Sheffield Pike Circuit

Glencoyne Bay – Mossdale – Glenridding Dodd – Heron Pike – Sheffield Pike – White Stones – Hart Side – Birkett Fell – Brown Hills – Swineside Knott – Watermillock Common – Common Fell – Round How – Bracken How – Aira Force – Glencoyne Bay

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The view from Glencoyne Bay – Gowbarrow on the left, part of Place Fell on the right.

This was the weekend after our Scotland trip. Note the blue skies. The week before our weekend at Bridge of Orchy I was in Langdale enjoying splendid weather. The week after by Ullswater: more sunshine. But for our long planned get-together: wild weather. Sod’s Law in action!

I parked at Glencoyne Bay, which, on this sunny Saturday, was surprisingly quiet. Most people there seemed to have water-sports in mind and were unloading canoes from roof-racks or inflating paddle boards. It’s a National Trust car-park, so it’s ‘free’ for members like me, just like the Stickle Barn car park a fortnight before had been, a fact which pleases me out of all proportion to the money saved.

I’d spotted a dotted black line on the map: a path which would take me up Mossdale to the col between Heron Pike and Glenridding Dodd. It climbed steeply through woods at first, and, unusually this spring, I actually felt pretty warm as I climbed.

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Colt’s-foot.
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Large bee, small daffodils, or both?

Photos of Robins are a staple of this blog, but have been far and few between of late; here’s a couple to compensate…

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Robin. Ragin’ Full-on.
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Because the path climbed quite steeply, views quickly opened out behind…

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Ullswater.

The route spiralled in on Gelnridding Dodd. I would be coming back to the col to head for Heron Pike before long.

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Heron Pike.
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Nab Crag and Blea Cove on Birkhouse Moor.

There was, inevitably, a cold breeze on the top, but I nestled down in the heather, just off the summit and stopped for a brew with a view…

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Gowbarrow, Ullswater and Place Fell from Glenridding Dodd.
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Nab Crag and Catstye Cam.
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Looking back to Glenridding Dodd, Place Fell and Glenridding.

The ascent of Heron Pike is steep and rocky, in complete contrast to the moorland which follows up to Sheffield Pike. Heron Pike, a Birkett, is not really a summit at all, but was a great place to hunker down in the shelter of some crags for a view with an even better view.

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Ullswater from Heron Pike.

I’m glad that I stopped there. Out of the wind it was lovely, but as I continued to climb the wind became increasingly bitter and shelter was not always easy to find.

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Helvellyn from one of the Heron Pike tarns.
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Watermillock Common and the Mell Fells beyond from Sheffield Pike.

What made me choose Sheffield Pike from all the other potential hills in the Lakes? A recently retired former colleague had posted photos of Sheffield Pike and Glencoyne on Fakebook, which had me thinking about how very long it must be since I last climbed these hills. It wasn’t far from there to planning a trip to Ullswater.

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Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Catstye Cam, Lower Man, Whiteside, Raise.
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My onward route to White Stones. Glencoyne Head on the right.

It doesn’t look, on the map, like Nick Head, the col between Sheffield Pike and White Stones, will offer much shelter, but there’s actually a quite steep-sided little hollow there and I stopped again for another quick sup from my flask. I was torn: my vague plan had been to continue to White Stones, but I was looking at the path which contours around Glencoyne Head. I love paths like that and I was very tempted. While I sat, however, several groups passed, all decked out in day-glo and, like me, shorts, and those life-jacket style rucksacks which seem to be all the rage with fell-runners. There will little posts with arrows by the path too. Clearly, there was some sort of event on, and the groups were all taking the Glencoyne Head path. It had been reasonably quiet up till now, despite the fine weather, and I decided to stick with my original plan on the basis that I’d get more peace that way.

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Sheffield Pike. High Street range beyond.
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Stybarrow Dodd from White Stones.

It would have been easy to bag Stybarrow Dodd from White Stones, but I’m glad I decided not to as the day turned out to be a long one as it was.

White Stones is not a Wainwright, but Hart Side is. It all seems pretty arbitrary. Both are Birketts, as are a whole host of little pimples between those two and Aira Force. It’s a broad grassy ridge, a tad boggy in places, but I only saw two other people on it, the views were expansive and it made for great walking. Mostly downhill too.

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Blencathra from Hart Side.
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As I said, it was a bit damp in some spots. For some reason this marooned stile tickled my funny bone.

