So, our first full day in New York – time to get out and about and see what’s what. By the time I took the photo above, just down the block from our hotel, we’d already eaten breakfast at a small but very busy sandwich bar called Toasties.
Heading back from there, we came across these very large, unusual sculptures…
Seated next to a water feature you could walk through…
We were heading down 5th Avenue looking for East 34th Street, but on route we stopped off at the New York Central Library…
Downstairs there was a small museum, accessed by booking only. We hadn’t booked, so I had the slightly surreal experience of being helped, by the man on the door, to book online, before he scanned the resulting QR code and let us in. Anyway, it was well worth a visit, because among other things it had the original toys immortalised by A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.
You’ll notice that there are no pictures featuring books – the public lending library was across 5th Avenue. The Central Library did have reading rooms with specific collections of books, but they weren’t open to the public.
This was where we had been heading…
The Empire State building is a full on tourist attraction. First you have to queue to have a family portrait taken, so that later you could buy photographs of yourself green-screened onto various views. This turned out to be a common theme just about everywhere we went in Manhattan. Little S took great delight in vying with the sales-people to discreetly take snaps on his phone of our portraits when they were trying to entice us to shell out our hard-earned on their pictures.
King Kong was one of many attractions on the lower floors. He was animated, so that, whilst TBH was posing, his face went through a huge range of expressions, which was quite amusing.
I enjoyed the time-lapse footage of the tower in construction. Astonishingly, it was built in 410 days and finished ahead of schedule.
We got views from the 82nd and 86th floors, if I remember right. We could have paid extra to go up to the 102nd floor, but were quite content with the view as it was.
The bit of green in the foreground is Madison Square Garden, with the Flatiron building just beyond. The Hudson River is on the right and you can see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. The sky-scrapers on the left are in Brooklyn and those on the right are in Jersey City.
The views are pretty amazing and I took a lot of photos, but they all essentially show lots of tall buildings, so I’ll limit myself to three here.
Back on the streets the rest of the family got excited about…
With the obvious exception of Central Park, green spaces are at a premium in midtown. This is Bryant Park just behind the Central Library. We were looking for a relatively small building which we had spotted from the Empire State Building and had all taken a fancy to. From ground level we couldn’t agree which building we had been admiring.
We’d bought a week’s pass on the Metro and used it a lot. It could be confusing at times, but was generally very convenient.
I often felt that everywhere we visited had a song associated with it. I got particularly excited about 110th Street, although if I’d remembered more than just the chorus of the Bobby Womack classic I might have been less keen to visit. Apparently, 110th street was traditionally the boundary of Harlem, and the song is about surviving in the ghetto. Today it seemed very leafy and unthreatening.
The station is at the northwest corner of Central Park. We walked diagonally across the park to catch the Metro again on East 60th Street, which given how hot it was, was quite a hike.
The Mall has statues of William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns – why no American writers?
Eating out in New York was expensive. Actually, eating in in New York was expensive. Well, everything in New York was expensive. But, we found a fairly reasonable place called the Tick Tock Diner and I discovered the delights of a Cobb Salad. Very tasty.
One way to save money as a tourist in Manhattan is to invest in a City Pass. It gives you entrance to a number of attractions and whilst it isn’t cheap, it does save a lot compared to buying individual tickets. We thought it was good value. As a bonus, a City Pass entitles you to a second, night time, ascent of the Empire State building.
Again, the views were stunning. Sadly, my phone seemed to be overwhelmed by the lights and the many, many pictures I took haven’t come out very satisfactorily. Still, quite an experience.
So we arrived somewhere very different to Lambert’s Meadow. A complete contrast. A busy city, with constant traffic, and bipping hooters and the ever present noise of construction. A city, you might say, which never sleeps. A city which, let’s be frank, pongs a bit, though they don’t mention that in the songs.
The flight had been okay, I’d intended sleeping, but watched lots of films instead. The landing was of the kind which elicits a spontaneous round of applause from the passengers; which I’ve never understood; a smooth landing usually seems to generate no response at all; but if, for example, the plane thumps down and then immediately bounces high, the kind of thing which scares the living daylights out of this traveller at least, then the terrified passengers burst into an ovation the instant it turns out we aren’t all about to die. Thanks Mr Pilot for not f***ing up!
I’m not the most enthusiastic flier, can you tell?
Customs/immigration took a while. Would the equipment scan my finger-print through the bandaging? Yes it would, it turns out. The Air-train to Jamaica was fine. The subway from there was good too, but we got confused when we had to change trains. I got better with the underground, as time went on, but even on our last day was still making mistakes, I should have left that kind of things to Little S who seemed to be much more capable of interpreting the instructions his phone gave him.
