Around Orain

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Our annual Highland gathering, transferred this year to a new venue – The Bridge of Orchy Hotel. On the Saturday, the party split into several smaller groups. I joined the posse heading for the ridges just behind the hotel: a round of Coir’ Orain taking in Beinn Inverveigh and Meall Tairbh.

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It was one of those sort of days when I took a few photos before we entered the cloud.

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One at the highest point…

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Meall Tairbh (665m).

…possibly; there was some dispute at the time.

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And then a few more photos after we had emerged from the clouds.

The weather wasn’t great, but we’ve had much worse. It snowed a bit, at times, but at least it didn’t rain, so it was a round of Orain, rather than a round in the rain.

This lukewarm, lack lustre description, perhaps makes it sound as if I didn’t enjoy the day. But I did. Enormously so, in fact. Partly because of the excellent company, but mostly because, when all’s said and done, wandering around  a soggy hillside in the mist and the snow is my idea of fun. I like it. Admittedly, I don’t always think I will in advance, and it’s proving difficult to think of anything exciting to say about it in retrospect. However, round the day off with a very fine steak and some inconsequential chatter with your oldest friends and you have a recipe for contentment, in my view at least.

No hill-day is complete without some element of list-ticking. Meall Tairbh, whilst not high enough to be a Munro, or a Corbett, is, apparently, both a Marilyn and a Graham, probably a Hump, not a Donald, but maybe a Trump. I’ve added it to my personal list of Hills to Revisit when the Weather is Kinder.

As usual, the weekend was organised (very well), booked (at a discount), and generally only took place because of all-round good-egg, Andy, who’s account of this walk you can read here.

 

 

 

 

 

Around Orain

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Clark’s Lot – Hollin’s Lane – Slackwood Lane – Leighton Moss – Trowbarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood

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In like a lion, they say of March, but if I remember right, this had been a very pleasant day, although sadly, a Wednesday spent at work. I had the idea that I would get out and catch some sunshine, but, as you can see from the photo above, by the time I reached Clark’s Lot, only a few minutes from home, the sun was already sinking behind the trees.

Slightly blurred photos of Long-Tailed Tits have become an irregular feature of this blog. Here is another example of the genre…

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Generally, the problem is their propensity to flit about relentlessly, but this was a remarkably relaxed Long-Tailed Tit content to sit still whilst I took three photos. Sadly, the auto-focus trained in perfectly on the branches just in front of the Bumbarrel. Even when the tit moved on, it rested in new positions, allowing me to take more photos, but in high branches, silhouetted against the sky, it came out very dark. It was obviously some kind of Zen Long-Tailed Tit however.

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Down at Leighton Moss the Starlings were gathering for the roost, which isn’t the massive affair of earlier in the winter, but still worth watching.

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On the Sunday before, I’d been out for a walk in unpromising conditions, leaving my camera at home since rain looked so imminent. I hadn’t intended to stay out long, but in the end, had a great walk, on a circular route I don’t think I’ve ever walked before. (Which says a great deal about the wealth of options in this area). At Hawes Water there had been four Cormorants on the trees where I saw one not so long ago. Later it began to rain, but at Leighton Moss I was cheered by an abundance of spring fungi, Scarlet Elf Cup…

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Which was why I wanted to return to Leighton Moss, now that I had my camera with me. Whist I was taking this photo, this Robin…

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…surprised me by practically landing on my shoulder.

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At Trowbarrow there were some climbers still bouldering despite the gathering gloom, and in Eaves Wood, when it was almost dark, I met a couple of dog walkers. I wasn’t the only one thinking that it was good to be out.

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Slightly Blurred

Helvetian Holiday

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Altogether now: “We’re all going on a..”.

No, can’t see that catching on.

Anyway, we were in Switzerland last week. We being me and the kids. TBH was stuck at work, due to Lancashire and Cumbria opting for different half-terms.

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We were staying with my brother, who lives in Wetzikon near Zurich, and skiing with him and my niece and nephew.

On the first three days of our visit we skied at Atzmännig. First on the nursery slopes…

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Which proved to be the perfect place for us to get reacquainted with skiing after several years’ absence.

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Behind A here you can see what we progressed to next….

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A rather steep button lift with a short steepish red run beside it and a much longer, gentler and more enjoyable blue run curling down the hillside and back to the nursery slopes.

I had a bit of an incident on the button lift when the cord on ones of the ‘buttons’ snapped, depositing me on my behind, sliding head-first back down the hill. This made subsequent rides on the lift pretty nerve-wracking. (I should warn you that comments regarding pies, and the identity of the person who ate them all, can be easily deleted.)

