Another Morecambe Bay Sunset

P1100128

Title says it all really. The familiar late walk around the The Cove and The Lots. Only unusual because I’d already been this way earlier with our friend The Painter when he dropped by for a visit.

I occasionally threaten to broaden the scope of this blog with recipes and posts about card games etc. Since I don’t have much to say about my walk, I decided to enliven this post with some book recommendations:

P1100248

These books qualified because I’ve read them reasonably recently, they make a representative, heterogenous sample of my reading fodder, I really enjoyed them and I could lay my hands on them to take a photo, so, for example, the excellent history of piracy I read in February isn’t here because I don’t know where I’ve put it. Most of these were second-hand purchases, although I should say that ‘H is for Hawk’ was a present from TBH and ‘1927’ was loaned to me by some-time star of this blog X-Ray.

With regard to the books: if you’ve read Ronald Turnbull’s ‘Book of the Bivvy’ you’ll know what to expect from him; this is a book both about John Muir and about following in his footsteps. ‘H is for Hawk’ deserved all of the critical acclaim it garnered and also encouraged me to finally get around to reading T.H.White’s ‘The Goshawk’, which I also enjoyed. ‘1927’ is fascinating, full of surprising things I didn’t know about. I’ve been meaning to mention ‘Don’t Point That Thing at Me’ for some time, not only because I enjoyed it, but because the final section of the book is set in and around Silverdale, so it seems very pertinent to this blog. ‘How to Live’ is a great read, and had me digging out my two volume translation of Montaigne’s ‘Essays’, although I haven’t made huge progress with them. I believe the BBC are making an adaption of ‘The City and The City’; it will be interesting to see how they deal with the central conceit of two contiguous but mutually disregarding cities – this was good enough to have me seeking out more novels by Mieville. I haven’t finished ‘A Radical History of Britain’ or ‘The Nautical Chart’, but I’m enjoying them both enormously. I’ve read the Perez-Reverte before, it was the first of his novels I read, but then I lent it to somebody, forgot who I’d lent it to and never got it back. I picked up a new copy for a few pence at the village coffee morning and started reading it on Wednesday when I had some time on my hands waiting to go in to theatre for a minor op, and then waiting to be discharged afterwards*. Don’t read ‘Swallow This’ if you ever intend to eat processed food again. Otherwise, it’s highly illuminating journalism about the food industry, and somewhat alarming. ‘The Buried Giant’ is quite an odd novel, I thought, but I like odd novels, so that’s alright.

P1100132

P1100134

These were behind the benches above the Cove. Is this ‘yarn-bombing’?

P1100135

It was a bit too dark for photos of birds really. Best to stick to the sunset…

P1100138

P1100139

*It went very well, better than expected in fact. Thanks for asking.

Another Morecambe Bay Sunset

Weiditz

Hagg Wood – The Row – Eaves Wood

P1090972

Toothwort (and photobombing Wood Anemone)

A short walk this one, after a morning of rugby and an afternoon of tidying up in the garden – cutting the grass for the first time, pruning an unruly shrub – that sort of thing. A few days before, I’d noticed the nubs of newly emerging spears of Toothwort in Eaves Wood and wanted to see how they had progressed.

P1090973

I notice that this year it can be seen flowering on both sides of the lower path through Eaves Wood. I also know of one spot in the woods by Hawes Water where it grows, and I noticed a couple of days ago that it is growing along the path which links The Cove and The Lots.

It’s a curious plant, which I seek out every year; one of several local specialities which merit their own trip in the appropriate season – the snowdrops by Hawes Water, the Early Purple and Green-veined Orchids on the Lots, the Lily-of-the-Valley and Lady’s-slipper Orchids at Gait Barrows, the Bird’s-eye Primrose and Grass of Parnassus on the grassland of the Hawes Water shore, the Burnett Rose on the coastal cliffs; just compiling the list is making me smile. This year I’ve already added the Snowdrops in the woods above Beetham and I intend to seek out again the Twayblade on the ‘Orchid Triangle’ at Sandside and the Bee Orchids in Trowbarrow Quarry.

