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

All’s Right With The World

Park Road – Eaves Wood – Middlebarrow – Arnside Tower – Saul’s Road – Arnside Knott – Shilla Slope – Black Dyke – Middlebarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood.

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Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gull.

The day after Boxing Day was the kind of bright sunny day which always makes me feel cheerful.

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in His heaven—

All’s right with the world!

Which is apparently a passage from Browning, although I know it because Wodehouse’s characters are apt to quote it when all is going well (which is to say, just before everything goes horribly, comically wrong).

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And yes, I know that the lark isn’t really on the wing at the end of December, well at least not in its characteristic steep display flight, but sunshine and blue skies just make everything look fresh and special and spring like.

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Reading up on the water tanks in Eaves Wood for my previous post, I was reminded that amongst the former owners of Hill House (now the Woodlands pub) were the Inman family  who were responsible for the planting of many of the trees in the woods.

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I think the circle of trees in the Ring o’Beeches must have been planted. I wonder if it was by the Inmans, who owned the wood in the first half of the Nineteenth Century?

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The larches too must have been planted.

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Arnside Tower.

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Arnside Tower Farm.

The hill behind the farm is Arnside Knott and that steep slope is covered in a very loose scree, known locally as shilla. After I’d climbed the Knott I took a route which looped around and recrossed my ascent route, taking me down to a path through those trees at the bottom of the slope.

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Saul’s Road.

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I’d walked out of the front door before I’d decided where to go, but with a host of competing ideas in my head – it’s nice to have so many options. I’d plumped for Arnside Knott because I’d assumed that there would be great views of the Lakes…

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…but in fact everything beyond Whitbarrow Scar and Gummer How was lost in a grey haze. Never mind: plenty to see close at hand.

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Magic.

All’s Right With The World

A Frosty Walk and a Pie

Far Arnside – Arnside Point – White Creek – Blackstone Point – New Barns – Arnside – Arnside Knott – Holgates.

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So: the next step in Operation Catch-Up, which sees us jumping from early October to late November. What happened in between, I hear you cry? Well, for one thing, a great deal of rugby. S has overcome his worries – “If somebody stands on my head, will my brains come out of my ears?”, is it any wonder he didn’t want to play? – so, he’s overcome his concerns and started to play, B meanwhile is now playing for his school team on Saturdays and after school, on top of the club training and matches on Sundays. All of which is great fun, but not always very compatible with me getting in much walking.

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Ostensibly, the weather might look similar to that from the last post, and it was, in as much as the sky was clear and the sun was shining, but the sun was considerably lower in the sky, there had been a hard frost, and it was much colder.

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A joined me for the walk and we went around the coast to Arnside; I know that it’s my favourite route in the area and I’m pretty confident that it’s her’s too.

This photo…

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…was taken from the same spot as the one before, but through the wonders of the camera’s superzoom, it shows Meathop Fell and snowy Lakeland peaks behind.

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The boys had declined to come with us, being too attached to their Games Console and/or the TV, so A was particularly keen to have her photo taken whilst standing on this patch of ‘snow’ – actually ice left by the retreating tidal River Kent – because she knew the boys would be jealous. The rest of the river bank was frozen too, though less obviously so, since it was clear ice (and pretty treacherous).

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It was a calm, windless day so that there were nice reflections on the river.

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Distant Howgill Fells.

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New Barns.

In Arnside, A and I were lucky to get a table in the Old Bakery, where we enjoyed a pie and peas lunch. (Well, I did, A had a sausage roll and baked beans).

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In the shade of Dobshall Wood, we found a hedgerow still liberally coated with frost and we both enjoyed taking lots of photos.

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From there we climbed onto the Knott.

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Whitbarrow Scar was catching the sun and looking particularly fine, but clouds were amassing behind.

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Enjoying the view.

The roof of cloud which was darkening the Lakeland Fells was rapidly coming our way…

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A by the toposcope.

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A Frosty Walk and a Pie

More Butterflies and Leaves

Eaves Wood – Arnside Tower – Saul’s Road – Arnside Knott – Heathwaite – White Creek – Far Arnside – The Cove – The Lots

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Red Admiral.

Early October, the weekend after we had a houseful, and in a typical Sod’s Law sort of a way the weather is fantastic, sunny, bright and even warm.

