valley. Thirlmere Reservoir, originally created to supply Manchester with water, will soon be connected to West Cumbria. There were signs by the path to Rough How bridge saying that the path was closed whilst the work was being completed, but the signs looked to have been in situ for a while and the path was actually easy to walk, with no kind of obstruction. Likewise, there were signs where the path entered the forest near Shoulthwaite Farm which warned that many of the paths close to Thirlmere were still closed after the storm damage of 2015.

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Iron Crag and Goat Crag.

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Skiddaw and Blencathra from The Benn.

In fact there were Water Company staff in the forest in a large pick-up, I’m not sure what they were doing, driving around the forest tracks certainly, but one of the ‘closed’ paths took me to the top of the Benn without any issues whatsoever, so, again, I’m not sure why it’s still closed.

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Thirlmere and Raven Crag from the Benn.

It’s a shame about the flat light and slightly hazy conditions because Raven Crag is really quite spectacular.

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Thirlmere from Raven Crag.

On Raven Crag I sat down for a flask of tea and my lunch. I’ve not been up these minor summits above Thirlmere before and I was really pleased to have rectified that omission.

Although…

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…Castle Crag was a bit underwhelming, even if it is the site of an Iron Age hill-fort.

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Shoulthwaite Gill.

I left the forest and set off to cross the moorland. I’d hoped and expected that the ground would be frozen and it was to an extent, but the ground didn’t seem to be quite as boggy as I was expecting anyway.

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I was heading for some knolls, curiously named Threefooted Brandreth and then on to Bleaberry Fell. Birkett doesn’t include either Iron Crag or Dodd Crag in his list of Lakeland Fells, but both look worth a visit to me. I shall have to come back another time for a more thorough exploration. I didn’t have time on this occasion: I’d seen that the Evans’ gave their route as nine miles, but only looked at the map and didn’t realise that I had unknowingly combined two of their walks; once I’d finished, Mapmywalk gave my route as twelve and a half miles.

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Small unnamed tarn, not in the Nuttall’s ‘Tarns of Lakeland’ books, with Bleaberry Fell behind.

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High Seat and the Central Fells from Bleaberry Fell.

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Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw from Bleaberry Fell.

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Looking back to Bleaberry Fell.

I was rapidly running out of daylight now and was quite surprised by how many people I met still going uphill. I still had Walla Crag to bag, but fortunately that requires very little extra effort.

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Derwent Water and the Northwestern Fells from Walla Crag.

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Keswick and Skiddaw.

This is the second time I’ve taken photographs of Keswick in near darkness recently. The last part of the walk, along a narrow lane back to the stone circle was in complete darkness.

At the stone circle I was quite surprised to see a number of people apparently exploring by the light of headtorches. I wondered whether some sort of pagan midwinter ceremony was underway, but it soon became evident that some people had met to let off some  fireworks. Of course, it’s possible it was a pagan firework display. It looked like fun either way. I might have stopped to watch myself, but I was in something of a hurry because we were supposed to be at the home of our friends G and B for a meal and a games night by six thirty. I was cutting it pretty fine – I didn’t get home until ten past. I turned it around very quickly though and we enjoyed a delicious meal and a terrific evening.

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Raven Crag and Bleaberry Fell

New Year Floral Survey

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – The Row – Burtonwell Wood – The Clifftop – Heald Brow – Quaker’s Stang – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Gibraltar Farm – Woodwell – Emesgate Lane.

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Quince Flowers.

After a string of grey, overcast, foggy, damp days, New Year’s Day was a corker: bright, sunny and, out of the wind, even quite warm at times. TBH was wiped out by a rotten cold, but the rest of us had been out on New Year’s Eve and the children, lightweights to a man, weren’t up very early. Eventually, Little S emerged into the light and I told him I was heading out to take advantage of the sunshine and asked him to ring me when the others got up, chiefly because the day before we’d got halfway through a game of Pandemic, a board game my brother sent us for Christmas, and I’d promised to finish it with the kids when they were ready.

The first surprise, apart from the glorious sunshine, was the thicket of Quince on the  corner of Elmslack Lane which was studded with bright red baubles. I suppose it must have been flowering when I walked past it earlier that week, but it took some brighter conditions to draw my attention to that fact. When I spotted a Marigold (I think?), which must have self-seeded where it sat at the end of a gravel drive….

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…I was reminded again, as I often am, of Richards Adams marvellous ‘A Nature Diary’ in which the author, most famous for Watership Down, explores the lanes, hills and coasts around his home on the Isle of Man. His winter entries often gleefully list the flowers he has found unexpectedly in bloom. I wondered how I might fare with a similar scheme on New Year’s Day. Almost immediately, I spotted Snowdrops and a single Celandine. Also…

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…quite a bit of Winter Jasmine in gardens. All of those might reasonably be expected, but I was a bit more surprised by the extent to which the brambles were flowering wherever I saw them in the woods…

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The Jubilee Monument on Castlebarrow.

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In Eaves Wood.

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In Burtonwell Wood.

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I think that this might be Yellow Jelly Fungus, also known as Witches Butter, but I’m not sufficiently confident about that, or hungry enough, to try adding this allegedly edible fungi to my diet.

