Fat Man on a Bike

Or: A Promise Fulfilled

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B on his bike. Not the fat man.

The actual Easter Weekend was at the end of our fortnight off. The Surfnslide crew were scheduled to join us and, in the run up to the weekend, although we were all, as ever, excited about the impending visit, the Dangerous Brothers in particular had just about reached fever-pitch.

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At Trowbarrow Quarry.

Rather rashly, when we had last seen him, Andy had promised that on his next visit he would bring his bike and accompany the boys to their favourite local mountain biking venue.

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Andy on his bike. Not the fat man.

For weeks before Easter they had been pestering me to remind him of his promise. And now that he had finally arrived they couldn’t wait to get out on their trusty steeds. So, on Good Friday, we all agreed to head for Trowbarrow Quarry.

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Little S.

Our two-family party spilt into a cycling group and walking-to-watch-the-cyclists-fall-off brigade. Somewhat to everybody’s surprise, especially my own, I decided to join the ranks of the cyclists, which meant something of a delay whilst the entire party lent a hand to replace both of my bikes inner tubes. (You’d be right to conclude that my bike doesn’t leave the garage very often.)

Once we’d set-off, it was to discover that TBH’s bike wasn’t in a good state of repair either: one of the wheels was out of true and wobbled prodigiously as she rode. I waited a while and lost the others as TBH decided to turn back for home. When I eventually got going again, for some reason I didn’t take the first turn, along Moss Lane, but went the long way around beside Leighton Moss. It wasn’t much of cycle, but by the time I arrived I was already jelly-legged.

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At the Quarry, the boys were showing Andy, the honorary Dangerous Brother, all of the steep banks which they enjoy riding down, and also the various mounds and edges they like to jump off.

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Little S on his bike. Not the fat man.

They all looked much too steep to me.

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I decided to try out my camera’s sports setting instead of attempting any feats of derring-do.

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I did have a couple of freewheels down this, less intimidating, slope…

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A on my bike. Not the fat man.

The net result of my change of heart was another puncture for my bike. Andy very kindly cycled back to our house for his car so that he could collect me and my long-suffering bike.

The ‘Fat Man on a Bike’ was, of course, me. But also the late Tom Vernon who wrote a book of that name after radio and television series about his cycling exploits. I can’t really recall anything about Vernon, apart from the title of his book. In my mind, he seems to have become muddled with Richard Ballantine, who wrote ‘Richards Bicycle Book’…

…a book which I thoroughly enjoyed when I was in my teens and very much bicycle obsessed. B is similarly bike fixated now. Of course, things have changed in the intervening years. I joined the Cycle Touring Club and fancied a set of Carradice panniers (handmade in Nelson, Lancashire since 1932), B hangs out in local quarries with his mates and has just acquired a dropper seatpost (whatever one of those is). We didn’t have mountain bikes, although I did enjoy off-road cycling, or rough-stuff as we used to call it. I even briefly kept a diary of my cycling exploits, a sort of forerunner to this blog, with carefully hand-drawn maps of the routes.

Finally, a bit of nature to round off the post…

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In one corner of the quarry, we spotted a couple of what I think are slime moulds, probably the False Puffball, Enteridium lycoperdon, which is apparently common in Britain in the spring. According to this article, slime moulds, once thought to be fungi, are now classed as amoeba. They are certainly very strange.

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Enteridium lycoperdon is found across Europe, but also in Mexico, where, in the state of Veracruz, it is known as Caca de Lune or Moon’s Excrement.

If this is False Puffball, then it is in its plasmodial stage, preparing to spore. The plasmodial stage is mobile, which I find very disconcerting – it looks like some sort of fungi, but it can move around. How very odd.

My extremely limited knowledge of slime moulds is a perfect example of one advantage of blogging – if it weren’t for a question I posted years ago, I wouldn’t even know they existed.

