A Windhover and Toadstools on the Knott

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Arnside Tower Farm, Middlewood, Warton Crag, the Bowland Fells and Morecambe Bay looking south from Arnside Knott.

A Sunday afternoon, back from B’s weekend rugby fix, and I’m off to climb the Knott again. This has become something of a habit and whilst there are lots of other options locally, I often find it difficult to see past an ascent of the Knott which has so much to offer when time is short.

When I lived in Arnside, I used to like to tell my classes that there are twenty routes to the top of the Knott and the same twenty possibilities on the way down and ask them how many different combinations I could choose between in my post-work up and down leg-stretcher. It tickled me that there were more than enough options to give a different choice for every day of the year. They were often, quite rightly, sceptical about my assertion that there were twenty different paths to the top, but in truth, whilst it’s hard to count them, because the paths frequently bifurcate and intertwine, more like a web than a simple radiating spoke pattern, I suspect there may be more than twenty.

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Recently, I’ve discovered a couple of paths which are new to me. On this particular afternoon, I found a well-worn path which initially skirted the bottom edge of the steep scree slope on the south side of the hill before curling up and around the edge of the loose ground in the trees which bordered it’s eastern edge.

Whilst admiring the view from the top of the slope, my attention was caught by unfamiliar bird calls. Descending again slightly, I spotted a Kestrel in the trees below…

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Sadly, Kestrels, which used to be commonplace, are becoming much rarer than they were and I was very glad to have this opportunity to photograph one. Even this blurred shot…

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…of the bird in flight shows details on the tail which I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

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I think I’d been spotted!

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Opportunities like this don’t come along very often. The only other half decent shots of a Kestrel I can recall posting are here, of a female bird, high in a tree near Hawes Water. This bird, with its grey head and tail and spots rather than bars, is unmistakably male.

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The Kent viaduct and the hills of the Lake District.

As I’ve mentioned before, it seems to have been a bumper year for toadstools, and I whiled away a happy hour seeking them out on the Knott and taking photos of a wide variety of sizes, colours and forms, some of which are below…

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I think that this…

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…is a Flesh-fly, Sarcophaga carnaria or one of its many, apparently virtually indistinguishable, relatives. I took the photo because I was  bit non-plussed by just how large the fly was. Perhaps it’s related the Jeff Goldblum.

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This is a Hawkbit. Possibly Rough Hawkbit, but you need to examine the hairs on the leaves with a hand lens to be sure, and I don’t have a hand lens, so I’m not confident. I like them anyway, whatever they’re called.

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Robin’s Pincushion Gall.

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Speckled Wood Butterfly.

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Arnside Tower.

 

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A Windhover and Toadstools on the Knott

Another Orchid Hunt

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Cartmell Fell, the Kent and Whitbarrow Scar from Arnside Knott.

An unexpected window for an evening stroll. I set out intending to walk around the Knott, rather than up it, but, as you can see from the photo above, I did eventually climb to the top. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Some more photos from the garden first…

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As if to prove my point about fledglings lacking caution, this little ball of fluff, a juvenile blue tit, sat in the Sumach in our garden and didn’t move or flinch as I approached with my camera despite noisy entreaties from a parent bird.

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For once, I didn’t start from home, but gave the walk a kick-start by parking in a lay-by on the south side of the Knott. From there the view of Arnside Tower…

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…makes it seem to still be in a good state of repair, rather than the semi-ruin which the view from the far side, which I more usually post, suggests.

I took the gradually ascending path which has become something of a favourite, but then cut back down into the fields of Heathwaite…

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There were lots of Common Spotted-orchids, here seen with Quaking Grass – they often seem to be companions. I’d also been tipped off, by Craig who looks after the local National Trust properties and was one of the attendees of the Grass course I did, that there were some less common orchids growing there.

These…

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…which have been protected from grazing rabbits…

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…are Fragrant Orchids, which I’ve previously seen at Tarn Sike nature reserve last summer. There were also some growing outside the netting, rather bedraggled specimens, but I was able to confirm for myself the strong carnation like scent which gives them their name.

