Every holiday needs a bit of down time, a chance to relax and do nothing much. It’s a forte of mine. One morning, the rest of the party upped-sticks and headed out to do…..something energetic no doubt. I opted to stay at the ranch and read my book. I’d been reading ‘Freedom’ by Jonathon Franzen, but I think by now I had switched to ‘Anathem’ by Neal Stephenson, which was equally brilliant and enjoyable but in a completely different way. Like the other books of his I’ve read, it was very thought provoking, but at the same time a ripping-yarn. Anyway, I was intending to read my book, but I was distracted by a flock of Bluejays which were flitting about in the trees surrounding the property and occasionally venturing onto the lawns. I have several very odd photographs of patches of lawn, a wheelbarrow, trees etc which if you stare hard enough reveal a small, distant patch of blue which, with imagination, might just about be a bird.
There was always something to see around the house. The Japanese beetles were always about. Likewise damselflies and dragonflies. There were a large variety of toadstools…
…both on the lawns and beneath the trees. Squirrels could be heard chattering in the trees most of the time, and we occasionally saw them; diminutive, red squirrels which seemed to be permanently angry about something or other. There were deer about too, although they were quite elusive in the trees. One memorable, moonlit night we heard a cacophony of coyotes howling. It’s probably a cliche to say that the sound was eerie, but…well, it was eerie.
Harvestmen were ubiquitous, particularly on the garage doors for some reason. Butterflies would occasionally flutter by, but I very rarely managed to catch up with them. This was a rare exception…
It’s obviously a fritillary, but which kind? I thought a quick bit of internet research would help, although given how difficult I’ve generally found fritillaries to identify in the past, I’m not sure why I thought that. It turns out that in the Adirondacks there are three fritillaries – the Aphrodite Fritillary, the Great Spangled Fritillary and the Atlantis Fritillary which are very difficult to distinguish between. I think this was one of those.
When the others got back from whatever they’d been up to, TBH was keen to take the dog for a short walk along the track.
Prof A had already warned us that the track over the bridge was private, and in case we weren’t sure roughly every two yards, on both sides of the track, there were lengthy notices pinned to trees warning of the dire consequences of trespassing. However, TBH wanted to see the view from the bridge and once she has an idea in her head there’s not much which will deflect her. She assured me that injunctions on the signs were, improbably, against leaving the track and entering the trees. So we went to look at the view from the bridge. The top photos shows the channel linking the different parts of the pond. On satellite images it looks like a narrower stretch of the pond, but when we paddled through it, perhaps because of the vegetation growing in the water and the obvious flow, it felt more like a river or stream joining two separate ponds.
At the back of the pond here you can see the island we had paddled beyond, and which B and I had swum to.
After a longs day’s driving, and with more mammoth drives in prospect, we were after a chilled day of catching up and getting in some swimming. It was cooler than it had been in New York, but still plenty warm enough.
We took a canoe, a kayak and a small flotilla of paddle boards across the pond from the north side and into the stream which heads off to the south-east – to be honest I can’t remember whether it was flowing into or out of the pond.
Prof A thought that the dam had probably been destroyed by canoeists who wanted to get their boats through.
Our nephews were keen to show their cousins this local venue for a bit of jumping in.
Although the area around us was heavily vegetated, I had the impression that it was probably pretty wet.
The canoe here was mine and TBH’s favoured mode of transport. I loved paddling it. Very restful. During our stay I tried to perfect my J-stroke, but without much success.
I found what I think was another Fowler’s Toad near to the house.
As you might imagine, with lots of trees and water, this is a great environment for the kind of nasty critters which like to bite. I gather that they can make early summer pretty unbearable. We wore lots of repellent, and still got bitten, but it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be.
These beetles were plentiful on the plants growing on the fringes of the lawn around the house. By coincidence, I’ve been reading about them since I came back from the US:
“Japanese beetle, a rather attractive copper and emerald-green scarab beetle…spend most of the year as grubs underground eating grass roots. The adults live for just a few weeks but nibble the leaves and petals of many ornamental plants, and also have a particular taste for vine leaves.”