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Fat Man on a Bike

I Got The…

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We’re surely overdue some sunset photos from the Cove?

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These photos date back to consecutive Friday and Saturday evenings back in September. The Saturday was notable because A started a paper-round. I joined her in order to learn the route in preparation for the many weekends when she isn’t available, for one reason or another.

The Tower Captain spotted me delivering papers recently and asked whether I was making a bid to be the nation’s oldest paperboy. Cheeky ***!

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I usually pad out these brief posts, from a short familiar walk to the Cove and across the Lots, with some music. Something by Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed seemed appropriate, but, as often happens, I got distracted whilst searching for a song to use and somehow found myself listening again to Labi Siffre’s ‘I Got The…’.

It’s been sampled frequently, most famously for Eminem’s ‘My Name Is’. (Which is exceptionally dull by comparison with the original, in my opinion at least). Interestingly, two of the session musician’s on the recording were Chas and Dave. Labi Siffre has been mentioned on the blog before, when I visited the last resting place of Arthur Ransome and his wife Evgenia, because when Siffre appeared on Radio 4’s ‘Great Lives’ he championed the case for Ransome and his ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books.

I Got The…

Sarlat-la-Canéda

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This house is apparently the former home of Étienne de La Boétie (1530-1562) the great friend of Michel de Montaigne and an interesting character in his own right. I read an excellent biography of Montaigne last year (‘How to Live’ by Sarah Bakewell) and am very slowly working my way through Montaigne’s essays (Montaigne was the first author to describe his writings as ‘Essais’ or attempts) so I wish I’d know about the connection to Sarlat through his friend before we made our afternoon visit during our holiday. As it was, I took the photograph simply because I liked the look of the building.

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I took lots of other photos in Sarlat for exactly the same reason. The narrow car-free streets of the town and it’s magnificent old buildings were charming. We’d visited the newer parts of the town before, shopping for groceries, but Andy had visited the old part of the town before and was right to encourage the rest of us to drag ourselves away from the pool to explore.

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Once there, we spilt into two parties, a trawling around the shops group and a wandering the cobbled lanes and alleyways company. Obviously, I chose to go shopping.

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Many of the grander buildings had detailed information boards on the walls, but my schoolboy French, what little of it I remember, was clearly not up to the task, because all of the those buildings seem to have been hotels, which surely can’t be right?

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Timbered walls, turrets , archways, balconies and external stairways abounded – it was fascinating. We even stumbled on a small surviving section of the high city walls.

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According to Wikipedia, Sarlat owes the preservation of it medieval centre to the fact that ‘modern history has largely passed it by’, which, increasingly, seems to be also true of me.

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I’m not really supposed to eat ice-cream, but when Andy offered to buy me one, I let him twist my arm into accepting. It would have been rude not to. Anyway, I needed something cold because of the great heat, purely for medicinal purposes, obviously. Also, in France they reliably have pistachio flavour, my favourite, but not widely appreciated here in England.

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Some of the main shopping streets were busy, but the back-alleys were very quiet.

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Images of oies, canards and poulets were ubiquitous. Clearly they like their poultry in this area.

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In fact, the region is renowned for it’s duck dishes and also for pâté de foie gras. Given the cruelty of the production methods of the latter, the ceramic and cuddly-toy geese seemed a little bit incongruous. Then again, we enjoyed our confit-du-canard and two kinds of duck ‘scratchings’ and maybe, if you’re going to eat meat, the unsqueamish french approach is the healthy one?

 

Sarlat-la-Canéda

A Fawn, Branched Bur-reed and More Orchids.

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A couple of days before I took these photos, we were seated around the kitchen table, which is right beside our patio windows, when a Roe Deer doe walked rather brazenly across the patio, as if we weren’t even there, just a couple of yards away. I didn’t take any photos, because I didn’t want to move and risk breaking the spell. She clearly was carrying a good supply of milk and when she took exception to one of our cats and chased it off the patio I wondered if she had a fawn hidden away somewhere nearby. Later, I checked, without really expecting to find anything, so wasn’t too disappointed when I didn’t.

