A Long Awaited Visit.

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Mum and Dad by the Pepperpot.

At the end of August, my Mum and Dad came to stay for a few days. It was the first time we’d seen them for quite some time, so it was great to have them with us, and also very handy that we had some pretty good weather for their visit.

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Coming down from Fleagarth Wood towards Jenny Brown’s Point.

I think we sat out on our patio quite a bit, but we also managed to get out for a number of walks.

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Sea Aster.
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Dad near Jenny Brown’s Cottages.
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Warton Crag and The Forest of Bowland on the horizon.
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Roadworks – the wall at Jenny Brown’s point was repaired. Signs said that the road was closed, even to pedestrians, but that turned out not to be the case.
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Colourful hanging baskets at Gibraltar Farm.
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Little S passing Woodwell Cottage.
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Another walk.
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Half Moon Bay. Sadly, there’s a Nuclear Power Station just to my left and behind me when I took this photo.

I think Mum and Dad were particularly impressed with our walk on Heysham headlands.

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Ship – Anna Gillespie.
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Across the Bay to the hills of the Lake District from Heysham Headland.
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Another view across the Bay.

B likes to come to Heysham headlands with his friends to watch the sunset and to swim when the tide is in, and I can see why.

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Rock cut graves.
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St. Patrick’s Chapel.
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The Spirit of Heysham by Michael Edwards.

I should mention that we had lunch at Tracy’s Homemade Pies and Cakes cafe, which was amazing value and very tasty. Highly recommended.

We had a day out in Kirkby Lonsdale too, although I don’t seem to have taken any photos. I was shocked by how busy it was; we did well to find car-parking spaces. I knew that it was touristy, but hadn’t expected it to be so thronged.

Looking forward to some more blue sky days, and for infection rates to settle down so Mum and Dad can visit for a few more walks and a postponed Christmas dinner.

A Long Awaited Visit.

The Bug Hotel

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Copper Underwing.

The day after my Hawes Water wander. Another attempt to replicate the fun I had in the meadows of the Dordogne. It started, in rather gloomy conditions, in our garden.

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Long-tailed Tit. Not all that blurred!
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Possibly the same Long-tailed Tit. But they’re usually in groups, so it could just as easily be another.
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Mating flies in the beech hedge.
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Speckled Wood butterfly.
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Hoverfly on Montbretia.
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Common Carder Bee on Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’.

When the weather brightened up, I set-off for a short wander, taking in Lambert’s Meadow, my go to spot when I’m hoping to see dragonflies in particular, and a wide selection of insect life in general, and a trip to the Dordogne is not on the cards.

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Lambert’s Meadow.

In my post about the meadows around the campsite we stayed on in France, I began with a photo in which I’d caught five different species all in the one shot, which I was delighted by, because it seemed to represent to me the sheer abundance and variety of the wildlife to be seen there.

I’ll confess, I was bit shocked that Lambert’s Meadow could match that tally…

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So…what have we got here? I think that the two black and white hoverflies may be Leucozona glaucia. I think the bug closest to the middle could be the sawfly, Rhogogaster Picta. I wondered whether the tiny insect at the bottom might be a sawfly too, but the long antennae and what looks like an even longer ovipositor have persuaded me that it is probably some kind of Ichneumon wasp. But that’s as far as I’ve got (there are apparently approximately 2500 UK species). I think the social wasp at the top is probably Vespula Vulgaris – the Common Wasp. And about the insect on the top left I have no opinions at all – there isn’t much to go on.

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I always assume that very pale bees like this are very faded Common Carder bees, but I’m not at all sure that’s correct.

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Large Rose Sawfly?

I think this might be a Large Rose Sawfly, although surprisingly it seems like there might be several UK species of insects which have a striking orange abdomen like this. I’m also intrigued by what the funky seedheads are. I suspect that if I’ve written this post back in August, I probably would have had a pretty fair idea because of where they were growing in the meadow.