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Place Fell from Swineside Knott.

Talking of arbitrary, Swineside Knott has two whole contours to call its own. It’s a few strides off the path, but Wainwright promises the best view of Place Fell, a hill which is very high in my estimation. Add to the that the fact that Swineside Knott is another Birkett, so another tick to be grabbed and I was persuaded to make the very slight detour. The top is completely underwhelming, but step a few paces more, to the crags below, and the views are indeed superb. Time for one final drinks stop!

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Ullswater and Patterdale from Swineside Knott.
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Swineside Knott. Sheffield Pike behind.
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Dowthwaite Head and Dowthwaite Crag. Blencathra behind.
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The Mell Fells and Gowbarrow from Common Fell.

Common Fell, on the other hand, has the feel of a proper hill, if a low one. It’s probably not the best one which Wainwright left out of his books, but I liked it.

Now – there’s a rabbit hole to get lost down – which is the best hill in the Lakes which isn’t a Wainwright? Black Combe? (Although that will be an Outlying Fell).

Round How and Bracken How are also Birketts, and again they seem a bit like pointless pimples on the map, but it turns out that Round How also commands a terrific view of Place Fell and Ullswater. Bracken How has no such redeeming feature, but it doesn’t take much climbing.

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Place Fell from Round How.
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Aira Beck.

No photograph of Aira Force – the paths down to the waterfalls are currently closed after a tree fell and has made the paths dangerous. Walking down through the woods by Aira Beck was very pleasant though. The longish walk back to the car was much nicer than it might have been because there’s a path which keeps you off the busy A592. In fact, I suspect that you can walk from the Aira Force car park all the way into Glenridding without having to walk on the road.

MapMyWalk gives about 11½ miles and 785 metres of ascent. I think the latter is a bit of an underestimate.

Also 3 Wainwrights: Glenridding Dodd, Sheffield Pike and Hart Side.

And 11 Birketts: Glenridding Dodd, Heron Pike, Sheffield Pike, White Stones, Hart Side, Birkett Fell, Brown Hills, Swineside Knott, Common Fell, Round How, Bracken How.

Phew! Good training for some bigger days to come.

Sheffield Pike Circuit

The Bug Hotel

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Copper Underwing.

The day after my Hawes Water wander. Another attempt to replicate the fun I had in the meadows of the Dordogne. It started, in rather gloomy conditions, in our garden.

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Long-tailed Tit. Not all that blurred!
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Possibly the same Long-tailed Tit. But they’re usually in groups, so it could just as easily be another.
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Mating flies in the beech hedge.
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Speckled Wood butterfly.
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Hoverfly on Montbretia.
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Common Carder Bee on Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’.

When the weather brightened up, I set-off for a short wander, taking in Lambert’s Meadow, my go to spot when I’m hoping to see dragonflies in particular, and a wide selection of insect life in general, and a trip to the Dordogne is not on the cards.

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Lambert’s Meadow.

In my post about the meadows around the campsite we stayed on in France, I began with a photo in which I’d caught five different species all in the one shot, which I was delighted by, because it seemed to represent to me the sheer abundance and variety of the wildlife to be seen there.

I’ll confess, I was bit shocked that Lambert’s Meadow could match that tally…

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So…what have we got here? I think that the two black and white hoverflies may be Leucozona glaucia. I think the bug closest to the middle could be the sawfly, Rhogogaster Picta. I wondered whether the tiny insect at the bottom might be a sawfly too, but the long antennae and what looks like an even longer ovipositor have persuaded me that it is probably some kind of Ichneumon wasp. But that’s as far as I’ve got (there are apparently approximately 2500 UK species). I think the social wasp at the top is probably Vespula Vulgaris – the Common Wasp. And about the insect on the top left I have no opinions at all – there isn’t much to go on.

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I always assume that very pale bees like this are very faded Common Carder bees, but I’m not at all sure that’s correct.

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Large Rose Sawfly?

I think this might be a Large Rose Sawfly, although surprisingly it seems like there might be several UK species of insects which have a striking orange abdomen like this. I’m also intrigued by what the funky seedheads are. I suspect that if I’ve written this post back in August, I probably would have had a pretty fair idea because of where they were growing in the meadow.

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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Male?
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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Female?

There’s around 300 species of cranefly in the UK. Me putting names to these is essentially a huge bluff – I have even less idea than usual. I’m reasonably confident that they are at least craneflies and that the first is a male and the second female, but after that I’m pretty much guessing, based on a little bit of internet research.