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But the idea of finding a Roe Deer fawn was planted in my mind and, when a walk through Eaves Wood and along The Row brought me to Lambert’s Meadow, I was particularly aware of that possibility, perhaps because I’ve often seen Roe Deer in Lambert’s Meadow before.

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So, at the edge of the meadow, I stopped to look about and whilst I didn’t find a hidden fawn, I did see a fawn and it’s mother.

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Admittedly, they were quite far away, but I think these are still the best photos I’ve taken, so far, of a fawn.

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Just before I reached Lambert’s Meadow, I passed Bank Well and paused a moment to look for the Newts B and I had seen on a recent visit. They weren’t rising to the surface like they had been, but I did notice this…

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Branched Bur-reed, which I haven’t knowingly seen before, but was pleased to see it because I recognised it from a Robert Gibbings wood engraving which is on the front-cover of my copy of his second book about the Thames, ‘Till I End My Song’.

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This isn’t my copy, but an image I’ve pilfered off the internet. I’ve written about my affection for Robert Gibbings writing and illustration before, so won’t repeat myself (for once). I still have ‘Coming Down the Seine’ on my monumental ‘to read’ pile, maybe I’ll get around to it this summer.

Branched Bur-reed has separate male and female flowers, the female ones being the larger globes and the males the smaller ones nearer the tops of the stalks.

Once the deer had disappeared from view, I turned my attention  to the many orchids growing along the margins of the field.

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I think that all of the photos below show Common Spotted-orchid, but also show the enormous variability within a single species of orchid.

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“The labellum is three lobed, the lateral lobes rhomboidal and the longer central lobe triangular. The labellum is marked by a prominent symmetrical double loop of broken lines and dots in darker mauve.”

Wild Orchids of Great  Britain and Ireland by David Lang.

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Colour, shape and markings can all differ from specimen to specimen however, by quite some margin.

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The fawn of course, was dappled too, which puts me in mind now, of Manley Hopkins ‘Pied Beauty’. Worth stopping, I thought, to take a closer look at the orchids and notice their fickle, freckled variation.

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A view to Eaves Wood.

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I noticed, not without some concern, that there was a bull in with the cows, in one of the last fields I needed to cross on my way home.

I needn’t have worried: he was very bashful and much more interested in the longer grass around the perimeter of this recently mown field than he was in me.

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A Fawn, Branched Bur-reed and More Orchids.

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

Farleton Fell – a long awaited encounter.

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“Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; they are the life, the soul of reading…”

Laurence Sterne quoted in I Put a Spell on You by John Burnside.

Some years ago now, I went to a meeting of the Mourholme Local History Society. I’ve only ever attended two of the meetings, one on the Silverdale Hoard and the other on maps of the area, and I enjoyed them both enormously, I really should make the effort to go again. Anyway, during the talk on maps I learned that on some early maps, before the concept of contours had been hit upon, hills were pictorially depicted, with the size of the picture presumably reflecting the perceived height of the hill in question.

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On Robert Morden’s map of Westmorland and Cumberland (1695), Farleto Knothill is one of the biggest hills, not just locally, but on the entire map. Oddly, it’s shown on the west side of the coach road through Burton, now the A6070, when it’s actually to the east. Since Morden relied on information sent by ‘Gentlemen of the County’, rather than carrying out surveys, these errors are perhaps not all that surprising. I assume that the prominence given to Farleto Knothill was precisely because it loomed over the coach road, dominating the view of travellers and appearing to be much larger than it actually is.

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These days it also looms over Junction 36 of the M6, the South Lakes turn, and has become a very familiar landmark to visitors who drive up to the Lake District from the South. Andy had often mentioned that he had never climbed Farleton Fell, although he has frequently driven past it. Time to put that right.

