September, it turns out, was a very busy month, with some notable highlights, so I have a few more posts to come. But I thought I would mention the poetry festival first. I didn’t take any photos, unfortunately, so I’ve used the opportunity to throw in some other September odds and ends.
Our comedy show in Brooklyn and the Latin band we saw in Saranac Lake stood out as high-spots in our New York holiday and I resolved to make the most of any cultural opportunities which came my way closer to home. So when I saw posts about a poetry festival in Morecambe I bought tickets for both the Friday and Saturday evenings. Given that the line up included Mike Garry, Lemn Sissay, John Cooper Clarke, Henry Normal and Linton Kwesi Johnson, all of whom I’ve seen live before, mostly many years ago when I lived in Manchester, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. They were all brilliant, as was Joelle Taylor, who was new to me. This year’s festival is scheduled for the end of September again and the line-up so far includes Carol Ann Duffy, Roger McGough, Brian Bilston, Jackie Kay and Henry Normal again. Very exciting! I need to buy a ticket.
The festival will once again be based at the Winter Gardens, which I see has just secured a substantial grant for more refurbishment. With that and the Eden Project North and a host of cultural events through the year, things seem to be on the up and up for Morecambe. I lived and worked there for many years and am really chuffed to see it has a potentially rosy future.
Not a September thing, but I think I forgot to mention that in June TBH and I saw Daniel Bye and Boff Whalley at the Duke’s Theatre in Lancaster in their show ‘These Hills are Ours’. You may remember that I was involved with them in a project of the same name a while ago. This show doesn’t relate to that, but is about a madcap scheme to run from Lancaster to Kinder Scout to celebrate the Mass Trespass. Highly recommended.
This film is not of the show, but is about a tour in Devon, during which Dan and Boff ran between venues, in mostly foul weather, and is worth a watch.
August Bank Holiday Monday, the final day of my long, eventful summer break, and TBH was keen to get out and climb a hill. We settled on Blencathra. We were very lucky and managed to find street parking in Threlkeld.
The sun shone intermittently and it was even quite warm for a while. We were heading around the base of the hill, aiming for Sharp Edge, but when we reached Scaley Beck there was a steep little rock step to negotiate, down into the beck and I didn’t like the look of it, so we turned back for Doddick Fell instead.
We’d not climbed far up Doddick Fell when some unforecast drizzle materialised. Just after we’d stopped for lunch!
Doddick Fell turned out to be a marvellous route up Blencathra. I suspect all of the many ridges are worth a look.
The views from Blencathra were superb. What’s-more, it wasn’t busy at all.
We’d had another spell of sunny weather, but, as we started to descend, a band of ominous black clouds swept in from the East.
It was very dramatic and I took no end of photos of Clough Head and the Dodds as the black cloud breezed over them.
We took the Blease Fell path down – one I knew to be easy-angled, pleasant walking.
Last time I was up Blencathra, I was in the cloud the entire time, so this was a very welcome change.
Farleton Fell dominates the view from our kitchen, and from our garden, especially, as here, when it’s catching the sun and everything else is shaded by the clouds. Perhaps that was what prompted TBH and I to head that way for a short walk? Or perhaps not, since we opted for Farleton Fell’s neighbour Hutton Roof. Frankly, it’s hard to recall the decision making process at seven months remove. My own fault I know, for getting so far behind.
I do know that I’m very fond of this path, which climbs through the trees adjacent to a low limestone edge.
I’m also very fond of the views from Hutton Roof, especially the view of Ingleborough. So much so that I took loads of photos in that direction on this occasion, to add to the many I’ve taken on previous visits.
Just a short walk, but one which delivers stupendous views for very little effort. We had bigger plans for the morrow, the last day of my holiday.
Our trip to America was amazing. The Adirondacks is definitely my new ‘happy place’. But coming home to my old ‘happy place’ was great too. Reunited with my camera, where would I go?
Well, initially, no further than the garden. And then not much further – a meander to Lambert’s Meadow, along The Row, past Bank Well to Myer’s Allotment and then back the same way. A very short walk which took quite a while because it was packed with interest. Well, packed with insects at least.
The tractor (and its driver) spent hours, long into the night, circling this field. Doing what? Not ploughing. The grass was removed, but, if anything, the ground seemed to have been compacted. Whatever, the gulls were very taken with the activity and followed the tractor slavishly.
At first I thought this was a Forest Bug, which is superficially quite similar, but I think the stripy antennae are the clincher.
There were lots of grasshoppers about, but they have a habit of springing away just as I get my camera focused.
This garden plant, growing on the verge of The Row, was absolutely mobbed with bees and hoverflies.
