A Walk from Claughton

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Claughton Hall Farm.

A mid-week, post-work stroll. I wanted a shortish walk and not too much of a drive, so that I could guarantee an early finish. For one thing, I wanted to get back to take B to Lancaster for a late start to a school-trip to France. And for another thing, the forecast was for the weather to finally break, with rain expected as the evening progressed and gale force winds in the early hours. So I’d been poring over the map, looking at Lune tributaries close to my work-place in Lancaster. The slopes behind the villages of Caton and Claughton have several streams – Mears Beck, Westend Beck, Barncroft Beck and Claughton Beck – to which there is, frustratingly, little or no access. However, whilst inspecting these I inevitably noticed the gothic script close by denoting Claughton Hall and was instantly intrigued. A quick search on the internet and I knew that this was something I had to go and see for myself – “Large house, c.1600 with C15th remains, moved to present site and rebuilt 1932-5.” (from Historic England).

The house, which used to be in the village of Claughton, was dismantled and rebuilt half way up the moors above the village. One wing was left in situ however, now called Claughton Hall Farm and seen in these first two photos.

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Claughton, incidentally, is pronounced Klaften by locals and probably a hundred and one other ways by the rest of us.

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St. Chad’s Church.

St. Chad’s Church is next to the farm. There has apparently been a church on this site for almost a thousand years, although the current building only dates back to 1815, so it’s a shame to see it locked-up and abandoned and disappearing behind thickets of weeds and saplings.

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There’s only one path from Claughton which heads up into the hills so I decided just to do an out and back. There look to be a couple of other good options, but both require a little more time and effort.

I hadn’t gone far up the track before I came across this…

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…by a path which was shadowing Claughton Beck. This seem to me like a kind invitation to visit the falls, so, pleasantly surprised, I left the track and set-off by the beck, but didn’t get far before I came across a tangle of fallen trees blocking the path and elected to turn back again…

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Honeysuckle.

Despite the gloomy skies, I was enjoying the views down the valley to the hills around Kirkby and, dominating the view, Ingleborough.

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I was also intrigued by the low, partially wooded hill in the middle distance, which I now know to be Windy Bank, behind Hornby and between the Lune and the Wenning, and which is now on my list of places I need to visit for a walk.

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Lune Valley pano.

Sadly, behind me there was no view of Claughton Hall, only a dense hedge of Leylandii, or something similar. I reflected that the impulse which drives somebody to move their home away from a village and half-way up a hill might also lead them to screen themselves completely from the outside world, but I’ve since discovered that the hall could still be photographed from the track relatively recently. The gateway was open and I suppose I could have taken a wander down the drive, but I’ve settled instead for a photo of the hall, from around 1910, before it was moved…

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Source

From this point on, the walk turned into a bit of a birding excursion, as these Lune Catchment walks have often been prone to do.

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Juvenile Wren, at least I think it’s a juvenile.

It may partly be to do with the time of year: there are lots of fledglings about and they don’t seem to share the caution of their parents. Then to, the parents themselves are busy fussing over their brood, providing food and guidance.

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Along the track there were several more of these curious headstones and I began to think that perhaps they weren’t an open invitation to the hoi-polloi like me. Maybe they’re for visitors to the hall?

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Hedge Woundwort. The gorgeous ginger bumblebee just wouldn’t pose for a photo.

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This strikes me as unusual, although I’ve no real idea whether it is or not: Claughton has a brickworks which is supplied from a clay-pit (essentially a large quarry) on the hillside above, via this aerial ropeway.

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Skylarks.

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I passed Moorcock Hall, a farm, and then the wind-farm on Caton Moor. The towers are huge and, up close, a bit oppressive.

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I was convinced that this must be a juvenile Stonechat. I’m not sure why I was so sure, since I can’t recall ever having seen one before.

Perhaps stupidly, I’d set off with just my camera and a map for company. No bag, or coat, or other kit. To the north I’d seen the hills of the Lake District slowly disappear in a miasma. There’d been odd drops of rain in the air and I’d wondered about the sanity of continuing. But when I reached the summit of Caton Moor, which I’ve never visited before, it brightened up and I was even treated to a little weak sunshine.