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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Male?
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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Female?

There’s around 300 species of cranefly in the UK. Me putting names to these is essentially a huge bluff – I have even less idea than usual. I’m reasonably confident that they are at least craneflies and that the first is a male and the second female, but after that I’m pretty much guessing, based on a little bit of internet research.

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Volucella Pellucens on Mint.

This is a hoverfly which I often see and which is sufficiently distinctive that I can actually be confident about my identification. Especially since I found this very helpful guide. The common name is apparently Pellucid Fly, which is odd; pellucid means translucent or clear, as in a pellucid stream, or easy to understand, as in pellucid prose. I’m not sure in which sense this fly is pellucid. The females lay their eggs in the nests of social wasps like the Vespula Vulgaris above. The larvae grow up in the nest, from what I can gather, essentially scavenging – so a bit like wasps round a picnic table. Even wasps get harassed!

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I am going to have to bite the bullet and shell out for a proper field guide to hoverflies I think. They are so fascinating. Well, to me at least! These two, at first glance both black and yellow, but then so differently shaped and patterned, but I don’t have a clue what species either might belong to.

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This, on the other hand, also black and yellow……

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Tachina Fera

…is clearly not a hoverfly. Don’t ask me how I know. Well, go on then: it’s extremely bristly, and it has a chequered abdomen. At least it’s quite distinctive. My ‘Complete British Insects’ describes it as ‘handsome’ which even I can’t quite see. It’s a parasitoid, which is to say that its larvae will grow up inside a caterpillar.

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Possibly Eristalis arbustorum.

Apparently Eristalis arbustorum “can have quite variable markings on its body and some can be almost totally black”. (Source) Which makes my heart sink a bit – what hope do I have if members of an individual species can vary so much? At least this genuinely is handsome.

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A couple more unidentified bees to throw in.

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The Guelder Rose hedge.

Up to this point I’d been slowly pacing around the meadow, snapping away. I hadn’t walked far at all. As I approached the large area of Guelder Rose in the hedge, my pulse quickened a little, whilst my pace slowed even more. This is an area in which I frequently spot dragonflies. And the area just beyond, of tall figworts and willowherbs, is possibly even more reliable.

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Guelder Rose berries.

There were a few dragonflies patrolling the margin of the field. And a some Common Darters resting on leaves quite high in hedge, making them difficult to photograph from below. But then…result!

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Migrant Hawker.

Sometimes hawkers visit our garden, but it’s rare that I spot them when they aren’t in motion, hunting.

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And again.

An absolutely stunning creature.

A little further along…

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Migrant Hawker on Figwort.
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And again.
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Honey bee, I think.

Our friend P has hives in Hagg Wood, not too far away. Minty honey anyone?

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A very tatty Skipper.
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Small White.
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Common Darter on Figwort.

Views from the walk home…

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Looking a bit black over The Howgills.
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But the sun catching Farleton Fell.
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Rosehips.

Well, I’ve enjoyed choosing this selection of photos from the hundreds I took that day. I hope you did too. I don’t know why I didn’t spend more time mooching around al Lambert’s Meadow last summer. I’m looking forward to some brighter weather already.

The Bug Hotel

Green Dock Beetle

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Hawes Water

I was missing the flower rich meadows of the Dordogne and the multitude of butterflies and moths and other insects which the abundant flowers attract. So I set out for a short meander around Hawes Water, with my camera with me for once, with the express intent of finding something interesting to photograph.

Some patches of knapweed growing between Challan Hall and Hawes Water gave me just what I was after.

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Tree Bumblebees? On Common Knapweed.

Mainly bees, which by late summer have faded quite a bit and so are even harder to identify than they are earlier in the summer.

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Common Carder Bee? On Common Knapweed.

Not to worry – I very happily took no end of photos.