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We made a late start, but whether that was due to sleeping-in, board game-playing, poor weather, general indolence or a combination of those factors, I’ve already forgotten.

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What I shan’t forgot is how unseasonably cold it was. The wind was bitter and I was woefully underdressed. I ended up borrowing a hat from TBH who took pity on me and made do with her hood.

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Even on a gloomy day, the views are vast and we took advantage of that fact by heading west first to then follow the limestone edge up to the top.

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Looking toward Whitbarrow and the Kent Estuary.

Burnside uses the Sterne quote as an epigraph at the start of his book, which I suppose serves as fair warning that this memoir of a sort, is brim full of digressions. Since I finished ‘I Put a Spell on You’, I’ve been reading Graham Hoyland’s ‘Walking Through Spring’ an account of a walk from the Dorset Coast to Gretna Green all taking place between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. The full quote from Sterne, which is taken from ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ is:

“Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;—they are the life, the soul of reading;—take them out of this book for instance,—you might as well take the book along with them;”

Which is undeniably true of Sterne’s great novel. It also applies to ‘Walking Through Spring’, which is very enjoyable but which sometimes feels like it is less about the walk than a patchwork of the research sparked off by each location or wildlife encounter along the way. Hoyland is a fan of W.G.Sebald so this wide-ranging style is perhaps no surprise. I should say however, that I’m enjoying ‘Walking Through Spring’ whereas I was completely underwhelmed by ‘The Rings of Saturn’. Perhaps I should give it another go.

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Enjoying the view.

This very digressive style of writing about a walk at the very least avoids the ‘I went through the gate and over a stile. It rained. I had ham sandwiches for my lunch.’ blow-by-blow account of a walk which some authors too often descend to. That was one of the many topics we discussed on one of our walks over the Easter weekend and maybe that’s another thing which Hoyland captures – the way that the steady, slow pace of walking allows for wide-ranging conversations and for people to get to know each other well. (He is walking with his partner and also often with friends and relatives).

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Following the edge.

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I’ve always called this hill Farleton Fell. The National Trust, who own the land, have it as Holmepark Fell. The Ordnance Survey have both of those names, as well as Newbiggin Crags and Farleton Knott which seems to be attached to the slightly lower top which lies to the North of the main summit and is seen in the photo above.

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Looking back along the edge to Clougha Pike, Morecambe Bay and Warton Crag.

At the top we hunkered down behind the crags, following the example of small group of cows which were using the same shelter from the wind, and enjoyed the views for a while.

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Andy was insistent that we should go over to Farleton Knott, and he was absolutely right because that gave a great view back to the limestone crags and also, apparently, if you went far enough over, down to the M6 and Junction 36, which he was inexplicably excited about. I decided to forgo that particular pleasure.

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Unfortunately, Little S had fallen on the limestone pavement and skinned his knees, even through his trousers, so we took the most direct route back to where the cars were parked on the Clawthorpe Fell Road.

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Our route crossed several more areas of limestone pavement and Andy and I were both trying to catch with our cameras the fleeting bursts of sunshine as they passed over the rocks. I wasn’t anywhere near quick enough.

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I find maps, old or new, endlessly fascinating. You can find the Robert Morden map here. It’s interesting to see what has been included and what left out. It’s no surprise that Silverdale is not there, in 1695, and that Warton is there. The spellings are interesting too: Armside Toure, Helvillin Hill; which is not as big as Farleto Knothill incidentally. It was Robert Morden who published, in 1672, a pack of cards each of which showed a map of one of the counties of England and Wales.

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I imagine original 1672 cards are hard to come by, but in 1972 facsimile sets were produced. Over the weekend we played lots of games, though I think it’s fair to say that King Domino was the most popular. I was grateful to TJS though for reminding me how much fun can be had with a few friends and a pack of cards. He introduced us to a game I’ve never played before, but with incredibly complicated variant rules which he remembered in stages as we played and which had me pretty much crying with laughter as had repeatedly said: “Oh, and another thing…”

Farleton Fell – a long awaited encounter.