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The Three Peaks from Caton Moor.

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Ward’s Stone from Caton Moor.

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There were clear paths heading off towards Littledale and Roeburndale, which would be the two other possible walks I could envisage on Caton Moor. I was particularly taken with the path towards Roeburndale. Another time.

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Small Heath butterfly.

I saw loads of these on my evening walks last summer, so I was pleased to finally see one this year.

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Walking back past the wind-farm I kept seeing a pair of Painted Lady butterflies. I couldn’t understand how I kept losing them and then seeing them as they flew up apparently from almost under my feet. Then I spotted one with its wings closed…

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Beautiful, but also cunningly disguised.

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I also saw a family of the same kind of birds that I seen on the wall when I was on the way up…

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But this time with an adult male Stonechat initially with them on the wall…

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…though he soon flew off.

A lovely outing and the rain held off until I was safely ensconced in my car. By the time I got home it was raining hard and when I dropped B off it was pelting down. The wind also eventually arrived, if anything even worse than forecast. There was a lot of debris on the roads the following morning and we drove past the end of a lane which was blocked by a fallen tree.

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A Walk from Claughton

Another Tour of Farleton Fell

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Beetham Fell, Kent Estuary, Whitbarrow Scar and Lakeland Fells from Farleton Fell.

The Explorer Scouts, with A amongst them, were trying out scree running on the slopes of Farleton Fell. Since it would fall to me to either take A and her friends or collect them, I decided that I would do both, earn double the brownie points, and get out for a walk of my own whilst I waited for them to finish. I dropped them off near Holme Park Farm, but since there isn’t much scope for parking there, I drove up to the high point of the Clawthorpe Fell Road and left the car there (near the spot height of 192 on the map at the bottom of the post). After fulfilling a promise I made to myself not so long ago – of which more later – I set off following the wall which forms, initially at least, the eastern boundary of the access area on Newbiggin Crags.

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There’s a track here, not marked on the map, close-cropped and with different vegetation than the surrounding area; I would hazard a guess that this is an old track, in long use.

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It follows a level shelf which circles the hill and makes for very pleasant walking.

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Scout Hill.

It was a gloomy evening, very overcast, but the forecast had said that it would brighten up, so I had high hopes.

Eventually, the track swings westward and climbs a shallow, dry valley with a low, limestone edge on the right…

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The grassy slopes below the edge…

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Had lots of orchids…

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They were mostly quite dried-up and finished. These had me confused at the time, but looking at them now I feel sure that they must be Early Purple Orchids. In the fields around home these have long since shrivelled up and disappeared, but I suppose the extra bit of elevation must be sufficient to make the flowering both begin and end a little later here.

The path brings you to the little col between the twin summits of Farleton Knott and Holmepark Fell. If I’d had a little more time I would have stayed with the path – it drops down to the paths which follow the base of the western edge – but I was conscious of the time, and too tempted by the view from the top.

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Farleton Knott.

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Looking back down the dry valley, sunshine finally arriving.

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Middlebarrow, Arnside Knott, Beetham Fell.

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Looking along the edge to Warton Crag.

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Hart’s-tongue Fern.

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Meadow-oat Grass – I did learn something on my course.

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Returning by a higher route on Newbiggin Crags. Ingleborough still in the murk in the distance.

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Skylark – I think.

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Coal Tit.

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The sunshine has reached the hills to the east by the time I was approaching the car again. The wind had picked up too; the little wind-turbine in the centre of this photo was whizzing around now. I’d walked past it twice earlier – the first time it wasn’t turning at all and the second time only rotating lazily.

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You can see on the map above why I’d already walked past the wind turbine twice. I detoured down to Whin Yeats Farm, where there’s a…

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…portashop?

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An honesty box, a fridge, and milk and cheese for sale…

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I’d seen this advertised on a previous visit to Fareton Fell and resolved to try this local produce when an opportunity arose. The next evening, the boys and my Father-in-Law joined me to sample the cheeses…

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I think this is the Farmhouse on the left and the Fellstone on the right. Both very tasty. The consensus was that we preferred the Fellstone. B described it as being ‘like Manchego, but stronger’, which is high praise, because he’s very fond of Manchego. I shall be getting those again.

