Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Bull’s Head

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Sunday, fortunately, brought more settled weather and some sunshine. The title of the post should really be ‘Heron Corn Mill, Lunch at the Bull’s Head, Haverbrack and Beetham Fell’ but that’s a bit long, and this present one mirrors that of an earlier post.

The photo above shows the Heron Corn Mill, on the left, and the modern paper mill on the right, with, in between, the mill pond on the Bela backed up behind this weir…

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The corn mill seems to have had a new lease of life in recent years and, although it doesn’t take long to look around, it’s worth a visit, especially since it’s free, with a handy car-park which has an honesty box with a request for a £2 donation for all-day parking.

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From the Corn Mill a footbridge takes you across the river and then the path winds around the paper mill, beside the River Bela…

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We crossed the busy A6, hoping to get some lunch at the cafe at Beetham Garden Centre. This wasn’t the original plan. We had been hoping to revisit The Ship at Sandside. Naively, I had been expecting that we could just rock-up when we pleased and order Sunday lunch. Andy pointed out that, on a Bank Holiday Sunday, a popular pub might be busy, and that an advance booking might be advisable. I made a phone call and discovered that he was quite right: a booking was advisable, or would have been, if I’d rung a couple of weeks earlier. So it was that we were a party in search of somewhere to buy lunch and were travelling more in hope than in expectation.

The cafe at the Garden Centre looked excellent. And full.

There were surprisingly few rumblings of discontent as we continued. If anybody was angry about my lack of organisation, they kept it to themselves. Unlike this pair of female Chaffinches…

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…which were brawling in the road.

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I’ve seen birds fighting before, but not fighting birds with such complete disregard for what was going on around them, as these two were. I have lots of other photos, but they are mostly blurred shots, showing the moments when one or both birds briefly disengaged and flew a little into the air before diving back into the fray, in a bid to gain the upper-hand.

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A male Chaffinch kept making appearances over the adjacent hedge. Whether he was an anxious or disinterested spectator will remain as mysterious as the cause of the ruckus in the first place.

When the fight either finished or possibly moved on to another venue, we retraced our steps to the corn mill.

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Small White. Or Green-viened White. White anyway. The unopened and partially opened buds are Oxeye Daisies – I’m amazed that I haven’t noticed that very striking, bold pattern before.

We crossed Dallam Deer park, the deer obligingly, if somewhat distantly, makng an appearance for our guests.

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Outside the Bull’s Head in Milnthorpe we hesitated. I’ve never heard any opinions about it, good or bad. I think I might have had a pint here and watched part of a football match, many moons ago. Which is not much to go on.

TBH asked a girl, who was smoking a fag in the doorway, what the food was like, and she assured us that it was excellent. Later, I noticed that the same girl was collecting glasses in the pub and wondered whether she was an employee. But if we were gently duped, we didn’t lose out in any way. The food was very good, with an amazingly wide variety on offer, but everything apparently cooked from scratch. I’m very surprised that nobody has recommended it to me before. Judging by the prices on the menu, it was good value too, although we didn’t have to worry about that, since Andy very generously picked up the tab.

At this point, our boys gleefully revealed their own agenda: since we were in Milnthorpe and the sun was shining, they insisted on visiting the play area and trying out the new equipment there. It was only a brief stop and it gave me a chance to watch the many bumblebees on the flowering shrubs in the border there. They seemed mainly to be of two species: Early Bumblebees, with two yellow stripes and an orange tail and Tree Bumblebees…

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…which, now that I know how to identify them, seem to be everywhere I go.

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Dallam Hall and the Bela.

We continued our walk along the Bela, following it out to its confluence with the Kent…

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Whitbarrow Scar across the Bela and the Kent.

At the Orchid Triangle, there were…

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…orchids! I think that this is Common Spotted Orchid. And this…

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…is Common Twayblade…

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….which according to my orchid field guide is ‘a close companion of nearly all our most beautiful and rare orchids’. (Of which, more in a forthcoming post.)

