More Bad Birdwatching

Or: The Walk that Wasn’t.

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A Monday evening. I’d dropped A and her friend off in Milnthorpe for their dance lesson, then driven to Foulshaw Moss for a bit of a walk. This was my first visit of the year and I didn’t get very far before I discovered that Cumbria Wildlife Trust have been busy and built a hide near to the car park, with several bird-feeders just beyond it. I settled down, just for a quick look I thought, before I continued, but then was so happy watching the birds on the feeders that I didn’t move again until the need to go back to pick up the dancers at the end of their lesson was so pressing that I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

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The ‘bad’ birdwatching of the title refers to my misidentification of these birds on previous visits to Foulshaw. I thought that they were Linnets. Now, I’m almost equally convinced that they are Lesser Redpoll. Lesser because Common Redpoll are winter visitors and paler, but I’m more than ready to be corrected. When I’ve seen them before it’s been groups flitting about, usually high in the tree-tops. These feeders gave me a much better opportunity to observe them close-up.

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Male.

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Female.

They are finches, but much smaller than the Goldfinches and Chaffinches which were also visiting the feeders.

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Goldfinch.

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Female Blackbird.

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Male (I think) Great-spotted Woodpecker.

There were plenty of other birds about to keep me entertained, including a Jay in the trees behind the feeders and a male Reed-bunting hopping about below the feeders, tantalising me by never quite being fully in view.

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More Bad Birdwatching

Round Windermere II

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Sunday started a good deal brighter than Saturday had. I expected to be stiff and sore following the exploits of the day before, but actually felt fine, but for one slight issue. I’d chosen to wear the same rather worn-out pair of Clark’s shoes in which I do most of my walking. I realise that might seem an unusual choice and some people might even go as far as to disapprove, but the shoes have been very comfortable, pretty waterproof and have looked after me well. Until now. I bought them in a sale and have had them for quite some time now. I knew that they were past their best, but I didn’t realise the extent to which the soles had worn thin. As a result, I now had a blood blister on the ball of each foot. They weren’t excruciating. I managed to scrounge some plasters from reception at the hostel and decided to wear two pairs of sock by way of compensation.

My walk started through…

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…which was really rather wonderful. On both days of the walk, I was really struck by the immaculate and colourful gardens I passed, most of them stuffed full off flowering shrubs…

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Rhododendrons and azaleas?

A and I passed this way at the end of the second day of our walk from Silverdale to Keswick, but it was a bit dark by then to see the flowers, so I’ve wanted to come back.

This section of the route, via Jenkin Crag to Troutbeck, is an old favourite and is very familiar territory.

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Coniston Fells from Jenkin Crag.

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Claife Heights and Latterbarrow from Jenkin Crag.

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Looking down the lake to Gummer How.

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More Bluebells.

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High Skelghyll.

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Looking down the lake – Belle Isle seems almost to split the north and south basins into two separate lakes.

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Troutbeck.

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Townend.

I thought, this being a National Trust property, I’d definitely be able to buy a cup of tea here, but it wouldn’t open for hours yet.

I’ve always admired this rather fine bank barn across the road from Townend. I hope that the National Trust won this too, and that it’s being looked after.

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At this point, my route diverted, for a while at least, from the one A and I had followed. I dropped to a different bridge, well, bridges…

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…over Trout Beck. These must have been destroyed in the flooding a couple of years ago. The new bridges look very robust.

I’m glad I stuck with Mister Turner’s route, because this section of path was new to me, and very beautiful in a low key way.

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There are a number of houses here, above the RHS gardens at Holehird, which have the most amazing views.

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Next on the agenda was Orrest Head, which, as always I suspect, was absolutely thronged with people.

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The view north along the lake from Orrest Head.

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The view south along the lake from Orrest Head.

Busy at it was on Orrest head, I dropped down into Common Wood on a permission path and soon was completely alone again.