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Tawny Mining Bee? On Common Knapweed.
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Another Common Carder Bee? On Common Knapweed.
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Not-even-going-to-guess bee. On Ragwort.
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A drone fly, a bee mimic – one of the Eristalis species?
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Green Dock Beetle

I think this is a Green Dock Beetle. Pretty colourful isn’t it? I took lots of photos of this charismatic (or should I say prismatic?) little fella. With hindsight, I think the patterns on the knapweed flowerhead are pretty special too. Apparently, the larvae of these beetles can strip the leaves of a dock plant in no time flat. Likewise the massive leaves of a rhubarb plant. I don’t recall seeing them before, but shall be checking out docks more carefully this summer.

More about dock beetles here and here.

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Green Dock Beetle.
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Episyrphus Balteatus? In flight!
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Not sure about the bee – but look what’s lurking below the flower – an orb-web spider.
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Phaonia valida?
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Devil’s-bit Scabious.
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And finally, the hedgerow close to home which was cut down has new fences along each side and there’s plenty growing in that space – whether or not that’s the hawthorns and blackthorns of which the hedge was originally composed remains to be seen.

Green Dock Beetle

Cark to Grange with X-Ray

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Cark Hall.

TBH had missed out on our walk from Cark to Grange via Cartmel and I thought she would enjoy it. X-Ray was keen to meet us for a walk, and perhaps a bite to eat, and I was pretty sure he would enjoy it too. Actually, as I recall, I presented X-Ray with a number of options and this was the one which most appealed. He hopped onto the Northern Fail service at Lancaster and we joined him at Silverdale for the short journey around the bay.

Cark has a pub and a cafe and I made a mental note that an evening repeat of this walk could start with a meal at one or the other. Cark also has Cark Hall, an imposing building which is now three dwellings. It dates from 1580 with a Seventeenth Century wing and alterations. Three hundred year old home improvements! The doorway looked really imposing, from what we could see of it, but good old-fashioned English reticence prevented me from wandering in to the garden to have a proper gander. (Historic England listing)

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Hampsfell from just beyond Cark.
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TBH and X-Ray sat on the fish tables (apparently) outside the Priory Gatehouse in Cartmel.

We bumped into a couple of old-friends and former neighbours in Cartmel who had won (in a raffle?) a meal at L’Enclume, Cartmel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. When we spoke to them later in the week they were highly impressed. Might have to check it out, if I win a booking in a raffle. Or rob a a bank.

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Cartmel Priory
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Cartmel Priory interior.
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Inside the church there was an exhibition of painted masks. They’d been there on my previous visit, but I paid a bit more attention this time. Collectively, they were very striking.

Ironically, the forecast was much better for this walk than it had been a few weeks before. On that occasion, the showers held-off. This time, sod’s-law was in operation and it rained quite a bit as we climbed Hampsfell. On the top we were shrouded in clouds and it was very cold for August.

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There’s a small hearth in the Hospice and somebody had laid a fire, it was very tempting to light it while we sheltered inside and made a brew.

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On our descent, at least the cloud lifted a little and we saw fleeting patches of sunlight on the Bay. It was actually quite striking, but sadly the photo doesn’t begin to do it justice.
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We came a slightly different way down in to Grange.

We were hoping to enjoy some lunch in a cafe near to the station which we used to bring the kids to when they were small, but were disappointed to find that they had nothing vegan on the menu for TBH. With a train imminent, and a long wait for the next one, we reluctantly had to abandon our late lunch plans. Maybe next time.

Cark to Grange with X-Ray

Cark to Grange via Cartmel

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Arnside through the train window, crossing the viaduct.

With a pretty dismal sounding forecast, we couldn’t persuade any of the younger members of the party to join us for walk from Cark to Grange. So it was only Andy, TBF and myself who caught the train from Silverdale to Cark.

I remember the walk from Cark to Cartmel being very pleasant, if perhaps unremarkable, but I don’t seem to have taken any photos until we reached Cartmel…

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The Priory gatehouse, built around 1330.
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Cartmel market cross.
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Cartmel Priory Church.