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This is from our third day, when we’d moved on to the chair-lift. The views were excellent, but unfortunately the top of the runs here were steep, icy and bare in places and most of the group found them intimidating. We split the party in two, some returning to the more friendly runs, whilst I stayed with the boys who after a tentative first descent, recovered their gung-ho approach and managed to squeeze in several pell-mell runs. (Inevitably perhaps, it was actually me that injured myself in the end, making an error of judgement and coming over a slight rise much too quickly for my moderate skiing ability).

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The boys also relished these small ramps which somebody had built close to the nursery slopes.

With the snow deteriorating at Atzmännig, we decided to venture a little further afield.

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Brunni is around an hour’s drive from my brother’s and feels decidedly more Alpine in character than Atzmännig, which is in the rolling hills of the Zurich Oberland.

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As you can see, I was very taken with this view of the Haggenspitz and the Kleine Mythen.

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This photo…

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..is taken from slightly further downhill and shows the parlous state of this piste, although fortunately, the rest of it was delightful.

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Generally, after skiing, the kids wanted to play video games or watch films. But on this occasion they all settled down to draw together. They were so absorbed in their art, I couldn’t resist a picture.

The following day brought torrential rain, or heavy snow at higher levels. We went to Satis Park, a sort of swimming pool. There was a wave pool, a heated outdoor pool (it was quite surreal, swimming outside as it snowed), a cascade ride and eight different slides. Obviously, the kids loved it. At one point I found myself on a slide on which I should have been seated on a rubber ring, but wasn’t – I fell off at the start. This was OK to begin with, although a bit rough, especially since I was already quite bruised from the skiing. OK that was, until the point where jets of water under the rubber ring drove it up a small slope. Without the rubber ring I didn’t go up the slope. The jets were remarkably effective at removing my trunks however. Fortunately, the slide was in an enclosed tunnel. Sadly, this section, and only this section, was transparent*. I managed to get to my feet, and retrieve my trunks, hopefully not in that order, only to be knocked down when the jets fired again. Eventually I managed to walk up the incline, narrowly avoiding being mown down by another slider, who was probably quite surprised to overtake me in the tunnel. It’s possible that I’m too old for this kind of thing.

Anyway, the fresh snow was most welcome and the next day we returned to Brunni for what would turn out to be our best day of skiing of the trip (but sadly also our last).

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The Kleine Mythen  and the Haggenspitz again.

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The Grosser Mythen.

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The Haggenspitz and the Kleine Mythen. Yet again.

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On out first visit we’d stuck to the two Haggenegg T-bar lifts. This time we took a ride up the cable car to Holzegg, which gave us an opportunity for a closer look at the Grosser Mythen…

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And, after a little exploration of the area around Holzegg, a delightful run back down to the valley through the trees…

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My brother has recently become the proud owner of a 7-seater VW California Beach**. Since there were seven of us, this proved ideal and we travelled in style.

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The views during the drives were superb, especially on the way to and from Brunni. I was also constantly entertained by the huge number of Buzzards and Kites we saw during every journey.

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Zurich See.

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On the Sunday we had a lazy day, before our flight home, although we did manage to fit in a very pleasant stroll around Wetzikon in the sunshine.

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*At least my shorts didn’t disintegrate completely, which is what happened to our old friend Uncle Fester many years ago on one of the slides at the outdoor pool in Chamonix.

** I’m not jealous. Not remotely. Oh no. Not even a little bit.

Helvetian Holiday

Soft as the Earth

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Sunday afternoon’s walk (after B’s rugby match in Preston and a delicious lunch whipped up  by TBH). It was only going to be a short one: a chance to stretch my legs and grab some lungfuls of fresh air. First I had an errand to run, returning a child’s coat which had been left at our house (which made a nice change from retrieving one of our own children’s lost coats from wherever they have left them), so I walked over to Oak Tree Barn to do that. This is on Bottom’s Lane, near Bottom’s Farm and is really part of Bottom’s Barn, a much better name for comedic purposes, and one which I shall steadfastly use henceforth.

Anyway, continuing to walk from there, I noticed that the sun was setting. There are lots of good places locally from which to watch the sunset: Warton Crag, Jack Scout, Arnside Knott and, closer to home, The Cove all fit the bill. But in a field with Hagg Wood to my west didn’t seem like a great choice of vantage point.

I dithered momentarily about where to go next, but in the end decided to cut across to the Row and hence into Eaves Wood. A gateway in Jubilee Wood gave me another slightly obscured view of what looked to possibly be a stunning sunset…

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I climbed slightly to pass through the Ring o’Beeches. The sky to the South had some lovely deep blues offset with a little pink.