I thought that these distinctive looking flowers would be easy to identify…

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…but in fact they took quite a lot of tracking down. As usual, it was the excellent Wildflower Finder website which came up trumps. I think that this is Indian Rhubarb, an introduced species native to the western United States. Apparently the leaves, when they appear, are every attractive, which is why gardeners like it for damp shady areas in their gardens.

This field…

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…on the lane just beyond the wood, was brimful of Cuckoo Flower, which is native, tasty and the principal food plant for Orange-tip butterflies.

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Part of a stunning garden on the outskirts of Windermere.

The slopes of School Knott, above Windermere, proved to be extremely confusing. My map shows open fields, but trees have been planted, which are now growing quite large and there are paths everywhere, with some sort of de facto right to roam seemingly in operation. I stopped a couple of dog walkers and asked for directions, but ended up following my nose uphill.

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Windermere and beyond from School Knott.

It’s a lovely spot, with terrific views, and, like Orrest Head, is another of Wainwright’s outlying fells. I noticed that some walkers were also climbing the higher Grandsire, although the map doesn’t indicate any access is allowed. It looks worth a look though, so I shall have to come back.

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Grandsire and School Knott Tarn (?).

There is a path down to the little tarn though. So…

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…that’s the way I went. It was warm enough here for me to be regretting that I didn’t really have enough time to stop for a swim.

Just beyond this point, I met a party of four on the Dales Way path, who asked for directions. They told me that they were walking from Bowness to Staveley (the one near Kendal, not the one I’d passed through the day before) and back. Since they were barely out of Bowness, they decided to amend their plans.

A fair bit of road walking followed, some of it along a busy road past Windermere Golf Club, which was unfortunate. Once I’d turned into the much quieter Lindeth Lane, things improved again. I met another lost party, a large group of ladies. I gathered they’d been a bit confused for some time. The explanation for how they’d lost their way was rather simple, but, in fairness, they’d missed a turn on to a path which I’m not sure existed on the ground.

I’d taken many photos on the next part of the walk, although it was very pleasant, through a mixture of fields, woodland and wood pasture with bits of scrub.

This…

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…and this…

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…are Podnet Tarn. The track which runs past has, by this point, become a metalled affair.

Nearby, Great Ludderburn Moss…

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…Little Ludderburn Moss and Green Hill form a nature reserve owned by the lake District National Park Authority which, unusually, seems to have no online presence at all (the nature reserve that is).

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On the map, it looks like the paths here link perfectly, but unfortunately, due presumably to the intransigence of some local home owners, there’s actually a detour by road before it’s possible to pick up a path to get back on course.

The detour goes right past Low Ludderburn, one of the houses in the area where the author and reputed spy Arthur Ransome lived, but I’m afraid I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t take any photos.

Wood anemones.

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The next part of the route, a long steady ascent of Gummer How via a path beside Burrow Beck was an absolute delight. The path is obviously well-used, although it isn’t a right-of-way. The woods are full of moss-covered lumps and fallen trees.

There’s also quite a bit of…

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…this shrub, which I thought was Wild Privet, but clearly isn’t since I just read that only begins to flower in June.

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Oh. More research needed!

Edit: I’ve done a little more checking, and I now think that this is Bird Cherry.

It was late afternoon now and it had clouded up, the wind had picked up, there were a few drops of moisture in the air and when I emerged from the woods on to Gummer How, I realised that it had grown quite cold.

Still there were the views for compensation…

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It was very satisfying to look back on where I had walked for the last two days.

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Lakeside and Summer House Knott. Notice Bigland Barrow and Haverthwaite Heights behind – both long overdue a revisit from me.

Duncan Turner gives this day as 16¼ miles with 2891′ of ascent. It took me a good deal less time than the day before had, which probably puts some perspective on how long that was. I’d cut it slightly short by stopping below Gummer How, but MapMyWalk measured it as 28km which is actually a bit further. (But subsequently ‘lost’ the data, so I can’t include a bird’s-eye Google-earth map. (Andy thinks that this might be a problem with the antiquity of my phone, rather than one inherent in the app.).