 

Another Tour of Farleton Fell

Sunshine in the Garden.

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Bank Holiday Monday was another glorious day. We spent the morning sunning ourselves in the garden again and then most of the afternoon taking an interminably long time to prepare for an overnight trip (of which more to follow).

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We’ve regularly had a female Broad-bodied Chaser in the garden over the last fortnight. I had convinced myself that it was the same one each time, since it seemed to be quite small of its kind, but then, a couple of days ago, I saw two close together, both of the same size, which has obviously put a huge dent in my conviction. Whether or not it was the same one each time, I’ve really enjoyed taking photos.

 

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I took some photos of flowers too. This must be a knapweed of some description. TBH has planted them in the garden in several places. The bees seem to like them too…

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Large Red Damselfly.

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Peony.

I’ve been noticing the sounds of Starlings a lot whilst out and about, since coming across the nest on the Lots. B and I spotted some Starlings which were surely visiting a nest in a hedgerow beside Moss Lane. There have been a lot of Starlings on the feeders in our neighbour’s garden too.

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Here they are perched in the top of our Silver Birch.

 

Sunshine in the Garden.

The Lots with Little S

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The day after our trip to Swindale and I managed to persuade Little S to accompany me to check up on the Starling nest. We could see that the nest hadn’t been abandoned and S could see one of the young inside the hollow. We waited for a short time and were soon rewarded by a visit from one of the parents.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Little S was excellent company; he seemed really taken with the Starlings and even more excited by the profusion of flowers on the Lots, where the Buttercups had suddenly appeared and the Green-winged Orchids were particularly rife (although I’m told that when a count was carried out, numbers were actually down on last year, for the first time in several years).

The Lots with Little S

Barbondale, Brownthwaite Pike, Casterton Stone Circle

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St. Bartholomew’s Church, Barbon.

More glorious May weather and another post-work Lune-Catchment wander. This was on a Thursday evening, the day after my photos from Kirkby Lonsdale in the previous post. You remember that I pointed out how Brownthwaite Pike dominates the view from Kirkby? Equally, Brownthwaite Pike has a great view over the Lune Valley and Morecambe Bay.

Years ago, when I was single, my evenings walks rarely took me any further than I could get, under my own steam, from my front door, but just occasionally I would pack up a meal and head out for a picnic on an easily accessible hill with a good view. Brownthwaite Pike was, I think, the place I visited most often: I could park high, at Bullpot Farm, and it was an easy walk from there.

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The lychgate.

This time, I would do it properly, starting from the village of Barbon.

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Female Blackbird.

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Barbon Beck, another tributary of the Lune.

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Bluebells!

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The right of way initially follows a track which is heading up to Barbon Manor. It’s metaled and even has barriers. I presume that this is the course used for the Barbon hill-climb, an annual motor-sport event.

Soon though, the route parts company with the race-track and heads into the woods of Barbondale and more bluebells…

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Better yet to emerge from the woods into the sunshine…

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I initially assumed that this…

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…was a Hawthorn, covered in Mayflower, but it wasn’t…

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I think it might be an apple-tree. There were a couple more close-by. Maybe there was an orchard here once, when valleys like this one were more populous?

High on the hillside to my left, I spotted an unusual cairn, apparently with a chamber inside it…

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It wasn’t to be the last unusual cairn on the walk.

I chatted to a birdwatcher, who asked me if I had seen anything good? He reported Pied-flycatchers and could hear Willow Warblers nearby. I had nothing so interesting to share. But, soon after passing him, spotted a pair of Reed-buntings and then…

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…a Red-start. This was only the third time I’ve seen one and my best photo yet, although, obviously, still room for improvement. I waited to tell my new bird-watching friend, but then felt guilty because we couldn’t find it again among the trees.

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I also briefly glimpsed a raptor in pursuit of another bird just above the hillside, but soon lost sight of both. This heron…

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…sailing purposefully by, was much more obliging.