From the Orchid Triangle, it’s a short, but very rewarding, climb up Haverbrack.

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Red Admiral.

From Haverbrack we crossed Cockshot Lane, walked through Longtail Wood to Beetham Fell and The Fairy Steps…

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Here’s Andy negotiating the steps without touching the sides, so that the fairies will grant him a wish…

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Sort of.

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Rock Rose.

Dropping down through the woods back towards Beetham we stumbled across a Roe Deer. We watched in hushed silence for a moment, until A broke the spell with, “It’s only a deer, I can see those in the garden at home.”

I think our kids do appreciate what they have, living here, but maybe they’ll have to move away before they really appreciate it properly?

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I mooted the idea that some of us might walk home from Beetham, but when the initial enthusiasm evaporated I was secretly relieved – we were out of water and I was gasping for a cup of tea.

Later, the Shandy Sherpa and TBF joined me for a wander around Eaves Wood in the gloaming. We spent quite a while watching the juvenile Woodpecker featured in a recent post, and as long again sitting by the Pepper Pot absorbing the peace and quiet. A marvellous day.

Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Bull’s Head

Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Ship.

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A couple of posts back, I was waxing lyrical (well trying to anyway) about four consecutive Sundays of really superb weather last November. The first was spent climbing Clough Head and Great Dodd on my own, the second on Dale Head and Hindscarth with a gaggle of old friends, and this, the last of them, saw me strolling over Haverbrack and Beetham Fell with the family.

“But, hang on,” I hear you cry, “that’s only three!”

Very sharp of you to notice – the missing sunny Sunday, probably the sunniest of the lot, was devoted to a huge rugby tournament at Sedbergh School. Naturally, I was there in my capacity as chauffeur to B, our budding sportsman. It was highly enjoyable watching him play a succession of matches, although the views of the sunlit Howgill Fells towering over the town did have me champing the bit somewhat.

Anyway, on that fourth Sunday, we were parked at Sandside on the minor lane which runs just back from the main road along the Kent estuary between Arnside and Milnthorpe. We picked up a path opposite a building which, until then, I hadn’t realised houses the offices of both Rock + Run and Marmot UK. Well there’s a thing.

Haverbrack is one of the small limestone hills in our small AONB. Employees of the aforementioned gear retailers can no doubt jog up and down it easily in their lunch break. If they were to do so, they would get a great view of the river Kent, and of the hills beyond, although, if they were also going to take photos of that view they should probably do it before they’ve passed the trees which grow near the top. As you can see above, I forgot to do that. You’ll have to take my word for the fact that it is a cracking viewpoint – another one of those Small Hills With A Disproportionately Great View.

Or, come to think of it, I could just slide in an old photo from the summer of 2011:

On top of the hill there’s a small concrete bunker which I assume is a water tank.

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Spindle berries.

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Beetham Fell, and in particular the Fairy Steps, seemed to have ousted Woodwell as the kids’ first choice local destination.

It’s said that if you can ascend the steps without touching the sides then you will get a wish granted, presumably by a local imp or sprite.

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The kids were all adamant that they succeeded.

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I’m not sure what they wished for. Maybe it was for a really huge lunch, in which case the resident imp is highly efficient, but more of that anon.

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The views from Beetham Fell are quite limited because of the blanket of trees which cover most of the hill, but you do get a view of Arnside Knott and Hampsfell across the Kent estuary.

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“Look Dad, a cave.”

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There’s a second rock band on the hillside below the Fairy Steps. Again, the path finds an impressive way through them.

I’ve mentioned this large gate hinge which is fixed to the rock wall of the natural passageway, but I know that I often manage to walk past it without noticing that it’s there.

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I wonder whether this is a remnant of the times when this route was the corpse road between Arnside and Beetham – bodies were carried to the church at Beetham for burial before Arnside had its own cemetery.

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At the bottom of the hill, you’ll find Hazelslack Farm and the remains of its peel tower.