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It is an excellent route, thoroughly recommended. If you had more time you might incorporate Black Crag and Wansfell on either side of the head of the lake. If you are contemplating following in my footsteps, then please consider buying a copy of ‘Windermere: Walking Around the Lake’, not just because it’s a handy and informative guide, but because royalties from the book are donated to Holehird which provides a home for people living with disabilities and which is just off the route.

Talking of charity appeals:

In the summer, I shall be attempting to complete the annual 10 in 10 challenge. Briefly, the idea is to walk a route over 10 Wainwrights in 10 hours or less.  You can find out more here.

The event is a fundraiser and I’m hoping to get some sponsorship for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. My Just Giving page is here. All donations, however small, will be most welcome. I should add that the sponsorship is not a condition of my entry and that I’ve already paid a fee to enter which covers all costs, so all sponsor money would go directly to charity.

A heartfelt thanks to those who have donated already. The event is getting frighteningly close, so I’ll shall soon stop pasting this onto the end of posts, I promise. I could really do with about another year, or maybe two, to prepare….

 

 

Round Windermere II

Round Windermere I

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Windermere and the Coniston Fells from the road south of Gummer How.

B was on a rugby tour to North Wales. I was originally signed up to go, but then had second thoughts. Much as I like watching B and his teammates play, and chatting to the other parents, I also fancied a weekend in the hills. After a great deal of deliberating, I decided I wouldn’t accompany the team to Llandudno, but get some wild-camping in instead.

But then, as the weekend approached, the forecast was pretty dire. Rain, wind, rain and a lot more wind was expected. I hastily changed my plans and opted for a lower-level alternative with warm and dry lodgings at the end of it.

My new plan was to walk around Windermere over the course of two days. That’s the lake, not the town – A was very confused by my plan and seemed to think I would spend the entire weekend wandering the streets of Windermere, presumably looking a bit lost whilst doing so.

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Looking down to Lakeside and Summer House Knott.

True to form, I started my walk in a light rain. I’d elected to leave my car in the small car park below Gummer How, which as well as being relatively near to the southern end of the lake has the huge advantage of being free.

I’ve long wanted to do this walk, since picking up a copy of ‘Windermere: Walking Around the Lake’ by Duncan Turner. He suggests catching the ferry from Fell Foot to Lakeside, which neatly avoids the main A590, but I was making an early start and the first ferry wouldn’t be until late morning, so I decided to string together footpaths and lanes to take me around the end of the lake.

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Dropping down the road towards Fell Foot, I could see the Saturday Morning Park Run taking place in the park. TBH has been a couple of times and has encouraged me to give it a go. One day perhaps.

Eventually, I picked up a delightful path through Beech woods carpeted with Bluebells…

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…which brought me out close to Staveley in Cartmel, a small hamlet which I’m not sure I’ve ever visited before. Which is perhaps why I’ve never heard of Millerbeck Light Railway before…

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St, Mary’s church is slightly outside the village.

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I hoped to pop in, but found the door locked. The church was restored in 1897 by Lancaster architects Austin and Paley, whose work I seem to encounter almost everywhere I go. Apparently, there’s a listed eighteenth century stone sundial in the churchyard which I missed, so I shall have to go back. I could hardly miss the huge lychgate…

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…which seemed a bit out of proportion with the modest church.

A footpath through a caravan park and then a minor road brought me to Newby Bridge. I had to cross the busy main road twice, but that didn’t prove to be as big an obstacle as I’d thought it might be.

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The five arch stone bridge from which Newby Bridge gets its name was built in 1651 and is really rather elegant, so I ought to have taken a picture of it. Next time.

I did take a picture of the Swan Hotel from the bridge.

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It was still early at this point – people were still eating breakfast inside.

Having come this way, I now had the option to include the small hill above Newby Bridge which is Summer House Knott…

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…or Water Side Knott…

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The OS map has both names. I took several photos of this map and various parts of it. It shows paths not marked on the OS map, so is very handy. I would go over the Knott, down to Finsthwaite, up to High Dam, down to the YMCA centre on the lake and then follow the lake shore path off the top of this map.

