So, our first full day in New York – time to get out and about and see what’s what. By the time I took the photo above, just down the block from our hotel, we’d already eaten breakfast at a small but very busy sandwich bar called Toasties.
Heading back from there, we came across these very large, unusual sculptures…
Seated next to a water feature you could walk through…
We were heading down 5th Avenue looking for East 34th Street, but on route we stopped off at the New York Central Library…
Downstairs there was a small museum, accessed by booking only. We hadn’t booked, so I had the slightly surreal experience of being helped, by the man on the door, to book online, before he scanned the resulting QR code and let us in. Anyway, it was well worth a visit, because among other things it had the original toys immortalised by A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.
You’ll notice that there are no pictures featuring books – the public lending library was across 5th Avenue. The Central Library did have reading rooms with specific collections of books, but they weren’t open to the public.
This was where we had been heading…
The Empire State building is a full on tourist attraction. First you have to queue to have a family portrait taken, so that later you could buy photographs of yourself green-screened onto various views. This turned out to be a common theme just about everywhere we went in Manhattan. Little S took great delight in vying with the sales-people to discreetly take snaps on his phone of our portraits when they were trying to entice us to shell out our hard-earned on their pictures.
King Kong was one of many attractions on the lower floors. He was animated, so that, whilst TBH was posing, his face went through a huge range of expressions, which was quite amusing.
I enjoyed the time-lapse footage of the tower in construction. Astonishingly, it was built in 410 days and finished ahead of schedule.
We got views from the 82nd and 86th floors, if I remember right. We could have paid extra to go up to the 102nd floor, but were quite content with the view as it was.
The bit of green in the foreground is Madison Square Garden, with the Flatiron building just beyond. The Hudson River is on the right and you can see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. The sky-scrapers on the left are in Brooklyn and those on the right are in Jersey City.
The views are pretty amazing and I took a lot of photos, but they all essentially show lots of tall buildings, so I’ll limit myself to three here.
Back on the streets the rest of the family got excited about…
With the obvious exception of Central Park, green spaces are at a premium in midtown. This is Bryant Park just behind the Central Library. We were looking for a relatively small building which we had spotted from the Empire State Building and had all taken a fancy to. From ground level we couldn’t agree which building we had been admiring.
We’d bought a week’s pass on the Metro and used it a lot. It could be confusing at times, but was generally very convenient.
I often felt that everywhere we visited had a song associated with it. I got particularly excited about 110th Street, although if I’d remembered more than just the chorus of the Bobby Womack classic I might have been less keen to visit. Apparently, 110th street was traditionally the boundary of Harlem, and the song is about surviving in the ghetto. Today it seemed very leafy and unthreatening.
The station is at the northwest corner of Central Park. We walked diagonally across the park to catch the Metro again on East 60th Street, which given how hot it was, was quite a hike.
The Mall has statues of William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns – why no American writers?
Eating out in New York was expensive. Actually, eating in in New York was expensive. Well, everything in New York was expensive. But, we found a fairly reasonable place called the Tick Tock Diner and I discovered the delights of a Cobb Salad. Very tasty.
One way to save money as a tourist in Manhattan is to invest in a City Pass. It gives you entrance to a number of attractions and whilst it isn’t cheap, it does save a lot compared to buying individual tickets. We thought it was good value. As a bonus, a City Pass entitles you to a second, night time, ascent of the Empire State building.
Again, the views were stunning. Sadly, my phone seemed to be overwhelmed by the lights and the many, many pictures I took haven’t come out very satisfactorily. Still, quite an experience.
Much as I’m enjoying all of these peak-bagging days out in the Lakes, you may have noticed that I’m finding the write-ups a bit tricky. My local rambles often throw up something in the way of flora or fauna which I can waffle on about for a bit, but I’m finding it hard to know what to say about these box-ticking excursions without endlessly repeating myself.
So, this rather lovely trot around the Fairfield Horseshoe is a good case in point. Let’s get the usual nonsense out of the way from the off….
Start: pretty early by my recent standards, but hardly Alpine.