‘The Garden Jungle’ Dave Goulson
The latter appetite has led to authorities in California organising a mass eradication programme where homeowners can see their gardens regularly and forcibly sprayed with a cocktail of pesticides. Apparently, one of the pesticides used has a half-life, in the soil, of up to 924 days, so that with annual applications the pesticide will accumulate in gardens. Nature has no chance.
Later, we took a short drive to have a swim at Ampersand Beach….
This was a spot we visited several times. It was great for a swim, although the lake bed shelved very shallowly so that you had to wade a long, long way out to get to the point where the water was deep enough. Ampersand Beach is on Middle Saranac Lake. More about the Saranac lakes in a later post.
You may have noticed that the map above shows an Ampersand Brook (of which more later), there’s also an Ampersand Mountain locally (of which more later), and an Ampersand Lake, which allegedly looks like the ampersand symbol, but which has no public access, so we didn’t visit that.
Even later still, this large toad was sat on the stone step by the back door of the house. It has a pale dorsal line, which I think makes it an American toad, although, if it was, I think it was a relatively large specimen.
My last day of term. The weather had turned hot again. I had an early finish, and had been contemplating getting out for a swim again. Then I got a call from the boys’ school to say that Little S was not feeling well, so picked him up and changed my plan. However, when B got home, he asked if I could take him and some others to Windermere, where a group of friends was gathering for a swim. I decided that if I was going to drive up to the Lakes, I might as well make the most of it.
First of all, I returned to a large deep pool in the Brathay a short walk upstream from Skelwith bridge. I swam quite a way upstream to the point where my gear, on the bank, was going out of sight, and then back again.
There were lots of dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies and, to my delight, demoiselles about. I persisted in trying to take photos with my phone, although I could see that the results were blatantly useless.
The river bank flowers were more cooperative in keeping still to be photographed.
Sneezewort and Yarrow are closely related, you can see the family resemblance can’t you?
Last time I swam in the Brathay, I then walked over into Little Langdale and swam in the Brathay again, just downstream from where it flows out of Little Langdale Tarn. Then, I’d bypassed Elter Water because the water seemed shallow and looked weed choked. I might have done the same again this time, but I overheard a man in a wetsuit saying that if you could get beyond the weeds it was well worth it.
You can see the final line of weeds in the photo below…
Out to those weeds, the water was only about knee deep, but with probably several feet of soft, sinky silt below that. I managed to get out by lying in the water and using my hands in the weeds below to drag myself along. Stirring up the silt released some noxious smells. It wasn’t a great deal of fun. Then suddenly the temperature of the water dropped considerably and the water was much, much deeper. I swam most of the way to those trees you can see on the far side, enjoying the view and the lack of weeds. I shared the lake with a lone paddle boarder. Sadly, I had to repeat the process of dragging myself through the shallow, weed-filled, silty shallows before I could get out again.
It had been warm, but overcast, but as I was drying myself on the riverbank, the sun came out again. Perfect timing.
I had half-planned to fit in a third swim in Loughrigg Tarn, but I didn’t really have time, and anyway, my second swim had been quite long and I had had enough. Another time.
Time now to look forward to other swims a little further from home.
Into June. A slightly longer local walk this time, to Hawes Water and the limestone pavements of Gait Barrows.
I took a lot of photos of partially devoured leaves this spring; I was amazed by the extent to which they could be eaten and not collapse, whilst still remaining recognisably leaves. I never saw any creatures which were evidently munching on the foliage. Maybe it happens at night.
In the grassland at Gait Barrows these tiny moths hop about, making short flights around your feet, landing in the grass and apparently disappearing when they land. Close examination sometimes reveals that they have aligned their bodies with a blade of grass or a plant stem and are thus well-hidden. I was lucky, on this occasion, to get a better view.
I met a couple who were holidaying in the area, mainly to see butterflies, but they were looking for the Lady’s-slipper Orchids. I took them to the spot where, for a while, they grew abundantly, but there was nothing there to show them. Such a shame. At least I know that they are growing more successfully elsewhere in the region, but I don’t know where. I think the consensus is that the spot where they were planted on the limestone was too dry.