Incidentally, long-suffering readers might recognise the map since I used another photo of it to navigate on another walk in the rain, through Border Moss and Yewbarrow Woods, back in the winter.

A short climb brought me to…

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…Pennington Lodge Tower, or Finsthwaite Tower, depending on who you believe. It’s currently under repair, I think the work of the National Trust. The plaque high on the wall reads…

Erected to honour the officers, seamen and marines of the Royal Navy whose matchless conduct and irresistible valour decisively defeated the fleets of France, Spain and Holland and preserved and protected liberty and commerce 1799.

Originally it had three floors and a view, but the top floor has been removed and it is now surrounded by trees (source).

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It’s a listed building, so in theory should be being carefully preserved, but I can’t find any reference online to the repairs. The naval battles referred to, from 1797 and 1798, are apparently the Battle of St. Vincent, the Battle of Camperdown and the Battle of the Nile, decisive victories against the navies of Spain, Holland and France respectively. My knowledge of the Napoleonic wars is obviously very sketchy, since it’s only the latter, when Nelson was commanding the British Fleet, that I was aware of before. Hard to imagine now a situation where Britain could be at loggerheads simultaneously with so many of our European neighbours. Ho-hum.

Incidentally, Summer House Knott, along with Finsthwaite Heights, is on one of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells Walks, as are Claife Heights and Latterbarrow which will appear later.

Great Knott Wood, to the north of the tower, is now owned by the Woodland Trust, who are working to restore native deciduous woods here…

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As I approached the point where the path left the wood, I came across these…

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Another memorial of sorts, recording the areas industrial heritage, when it produced wooden bobbins for the Manchester cotton industry.

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It’s many years now since I visited the bobbin mill at nearby Stott Park, but I remember it as a fascinating tour. Our guide was a former employee of the mill, when it was still  a commercial enterprise, rather than a working museum, and he had lots of interesting and some times gruesome stories to tell.

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Finsthwaite.

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St. Peter’s Church, Finsthwaite.

I was hoping to have a gander inside this church too, but despite signs outside saying that the church is kept open for visitors, it also seemed to be locked. Which is a shame, because I suspect the inside is well worth a look. It’s quite a recent building, the work of, you guessed it, Paley and Austin.

Since I couldn’t go inside, I sat in the porch for a moment whilst I took on some water.

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The weather was really beginning to brighten up at last. It hadn’t actually rained all that much to this point, but had always seemed to be on the point of drizzling. Now there was sunshine and warmth.

Climbing out of Finsthwaite, I was taken by this blossom covered tree…

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An apple tree, I suspect?

A short ascent brought me to High Dam…

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…where we swam a couple of times last summer.

Whilst I’ve visited High Dam many times over the years, I’m not sure that I’ve ever followed this bit of path beyond the reservoir, which isn’t on my map. Nor have I climbed Stott park Heights, the high ground on the left here…

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…an omission I shall have to rectify another time.

The path dropped down the hillside via some deep cuttings which looked like they must have been blasted through the rock, which doesn’t make much sense on this seemingly little used track. There must be some explanation?

I had to walk a little way along the road, but was soon on the lake side path.

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I had my cag on almost immediately when, for the first time that day, the heavens really opened.

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In truth, the shower was short-lived, but with dark clouds scudding past and occasional further flurries of rain, I kept my coat on, probably longer than I needed to.

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It looked like there might be a wedding party underway at Greythwaite Old Hall, and I hoped the weather would improve, both for them and for me! The path was well-marked and very easy to follow, so on the whole I wasn’t really looking at my map much. For that reason, I was quite surprised by the short sharp climb past High Cat Crag. Sadly, I immediately lost all of that height again on the minor lane which eventually took me to another lake shore path.

By the time I passed through these wonderful Bluebell woods at Rawlinson Nab, the rain had just about done, for now at least.