Parking: free! Because even Ambleside has free parking, if you’re there reasonably early and you’re prepared to walk just a little bit further.
Weather: windy, obviously. Started bright and sunny, even got a bit warm climbing Nab Scar. Cloud came in from the South, so that when I was on Fairfield the sun was still shining on Helvellyn, but I wasn’t benefitting from that sunshine. Stayed cloudy for a while, then brightened up again towards the end of the walk.
Stops: yes, I realise that I can be a bit obsessed with my hot cordial breaks. One of the ironies of this game is that the best bits of a day’s walking are often the bits when you aren’t walking. So: found a nice spot on Rydal Fell, looking up towards Great Rigg and Fairfield; then a not very sheltered, rocky perch on Fairfield which at least had good views; and then, just below the top of High Pike, a little hollow which had some protection from the wind, but also sun and a cracking view.
There are, of course, interesting things to be said about Rydal Hall, and its Thomas Mawson designed gardens, and The Grot. However, Rydal Hall has already featured in several posts, so I’d definitely be repeating myself.
I suspect that there was lots of artwork dotted about the gardens and in the surrounding woods and if I hadn’t been in a hurry they would no doubt have given me lots more grist for my mill.
But I had the steep path on Nab Scar to climb, and I’m glad that I did, because as I climbed the views got progressively bigger and better.
I was talking to a colleague recently about, amongst other things, my recent spate of Wainwright related activity, and my currently-on-hold exploration of the Lune Catchment area and about the fact that the lack of a protracted warm spell had meant that I hadn’t been out swimming as yet this spring (I have since).
Which prompted N to tell me that this summer she plans to cycle between the Lakes, in a single trip over three days, and swim in each one. I was very taken with this idea, and have frequently found myself drawn back to thinking about the logistics of such a trip and about a potential walking route which would visit each of the lakes.
Now, I have a bit of a book buying habit, and books accrue in our house at a rate far exceeding my capacity to read them. This applies to quite a wide variety of books, but is particularly true of books about walking and especially so of books about walking in the Lake District. So, could I find, amongst all the neglected tomes, a book about a route which takes in all of the Lakes?
Of course I could. In fact, so far I’ve found two.
‘The Ancient Ways of Lakeland’ by Richard Sale and Arthur Lees, describes just such a route. It has the subtitle ‘A circular route for walkers’. Marvellous. Except it isn’t. It’s a circular route with little diversions, heading off to take in awkward outliers like Bassenthwaite Lake, Crummock Water, Loweswater, Grasmere and Rydal Water. And since the route is broken down into sections, each of which has an alternative return route, you could argue that it gives two different possible circuits around the Lakes.
Meanwhile Ronald Turnbull’s ‘Big Days in Lakeland’ has a chapter on a walk which visits some of the Lakes. He gets around the Bassenthwaite problem, by just omitting it. Likewise Brother’s Water (which isn’t on Sale and Lees route either). This being Ronald Turnbull (of ‘The Book of the Bivvy’ fame) there are some eccentricities. He has the brilliant idea of combining the walk with a trip on the Lake Steamers, wherever they are available. But then describes walking the route in February when the only boat running is the ferry across Windermere. His low-level route takes in Levers Hawse. And Coledale Hause. Oh, and Helvellyn and Striding Edge.
He’s made of sterner stuff than me. I’m not sure I could cope with winter bivvies. But I do like the look of his route (or substantial bits of it anyway). I’ve stored that idea away for future reference and shall probably enjoy thinking about it from time to time.
Of course, I’d want to devise my own route. I think I would want to include some of my favourite tarns too. Since you’re not supposed to swim in Thirlmere, you could substitute Harrop Tarn. Likewise Small Water for Haweswater. But what about Ennerdale Water?
I have a few of these ideas for long walks, or exploratory projects mentally filed away.
Of course, I haven’t finished the Wainwright’s yet, although I’m making good progress. (Just don’t mention the Western Fells). And I ran out of steam a bit with the Birketts. And the Lune Catchment project was doomed to failure from the off, since how can you possibly track down all of the rills and trickles which drain a water-shed?
