Falling for Foulshaw Figwort

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A juvenile Great Tit and a Blue Tit share a moment.

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Male Scorpion Fly – rubbish picture, but you can see the appendage which earns its name.

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Lots of these at Foulshaw at the moment, under the trees at the edge of the reserve.

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Meadow Vetchling, perhaps?

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Reading John Wright has made me think about the ways in which insects and fungi are often adapted to exploit particular plants. I saw wasps feeding on Figwort a few times on this visit. A Figwort flower and the head of a wasp seem to be a perfect fit.

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The dark wings here make me think that this could be a Cuckoo Bumblebee, on a thistle obviously, Marsh Thistle probably.

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Male Reed Bunting – seems almost obligatory now.

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After the diverse, but elusive, moths and butterflies of my last visit, this time these small pale moths were to be seen all around the boardwalks in the more open, heathland areas. It’s a ‘wave’. But there are lots of those to choose from: Common Wave, White Wave, Small White Wave, Cream Wave, Small Cream Wave, Silky Wave, Grass Wave – and that’s just the ones which are pale with brownish stripes. Some of these species live in woodland, some have marginal black dots on their wings, or more prominent dark spots in the centre of their hind-wings, or on both wings, none seemed to fit the bill perfectly, but I’m going to tentatively plump for Common Wave, as it’s the best fit as far as I can tell.

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An Alderfly. Perhaps.

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Another Cuckoo Bumblebee? On Cross-leaved Heath.

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I spoke to somebody, who told me they had spoken to somebody else earlier, who had photographed six Adders that day at the reserve, one of them basking on a boardwalk. I didn’t see any snakes at all, but I did spot this Common Lizard.

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The ‘cotton’ from the Bog Cotton has completely coated some areas.

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Bog Asphodel.

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Bog Myrtle catkins.

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Green Lacewing. There are 18 British species and this is one of those, I’m fairly sure.

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Foxglove seed-heads. Handsome aren’t they.

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It’s been interesting to visit three weeks running and see how things have progressed. The Meadowsweet is flowering now. Here’s some with Tufted Vetch…

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I’m sure that I’ve read somewhere that blue and white flowers in a garden together traditionally signify The Virgin Mary, but I can’t remember where I read that, so I may be wrong. It is, however, the kind of useless detail which I tend to remember, unlike, for instance, important things like people’s names.

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Soft Rush.

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See: wasp, Figwort – made for each other. Britain has nine species of Social Wasp, but I’m going to tentatively identify this as a Tree Wasp – Dolichovespula sylvestris.

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I’m quite chuffed with this photo, even though it’s clearly rubbish. I’ve been seeing these birds at Foulshaw and listening to their chatter, and thinking that they were Linnets, but not being sure. I’ve taken lots of photos, but only ever getting silhouettes, which looked right, but hardly proved conclusive. This one is only a slight improvement, but does show a bit of red and confirms that they are Linnets after all.

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A Saint John’s-wort. There are several different Saint John’s-worts. If I’d taken clear photos of the leaves and the stem, then maybe, just maybe, I would know which this was. But I didn’t; so I don’t.

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Blue Tit.

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Common Valerian.

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Meadowsweet. A powerful analgesic apparently.

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Figwort and Bindweed.

Figwort grows at Lambert’s Meadow and also in Middlebarrow Wood and probably in lots of other places locally, but it’s not a very inspiring plant where I’ve seen it. At Foulshaw, however, it really seems to thrive – it’s always tall, but here it has huge thick stems and masses of flowers and is generally more impressive and imposing than it is elsewhere that I’ve seen it.

Having been impressed, I decided to look Figwort up in ‘Hatfield’s Herbal’. Apparently Figwort, like Meadowsweet, had a widespread reputation as a painkiller. Mothers used it to quiet teething children. It was renowned as a treatment for piles, once known as ‘figs’ and hence the name. And it was also known as a treatment for Scrofula, now called Glandular Tuberculosis, but once called The King’s Evil, because the touch of a monarch was supposed to cure the disease. Figwort was apparently regarded as the next best thing.

Now this put me in mind of John Graunt and his ground-breaking 1663 book Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality, which I like to use when I’m teaching Statistics. Graunt carried out an analysis of the causes of death recorded in London Parishes over several years.