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Volucella Pellucens on Mint.

This is a hoverfly which I often see and which is sufficiently distinctive that I can actually be confident about my identification. Especially since I found this very helpful guide. The common name is apparently Pellucid Fly, which is odd; pellucid means translucent or clear, as in a pellucid stream, or easy to understand, as in pellucid prose. I’m not sure in which sense this fly is pellucid. The females lay their eggs in the nests of social wasps like the Vespula Vulgaris above. The larvae grow up in the nest, from what I can gather, essentially scavenging – so a bit like wasps round a picnic table. Even wasps get harassed!

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I am going to have to bite the bullet and shell out for a proper field guide to hoverflies I think. They are so fascinating. Well, to me at least! These two, at first glance both black and yellow, but then so differently shaped and patterned, but I don’t have a clue what species either might belong to.

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This, on the other hand, also black and yellow……

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Tachina Fera

…is clearly not a hoverfly. Don’t ask me how I know. Well, go on then: it’s extremely bristly, and it has a chequered abdomen. At least it’s quite distinctive. My ‘Complete British Insects’ describes it as ‘handsome’ which even I can’t quite see. It’s a parasitoid, which is to say that its larvae will grow up inside a caterpillar.

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Possibly Eristalis arbustorum.

Apparently Eristalis arbustorum “can have quite variable markings on its body and some can be almost totally black”. (Source) Which makes my heart sink a bit – what hope do I have if members of an individual species can vary so much? At least this genuinely is handsome.

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A couple more unidentified bees to throw in.

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The Guelder Rose hedge.

Up to this point I’d been slowly pacing around the meadow, snapping away. I hadn’t walked far at all. As I approached the large area of Guelder Rose in the hedge, my pulse quickened a little, whilst my pace slowed even more. This is an area in which I frequently spot dragonflies. And the area just beyond, of tall figworts and willowherbs, is possibly even more reliable.

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Guelder Rose berries.

There were a few dragonflies patrolling the margin of the field. And a some Common Darters resting on leaves quite high in hedge, making them difficult to photograph from below. But then…result!

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Migrant Hawker.

Sometimes hawkers visit our garden, but it’s rare that I spot them when they aren’t in motion, hunting.

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And again.

An absolutely stunning creature.

A little further along…

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Migrant Hawker on Figwort.
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And again.
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Honey bee, I think.

Our friend P has hives in Hagg Wood, not too far away. Minty honey anyone?

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A very tatty Skipper.
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Small White.
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Common Darter on Figwort.

Views from the walk home…

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Looking a bit black over The Howgills.
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But the sun catching Farleton Fell.
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Rosehips.

Well, I’ve enjoyed choosing this selection of photos from the hundreds I took that day. I hope you did too. I don’t know why I didn’t spend more time mooching around al Lambert’s Meadow last summer. I’m looking forward to some brighter weather already.

The Bug Hotel

August: Garden Wildlife + Foot Golf.

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Blurred Long-tail Tit. All Long-Tail Tits are blurred.
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Blue Tit.

Some plants in the garden are fantastic value, not just in themselves, but for the wildlife they attract.

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I think these tall yellow daisies are Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’. Related to sunflowers, they’ve spread like mad in our garden, giving a long-lasting bright splash of colour in mid to late summer.

This is what the BBC Gardener’s World website has to say about them…

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ is known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, birds, butterflies​/​moths and other pollinators. It nectar-pollen-rich-flowers and has seeds for birds.

The long stems seem to be good places for dragonflies to rest. And they are certainly attractive to pollinators.

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Hoverfly. Possibly a Drone Fly.
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Brown-lipped Smail.
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Greenbottle.
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Marjoram also seeds itself quite freely around the garden and seems to be particularly attractive to bees. I hope this is a Garden Bumblebee, seems appropriate, but the white-tailed bumblebees are difficult to distinguish between.

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Peacock.
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And another.
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A pair of fawns, their spots beginning to fade. They came right up to our windows, seemingly unaware of the people watching on the other side of the glass.
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And, completely unrelated, TBH booked us all in for a family session of Foot Golf at Casterton golf course. As you can see, the views there aren’t bad at all.

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We were all a bit rubbish at the golf, but we had a good giggle.

August: Garden Wildlife + Foot Golf.

June. Well, Most of it.