Nearby another netted area held…

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…Lesser Butterfly-orchids, another flower which I was seeing for only the second time, having unexpectedly come across one in a tiny churchyard, also last summer.

There were a few Northern Marsh-orchids nearby too, but they were in the shade and my photos came out even less sharply than the ones above, so I’ve omitted them.

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Dropwort.

I was also hoping to find the Spiked Speedwell which I’d seen flowering here last summer, another first last year, but couldn’t find any, which was not entirely a surprise since Craig had told me that the long spell of hot, dry weather was adversely affecting the speedwell.

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Looking south along the coast.

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A poser. The shape and colour suggests Northern Marsh-orchid, but the markings on the flower look like Common Spotted-orchid. They do hybridise, so that’s probably the explanation.

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By now the light was glorious.

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But the sun was beginning to sink.

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I had one more spot to check out. Craig had perfectly described a patch of bracken, by the path in Redhill Pasture, where there were more Lesser Butterfly-orchids…

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The path continues to skirt the hill from here, but was in the shade, so I decided to climb so that I could keep the light for longer.

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A thrush’s anvil.

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A thrush.

I made an unfortunate choice, following a different path than the one I usually take, which petered out leaving me stranded in very tall bracken, which might not have been so bad were there not brambles and blackthorn growing concealed by the bracken.

Still, the views were worth it…

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And there were wild strawberries to accompany the views – small but very tasty.

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Across Silverdale Moss to the Pennines.

Another Orchid Hunt

A Walk after York

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Honesty.

We arrived back from York late in the afternoon, but the sun was still shining, so I was quickly out again to take advantage of that fact.

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Wood Anemones.

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Primroses.

This was one of my little annual pilgrimages – this time to see the Green Hellebores which grow around the margins of the Caravan Park.

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Green Hellebore.

The plants look to be in rude health, but at first I couldn’t find any flowers and wondered if I’d left it too late. This is any early flowering plant – apparently in the south of England it can sometimes be found in bloom as early as New Year’s Day.

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Fortunately, I hadn’t missed it entirely.

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The flowers are unusual rather than spectacular, but I’m always pleased to see them.

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Blackbird.

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Arnside Tower.

Goldfinches seem to be almost ubiquitous these days. I thought I could see a pair hopping about near the top of the walls of the tower.

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Goldfinches.

The camera’s zoom helped to confirm my suspicions.

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Silverdale Moss from Arnside Tower.

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Middlebarrrow Wood.

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Honesty on The Row.

I continued around the bottom edge of Middlebarrow wood to the quarry and then home via Waterslack and The Row. This hedgerow had an impressive display of Honesty. A splendid ginger bee (some sort of Carder Bee perhaps?) led me a merry dance amongst the flowers. It’s colour was perfect against the purple of the Honesty, but every time I took a photo, it moved, so that I have photos without a bee, or at best a blurred bee.

A Walk after York

With Heraclitus to Arnside

Post Office – The Lots – The Cove – Far Arnside – Park Point – White Creek – Blackstone Point – New Barns – Arnside – Gado Gado – Dobshall Wood – Arnside Knott – Arnside Tower – Eaves Wood

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“δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης.”

This is an oft-quoted statement from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus which has been variously translated, but the consensus suggests something like:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice”

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It seems apposite here because, hard on the heels of my recent walk around the coast to Arnside, here I was repeating yet again one of my favourite walks in the area.

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Showers track across the Kent Estuary.

This was a very different walk however. Firstly, we began by walking in the wrong direction, posting a birthday card in the village and then looping back across the Lots. Secondly, I had company: Little S and I were off school together for a week. This wasn’t our only walk, we’d been out foraging for Ramson leaves to make soup, something Little S has always been keen to do. (There’s a recipe here in a previous post). And we’d also taken a small ball for a wander around The Lots – Little S is very keen to improve his catching and throwing at the moment – he takes his rugby coaches’ advice very seriously.