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Also the moon…

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But through the trees I could still glimpse some patches of highly coloured sky and so decided to head up to Castlebarrow. I suspected that I would be too late, and would miss the light show.

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Humphrey Head.

Not quite. The tide was in. The Bay was picking up the pastel yellows and oranges from the sky.

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It was enormously peaceful. It was just a shame I didn’t have the wherewithal to make a brew to sit with and enjoy it.

Instead I decided to extend the walk and head down to The Cove and across The Lots.

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It was getting pretty dark by now and Tawny Owls were hooting on every side. In winter, a spring rises at the base of the low cliff here, but aside from the gentle murmur of the water and the calls of the owls, it was still and quiet.

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Magic.

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And the title? Well, this post could have been ‘An Unexpected Bonus’ but I’ve used that title before. In the previous post, I had intended to quote from Auden’s ‘In Praise of Limestone’. But forgot.

I quite like:

‘soft as the earth is mankind’

But it continues …

‘soft as the earth is mankind and both
Need to be altered.’

Which puts an entirely different slant on it. A bit sinister I thought.

So, I’m going to go for:

‘when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.’

 

 

Soft as the Earth

In Praise of Limestone

Castlebarrow – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Gait Barrows – Silverdale Moss – Hazelslack – Beetham Fell – Beetham – Dallam Deer Park – Milnthorpe – River Bela – Sandside Cutting – Kent Estuary – Arnside – Arnside Knott – Heathwaite – Holgates

This could have been ‘A Snowdrop Walk’ but I think I’ve already had at least one of those in the last nine hundred posts (the last one was number 900, I now realise). It might also have been ‘The Ruined Cottages Walk’ since I passed three ramshackle buildings, generally not too far from where the snowdrops were.

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Before I departed, I’d already been for a wander to the Co-op to pick up croissants, rolls and eggs for everybody else’s breakfast. After a second, leisurely cup of tea, I set-off at around ten and was soon at the edge of Eaves Wood, by a substantial patch of snowdrops, donning a coat as it began to first rain and then hail.

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It had been sunny only moments before and I decided to head up to Castlebarrow – not part of my original plan – to get a higher viewpoint. Just short of the top, I disturbed a Buzzard which flapped lazily out of a tall standard left in an area which had otherwise been cleared of trees.

When I reached Castlebarrow and the Pepperpot…

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…it had stopped raining, but it looked like Lancaster was probably getting a hammering.

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The weather seemed idyllic again when I reached Hawes Water.

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Another pair of Buzzards were circling overhead, but by the time I had dug my camera out of my rucksack, they had disappeared behind the trees. I would hear the plaintive kew of Buzzards several more times during the walk, but this was the last time I saw any. Nor did I see the Sparrow-hawk which I saw here last week and forgot to mention in the appropriate post.

Having stopped to look though, I now realised that atop one of the trees down by the reed fringed shore of the lake…

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…perched a Cormorant. I’ve seen them here before and they’re hardly uncommon on the Bay, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised (and delighted) to find one here.

In the woods there was a Nuthatch and a Treecreeper, both too elusive for me and my camera. And of course…

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…more snowdrops.

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Looking back across Hawes Water to Challan Hall. (The Cormorant was still on its high perch).

By the bench on the boardwalks near the lake another walker had stopped for a breather. He had company…

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Although I was heading for Beetham Fell, I didn’t feel any need for urgency and took a detour across the meadow, by the hedge…

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…wondering about the very tall cloud above the Gait Barrows woods, and whether it might be an ill omen, weatherwise…

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I was heading for the Gait Barrows limestone pavements…

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It’s not all that far from there to Silverdale moss, but you can see that in the meantime, the weather had taken another turn for the worse…

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The Cloven Ash.

It was pretty gloomy, but I could pick out a few Greylag, one of them clearly sitting on a nest, also a distant white bird, probably a Little Egret, and what I could identify, with the aid of the camera, as a male Golden Eye.

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I turned to take some photos of these King Alfred’s Cakes on some logs left from the demise of the Cloven Ash and, as I did, it began to hail, soon quite ferociously.

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I pulled my coat back on again, and then turned back to the Moss, because the nesting Greylag was clearly upset about something and was honking vociferously. A Marsh Harrier was quartering the reeds, at one point dropping and spiralling down to a spot very close to the excited goose.

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It was gloomy and chucking it down, so none of my photos came out brilliantly, but it was fantastic to watch.