The lack of Lady’s-slipper Orchids was in some way compensated by an abundance of Lily-of-the-valley. In my experience, although there are always lots of the spear-like leaves, flowers tend to be in short supply. This year there were lots. I must have timed my visit well.
This is from a couple of days later from a neighbour’s garden. We had an afternoon buffet and an evening barbecue to celebrate the jubilee. Being a fervent monarchist, obviously, I was full of enthusiasm for a party. Especially since the weather was so warm and summery. Well…I’m all for extra Bank Holidays. And get togethers with the neighbours, particularly if I’m excused from decorating as a result!
The next time I escaped from the woes joys of decorating, I managed a slightly longer walk. I think I wanted to visit this little scrap of verge where Elmslack Lane becomes Castle Bank and I knew I would find Dame’s Violet flowering.
From there I walked along Inman’s Lane along the bottom edge of Eaves Wood, then along the Row. Inevitably, I was heading for…
It’s quite easy to ignore Crane Flies, Daddy-Long-Legs; they’re common and plentiful, their larvae – leatherjackets – are a garden pest and I think some people are freaked out by their ridiculously long legs. But I thought the silvery-grey hue of this amorous pair, and the golden iridescence caught in the wings of the lower partner where very fetching.
I think this is an Ichneumonid wasp. It could be a sawfly, a digger wasp or a spider-hunting wasp, but on balance I’m going for an Ichneumon. After that I’m struggling. Apparently, there are around 2500 British species. Identifying them requires a microscope and an expert. Most species are parasitoids, meaning that they lay their eggs in other species of insects, caterpillars and grubs, and the larvae will eat and eventually kill the host. From my limited reading, I get the impression that each species of wasp will specialise in preying on the caterpillar or larvae of one particular species.
Some of the photos which follow are bound to look familiar, if you read my last post. Hardly surprising that if you walk in the same place just a couple of days apart, the bugs and beasties which are about and active are likely to be the same each time.
I’m reasonably confident that this Shield Bug is Troilus luridus. I’ve seen this given the common name ‘Bronze Shield Bug’ online, but my Field Guide gives another species that title, so I’ll stick with the latin name.
I took lots of photos of this Green Shield Bug and as a result was lucky enough to catch it in the act of taking wing…
You can see how the outer wings have adapted as a cover for the hind wings, so that when they’re on a leaf or a stem it’s hard to imagine that they even have wings.
Variable Damselflies are not listed in the handy booklet ‘An Atlas and Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB’, a publication whose long title completely belies its actual brevity. So, if this is a Variable Damselfly, which I think it is, the species must have fairly recently arrived in the area.
One of the advantages of teaching, it can’t be denied, are the very generous holidays. And what would you do with those holidays? Decorate the house of course! Famously, painting the Forth Road Bridge, colloquially at least, is a Sisyphean task, needing to be recommenced as soon as it has been finished. It sometimes feels like our household decorating is on a similar scale. On this occasion, with A imminently leaving home*, she and Little S were swapping rooms. Both rooms needed redecorating, in the case of A’s room, twice, after she decided she didn’t like the pink paint she had initially chosen. All of their belongings had to be shifted, the furniture was moved and in some cases replaced. It was a major undertaking.
When a lull in proceedings provided an opportunity to sneak out for a bit, I didn’t go far, but went on a Lambert’s Meadow safari, to see what I could see. On this occasion, the first thing I spotted was a gorgeous bluey-green weevil on a nettle. My photographs of the tiny creature didn’t come out well, but I saw another later. After that, my eye seemed to be in, and it turned out, of course, that there was plenty to see, if you looked carefully.
This spider was tiny. The photos (I took loads) don’t really do it justice; to the naked eye it seemed to be luminous yellow. I was very chuffed to have spotted it, since it was absolutely miniscule.
Leaf beetles have become firm favourites – they are so often bright, shiny, metallic colours. As often seems to be the case, once I’d seen one of them I suddenly seemed to spot lots more.