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The original plan had been to lunch in Arnside, but it was getting late so we changed our plan and walked along the embankment of the old railway line by the estuary.

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Arnside Knott.

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River Kent and Whitbarrow Scar.

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Which quickly brought us to the Ship.

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When I lived in Arnside I used to walk here for lunch quite often, but I haven’t been back for a long time.

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The meal was excellent, both tasty and very generous. I can see us going back there.

It wasn’t much of a stroll from the pub back to our car. The others opted to head home, but my appetite for fresh air and sunshine wasn’t fully sated yet and so, with no too much light left, I took a lift part way and then walked the rest of the way home.

Low winter sun…

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….fuels one of my favourite photographic obsessions – back-lit leaves….

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Usually I use the camera’s macro facility and try to get the lens as close to the leaf as I can whilst still framing the photo satisfactorily. On this occasion I couldn’t reach to do that and so used the telephoto instead, which produced a completely different effect. Which gives me another avenue to pursue!

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Oyster mushrooms.

I took the path along the edge of Silverdale Moss, which follows a section of the Trough, a fault which passes across the area where mudstone has eroded away between two surrounding beds of limestone. It’s not particularly pronounced here, but it was enough, with the trees around it too, to cut out the sun, and suddenly it was very cold. The tree-tops above me were still catching the last rays of the sun however.

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Once past Haweswater I came out of the trees to see the woods given a kind of late autumn blush by the lowland equivalent of Alpenglow.

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Unusually, I could see the trees reflected in Haweswater too…

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Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Ship.

A Visit From ‘Our Camping Friends’

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Sometimes it’s handy to have an abbreviated, short-hand way of referring to people or places. When we were kids, for instance, my brother always called our gaggle of cousins from overseas ‘Them Jerman gurls’. For my own kids, our group of old friends, most of whom first came together as the nucleus of the committee of Manchester University Hiking Club in the mid-eighties, will forever be known as ‘Our Camping Friends’, regardless of the fact that, although we do go camping together a couple of times every year, more often that not when we meet, we’re aren’t camping, but have congregated in some other suitable venue. Besides which, after looking at Facebook postings by the proud new owners of a shiny, new, all-singing, all-dancing folding-camper, A opined that we might have to start calling them Our Glamping Friends.

Anyway, in the Autumn, the regular ‘suitable venue’ is traditionally our house. This year’s get-together wasn’t as well organised as previous year’s have been. In my defence, it’s a very onerous event to plan. After due consideration you have to chose a date. Then emails need to be sent inviting everyone. Then…..well, that’s it to be honest. Tricky, eh?

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Anyway, thanks to the tardiness of my invites, we didn’t have quite as many takers this time round, and some couldn’t make it for the whole weekend.

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On the Saturday we managed, as usual, to spend all morning preparing, eating and recovering from a huge fry-up (sausage, bacon and black-pudding from Burrow’s butchers in the village – highly recommended), and then washing it down with industrial quantities of tea and tittle-tattle.

In the afternoon it appears that we went for a walk and that the sun shone. I can see from the photos that we went down to the salt-marsh and round Jenny Brown’s Point again. We probably went somewhere else after that, but I can’t clearly recall; evidence, if evidence were needed, that my brain is turning to mush faster than you can say……………………erm,hang on, where was I?

In the evening, we rewarded ourselves for the gargantuan efforts of the day with another slap-up take-away from the local curry house.

We resolved that the following day, we would Do Much Better, Get Out Earlier, Make An Effort; you know, generally resist the slide into slothful lethargy. We set-off on a Really Big Walk. An expedition to the Fairy Steps, chosen pretty much on the insistence of our kids. Unfortunately, we were waylaid by a sunny clearing amongst the trees. The ground was too inviting, the sun too warm, the lure of the tea and snacks in our rucksacks too tempting: we might have resisted any one of them alone, but what chance did we stand against all three?