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Whitbarrow Scar catching some sunshine amongst the cloud.

The tide too was much further in and we had more difficulty crossing some of the little wet channels around the edges of the river than I had previously.

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Kent Viaduct.

And the weather was a complete contrast: although we had sunshine, we could see dark clouds and obvious showers tracking across the Kent ahead of us.

Another difference was that we had a destination for our walk – Gado Gado, a restaurant on the prom at Arnside. Little S enjoys spicy food, but since his brother doesn’t, he saw our week off together as an opportunity to indulge his tastes. We’d already had a vegetable curry, bread with jalapeño chillies in it with our Ramson soup, and I’d made a spicy roast vegetable dish and a rice and lentil pilaff.

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At Gado Gado we had Chicken Satay and Beef Rendang which were both delicious.

We were very fortunate with the showers, we managed to avoid them altogether, but just as we settled into our seats in the restaurant it began to rain outside.

Like Heraclitus, Little S is something of a philosopher and tends to fire out questions which are almost always off-the-wall, usually both amusing and thought-provoking and consistently undermine any ideas I might have about my status as parental-font-of-all-knowledge.

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I was feeling a little fitter than I have been and Little S was keen to return via the Knott. We took a circuitous route however, to take the sting out of the ascent.

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Arnside Knott view.

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S took advantage of my slow plod by climbing every tree that he could on route, including this one which seemed a bit flimsy and which shed twigs and small branches as he climbed it.

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The views from the Knott are always superb and more than repay the modicum of effort required to get to the top.

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Arnside Knott panorama. Click on the image, or any others, for larger versions on flickr.

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This tree, which is near to the trig pillar…

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…must have fallen over long ago, but has doggedly continued to grow, with all of its limbs  turning skyward and now it’s another great addition to Nature’s Playground.

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Silverdale Moss from Arnside Knott.

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Arnside Tower.

With Heraclitus to Arnside

Big.

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I wasn’t thinking of the Tom Hanks film. Nor of the outrageously good ‘Big Chief’ by New Orleans maestro Professor Longhair.

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Not even of big children, although they do insist on growing up despite my insistence that they should slow down a bit.

The phrase ‘big kid’ was on my mind a little…

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…usually it’s the children who have to be encouraged to leave the play ground in the caravan park so that we can get on.

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On this occasion, it was the children all piling onto the swing and making it uncomfortable which persuaded TBH that it was time to move.

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This is not a big castle…

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…although I suspect it was once quite an impressive Pele Tower. Nor was our walk particularly huge; we were only going to Arnside and even then, not around the coast, but over the Knott, because we were late setting off (as ever) and wanted to reach Arnside for a late lunch.

The flooding on Silverdale Moss was quite impressive…

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…but that’s not what I had in mind.

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Arnside Tower Farm.

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Panorama from the Knott.

Arnside Knott is certainly not a big hill, although it does boast expansive views.

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Incidentally, this is the boys new favourite tree – The Ladder Tree – which has at least partially supplanted the tree at the top of the post in the boys affections. B actually climbed much higher than this but this photo shows why they call it the ladder tree – because of the handy series of evenly spaced branches which have grown across between the twin trunks.

By the time we reached Arnside it was very late for lunch, but the cafes were all still heaving. We managed to get seats in The Old Bakery (the Pie Shop to us) only to find that they were out of both Sausage Rolls and vegan options. We decamped and ended up in The Big Chip Cafe, adjoining the Fish and Chip Shop. At this point I have to say that I am full of admiration for those people who have the forbearance to photograph their food before they eat it. By rights, there should be a highly appealing photo of a fish supper here, but I’d eaten it before it occurred to me to take a picture. You’ll have to imagine it. Very nice it was too. Ages since I’ve had fish and chips. I can heartily recommend the haddock and chips (and the small portion is quite big enough).

So: The Big Chip Cafe explains the post title. Except….