Earlier this winter I resolved to extend both the range and variety of my flower pilgrimages after reading ‘Wild Flowers in Danger’ by John Fisher. I have a bit of a second-hand book habit – I buy musty old books at a rate greater than I can read them. When I purchased ‘Wildflowers In Danger’, I thought that it would be a good book to dip into from time to time. Then when I got it home, I was chiding myself that it was just a bit too specialised and that I would never read it, but I did eventually begin, early in the winter, and soon found myself hooked and reading it from cover to cover. It’s an unashamedly partial compendium of photographs and short articles about some of Britain’s rarer flowering plants; full of interesting natural history, but also biographical details about botanists.

P1100249

When I picked it up again recently, to research a possible ‘new pilgrimage’ (post to follow), I decided to also look up an old favourite, which I’d recently spotted again at Far Arnside: Green Hellebore.

“The Green Hellebore was one of the plants to appear in that revolutionary work Herbarum Vivae Eicones – Living Images of Plants, published in Strasbourg in 1530. It was written by Otto Brunfels of the same city but the illustrations by Hans Weiditz were amongst the first to show drawings made from real plants with all their imperfections in place of the conventional mediaeval devices as remote from the truth as the diamonds in a pack of playing cards.”

But hang on, Weiditz? Didn’t I recognise that name? Surely, I’d read it recently in Neil MacGregor’s ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’?

So I checked. This…

…is “Christoph Weiditz’s drawing of Central American ballplayers at the court of Emperor Charles V.”

“In 1528 the Spanish brought two Aztec players to Europe, and a German artist painted them in mid game, back to back, virtually naked, wearing what look like specially reinforced briefs with the ball in flight between them.”

This from chapter 38, which is about this ceremonial stone version of the ‘specially reinforced briefs’.

Hans and Christoph were, some lazy internet research reveals,  brothers and, like their father, Renaissance artists.

P1090978

Incidentally, ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, another second-hand bargain – of course – is a brilliant book to dip into. I missed the Radio 4 series of the same name, but the British Museum is my favourite place in London, and this book, featuring 100 of its countless treasures, is almost as good as a visit.

Weiditz

Books, birds and more strolls.

P1090430

Sunday was a bit of a gloomy day. I was out early-ish again, the most memorable aspect of that walk being the thrush which was adding it’s voice to the gathering chorus in Eaves Wood.

The boys had rugby matches in Kirkby Lonsdale and towards the end of the matches the cloud began to break up and we even had a few brief moments of sunshine, giving me high hopes for the afternoon. However, by the time TBH and I had set out for a tour of Hawes Water the leaden skies had returned. It was a fine walk none-the-less.

P1090429

But since I don’t have all that much to say about Sunday, I thought I’d mention this:

P1080238

…which is Mercury Fountain by Alexander Calder. We saw it at the Miro Foundation last summer, but in the photo at the back you can see it at the 1937 Paris Exposition, with Picasso’s Guernica behind.

Like Guernica its a war memorial of sorts, commemorating the Spanish Civil War:

“The mobile sculpture consists of a series of three metal plates arranged above a large pool of mercury. Mercury is pumped up so that a fine stream trickles on to the top plate. It quickens in droplets and rivulets across the plates in turn while they gyre and bow under the weight of the metal, before it vanishes quietly into the pool below. The mercury is the key to the meaning of the work. It came, like the majority of the world’s mercury at that time, from the cinnabar deposits at Almaden in Ciudad Real south-west of Madrid. This strategically important location was to be repeatedly besieged by Franco’s insurgents, and Calder’s work commemorates the miners who had successfully held off the first nationalist onslaught a few months earlier.”

I wish I’d known all that when I saw it in the flesh. This passage comes from Hugh Aldersley-Williams “Periodic Tales”, which I’m currently reading. The title suggests a book on Chemistry, but whilst there is a great deal of Chemistry, there are also great anecdotes, a deal of history, and all round a very entertaining read. Highly recommended.

Books, birds and more strolls.

Toxoplasma Gondii – a mystery solved?

P1060650

“Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in more than one billion people worldwide, has been shown to inspire neurotic, self-destructive behaviour in rats. The protozoa’s reproductive cycle depends on infecting cats, which it does by getting them to eat rats and mice in whose brains the parasite commonly resides. When the parasite infects a rat or mouse, it increases dopamine levels in its host, inspiring it to wander around recklessly in a way more likely to attract the attention of cats; the mice and rats also become attracted to the small of cat urine an odor that, under normal circumstances, causes them to flee or freeze. “Fatal feline attraction” is the name for this phenomenon. In people, the presence of toxoplasma gondii has been linked to schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, poor attention and reaction times, and greater likelihood of car accidents.”

From ‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan

All of which might explain the behaviour of this vole, which TBH and I encountered back in June, and which had us puzzled and enchanted in equal measure because of its apparent lack of fear of our presence.

The quote might seem like an odd paragraph to find in a book ostensibly about food, but it’s from a footnote and is backing up the assertion that it’s possible that the microbiota in our bodies might influence our moods and even our mental health. The book is absolutely fascinating and I heartily recommend it anyone with an interest in food (i.e. everyone,surely?) – bit late for your Christmas lists I know.

Toxoplasma Gondii – a mystery solved?

Black Combe

P1060930

Painted Lady.

A hot and slightly sticky evening, after a hot and slightly sticky day at work. The forecast was for the weather to deteriorate, but not out in the Western lakes, so I’d driven round for an evening ascent of Black Combe. There’s a spot to pull off the main road just by Beckside (see map at the bottom of the post) and from there I’d followed the path to Fox and Goose Cottages and then uphill on a path between two hedgerows which seemed in danger of disappearing under the greenery; I wondered whether I might end up regretting the fact that I was wearing shorts and not armed with a machete, but I managed to emerge relatively unscathed. (It’s not just nettles that I need to avoid – I tend to react quite badly even to grass seed-heads).

A surprisingly broad track curls up around the hillside and I was very glad of it’s reasonably gentle gradient. The bracken was busy with insects, among them many small butterflies or moths, but none were obliging when my camera was in hand. Not, that is, until I reached more open ground close to the ‘summit’ of White Hall Knott (spot height 311m on the map). In that area a couple of Painted Ladies were displaying quite cooperatively.

White Hall Knott is one of those Birketts which, with only a single, solitary contour to call its own, looks, on the map, like a rather arbitrary choice. In the flesh, it’s quite appealing…

P1060932

White Hall Knott.

And, even on a hazy evening, it has a pretty admirable view down the Whicham Valley…

P1060933

…and across to the Duddon Estuary…

P1060934

Some aspects of the ascent had put me in mind of another hill, a firm favourite of mine, Carn Fadryn on the Llyn Peninsula – a broad and gentle path, bracken busy with orange butterflies and day flying moths, some hints of bilberries (although not nearly as abundant as on Carn Fadryn), views to the sea and Painted Ladies at the top.

As I plodded up White Combe…

P1060935

…I was wondering about Painted Ladies. These were the first I’d seen this year. Although we get them in our garden at times, in previous years my first sightings have often been on top of Carn Fadryn. Painted Ladies, like Monarch butterflies in North America, migrate over several generations. Although the migration of Monarchs is more famous, Painted Ladies migration is much further, beginning in Africa and ending north of the Arctic Circle. The existence of a return migration was only confirmed in 2012, it had been missed because the butterflies can fly quite high, at an average altitude of over 500m on their southbound trip. This made me wonder whether they use coastal hills, or maybe just hill-tops generally, as navigational aids, or maybe just as staging-posts on their mammoth journeys?

P1060936

Looking back to White Hall Knott.

As well as the butterflies, the hillsides and skies around were busy with birds – Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. I think that this…

P1060937

…was the latter. Not a very sharp photo I know, but it does demonstrate their steep, singing, display flight which is so characteristic of the hills at this time of year.

White Combe is not really a summit at all, just the end of a long broad shoulder, but it does have a substantial cairn…

P1060938

And guess what, at least two resident Painted Ladies…

P1060942

The Red Admiral is another migratory butterfly, a close relative of the Painted Lady.

P1060941

They don’t seem to share any familial affection however: every time the Red Admiral landed, one of the Painted Ladies would fly at it and drive it off. Which is something else I’ve previously observed on Carn Fadryn.

P1060947

There were quite a number of hoverflies about too. This one might be Sericomyia Selintis. But, then again, it might not.

From White Combe a longish and levelish and very enjoyable plod followed, heading for Stoupdale Crags.

P1060953

Thin, but pronounced, paths made the going easier than it might otherwise have been…

P1060959

Stoupdale Crags turned out to have one of those plateaued tops where every knoll looks slightly higher than the one you are currently occupying.

P1060962

Buck Barrow and Whitfell from Stoupdale Crags.

P1060963

Meadow Pipit (I think) amongst Cotton Grass.

P1060964

For another Day: Stoneside Hill, Kinmont Buck Barrow, Buck Barrow, Whitfell, Plough Fell.