I also took photos of the leaves of this plant, and based on those I think it might be Hogweed. Which, I find, is reputedly very good to eat – apparently the seeds are widely used in Iranian cuisine and taste a little like Cardamon. Who knew?
Ever since I read that Willowherb is the food-plant of the Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar, I’ve kept an eye open, hoping to spot another. (Here’s the first.) It’s been many years, but my efforts eventually paid off…
A very large and striking caterpillar. The adult moth is even more imposing. (There’s one at the top of this very old post).
On our return journey from out frisbee golf outing we stopped for ice-creams (Mine was ‘London Fog’, allegedly Earl Grey Tea flavoured, I couldn’t tell, but probably a hangover from Covid wrecking my sense of taste.) and a visit to the Erie Canal Museum and a set of locks on the canal.
Actually, there were two sets of locks, a narrower set which had been rapidly superseded by a much wider set alongside. The large naval vessels we’d seen in Buffalo apparently travelled along this canal from New York, although I couldn’t see how that could be possible.
A fascinating place, but sadly our final outing during our American sojourn.
We drove to the picturesque town of Wilson, on the shore of Lake Ontario, with the promise of amazing cookies. Sadly, the cookie shop was shut.
We had a back-up plan however: a picnic at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park, followed by a round of Frisbee-Golf. Anyone who watched me, many years ago, shanking, slicing, topping, over-hitting, or under-hitting a golf ball around Heaton Park pitch-and-putt will no doubt remember how frustrating I found that.
I’m afraid I was equally patient with Frisbee Golf and was soon distracted by the many Monarch Butterflies on the flower beds around the park. I wasn’t the only one who became disenchanted, so many of us knocked off after 5 ‘holes’ (actually nets). Prof A is almost as ridiculously competitive as I am though and insisted that the DBs keep going until he took the lead, at which point he declared the game over. Fair play; I’d have done the same myself if I was even remotely in contention.
Much of the park was manicured parkland, but there were areas which had been left to go ‘wild’:
Down by the rocky shore of Lake Ontario I completely failed to capture the large, colourful Grasshoppers which were flitting about.
With hindsight, we should have walked a bit further to have a proper look at Lake Erie. At the time, it seemed like we would inevitably be back and see it properly, but somehow we never got around to it. Too busy swimming in the back-garden pool. And shopping; apparently an essential element of any holiday.
Later that same day, we were back in Buffalo, very near Canalside, to watch the Buffalo Bisons play the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Somewhat to my surprise, I enjoyed the whole affair immensely: the music, the game, the beers and the beef and horseradish sandwich which is apparently a Buffalo speciality. It probably helped that the Bisons won 10-1.
The people sat around us were incredibly friendly and the chap in the cap on the right of this picture was very patient with our many questions and explained what was happening really well. I played baseball quite a bit at school, basketball too come to that. I don’t remember baseball being especially complicated, but it turned out there were almost constantly points we needed clarifying.
The Bisons are a Minor League team, whatever that means, but they clearly have a large and passionate following. I think some of the local ice-hockey team were present too, signing autographs, and there was a terrific atmosphere. I’m not sure when the opportunity is likely to present itself, but I would love to watch another baseball game. The DBs also had a go at batting, during our stay, at a place where the ball was fired out of a machine. I gather they enjoyed that too. (TBH and I were shopping at the time in a sort of ‘Ghost Mall’ where many of the shops were empty, or closed, or full of second-hand tat, a very odd place. We managed to come away with a half-a-dozen pairs of shoes between us, mostly from UK brands I’d never previously heard of.)
As ever, I’m miles behind with the blog. It’s slightly odd to be recalling our summer sojourn in Buffalo whilst the city is suffering the aftermath of one of the worst winter storms on record. The BBC reports that slightly warmer weather is on the way, so hopefully life can soon return to something resembling normality in the affected areas.
So, inevitably, if you’re in the area, you really have to go and see Niagara Falls. We’d seen the great plume of spray which rises high above the falls the day before – it’s unmissable even from quite a distance away.
We’d had some good advice, from our local guides, about free parking by the river. This meant that we had an opportunity to walk by the river, and the rapids, which were pretty awe inspiring in their own right.
I can’t remember, unfortunately, where I got this map from. I took a screenshot, so still have it on my phone. We parked in the lay-by on the bottom right of the map, followed the riverside paths to the pedestrian bridge then circled the island, anti-clockwise, visiting the Three Sisters Islands, eventually returning to the car for a picnic lunch. After lunch we walked back towards the falls and the Observation Tower in the top right-hand corner of the map, for our final treat of the day.
The tall buildings are on the Canadian side of the river, which I’m told is ‘tacky’. The US side was, at one time, heavily industrialised, due to all of the free power available, but after a public campaign and subscription, was purchased and turned into a park.