I don’t particularly enjoy teaching Statistics, but lists like the one above never fail to get students engaged. Both the figures and the causes of death are eye-opening. Simply being a child (a Chrisome is a child less than one month old) is the most common cause of death. ‘Kild by feveral accidents’, “Bit with a mad dogge’ and ‘Suddenly’ usually illicit comment, as does the fact that 454 people have died by ‘Teeth’, 28 by “Wormes’, 114 by ‘Surfet’ (which, yes, is eating too much) and 6 by ‘Murtherd’. Another similar page has ‘Wolfe’ as a cause of death. What are we to make of ‘Rising of the Lights’ or ‘Plannet’ or indeed ‘King’s Evil’? You can find suggestions on this fascinating website. Timpany, disappointingly, is not death by Kettle Drum.

Falling for Foulshaw Figwort

Firbank Fell – Three Steeplehouses Walk

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Howgill Fells from Master Knott.

Small, unassuming hills often give the best views. The view across the Lune Valley to the Howgill Fells from Master Knott, a little knobble on the eastern side of Firbank Fell is a case in point.

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Panorama – click on the photo (or any others) to see larger versions on Flickr.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This was another after work outing and another chapter in my exploration of the Lune catchment area.

I’d driven up the narrow road from Black Horse on the A684. For once I’d  done a bit of research in advance and had read that it was possible to park on the verge here. And it was, just about, but my car is small and I don’t think I would park here again – it was a bit tight.

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One advantage of this high starting point was the view back down the road of the Lune Valley to the south.

I was here to visit Fox’s Pulpit. The map suggests that it might be a little way from the road, but in fact I could see it as soon as I pulled up. This is it…

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Apparently, the meeting commemorated here, which happened in 1652, is considered by some to be the beginning of the Society of Friends, or Quakers.

This small field…

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…is shown on the OS map as a graveyard, but in Fox’s time there was a Church here.

One gravestone still remains…

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Fox preferred to preach outside in the open, although, it occurs to me that if there were around ‘a thousand seekers’ present then getting them all into a small hillside chapel may have been impractical anyway.

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George Fox had an interesting life but the fact that will stick with me, I think, is that he was born in the village of Drayton-in-the-Clay in Leicestershire, not so far from where I grew up. It’s called Fenny Drayton now and I’m pretty sure that I’ve cycled through the village a few times, although all of them a very long time ago.

On the short walk from Fox’s Pulpit to the top of Master Knott I was entertained by this Silver Y Moth…

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…which proved devilishly difficult to photograph. There was quite a breeze and each time it flew I wasn’t completely convinced that it could control the flight. After landing it would continue on foot, walking surprisingly quickly, often low down beneath the grass and other vegetation. You can just about see the Y on its wing which gives it its name.

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“I try quite hard to learn the flowering plants but must confess to having long ago thrown in the towel when it comes to the pea family.”

A Natural History of the Hedgerow by John Wright

And this from someone who elsewhere in the book talks authoritatively about obscure things like Rusts and Smuts and Lichens and Liverworts. I’m going to tentatively hazard that the single flower above is Bush Vetch (but am ready to be corrected).

From Master Knott I returned to the road, taking the path to the north which heads down into the Lune Valley. It shortly brought me to the field in the foreground here, just beyond the gate, which was decidedly wet underfoot and full of interesting flora and fauna.

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I wasn’t fast enough to photograph the wonderful black and red Cinnabar Moth, the Small Heath butterflies or any of the small birds, but I enjoyed seeing them. Many of the very vigorous plants looked like they had either just finished flowering or were just about to flower. Some were giving a fine display, however…

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Heath Spotted-orchid.

I’m pretty confident that this really is Heath Spotted, unlike the last orchid I identified as such on the blog, which I’m even more uncertain about now – I’m more inclined to think that is was Common Spotted after all.

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Ragged Robin.

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Ringlet.

The next field had been recently mown, but was just as busy with butterflies and equally mobbed with dragonflies.

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The trees on the right border a tributary of the Lune, unnamed on the OS map.

These…

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…flew past me and then landed close enough by for me to locate them afterwards. They are Golden-ringed Dragonflies, Britain’s longest species at around 8cm.

This is the male…

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…he has already transferred semen to his accessory genitalia and is grasping the back of the female’s head with his anal appendages in the hope that she will curl the tip of her abdomen forward to transfer that semen.

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Red Admiral.

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Meadow Brown.

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When I reached a road, the path went straight across, but there was a sign warning me that the footbridge over the Lune I hoped to cross, Fisherman’s Bridge, had been damaged during flooding and was unusable. Sometimes, these signs get left in situ even after the damage has been repaired, so I decided to take a look myself.

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Perhaps the completely overgrown state of the first section of the path should have acted as an additional warning. The bridge was more than just damaged, with even the substantial piers have been shorn off – the top of one was lying close by in the river still.