P1060965

The way ahead: Whitecombe Screes, Blackcombe Screes and Black Combe from Whitecombe Head. The left-hand skyline would be my descent route.

P1060970

A shiny ground beetle (which I can’t find in my field guide).

P1060971

Looking back to Stoupdale Crags.

P1060976

Black Combe summit.

P1060977

Black Combe South Summit.

I’m pretty sure that the last time I was up here, I camped by this little tarn. That was another summer-evening, post-work outing, but on that occasion a Friday night and hence the freedom to camp out and stop to have breakfast on Black Combe.

Tonight, I still had tea in my bag – a humongous pasty I’d bought, on the drive over, from the excellent bakers in Broughton-in-Furness. (A Community not a Shortcut say the signs on the edge of the village).

P1060980

I sat by this enormous and slightly ramshackle cairn to eat it, with a view of the blanket of low stratus stretching away over the Irish Sea and sending a finger of cloud up over the River Duddon.

P1060981

Sadly, it was much too murky to really appreciate what would have otherwise, I suspect, been a pretty spectacular sight.

P1060986

I know that this is already a relatively long post, by my modest standards, but I’m going to digress slightly to recommend another book which seems to me at least tangentially relevant to a blog about walking; I recently read ‘The Invention of Clouds’ by Richard Hamblyn; it’s ostensibly a biography of Luke Howard the amateur scientist who devised the familiar nomenclature used for clouds, but it digresses into the previous and subsequent history of nephology – the science of clouds – the status of the great Nineteenth Century populisers of science, like Humphrey Davy, the early history of ballooning and much more. I found it absolutely fascinating.

P1060984

Looking back to Stoupdale Crags and White Combe.

On my descent I initially followed the edge of the crags heading almost due East, but then found quite a good track, I would guess quite an old one, which made for easier walking, but which took me further south, down towards Hallbeck Gill (a tautological name). Eventually I had to contour round the hillside to get back on course for Whitecombe Gill. Next time I come this way, I’d like to try the ridge between Blackcombe Screes and Whitecombe Screes, which according to the OS 1:25000 is called Horse Back. (And incidentally, I wonder what kind of feature is Eller Peatpot, also named on the OS map?)

P1060994

As yet unidentified moth.

Black Combe

Black Combe

Loafing

P1060473

Last Whit a female Broad-Bodied Chaser visited our garden. This year we had two. Then another a couple of days later, or possibly a return visit from one of the first two. I half hoped that one of them had adopted our garden as its territory, but dragonflies are short-lived in their adult phase, and I’m not sure that they are at all territorial.

P1060509

If I hadn’t spent so much time loafing in the garden in the sunshine, I might have missed our visitors, so there’s something to be said for a little inaction.

P1060535

When the golden Summer has rounded languidly to his close, when Autumn has been carried forth in russet winding-sheet, then all good fellows who look upon holidays as a chief end of life return from moor and stream and begin to take stock of gains and losses. And the wisest, realising that the time of action is over while that of reminiscence has begun, realise too that the one is pregnant with greater pleasures than the other – that action, indeed, is only the means to an end of reflection and appreciation. Wisest of all, the Loafer stands apart supreme. For he, of one mind with the philosopher as to the end, goes straight to it at once, and his happy summer has accordingly been spent in those subjective pleasures of the mind whereof the others, the men of muscle and peeled faces, are only just beginning to taste.

P1060571

And yet though he may a little despise (or rather pity) them, the Loafer does not dislike nor altogether shun them. Far from it: they are very necessary to him…It is chiefly by keeping ever in view the struggles and the clamorous jostlings of the unenlightened making holiday that he is able to realise the bliss of his own condition and maintain his self-satisfaction at boiling-point.

Kenneth Grahame from the essay Loafing, collected in Paths to the River Bank

P1060572

I was struck by the size of the bees feet in this photo. Some trick of perspective?

If I didn’t have clamorous boaters anxious to wring the most out of their days on the Thames to observe, as The Loafer in Grahame’s essay goes on to do, I could at least wonder at the industry of the bees in amongst the Green Alkanet in the garden.

I did get out for the occasional stroll. The first was a late evening outing. It began with the cheerful accompaniment of a Blackbird singing…

P1060578

Then I seemed to be handed from the territory of one Chaffinch to another. They were perched in trees, on TV aerials, telephone wires, but every stretch of my route seemed to have an on looking Chaffinch. Finally, when I reached Jack Scout it was Thrushes and Blackbirds which dominated again.