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Barbon Beck and Barbondale.

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A warbler. Could be one of those Willow Warblers?

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I heard some strange, harsh bird calls, which made me think of grasshoppers, and so thought perhaps they came from Grasshopper Warblers. I saw a few of the birds, low in the vegetation, but this is the only photo I managed. Having looked in my guide, I’m pretty sure that this is not a Grasshopper Warbler, but apart from that, am none the wiser.

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This stream, which feeds into Barbon Beck and is therefore another one of the Lune’s vast tree of sources, is not named on the map, but is, in turn, fed by several smaller streams including Hazel Sike, Little Aygill and Great Aygill. The road bridge which crosses it, however, is called Blindbeck Bridge, so I suppose this must be Blindbeck.

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Castle Knott and Calf Top.

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I was impressed with the situation of Fell House, in a remote position above Barbondale.

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I’ve seen lots of butterflies this month, but have struggled to photograph any of them. This one looks like a female Orange-tip, but has confused me because it has no wing-spots.

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The top of the beck obviously changed in nature, becoming steeper sided with outcrops of rock, I think because the underlying rock was now limestone.

I watched this bird of prey,…

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…presumably a Kestrel, hovering in roughly the same spot for ages as I climbed beside the beck. Later I watched a pair swoop across the hillside and both alight in the same tree, where I assume there was a nest, although I couldn’t see it.

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Bullpot farm.

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Cuckoo Flower.

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Female Wheatear.

The short road walk from Bullpot Farm was enlivened by numerous birds, mainly Wheatears and Meadow Pipits which were flitting around the drystone walls on either side. Also by the expansive views…

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Gragareth and Leck Fell House.

And by the calling of two Cuckoos. In fact, the sounds of Cuckoos had accompanied me most of the way up Barbondale too.

The highpoint of Barbon Low Fell is unnamed on the OS map, but I notice online that other walks have used the name Hoggs Hill, which is nearby on the map. In the absence of any better suggestions, I shall do the same.

As I approached Hoggs Hill then, I noticed another raptor, a Kestrel again I think, sat calmly on a wall, watching me.

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I scrabbled to get my camera pointing in the right direction and focused, but the bird was away before I managed that…

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Hoggs Hill.

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Middleton Fells from Hoggs Hill.

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Crag Hill and Great Coum.

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Forest of Bowland.

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Brownthwaite Pike.

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Close to the top of Brownthwaite Pike there’s an absolutely huge cairn. It’s so big that you can see it from Kirkby on the far side of the valley below. I can’t find any reference to it on the Historic England map, but there’s plenty of speculation online about the possibility that it might be ancient and perhaps a burial cairn.

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You can see why this spot might have been chosen as it commands clear views over the Lune Valley, the Bowland Fells and Warton Crag , where there was a hill-fort.

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I descended by this…

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….arrow-straight lane.

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Looking towards the hills of home.

From the lane I could look down on an ancient site which is recorded on the Historic England map…

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Casterton Stone Circle.

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Here’s another view of the henge from a little further down the lane. I’ve read that the stones only protrude slightly above the surrounding turf, but it certainly stands out from a distance.

Closer to hand, on the verges of the lane, there was lots of Lady’s Mantle coming into flower…

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And also many spears of Bugle…

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But what I appreciated particularly was the way the two were frequently growing together, intermingled…

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There was also a bit of what I think was Sheep’s Sorrel about. This one…

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…growing on a tree trunk.

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The leaves certainly had the refreshing, citrusy flavour characteristic of both Common and Sheep’s Sorel, and I munched on a few as I walked.

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The track brought me to the minor road which lead, ultimately to Bullpot Farm and I turned to follow it in the opposite direction, downhill.

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Crosswort.

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I think that this must be the wind farm which I photographed last summer from Burns Beck Moss.

I turned on to Fellfoot Road, another track, and found…

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…several small sheepfolds each with a large boulder inside.

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They are Andy Goldsworthy sculptures.

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There are sixteen of them in all, but I only passed four of them on this walk.

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I’m a big fan of Goldsworthy, but don’t know quite what to make of these. I’ve walked past some of them a couple of times before. One day, I suppose I will walk the entire lane and collect the full set.