We probably got out at the wrong station. We certainly ended up wandering around in what felt like circles. But we got there in the end. Actually, I loved the grid system and was much happier on foot, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Our Hotel was The Hotel @ Times Square, and, perhaps fortunately, wasn’t actually on Times Square, but was in Little Brazil, on West 46th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Pretty close to Times Square though, so we popped out for cheap pizza (And cheap food in New York seems to be as rare as hen’s teeth) and a bit of a gander at Times Square and it’s attendant crowds.
“It’s just a load of brightly lit, animated, advertising hoardings,” is the kind of belittling understatement B might have used at the time, but didn’t.
I’ll leave it there I think, after that mammoth Lambert’s Meadow odyssey I think I’ll try to keep these New York State holiday posts as brief as I can, it might make the whole thing a little more manageable.
We were at home for a few days before heading off for our big summer trip. I guess we must have been busy, I didn’t get out much, but when the sun shone I did have a wander to Lambert’s Meadow, to see what I could see. Our trip, which I’ll hopefully get to soon, was to the USA. I didn’t take my camera, but I did take a ridiculous number of photos on my phone, so there’s a lengthy selection process ahead.
The photos from this short local wander can be a bit of a dress rehearsal then; I took three hundred, a nice round number, and about par for the course when I spend a bit of time at Lambert’s Meadow.
Of course, there’s a great deal of repetition; my first eleven shots that day were all of Migrant Hawkers; there were several on and around a thicket of brambles where I entered Burtonwell Wood from Silverdale Green. An easy decision in this case, just to crop the most likely looking pictures and then chose my favourite.
On the other hand, this Common Carder bee, on the same set of unripe blackberries, only posed for a single photo.
When I look at the photos which have come up to scratch, although I took quite a lot of photos of bumblebees, of various species, there’s a preponderance of Common Carder bees amongst the ones I’ve chosen. Admittedly, I am a bit biased in favour of Common Carders, for two reasons; firstly their lovely ginger colour, and then the fact that they are relatively easy to distinguish from other common species; but I think that there may be a bit more to it than that; I seem to have more luck getting sharpish images of Common Carders than of other bumblebees; I’m beginning to think that they may linger that little bit longer on flowers than other species.
The single shot I took of the disappearing rump of a Roe Deer in the woods was a bit disappointing, and so is not here, partly because I get much better opportunities to photograph deer in our garden. This tiny spider feasting on a fly, on the other hand, is included because I rarely manage to catch spiders with their prey, even though it was taken in the shade and isn’t especially sharp.
I’ve decided to keep the photos largely chronological, and not to group them thematically, and, for instance, put all of the hoverflies together, something I have done on occasion with previous similar posts.
This particular hoverfly might be Helophilus pendulus. Sometimes called ‘the Footballer’ apparently, because of its bold markings. Rather lovely in my opinion. However, there are several very similar species, so I could be wrong. Helophilus means ‘marsh-lover’ which would fit well with this location.
I did put these two snails together, the better to compare and contrast their shells…
This first is definitely a Garden Snail, with its dark bands on its shell.
My best guess is that this is a copse snail; they are usually more mottled than this, although they do seem to be quite variable.
There were lots and lots of butterflies about, which was rather wonderful, although at first I thought none of them would alight long enough for me to get any decent photos. However, if you hang around long enough, your chance eventually comes.
This photo gets in because of the photo-bombing bug. I think the bug might be a Potato Capsid, but my confidence is even lower than usual.
There were lots of dragonflies about too, but they were mostly airborne, and surprisingly difficult to spot when they landed.
With a bit of lazy internet research, I’ve unearthed two different ‘common’ names for these odd looking flies: Ferrugineus Bee-grabber and Thick-headed Fly. The photo in my Field Guide shows a mating pair and this pair, although they moved around the mint flower a lot, didn’t seem likely to be put-off. In fact when I wandered back around the meadow I spotted a pair, probably the same pair, still mating in much the same spot. The adults feed on nectar, but the larvae are endoparasites, over-wintering and pupating inside Bumblebees.
Ferruginous means either: ‘containing iron oxides or rust’, or ‘reddish brown, rust-coloured’; which seems appropriate. I’m guessing that ferrugineus is the latin spelling.
You’ll notice that a lot of the insects are on Mint flowers. Earlier in the year it would have been Marsh Thistles.