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Cotton-grass at Foulshaw Moss

The year is almost up and the blog is stuck in June. So….better get a shift on.

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Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

First off, some shots from an evening to Foulshaw Moss when A was dancing.

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An Orb-weaver Spider, possibly a Larinioides cornutus female.
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The limestone hills of home across Morecambe Bay.

Next door neighbour and all-round good-egg BB was interested in our ebikes; I suggested he borrow one and join me for a trip. We cycled to Morecambe. As you can see, the weather was fantastic, but there was a strong wind blowing, unusually, from the South, so that cycling along the Prom was an uphill struggle. The compensation was that on our way back again we felt like we had wings. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of our memorable refreshment stops, at the Hest Bank for a pint on our outward trip and at The Royal in Bolton-le-Sands for a lovely meal and a couple more ales in their sunny beer garden.

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Bike maintenance BB style.
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Choppy waves from the end of the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. Lake District Fells beyond.
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X-Ray and TBH in Clarke’s Lot.

Old friend X-Ray visited to catch up. It was very grey day, but we dragged him out for our usual wander around Jenny Brown’s Point anyway.

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Warton Crag and Clougha Pike beyond.
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Another Foulshaw Moss view.

Another taxi-Dad trip to Foulshaw Moss. Things have moved on since then – A has passed her driving test and doesn’t need any more lifts to Milnthorpe. I shall need a new excuse to visit Foulshaw Moss.

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Sedge Warbler (I think).
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Foxglove.
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Birch Polyp.
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Azure Damselfly.
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Green Lacewing, possibly Chrysopa perla.
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Crane Fly.
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TBH cycling past the visitor centre at Leighton Moss.

Finally, a shorter bike ride with TBH which took us to Holme and back via some very quiet lanes. It almost went horribly wrong when I made the mistake of leaving TBH a little behind (she having chosen not to use an ebike) and she, inexplicably, took a left turn, even though I’d mentioned the fact that we would go through Yealand Redmayne. It all worked okay in the end, after a few puzzling moments and a bit of cycling back and forth looking for each other.

A couple more June bike rides to follow… eventually.

June. Well, Most of it.

Foulshaw Moss by Bike

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Whitbarrow Scar on the left, Eastern Fells on the right.

The day after our Morecambe jaunt. A Saturday. TBH had other things to do, and wanted a rest, but I was hooked and keen to get out again on my bike. The weather was glorious. I decided to take the Morecambe Bay Cycleway in the opposite direction and visit Foulshaw Moss.

The photograph above is taken from a minor lane which runs from close to Dallam Hall almost to Levens Hall. I’ve walked this lane, many years ago, it’s part of the Cumbria Coastal Way. On foot, on a dull day, I found it a bit of a tedious experience, but on a bike it was a revelation – nice and flat, huge open views. Marvellous.

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Whitbarrow Scar and the River Gilpin.

From the village of Levens, the MBC follows minor lanes, and one short section of track, paralleling the busy A590. I’d taken a leaf out of Andy’s book and used satellite images looking for a connection to take me to Foulshaw Moss, which is on the far side of the main road. I found a track which was perfect, directly opposite. In the event, it was clearly somebody’s driveway – I still used, trespassing for a matter of seconds, but I did have the decency to feel guilty about it.

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My trusty steed.

I’d been a bit concerned about getting across the A590, which is a dual carriageway at this point, very lots of very fast moving traffic, but I just had to be patient and eventually I managed to get across without feeling I’d risked life and limb.

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Whitbarrow Scar from Foulshaw Moss.

Since I usually visit in the evenings, I wasn’t quite prepared for how busy the reserve would be. The car park was full. (Admittedly, it is quite a small car park.) I chatted to a Wildlife Trust volunteer who told me it had been even busier earlier in the week.

Most visitors seemed intent on viewing the very distant Osprey nest though, so I could still enjoy a quiet stroll around the boardwalks.

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Greenfinch and Red Poll.

With the sun shining, I was able to see some of the insect life I usually miss in the evenings.

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Four-spotted Chaser.
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Green Hairstreak.
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Large Red Damselfly.
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A blue damselfly – I can’t identify which.
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Two more Large Red Damselflies.
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After perhaps an hour at Foulshaw I set off for home. I’d been considering a different route back, which initially followed the same route to Levens village.

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View across the Lyth Valley from the outskirts of Levens.