I don’t know why this should be the case, but I often seem to spot ladybirds in the hedges along Bottom’s Lane.
My modus operandi on my entomology wanders is to walk slowly scanning the vegetation for any movement on contrasting colours. I kept getting caught out by Wych Elm seeds which seemed to have settled all over the place – a good sign I hope.
These flowers seemed to be a bit on the big side to be bramble flowers, and based on the fact that I’ve found Dewberries before along Bottom’s Lane before, I assume that they are Dewberry flowers.
As ever, I’m more than ready to be corrected by anybody who actually knows what they are talking about.
I remember reading that ants ‘farm’ aphids, but I’m not sure that I’ve often seem them together.
When I got home, in no hurry to be indoors, I had a wander around our garden, photographing some of the ‘weeds’ growing there.
I woke up at around five, with an urgent need to get out out of my bivvy and sleeping bags. Once out, despite the many layers I was wearing, I began to shiver quite violently. I decided that the best thing to do would be to get moving, so hastily packed up.
Sleeping on the ground on a hilltop might not lead to a perfect, restful night, but it does have its compensations, chief among them being a hilltop view when the sun rises.
It was spitting with rain, and still a bit breezy, but I didn’t get far before I was thoroughly warmed-up and needed to stop and rethink my layers. It felt a bit odd to be stripping-down when it was raining on me, albeit only in a very half-hearted fashion.
Having already abandoned my ambitious plans to romp home over the Dodds, Helvellyn, Fairfield etc, it seemed logical to continue upwards from Latrigg and climb Skiddaw and its satellites. After all, I could just as well catch the 555 from Keswick as from Grasmere or Ambleside.
These days, I’m generally happy to be going uphill. I’ve long since rid myself of the illusion that I can climb hills quickly, so I just settle into a steady plod which feels comfortable. On the broad motorway which sweeps up the slopes of Skiddaw, I just couldn’t seem to find that tempo, however many rest stops I threw in. I shouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that Purgatory consists of an endless slope on just such a broad, stony featureless track. Or perhaps I was just tired after the exertions of the day before? I half contemplated turning back, but fortunately, I eventually reached the point where the angle eased and I could strike-off the main path for Lonscale Fell.
There was still plenty of climbing to do, but the gradient was more conducive, or I’d had a second-wind, or both, or something else; whatever it was, the slow-plod mode was working just fine again. It was still very early, but I had seen a couple of other walkers, both of whom had a ‘steady-plod mode’ which was at least twice the speed of mine.
On my unhurried ascent of Skiddaw, I met a guy coming the other way who was wrapped up in winter gear: big down jacket, cagoule, warm hat as well as hoods, many layers etc. It was pretty windy at this point, but his attire seemed completely over the top.
“You’ll be the second person up there today”, he greeted me, with a broad grin.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the two people who had overtaken me on my way up, or the couple I’d just seen coming down ahead of him, since he seemed inordinately chuffed with his supposed status as ‘first summiteer of the day’.
When I reached the long summit ridge it became immediately clear why the down jacket, cagoule etc had been necessary – it was ridiculously windy up there. I was soon fighting with my own cag, trying to get my arm into a wildly flapping second sleeve. I even put my balaclava back on. It was the kind of wind which has you staggering about and leaning onto the wind at a weird angle in an effort to stay upright.
These perhaps weren’t the windiest conditions I’d encountered this year, but they were the most striking, because as soon as I left the top, the wind abated considerably, leaving off just as suddenly as it had started when I reached the ridge.
On the way down the very steep and loose path towards Carl Side, I met a couple of ladies going the other way.
“Is it very windy up there?”
This question was presumably prompted by the fact that I was, in my turn, now wearing far too many clothes for the immediate conditions. When I confirmed that it was extremely windy on the ridge, the reply was:
“Yes, always seems to have its own wind.”
I’ve heard this said of Cross Fell in the Pennines, but never of any hill in the Lakes before.
The ability of my phone camera to take close-ups seems to have improved enormously. Updates to the software I suppose?
From Carl Side I took the path heading down to the south, heading for Dodd.