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I’d been debating with myself about the options for the next section. I could stick to the shore, or take any one of a number of routes across Claife Heights, the most ambitious of which would divert to take in Latterbarrow. I’d pretty much decided that if the weather looked fine I would choose the Latterbarrow option and since I had some blue sky and plenty of sunshine, I took the minor lane and then a path into Far Sawrey, rather than dropping back down to the shore.

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I was heading for High Pate Crag and High Blind How, but before I reached either of those I followed a slight trod leading away from the main track, which brought me to a superb viewpoint.

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Belle Isle and Bowness-on-Windermere.

I’ve walked in Claife Heights many times before, but have always thought that the one downside of those walks was the frustrating lack of views, so this was a real revelation. I’d been walking for quite some time without much rest, so decided to sit here a while and eat the couple of apples I had in my bag.

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The weather still looked quite bleak in the hills around the head of the lake.

Whilst Gummer How and the southern end of the lake looked a satisfyingly long way away…

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A large area of trees around High Pate Crag had been felled. There ought to have been views of the Coniston Fells, but they had been swallowed up by clouds.

The area abounds with tarns. I’m guessing that this one in the distance…

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…with trees around it’s western shore, is Moss Eccles Tarn, once owned by Beatrix Potter and which I passed on a previous Calife Heights wander.

High Pate Crag, and the area around it, had good views across to the Langdale Pikes.

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Whilst High Blind How turned out to be appropriately named, since the trig pillar there is completely surrounded by mature conifers and has no view at all…

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At 270 metres, this was the highest point of the day.

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Unnamed tarn near High Blind How.

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Telephone mast? And the hills north of Ambleside.

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I was heading now for Latterbarrow, but the weather had finally caught up with me again and I had more rain.

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Latterbarrow, with a prominent cairn on top.

Fortunately, it stopped pretty much as I reached the top…

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I stopped again here, for another drink and to take lots of photos.

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The views were changing all the time, with clouds and showers constantly on the move.

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I was even treated to a bit of a rainbow over the lake…

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Paths exist here which aren’t on my old map. They were evident on the ground and I trusted that, since they seemed to be going in a convenient direction, it would be a good idea to follow them.

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Blelham Tarn with Black Fell behind.

The paths took me down to High Wray, from where I was anticipating a long road walk.

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Looking back to Blelham Tarn and Latterbarrow.

However, new paths…

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Have been created which either shadow the road, or, in one section, leave it altogether.

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The weather was looking decidedly grim again.

In Pull Woods…

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..it had started to rain a little and it soon started to absolutely tip it down.

It continued to rain as I diverted to cross the river Brathay by the footbridge opposite…

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Holy Trinity Church, Brathay.

Another unusual looking church. Having come out of my way to see the church, I decided against climbing the hill to see if the church was open. It was getting late and was still chucking it down.

Fortunately, by the time I reached Ambleside it had finally stopped, so I could enjoy the view down the lake before hobbling to the Youth Hostel, seen on the left here…

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…for a shower, some dry gear, food and a couple of hard earned beers.

Duncan Turner gives this side of the lake as 13¾ miles with 1816′ of ascent, but I tacked on extra bits around the southern end of the lake, over Summer House Knott and over High Blind How and Latterbarrow, which made it, well…quite a long way.

Maps: Start at the bottom and work up! (Some of the paths are missing from this 1:50,000. You really need OL7 to track the route)

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Technical notes:

The photos were taken on an old (in digital camera terms) Fujifilm camera, chosen because it’s very compact and because my Panasonic is too bulky in my rucksack if I’m carrying overnight gear.

There’s no Google-Earth map of my route because the app decided, as it does from time to time, that I had logged out, and I couldn’t log back in again because I don’t use mobile data. The next day it worked fine, except that somewhere on the drive home the data for the day disappeared into the ether.

 

Round Windermere I

Kent Bore

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Not me, I hope! Although this is yet another account of one of our favourite walks – around the coast to Arnside for lunch and back over the Knott.

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Grange-over-Sands.

As you can see, the tide was well out as we turned the corner into the Kent estuary.

