Beautiful Demoiselle Flies and Great Green Bush-cricket.

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Beautiful Demoiselle, male.

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Beautiful Demoiselle, female.

This stunning damselfly is a British species, but isn’t generally found as far North as Silverdale and is new to me. It likes gravel-bottomed rivers and was abundant in both places where we stayed in France. They were everywhere and would land on your head when you were in the water.

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I think that this is a Great Green Bush-cricket. Here seen on one of our plates. Again, Great Green Bush-crickets can be found in the UK, but not in our area and I don’t think I’ve seen one before – or any grasshopper or cricket anything like as large as this in England. This one is a female with a long, curving ovipositor, used to lay eggs into light, sandy soils apparently. B found her in our tent one morning. She’s missing a leg and we feared for her continued existence but, having put her onto a nearby tree trunk, found her back in our tent again the next morning, or another female, one-legged Great Green Bush-cricket, which seems unlikely.

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Beautiful Demoiselle Flies and Great Green Bush-cricket.

Three Weeks Under Canvas: Camping Maisonneuve.

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So – you’re on a peninsula in the extreme north-west of Wales, where do you go from there? Southern France of course! I’m glossing over the epic journey, the overnight camp in Kent, the ineptitude of Eurotunnel and the one a.m. arrival at Camping Maisonneuve. Suffice to say, it was a very long way.

The campsite was Andy’s find (as was all the planning for the trip*), and what a good find it was. Situated near the village of Castelnaud-la-Chappelle, on the banks of the River Céou, a tributary of the Dordogne, it had a heated swimming pool, but we were all much more taken with the pool in the river itself. And with the diving platform by that pool…

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I have lots of photos of various members** of the party jumping in, but I’ve used one of B because he particularly loved jumping, bombing or somersaulting into the water, something he seemed content to do all day long.

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The water was surprisingly cold, much colder, we discovered, than the nearby Dordogne, but even Little S, who suffers particularly in cold water, all skin and bone as he is, coped well with it, probably because it was so warm out of the water. So warm, in fact, that even TBH and our friend J got in on the action. Well, I say ‘action’…

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The heated pool, and the wooded slopes of the Céou valley.

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Our pitch. This must have been early on, it got much more untidy than this: knowing that it probably wasn’t going to rain made it very tempting to leave stuff lying around outside. It did rain overnight, once, during the week that we were there, but otherwise the weather was superb.

I have lots of photographs from our two weeks in France, well over a thousand (don’t worry, I won’t post them all), so I’ve decided, I think, to stick, on the whole, to short(ish) posts, with just a few photos in each.

*Planning and organising stuff is another one of his strong suits and this trip was researched and planned impeccably. All went very smoothly, despite our best efforts to misread, misinterpret or otherwise not follow his careful instructions. Cheers Andy!

**Of the seventeen who put in an appearance in Wales, twelve continued to France. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll see some familiar faces in the posts which follow. Unlike our annual gathering in Wales, this is not a long-standing tradition, but a new venture, although, if you go back far enough, some of us us have made summer trips down to the Alps together before, long before any of the kids were born.

Three Weeks Under Canvas: Camping Maisonneuve.

Orographic Fog Sunset Carn Fadryn.

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At some point this summer, when I’ve been watching a sunset from a high vantage point, it occurred to me that in all the years we’ve been climbing Carn Fadryn and enjoying the Llyn Peninsula’s fabulous sunsets, we’ve never thought to combine the two. So I arrived in North Wales with an ambition. When I suggested it to Andy, his response made me think that he had perhaps been thinking exactly the same thing. Most of the rest of our party were keen too.

We chose an evening for our climb, but on the day, the weather didn’t seem too promising. For much of the day, Carn Fadryn had been completely obscured by cloud. Then the cloud began to lift, but a persistent cap of cloud hid the top part of the hill. Briefly Carn Fadryn cleared completely, giving us a degree of hope, but by the time we set-off the cloud had once more enveloped almost all of the hill and we climbed in dense, wet mist…

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I suppose we might have abandoned our idea, but it’s a short climb and this walk, up Little S’s ‘Birthday Hill’, is a fixture of our holidays. He wouldn’t forgive us if we didn’t climb it at some point, although this was still a few days before his actual birthday.