My best guess is that these are Drone-flies. They are excellent Honey bee mimics, but, as far as I know, don’t harm bees in any way, so good for them. More lazy research turned up this titbit:
“Recent research shows that the Drone-fly does not only mimic the Honeybee in look, but also in the way that it moves about, following the same flight patterns.”
I haven’t counted, but I’d be willing to bet that I took more photos of Meadow Browns than of anything else. There were a lot about. I resolved not to take any more photos of what is, after all, a very common and slightly dull species, at which point the local Meadow Brown community seemed to agree that they would disport themselves in front of my lens at every opportunity, in a ‘you know you want to’ sort of way, and my resolve kept crumbling.
Silver Y moths, on the other hand, seem to stay low in the grass and continually flap their wings, which must be very energy inefficient. Although they breed in the UK, they also migrate here (presumably from mainland Europe).
“The Silver Y migrates to the UK in massive numbers each year – sometimes, an estimated 220 million can reach our shores in spring!”
This damselfly has me a bit confused; it has red eyes, but those beer pump handle markings (my Dragonfly field guide says ‘rockets’ – I think messers Smallshire and Swash need to get out more) suggest the blue-form of the female Common Blue Damselfly, so I’m going for that. This makes me think that I have probably misidentified damselflies in the past. What am I talking about? Of course I’ve misidentified damselflies – I’ve probably misidentified just about everything! All I hope for is that my percentage accuracy is gradually improving – I’ll settle for that.
Like the Silver Y, the Comma is named for a mark on its wings, but it’s on the underside so you can’t see it here.
I took lots of photos of rather distant Commas and then this one landed pretty much at my feet, so close, in fact, that I needed to back up a little to get it in focus.
White butterflies don’t often rest long enough to be photographed. They are also very confusing – this could, to my non-expert-gaze, be a Small White, a female Orange-tip, or a Green-veined White. But the underwings reveal that it is a Green-veined White.
Brambles have a very long flowering season – maybe Pellucid Flies like to branch out when other favoured plants are available.
The sheer variety of Hoverflies is amazing, but also frustrating, because they are so hard to identify. This could be a Drone-fly, but it has dark patches on its wings. I’m edging towards Eristalis horticola but with my usual very low degree of confidence.
This creature led me a merry dance; it was constantly on the move, roving around the leaves and stems of a Guelder Rose bush, then flying off, disappearing from view, only to return seconds later. At first I thought it was a Sawfly, but it was very wasp-waisted so now I’m inclined to think it was an Ichneumon wasp.
Tentatively, it could be a male Ichneumon extensorius which has the bright yellow scutellum, black unbanded antennae and black and yellow legs and body. However, my online source says “hardly any British records exist for this species”, which is a bit off-putting.
Whatever it is, it kept me well-entertained for a few minutes.
Eugh! A slug! But even this slug, which was on an Angelica stem, has a rather striking striped rim to its foot.
When I spotted this creature, on a Figwort leaf, at first I thought I was seeing another of the yellow and black creatures I had seen before. It has a yellow scutellum, and substantially yellow legs. But – the antennae are orange, it lacks the narrow waist, and its abdomen is heavily striped. It was much more obliging than the previous creature, both in terms of posing for photos and in terms of being readily identified. It turns out this is a Figwort Sawfly.
“The larvae feed on Figwort plants and are usually seen in August and September. The adults are carnivores mainly, hunting small flies and other insects.”
Hmmmm – usually seen in August and September – I think I need to go and have a look at some Figworts.
Incidentally, I was hoping I would see some Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonflies, and usually look out for them in an area of tall plants – Great Willow-herb and Figwort – by the path which crosses the meadow. I didn’t see any, but in looking I noticed that the generally tall Figwort plants were much shorter and less numerous than usual. I suspect they were suffering due to our unusually hot and dry summer.
Blimey – I made it to the end! Well done if you did too. If my holiday posts take this long to put together, I will never catch up!
The last of my Llyn Peninsula posts, for this year at least, and of course it’s about an ascent of Carn Fadryn, or as we know it, Birthday Hill. This year, it actually happened on Little S’s birthday. I know that he would perhaps like to spend his birthday with his school friends, but when we are in Wales, he’s too polite to say so and is happy to humour me and say that a walk up Carn Fadryn and then an afternoon on the beach is his idea of a perfect birthday, knowing that it is my idea of a perfect birthday.
