Raven Crag and Bleaberry Fell

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It was getting towards the end of our Christmas break and I was itching to get out for ‘proper walk’, or in other words, a day in the hills. The forecast was for cold, cloudy but dry weather. I picked a walk from Brian and Aileen Evans’ excellent ‘Short Walks in Lakeland’ without really reading the description properly (of which, more later).

The walk starts near Castlerigg Stone Circle, where there’s a fair amount of roadside parking. I was eager to get off and since my return route would take me right past the stones, I didn’t bother to take any photographs of them in the morning. I ought to have foreseen that I would finish in the dark, I certainly would’ve realised that had I paid more attention to the guide book, but I didn’t, so you’ll have to go back to my last visit in 2010 if you want to see what it looks like.

As I was admiring the view in the photo above, a Kestrel flew across in front of me and landed in the hawthorn on the left. I stalked around the tree, expecting the falcon to be spooked and fly off again, but it didn’t, at least not immediately…

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I’d almost got a view which wasn’t obscured by twigs when it finally drifted away, but only as far as the wall on the far side of the field. I stalked once again, stopping every few strides to take a photo…

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I was really surprised how close he let me get.

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Naddle Beck, The Benn and Dodd Crag.

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Goat Crag and Dodd Crag.

There was evidently quite a bit of work going in the valley. Thirlmere Reservoir, originally created to supply Manchester with water, will soon be connected to West Cumbria. There were signs by the path to Rough How bridge saying that the path was closed whilst the work was being completed, but the signs looked to have been in situ for a while and the path was actually easy to walk, with no kind of obstruction. Likewise, there were signs where the path entered the forest near Shoulthwaite Farm which warned that many of the paths close to Thirlmere were still closed after the storm damage of 2015.

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Iron Crag and Goat Crag.

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Skiddaw and Blencathra from The Benn.

In fact there were Water Company staff in the forest in a large pick-up, I’m not sure what they were doing, driving around the forest tracks certainly, but one of the ‘closed’ paths took me to the top of the Benn without any issues whatsoever, so, again, I’m not sure why it’s still closed.

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Thirlmere and Raven Crag from the Benn.

It’s a shame about the flat light and slightly hazy conditions because Raven Crag is really quite spectacular.

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Thirlmere from Raven Crag.

On Raven Crag I sat down for a flask of tea and my lunch. I’ve not been up these minor summits above Thirlmere before and I was really pleased to have rectified that omission.

Although…

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…Castle Crag was a bit underwhelming, even if it is the site of an Iron Age hill-fort.

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Shoulthwaite Gill.

I left the forest and set off to cross the moorland. I’d hoped and expected that the ground would be frozen and it was to an extent, but the ground didn’t seem to be quite as boggy as I was expecting anyway.

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I was heading for some knolls, curiously named Threefooted Brandreth and then on to Bleaberry Fell. Birkett doesn’t include either Iron Crag or Dodd Crag in his list of Lakeland Fells, but both look worth a visit to me. I shall have to come back another time for a more thorough exploration. I didn’t have time on this occasion: I’d seen that the Evans’ gave their route as nine miles, but only looked at the map and didn’t realise that I had unknowingly combined two of their walks; once I’d finished, Mapmywalk gave my route as twelve and a half miles.

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Small unnamed tarn, not in the Nuttall’s ‘Tarns of Lakeland’ books, with Bleaberry Fell behind.

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High Seat and the Central Fells from Bleaberry Fell.

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Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw from Bleaberry Fell.

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Looking back to Bleaberry Fell.

I was rapidly running out of daylight now and was quite surprised by how many people I met still going uphill. I still had Walla Crag to bag, but fortunately that requires very little extra effort.

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Derwent Water and the Northwestern Fells from Walla Crag.

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Keswick and Skiddaw.

This is the second time I’ve taken photographs of Keswick in near darkness recently. The last part of the walk, along a narrow lane back to the stone circle was in complete darkness.

At the stone circle I was quite surprised to see a number of people apparently exploring by the light of headtorches. I wondered whether some sort of pagan midwinter ceremony was underway, but it soon became evident that some people had met to let off some  fireworks. Of course, it’s possible it was a pagan firework display. It looked like fun either way. I might have stopped to watch myself, but I was in something of a hurry because we were supposed to be at the home of our friends G and B for a meal and a games night by six thirty. I was cutting it pretty fine – I didn’t get home until ten past. I turned it around very quickly though and we enjoyed a delicious meal and a terrific evening.

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Raven Crag and Bleaberry Fell

New Year Floral Survey

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – The Row – Burtonwell Wood – The Clifftop – Heald Brow – Quaker’s Stang – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Gibraltar Farm – Woodwell – Emesgate Lane.