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Back up the hill then to brave the nettles and return to the road. Actually, I contemplated following the former railway line which also runs along the valley – I chose not to in the end, but there’s a brilliant potential cycleway there waiting for development. Anyway, after consulting the map, I decided to head south along the road.

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Stocks.

It’s a B-road, but wasn’t busy, and didn’t make for bad walking at all.

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Another Red Admiral.

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The Old School House and Firbank Church Hall – date stone shows 1860 – possibly also once part of the school?

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Yet another Red Admiral.

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A Carder Bee (?) on Foxgloves.

One advantage of walking on a road is the accompanying hedges – often better maintained than ‘internal’ hedges and full of a massive diversity of life. Having been reading ‘A Natural History of the Hedgerow’ I was more alert than usual to that diversity, and took great delight in noticing just how many species were present. Not that I did it properly; in 2015, I’ve learned, Dr Rob Wolton published an article about a two year study he had carried out of a 90m length of hedge near his home in Devon. He had discovered a staggering 2070 different species in the hedge, and that was with some species still to be identified and having ignored rusts and mildews. Apparently he thinks the actual total might be closer to 3000.

I didn’t spot quite that many on this walk!

The hedges here were full of webs or nests…I’m not sure what to call them. Some were large blanket webs like others I’ve seen this year, but in other cases smaller webs seemed to have been used to knit leaves together to make some sort of home…

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In many of the webs, I could see clumps of pale shapes which I took to be pupae…

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Another advantage of walking on the road was that it brought me to…

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Naturally, I felt compelled to take a peek inside…

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This church, built in 1841, replaced the chapel on the hill, which was destroyed in a storm a few years before. There is no stained glass, but the view from this window more than compensates, although I don’t think my photo quite captures it…

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Stepping outside I found, in an unmown area close to the entrance to the grounds, this…

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…which I believe is a Butterfly Orchid, a first for me. I’m not sure however, whether it’s a Lesser Butterfly Orchid or a Greater Butterfly Orchid. Sadly, it was in deep shade, which is presumably why the photo hasn’t come out too well.

This very large bumble bee was behaving rather oddly, for a bee, sedately exploring this leaf in the hedge.

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The size, and the behaviour, made me wonder whether this could be a queen, but looking at the photo again, I now think that this is a worker, a Buff-tailed Bumblebee. The tail looks white, but there is a subtle line of buff at the edge of that white which suggests that identification.

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Lune Viaduct.

I left the road here, taking a path through more newly mown fields which bordered the Lune. A screen of trees prevented any more than glimpses of the river, but in the unmown fringes of the field there was the compensation of a number of Common Knapweed flowers…

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They seemed to flourish here in this part of the Lune Valley and I would see many more during the remainder of the walk. The bees liked them too. This might be a Garden Bumblebee. Might.

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But this is a Tree Bumblebee, which, I’ve realised this year, are ubiquitous.

If I hadn’t paused to admire the Knapweed and its attendant bees, I would never have noticed…

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…this shield bug. It took me a while to track down the exact species, so that I was tempted to just call it ‘bronze’ because of its colour. And that’s exactly what it is, a Bronze Shieldbug, widespread but not particularly common apparently. Quite similar to the Forest Bug, which I photographed on Hutton Roof some years ago.

The track transferred to the riverbank side of the trees, which meant that I could see these…

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…Monkeyflowers.

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Lincoln’s Inn Bridge.

I joined the Dales Way here briefly, between Lincoln’s Inn Bridge and Luneside Farm.

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Luneside.

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Garden Bumblebee on Common Knapweed (I think).

I detoured a little here, an out-and-back past Prospect House (where the dogs in the garden watched me with suspicion) to…

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St. Gregory’s or the Vale of Lune Chapel. The third steeplehouse on our walk, steeplehouse being George Fox’s preferred term for a church – although none of these have had steeples. Actually, only the Firbank Church is still in use; the first obviously was ruined, although the local Quaker Meeting House at Briggflats still commemorates Fox’s sermon with a June outdoor meeting; and this last, although still consecrated is in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.

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“This chapel was built in the early 1860s by the Upton family, when the London and North Western Railway was building its Ingleton branch and sent a Scripture Reader to the navvies. Attached to a cottage, it is a plain building perhaps designed by a railway engineer; but inside a delightful and colourful series of stained glass windows by Frederick George Smith depict river scenes, trees and plants, as well as birds and animals found locally. These were installed in about 1900 when the church was refurnished.” Source

The Upton family owned Ingmire Hall which is very close by.

 

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The furniture in the church was apparently by Waring and Gillow of Lancaster. (The Gillow family owned Leighton Hall which is close to home).