As we approached the summit however, something in the light seemed to promise more than we could have anticipated…

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Maybe the cloud would clear…

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But it was a bit more complicated than that. I’m not sure whether I’ve ever wondered before about how, on a windy day, a hill can retain a permanent cap of cloud. In fact, that isn’t what was happening at all. The wind was driving moist air from over the sea and as that air hit the slopes of Carn Fadryn it was forced to rise – called, apparently, orographic lift – and cooled down in the process, causing moisture to condensate out and hence forming clouds. Those clouds were almost immediately dispersed by the wind, but were soon replaced by new clouds formed by the wind following on behind.

The effect, from our point of view, was of sudden clearing and disappearing views. The next three photos, taken in quick succession, give some idea of what we could see.

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I’ve enthused many times before about the wonderful views from Carn Fadryn; on this occasion we only had brief and partial views, but it was completely exhilarating.

Whilst it wasn’t raining, it might as well have been: the air was so damp that we soon realised that we were soaked.

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We couldn’t see the sun, a high blanket of cloud was hiding it, but we could see a line of light reflected in the sea, a sort of secondhand sunset.

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It was cold. The kids had sort-out shelter on the leeward side of the summit rocks and were agitating for a beginning to our descent. Inappropriately clothed in just t-shirt and shorts, I could see their point of view and eventually, reluctantly, joined them on the path back towards the cars. Only the Adopted Yorkshire Man and the Shandy Sherpa stayed on the summit, but as I walked away I heard more whoops of excitement from behind me.

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The sun had dropped below the high cloud and was suffusing the fog with colour.

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TBF and I turned back for the top, so that we could watch the show…

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It was all too brief, the sun soon dropping behind another band of cloud…

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But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it before.

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It wasn’t the warm, peaceful sunset viewing I had envisaged, but probably all the more memorable for that.

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Post sunset sky from the camp-site later.

Orographic Fog Sunset Carn Fadryn.

Three Weeks Under Canvas: Kubb at Towyn Farm

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So, as the title implies, we’re recently back from three weeks of camping. The late-evening photo above shows our trusty Conway Countryman trailer tent, with Carn Fadryn in the background. Long-suffering readers will know that this was the thirteen annual get together at Towyn Farm near the village of Tudweiliog on the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula (although, only our twelfth, because we skipped 2009 to go to Germany for my aunt’s birthday instead.)

This year we were a party of 17, at least when everybody was there. Different members of the group arrived and left at various times, some only there for the weekend, others staying for longer. We were late, the boys and I arriving early on the Sunday after an early-hours start. We should have been there on the Saturday, but muppetry on my part, including not being able to locate the pump for the tap (it was in the sink) and not remembering, until B reminded me as we were about set-off, that the number plate on the trailer needed to match the ones on our new (to us) car. TBH and A arrived later still, on the train, having stayed behind because A had her DofE Bronze expedition that weekend.

Anyway, once we were safely pitched up, we had the usual marvellous time. The mornings were often misty and damp, but the weather always improved by the afternoon and we spent our afternoons on the beach. In fact, we settled into a rhythm of a late and leisurely breakfast, a late lunch and a very late evening meal, usually followed by one final visit to the beach, in the gloaming, and a late retirement to bed. I’m not sure whether the prevailing weather dictated our behaviour or if it just fit in conveniently with our lazy inclinations.

After so many visits, we have a routine for the beach too, alternating swimming with games of tennis, cricket and some frisby throwing. I don’t have any photos, because I don’t like to take my camera to the beach. After all of the fresh water swimming we had been doing, the temperature of the Irish Sea came as something of a shock – it was freezing. But that didn’t prevent some of the kids from spending hours in there.

The game of Kubb has become part of our regular routine too. My brother bought us a set several years ago, and it has to be one of the best presents ever (and he excels at presents). I’ve never seen anyone else playing it and our games always seem to attract attention and questions wherever and whenever we play. (As does Andy’s enormous space-age trailer-tent).

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It’s a good game for parties like ours, since up to twelve can play, in two teams. Essentially it involves knocking down wooden blocks by throwing wooden batons at them, which makes it sound rather dull, but it isn’t at all. When we play, it also involves a great deal of barracking, banter, gamesmanship and accusations of cheating and, in the case of the game in these photos, a fair deal of hubris too. The team on the right here, who had, in fairness, won once already, had been ahead in this game too, but are now on the point of losing.

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You can find the rules here. Andy will be disappointed to find that ‘kubbs that right themselves due to the momentum of the impact are considered knocked down’ since that happened to him and, despite his quite correct insistence, we overruled him and let the offending kubb stay upright. Disappointed is probably the wrong word. Disgruntled, unsettled, indignant, might all be closer. Indignation is one of his strong suits, though, in truth, his bark is much worse than his bite. Once he knows the truth, we will never hear the end of it, that’s for sure.