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So we lay down for a moment or two. Or 120. Tea was brewed and guzzled. Chins were waggled. Winks were snatched.

The children were happy because they had all the makings of a den to hand.

When Easter releases the child, in any provincial suburb, from his inveterate bondage to grammar and sums, you will see him refreshing himself with sportive revivals of one of the earliest anxieties of man. Foraging around like a magpie or rook, he collects odd bits of castaway tarpaulin and sacking, dusters, old petticoats, broken broom-sticks and fragments of corrugated iron. Assembling these building materials on some practicable patch of waste grass, preferably in the neighbourhood of water, he raises for himself a simple dwelling. The blessing of a small fire crowns these provisions for domestic felicity, and marvellous numbers of small persons may be seen sitting around these rude hearths, conversing with the gravity of Sioux chieftains  or, at the menace of rain, packing themselves into incredibly small cubic spaces of wigwam.

from The Right Place by C.E.Montague

I’ve just started reading ‘The Right Place’, having picked it up in Carnforth Bookshop recently. What a find! It’s eminently quotable, so you can probably expect more.

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This is Charles Edward Montague in person. A novelist and journalist, he worked for the Manchester Guardian, as it was then. In 1914, too old to enlist, he dyed his hair black and joined up anyway. After the war he wrote anti-war novels and a memoir ‘Disenchantment’. I shall be on the look out for them. His son was one of the athlete’s portrayed in the film ‘Chariots of Fire’.

I’m not sure why I have such a soft-spot for the tweed-suited, bravura-moustachioed, pipe-chewing outdoor-writers of the early twentieth century. Over the years quite a few have featured in this blog – Viscount Grey, Ramsay McDonald, E.V.Lucas, A.B.Austin and Stephen Graham all spring to mind. (Gary Hogg and Ian Niall are a little later, but feel to me like they fit the profile.) Using two initials isn’t essential, but it clearly helps. It’s not just walkers either – I’m a fan of H.H., H.G.,G.K.,P.G. and R.L. too (I know that there are some people out there who still appreciate a bit of a quiz, anyone going to rise to the challenge? And no – they aren’t cricketers.)

Would Charles Edward have frittered away half of the day snoozing in the long grass? I doubt it. Not that I was completely indolent…

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…a bit of motion in the bracken had me hunting for this slightly tatty Speckled Wood, but even as I took this photo, B was tugging on my arm and, were he a poker player he would undoubtedly have been telling me, ‘I’ll see your tired old butterfly and raise you one enormous beetle.’

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Here is his find. A Violet Ground Beetle. Very fast-moving it was. Predatory apparently.

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Eventually, and with some reluctance all round, what with the children wanting to furnish and decorate their wiki-up and the adults mostly content to loll about like the occupants of an opium den in the London of Fu Manchu, we summoned up the energy from somewhere or other to continue our walk.

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This is our merry band, breaking camp and leaving our bivouac spot, to cross the fields…

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…and eventually make it to the path which slips stealthily through the first line of crags on Beetham Fell…

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…before reaching the Fairy Steps themselves, which are altogether more difficult to negotiate, especially if you’re a bit short for your height like I am.

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Beetham Fell.

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Homeward bound.

The last part of our walk, alongside Silverdale Moss, held a bit of a surprise for me regarding another old friend, but that will have to wait for another post. (See how I’m cranking up the tension there, you’ll be on tenterhooks now, possibly for months!)

As ever, it was a great pleasure to see everyone, catch-up, re-tell old jokes, rehearse ancient yarns, indulge in a little anecdote bingo etc. The boys spent the entire weekend talking exclusively, some might say obsessively, about Minecraft, but we can hardly fault them for living cosseted in their own little world, now can we?

A Visit From ‘Our Camping Friends’

A Walk to Beetham

A couple of weeks back, finding ourselves child-free for the day (the children were persecuting their doting grandparents) TBH and I decided to stroll to Beetham and back.