It’s now that I have to confess to a bit of utter muppetry. On my way up Dodd, I’d seen no sign of the right-of-way I needed which follows Scalebeck Gill and which I ought to have passed. So when I saw a footpath sign saying something like ‘Dodd Route’, I optimistically followed it. I think I was attracted by its very easy gradient: it descended very gently, or contoured around the western slopes of Dodd. I hoped that it was a very lengthy zig and that eventually there would be an equally long zag taking me back in the direction I needed. When I finally had to admit that this wasn’t going to happen, I felt like I’d come too far to turn back. Unfortunately, the path, good though it was, was heading for the car park to the north-west of Dodd, in completely the wrong direction for Keswick.
It was a long walk on the permission path beside the main road, then through Dancing Gate (what a terrific name for a hamlet!), Millbeck, Applethwaite and Thrushwood back to Skiddaw. In complete contrast to earlier it was hot. I was very conscious of the fact that I was already a bit sunburned from the previous day, and so stuck to the shade wherever I could.
When I arrived in Keswick, it was early afternoon, but I’d just missed a bus, so, with an hour to kill, I stocked up on refreshments and waited in the sun. I didn’t get the seats at the front on the top deck – I couldn’t compete with the sharpened elbows of the bus-pass brigade. I shall be happy to join their ranks in the not too distant future, if using the buses yields trips like this one.
Some stats: MapMyWalk gives 14 miles and just a little over 3000′ of ascent.
Wainwrights ticked-off: Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw Little Man, Skiddaw, Carl Side and Dodd. Can I count Latrigg again?
After all that waffle, in my last post, about my aspirational hare-brained schemes, here’s the evidence of what happens when one of them comes to fruition. Or not.
I’d been planning this one for a while. When I say planning, I mean that in the vaguest of ways. ‘Thinking about’ would be more accurate. Attention to detail was completely lacking.
My family had all bought tickets for Highest Point, an outdoor music festival in Lancaster, not to be confused with Lancaster Jazz Festival, or with The Lancaster Music Festival which is mostly staged in pubs. Why wasn’t I joining them? Well, I was tempted by Kaiser Chiefs and even more so by Basement Jaxx, but the latter were playing a DJ set, and frankly, whatever the attractions, they couldn’t compete with the prospect of a weekend of early summer walking.
So, TBH very kindly dropped me off in Milnthorpe, with about 30 seconds to spare, and I caught the 555 bus through Kendal and Windermere to Grasmere.
I must use the bus more often. It’s a bit slow. And we did sit in Kendal Bus Station for quite some time, for no apparent reason. But I enjoyed being a passenger, and taking in the views, especially after the front seats at the top became available in Kendal, and not having to worry about parking.
Anyway, when I finally arrived in Grasmere, it was bright and sunny and warm for once, much more so than the photos suggest. I popped into Lucia’s for some extra provisions (highly recommended) and then set-off up Easedale in the company of two gentlemen from the North-East, one of whom was very keen to ask for directions (“Is that Helm Crag?”) and tell me about his route, their accommodation in Keswick and so on. The other gent was as taciturn as his companion was garrulous, which made me feel like I was intruding.
Over the years, I’ve looked at maps of the Lakes (particularly my colourful old inch-map, which has a lot to answer for) and thought that I ought to walk along the broad central spine of hills from the Langdale Pikes northwards. I’ve also often thought that it would be brilliant to walk the long ridge from Threkeld to Ambleside over the Dodds and Helvellyn and Fairfield etc. So, here was my madcap scheme – to (sort-of) combine those two, with a bivvy in between, probably on High Rigg I thought.
Since I was using the 555, a start in Grasmere would be easier than trying to get to Langdale, and it would also make it convenient to include Tarn Crag.
It was a really glorious day and on Tarn Crag I sat for quite some time, enjoying the pasty I’d bought in Grasmere and video-calling my mum and dad, to share the views with them.
Since I’d already climbed High Raise earlier in the year, I contemplated trying to contour around from Tarn Crag to Greenup Edge, hopefully visiting a remote little tarn on route, but in the end I couldn’t resist the temptation to climb High Raise again.