The Priory Church was built between 1190 and 1220 and was part of an Augustinian monastery, but most of the monastic buildings were destroyed after the dissolution of monasteries.

I haven’t been inside the church for far too long, and was very pleased to have a little nosey on this occasion.

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The choir stalls.
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A green man?

I took lots of photos of the amazing intricate carving in the church, but the light was very low and they didn’t come out too well.

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Looking back to Cartmel.
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Hampsfell Hospice.

Built in 1835 by George Remington, a former pastor of Cartmel Parish, Hampsfell Hospice has verses on boards around the walls inside, which make a puzzle, and on the roof, accessed by a narrow flight of stone steps, a view indicator.

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I think it was pretty windy up there on this occasion. But the forecast showers held off and the views were still quite good.

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Looking south to Humphrey Head.
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Looking North – Newton Fell.
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Looking West – How Barrow and the high moorland west of Ulverston beyond – if you click on the photo to see a larger image, you can just about pick out the wind turbines on Lowick High Common.
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Looking East – the limestone hills of home and the Kent Estuary.
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Heading down to Grange pano.
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Arnside Knott across the estuary.
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Grange Station.
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Yewbarrow and Whitbarrow Scar seen through the train window from the viaduct.
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Kent Estuary seen through the train window from the viaduct.

A terrific walk which packs a lot into its slightly more than six miles.

Cark to Grange via Cartmel

Back to Gurnal Dubs

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On the ascent.

We set-off for a swim at High Dam, but the traffic on the A590 wasn’t moving, so a last minute change of plan found us back at Gurnal Dubs.

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Benson Knott, Scout Scar, Gummer How.

It was probably serendipity at work: High Dam is lovely, but it’s surrounded by trees so we would’ve missed the lovely late sunshine and may have had much more of an issue with midges, although they did eventually rear their ugly heads at Gurnal Dubs.

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Benson Knott, Scout Scar, Gummer How from a little higher up.
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Gurnal Dubs
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Swimmers – do I need one of those dayglow floaty things?
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Packing up to go, under attack by midges.
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Leaving Gurnal Dubs.
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Potter Tarn, Coniston Fells, Scafells.
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Barn at Hundhowe catching the late light.

Happy New Year folks!

Back to Gurnal Dubs

A Birthday Day Out

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In the trees – Little S on the left, A and TJF centre, the Prof on the right.

The first full day of our staycation was TJF’s birthday. Accordingly, Andy had a day of delights meticulously planned. The Herefordshire Hominids, and our kids, all enjoy climbing, swinging, dangling and sliding in tree-top adventure playgrounds. So we had Go-Ape booked in Grizedale forest.

I have neither the physique nor the temperament for such antics. TBH has been known to join in, but on this occasion opted to keep me company. We had loaded our heavy e-bikes onto Andy’s very sturdy bike-carrier and, whilst the others were monkeying about, went for a ride around one of the forest’s bike trails.

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We chose The Hawkshead Moor Trail, which, after some fairly relentless climbing, gave brilliant views of the Coniston Fells…

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And then the Langdale Pikes too…

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Better with or without the Rosebay Willow Herb? I couldn’t decide.

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We’d actually considered hiring e-mountain bikes but they were very pricey. We did meet quite a few people riding them and they were clearly higher-powered then our bikes, seemingly making the ascents virtually effortless.

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Never-the-less, we knocked off the trail in around an hour-and-a-half, not the stated two-and-a-half, so we had some more time to kill prior to our planned rendezvous with our Arboreal Allies. We decided to have a go at the Grizedale Tarn Trail, with the perhaps predictable result that both of our batteries ran out of fizz.