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It was getting rather late now.

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So I was hurrying to get back to my car in Barbon and didn’t stop for long to admire Whelprigg…

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…a rather grand house built, apparently, in 1834.

Another glorious evening outing.

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Barbondale, Brownthwaite Pike, Casterton Stone Circle

The Lots: Orchids and Starling Nest

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A post about the orchids on the Lots is an annual occurrence on this blog. It’s a celebration of sorts: spring is in full swing and there are lots of orchids on The Lots. More every year it seems to me.

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I’d already been to check on the orchids a couple of times before this visit. The Early Purple Orchids had been flowering, but the Green-winged Orchids weren’t then in evidence. But now both were flowering abundantly.

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In the early days of the blog, I had no clue how to distinguish between the two species, which now seems comically inept. In fact, looking at old posts I often, admittedly tentatively, misidentified both kinds.

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These are Early Purples, less purple now than when the flowers first emerged. Even the stems are purple at the tops. They can vary a little in colour…

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The Green-winged are a different shape, have spots on the flowers rather than the leaves and have distinctive green stripes along both sides of the ‘hood’…

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Based on the evidence of the Lots this year, they are also much more variable in colour…

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Though generally purple, there were also white and pink blooms.

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Sadly:

“Only a few years ago the Green-winged Orchid was widespread, especially in the south of England, and not uncommon, but the drainage and cultivation of the old damp pastures it favours had led to a drastic reduction in numbers. Although still locally abundant where it does occur, it must now be considered a threatened species.”

Wild Orchids of Britain and Ireland by David Lang

By contrast, here’s an attractive weed which seems to thrive wherever we thrive…

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Ten years ago, on the way to mistaking Early-purple for Green-winged Orchids, a commotion in the trees above the Cove alerted me to the presence of a Starling nest in an abandoned Woodpecker nest-hole. I’ve kept an eye on that hole ever since, but never noticed any birds using it again. But on this walk, I heard some raucous squawking from the trees and looked up to discover that it was an adult Starling returning with food to that same hollow.

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I was every bit as delighted this time round as I was then.

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This titbit is clearly some sort of worm.

But I couldn’t fathom out what the three neatly held morsels are here…

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I do know that when the starling left the nest again, it was still carrying one of them, now unravelled into a ribbon of white.

I think that this bird knows that it’s being observed!

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Both adults seemed to be making deliveries. Oddly, they made a lot noise as they approached the nest –¬†you would think that they wouldn’t want to draw attention to the location – but became more and more circumspect each time, so after watching four ‘food drops’ I left them to it.

Starlings were once such commonplace birds that I think it was easy to overlook how stunning they are.

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Welsh Poppies in our driveway.

The Lots: Orchids and Starling Nest

Weeds

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I’ve just embarked on reading Richard Mabey’s book ‘Weeds – How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature’. I haven’t got very far with it yet, but I can tell that I’m going to like it. Apparently, many of our most familiar weeds are not indigenous plants, but arrived with our Neolithic ancestors along with the seeds of the crops they brought with them, and so are ultimately from Mesopotamia, the cradle of agriculture. Our garden is full of half-tolerated interlopers which have quietly invaded over several summers. The Bluebells which have colonised one of the beds are, I’m pretty sure, Spanish Bluebells, rather than the native variety, which have become a pest nationally because they are spreading to our woods where they hybridise with the native species, producing a highly fertile offspring which loses some of the characteristics of the native type.

Green Alkanet would, I suspect, happily completely take over our garden if left to get on with it. It’s a species introduced as a herbal long ago, but is now completely naturalised.

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Bees in particular seem to love it. I think that this might be an Early Bumblebee…

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…which seem to be enormously variable in colouration. Those pollen baskets are very laden!

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Columbine is, as far as I know, a genuinely native plant, which has, happily, seeded all over our garden.

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The flowers are stunning.

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I can’t find this little chap…

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…in my field guide, but she/he is an odd looking character.

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Rounded Snail (perhaps?)

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Blackbird.

 

Weeds