Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh

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A cast of thousands (well a dozen or so) assembled for our winter gathering, this year held once again at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel and, as ever, superbly organised by Andy. On the Saturday, The Tower Captain and I decided to tackle the two hills which tower over the hotel to the East – Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh.

The route was extremely simple: follow the path beside the Allt Coire an Dothaidh into the slightly forbidding looking Coire an Dothaidh…

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Turn right at the col for the long haul up to Beinn Dorain before returning to the col to nip up Beinn an Dothaidh via a circuit of Coire Reidh.

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Looking down Glen Orchy.

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Looking across Loch Tulla.

Towards the top of Corie an Dothaidh I was really surprised to see, emerging from the snow, the flowers of what I assume to be Purple Saxifrage, familiar to me from the limestone crags high on Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent.

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We stopped for a while, behind a boulder near the top of the corrie, for a drink and a bite to eat.

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Lochan on the ridge, unnamed on the OS map.

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Beinn a Chuirn and Beinn Mhanach, with Beinn Sheasgarnaich behind TC.

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Looking up to the steepest section of the climb on Beinn Dorain.

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Looking back towards Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Across Loch Tulla again. Ben Starav, Stob Coir an Albannaich and Stob Ghabhar.

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Pano. Click on this, or other pictures, to view a larger image on flickr.

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Looking south-west, Ben Oss and Ben Lui prominent.

The weather was pretty changeable and we had a few showers of snow, hail and rain, but on the whole that just added to the drama of the views.

The false summit of Carn Sasunnaich came as a surprise, in mist I can see that it would be very easy to be fooled by it.

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I was feeling in particularly fine fettle along this section of ridge, like I was really in my element.

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In fact, here I am, feeling very pleased with myself. The Tower Captain took the photo, I don’t think he’ll mind that I’ve used it.

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Looking back along the ridge to Carn Sasunnaich.

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Across Loch Tulla again – the weather coming in.

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Looking toward Ben Oss and Ben Lui again.

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Looking South from the top.

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Ice formations on the slopes of Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Looking back to Beinn Dorain.

I was hoping that Beinn an Dothaidh would give us superb views across the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor, but, by the time we had reached the top, the weather had closed in again and our views were a bit limited.

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Looking down to Loch Tulla.

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Beinn Achaladair.

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Large cornices and the summit of Beinn an Dothaidh.

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The Tower Captain on the summit of Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Looking towards the hills around Loch Lyon.

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I’m not sure what kind of rocks the hills we climbed are composed of, but they seemed to glitter in the combination of damp and sunlight we had, with lots of silvers and golds on display. Eventually, it occurred to me to try to photograph them, but I only took one photo, which hasn’t really captured the effect very satisfactorily.

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When we got back down to Coire and Dothaidh the snow had mostly melted and the late afternoon light put a completely different aspect on the views.

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We sat by the same boulder as we had on the way up for one final rest stop…

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…before returning to the pub for food, drink and a convivial evening with old friends.

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Beinn Dorrain

Can’t be bad.

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Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh

Half-term Happenings: Lancaster, Lune, Meal, Murmuration.

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On the Thursday of our February half-term week, we were looking to combine another ‘easy’ walk, which allowed the possibility of shorter or longer alternatives, with a lunchtime meal. We hit upon driving to the park and ride carpark, just off the motorway by Lancaster, which has the advantage of being free, then walking into town. We could then either walk back or catch the dedicated bus service if need be.

From the carpark, after crossing a couple of busy roads, it’s easy to access the path beside the River Lune. That took us to John Rennie’s 1797 aqueduct, which carries the Lancaster Canal over the river.

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We climbed up to the canal and then followed that into Lancaster.

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The River Lune and the (smelly) Carrs Billington plant.

We were heading for the Sun Hotel for lunch. The food was magnificent…

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I’ve included this slightly blurred photo of B instagramming his choice, because I know at least one reader of the blog who appreciates a huge burger.

The vegans were happy too…

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In fact, I think we all enjoyed our meals.

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After that enormous repast, we decided that we were all fit enough to walk back to the car. This time we followed the Lune rather than the canal.

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‘Little’ S and my nephew L. The latter wanted to pose in front of this cafe for some reason?

The dull cloud of the morning had cleared, so we had terrific views of the aqueduct reflected in the placid waters of the Lune to accompany our walk.

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On the way home, as we drove along Storrs Lane by Leighton Moss, I thought I saw a Starling murmuration, so we stopped to take a look. This is definitely a winter phenomenon and even in mid-February I suspect that there were perhaps less birds than we had seen earlier in the year, when we often saw people parked to watch the Starlings as we drove home from Lancaster in the late afternoons.

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The advantage we did have though was clear skies and good light.

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Still photos really don’t do this justice: the way the cloud of birds wheels together and pulses and fluidly changes shape.

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It was an unexpected bonus at the end of a very enjoyable day.

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Half-term Happenings: Lancaster, Lune, Meal, Murmuration.

Tramp

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A bit of a wander from the end of January. Before I left the house I’d been watching a large flock of Curlews in the field behind the house. Here’s a portion of them…

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Snowdrops.

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Pepper Pot.

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Slime mould?

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Goldcrest.

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Jelly Ear fungus.

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Stinking Hellebore.

I’m not sure that Stinking Hellebore is really a local wildflower – it likes alkaline soils so grows well here, but not in may places, so is probably a garden escapee. It’s apparently best seen on the chalk hills of Hampshire.

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Jackdaws.

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Snowdrops.

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More Hellebores, this time from our garden. 

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And the title? Well, it all came from mishearing….

‘The Champ’ by The Mohawks on Radio 6. My mistake is not too surprising, since this is a cover of ‘Tramp’, first recorded by Lowell Fulsom and cowritten by Fulsom and Jimmy McCracklin (who recorded the album ‘High on the Blues’, a favourite of mine) and most famously performed as a duet by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. The song has had quite an eventful history, with lots of versions recorded, some of which have also been heavily sampled. Salt and Pepa recorded a reworking of the tune, but when the b-side started to get more airtime that was released separately as a single. And the b-side was…Push It, their big hit.

Anyway, enough pop trivia for now. I really like The Mohawks cover, but for me nothing will ever top the moment in the Thomas/Redding version when Otis’s voice soars into the line ‘I’m a lover’.

Tramp

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…