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Heald Brow.

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Meadow Ant Mounds on Heald Brow.

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Evidence of Badger predation of Meadow Ants? Apparently Badgers are partial to ants.

It was a good morning for birds, if not for bird photographs: I heard and saw Nuthatches, a Buzzard, various tits, several Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one Green Woodpecker.

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Ragwort.

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Dandelion.

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Gorse.

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Daisy.

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Quaker’s Stang and Warton Crag.

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Sea Beet.

It wasn’t just the flowers which caught my attention; Sea Beet is the wild ancestor of Beetroot, Sugar Beet and Perennial Spinach, grows all year by the coast, is packed full of vitamins and is reputedly delicious. Spring is apparently the best time to eat it, so, seeing it growing on the edge of the salt-marsh, I made a mental note to come back this way, later in the year, with some sort of receptacle in which to carry away some forage.

There were quite a few people enjoying a New Year’s Day constitutional down by the salt-marsh, but I felt like I might be the only one who spotted the completely unexpected flight of a Speckled Wood butterfly and, moments later, a Painted Lady…

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Butterflies can only fly when the temperature is high enough, so the fact that they were here at all was testament to the genuine warmth by this sheltered, south-facing bank. It’s still a bit of a puzzle however, since Speckled Wood butterflies are unique in that they can overwinter as either a caterpillar or a chrysalis, but I don’t think they generally hibernate, as some other species do. And Painted Ladies famously migrate northwards from North Africa over several generations during a summer and then return in the autumn. Perhaps this one was a straggler.

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The large tree behind the old chimney had a couple of clumps of…

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…exquisitely ochre fungi.

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Jenny Brown’s Cottages.

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This looks like a Hawk’s-beard, although I’m not remotely confident about that. Maybe Rough Hawk’s-beard, but that’s supposed to flower in June and July, so if it is, it’s a confused specimen.

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Jack Scout.

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I’ve previously reported that the berries on Flowering Nutmeg, here growing close to Woodwell, reputedly taste chocolaty. In the interest of accuracy, I tried a berry and can now correct my error – it didn’t taste at all like chocolate. It was bitter and not at all pleasant. Oh well – you live and learn.

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More flowers. These were staked, clearly a garden plant, but Stinking Hellebore is actually native to the British Isles. This plant is very early to flower and would be one of the few you might expect to see at this time of year.

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Emerging Cuckoo Pint leaves: spring is on the way!

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Hydrangea. In retrospect these are not actually flowers at all I don’t think, but the remains of the large bracts which once surrounded the actual flowers.

We never did finish that game of Pandemic. I eventually rang Little S, when it seemed too late in the day for the rest of the family to still be in bed. It transpired that they were watching a film instead, so I was free to continue my New Year’s Day ramble without feeling guilty about having abandoned them all. We have played several times since.

The following day our old friend X-Ray visited and he and I and B played another new game, sent by my brother, Queen Domino. It’s a companion to, and can be combined with, King Domino, which we’ve enjoyed enormously since we got it last Christmas. Although I won, I didn’t really feel that I’d grasped the strategy for Queen Domino; I think that might take numerous games.

After our game, X-Ray and I went for a rather late wander down to Jack Scout and managed to miss what was, apparently, quite a spectacular sunset.

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Next time will have to do.

A pretty good start to 2019. I hope you’ve enjoyed the same.

New Year Floral Survey

Nevermind

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Over Christmas, as I think I’ve said, we regularly had a number of Roe Deer in our garden. I didn’t often photograph them, but when this buck ventured close to the house it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss him and his lop-sided new antlers.

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I suppose they will even out as they grow?

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The weather was generally dull and damp, with quite a bit of fog, and we took it in turns to suffer from an unpleasant cold, but, on the plus side, my mum and dad came to stay with us and we enjoyed all of the usual treats of the season: over-indulging in food, playing family games, watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ etc.

I know that I’ve also mentioned before the highlight of the Christmas period for me, which was my present from TBH – a night away in Glasgow with tickets for the Craig Charles Funk and Soul show – but that isn’t going to deter me from banging on about it again!

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Here’s TBH in the curry house we went to before the gig, which was just across the road from the hotel. We weren’t up very early the next day, we aren’t really used to 4am finishes, I think we just made check-out at midday. It was the first bright and sunny day we’d seen for a while and, since we’d already paid for parking, we had a walk to a vegan cafe/bar, which TBH had found online, for a Full Scottish Vegan Brunch, which was surprisingly good.

The hotel was right by the Clyde…

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…the building slightly right-of-centre in the picture is BBC Scotland.

This intriguing building…

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…had a twin on the far bank of the river. Apparently these originally covered shafts which led to a tunnel under the Clyde.

This…

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…is, I think, part of the SEC centre.

We walked along St. Vincents’ Crescent…

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I thought this rather elegant terrace might be Georgian, but a bit of lazy internet research reveals that it’s actually a bit later, built from 1850 onward, so definitely Victorian.

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Still very handsome though.