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Quince Flowers.

After a string of grey, overcast, foggy, damp days, New Year’s Day was a corker: bright, sunny and, out of the wind, even quite warm at times. TBH was wiped out by a rotten cold, but the rest of us had been out on New Year’s Eve and the children, lightweights to a man, weren’t up very early. Eventually, Little S emerged into the light and I told him I was heading out to take advantage of the sunshine and asked him to ring me when the others got up, chiefly because the day before we’d got halfway through a game of Pandemic, a board game my brother sent us for Christmas, and I’d promised to finish it with the kids when they were ready.

The first surprise, apart from the glorious sunshine, was the thicket of Quince on the  corner of Elmslack Lane which was studded with bright red baubles. I suppose it must have been flowering when I walked past it earlier that week, but it took some brighter conditions to draw my attention to that fact. When I spotted a Marigold (I think?), which must have self-seeded where it sat at the end of a gravel drive….

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…I was reminded again, as I often am, of Richards Adams marvellous ‘A Nature Diary’ in which the author, most famous for Watership Down, explores the lanes, hills and coasts around his home on the Isle of Man. His winter entries often gleefully list the flowers he has found unexpectedly in bloom. I wondered how I might fare with a similar scheme on New Year’s Day. Almost immediately, I spotted Snowdrops and a single Celandine. Also…

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…quite a bit of Winter Jasmine in gardens. All of those might reasonably be expected, but I was a bit more surprised by the extent to which the brambles were flowering wherever I saw them in the woods…

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The Jubilee Monument on Castlebarrow.

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In Eaves Wood.

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In Burtonwell Wood.

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I think that this might be Yellow Jelly Fungus, also known as Witches Butter, but I’m not sufficiently confident about that, or hungry enough, to try adding this allegedly edible fungi to my diet.

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Heald Brow.

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Meadow Ant Mounds on Heald Brow.

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Evidence of Badger predation of Meadow Ants? Apparently Badgers are partial to ants.

It was a good morning for birds, if not for bird photographs: I heard and saw Nuthatches, a Buzzard, various tits, several Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one Green Woodpecker.

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Ragwort.

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Dandelion.

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Gorse.

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Daisy.

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Quaker’s Stang and Warton Crag.

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Sea Beet.

It wasn’t just the flowers which caught my attention; Sea Beet is the wild ancestor of Beetroot, Sugar Beet and Perennial Spinach, grows all year by the coast, is packed full of vitamins and is reputedly delicious. Spring is apparently the best time to eat it, so, seeing it growing on the edge of the salt-marsh, I made a mental note to come back this way, later in the year, with some sort of receptacle in which to carry away some forage.

There were quite a few people enjoying a New Year’s Day constitutional down by the salt-marsh, but I felt like I might be the only one who spotted the completely unexpected flight of a Speckled Wood butterfly and, moments later, a Painted Lady…

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Butterflies can only fly when the temperature is high enough, so the fact that they were here at all was testament to the genuine warmth by this sheltered, south-facing bank. It’s still a bit of a puzzle however, since Speckled Wood butterflies are unique in that they can overwinter as either a caterpillar or a chrysalis, but I don’t think they generally hibernate, as some other species do. And Painted Ladies famously migrate northwards from North Africa over several generations during a summer and then return in the autumn. Perhaps this one was a straggler.

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The large tree behind the old chimney had a couple of clumps of…

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…exquisitely ochre fungi.

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Jenny Brown’s Cottages.

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This looks like a Hawk’s-beard, although I’m not remotely confident about that. Maybe Rough Hawk’s-beard, but that’s supposed to flower in June and July, so if it is, it’s a confused specimen.

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Jack Scout.

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I’ve previously reported that the berries on Flowering Nutmeg, here growing close to Woodwell, reputedly taste chocolaty. In the interest of accuracy, I tried a berry and can now correct my error – it didn’t taste at all like chocolate. It was bitter and not at all pleasant. Oh well – you live and learn.

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More flowers. These were staked, clearly a garden plant, but Stinking Hellebore is actually native to the British Isles. This plant is very early to flower and would be one of the few you might expect to see at this time of year.

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Emerging Cuckoo Pint leaves: spring is on the way!

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Hydrangea. In retrospect these are not actually flowers at all I don’t think, but the remains of the large bracts which once surrounded the actual flowers.

We never did finish that game of Pandemic. I eventually rang Little S, when it seemed too late in the day for the rest of the family to still be in bed. It transpired that they were watching a film instead, so I was free to continue my New Year’s Day ramble without feeling guilty about having abandoned them all. We have played several times since.