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…when we left the cafe it was evidently too late to fulfil my design to get a walk around the coast. We took a shorter route which sort of curled up and around the Knott. And the big, late-afternoon, winter skies…

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Were fantastic.

When we reached Eaves Wood, I couldn’t persuade the others to come back up to the Pepper Pot with me.

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Big mistake.

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Even though the sun had long since set, it was a perfect, still evening and the views were superb.

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Bit cold though. I eventually stumbled down through the dark woods and home to listen to the dub version of Black Uhuru’s ‘Right Stuff’, which, due to the curious workings of my grey matter, the Big Chip always puts me in mind of.

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So maybe it was the Big Chip, or perhaps the big skies, or possibly the Black Uhuru song, or probably some combination of them all. Who knows?

Now: Fish supper with – mushy peas, curry sauce, gravy, tartar sauce, ketchup or none of the above?

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Big.

Two Bonus Birthday Hills

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Cove Road Quince flowers.

So, I had a little op, part of my ongoing review of local surgery facilities. I had the same op 24 years ago. On that occasion, I spent a few days in hospital afterwards, and although the aftermath was a good deal better than the few days prior to the procedure, suffice to say that it wasn’t entirely comfortable. This time then, I knew what to expect. What’s more the surgeon had warned me that I would need at least a week off work to recuperate (and then scotched that silver-lining by sending me a date at the beginning of a two week holiday period) and I had been sent home with a handy collection of pain-killers to help me get by.

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Violets.

I went under the knife on the day before my birthday, so not much chance then of my usual walk on my birthday, and certainly no hill-climbing, at least that’s what I thought, which was why I was so keen to drag the kids up Pen-y-ghent and Helvellyn in the days beforehand.

But this time, the op had been performed as a day case, so at least I was sent home. And it had gone much better than expected and I wasn’t really experiencing much pain. A little discomfort would be nearer the mark.

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This clump of sedge is close to the Elmslack entrance to Eaves Wood. I’ve walked past them countless times before, but never noticed them flowering, or are they fruiting? To the left of the rush the shorter, fine ‘grass’ is actually some kind of garlic or chive – it has a strong garlic flavour and smell.

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A consultation of ‘Roger Phillips Grasses, Ferns, Mosses & Lichens of Great Britain and Ireland’ has led me to the conviction that this is Hairy Woodrush.

In fact, I felt pretty good. I’d been told I couldn’t drive for 24 hours. And that I couldn’t be left alone during the same period. But nobody had categorically told me that I couldn’t go for a birthday walk. And the sun was shining. Or at least, it was when I set off, although a wave of cloud was rushing in from the west, presumably carried in on a front of some kind.

I did go out on my own, which probably contravened the terms of my release, but I took my mobile so that I cold phone for help, if I fell unconscious or somesuch….

I planned to head up to Castlebarrow, giving me a hill, however small, as is my custom on my birthday and a vantage point to watch the weather change, but I was distracted by the area of fallen trees just off the path, which the children used to enjoy visiting in order to build a den between the roots of two large trunks.

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There are several large fallen trees in the one small area…

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The area around the trees is now filling up with a thicket of saplings…

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…in contrast with other nearby areas where the mature trees still stand and the woodland floor is only covered with old leaves and the odd patch of Cuckoo Pint.

I expected to find fungi growing on the dead wood…

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And I did!

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But also, on an old Yew, a new Yew…

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And…

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….something else, I’m not sure what.

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New leaves…Hazel?

Because of all of my faffing about admiring dead trees and fungi, by the time I reached Castlebarrow, the blue sky had virtually all been enveloped by the cloud.

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It was really too gloomy for taking bird photos, but there were a number of duelling Robins on adjacent small trees…

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…and I couldn’t resist them!

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Blue Moor Grass

From Castlebarrow I dropped down on to the northern side and took a dog walkers path into Middlebarrow which I may have followed before, but which I don’t know well. I heard a Green Woodpecker yaffle very close at hand. Scanning the nearby trees I was rewarded with a flash of exotic green and red as the woodpecker flew away. I frequently hear Green Woodpeckers but very rarely see them, so this was a special moment.