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Unusual roof-lights.

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One of the windows designed by Frederick George Smith. I took photos of them all, and can’t decide whether or not to make a fuller post with more pictures of St. Gregory’s; I rather liked it.

In edition to the windows mentioned above, there are also windows featuring personifications of Peace…

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…Justice and Fortitude which one source says are of William Morris design.

It doesn’t take long to look around St. Gregory’s, but it’s well worth a visit. I sat in the porch for a moment or two, to have a drink and decide which way to go next.

Back to Luneside, I decided, where the sheep dogs, all, fortunately, caged securely, went berserk again, although, judging by the wagging tails, they may have been enthusiastic rather than angry.

In the fields south of Luneside I heard a commotion from a Hawthorn. It wasn’t the familiar yaffle, but sounded none-the-less like a Green Woodpecker. Then came an answering call from the hedge ahead of me. As I approached the hedge, a bird within the hedge, tried to fly out, away from me, but flew straight into the wire net fence beside the hedge. It was a juvenile Green Woodpecker…

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After a moment of contemplation it decided to climb the fencepost, somehow jamming itself between the wire and the post so that I couldn’t really see it.

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Those claws are well-adapted for climbing!

The adult meanwhile was even more strident now…

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As I walked away from the hedge, the adult flew ahead of me…

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…before looping back to the youngster in the hedge.

Beside the Lune here, there’s a odd little Nature Reserve, a thin little strip along the riverbank.

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Leading to Killington New Bridge.

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From here I took the lazy decision to follow the road in the most direct route back to the car. It was getting late and the weather had deteriorated, with a layer of cloud spreading in from the west and a few spots of rain in the air

The hedgerows were once again festooned with webs…

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…containing hanging white cylinders…

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But now, perhaps because it was quite late and a bit gloomy, there were moths evident too…

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I think that this is an ermel moth, specifically Yponomeuta Cagnagella. Apparently, the ‘gregarious larvae clothe with extensive silken tents’ the Spindle shrubs on which they live. And looking at the photos, these leaves could well be Spindle.

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Former Country Pub the Black Horse after which the road junction is named.

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A stream, another tributary of the Lune, runs beside the A road here.

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At New Field farm everyone was busy, trying to get the silage in before the forecast rain arrived…

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Juvenile Wheatear, I think.

Fox's Pulpit

Firbank Fell – Three Steeplehouses Walk

The Great Stone and the River Wenning

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Tufted Vetch.

A warm and rather sultry mid-week evening. I parked near to the Punch Bowl in Low Bentham and have to admit that the tables lavishing in the sunshine outside the pub looked very tempting. But I had miles to go and photos to take, so – another time. Some of the first part of the climb out of the valley was on minor roads, which weren’t busy at all and anyway had the compensation of the diverse flora and fauna of the average untrimmed roadside verge.

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Tree Bumblebee.

This Bumblebee, unusually, didn’t seem to be intent on doing anything purposeful at all, just exploring this small bark-free area of a tree trunk and soaking up some rays. I wondered if the communal nest was somewhere nearby.

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Dog Rose.

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Beyond this hedgerow you can see Ingleborough, which was to dominate the view throughout almost the entire walk, but the reason I took the photo was the fact that the hedge here was draped in more webs.

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Tent moths again, I suspect, but I couldn’t see any caterpillars this time.

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Volucella Pellucens on Ground Elder.

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Drone Fly (or something similar).

I left Mill Lane, embarking on a section of the walk which passed through a series of pastures, some with stock, some without, some which had been grazed, some which hadn’t, at home the silage cut had begun, but not here.

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The White Clover in this field was thronged with bumblebees which seemed to favour it over the even more prolific buttercups.

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Bumblebee on White Clover.

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Painted lady.

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Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough.

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I’m reading John Wright’s book ‘A Natural History of the Hedgerow’ at present, and it is making me scrutinise hedges even more thoroughly then I generally would. On thhis walk, many of the ‘internal’ hedges I passed (i.e. between two fields rather than bordering a road) had grown out into separate shrubs and trees and were no longer stock-proof, requiring an accompanying fence. The one above however had recently been laid.

The building at the end of the hedge is Willow Tree, where I would cross a minor road and Eskew Beck in quick succession.

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This hillside above the Weening is criss-crossed by a multitude of both paths and small streams and there’s plenty of scope for return visits with substantially different routes. Beyond the farm of Oakhead, I climbed beside the County Beck and then turned right onto an abrupt change of terrain. Suddenly I was on undrained moorland, wet underfoot and heavily populated with burbling Curlews…

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It was slightly odd, because uphill of the access area the land reverted to farmland – I wondered why this area had never been ‘improved’. Whatever the reason, I was glad it hadn’t.