Carrying-on without power was a non-starter as far as I was concerned. We found a path which seemed to be heading in the right direction (i.e. downhill) and walked the bikes across a couple of fields, before having to manhandle them over a gate (quite challenging), leaving a short, steep, stoney descent back to the visitor’s centre. TBH wasn’t keen so I rode both bikes down in turn.

The next element of Andy’s cunning plan was a drive (along some very ‘interesting’ narrow lanes) to Brown Howe car park on the shore of Coniston Water for a swim. I’m not sure to what extent it made us smell any sweeter, which was Andy’s stated intention, but it was a very refreshing dip, with great views of the surrounding fells.

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A is first into the water.

Finally, to round-off a fabulous day, Andy had booked a table at Betulla’s an ‘Italian-inspired’ restaurant in Ulverston. I can’t speak highly enough of the meal we had there. Mine was battered calamari followed by hunter’s chicken which came served with bolognese sauce so tasty that I’ve decided next time we visit I shall just choose the bolognese. Everybody else’s meals looked great too. I gather the cocktails were rather good as well.

I hope that TJF enjoyed her day. I know that I did. With hindsight, it stands out as one of my highlights of the year. I’m considering hiring Andy to plan my Birthdays in future.

Happy New Year Folks!

A Birthday Day Out

Gardadale – Local Walks

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When the Herefordshire Holidaymakers had to cancel their planned summer trip to Lake Garda, due to Covid restrictions and uncertainties, and us with no plans of our own, for the same reasons, the obvious thing to do seemed to be to invite them to join us in Sunny Silverdale instead. Happily, they agreed. We drove home from Towyn to tidy up a bit and inflate some airbeds, whilst they had the more onerous task of returning home, getting all of their washing done and hoping back into their cars for the long drive north.

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In the early part of the week, we even had some half-decent weather, and, I think fairly soon after they had arrived, we had a wander up to the Pepper Pot and then down to The Cove.

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Slowworm.
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TBH insisted that we should have a wander on the sands, which turned out to be quite wet and very sticky. Andy was in new shoes. It seems to me that it’s the destiny of walking shoes to eventually get muddy, but Andy was mortified that his pristine trainers were sullied by Morecambe Bay sludge and complained bitterly at every opportunity for the rest of the week.

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Later in the week, we repeated our favourite route, around the coast to Arnside and back over the Knott. It was raining when we came over the Knott, so I understand why I didn’t take any photos then, but it’s a bit rum that I only took one as we walked around the coast. Probably too busy wittering.
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Knapweed in Clark’s Lot.
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Towards the end of the week, when we walked around Jenny Brown’s Point, the weather was decidedly un-Italian. Still, with good company, you can still enjoy a walk and I quite like some dark clouds when there’s some sunlight to reflect off the sea.
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We finished the week (I think) with another short climb up to the Pepper Pot. It was a lovely week, as always when the Herefordshire Hearties visit. We had a number of trips out too, so more posts to follow.

Gardadale – Local Walks

Wrapping Up July.

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It remained hot. The kids, well A and B anyway, were joining friends for swims in the Bay at high tide. I’ve always regarded such behaviour as a sure sign of insanity, as the sea is not all that inviting here, being full of silt and murky brown and almost certainly full of unsavoury pollutants too, but finally I cracked and TBH and I cycled down to a spot near Jenny Brown’s Point a couple of times for a dip.

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And……it was very pleasant. Hopefully, we’ll get the right weather and do it again next summer.

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Carn Fadryn.

And then we went for our annual, marvellous, camping trip with old friends to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. I remember that I did a lot of snorkelling in the first part of the week. The water was a lot colder than it had been in the Bay, but it was clear and there was lots to see as ever. Later in the week, the winds picked up and we switched to body surfing. Lots of games of Kubb and Molkky too. Beach cricket, frisbee throwing. All the usual fun.

Lots of walking happened too, but with B still suffering with his knee we generally opted to stay at the campsite/beach and keep him company, the only exception being the obligatory ascent of ‘Birthday Hill’ or Caryn Fadryn.

