We have New Neighbours. Well, not that new – they moved in, most of them at least, last winter, just before the lockdown started. Happily, our New Neighbours are also Old Friends, G and BB and their kids, who have appeared on this blog from time to time. It has been a hard year for them. Aside from the stress of moving house, getting lots of work done on the house, the lockdown etc – during which one member of the family was ‘stranded’ at her Grandparents (and spoiled rotten, no doubt), they’ve had the virus, twice in some cases, and had to postpone their wedding.
Sitting around a blazing fire in one of our respective gardens, with our neighbours and another family from across the road, has often been the sum total of our social life this year. And thank goodness we’ve had that at least.
Anyway, in the summer, they modified their holiday plans and booked a long weekend at Silver Sapling, the local Girl Guide campsite, which is about half a mile from home (G is on the management committee) and invited us to join them.
It probably sounds like a crazy idea, to camp just down the road from home, but, well, it was a fantastic weekend. The weather was scorching. Our neighbours had bought a paddling pool especially and sitting in the freezing water and chinwagging seemed to keep the teenage faction happy for hours on end, even in the evenings when it turned very cool. I remember doing a fair bit of reading, some walks with TBH, and a lot of nattering.
Somebody had been hacking back the brambles and there were piles of dried briars heaped up in various places around the site. BB and I gathered them all up – prickly work – and then lit them, they took a little while to catch, but then flared up into a towering conflagration which was highly entertaining, if a little alarming.
My mum and dad spent a week at Thurnham Hall, on the other side of Lancaster. Very generously, they booked us a few nights there too. Little did we realise then that it would be the last time we would see them this year.
How nice then, to get to spend some time together. Most days we managed a bit of a walk, aiming for somewhere without contours, by the Lune Estuary near Glasson, across the Lots at home, or along the prom at Morecambe for example.
We did embark on one overly ambitious walk, from Thurnham Hall to Wallings Ice-Cream Parlour on the other side of Cockerham. The long-grass in the fields and the surprisingly sodden tracks which followed were energy sapping for all concerned. Fortunately, once we’d sampled the ice-creams, we arranged a taxi for a couple of drivers to collect our cars and then return for the rest of the party.
We played ‘Ticket to Ride’ and no doubt other games, and ate out a few times, now that ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ was in full swing. After a curry in Lancaster I had a brainwave about walking back to Thurnham Hall, basing my intended route on a hazy memory of the map. It was much further than I had thought, and it was pitch black by the time I reached Galgate. Fortunately, TBH was happy to come out and pick me up.
Now, though we won’t see them over Christmas as we usually would, with the vaccines being rolled out, we have the real prospect of safely meeting with my mum and dad again to look forward to. Bring it on!
Back in the summer, when the sun was shining, and the rules changed (how many times have they changed since then?), so that we were allowed to meet five friends outdoors, all B seemed to want to do was meet his school friends in Heysham and swim with them in the Bay. Personally, I wouldn’t choose to swim in the Bay, and particularly not right next to a Nuclear Power Plant, but B is old enough and daft enough to make his own choices these days, and my own squeamishness is probably not well-founded.
Since public transport was still frowned upon, I found myself with time to kill between dropping him off and meeting him for the return journey.
I first visited St. Peter’s church in Heysham village, the picturesque part of Heysham, hoping to look inside and see the Viking hog’s-back graves there, but that will have to wait, since the church was locked up.
From Heysham headland, I drove a short hop to visit Heysham Moss. It’s a Wildlife Trust reserve which has been on my radar for a while. Last time I came looking for it, I took a wrong turn, but, fortuitously, stumbled upon Middleton Nature Reserve. This time I had satnav and a postcode. Sadly, whilst these got me to the right neck of the woods, I couldn’t see the entrance – it’s just away from the road on a right-of-way – although I was parked really close to it. I spent a frustrating half-an-hour venturing along narrow, slippery, nettle-fringed paths, which I presume are the preserve of local kids and/or dog-walkers, but none of which got me into the reserve. Having returned to the car and decided to ‘have one more go’, I quickly found the entrance. I’m glad I tried again.
The reserve is very wet in places, as the name Moss implies, but it also has a large area of raised peat, quite rare I think in lowland areas.
There were lots of butterflies and dragonflies about, not all of them very cooperative when I wanted to take photos. Also, a few Silvery Y Moths, a day-flying summer immigrant.
I had great fun taking numerous photos of what I now think is a male Ichneumon extensorius. Apparently, this is a dimorphic species, in that the male and the female are very different. Ichneumon wasps are parasites, laying their eggs in the bodies of moth and butterfly caterpillars. But the adults eat nectar, which fits with the behaviour of this male, which was feasting on the angelica and seemed quite oblivious of my attention.
I just about had time for a circuit of the reserve – I shall definitely be back for another look.