From Levens a lane climbs steeply across the slopes of Sizergh Fell. I then travelled back to Milnthorpe on very minor lanes through Sedgwick and then a series of small hamlets which I’ve never visited before: Crosscrake, Stainton and Viver.

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This return route was much more undulating than the outward one had been, which was all well and good until the bike’s battery ran out of juice. The last three or four miles was a good reminder that riding a heavy ebike at the end of a longish day is very hard-work without assistance.

Almost 30 miles, with a little over 400m of ascent. (According to MapMyWalk which has a setting for cycling, despite the name).

The bike/walk combination is definitely something to explore further in the future, I think.

Foulshaw Moss by Bike

Thirty Photos in Search of an Author.

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The Bay and Grange from Middlebarrow W

Unusually, for my recent posts, all of these photos are from a single lazy local walk, a few miles spaced out over several hours, during which I took lots of photos and stopped for several brews.

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Bugle.
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Sun-dappled path through Middlebarrow Wood.
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Mayflowers.
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Arnside Tower doorway.
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The view from Arnside Tower over Silverdale Moss to Beetham Fell.
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Green Hellebore in Middlebarrow Wood.
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I don’t think I’ve noticed the large size of the seeds which develop inside the flowers.
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Sweet Woodruff.
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Herb Paris.
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Reed beds at Silverdale Moss.
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Paddock near Far Waterslack.
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Buttercups.
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Daisies (of the Galaxy?)
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Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill.

Quite clever of this tiny flower to incorporate both the names of two birds and two hyphens in its name.

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Heading towards Hawes Water.
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A swimmer.

I managed quite a bit of swimming this summer, but am still jealous of this solitary bather, since I’ve never swum in Hawes Water. It’s quite hard to see how you could get in through the reeds, although a couple of the houses on Moss Lane have private jetties.

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Bird’s-eye Primroses growing in some of the cleared land. Vindication of Natural England’s tree-felling policy?
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Femal Mallard.
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Tadpoles and fish in the stream between Little Hawes Water and Hawes Water.
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Azure Damselfly (I think).
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Bluebells, Gait Barrows.
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Limestone Pavement, Gait Barrows
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Angular Solomon’s-Seal growing in a grike.
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Looking towards Trowbarrow from a brew stop.
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Eaves Wood.
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Inman Oaks.
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Blue Tit. I watched blue tits going in and out of this fissure last spring. I wonder of it was the same pair nesting this year?
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This Nuthatch was also in-and-out, of a neighbouring tree, presumably bringing food to a nest.
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Male Blackbird on our garden wall.
Thirty Photos in Search of an Author.

Duke of Burgundies, A Holly Blue, An Osprey, Iridescent Clouds, an Interloper.

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TBH in Bottoms Wood

A post to take me a bit further through May. These first six photos were all taken on the same Sunday. I was out for an early walk with TBH, then took B to rugby training in Kirkby, a chance for another brief wander, and finally had a short stroll, which took a long time, around Gait Barrows.

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River Lune near Kirkby Lonsdale
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Herb Paris in the woods at Gait Barrows
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A pair of Duke of Burgundy butterflies

Obviously, Duke of Burgundy butterflies are like buses; I’ve waited years to see one, then two come along at once. Seeing me with my camera, a fellow enthusiast asked if I was looking for Duke of Burgundies? And when I replied; ‘That would be nice’, he pointed out where I could find a pair on one of the ropes which cordoned off the path.

“Hurry,” he said, “I’ve been watching them there for 45 minutes. I don’t know how much longer they’ll stay.”

Long enough for me to take lots of almost identical photos! What surprised me was how tiny they were – this is a really diminutive species of butterfly. Perhaps that’s why I’ve found them so hard to spot? They didn’t move at all, so intent on mating were they, so I didn’t get to see their upperwings. Maybe next May.

Duke of Burgundy butterflies are seriously in decline. Here’s the distribution map:

You can see that our population is very much an isolated North-Western outpost. The wonderful Back On Our Map project (BOOM!) are aiming to reintroduce or spread a number of rare species in the area, including Dormice and possibly Pine Martens. At Gait Barrows huge efforts have been made to encourage Primroses and Cowslips which are the food-plants of the Duke of Burgundy caterpillars.

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Big skies over Gait Barrows
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Iridescent clouds above Farleton Fell.