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Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough. Again.

A short stroll across the moor brought me to…

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…the Great Stone, a glacial erratic, or, alternatively, a bit of debris dropped by Old Nick when he was building Devil’s Bridge at nearby Kirkby Lonsdale. Incidentally, both the route, and that bit of local folklore are lifted from Graham Dugdale’s book ‘Curious Lancashire Walks’.

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Somebody has carved steps in the boulder to give easy access to the top, so, having clambered up to admire the view, I settled down to get the stove on to make a brew, something I do far too infrequently on these evening rambles.

This has to be one of the best places from which to view all three of the Three Peaks…

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Whernside.

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Ingleborough.

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From there, I dropped down across more open moorland, crossing Burbles Gill…

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Small Heath.

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I don’t think I’ve seen quite such a concentration of Curlews in one place before – even when I walked around Roeburndale earlier this year, they weren’t this numerous.

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The walk along the wooded Branstone Beck was very pleasant. At one point I disturbed a whole family of Wrens. They all came streaming out of a small shrub, each little red-brown ball heading in a slightly different direction, it was like watching one of those cute fireworks which get set off in-between the really impressive ones. One of the Wrens, I presume a juvenile, didn’t go very far and sat in plain view for a while, whilst a parent sat on a nearby branch presumably exhorting her offspring to move away from the nasty man.

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In amongst the trees, in the wet ground here, there were quite a few orchids. This one…

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…with a single lower lip to the flower looks to me like Heath Spotted-orchid, but this one growing nearby…

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…with the lower part of the flower more obviously divided into three is more like Common Spotted-orchid. Of course, just to add to the confusion, orchids are well known for hybridising.

The remainder of the walk was along the Wenning, although frustratingly it wasn’t always clearly in view, because of the trees growing on the bank, and beyond High Bentham it passed through a large, manicured and rather dispiriting caravan park.

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I actually have two John Wright books on the go at the moment, I’ve also been dipping in to ‘Hedgerow: River Cottage Handbook Number 7’. Whilst the titles might sound similar, this book is more straightforwardly a book for prospective foragers. In it Wright opines that Sweet Cicely can be as dominant on roadside verges in the North as Cow Parsley is in the South. I must be looking in the wrong places, because I don’t find it very often. Some umbelliferae are poisonous, so I suppose caution should be exercised, but if the leaves smell of aniseed and the seeds are relatively large then you probably have Sweet Cicely.

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Sweet Cicely.

Sweet Cicely has traditionally been used, as the name implies, as a sweetener, with tart fruit like gooseberries and rhubarb and it genuinely is surprisingly sweet. I took one to chew on and then, when I’d finished, was very tempted to go back for more. I should probably issue the additional caution that my diet doesn’t include anything remotely sugary, so that most vegetables taste sweet to me, and that I really love aniseed. I’m attracted by the idea of adding some of these to steep in White Rum for a homemade pastis. (Wright is also the author of the River Cottage Handbook on Booze.)

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The Wenning.

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Chimney Sweeper.

One of the things I like about ‘A Natural History of Hedgerows’ is the way it has got across to me the web of symbiotic relationships between plants, fungi and insects. I now know that the huge fungi we saw near Sizergh Castle are Britain’s largest fungi and that they only grow on Beech trees and that the Toothwort which I so obsessively seek out each year will only attack Hazel or Elm. Likewise, this tiny moth, which I remember seeing in great numbers last summer in Kentmere, feeds exclusively on Pignut (another forager’s favourite).

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River Wenning.

I’ve been meaning to take a visit to the Great Stone ever since I was first given ‘Curious Lancashire Walks’, which was a while ago: it seems the ‘Lune Catchment’ project has given me new impetus and encouraged me to try pastures new rather then sticking exclusively to tried and tested favourites.

 

The Great Stone and the River Wenning

Trowbarrow Views

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The forecast promised that the weather was going to improve. I set out on trust, although there were still a few spots of rain in the fairly strong wind.

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The hay has since been cut – they were collecting it in today – but then the grasses were long and swaying in the breeze. The dominant, red-tinged grass here is, I think, Yorkshire Fog, but I’m really not sure about the patch of pale grass standing out amongst the red. Cocksfoot?

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Yorkshire Fog.

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Bittersweet.

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Leighton Moss.

Fortunately, by the time I reached Leighton Moss, the view to the west was finally looking promising…

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The reeds along the boardwalk were looking tatty and half-eaten. It didn’t take much sleuthing to discover the reason why.