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During one of our late trips to the beach, I think on the same evening that I took this photo, we saw several seals popping above the surface briefly to watch us, watching them. I’ve seen seals along this coast before, but usually early in the mornings, and not by this relatively busy stretch of beach.

Three Weeks Under Canvas: Kubb at Towyn Farm

Parched

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Sitting here, now that normal service has been resumed, watching the rain beyond the window, the long, hot dry spell from earlier in the summer seems almost like a vague memory of a dream or a summer from long ago.

Just to prove that it really did happen, here are a hodge-podge of photos from several evening outings in July. The photo above, from Arnside Knott, was taken on an evening when we completed this year’s Limestone Grassland Survey of Redhill Pasture. It’s a good thing that we had the experience of last year to call on, because in the dry conditions, many plants had finished flowering and were almost desiccated and so very difficult to identify.

On still summer evenings, you can usually spot hot air balloons in this area. These days they all seem to be red and bear the logo of a well-known ‘fingers-in-every-pie’ corporation. (‘Jack-of-all-trades, master of none’?)

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Whilst we were away, I discovered, or I think, probably, was reminded, that the French name for a hot-air balloon is montgolfière, which I thought was rather charming. Subsequently, it has occurred to me that, we’ve missed a trick here in Britain by not insisting that televisions be called Logie-Bairds and  jet engines Whittles and computers Babbages or Turings and hovercrafts Cockerells and….well, you can think of your own examples and post them here on the Berners-Lee Web.

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Anyway, I digress. The Lots were looking particularly desert like. I found it interesting that tiny hollows retained their greenness – because more dew collected in them, I wonder? The hot weather and a series of fairly low high-tides had combined to make the mud of the Bay unusually firm and dry and the kids, well B in particular, were keen to drag us all down there to play cricket or throw a ball or a frisbee* around.

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The only downside of that was the smell – not overpowering, but not very pleasant. But a fairly powerful aroma pervaded almost everywhere. A friend suggested to me that it was the smell of decay, which seems reasonable: the woodland floor was carpeted with brown leaves as if autumn had come early and the scent was particularly strong there.

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The ditch which runs through Lambert’s meadow had dried up completely, and Bank Well too was rapidly drying out.

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Even now, when the weather has broken, I was told yesterday that the water in Hawes Water is a couple of feet below it’s usual level.

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Branched Burr-reed again.

Finally, a puzzle…

 

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…these flowers grow in the soggy margins of Bank Well and I can’t find them in my field guides. Anyone have any ideas?

*Frisbee – disappointingly, not the name of an inventor, but taken, apparently, from The Frisbie Pie Company, whose pie-tins were used as improvised flying-discs by Yale students in the 1950s.

Parched

Foulshaw Moss Again

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Figwort.

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Wasp on Figwort.

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Green-veined White on Tufted Vetch.

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Green-veined White on Bramble.

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Large Skipper on Tufted Vetch.

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Large Skipper on Thistle.

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Large Skipper on Bramble.

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Common Carder Bumblebee (I think) on Thistle.

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Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars on Ragwort.

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Foulshaw Moss, with Arnside Knott and Meathop Fell on the skyline.

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Foulshaw Moss, with Whitbarrow Scar behind.

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Great Spotted Woodpecker, adult, female I think.

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Great Spotted Woodpecker, juvenile.

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Black Darter, female.

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Foulshaw Moss.

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Common Lizard.

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A web-tent. I couldn’t see any caterpillars within.

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Scots Pines.

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Reed Bunting, male.

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Marbled Orb Weaver Spider (perhaps).

These photos were taken just over a month ago on an evening visit to Foulshaw Moss whilst A was at her weekly dancing lessons. Since they were taken, we’ve been away for three weeks, camping in Wales and then France, and this little outing feels like a distant memory.

I have enjoyed looking through them, however, and trying to put names to things I recorded. Not here are the many small birds which tumbled about in the trees, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Linnets and Chaffinches. Also missing are the crickets and/or grasshoppers which I saw, but failed to photograph and the Ospreys, Adders and Large Heath Butterflies which I hope to see when I visit, but which have always eluded me so far.