The following day our old friend X-Ray visited and he and I and B played another new game, sent by my brother, Queen Domino. It’s a companion to, and can be combined with, King Domino, which we’ve enjoyed enormously since we got it last Christmas. Although I won, I didn’t really feel that I’d grasped the strategy for Queen Domino; I think that might take numerous games.

After our game, X-Ray and I went for a rather late wander down to Jack Scout and managed to miss what was, apparently, quite a spectacular sunset.

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Next time will have to do.

A pretty good start to 2019. I hope you’ve enjoyed the same.

New Year Floral Survey

Starling Pillowcase.

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A couple of weekend walks from the same day in December. First a turn around Eaves Wood in some revitalising sunshine and then a late walk up to Heathwaite and then the Knott via the ‘new’ path I found from Far Arnside. Along the way I encountered a large flock of Starlings feeding noisily in amongst some calves. After the sun had set, I watched two large raptors soaring over the estuary against a backdrop of the last of the colour in the sky from the sunset.

How many songs do you know which mention Starlings? At the moment I can only think of one…

‘Starling Pillowcase and Why?’ by Leicester’s vastly under-appreciated Yeah Yeah Noh, an archetypal John Peel band if ever there was one and a real blast from my past.

‘I remember sun through the cloud…’

Starling Pillowcase.

Remember, remember…

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Grey Heron.

B had a match in Kirkby, but for once not at Underley Park and not playing for KLRUFC: he was playing for his school against Kirkby School, a team stuffed full of team-mates and friends from club rugby. I’d had to drop him in Lancaster to get the team mini-bus, but followed along behind so that I could watch the game. On route, I stopped briefly in Hornby for a short walk beside the River Wenning.

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Wenning weir.

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Hornby Castle.

I’ve always assumed that Hornby Castle was a Victorian fake, but apparently the castle has been here for a very long time, although it was extensively remodelled by Lancaster architects Sharpe and Paley in the nineteenth century. The castle has an interesting history, having been captured and occupied during the Civil War. William Parker, fourth Baron Monteagle, was born here according to some sources; the castle was certainly owned by his father. Parker was the peer who was warned about the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, which led to the discovery and thwarting of the scheme.

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Hornby Bridge.

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Grey Heron.

I wandered a little way along the river, photographing two herons who were both unusually placid about being closely watched.

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Two more views of the Wenning.

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Drinking fountain, Hornby.

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This decoration was apparently removed from a railway bridge, the Rat and Cat Bridge. The strange symbol above the date is a design combining P and D, denoting Pudsey Dawson (great name!) High Sheriff of Lancashire and another former owner of the castle, in fact, the same one that commissioned the late nineteenth century alterations.

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Later, I was out again, catching the sunset from Castlebarrow.

Remember, remember…

Crumbs of Comfort.

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Once I’d taken Little S home, I returned to Lancaster to collect B who was back from his trip to Twickenham. Later, I sneaked out one last time for a walk in the final embers of the weekend’s lovely light.

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Sun dropping behind a Morecambe Bay wind farm.

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Someone had left a pile of crumbs on the wall alongside the clifftop path by The Cove and this Robin rather personably dropped in to share the crumbs and the view of the sunset.

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Now that I’ve squeezed five posts out of this one weekend, I can let you in on a secret: at the time, at least at the beginning of the weekend, I felt slightly aggrieved not to be getting out for a ‘proper’ walk on such a fine weekend. With hindsight and a little perspective, that seems, well, more than a bit churlish. I didn’t do too badly, living off the crumbs, did I?

No tenuous link to this haunting song, it’s just been stuck in my head since I first heard Marc Riley play it on 6 Music.

Crumbs of Comfort.

Unlisted Lancaster.

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A weekend of absolutely glorious weather – blue skies and beautiful sunshine – but a very busy one for me, so another opportunity to make the most of whatever spare scraps of time were available. B was away with school, on a rugby tour, playing a game in Essex somewhere on the Friday and then at Twickenham watching England squeak past Japan in one of the Autumn Internationals on the Saturday. TBH was also away, I think on Guiding training, which left me as chief cook, bottle-washer and taxi-driver.

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I think that these are Muscovy Ducks. They aren’t native to the UK, but there were half a dozen on the canal that day, presumably feral birds.

Little S had BJJ in Lancaster on the Saturday morning and then a birthday party with a new friend (he’s moved up to ‘big school’) in the afternoon. I drove him in for BJJ and then took him for lunch afterwards and kept him company before his party.

I needed somewhere to leave the car; there’s not much in the way of free parking in Lancaster, but there are some spots on Aldcliffe Road, by the Lancaster Canal, which had the added advantage of leaving me with a bit of a walk to meet Little S after his grappling.

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Owl sculpture in a community garden sandwiched between Aldcliffe Road and the canal.