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Comma.

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In Eaves Wood.

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This Crane’s-bill doesn’t quite match any of the plants in ‘The Wild Flower Key’ so I wonder if it is a garden escapee?

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I was a bit puzzled by the colouration of this dragonfly, but having consulted my field guide, I now think that it is probably an older female Common Darter.

I ventured onto a small path on Arnside Knott which I haven’t taken before, which took me past…

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…a fox’s earth?

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Arnside Knott view.

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Arnside Knott panorama.

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Whitbarrow Scar.

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This area of marshy foreshore at White Creek has appeared during the time that I’ve lived in the area. It’s become quite wet and treacherous to walk on.

But there were still some Sea Asters…

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…flowering there.

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Burnett Rose.

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Bryony Berries.

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I took these photos of berries and leaves to help me identify a tree I didn’t recognise, but sadly I’m still none the wiser.

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Holly.

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Bell Heather.

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Sunset from the Cove.

I would have been nice if this weather had materialised a week earlier, so that we could have shared it with our friends. But, then again, it’s a bit churlish to complain; I enjoyed having to myself after all.

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These last two ‘bonus’ photos are from a different walk, back in September, when apparently I walked to Jack Scar to take some sunset photos (but no other photos!)

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More Butterflies and Leaves

Toxoplasma Gondii – a mystery solved?

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“Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in more than one billion people worldwide, has been shown to inspire neurotic, self-destructive behaviour in rats. The protozoa’s reproductive cycle depends on infecting cats, which it does by getting them to eat rats and mice in whose brains the parasite commonly resides. When the parasite infects a rat or mouse, it increases dopamine levels in its host, inspiring it to wander around recklessly in a way more likely to attract the attention of cats; the mice and rats also become attracted to the small of cat urine an odor that, under normal circumstances, causes them to flee or freeze. “Fatal feline attraction” is the name for this phenomenon. In people, the presence of toxoplasma gondii has been linked to schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, poor attention and reaction times, and greater likelihood of car accidents.”

From ‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan

All of which might explain the behaviour of this vole, which TBH and I encountered back in June, and which had us puzzled and enchanted in equal measure because of its apparent lack of fear of our presence.

The quote might seem like an odd paragraph to find in a book ostensibly about food, but it’s from a footnote and is backing up the assertion that it’s possible that the microbiota in our bodies might influence our moods and even our mental health. The book is absolutely fascinating and I heartily recommend it anyone with an interest in food (i.e. everyone,surely?) – bit late for your Christmas lists I know.

Toxoplasma Gondii – a mystery solved?

Quick Fixes

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I got behind again, these photos are a month old now. This first one is from a flying visit to Arnside Knott during A’s weekly piano lesson.

Later that same evening, TBH and I took a turn around the village, taking in The Cove and The Lots. On The Lots the Early Purple Orchids were just beginning to emerge. I walked round that way again last night, too late for any photo opportunities, but even in the last of the gloaming the orchids looked spectacular. I’m sure that they have spread; they seem to be thriving.

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Anyway, back to April –  the following evening I was out again, this time visiting Sharp’s Lot, Pointer Wood and Clark’s Lot.

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Many of the trees were coming into leaf.

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The sheltered spot in the limestone pavement where the primroses flourish was finally looking resplendent. The primroses too seem to be spreading and thriving.

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I’d completely forgotten taking this photo…

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In the late winter and early spring the sound of woodpeckers drumming is almost a constant soundtrack in this area. I often see them when I’m out and about too, but they are incredibly elusive whenever a camera is aimed in their direction. This is hardly the best ever photograph of a woodpecker, but at least it’s recognisable.

Not much else to say about these brief outings so I thought I would mention again Claxton by Mark Cocker, who manages to always have something interesting to say about his wildlife observations in and around his home patch in Norfolk.

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Highly recommended.

Quick Fixes

Juice and Joy

Eaves Wood – Middlebarrow – Arnside Tower – Along the edge of the Caravan park – Far Arnside – Arnside Point – White Creek – New Barns – Arnside Knott – Hollins Farm – Holgates

What is all this juice and all this joy?   

Spring is here, and with it a flurry of local walks, followed by (hopefully) a flurry of posts about those local walks containing, it being spring, a smattering of quoted poetry, and lots of photos of birds and flowers and such like.