Watch Me Now

Far Arnside – Park Point – White Creek – Blackstone Point – New Barns – Arnside – Arnside Moss – Black Dyke – Far Waterslack – Waterslack – The Row – Hagg Wood

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House Sparrow

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Newly-laid hedge by Townsfield.

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Primroses on the bank on Cove Road.

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Hazel Catkins.

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Marsh Tit.

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Daffodils in the woods near Far Arnside.

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Green hellebore in amongst the daffs.

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Grange and Hampsfell.

The tide was well out, the mud unusually firm, so I did something I don’t often do and walked away from the shore on a beeline for Hampsfell on the far side of the Kent, only turning inland again as the sand started to drop towards the river channel.

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Park Point.

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Redshank.

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Arnside Knott from New Barns.

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I had what I am now beginning to think of as my Birding Camera with me and wasn’t using my phone for once. Along the estuary I had some fun photographing a Cormorant which was fishing, a number of Redshanks, a Corvid, probably a Crow, which was tussling with what looked like a plastic bag half-embedded in the far bank of the river, and nearby another Crow vigorously bathing in the shallow margin of the river.

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I know that birds bathe, we have a birdbath sited just beyond the window I’m currently sat beside and I’ve often watched Blackbirds dipping into it, but this seemed a little more out of the ordinary.

The camera helped me to identify a pair of Goosanders which were fishing in the channel…

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Here, the male, on the right, has caught a small flatfish.

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Whitbarrow Scar, the Kent, the viaduct.

On the wall of a small, abandoned quarry close to Arnside I noticed some heather flowering…

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It’s the wrong time of year for our native heathers, but the heathers in our garden are flowering too so I guess this is an interloper.

I’m still feeling the after-affects of the virus which laid me low last week, so I chose to follow the Kent for a while beyond Arnside, and then by cutting back across Arnside Moss and following the field path beside Black Dyke managed to almost completely avoid the need to struggle uphill.

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In the woods near Middlebarrow Quarry a pigeon-sized bird ghosted past my shoulder, swooped low and then banked steeply to land noiselessly on a branch ahead of me. This was no wood pigeon however, a bird incapable of doing anything silently.

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I think that this is another female Sparrowhawk, although, as ever, I stand ready to be corrected.

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Silverdale Moss.

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Trees near Hagg Wood.

This photo…

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…was taken several days before any of the others in this post. We’ve had Roe Deer in the garden again a few times recently. On this occasion there were, briefly, four of them, despite the fact that Roe Der are often reported to be solitary creatures. All males I think. I wanted to include the picture because it shows how furry this buck’s new antlers are. It looks as if he had spotted me. Certainly, just after I took this photo, he bounded over the hedge into our neighbour’s garden.

I’m reading ‘I Put A Spell On You’ by John Burnside at the moment. It’s a very unusual book, which I think I bought solely because of the title and it’s reference to the Screaming Jay Hawkins song, which I’m more familiar with in the versions by Nina Simone and especially Creedence Clearwater Revival. I don’t know, in honesty, quite what to make of the book, but I couldn’t help but mentally underline this passage…

“…it comes to me that, at moments like this, yes, but also in some far off place at the back of my head, I am, in some modest and ineffable way, supremely happy. Or perhaps not happy so much as given to fleeting moments of good fortune, the god-in-the-details sense of being obliged and permitted to inhabit a persistently surprising and mysterious world.”

So perhaps this post’s title should have come from that passage, but instead, having contrived to find a walk almost without any contours, I chose the purloin the title from The Contours big hit.

“Do you love me?
(I can really move)
Do you love me?
(I’m in the groove)
Ah, do you love?
(Do you love me)
Now that I can dance
(Dance)

Watch me now, oh….”

Watch Me Now