It being Easter Monday, Arnside was extremely busy. We’d hoped to dine in the Wagtail cafe again, but all the tables were taken (it’s not a big place). Fortunately, we could fall back on the excellent Bake House instead and buy pies and pasties to eat on the benches on the small quay.

We’d already heard the Coastguard hooter sound to warn of the tide coming in. Just as we’d settled down with our pies, here it was…

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I think I’m right in saying that the Kent tidal bore is the second biggest in the UK, after the Severn bore, which is one of the largest in the world.

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It’s quite a while since I’ve been in Arnside at the right time to witness it. Sometimes, when the tidal range is particularly large, there can be many kayakers surfing the bore. On this occasion, there were just two paddle-boarders.

I have to confess that it looks a bit tame in a photo, but the rapidity with which the tide arrives is something to behold.

I think the Surfnslide crew missed the show, being still embroiled in the business of purchasing lunch in the thronged bakery. I guess they’ll have to visit again!

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Pie time! I’m not sure why TBH is pulling a face, she really likes the vegan pie from the bakery.

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Meanwhile, Andy liked his pie so much that he decided to wear it!

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Kent Estuary.

There followed a rather hot and wearisome interlude whilst I dragged everyone on a diversion to Plantation Avenue to check the number of my old house, because I couldn’t remember and we needed to know (for boring quotidian reasons).

Some of the party (well, the rest of my family) then decided that it was too hot and too much like hard work to climb Arnside Knott (I think there may have been work to do to prepare for the following days return to school too).

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Looking south from Arnside Knott: Arnside Tower Farm, Arnside Tower, Middlebarrow, Warton Crag and (just about) the Forest of Bowland hills.

The rest of us arrived on the top with perfect timing to see the part-timers heading down the drive of Arnside Tower Farm…

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We shouted them, but to no avail. So we left them to it and headed on to the trig pillar to admire the slightly hazy view to the north…

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It was a fine way to finish both an excellent fortnight off work and a really enjoyable Easter weekend.

And I almost forgot to mention that the Jones clan arrived this time very generously laden with gifts. A stove and a game and very probably other things which I have ungraciously forgotten. More about those to come…

Anyway, it’s always great to see them, with or without gifts, and fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long before our next meeting…

(Two teasers in one post, I really know how to ramp up the tension! However, I have another great weekend to record before I get to either of those…)

(That’s three teasers! And I haven’t even mentioned the Redpolls…Or the Hare…)

(That’s five teasers. Blimey, I’m still way behind!)

Kent Bore

Harter Fell and Birks Bridge.

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On the Saturday of our Easter weekend I stayed at home with TBH, who, unfortunately, was suffering from her worst bout yet of labyrinthitis. Most of the rest of the party went for a swim in the Kent at Levens. It really was that warm, which is hard to believe now that it’s late May and the wind is howling outside beneath grey skies.

Easter Sunday was B’s birthday. How to entertain a teenager on their birthday? Fortunately, B was happy to fall in with our plans for a shortish walk up Harter Fell, followed by a swim in the River Duddon. TBH was feeling much better, but not well enough to want to join us.

This…

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…is Birks Bridge, where we planned to have a dip after our walk.

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You can see that the water is crystal clear. Deceptively deep too, it was possible, we later found, to jump from these rocks into the water without hitting the bottom.

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River Duddon.

First of all though, we had a hill to climb. The initial ascent was very steep and it was unseasonably hot. Here we are…

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…resting after the first steep pull.

This rocky tor…

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…is Maiden Castle. It’s very imposing and we’d picked it out from the car park as somewhere worth visiting. Actually, around the far side it can be easily scaled via a grassy ramp. That’s be sat on the top.

From this point on, not only did the angle ease, but there were lots more rocky knolls, so that a variety of different entertaining options for scrambling to the top were available. Andy and the DBs were in their element. I followed on more slowly, picking my route and avoiding some of the steeper sections they sort-out.

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At the top itself, there were plenty of sheltered spots for some lunch and a sunbathe…

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But also lots more rocky knolls to enjoy…

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B tells me that this photo…

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…gives a misleading impression about the route he is climbing, which, apparently, was “much steeper than that!”