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In the immediate aftermath of our walk, A and I both wallowed in a couple of lazy days to recuperate. The day before I took these photos was my Birthday. The weather was pretty dire but we did get out. Well, TBH and I did: a very heavy downpour just before we set off put a dampener on A’s enthusiasm and she stayed at home. TBH and I walked around Hawes Water. We were lucky and didn’t get caught in another shower, although it stayed drab and damp and I didn’t take any photos. It was well worth getting out though – there were quite a number of swallows feeding over the lake, my first of the year. I often see my first swallow on my birthday, although I suspect that has at least as much to do with my insistence on going out for a walk on my birthday as it does with the date of the arrival of swallows. Usually I’ll see the odd one or two, but this time there was at least a gulp and possibly enough for a flight (the collective nouns for swallows).

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Marsh Tit.

This is my favourite time of year for bird-watching. To be in the woods is to be surrounded by a cacophony of songs and calls, the thrum and whirr of wings and the drumming of woodpeckers. And with no leaves on the trees, it’s the best chance to see the small, common birds of woods and gardens.

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My sporadic attempts to get to grips with identifying bird songs have been largely unsuccessful, but not in vain – I have added one or two birds to my limited repertoire. One song which is very readily learned is that of the Chiffchaff, a warbler named for its song. Since the Chiffchaff is a summer migrant, hearing it anew each year is another welcome confirmation of the arrival of spring. As I dropped down from Middlebarrow towards Arnside Tower I could hear one in the trees above. My confidence is hardly unshakable though and I scanned the crown of the woods, hoping for a sighting to confirm my suspicions.

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And there it is! An LBJ with more than a hint of yellow to liven things up a little.

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Later, at Far Arnside, I realised that I can recognise the contact calls of Nuthatches too, and spent a frustrating few minutes trying to photograph one which, whilst it was surprisingly close, just overhead in fact, wouldn’t sit still long enough for the camera’s autofocus to catch up. Later still the same sort of thing happened with a Goldcrest which swung around on a hanging twig almost within reach, but which I completely failed to photograph.

The principal reason for my choice of route was to catch the wild Daffodils at Far Arnside, but I bent my steps along the scrappy woods by Holgates on the off chance that another early flower would be in evidence. I thought that I was probably too early, but no…

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Green Hellebore.

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –         

   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;         

   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush         

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring         

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;

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TBH bought me ‘Claxton’ by Mark Cocker for my birthday and I’ve just finished reading it. It’s marvellous, I can’t recommend it enough. Essentially it’s a nature diary, but with entries from several years, mostly based in and around Cocker’s home village of Claxton in Norfolk. The book is full of telling details and apposite similes, but it’s also packed with interesting ideas. For example: we’re often ready to ascribe great age to certain trees, but it never occurs to us to think in that way about shrubs or flowers. These hellebore come up in the same area each year. When the perimeter of the caravan park was bulldozed recently, they survived (although probably not unscathed I suspect). I’m wondering, in retrospect, how long they’ve been flowering here.

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The Daffodils at Far Arnside were well worth a visit. Much more spectacular than I’ve managed to make them look in fact. And in amongst them…

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…more Green Hellebore.

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It seems likely that Hellebores can be found elsewhere in the area, but these are the two spots I know of, leaving aside the many gardens which have cultivated varieties.

Overhead, this Coal Tit was pecking furiously at the moss, pulling lumps off the branch and tossing them aside.

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Are there potentially good things to eat hiding beneath the moss?

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The tide was in, and, unusually, there were small waves breaking against the cliffs.

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Across the Kent Estuary to Meathop Fell.

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And with a zoom…snowy Lakeland hills beyond.

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Obligatory Robin.

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I have so many out-of-focus photos of Long-Tailed Tits that I’m beginning to think that it’s them and not me or the camera; perhaps they are naturally a bit blurred. If so, I sympathise with them – I often feel a bit blurred myself.

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At New Barns the tide was so high that the road was flooded.

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Arnside Knott from New Barns.

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Kent Estuary.

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Kent Estuary from Arnside Knott.

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A shower hits Carnforth.

The quotes are from ‘Spring’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Juice and Joy