Here’s a curious phenomena which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before – rainbow colours in the sky, but not in a rainbow arc. Sadly, none of the photos I took showed the colours very clearly, but you can just about see them here in this enhanced shot. Fascinating to see; due to tiny ice-particles diffracting the light apparently.

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Another view of Farleton Fell.

One evening whilst A was at a dance lesson, I made a first visit to Hale Moss nature reserve. There were lots of snails and a few Bird’s-eye Primroses dotted about the boggy open ground.

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Hale Moss.
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Holly Blue butterfly, photographed in the grounds at work.

Not much more to say about that one. Not the first Holly Blue I’ve seen, but the first I’ve seen locally. Probably, I think because they’re another small butterfly, and because they tend to fly quite high in the tree-tops.

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Reed Bunting at Foulshaw Moss.
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Male Great-spotted Woodpecker (the females don’t have the red patch on their nape)
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Two male Redpolls.
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Foulshaw Moss.

I was standing on the raised platform at Foulshaw Moss which gives great views over the wetland, when a large white bird flew directly overhead from behind me. By the time I’d got my camera pointing in the right direction, the bird had already travelled a long way, but it was still obviously an Osprey.

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Osprey

The Wildlife Trust had webcams stationed over the nest at Foulshaw and through the spring and early summer I periodically watched the adults and then the chicks. Still special to see the bird ‘in the flesh’ though.

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Osprey being harried by a Crow.
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Perched Osprey.
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Two more views of Foulshaw Moss.
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Sedge Warbler.

This bird was bobbing about in the reeds beneath the platform, singing enthusiastically. I think the prominent eye-stripe makes this a Sedge Warbler. I took lots of photos, but none were quite as sharp as I would have liked.

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And finally, this also flew overhead that same evening whilst I was at Foulshaw Moss – ironically, I think that this is an Osprey too: a Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. The rotors tilt so that it can take off, land and manoeuvre like a helicopter, but also fly like a plane. But what is an American military aircraft doing flying over Cumbria? Well, RAF Alconbury, RAF Fairford, RAF Lakenheath, RAF Mildenhall, RAF Menwith Hill, RAF Croughton – all US run bases in the UK apparently. None of them are near here, but I guess it must have come from one of them? Good to know that we’re still living in Airstrip One. When will we be ‘taking back control’ of military bases on our ‘sovereign’ territory? Don’t hold your breath.

Duke of Burgundies, A Holly Blue, An Osprey, Iridescent Clouds, an Interloper.

Early May, Mostly Birds

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Buzzard

A post to cover the first half of May, excepting for a weekend walk with friends which I’m saving for a separate post. These first couple of photos are from a wander around Gait Barrows. There was actually a pair of Buzzards soaring overhead. I took lots of photos whilst not straying too far from cover, because I’m very wary of Buzzards in the spring and summer.

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Cowslips
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Sunset over Coniston Fells from Arnside Knott.
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Late light, Foulshaw Moss

I went to Foulshaw frequently, sometimes on consecutive evenings. It was often quite cool by the time I got there. Sometimes I did see the butterflies and dragonflies which I’d hoped to see, but rarely managed to get any photographs.

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Whitbarrow Scar from Foulshaw Moss
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Reed Bunting.

I think I saw at least one Reed Bunting during every visit. I even started to recognise their song.

This poster…

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…is on display in the hide by the bird feeders. Why did I take a photo of it – purely vanity! – some of the photos on it are mine, from the blog. Fame at last!

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Tree-creeper.
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Coal Tit.
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House Sparrow.

Although I always had a wander around first, on many of my visits I ended up sitting in that hide and photographing birds on and by the feeders for quite some time.

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Water Rail.

Initially, when I noticed this Water Rail, I quickly snapped a couple of photos, thinking, for some reason, that it was a Moorhen. I suppose the shape and the beak are similar, but otherwise there’s little resemblance. Then, when it dawned on me what I was looking at, I turned my attention from the feeders to the Water Rail beneath them. I’ve occasionally seen Water Rail before, at Leighton Moss, when the meres were frozen over. But only briefly. I’ve more often heard them: they make an extraordinary racket, squealing like pigs. I’ve never photographed one before. I assumed that I was incredibly lucky, but a couple of visits after this one, I was talking to a lady who told me: “Oh, he’s always there.” And on another visit, a Wildlife Trust volunteer told me that he thought that Water Rails were becoming less shy and are now often seen beneath feeders in various wetland reserves.

Oh well, I was still very chuffed to have had such a good view of what has always been a very elusive bird.