Long-suffering readers will know that I am always fascinated by the spiders which make labyrinthine webs in the gorse on Carn Fadryn. Looking at a distribution map – I seem to have become a bit obsessed with them of late – I find that these spiders are widespread across the south of England but absent from Scotland and very patchy in Wales and the North of England. However, it looks like on of the few places they are found in the North is close to home, as far as I can tell from a map of the whole country. I’ve never seen them – perhaps the gorse on Farleton Fell would be a place to try?
What’s actually going on here is a conversation about the best route up Garn Bach, Carn Fadryn’s smaller neighbour, which we were planning to include, for a change, in our route.
It’s a very short walk up the hill, leaving plenty of time to munch on bilberries, sit and have a natter, make a brew, and enjoy the expansive views.
I was fascinated by the line of rocky little knolls extending roughly southwards towards the coast…
I’ve never ventured up any of those little hills. One for the future. Like Carn Fadryn, Carn Seathon is shown on the map as the site of a fort, so doubly worth a look.
AYW is a gardener and, from time to time, will ask me about the wild plants we pass. Here she’s waiting to point out the plant which ‘looks like sage’ and, which, for that reason, is called Wood Sage.
And so, home again, to unpack, get everything washed and then packed again ready for the off…
There must have been some hint of promise in the skies to tempt us away from the campsite and the shelter of the tents. The moment we got out of the cars, of course, it started to rain. I’m not sure why Andy isn’t wearing a coat here, but I think his grimace neatly summarises the nastiness of the wind-driven drizzle. Is it possible to have heavy drizzle? The sort of rain which seems light, but which quickly has you soaked?
TBH and Little S weren’t wearing coats because they had neglected to bring one with them. They jumped back into our car and sped off, returning later, when coats weren’t necessary, with coats, for the return leg of the walk. As Andy frequently says: ‘School boy error’.
Mynydd Carreg is a modest little hill of around 90 metres in height. I’m puzzled as to why it has such a substantial and solid shelter on the top, but can’t find anything helpful regarding its history online.
It seems extraordinary that in all the years we’ve been travelling to the Llyn, I’ve never been to Porth Oer (also known as Whistling Sands) before. It’s not very far from where we camp, so no excuses really.
There were a couple of hardy, wet-suited surfers in the sea. Once you’re in, of course, the rain doesn’t make much difference, but I would rather not get changed in the rain, either before or after. I do recall going into very wild seas once, at Harlech, many years ago, with some of the present company, possibly in cagoules? Or did we put those on to keep the rain off afterwards as we changed? Andy might remember, but whichever it was, it was an exhilarating, but possibly ill-advised, dip.
We checked out the little cafe on the beach, but it was very busy, so we walked to the far end of the beach for a brew and snacks. I thought it had stopped raining by the time we’d reached the rocks at the end of the beach, so I’m surprised to see that the Eternal Weather Optimist still has his hood up in the photo below, especially given that the rain stops for him at least an hour before it stops for ordinary mortals. He was one of the hardy souls (idiots) involved in the Harlech ‘swim’.
After the brews, we walked a little way further along the coastal path before turning back to retrace our route.
Because Wild Carrot is abundant in the Dordogne, I tend to associate it with that area and am always cheered, for that reason, to see it elsewhere. Actually, distribution maps show it growing in the North-West of England, and since it thrives in calcareous grasslands, I ought to be able to locate some close to home. Must try harder!
Fortuitously, we arrived back at the western end of the beach, just as TBH and Little S also arrived, back from retrieving their cags from the campsite. They joined us on a lower path around the coast, just above the rocky shoreline, before a steep climb through the bracken to regain our outward route.
Someday I’m going to come back and walk the coastal path around the peninsula. At a leisurely pace, with frequent stops for swims in places like Porth Oer and Hell’s Mouth where I’ve visited, but never swum. I wonder who’ll come with me?
Many people, I know, look for novelty in their holiday destinations, fresh experiences, new kicks. I’m not immune to the pleasures of variety, but I do think it’s essential to have some regular fixtures through the year to look forward to. One of the principal milestones in our year is our annual camping trip, with a host of old friends, to Towyn Farm near Tudweiliog on the north coast of the Llyn peninsula .
This year we went for a few days. The weather over the weekend, particularly on the Saturday, was pretty poor. We still got down to the beach eventually, on both days, although these photos are from the Sunday, when it did brighten up for a while at least.