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A and B have been up here once before, although I’m not sure how well they remember that visit , it was a long time ago after all.

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Hazy view of the hills around Upper Eskdale.

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Bird’s-eye view of Hardknott Roman Fort.

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We chose the simple option of retracing our steps down to the valley. By this time, the haze had begun to clear and the views were improving.

The others were setting a cracking pace, no doubt eager for the swim to come, but I was distracted by the great number of Peacock and Orange-tip butterflies which were flying.

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Orange-tips are one of those species of butterfly which rarely seem to land, at least when I have my camera handy. Fortunately, there were other distractions…

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…I love the way the almost lime green new Beech leaves complement the layer of old orange leaves which always blanket the ground beneath Beeches.

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They look pretty good against a blue sky too.

Eventually, a couple of Orange-tips decided to oblige and pose for photos…

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All that and a swim still to come!

Andy has photos of us swimming (as well as lots more pictures of the DBs scrambling). The water was refreshing of course, but not as cold, frankly, as I thought it might be. My theory is that the rivers are a good bet after prolonged dry spells, which is exactly what we’d just had. Once you were immersed, it wasn’t bad at all, and even Little S, who has no padding whatsoever and often suffers with the cold, managed a good long swim.

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Little S and I both like to climb a hill on our Birthdays if possible. I think this might be a first for B, but the combination of sunshine, old friends, some scrambling, and a swim is surely a hard act to follow.

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Harter Fell and Birks Bridge.

Fat Man on a Bike

Or: A Promise Fulfilled

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B on his bike. Not the fat man.

The actual Easter Weekend was at the end of our fortnight off. The Surfnslide crew were scheduled to join us and, in the run up to the weekend, although we were all, as ever, excited about the impending visit, the Dangerous Brothers in particular had just about reached fever-pitch.

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At Trowbarrow Quarry.

Rather rashly, when we had last seen him, Andy had promised that on his next visit he would bring his bike and accompany the boys to their favourite local mountain biking venue.

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Andy on his bike. Not the fat man.

For weeks before Easter they had been pestering me to remind him of his promise. And now that he had finally arrived they couldn’t wait to get out on their trusty steeds. So, on Good Friday, we all agreed to head for Trowbarrow Quarry.

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Little S.

Our two-family party spilt into a cycling group and walking-to-watch-the-cyclists-fall-off brigade. Somewhat to everybody’s surprise, especially my own, I decided to join the ranks of the cyclists, which meant something of a delay whilst the entire party lent a hand to replace both of my bikes inner tubes. (You’d be right to conclude that my bike doesn’t leave the garage very often.)

Once we’d set-off, it was to discover that TBH’s bike wasn’t in a good state of repair either: one of the wheels was out of true and wobbled prodigiously as she rode. I waited a while and lost the others as TBH decided to turn back for home. When I eventually got going again, for some reason I didn’t take the first turn, along Moss Lane, but went the long way around beside Leighton Moss. It wasn’t much of cycle, but by the time I arrived I was already jelly-legged.

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At the Quarry, the boys were showing Andy, the honorary Dangerous Brother, all of the steep banks which they enjoy riding down, and also the various mounds and edges they like to jump off.

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Little S on his bike. Not the fat man.

They all looked much too steep to me.

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I decided to try out my camera’s sports setting instead of attempting any feats of derring-do.

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I did have a couple of freewheels down this, less intimidating, slope…

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A on my bike. Not the fat man.

The net result of my change of heart was another puncture for my bike. Andy very kindly cycled back to our house for his car so that he could collect me and my long-suffering bike.