We walked from home, meeting the coffin route from Arnside at Hazelslack Tower. The coffin route goes over Beetham Fell, passing through one set of crags through a fault in the cliff…

The first set of steps

And the second crag via the Fairy Steps, where coffins would have to be hauled up using ropes. Allegedly if you can climb the Fairy Steps without touching the sides they you are granted a wish. I didn’t touch the sides so much as become wedged between them.

Fairy steps 

The Tea Room in Beetham, which is above the village shop, was closed, but when they heard that we fancied a cuppa and a slice of cake, they served us anyway. Very nice too.

The tea shop 

The denizens of Beetham are well-served since they can also eat at the excellent Wheatsheaf, a former coaching inn, just off the A6.

The Wheatsheaf 

We regularly drive through Beetham and I’ve long wanted to have a proper look at the imposing church, St. Michael and All Angels.

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St Michael and All Angels 

St. Michael and All Angels 

As always in a church, I was drawn to the stained glass windows.

Stained glass 

This is an old church, and although most of the windows were apparently smashed by over-zealous roundheads, there are still some remnants of very old windows…

Old stained glass

It struck me that these look like the Legs of Mann, then I read…

Stained glass notice 

…that in fact it’s the coat of arms of Thomas Stanley who was a major player in the War of the Roses, a force to be reckoned with in the North West and also the titular King of Mann.

This…

Henry of Bolingbroke 

…must be Henry Bolingbroke, or Henry IV, and this…

A saint 

…the unnamed saint. It would be fascinating to know why they’re all here.

The more modern windows have an interesting cast of characters too. I’m always pleased to find St. George (looking uncompromisingly English and martial) ….

St George, St Martin 

But was really surprised to come across Charles I.

St Oswald, King Charles I, St Alban 

I wonder how many village churches have two English Kings in their windows?

St, Osyth, Ethelberga, St Lioba 

I was very pleased to find, on the right here, St. Lioba. There’s a little shrine to her in a wall up the road from this church in Slackhead which has always intrigued me. I’ve always assumed that there must be some connection to this church, and there is…

There was a church on this site in Saxon Times.It was dedicated to a little known Saxon saint,St.Lioba. She was born in Wessex in 710 A.D. and was a cousin of St.Boniface. After a convent education she accompanied Boniface on many of his journeys. She died in 780 A.D. and was buried next to Boniface in Fulda Cathedral in West Germany. It is supposed that the marks on the top of the pillar in the nave may indicate where a chapel dedicated to her once stood. In 1982 a statue was erected in a cell a little way up the hill, towards Slackhead, of St.Lioba holding a bell.

There’s also one of those large tombs with a lord and lady laying atop it, but the iconoclasts have been at it and loped off their heads.

Tomb with headless effigies

Ruined house

A ruined house in the woods on Beetham Fell.

A Walk to Beetham

Fail Better

 

On Saturday we had things to do in Kendal. I had thought that afterwards I might walk home along the Kent, but by the time we had looked at kitchens and windows and had some lunch it was clear that my original plan was far too ambitious. Another time. However, TBH was taking the kids to Lakeland Wildlife Oasis which seemed a convenient distance, so I walked back from there instead.

My route was improvised as I went. From Wildlife Oasis, which is on the A6, a road runs along the edge of Hale Moss. I followed that briefly, but then what looked on my map likely to be an unmetalled road or a long farm driveway (not a right of way) turned out to be a well walked path closely corralled by two high hedges.  I find on my newer map that it’s marked as a ‘road used as a public path’. It took me to Hale Head Farm which seemed to be a tiny hamlet of perhaps four or five homes, and had I continued it would have taken me to the village of Hale, but I turned right up to Fell End Farm then right on to the road and hence onto a path into the woods on Hale Fell. All of this was new paths to me, which is most unusual so close to home. Once in the woods I soon joined the Limestone Link path, which I have walked before and that took me to the splendid limestone pavement seen above, and then down to Slackhead.