Alongside the reeds, there were lots of these large Dock leaves. (We have several Docks – I have no idea which these are).

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Many of them were infected with a fungus causing red blotches on the upper sides of the leaves…

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And crusty white rings on the undersides…

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I’ve done my lazy research, and I think that it’s a rust fungus called Puccinia Phragmitis.

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Common Spotted-orchid and Quaking Grass.

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Red Wall.

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Bee Orchid.

I was looking for the Fly Orchid which apparently flowers here. I didn’t find it, but more of the Bee Orchids had come into flower. Also, while I was poking about, I found a narrow path which I assume is the climbers’ descent route from the top of the main crag. I’ve never been up to the top before, but the views were excellent…

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Humphrey Head.

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Leighton Moss from Trowbarrow.

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Common Spotted-orchid and Quaking Grass again.

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And another (but quite different) Common Spotted-orchid.

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Hedge Woundwort.

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The clouds were back.

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Six for gold.

Towards the end of the walk I came across a couple of bumblebees once again apparently asleep on flowers. It was very windy and when I grabbed one of the flowers to try to hold it still for a photo the bee waved one leg in a half-hearted fashion, like a person might if you tried to rouse them from deep sleep.

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Trowbarrow Views

Up with the Warblers, Herons, Harriers…

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I had set my alarm for an early start, or to put it another way, I left the curtains open, which never fails. A quick cuppa and then I was out, the early sun lighting the clouds in the eastern sky from below, but not yet visible above the horizon. (At this latitude, and this time of year, that does require a bit of a sacrifice of potential sleeping hours.)

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Everything was freighted with pearls of dew and down towards Hawes Water a cloud of mist hung over the trees. I climbed up into Eaves Wood, hoping that the extra height would give me a good view over the low cloud.

With the trees in the wood now fully clad with leaves, the views weren’t as clear as they were after my last early start, but the mist was glowing pink with the early light, so churlish really to complain.

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The mist from Eaves Wood – Ingleborough on the right.

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Cobweb, Sixteen Buoys field.

The mist was more dense than last time. A pale white disc appeared though the murk and then gradually brightened, suffusing the fog with colour as it simultaneously burned it off.

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In the wildflower meadow beyond the lake, the grass was strung with gossamer, which was in turn bedecked with dewdrops.

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I suppose this mass of spider’s webs must always be here, at least at this time of year, but usually goes unnoticed without the coat of sunlit drops to illuminate it.

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It looked likely that anyone who had opted to watch the sunrise from Arnside Knott would also have been treated to a temperature inversion. I don’t suppose that Brocken spectres are a common sight from the Knott.

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In the trees on Yealand Allotment, I had more cheering, but slightly frustrating encounters with families of Marsh Tits and Great Tits; I have lots of photographs showing birds partially obscured by leaves. I did eventually locate a tree-top Chiff-chaff, which was singing it’s name as ever. I also saw a couple of Fallow Deer again, although they too were too veiled by leaves for me to get a very clear photo.

This big, old Horse Chestnut by a gate into Leighton Moss is a favourite of mine.

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We drive past it every weekday morning and I was alarmed to notice, last week, that its large limbs have all been lopped off. I hope that isn’t a precursor to chopping the whole tree down.

This tiny Sedge Warbler, probably weighing about 10g…

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…was singing with great gusto and astonishing volume.

“…exuberant song, full of mimicry, seldom repeating itself, suddenly halting, then tearing off again, always sounding vaguely irritated.”

from The Complete Book of British Birds

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Yellow Iris.

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On this occasion, I had Lower Hide all to myself. Aside from the Greylag Geese and a lone Moorhen, there didn’t seem to be much to see. But with a couple of windows open I could hear warblers on every side. I kept getting brief, occasional views in amongst the reeds, but it didn’t seem likely that I would get a better view than that, until, just as I was thinking of moving on, a pair of birds landed in the reeds right in front of the hide…

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They were Reed Warblers. Like other warblers, migrants from warmer climes. Paler than their close cousin the Sedge Warbler and less yellow than a Chiff-Chaff.

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They shuffled between the reed tops, the nearby bush…

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…and down deeper among the reeds…

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They would fly off for a while, or disappear into the reeds, but eventually they would reappear. Maybe they were building a nest?

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As I reached the Causeway path and looked out into the fields towards Grisedale Farm, I was lucky enough to spot these deer.

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My immediate thought was that they must be Red Deer, because they seemed relatively large, but then I began to doubt myself; if they were Red Deer, why weren’t they in a large group, which is how I’ve usually encountered them locally? Maybe they were Roe Deer and I was mistaken about their size? After the fact, I’ve realised that I should have had the courage of my convictions. Roe Deer bucks have mature antlers at present, whereas Red Deer stags have new antlers, covered in velvet.