The ‘Fat Man on a Bike’ was, of course, me. But also the late Tom Vernon who wrote a book of that name after radio and television series about his cycling exploits. I can’t really recall anything about Vernon, apart from the title of his book. In my mind, he seems to have become muddled with Richard Ballantine, who wrote ‘Richards Bicycle Book’…

…a book which I thoroughly enjoyed when I was in my teens and very much bicycle obsessed. B is similarly bike fixated now. Of course, things have changed in the intervening years. I joined the Cycle Touring Club and fancied a set of Carradice panniers (handmade in Nelson, Lancashire since 1932), B hangs out in local quarries with his mates and has just acquired a dropper seatpost (whatever one of those is). We didn’t have mountain bikes, although I did enjoy off-road cycling, or rough-stuff as we used to call it. I even briefly kept a diary of my cycling exploits, a sort of forerunner to this blog, with carefully hand-drawn maps of the routes.

Finally, a bit of nature to round off the post…

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In one corner of the quarry, we spotted a couple of what I think are slime moulds, probably the False Puffball, Enteridium lycoperdon, which is apparently common in Britain in the spring. According to this article, slime moulds, once thought to be fungi, are now classed as amoeba. They are certainly very strange.

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Enteridium lycoperdon is found across Europe, but also in Mexico, where, in the state of Veracruz, it is known as Caca de Lune or Moon’s Excrement.

If this is False Puffball, then it is in its plasmodial stage, preparing to spore. The plasmodial stage is mobile, which I find very disconcerting – it looks like some sort of fungi, but it can move around. How very odd.

My extremely limited knowledge of slime moulds is a perfect example of one advantage of blogging – if it weren’t for a question I posted years ago, I wouldn’t even know they existed.

Fat Man on a Bike

Simple Curiosity (or Another Easter Miscellany)

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“It is very simple to be happy, but it is very difficult to be simple.”

Rabindranath Tagore

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Heald Brow primroses.

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Heald Brow Cows. (Belted Galloway?)

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“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

–Ellen Parr

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I think this might be the caterpillar of the Lesser Yellow Underwing Moth. It was in our garden. I’m not aware that I’ve ever seen an adult moth of that species in our garden, I shall have to keep my eyes peeled.

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This is the Green Hairstreak butterfly in Eaves Wood which I mentioned in my recent post about Whitbarrow.

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A high tide at The Cove. Grange has almost disappeared in the haze – it was warming up again.

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On a visit to Lambert’s Meadow I saw loads of Peacock butterflies. Last summer, I was a bit concerned about how few of them visited our garden, so I was doubly delighted to see so many.

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There were Brimstones about too, but they wouldn’t settle for a photo.

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Cuckooflowers.

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Pheasant.

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At Myer’s Allotment there were several piles of felled logs. They all seemed to have attracted vast numbers of flies…

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…I think they might be Lesser House flies.

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Violets.

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I was rather taken by these tiny flowers, growing on an Ant mound at Myer’s Allotment. It’s taken me a while to identify them, but I’m pretty sure that this is Rue Leaved Saxifrage.

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The small three-lobed leaves and striking red stems seem quite distinctive.

When I took this shot…

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…I wasn’t actually after the Violets, but rather this bumblebee…

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…which toured a large patch of Violets whilst I struggled to get a photo. Mostly, when I did have it in frame, I ended up with shots of it hanging upside down below the flowers  to feed…

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It’s colours suggest that it’s probably an Early Bumblebee.

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Leighton Moss from Myer’s Allotment.

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Cowslips.

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Hoverfly.

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Vespula vulgaris – the common wasp. A whopper. Apparently only queens fly in spring, seeking a site for a nest, so perhaps this was a queen on just such a quest.

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New oak leaves.

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Long purples – Early Purple Orchids.

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I noticed several wild rose plants with new buds and leaves affected by some sort of orange growth – I assume that this is a ‘rust’, but have to confess that I’m decidedly clueless about precisely what rusts are.

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Blackbird with worms on the fringes of Bank Well.

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Bank Well.

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Marsh Marigolds.

In amongst the reeds at Bank Well there was a Moorhen nest. Moorhens are very attractive birds, in my opinion, but their chicks are much less handsome. I took a few photos, but my camera struggled to focus on the birds because of the intervening reeds.

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One final Peacock butterfly.

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More new oak leaves, with flowers.

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

– Mary Oliver

Simple Curiosity (or Another Easter Miscellany)