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Having passed through the town centre, my route to meet Little S took me along St. Leonard’s Gate. I wondered how properties which get listed are chosen and others are not. This building is fairly old, and the City Council have deemed it interesting enough to warrant one of their Green Plaques, but it isn’t listed.

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The Grand Theatre, just across the road is listed, but I didn’t photograph it, because it was in heavy shade. Another time.

Some of the properties in this area are looking a bit rundown to say the least….

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I walked past this building again recently and noticed that there was a pigeon stuck inside which was flying repeatedly into one of the few remaining panes of glass in a window.

This building…

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…is St. Leonard’s House, which is listed. It was built 1881-2 and was a furniture factory, for the Lancaster firm Gillow and Company. It too was looking a tad dishevelled, but has been hidden behind scaffolding for quite some time now and is clearly being tarted up for some purpose.

There’s been a fair bit of building work in Lancaster over recent years. This…

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…is part of Caton Court, which will provide student accommodation when it’s finished.

Little S was in no doubt about what he wanted for lunch – there’s a street market in Lancaster On Wednesdays and Saturdays and one of the stalls does a hog roast. Very nice it was too. After that we still had some time to kill, so I took S to the Music Room cafe and finally got to see the interior. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise at first that there’s seating upstairs which is presumably where we needed to go in order to see the ‘very richly decorated plasterwork walls and ceiling of c1730’. I would have known that if I’d thought to check the Historic England listing in advance. Oh well: next time!

Having dropped Little S at his party I went scooting home, hoping to get out again around the village whilst the weather was so benign.

Unlisted Lancaster.

Mending Wall

Eaves Wood – Ring O’Beeches – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Moss Lane – Trowbarrow Quarry – Storrs Lane – Red Bridge Lane – Golf Course – Bank Well – Lambert’s Meadow – Burtonwell Wood – Hagg Wood.

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A half-term Monday, no work, not a cloud in the sky: better get out for a local walk!

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In Eaves Wood.

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The circle of beeches.

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Waterslack.

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Woods near Challan Hall.

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Exmoor ponies, used for conservation grazing.

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The only fly in the ointment that day was the new fencing and padlocked gate near Hawes Water. It looked as though the intention will be to keep the public off the grassland which borders the lake which the old boardwalk used to cross. That will protect the habitat of the plants which grow there – Bird’s-eye Primrose at the southern end of its range and Grass of Parnassus for example – but will also mean that people like me who enjoy seeing those plants will no longer enjoy that simple pleasure. I could be wrong of course, I hope I am: the fencing was far from finished and I haven’t yet been back to check.

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,”
from ‘Mending Wall’ by Robert Frost

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The bright sunshine went some way to alleviate my concern about the number of poor photographs of fungi I’ve taken this autumn; with better light the camera coped admirably.

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Birch polyps.

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Hawes Water.

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Trowbarrow Quarry.

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This female pheasant seemed unusually sanguine about my close proximity. I couldn’t decide whether or not she might be sitting on a very late clutch of eggs.

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I rather liked this new (to me) carving on a dead tree by the visitor centre at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve.

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By contrast, the following day the whole family went to Blackpool Pleasure Beach in bitterly cold weather. We’d bought tickets from a charity auction.

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Poor Little S wanted somebody to accompany him on all of the white knuckle attractions, but the rest of us were relatively cowardly. TBH did eventually agree to join him on the ‘Ice Blast’.

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Here they are, both looking very nervous, shortly before being sent hurtling skyward…

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I was up for taking him on ‘The Big One’ – I like rollercoasters, but it was shut due to the high winds. We had to settle for the old rickety wooden ones, which left me feeling pummelled and slightly nauseous. I must be getting old.

Here’s the rest of the family on something much tamer, but wet, which is why I refused to join them.

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To finish, another snippet of my diverse musical taste, in contrast with the previous post, this harks back to the late eighties when I waited eagerly for each addition of Maximumrocknroll where I could discover obscure punk bands, like, for example, Angst.

This song is the opener from their album “Mending Wall’. The fact that the album was named after the Frost poem was what put it into my mind, but I suppose that the song is also tangentially relevant, since it seems to be, in some way, about an inability to adapt to change (although I don’t think padlocked gates at nature reserves are explicitly mentioned). Angst were on SST records, run by Black Flag’s Greg Ginn and home not only of Black Flag, but also of Husker Du (at least for a while), Sonic Youth (for one album I think), the Meat Puppets, Saccharine Trust and a host of others including, best of all in my opinion, the Minutemen. Simply being on the label was recommendation enough for me and most of the records I bought on spec turned out to have been worth a punt.

Do people still become single-mindedly obsessed by the output of a favourite record label? I hope so. I was quietly pleased to see that Maximumrocknroll is still going strong.

Mending Wall