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Reed Bunting.
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Goldfinches and Lesser Redpoll.
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Lesser Redpoll.
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Male Lesser Redpoll.
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Pheasant.
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Crepuscular Rays from The Lots.
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Crepuscular Rays over The Bay.
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Orchids on The Lots.

This photo was my attempt to emulate an amazing photo of these orchids which I’d seen online. At the time that I took it, I was disappointed with it, because it’s not a patch on the photo which inspired it, but with hindsight I rather like it – it does at least hint at the profusion of orchids on that area of The Lots.

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Ramsons, Bottoms Wood.
Early May, Mostly Birds

Three Evening Outings

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I didn’t get out half as much this summer for after walk wanders as I usually do. I made excuses about the being too busy with driving A to and from dancing lessons, but these three evening walks from the same week in the tail end of April give the lie to that – so, obviously, I just didn’t make enough effort as the summer went on.

But anyway – back to the week when I was still trying. On the Monday evening, I dropped A off in Milnthorpe and drove the short distance to park in Heversham and climb Heversham Head. Bizarrely, in nearly thirty years of living nearby I’ve never climbed it before. In my defence, on the OS map there’s no path shown – I think it was Conrad who alerted me to the fact that there is actually access to the top. I followed the route in this leaflet (I think the field boundaries shown might be slightly misleading). Very good it was too, but it’s a shame I hadn’t set off earlier since the very flat light rather spoiled the extensive views.

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I shall have to come this way again, although I’m slightly put off by the many pinch-stiles, some of which are very tight for the more portly gentleman, and one of which had me thinking I was irretrievably stuck and contemplating having to wait there, like Winnie the Pooh in Rabbit’s burrow, until I had lost some weight.

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Dallam Hall

The following night was brighter, and I was out earlier. This time I walked from where A has her lessons, down through Milnthorpe, through the grounds of Dallam Hall, beside the River Bela, and out to where the Bela flows into the Kent estuary.

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River Bela – Heversham Head prominent on the right-hand side in the background.
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River Bela and Milnthorpe Bridge.
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River Bela and Milnthorpe.
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Harmony Hall.
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It’s always very sobering to be confronted with evidence of sleepy little Milnthorpe’s past as a slaving port.

Incidentally, I’m a huge fan of both Cicerone Press, these days based in Kendal, and of Mr Unsworth.

On the Friday evening, with no driving duties to undertake, I drove straight from work to the Rigg Lane carpark, for an evening ascent of Clougha Pike.

On my way up, I was tempted away from my usual route by a path which leading up into Windy Clough. A thin path took me onto slopes of shattered stones and boulders on the left side of the valley. The path seemed to split frequently, each bifurcation leading to difficult choices between two increasingly marginal options. Eventually, there was no discernible path, so I struck uphill, finding a thin trod following the wall along the high ground. When this hit a cross-wall I followed it down into the valley bottom, where there was a gate and, once again, a path. This lead me into surprisingly tall and scratchy vegetation, but also, eventually, onto a lovely path which gradually ascended up towards the edge on Clougha Pike.

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Looking towards Caton Moor, having escaped Windy Clough.
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Looking up the edge.
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There were loads of Red Grouse about. The males were strutting their stuff and very easy to photograph, so I took lots of pictures. The females were far more discrete and only showed themselves very briefly. They’re endearing birds, if somewhat loud. It’s a shame that they’re essentially there to be shot by ‘sportsmen’.

I found a comfortable spot on a huge boulder and sat down for a brew and a rest and to contemplate the view. It was warm, but very windy, so I was surprised to see this tiny Green Hairstreak clinging to the rock.

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Because I’ve previously seen these butterflies in woodland I’d incorrectly assumed that they are woodland creatures, but apparently they are well adapted to a number of habitats, including moorland.

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Another male Grouse.
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Along the edge.
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Who you looking at?
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Meadow Pipit (I think).
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The top!
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Looking over to Hawthornthwaite Fell.
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Morecambe Bay.
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Hunkered down for another brew and a ‘meal deal’ tea.
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Looking along the edge.

After my earlier misadventure, I wasn’t dissuaded from taking another new route – I’d spotted a thin path traversing the ground just below the edge and decided that would give an interesting new perspective.

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It proved to be a very pleasant alternative to retracing the edge path, although I suspect that in winter it may well be very boggy.

Three Evening Outings