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Dog Rose

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Another warbler

Where the causeway crosses a small bridge I always pause to take a look around.

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And to peer into the water…

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Common Backswimmer (I think)

I was astonished by these tiny red mites…

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…so small that I wondered at first if they were inanimate particles undergoing some sort of Brownian motion. But they have little legs, so clearly not.

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From the Public Hide, I took no end of photos of this Heron…

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…which was feeling very chilled, in no hurry at all, and quite happy to pose. Perhaps predictably, it’s the very first photo I took which I prefer from the entire selection.

Although it was probably still what most people would consider to be indecently early to even be up on a Saturday morning, there were quite a few people about now. Birdwatchers are an ascetic bunch; up with the lark and all that. A chap and his daughter (I assumed) had spotted this warbler…

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…which was singing from the reeds. He asked me if I knew what it was. At first I demurred from offering an opinion. Then said that it was a warbler, probably a Reed or Sedge Warbler. I don’t know why I’m so reticent in these sort of circumstances; I’m usually not short of an opinion, or shy about sharing my views. It’s a Reed Warbler. (And even now I’m fighting the temptation to hedge my bets with a ‘probably’ or ‘I think’). Not only does it look like a Reed Warbler, but it sang like a Reed Warbler. Reed and Sedge Warbler’s have similar songs, and it comes as something of a surprise to me to realise that I could tell the difference, at least on that Saturday morning, having already heard both species singing when I could see them clearly as they sang.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a huge variety of wildlife as I have this spring, but then I know I’ve never before made such an effort to get outside to have the opportunity to have encounters. Reed Buntings are a good case in point: I’ve seen far more this year then I’ve previously seen in total.

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Male Red Bunting.

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Yellow Iris with Tree Bumblebee (?)

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Marsh Harrier.

There’s more water to peer in to at the pond-dipping area.

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Pond-Skaters

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View from the Skytower.

This bumblebee…

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…was stock-still, apparently frozen in position.

Whilst I was taking the photo, several of her sister Early Bumblebees arrived to forage…

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But she stayed completely motionless.

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My theory is that, on cold nights, like many we’ve had of late, bumble-bees get benighted, too cold to continue, so they have no option but to stay where they are, effectively asleep until at least the following day, when the sun warms them sufficiently to get them mobile again..

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Ragged Robin in Lambert’s Meadow

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Early Bumblebees again (I think).

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser

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Episyrphus alteatus (?).

All that and still back in time for a latish breakfast. It had been slowish progress however: roughly four hours for a route which I know I can complete in two and a half. Sometimes, taking your own sweet time really pays off.

Up with the Warblers, Herons, Harriers…

Whitsun Weekend at Home

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Last weekend the surfnslide crew came to stop for the weekend. We’ve had a few Whitsun get togethers before, both down in Herefordshire at their house and here in Silverdale. This one was all too brief, just the long weekend, but got our week off to a great start, and, to me at least, has made it feel like I’ve had a much longer break than a week. (Not a bad trick!)

As usually seems to be the case, the weather was a bit mixed, but we definitely made the most of it, filling in the time between decent spells of weather with various board games and the usual menu of chit-chat and cups of tea.

On the Saturday morning, before the storms came, we had a short stroll down to the Cove and then across the Lots, where we played frisbee for a while as you can see above.

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At the Cove some of the children wanted to explore the smelly cave and another fetid little hole they have discovered on the other side of the Cove at the base of the cliff.

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The back of the Cove is once again resplendent with a mass of small yellow flowers, I think it’s Sea Radish, although, having just read the relevant entry in ‘The Wildflower Key’, I now know how to distinguish Sea from Wild Radish, so I shall check on my next trip. Anyway, the radishes, of whatever variety, were thronged with various small insects.

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This striking red weevil like creature (I can’t find what it actually is) was the smallest I photographed.

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I think that this rather dapper chap may be some kind of Saw Fly, but there over 400 British species and my ‘Complete British Insects’ only has photographs of a handful of them.

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There were many Bumblebees, but they are constantly on the move and always hard to photograph.

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This is a Red-tailed Bumblebee, a worker. Sometimes I am slow on the uptake: it’s finally sunk in that the huge bumblebees I see, mainly in the spring, and the much smaller ones I see in the summer, are of the same species, the size difference being because queens are so much larger than workers.