At Slackhead there is an unusual shrine set in an alcove in a wall:

According to Wikipedia this is Saint Lioba (or Leoba). Why she should be here I’m not sure. I think a visit to the imposing parish church in Beetham is called for – might be the place to find out more.

From Slackhead it was back into the woods to climb Beetham Fell and visit the Fairy Steps. On route I made a short digression from the path, drawn by a dead tree heavily decorated with dryad’s saddle…

Whilst I was taking photos a roe deer raced through the trees behind me. It was much to quick for me to get a photo.

Even the dryad’s saddle seems to have moved out of frame!

The Kent Estuary from Beetham Fell.

At the top of the Fairy Steps I sat and drank some tea, took a long draught of the view and supped a few essays from J.B. Priestley’s Delight (about which more perhaps on another occasion).

Tiny salad burnet flower.

The fairy steps.

Wild strawberries (not as ripe as they appear).

The path which descends through the trees towards Hazelslack Farm has one section which is always wet and muddy. Even today it still was, despite the very dry spring we’ve had. I presume that there must be a spring of some sort there in the woods. In the meadows of long grass I thought that I saw a blue butterfly. It was small, had it’s wings closed when I saw it, and the undersides weren’t blue, so quite why I thought that it was blue I’m not sure. Had I managed to get a photo then perhaps I might be able to identify it from my guide books, but I didn’t. I also saw a blue butterfly a while back on the Lots – this one was definitely blue, but although I chased after it for a while , once again I didn’t get a photo. On my way home from work recently I found a woodpeckers nest high above the path in a dead birch, I was drawn initially by the noisy demands of the nestling but after several visits managed to see both the youngster poking it’s bright red-crested head out of the hole, and a parent visiting the nest.

Hazelslack Tower.

I was heading for Silverdale Moss and on a short section of road walking I was stopped in my tracks by a very pleasant aniseed scent. It evidently came from this umbellifer with very large long seedheads…

I tried the leaves and they had a mild and pleasant aniseed flavour, but apparently I should have tried munching on the seeds too. This is sweet cicely which was once added to stewed fruit because the plants natural sweetness reduced the amount of sugar needed.

Some brambles nearby were flowering and were covered in bumble bees. I snapped away with the camera and took a whole host of useless blurred shots. Never mind. Now that I had started to look, the diversity of different insects (not all bees) was fabulous. One stood out – much bigger than the others with very striking black and yellow stripes like a wasp – it might have been a wasp….

…but this, the sole picture I have, is not much use for identification purposes.

Oak apple.

Lime flowers about to emerge, what kind of lime? – I’m not sure but I think I know now what to look for next time I encounter a lime.

After Hazelslack Farm the path crosses a stream, and shortly after two more streams – all three were dry, in sharp contrast to the soggy path on Beetham Fell.

Leighton Beck bed – no water.

This did give me an opportunity to photograph from the streambed the little footbridge which crosses Leighton Beck here.

The footbridge – it’s made from two large slabs of limestone…

This is an area in which I almost invariably see a buzzard. And when I see a buzzard I almost invariably try to take a photo, and almost invariably fail. The autofocus seems to be the problem, but this time I did get a picture…

…this cropped version is not as sharp as I would like, but it’s a start. What was it Beckett said, something about failing better…

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

(What did we do before search engines?)

So this is my best failure to date on the buzzard photo front.

A damselfly on a huge burdock leaf. (Not sure which type – very hard to tell.)

I was now on the path along the edge of Silverdale Moss, which passes my old friend The Cloven Ash…

 

I think that maybe the gap between the two halves of the tree has widened since last time I came this way.

But still standing.

Grass seed-head (can’t do grasses – anybody?)

In the woods near Haweswater I stopped by another very busy patch of brambles. Although there were once again many bumble bees, my eye was caught by a couple of very striking hoverflies in natty two-tone outfits…

This is volucella pellucens, which according to my field guide is ‘very fond of bramble blossom’.