The Black Darter, Britain’s smallest species of Dragonfly, is new to me, so that should probably be the highlight, but it was the adult Great Spotted Woodpecker, which I heard first and then picked out in flight, flying, unusually, towards me rather than away and landing at the top of a dead Birch relatively nearby, which will stick in my mind. Also, the hordes of Wasps feeding on Figwort flowers, reminding me of my observation last year that the flowers and the Wasps seem to have coevolved so that a Wasp’s head is a perfect fit for a Figwort flower.

 

Foulshaw Moss Again

The Calf from Howgill

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Holy Trinity Church Howgill.

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I was surprised by the plain white interior – English churches are usually so austere that they don’t stretch to plaster or paint. It was only built in 1839, but a board inside suggests that there’s been a chapel here for much longer…

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Subsequent, lazy internet research suggests that this house…

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…on the far side of Chapel Beck, was once itself the chapel.

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I was intrigued by this bike, which was propped up by the church; it looked to be in working order, but the saddle, whilst it has springs, has no cover.

This was the evening after my Langdale swimming excursion. The forecast had been once again good, but in actuality there was a good deal more cloud about. In fact, as I drove along the M6 towards the Howgill Fells I was a bit taken aback to see that the sky behind them was absolutely black – it looked as though an almighty thunderstorm was on the way and I didn’t even have a coat with me. Fortunately, by the time I’d parked in the tiny hamlet of Howgill, the skies had cleared considerably.

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The Howgill Fells.

If you look at the map of my route at the bottom you’ll notice an apparent loop at one point, which is where I made a navigational error. I crossed the parched field above when I shouldn’t have, leading me to a gate with a sign on its far side saying ‘Private No Access’. This wouldn’t have been so terrible if I hadn’t been attracting the attentions of a particularly persistent Buzzard. The first time I was strafed by an angry Buzzard was in 2010, so I managed 44 years without ever upsetting any Buzzards, but these days I almost expect to be harassed by them when I’m out, it happens so often. I’m beginning to feel paranoid about it. This one adopted different tactics to any of the others – swooping toward me several times in three separate places, and after the first relatively mild shot across the bows, which was preceded by a few warning kew, kews, it came silently and, on one occasion, from behind. The last time, I could see it way across the valley…

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…and then watched it come back on a bee-line straight towards me, at eye-level, which was a bit disconcerting. I suppose the fact that this has happened several times without any injuries on my part should be reassuring, but, in the moment, that didn’t occur to me, and I took to my heels, which I’m sure was all very amusing for anyone who saw me from the nearby farmhouse of Castley.

Anyway, this…

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…is the path I should have been on.

This…

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…is where Bram Rigg Beck and Swarth Greaves Beck flow into Chapel Beck which ultimately flows into The Lune. Chapel Beck is also fed by Calf Beck, Long Rigg Beck, Stranger Gill, Crooked Ashmere Gills and Long Rigg Gill all of which ultimately feed the Lune. You can perhaps tell from the photo that I was quite a way above Chapel Beck, but sadly the path forsook all of that hard-earned height and dropped down to cross the stream, and, even more sadly, I went with it….

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…to climb White Fell, that long shoulder stretching away on the right of the photo.

It was a long, hot and sticky climb, enlivened by more views of a Buzzard, who, this time, was more interested in hunting prey than in persecuting me.

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Arant Haw. The right hand ridge is my descent route.

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Looking back down my ascent route to the Lune valley from near the top.

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Bram Rigg and Arrant Haw pano.

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Calf Top.

The small tarn close to the summit of Calf Top was completely dried out.

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Looking back to Calf Top from Bram Rigg Top.

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The Three Peaks from Calders.

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Arant Haw from Calders. Black Combe on the right-hand horizon, Arnside Knott and the Kent Estuary in the centre. The lake in the distance is Killington Lake.

Clouds massed again and it got a bit gloomy, but the Lakeland Fells, although quite distant, seemed very sharp and individual hills, like the Langdale Pikes and the Scafells and Great Gable, stood out clearly…

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The Eastern Fells are not quite so distinctive…

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It was getting quite late now, but the sun had dropped below the level of the cloud and the views from Arant Haws and, better yet, from the ridge off Arant Haws were stunning.

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Tebay Gorge and Howgill Fells.

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Howgill Fells.

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Arant Haw.

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Lune Valley, Morecambe Bay, Arnside Knott, Kent Estuary, Killington Lake, Black Combe.

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Tebay Gorge.

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Nine miles (ish) and a fair bit of up and down, Not bad for a Thursday evening.

The Calf from Howgill