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Arnside Tower and Blackthorn blossom.

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Honeysuckle.

Following the path which traces the northern edge of the Caravan Park I expected to see Green Hellebore…

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Green Hellebore. No flowers in evidence. Too late or too early – I suspect the latter.

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Primroses.

But certainly didn’t expect to see another Green Woodpecker. I heard it first, then tracked down its position due to the sound of it knocking persistently on the trunk of a tree. I could just make out it’s head…

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And managed a frustratingly useless first-ever photograph of a Green Woodpecker. It soon flew off, and whilst I waited to see if it would return, and watched the antics of a dog which had skipped over the wall from the path and was gleefully evading its owners, I wondered about the ownership of a largish hole in the ground I could see just beyond the wall. I didn’t wonder for long…

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This…

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…is the large Blackthorn where last year I watched for a while entranced by the huge and varied population of bees frequenting its flowers. It wasn’t fully in blossom this year and I was struck by its lichen bedecked branches.

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Cherry Blossom on the cricket club grounds.

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Primroses on a Cove Road verge.

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Barren Strawberry on a Cove Road wall.

Briefly, as I neared home, the blue sky returned, but this was a very fleeting improvement in the weather – patches of blue appeared and then, in a matter of moments, virtually the whole sky was blue again, but only moments later it had all disappeared again.

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Jack-by-the-Hedge, or Hedge Garlic, or Garlic Mustard. Supposed to be good to eat, but much too bitter for me.

There’d been a dispute, apparently, about who was going to cook me a birthday breakfast, but this was a bit of a pointless argument, since I don’t eat breakfast these days. However, A deferred her menu choice and served up a very creditable Spanish omelette for lunch. We now just need to work on the other 364 days of the year.

When I’d bought the boys new boots the day before, S fixed the shop assistant with a glare and asked, “But are they waterproof?”

To which he responded; “Well, you’ll have to wax them.”

I’m glad that they got this from someone else, because I doubt they would have taken it half so seriously if I had told them. Anyway, B, particularly, was very vexed that he had scuffed his boots on Helvellyn so I decided to take advantage of their enthusiasm for their new boots and they washed them, and then applied two coats, one of a leather treatment and softer, and one of wax.

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Which, in turn, encouraged me to do the same to mine!

I’ve kept my ‘cleaning kit’ – wax, rags and brush – in the box my own relatively new boots came in, in the summer house and said box had two sizeable residents spiders…

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I think they have been living in here a while because the box also contained a couple of shed exoskeletons. I suspect that these are some kind of wolf spider, but I don’t have even a remotely comprehensive guide to British spiders, so really, I’m just guessing.

Later, A had a dance lesson in Milnthorpe. Whilst she was there, the boys and I had a simple straight up and down walk up Haverbrack…

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So, rather unexpectedly, I managed two hills on my birthday, only the modest heights of Castlebarrow and Haverbrack, but it’s a good deal more than I anticipated.

Two Bonus Birthday Hills

New Year’s Day 2017

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New Year’s Day was another bright, clear, sunny day. I’m not sure that I believe in omens, but I hope that this was one none-the-less.

We weren’t out very early, a consequence of the usual faffing, but also of a late night. A had abandoned us to stay at a friend’s house, a foretaste of things to come I suppose, but the boys joined us for the New Year’s Eve festivities at the Silverdale Hotel. The pub was packed with many of our friends from the village, the food was extremely tasty, the beer was good, the music was terrific. When midnight came the boys were dancing on the tables, along with most of the other children present and some of the adults. A storming party.

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Our walk took us around the coast to New Barns for a very late lunch at the Bob-In Cafe. We had to hurry and still only just managed to order lunch before they stopped taking orders.

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Then we had to get back quickly before we lost the last of the daylight.

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Good to start the year with a family walk though, and the late sunshine painted Arnside Tower in a very fetching pink.

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New Year’s Day 2017