Obviously, having mentioned our dance-athon again, it’s only fitting to finish with another memorable tune from that night. How’s this:

 

I love a cover which is radically different from the original, so Blue Mode’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is right up my street.

Nevermind

Pre-Xmas Weekend: Ling Gill and Calf Holes.

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Ling Gill.

The forecast for the Sunday was, if anything, even worse than it had been for the day before. However, some of us were itching to get out, and so, when TBH revealed that she had left her trekking poles behind whilst out on a walk the day before, we decided to go out to look for them. We started by heading up onto the moors of Cam End then turned south on the Pennine Way, heading for the impressive gorge of Ling Gill.

We met a lady walking her dog who told us that she walks that path every day and that we were the first people she had met for months. It’s a very quiet corner of the world!

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Looking across Ling Gill to Ingleborough.

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Calf Holes.

At Calf Holes a stream disappears into a yawning pothole.

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TBH had been here with the boys the day before and this was where she thought she had left her poles. There was no sign of them, but it later transpired that some of our friends had picked them up here later in the day, so she will eventually get them back.

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TBH wasn’t overly concerned about her poles and, whilst Andy and I faffed about taking photos, took the opportunity to tuck in to her pack-up.

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Brow Gill Beck

The stream which pours into Calf Holes emerges downstream at Brow Gill Cave and then flows briefly underground again at God’s Bridge.

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God’s Bridge.

We’d been this same way on our previous outing, but that had been in the dark, this time we managed to get back to the lodge almost before it got completely dark. In the end, the weather had been much kinder than we had been led to expect with hardly any rain and not too much wind – it had been a good decision to get out.

The next day, when we were packing up and leaving, the sky was pure blue, the sun shone and we were too busy to take advantage of it. Not to worry, it had been a highly enjoyable weekend, as always and a great start to our yuletide celebrations.

Pre-Xmas Weekend: Ling Gill and Calf Holes.

Pre-Xmas Weekend: Pen-y-ghent

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As ever, we got together with a gaggle of old friends for the weekend before Christmas. After several years at Chapel-le-Dale, this year we moved, but only a little way up the road to Gearstones Lodge. Here’s the lodge…

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I’ll take a moment to say that, if you are after simple, comfortable and spacious accommodation in a fantastic location for a largish group at a good price, then this place is going to be very hard to beat.

The first time we booked accommodation for a weekend before Christmas, A was just a baby and spent most of the weekend happily rocking furiously or sleeping in the only warm room at Slaidburn hostel. Now here she is, in the first photo, practically all grown up. It’s not the best photo of either A or Pen-y-ghent, which is hidden in the cloud behind,  but I’ve included because it’s a very typical A pose: she doesn’t want me to take her photo, but is tolerating my antics with a bemused look which tells me just how little she appreciates it.

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Here she is again. We were all hunkered down behind the wall seeking some shelter from the wind and rain. We’d parked in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and were climbing Pen-y-ghent with the intention of continuing back to Gearstones afterwards.

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A and J.

As often happens, somebody had stopped to change a layer or swig some water and somebody else had taken that as a queue for a lunch stop. We have a lot of lunch stops when walking together. I think there may even have been more scoffing underway when I caught up with the rest of the party at the top of Pen-y-ghent, having lagged behind a little, as is my wont. Certainly, an ‘official’ lunch stop was declared in the sheltered hollow…

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Around the opening of Hunt Pot.

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From there we diverted slightly from the most direct route to take a look at the highly impressive Hull Pot…

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Usually, the streambed above the pot is dry, but one compensation of the weather being so wet was the opportunity it afforded to see the falls cascading over the edge of the pot.

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And that’s it for my photos of that day. We still had quite a long way to walk, but it was very overcast at first, then dark for the last hour or so and anyway, I was busy chinwagging.

The ground we covered from Pen-y-ghent back to Gearstones did look very interesting, when we could still see it, and I look forward to going back to have another look in more conducive conditions.

Andy has helpfully included a map of our route in his post and there are more photos too.

And for photos from Pen-y-ghent in better weather, here are two previous posts of my own: here and here.

Back at the hostel, we dried out over cups of tea then enjoyed some top-notch grub and no doubt lots of silly anecdotes.

I’ve finished a number of walks in the dark this winter, which is just how winter walks should finish, and which gives me a handy excuse to include this…

‘It Might Get Dark’ by White Denim, which has something of Marc Bolan about it. I’ve heard White Denim quite a bit since I started listening to Radio 6. They’re touring the UK in February…..

Pre-Xmas Weekend: Pen-y-ghent

Deer Prudence

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This winter, we’ve frequently had four Roe Deer in the garden, three female and one male. Two of the does seem to like to sit under the kids trampoline.

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You’ll have noticed what I did with the title? Feeble isn’t it?

I know it’s a Beatles Song, but I always hear this version in my head. At this point Robert Smith was the Banshees’ guitarist, which apparently came about when The Cure toured with the Banshees as their support act. I wish I’d been at one of those gigs! I did see Siouxsie and the Banshees shortly after this, at the Apollo in Manchester, by which time they’d recruited a new guitarist; but I never saw The Cure, which is an odd omission, because I was quite obsessed with them for a while.

Deer Prudence