On the other hand, random titbits of information seem to nestle in obscure corners of my brain. I knew, when I saw it, that this…

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…was a ladybird larva. With a bit of lazy internet research I now think it to be a 7-Spot Ladybird larva. Odd looking creature.

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There were a fair few hoverflies about too. I was pleased to capture an image of this specimen in flight, and doubly chuffed to find that it is easily identifiable, because of the pattern on the abdomen, as Episyrphus Balteatus, a very common species which apparently sometimes migrates in swarms from continental Europe. Quite a competent flier then!

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Alongside the radishes there is a substantial patch of Crosswort. My collection of herbals and plant books have little to say about this unassuming plant with it’s whirls of tiny yellow flowers, but I am always cheered to find it.

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The plant surreptitiously creeping into the righthand-side of the photo is Goosegrass or Cleavers or Stickyweed, a close relative of Crosswort. Both are Galiums, apparently from the Greek Gala meaning milk, as Goosegrass at least was sometimes used as a rennet in the production of cheese.

On the Lots, the Early Purple Orchids have finished, and the Green-winged Orchids…

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…are not far behind. According to ‘A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland’, Green-winged Orchids were once widespread, but ‘must now be considered a threatened species’. A sobering thought.

After our short outing, the afternoon brought a terrific display of dark skies, lightning and thunder and then very heavy rain. We watched from our patio as impressive bursts of forked lightning cleaved the skies and listened to the rumbles of thunder, apparently coming from all sides. When the long threatened deluge finally arrived, we retreated inside. Quite a show while it lasted though.

Whitsun Weekend at Home

A Sizergh Smorgasbord

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Sizergh Castle – perhaps not the best view of it!

A showery Saturday afternoon. TBH had a yen to visit Sizergh and a feeling that it would be good to get the boys out of the house and away from computer games for a while. They took a bit of persuading (okay: we didn’t give them an option), but then remembered the woodland trail and discovered a little enthusiasm of their own.

TBH had an ulterior motive for our visit – she wanted to check out the orienteering course on Sizergh Fell, because she would be bringing the local Guides to try it out on the following Thursday. (Incidentally, if you saw me wandering around Eaves Wood placing cuddly toys on small crags or in the branches of trees on the preceding Thursday it was because I had been dragooned into helping with setting up an orienteering course for the Guides to practice on: the soft toys were in lieu of controls.) A was happy to join her mum on the orienteering course and I was just happy to tag along with my camera.

A heavy shower set in just after we arrived, so we started with a tour of the house. This is our nearest National Trust property and we’ve toured the house many times over the years, but I always notice something different on each occasion. This time, it was the many family portraits which were painted by locally born artist George Romney.

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By the time we wandered around the house, the rains had cleared, so we went back to finish our aborted stroll around the gardens.

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We have a lot of native Crane’s-bills (i.e. Geraniums); I think that this one…

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…is Wood Crane’s-bill.

In the orchard…

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…there are a couple of hives…

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…very busy with Bees…

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The hives were also adjacent to…

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…the vegetable garden…

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…which were well-stocked with flowers too…

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I liked the Poached Egg plants…

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…and so did…

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…the Bees.

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The herbaceous borders are always stunning. I took a fancy to this plant….

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…which had leaves, I thought, very reminiscent of those of Aquilegia Vulgaris, which self-seeds all around our own garden. Since this plant, it turns out, is called Thalictrum aquilegiifolium ‘Black Stockings’, I’m not the first person to notice the resemblance.

House and garden ‘done’, TBH duly embarked upon the orienteering course. B and I went around it a while ago, a week or two before it officially opened. But on this occasion, neither of the boys could be induced to give it a go, so we headed to the woods instead.

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Some parts of the trail through the woods have been changed since our last visit. The boys were big fans of this rather tricky, log, climbing wall.

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S was convinced that these large, bracket fungi…

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…were artificial and therefore, somehow, an obscure part of the trail.

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With the trail completed, the boys went back to the climbing wall whilst I indulged in a pot of tea from the cafe.

When TBH and A had finished their inspection, A wanted to do the woodland trail, and the boys joined her. TBH and I waited by the start and finish of the course, by this old parkland tree…

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It’s not of a species I recognise…

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…and here in the grounds of the castle, I suppose it may well be an exotic from some or other part of the world. It was covered in moss, lichen and ferns; heavily fissured with a huge hollow in its trunk; it looked like it may have been here for a very long time.

We watched a number of small birds winging to and fro between the woodland and the tree. I saw blue tits entering two separate small holes in the trunk.

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And a wren, or wrens, making repeated forays, returning each time to the hollow in the trunk, although I could see no sign of a nest – it must have been well hidden.

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A Sizergh Smorgasbord