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Fortunately, the rotten weather didn’t last too long, and soon I was shedding layers for the long climb from Hazelslack to the top of Beetham Fell.

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Arnside Knott, Kent Estuary and Hampsfell from Beetham Fell.

Last Easter, when A and I came through this way on our walk to Keswick, we noticed a huge area of Snowdrop leaves, though the flowers had long since finished. I decided then that I would be back this February to take another look.

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I think that this was the largest single patch, but the Snowdrops extend over quite a large area.

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The climb from the outskirts of Beetham uphill to Dallam Deer Park was hard work because the ground was super-saturated, a bit like your average Highland hillside. I think it was mainly due to the extent that the ground had been trampled by the sheep in the field, because once I crossed the ha-ha wall into the Park the going got much firmer.

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Dallam Deer Park, the River Bela and Milnthorpe.

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Farleton Fell.

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The Deer.

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This unusual building…

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…is a shelter for the deer.

From Milnthorpe I turned to follow the Bela, first across the park and then out to where it meets the Kent on the latter’s estuary.

In the park, a single Canada Goose joined a flotilla of ducks, mostly mallards but with a group of four diving ducks amongst them, the males black and white, the females a dull brown: tufted ducks.

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River Bela and Whitbarrow Scar.

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Greylag Goose.

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A little further along, on the Kent, a group of six small fluffy diving ducks gave me pause. Even with the powerful zoom of the camera I struggled to get decent photos, but I think that these are Dabchicks: Little Grebes.

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I was a little torn here: I had wanted to climb Haverbrack, but I also wanted to include Arnside Knott and didn’t think I had time for both. In the end, I decided to walk along the embankment (an old railway line, a Beeching casualty) which follows the Kent Estuary. The walk was delightful, but a low blanket of cloud was flattening the light so I didn’t take any pictures for a while.

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Silverdale Moss from Arnside Knott. A snow dusted Ingleborough in the background.

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In Praise of Limestone

Residual Light

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A new month. Which started for me with one of those late night conversations in which the world is put thoroughly to rights. I’ve had plenty of those conversations in the past. This one was substantially different than any I’ve been involved in before, because I really felt that two of the three people involved really might change the world in significant ways. I mostly listened, excited and dizzied in equal measure. I realise that this is all rather cryptic and probably seems like hyperbole, but I shall keep my counsel until events have either confirmed or balked my suspicions.

Later that day, I was up unusually early to get into Lancaster for a pre-operative assessment. Nothing major, in fact a procedure I’ve had before, although unfortunately that means that I am well aware of the uncomfortable aftermath of the surgery. Ho-hum.

At lunchtime, I picked up new glasses. My first vari-focals: I am officially old. Suddenly the world has swum back into focus and has unexpected textures and details. Happily, I managed to resist the temptation to tell the lady who sold me my the specs that she was much more wrinkled than I had hitherto realised.

What kind of idiot wears 10 year old specs with a scratched lenses and an out-of-date prescription? This kind of idiot, that’s who! Well, not any more. (Not for another 10 years anyway).

What a good day then to get home early enough to get out whilst the sun was still shining. There are primroses flowering on the bank on Cove Road where they always appear early. Even earlier this year than is usual I think. The sun had sunk behind a bank of western cloud before I reached the Cove, but the residual light was still showing the Bay to pleasing effect.

Inevitably, things change, for good or evil. But the primroses and the sunsets are a reliable constant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Residual Light

Leaf Piercers

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Last week we had a number of cold, clear, sunny days and I enjoyed several strolls around Lancaster at lunch times and once in the late afternoon. On Friday night I managed to get home early enough to set-out for a walk before the last of the light had gone. It was soon dark and, as often happens on my night time wanders, I was listening to several owls from various directions. When one called particularly loudly, seemingly from almost directly overhead, I looked up and there it was, perched on a branch not far above my head. It was a very pale bird, not a Barn Owl, I don’t think, but a male Tawny Owl, judging by the ‘hoo-hoo’ call.

The forecast for Saturday was dreadful, so when the rain unexpectedly stopped and it began to brighten up I was especially pleased to have a good opportunity to walk down to Hawes Water to see whether the Snowdrops had appeared in the woods there.

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One regional, alternative name for Snowdrops is Snow Piercers, but this year they are more Leaf-mould Piercers. At first I was dismayed by the thought that there were less flowers than in previous years, but in fact they are abundant again, but quite well hidden by a low shrub which is also thriving in the same part of the woods, I think maybe Wild Privet, but am far from confident.

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I seem lately to be timing my arrival on the duck-boards by Hawes Water to match sunset.

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Leaf Piercers