I often find myself, when writing-up our Towyn trip, bemoaning the fact that I haven’t taken any photos of the principal joys of the holiday, so this year I made more of an effort. I still somehow managed to miss the beach cricket and the kite-flying, and shamefully my photos only feature some of the friends who were with us, probably because some only joined us for the weekend, when the weather was poor. I think at its peak our group stretched to thirteen. I could be wrong, I ran out of fingers to count on. I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone, that would be awful.
The Kubb game seen above was Old Gits versus Young ‘Uns. The OGs won eventually (skill will out), but the most memorable aspect of the game was Andy’s adoption of a series of bizarre mascots – shells, stones, and clumps of seaweed were all enlisted to offer us moral support. The DBs seem to be doing their Stan Laurel impressions, I’m not sure why. The third player in the youth team is A. Not our daughter A, but B’s girlfriend A, who inconveniently shares a name with his sister. Our A was off in Massachusetts working at a holiday camp, dodging bears and thunderstorms and making lots of friends. Although actually, at that time I think she was isolating with Covid.
We usually do a fair bit of snorkelling from the beach at Towyn. This year I only went out once, at the end of the trip, and by then the choppy seas were full of seaweed and sand and it was impossible to see much of anything. I should have tried sooner, but was trying to keep a dressing dry. Usually, it’s the DBs who manage to injure themselves and require a trip to A&E, but this summer it was me: I dropped our detachable towbar on my finger, which made a bit of a mess. It’s recovering slowly, but even six weeks later is still swollen and sore. With one index finger out of action, my typing capacity is down by fifty percent!
As ever, sitting around and nattering was a big part of the trip. You can see how warm is was from TBFs swaddling of duvet and blankets.
My Dad likes to offload surplus camping gear on to me, and, during one of my recent trips to Lincoln, had given me this very handy box BBQ, which, despite folding down very small, doubled up as an effective fire-pit. Thanks Dad!
You might think that Little S has his hood up to keep his ears warm, but more than likely he was hiding his haircut. Just before we went away, he’d been to a Turkish barbers and his description of the haircut he wanted must have been lost in translation, resulting in a classic pudding bowl trim. He looked like he’d been auditioning for a part in a new series of Brother Cadfael, or for Jim Carrey’s stunt-double in Dumb and Dumber, or maybe for the part of Moe Howard in a remake of the Three Stooges.
We did get out on a couple of short walks (posts to follow, obviously) but the scenery around the camp-site is not too shabby.
The sunsets weren’t as spectacular as they occasionally have been in the past, but it’s still always nice to have a wander to the clifftops, or down to the beach to watch the sun dip into the Irish Sea.
My last day of term. The weather had turned hot again. I had an early finish, and had been contemplating getting out for a swim again. Then I got a call from the boys’ school to say that Little S was not feeling well, so picked him up and changed my plan. However, when B got home, he asked if I could take him and some others to Windermere, where a group of friends was gathering for a swim. I decided that if I was going to drive up to the Lakes, I might as well make the most of it.
First of all, I returned to a large deep pool in the Brathay a short walk upstream from Skelwith bridge. I swam quite a way upstream to the point where my gear, on the bank, was going out of sight, and then back again.
There were lots of dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies and, to my delight, demoiselles about. I persisted in trying to take photos with my phone, although I could see that the results were blatantly useless.
The river bank flowers were more cooperative in keeping still to be photographed.
Sneezewort and Yarrow are closely related, you can see the family resemblance can’t you?
Last time I swam in the Brathay, I then walked over into Little Langdale and swam in the Brathay again, just downstream from where it flows out of Little Langdale Tarn. Then, I’d bypassed Elter Water because the water seemed shallow and looked weed choked. I might have done the same again this time, but I overheard a man in a wetsuit saying that if you could get beyond the weeds it was well worth it.
You can see the final line of weeds in the photo below…
Out to those weeds, the water was only about knee deep, but with probably several feet of soft, sinky silt below that. I managed to get out by lying in the water and using my hands in the weeds below to drag myself along. Stirring up the silt released some noxious smells. It wasn’t a great deal of fun. Then suddenly the temperature of the water dropped considerably and the water was much, much deeper. I swam most of the way to those trees you can see on the far side, enjoying the view and the lack of weeds. I shared the lake with a lone paddle boarder. Sadly, I had to repeat the process of dragging myself through the shallow, weed-filled, silty shallows before I could get out again.
It had been warm, but overcast, but as I was drying myself on the riverbank, the sun came out again. Perfect timing.
I had half-planned to fit in a third swim in Loughrigg Tarn, but I didn’t really have time, and anyway, my second swim had been quite long and I had had enough. Another time.
Time now to look forward to other swims a little further from home.