The boats here are Maids of the Mist which offer an excursion right into the cauldron of Horseshoe Falls. On the American boats everybody wears a blue coat – I say coat, but really polythene bag is closer to the truth – whereas the Canadian boats offer their customers red bags. I’m not sure why the colour-coding is deemed necessary.
Because we were relatively early, TBH was convinced that we could avoid having to queue for the Cave of the Winds and she was absolutely right. A lift takes you down to the bottom of the Falls…
For this experience, the ponchos are yellow. Here we are before we got thoroughly drenched…
The noise and the wind are phenomenal.
In places the platforms were awash. The Hurricane Deck was particularly wet. As the name suggests, a powerful blast of wind was driving across the deck, carrying a great deal of water with it. I was happy to watch the others take a cold shower.
Here they are afterwards. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but they were drenched. B was having a wail of a time and almost broke into a smirk.
The penny-pinching side of my nature asserted itself and I declared myself satisfied with what I’d seen. Somewhat to my surprise, the DBs agreed. Thankfully, TBH told us we’d wouldn’t be coming back this way any time soon, and that she was going on the Maid of the Mist, with us or without us. We rapidly changed our minds and were soon queueing for a trip. Thank goodness we did.
We weren’t very close to the front of the group going on to the boat. Lots of people were rushing to try to get a spot near to the front on the top deck, but hardly anyone was stopping on the lower deck, so I suggested we try that. It was a great choice, there were hardly any people there, we were able to stand right at the front, but also had space to wander about and to find other vantage points.
As we approached the maelstrom of Horseshoe Falls, the the falls themselves disappeared into the drenching mist. The roar of the falls was deafening, the boat swayed on the surging waters. It was chaotic, and my attempts to take photos were doomed to failure, but the immense power of the falls has left a lasting impression.
I was amazed to see gulls and diving ducks swimming on the surface of the river – it seemed incredible that anything could survive on or in the river – or that there could be any food there for the birds to find.
When you get off the Maid of the Mist, you have the option to climb a set of stairs at the side of American Falls – you can see them in the photo below. On a fine sunny day, full of very wet and windy experiences, this may well have been the wettest and windiest. Near the top, there was a bit of a queue to climb the last few steps – we decided that we really had now had enough and beat a hasty retreat back down the waiting lift.
After a long drive to Buffalo, we were itching to get out and see what the area had to offer. The Whirlpool was really awe-inspiring – you perhaps have to see and hear it moving to get a proper impression of it’s massive power.
There were numerous large birds of prey circling overhead and, not for the first time, I regretted the lack of my superzoom camera.
Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel unaided, died here attempting to swim across the Whirlpool. Foolhardy doesn’t even begin to cover it.
The visitor centre at the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant had all sorts of interactive demonstrations, quizzes and games. It was a big hit with the younger members of the party. I enjoyed the history of power production in the area and of the rivalry between Edison and Teslar over AC and DC supply.
I think this was the day we ate lunch at an amazing cafe right by the river which served enormous sandwiches.
We were packing a lot in and by the time we got to Fort Niagara it was already quite late in the day. We did a whirlwind tour of the museum, but didn’t have time for the film, which young M assured us was a great loss.
Never mind, the fort itself was fascinating.
I’m always a sucker for any kind of battlements and was particularly taken with the top of these roofed towers.
I assume the man on the left is dressed as a member of one of the local native American peoples. An Iroquois?
The man on the right was demonstrating the loading and firing of a musket. I think his uniform is French. His talk was entertaining and informative. The main thing I remember is the huge weight of wool he told us was in his uniform. He must have been sweltering. It was hot.
The fort was closing as we left. Just one last thing to squeeze in…
Our last day in the Adirondacks, for the foreseeable future.
We cheated and took a gondola up Little Whiteface. Under normal circumstances, that would have given us a launch-pad to ascend Whiteface itself, but the trail was closed due to drainage work being carried out in preparation for this winter’s ski season (which, I’m reliably informed, has now begun).
Later, we drove to Prof S’s cousin’s place outside Keene for a family get together and picnic.
Later still, we had a bit of a swim in the Ausable River…
Prof A was doing a great job of organising various competitions and challenges for the two sets of DBs, involving leaping into and swimming under the water. I tried swimming upriver, but the the large boulders in the water made progress quite difficult, so eventually I abandoned that plan and had a wander up the riverbank instead, to see what I might find.
And what I found, I think, was a number of wildflowers from Europe which have naturalised in the US.
I hope you’ve gathered, over the last few posts, that I really fell in love with the Adirondacks. I don’t know when I’ll be back there, but I really would like to visit again.
Fortunately, we still had a few more days of our trip to go, we’d yet to see our hosts new home in Buffalo. More to follow…