I had another stop on Codale Head, and sat for while.
And then another bit of a sit on High Raise. The views from High Raise are expansive. On this occasion I was sharing those views with quite a few people, most of whom seemed to be participating in some sort of organised challenge walk, with people in teams; I wondered whether it was a corporate bonding exercise, based on some of the conversations I overheard.
Not to worry, they were all heading down to Grasmere from Greenup Edge, having started, I gathered, in Langdale. In fact, the remainder of the day was very, very quiet, at least until I reached Keswick.
It took a while to reach the top of Ullscarf, so another rest and a sit-down seemed appropriate. I have a bit of a soft spot for Ullscarf. Years ago I bivvied a couple of times with friends on the slopes above Harrop Tarn and would then climb Ullscarf via its eastern hinterland early the following morning, often in thick mist. In the days before sat-nav, I was chuffed when I actually managed to arrive on the summit. Those empty slopes above Thirlmere always seemed to be a good place to spot Red Deer.
I finished the last of my water on Ullscarf and then dropped into the top of Ullscarf Gill to refill my water bottle.
Standing Crag is a Birkett, but not a Wainwright. It’s well worth a visit in my opinion. I didn’t stop for a sit here. It was well into the afternoon, and it was becoming clear that I’d probably bitten off more than I could chew.
It seems that a consortium of charities have been restoring the peat bogs here. As well as flagging the paths (sadly with some very soggy gaps between the flagged sections) they’ve also created little dams to create some really wet areas…
It was lovely, in a very wet kind of way.
If I hoped that reaching the rocky top of High Seat would spell an end to the bog, I was destined to be disappointed. But it was drier, at least. And after Bleaberry Fell, the bog-snorkelling comes to an end.
I had a long overdue rest on Walla Crag. I must have looked all-in, as a bloke who walked past asked me if I was okay. Which I was, of course. The light was lovely.
I did briefly contemplate a bivvy on (or near) Walla Crag, but I’d been promising myself a take-away tea in Keswick all day and the draw of a greasy, high-calorie meal won out.
It was still light, just about, as I arrived on the outskirts of town, but it was also almost 10 o’clock, and I was striding out whilst using Google Maps in an attempt to work out where the nearest open shop was. Fortunately, I found a little grocery store which was still serving and stocked up on water and ginger beer. It had been thirsty work!
One of the pubs near the Moot Hall had a live band who were playing an excellent selection of covers. (Heart of Glass, Take Me Out, Maggie May, for example, if memory serves me right.) It was very loud out in the street, lord knows what it was like inside the pub. The town centre was extremely busy with revellers, I suppose I probably stuck-out like a sore-thumb. Or a sun-burned, muddy, sweaty, but very happy hill-walker. Anyway, I found a bench where I could listen to the band and tucked into my well-earned donner and chips. So I got my live music in the end, on top of a day’s walking.
I’d already decided by now that High Rigg (where I envisaged a soft heather bed and a very comfortable night) was much too far away. I was also having doubts about my proposed return route – it would be both longer and with more up and down than the walk I had just done. Too much, I thought.
I opted instead for a midnight ramble on Latrigg.
It was dark, but the moon was bright and it’s a wide, well-made path, so I didn’t really need my headtorch. After a warm day, there was now a cooling breeze. Actually, it was pretty windy and quite cool.
I found what seemed like a reasonable spot, overlooking the town, put on every item of clothing I’d brought, including a balaclava, and climbed into my sleeping and bivvy bags.
How did I sleep? Well, better than I’d expected, which is to say – some. The ground was a bit hard, without a cushioning of heather. Also, at some point during the night, the wind changed direction and I woke up to find that it was blowing over my shoulders and directly into my sleeping bag. I’m usually reluctant to completely seal my bag over my head, it’s a bit claustrophobic I find, but I did that now and then slept much more soundly.
The app gives just over 20 miles all told, and almost 1300m of climbing (which is a bit of an underestimate I think, but maybe not too far out).