The bramble flowers all seemed to be drooping so that the flies hung underneath which made them a little tricky to do justice to.

 

The next focus of my attention was much more obliging.

Although he moved several times, he kept returning to this dead stalk, his wings loudly whirring like a playing-card fastened to catch the spokes of school-boy’s bike. I say ‘he’ advisedly as this is a broad-bodied chaser and the female is yellow. I’m pretty sure that I saw two females on the edge of the salt-marsh a few weeks ago. I’m also pretty sure that this is the first male I have ever seen. In the flesh that is – I’ve seen them before on other blogs – mainly I suspect at Bogbumper who always has great photos.

Whilst I was snapping away and trying not to chuckle too loudly at my sudden good fortune, this landed nearby…

I must admit that I took it for a moth, because of its thick and hairy body, but I was wrong, it’s a butterfly, a skipper, I think a large skipper (but I’m a bit tentative about that!).

And then (boy the photo opportunities were coming thick and fast)…

…a blue-tailed damsel fly.

Is there a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? And since we dabbled in Beckett before…

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

Well – the sun certainly shone, and if there was nothing new, well then there was a cornucopia of sights and sounds which were new to me.

Fail Better

Fairy Steps

This morning we drove to Cockshot Lane for a walk on Beetham Fell. We were into the woods straight away and came across these Aqualigea’s.

It’s quite a way from any gardens so they’ve done well to seed themselves here.

After climbing a very awkward leaning style we were in fields and lush long grass. We played follow-the-leader so that the kids wouldn’t mind walking in single file. Ben found a pheasant feather, which is almost as good to wield as a stick. He had been carrying a stick I but I took it off him after a couple of accidental whacks. Amy decided to eat some clover. She seems to be none the worse for the experience.

Near Hazelslack Farm, the grass was shorter and there were Rock Rose:

In the garden at the farm this peacock was calling loudly…

…but his two female companions seemed completely impervious to his strutting and shouting.

Nearby a pair of Guineafowl fussed and pecked:

The day had started bright, but by now a few dark clouds had appeared and we felt the odd spot of rain. Fortunately, the weather recovered from this point and the rest of the day was sunny, although the wind was quite cold.

From the farm the path is rocky and arrow straight. It climbs steadily until a blue rock face apparently bars any further progress:

But the path seeks out a fault in the rock…

And we pass through with ease:

Remarkably, before Arnside had its own Church, this was the coffin route over which the dead were carried to be interred in Beetham. The rock wall on the right has a rusted hinge fixed to it as if this passage were once gated.

Ahead a second band of rock once again blocks the route. This time the way ahead is more obvious, but more tricky:

 

Ben on the Fairy Steps

Local legend has it that if you can climb to the top without touching the sides then you are granted a wish. Amy assures me that she made it, and that from now on all of our rain will fall between Monday and Wednesday, guaranteeing dry weekends.

I know that I certainly can’t climb up there without being squeezed between the sides, and with Sam asleep in the back carrier I didn’t think that I could make it at all. I took a path which skirted below the cliff, intending to meet the others in a large clearing where a number of paths meet. When they didn’t initially show up I followed their route back towards them. I was struck by the light on this tree and the dappled light on the path:

I was surprised not to have come across them and so headed back the way I had come, only to find that they were just moments behind me:

On the way back down through the woods to the car, Ben waged war on the many wood ants criss-crossing the path. I was more interested in this low shrub..

…which I thought might be another garden escapee like the Aqualigea, but I find in my books that it is actually Tutsan, from the French toute-saine meaning all healthy. Herbalists laid the leaves over wounds and it does have antiseptic properties. In contrast to the amorous associations that every plant I came across a couple of weeks ago seemed to possess, Tutsan has a reputation for inducing chastity. Apparently, men should drink infusions made from the plant, and women should spread its twigs below their beds.

The leaves when dried are reputed to smell like Ambergris and so it is also called Sweet Amber.

These flowers are not quite open. I wonder if I can get back this way to see them when they are?

