Seismic Noise and Mast Years


Early light on St. John’s Silverdale.

One consequence, apparently, of the current situation, has been the reduction of seismic noise; that is seismic readings caused by human activity. The journal Nature reports a drop by one third in Belgium, and I read somewhere, sorry, I can’t remember where, that in London it’s down by about a half.


Heading towards Hawes Water. A fence on the left has been partially removed. Similar fences, between woodland and pasture, have been removed across the Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve. Will they be replaced or is this part of a new management plan?

It’s difficult to gauge whether paths around Silverdale are quieter now than they usually are, because I’m not normally out myself mid-week in the daytime. I think that they have got busier, though, since the extra clarification which has made it clear that it’s okay to drive a short distance for your daily exercise.

I didn’t drive for this walk, in fact I haven’t driven anywhere for weeks, but I did walk a little further than usual, as I have done from time to time.


The cairn at Gait Barrows.


Ash flower buds.


Beech mast.

TBH and I have both been noticing on our walks (and runs in TBH’s case) that, when we are beneath Beech trees this spring, every step brings a satisfying crunch. The local Beeches seem to have produced a bumper crop of mast last year. That’s not unusual: every three to five years Oaks and Beeches produce a huge crop and those years when that happens are know as mast years.

It seems that the reasons why this occurs are not completely understood. A Guardian piece on mast years hypothesises that it’s the spring weather which dictates: Oaks and Beeches are wind pollinated, so a warm and windy spring produces a lot of flowers which are successfully pollinated. If that theory is correct then this year ought to be a mast year.

On the other hand, this article, on the Woodland Trust website, posits that the lean years control the population of frugivores*, like Jays and Squirrels and then, in the bumper years, the remaining populations of these creatures can’t possibly eat all of the seeds so that some are bound to get a chance to germinate and grow.

This second theory would seem to require some element of coordination between trees, which in turn would imply that trees must communicate in some way. That might seem unlikely, but that’s exactly the thesis advanced by Peter Wohlleben in his book ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’, which I read last summer while we were in Germany and found absolutely fascinating.


Anyway, back to my walk: I’d left Gait Barrows via the small hill Thrang Brow which is enough of a rise to give partial views of the Lake District hills, but that view never seems to translate well in photographs. From Thrang Brow a slender path heads of through the woods of Yealand Allotment. I don’t often come this way, but always enjoy it when I do.

A bright yellow sign on the far side of a wall attracted my attention…


And I’m glad that it did, because just over the wall was a small group of Fallow Deer…


Fallow Deer.

Sadly, most of the group were almost hidden by trees so I only got a chance of a clear photo of this one individual.


Limekiln in Yealand Allotments.


Peter Lane Limekiln.

I’d been thinking of incorporating Warton Crag into my walk, but I was thirsty and the weather was deteriorating, so took the path which cuts across the lower slopes to the north of the crag. Just as I took this photo…


View of Leighton Moss.

…it began to rain. TBH, bless her, rang me and asked if I wanted her drive over to pick me up, but the rain wasn’t heavy so I decided to carry on.


Tide line on Quaker’s Stang.

On Quaker’s Stang, an old sea defence, previous high tides had left a line of driftwood and dried vegetation right on the top of the wall, and, further along, well beyond the wall on the landward side. I’ve often wondered about the name – apparently ‘stang’ is a measurement of land equivalent to a pole, rod or perch. That sounds like it might offer an explanation, except a pole, or a rod, or a perch, is five and a half yards and Quaker’s Stang is a lot longer than that.


This tree is very close to home. I spent the last part of my ‘walk’ watching and photographing the antics of another Treecreeper in its branches.





I suppose a treecreeper qualifies as an LBJ, a Little Brown Job, except that sounds derogatory and, in my opinion, Treecreeper’s are stunning, in their own muted way.

*Frugivore was a new word to me, and I’m always happy to meet one of those. Apparently, it’s an animal which lives wholly or mostly on fruit.

The idea of compiling a kind of day-y-day playlist originated when Andy and I were discussing a mixtape I made, many moons ago, for our long drives up to Scotland for walking holidays. One of the songs on the tape was The Band’s ‘The Weight’. It’s still a song I adore. As well as the original, there’s a great version by Aretha Franklin, but here (subject to it not getting blocked) is Mavis Staples singing it with Jools Holland’s orchestra from one of his hootenannies:

I’ve seen Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra a couple of times live and can definitely recommend them. Last time I saw them, at Cartmel Racetrack, we went with friends and took the kids with us. There was a fair there too, and several support acts, including the Uptown Monotones who have become a firm favourite. Anyway, the kids were mortified when the adults all had the temerity to dance. In public! One of my sandals fell apart whilst I was dancing, I’m not sure whether that was a consequence of my vigorous enthusiasm or my inept clumsiness. Or both.

Seismic Noise and Mast Years

9 thoughts on “Seismic Noise and Mast Years

  1. Super post as always. Even though I wouldn’t normally be listening to big band stuff at breakfast time Jools et al has just gone down very well – what a fabulous band that is and what a great ambassador for a huge eclectic range of music is our Jools. By the way I have bought The Robin by Stephen Moss on your recommendation and I am now well into it and enjoying. The book is so superbly produced in itself I didn’t asnt to open it and start reading for gear of spoiling it in some way.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I’m a huge fan of Mr Holland, back to Squeeze and The Tube. I think somebody else must have recommended ‘The Robin’ Conrad, I’ve read another of his books, but not heard of that. Thanks for the tip, I shall be seeking it out!

  2. Your tree creeper photos are really good. I’ve never managed to take a photo of one. Another bird that dashes ( or creeps ) around so fast. The fallow deer photo is lovely too. Is Hawes water a small lake? There is of course a much bigger Hawes water in Cumbria.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Hawes Water is Lancashire’s largest natural lake. But yes, it is small. I’ve just discovered that it’s a polje lake (I need to investigate further) but I think that means it’s a natural deep sided depression which fills with groundwater and has no obvious outflow. There is a small stream flowing in.
      I’m very familiar with Haweswater, the reservoir which fills Mardale – it’s one of our favourite destinations in the Lakes.

      1. I didn’t know about the Hawes water at Silverdale. It is good that Lancs has some natural lakes. We do have lots of reservoirs! Love the Cumbria Haweswater. We have stayed in the hotel a couple of times and walked round there. It’s a peaceful place compared to much of the lakes isn’t it.

  3. Great song to finish the post, Jools’ shows were always a favourite of mine on a Friday night, love that he always chose music from such a diverse background to play on each show. Looks like there is plenty to explore across Leighton Moss on your photo as well, I’d be off that way I reckon, provided its doesn’t result in me sinking!!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Leighton Moss is a fantastic place to explore. There’s one public footpath going right across the middle which I have walked recently, but the many other paths around the reserve are private and currently closed, which is a real shame.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I’m still inclined to think that the original is the best, But Mavis Staples certainly gave it a go! I will probably return to the Staples Singers at some point.

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