Wainwrights: Tarn Crag, High Raise, Ullscarf, High Tove, High Seat, Bleaberry Fell, Walla Crag, Latrigg.
Birketts: all of the above, plus Codale Head, Low White Stones, Standing Crag, Watendlath Fell, Shivery Knott, Middle Crag (I narrowly bypassed Blea Tarn Fell, but, fortunately, I’ve been up there before).
I’m grateful to Mr Birkett for all of those extra ticks: fourteen tops feels like a better return on the effort than eight. Some of them are a bit underwhelming however, but if you like walking in the Lakes (and why wouldn’t you?) I would recommend checking out Codale Head and Standing Crag, I think they should be in everybody’s lists.
And my new plan for the morrow?
You’ll have to wait!
(A short playlist for this post: ‘Higher Ground’ Stevie Wonder, ‘Gotta Keep Walking’ Willy Mason, ‘May You Never’ John Martyn.)
I was missing the flower rich meadows of the Dordogne and the multitude of butterflies and moths and other insects which the abundant flowers attract. So I set out for a short meander around Hawes Water, with my camera with me for once, with the express intent of finding something interesting to photograph.
Some patches of knapweed growing between Challan Hall and Hawes Water gave me just what I was after.
Mainly bees, which by late summer have faded quite a bit and so are even harder to identify than they are earlier in the summer.
Not to worry – I very happily took no end of photos.
I think this is a Green Dock Beetle. Pretty colourful isn’t it? I took lots of photos of this charismatic (or should I say prismatic?) little fella. With hindsight, I think the patterns on the knapweed flowerhead are pretty special too. Apparently, the larvae of these beetles can strip the leaves of a dock plant in no time flat. Likewise the massive leaves of a rhubarb plant. I don’t recall seeing them before, but shall be checking out docks more carefully this summer.
And finally, the hedgerow close to home which was cut down has new fences along each side and there’s plenty growing in that space – whether or not that’s the hawthorns and blackthorns of which the hedge was originally composed remains to be seen.
Back in the summer, when the sun was shining, and the rules changed (how many times have they changed since then?), so that we were allowed to meet five friends outdoors, all B seemed to want to do was meet his school friends in Heysham and swim with them in the Bay. Personally, I wouldn’t choose to swim in the Bay, and particularly not right next to a Nuclear Power Plant, but B is old enough and daft enough to make his own choices these days, and my own squeamishness is probably not well-founded.
Since public transport was still frowned upon, I found myself with time to kill between dropping him off and meeting him for the return journey.
I first visited St. Peter’s church in Heysham village, the picturesque part of Heysham, hoping to look inside and see the Viking hog’s-back graves there, but that will have to wait, since the church was locked up.
From Heysham headland, I drove a short hop to visit Heysham Moss. It’s a Wildlife Trust reserve which has been on my radar for a while. Last time I came looking for it, I took a wrong turn, but, fortuitously, stumbled upon Middleton Nature Reserve. This time I had satnav and a postcode. Sadly, whilst these got me to the right neck of the woods, I couldn’t see the entrance – it’s just away from the road on a right-of-way – although I was parked really close to it. I spent a frustrating half-an-hour venturing along narrow, slippery, nettle-fringed paths, which I presume are the preserve of local kids and/or dog-walkers, but none of which got me into the reserve. Having returned to the car and decided to ‘have one more go’, I quickly found the entrance. I’m glad I tried again.
The reserve is very wet in places, as the name Moss implies, but it also has a large area of raised peat, quite rare I think in lowland areas.
There were lots of butterflies and dragonflies about, not all of them very cooperative when I wanted to take photos. Also, a few Silvery Y Moths, a day-flying summer immigrant.
I had great fun taking numerous photos of what I now think is a male Ichneumon extensorius. Apparently, this is a dimorphic species, in that the male and the female are very different. Ichneumon wasps are parasites, laying their eggs in the bodies of moth and butterfly caterpillars. But the adults eat nectar, which fits with the behaviour of this male, which was feasting on the angelica and seemed quite oblivious of my attention.
I just about had time for a circuit of the reserve – I shall definitely be back for another look.