Fairy Steps

Duke of Edinburgh

Out at eight this morning heading for Milnthorpe. In Eaves Wood the birdsong was constant and bewildering in its variety. I heard the distinctive liquid croaks of a raven and looking up saw two birds flying very close together. Although my first thought was that it was a pair of ravens I quickly realised that in fact it was a raven being harassed by a crow. Later in the day I saw a crow doing the same thing to a buzzard which I’ve often seen before, but I can’t recall seeing a raven receive this treatment. I kept hearing a two note song which seemed familiar, but which I couldn’t place. It was only five minutes later, as I crossed the railway line at Waterslack, that I realised that I had been listening to chiff-chaffs and that it sounded familiar precisely because I have been watching the warblers section of my British Birds DVD in an attempt to learn the chiff-chaff’s song. On the path near Haweswater I heard them again and finally tracked the singing down to an LBJ in a small tree beside the path. It’s hardly a spectacular bird, but the satisfaction I felt was considerable none the less. A nuthatch perched on the edge of a hole in a tree trunk and dipped its head inside, presumably to feed young in an unseen nest.

A while back, by Silverdale Moss, I noticed a large tree split in two by a fissure through its trunk. It’s a huge Ash and it’s still standing and flowering in profusion. With little wind this morning the two halves of the tree weren’t beating together like last time.

On Beetham Fell I came past a stand of beech all in leaf. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t noticed that the beech leaves had emerged in Eaves Wood, but as the day progressed it transpired that most other beeches were still bare. Why then were several trees ‘out’ here? Because they share the same favourable conditions? Or does one tree come into leaf and then release a ‘tree hormone’ which encourages the others to follow suit?

Whatever the reason, the season of new beech leaves is a magical time. Bright sunshine to illuminate the leaves was the missing ingredient today, but I still enjoyed their arrival. In the first few days the leaves are pale and limp and hang overlapping to produce a full palette of lemon greens.

In Dallam Deer Park most of the deer were out of sight, probably down by the river Bela which seems to be a favourite haunt. This group were available for photos though:

Very considerate of them to pose. They are part of a large herd of tame fallow deer.

I had seriously underestimated how long it would take me to get to Milnthorpe and I was half an hour late arriving. Fortunately, nobody seemed to mind  and the D of E group that I was joining to supervise for part of their practice expedition weren’t ready to set off anyway.

We walked back through the deer park.

Back through the hamlet of Haverbrack, where I couldn’t resist this huge barn (surely ripe for convertion):

And back to Beetham Fell and the Fairy Steps. At the Fairy Steps the path passes through a narrow chimney in a small cliff. Getting the large packs full of camping gear down the tight squeeze proved to be quite a challenge for the girls. Fortunately the view kept me occupied whist they were hard at work (I was only there to observe and advise – it is meant to be a challenge!)

The hill on the left is Arnside Knot and the river is the Kent.

After lunch near Hazelslack farm it began to spit with rain. The group decided to don cagoules, overtrousers and rucksack covers and so the rest of the walk was accompanied by waterproof rustle. I opted to bide my time and despite occasional flurries the rain mostly held off until after I got home. A field near Hazelslack had been cleared of gorse and was resplendent with cherry blossom, marsh marigolds, violets, cowslips, bluebells, anemones, speedwell, daises etc. My young charges were too busy gossiping to notice but when we passed an early purple orchid I felt compelled to point it out to them. They are such nice kids that they humoured me and contrived to convey genuine interest for at least 30 seconds.

Unusually, a field on Arnside Moss had been ploughed. The shiny black soil looked like peat and was liberally covered in silver limestone boulders.

We followed Black Dyke beside the Railway Line and the edge of Middlebarrow Wood to Arnside Tower, then crossed Holgates Caravan Park into Eaves Wood. At the top of Elmslack Lane we parted company – they had a tour around Silverdale left to complete before they reached their campsite, I was five minutes from home.

Duke of Edinburgh