P1060588

One Blackbird hopped around by my feet on the path, apparently unconcerned by my proximity.

P1060591

I’d hoped that by heading to Jack Scout I would find the last of the sunshine, but even there the paths were mostly in shade, although the birds overhead could still enjoy the sun…

P1060601

The low-angled light, where it could be found, worked nicely for photos though…

P1060603

P1060611

P1060616

P1060622

I had a couple of fleeting glimpses of a Green Woodpecker and then followed it’s mysterious yaffle around the field, eventually creeping under an Oak in which the bird was perched and laughing (astonishingly loud up close), but just out of sight behind a screen of leaves. Needless to say, when I tried to move to get a view, and maybe a photo, the Woodpecker heard my inept attempt at stealth and was off and away in a flash.

P1060631

P1060636

Loafing

More Quick Fixes

Or: Driving Miss A

Scenes from the life of a taxi-driving Dad.

P1060397

Guides have a Thursday evening outing to ‘Pets At Home’? Perfect, I’ll nip up Scout Scar to take in the wide-open views.

P1060398

Consecutive dance lessons for an hour and a quarter in Milnthorpe on a Monday evening? No worries – a circuit from Sandside Back Lane through the woods to Storth, up to Cockshot Lane and then to the diminutive summit of Haverbrack – another Small Hill with a Disproportionately Good View.

P1060403

 

Panorama from Haverbrack – Kent Estuary, Whitbarrow Scar and the distant Cumbrian Fells.

This photo is from a fortnight ago. I’d also walked the same circuit a couple of weeks before that, under gloomy skies, when I didn’t take any photos.

I walked it again tonight. It had been sunny all day (whilst I was stuck at work waiting for a session of ‘Wellbeing’ training*) but whilst we ate tea the eastern sky had turned an impressively thunderous black.

P1060428

 

I did get rained on a bit, but the dramatic dark skies and fast-moving strips of sunlight were more than sufficient compensation.

P1060439

 

On a whim, I diverted slightly to visit Sandside’s infamous ‘Orchid Triangle’. Somebody (I’m not being secretive, I can’t remember who) told me about this unprepossessing spot years ago, but I misunderstood their directions and could never find any orchids. Then somebody else (again – it’s a mystery who it was) corrected my mistake, but somehow I’ve never gotten around to checking for orchids at an appropriate season.

P1060440

 

But today – what a stroke of luck: lots of orchids. At first I thought that they’d finished flowering, what with the lack of colour in the flowers, but now I can see that in fact many of the flowers have yet to open.

P1060443

This is Common Twayblade (I’m pretty sure of that, although I’ve never seen it before) and the flowers are a yellowy-green. Not the most spectacular orchid perhaps, and apparently ‘quite common’, but it made me very happy none-the-less.

P1060447

Not so happy with the photos, but that just gives me a reason to go back soon to have another go.

Flowers didn’t feature in the ‘7 secrets of happiness’ talk at work today, although we were exhorted to ‘be mindful’ which seemed to entail noticing changes in the weather and the seasons. (I think there might be a bit more too it than that). Music was missing too. Literature, drama, art – not mentioned. Exercise was advocated, but not fresh air, sunshine, great views…

Maybe I should deliver the training next time?

Oh, and finally…

P1060424

…another book recommendation.

Imagine this: a young man goes to University, joins a Hiking Club, becomes a bit obsessed with walking and list-ticking, gets into a few scrapes, garners an assortment of amusing anecdotes. Sound familiar to anyone? Craig Weldon has woven a very readable book out of those youthful exploits. He really does become a bit list obsessed, somewhat of a monomaniac, and it doesn’t always seem to make him happy (the part where he moves to England and seems grimly determined to drive as close as he can to the top of Marilyn’s and then bag them with the minimum of effort or enjoyment is a bit hard to fathom, but mercifully short). On the whole it’s life-affirming stuff, and made me smirk knowingly in several places. Besides which, anyone who singles out Ben Mor Coigach and Ben a’Chrulaiste for praise can’t be all bad. I’m even feeling almost inspired by his determination to go walking in foul weather. Almost.

(Available for loan – first shout).

Oh – of course – Craig Weldon has a blog, so you can sample his writing for free: Love of Scotland.

*Rant edited out. Don’t get me started.

More Quick Fixes