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.

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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

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

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

Ineluctably, Carn Fadryn

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No trip to Towyn Farm is complete without an ascent of Carn Fadryn. Little S calls it Birthday Hill, because he has so often climbed it on his birthday. This year we were a little later, but he was still keen to return. Many of the rest of the party wanted to stay on the beach however, so it was a select band, just S, TBH and myself who made the trip.

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Most of the usual elements were present, including Gatekeepers….

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…and Labyrinth Spiders.

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Lots of Gatekeepers in fact.

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Expanding views as we climbed.

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Oh, and did I mention the Gatekeepers? This was one of five on a small patch of Bell Heather.

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The tapestry of flowers was as colourful as ever.

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We always seem to spot several Dor Beetles.

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And…

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…Gatekeepers!

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The extensive views from Carn Fadryn could be specifically designed for the panoramic function on my camera. (Click on the pictures to see larger versions).

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Something I don’t recall being so noticeable on previous visits was the profusion of Bumblebees taking advantage of the flowers.

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This very pale species seemed particularly prevalent.

We didn’t see Choughs this year, which we sometimes have, but we were compensated by a large and very boisterous group of ravens flying near the summit. Large groups of ravens, I believe, are often composed of juvenile or immature birds which  have not yet paired up with a partner. That might explain the exuberant, tumbling, acrobatic flights of some of the birds – adolescent showing off.

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Wild Thyme.

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English Stonecrop.

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The presence of Butterflies on the summit is also something of a fixture. This year there were several Red Admirals and a couple of tatty looking Painted Ladies.

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Ineluctably, Carn Fadryn

An Entomologist on Arnside Knott

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Another day of blue and sunny skies and an afternoon, post rugby walk up the Knott and back with B. The interest started before we left the house, with a visiting row deer in the garden. Unusually, I was in the garden at the time – most of the time deer will only visit when we are safely ensconced in the house.

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A Speckled Wood.

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On Heathwaite – a clearing on the wooded ridge which leads down from the Knott towards the sea – B and I had fun exploring the many large meadow ant hills. Most of them seemed to have at least one resident spider and B also enjoyed catching grasshoppers.

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The view South to Warton Crag and the Bowland Fells.

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Red Admiral.

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Arnside Tower.

An Entomologist on Arnside Knott

A Blackthorn full of Bees

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Possibly Bombus Lapidarius the Red-tailed Bumble-bee.

A short, sunny, evening stroll this, never straying far from home, but full of surprises.

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The first of which was an abundance of very cheery wood anemones in Holgates Caravan Park.

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In point of fact, there were hosts of other spring flowers too, but the anemones were the most striking.

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It was a terrific evening for birds. Nothing out of the ordinary, just lots of them flitting about and plenty in fine voice too.

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Blue tit.

Just beyond the caravan park I was delighted to find a blackthorn extravagantly in bloom. I’d been anticipating the blackthorns flowers for some time, now here they were in profusion.

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I suspect our local bees were even more pleased than I was, they were certainly waiting in attendance in great numbers.

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Could this bee another female tawny mining bee?

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There was an enormous variety of bees on the blackthorn, but they always seem reluctant to pose, so I only managed to photograph a few.

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This might be Bombus Terrestris but don’t hold me to that.

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This seems to me to be the Platonic bee, the archetypal black and yellow rugger shirted hairy bumble bee.

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It might be Bombus Pratorum. Or it might not.

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I was very happy chasing the bees with my zoom lens. A chiff-chaff and a song thrush in the trees behind were providing a suitable soundtrack. Another warbler was deep within the blackthorn bush, offering tantalising glimpses without ever being sufficiently clear of the surrounding branches for a decent photo.

Eventually, and slightly reluctantly, I dragged myself away and went in search of the hellebores which had brought me this way in the first place.

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I found some, but they were on the wrong side of a fence so I wasn’t able to rummage under the leaves to find the shy green flowers which were probably lurking there. Not to worry, a pair of coal tits burst out of a thicket and landed close by in the hedge.

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Ash trees, like blackthorn, flower before they come into leaf. These…

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…are female ash flowers. The gender of ash trees is a complicated business. But we shan’t concern ourselves with that today, because just after I’d passed Arnside Tower…

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And was climbing back towards Eaves Wood, I spotted high above me in another ash tree….

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…a blue tit apparently eating the flowers. I watched until the blue tit flew away, and was replaced in the trees branches by another tuneful song thrush.

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More gawking than walking on this outing, but immensely satisfying none-the-less.

A Blackthorn full of Bees