I apparently took no photos at all, apart from the rather poor one above of some of the Naughty Nine on Carn Fadryn’s summit.

Inexplicable. I did take lots of pictures in the garden after we returned home though! So here’s one of those:

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Edit – TBH to the rescue – I did take more photos at Towyn, but using TBH’s phone – I think mine had no charge. So here’s a selection of photos, some of which I took and some of which are TBH’s work:

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On the campsite – Chocolate Brownie for the Birthday Boy – complete with Candles.
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Back on Carn Fadryn – we always have a long sit on the top. The views demand it.
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UF and the EWO – almost certainly discussing the weather.
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The Birthday Boy on Birthday Hill (although this was a couple of days after his actual birthday)
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Late night beach cricket. Should have been playing with a white ball.
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Bowled!
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The boys on Andy’s SUPB. They loved it, B in particular.
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Packing up – deflating the rubber rings.
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Obviously the travel restrictions over the last two years have been a pain in the neck, but if I’m allowed to go to Wales for a week every summer, I reckon I can get by; with a little help from my friends anyway.

Wrapping Up July.

Scrambling and Swimming above Grasmere

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Sourmilk Gill

The day after our swim in Gurnal Dubs. This time I was on my own. It was very hot. I got comprehensively sun-burned.

I thought I would string together some of the blue bits on the map. I parked in the lay-by north of Grasmere, called in at the village to supplement my liquid supplies in the village shop, then walked up Easedale to the base of the steeper, scrambling section of Sourmilk Gill. It’s easy, grade 1 stuff, which is probably all I’m up to these days, but I had it to myself and it was very entertaining.

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Promising pool in Sourmilk Gill.

I might have been tempted by an earlier than planned dip in this plunge pool, but a couple were just getting into the water as I came past, so I decided to leave them to it, and continued up the rocks.

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Looking back down Easedale from the top of the steep part of Sourmilk Gill.
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Easedale Tarn with swimmers, and Tarn Crag.

There were a fair few people picnicking on the shores of Easedale Tarn, and quite a few more paddling at the edge of the water, but very few swimming out away from the shore. Still, it wasn’t hard to find a quietish spot to change and make a brew.

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Easedale Tarn from my lunch and brew stop.

I can never drink tea when it’s just brewed, so once it was done I swam well out into the lake – roughly level with the boulder you can see in the photo above – then back again to drink the tea and eat some lunch. Then I repeated the swim.

Since I was carrying trunks, a towel and water-shoes, I’d opted to leave my camera at home – which turned out to be frustrating since there were lots of colourful dragonflies about, Keeled Skimmers and Golden-ringed Dragonflies predominantly.

After my second swim, I continued to the base of my second scramble of the day, another pleasant but easy route up Easedale Gill.

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Easedale Gill and Belles Knott, the ‘Easedale Matterhorn’.

In the past, I’ve followed those two scrambles with a slightly harder route on Belles Knott, but I’d decided in advance that I would steer clear of that and, in the event, I felt pretty exhausted anyway by the time I reached the end of the scrambling in Easedale Gill. I’m not sure whether my tiredness was due to lockdown rustiness, the heat, the unfamiliar exercise of scrambling and swimming or a combination of all three.

Fortunately, only a little ascent remained to get me to Codale Tarn….

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Codale Tarn.

Which I had all to myself.

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Codale Tarn from my brew spot.

Again, I made a brew, swam, drank the tea then swam again. Each swim took me across the tarn to the rocky patch you can see slightly right of centre in the photo above, then back again. I think this might narrowly pip the other places I swam this summer for favourite swimming spot.

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The slopes of Tarn Crag, Easedale Tarn and Seat Sandal and the Fairfield Horseshoe.

All that remained was to wind my weary way back to Grasmere.

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Easedale Tarn again.

Another very memorable outing.

Scrambling and Swimming above Grasmere