But frankly, it’s the anticipation as much as anything which keeps my happy.
The worrying prospect with the Wainwrights is that sometime next year, or perhaps the year after, I will actually finish and then I shall be needing a fresh idea to give me impetus.
Turnbull suggests a slow version of bagging the Wainwrights: only counting the ones you’ve slept the night on. I’ve camped on Tarn Crag (the Longsleddale one) and on Black Combe (but that’s only an Outlying Fell). I bivvied on Bowfell, with Andy, many, many moons ago. And, more recently, on Skiddaw and on Latrigg. (The latter so recently that it hasn’t appeared on the blog yet. Next post I think.)
So, on that basis, four down and two hundred and ten to go. Might take me a while!
Then there’s all the Tarns to bag – using either the Nuttall’s excellent guides or the venerable Heaton Cooper one. Or both. Could make that a slow affair too by swimming in each of them before it counts.
So, plenty still to go at. A cheery thought!
In the meantime, I shall continue to enjoy the straightforward version of just visiting each of the Wainwrights, without any stipulation about sleeping on, parascending from, skiing on a single ski down, taking a geological sample of….each summit.
One part of that process which I’m really enjoying is seeing fells from several different directions in relatively quick succession: “Oh look – there’s Little Hart Crag again. I was near there just a couple of weeks ago.” In the past, when I’ve been in the southern Lakes at least, I’ve been on the lookout for views of Arnside Knott or Clougha Pike. Now, I’m keen to find Lingmoor, or Grasmoor, or Harrison Stickle, or Helm Crag etc in the view because I was on that summit only recently.
Oh, and the Fairfield Horseshoe? Highly enjoyable.
So, finally, some hike stats: MapMyWalk gives 11 miles and 960m of ascent. However, you can see from the straight line most of the way down from High Pike, that I forgot to restart the app after pausing it for a stop. Last time out it gave 14 miles and 957m of ascent. Can’t fault the consistency where the ascent is concerned! That last trip was in very different conditions, and I walked it widdershins, anti-clockwise, whereas I tackled it in the opposite direction this time.
Wainwrights: Nab Scar, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike, Low Pike.
Birketts: the same with the addition of Rydal Fell.
The view from Castlebarrow – Warton Crag, Clougha Pike and the shorn fields around home.
Unlike my last post, this one features photos taken on numerous different walks, over a week.
I climbed Arnside Knott to watch the sunset. By the time I reached the top, it had clouded up, so these shots from beside the Kent Estuary earlier in the walk were better than those taken later.
In my many visits to Gait Barrows I’d noticed a few low sprawling shrubs with pointed glossy leaves. I kept checking on them to see what the flowers looked like.
I’m very pleased to report that this is Wild Privet, especially since I have been misidentifying Geans as Wild Privet until this year.
“What I did not fully realise when I set out was the unexpected reward that comes from searching for wild flowers. Flower finding is not just a treasure-hunt. Walking with your head down, searching the ground, feeling close to nature, takes you away from a world of trouble and cares. For the time being, it is just you and the flower, locked in a kind of contest. It is strangely soothing, even restorative. It makes life that bit more intense; more than most days you fairly leap out of bed. In Keble Martin’s words, botanising takes you to the peaceful, beautiful places of the earth.”
Scorpion Fly, female.
“Meanwhile Brett was diverted by the insects visiting the flowers…I felt an unexpected twinge of envy. How exciting life must be, when you can take a short walk down to the river bank and find small wonders in every bush or basking on a flower head, or making themselves comfortable under a pebble. Why don’t more of us look for Lesne’s Earwigs instead of playing golf or washing the BMW?”
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
Large Skipper, female.
Possibly a Gypsy Cuckoo Bumblebee.
A Calla Lily at Woodwell again.
Both quotes are from ‘Chasing the Ghost’ by Peter Marren.
Songs about flies?
‘Human Fly’ by The Cramps.
‘I am the Fly’ Wire.
Other songs which spring to mind: ‘Anthrax’ by The Gang of Four for its line ‘I feel like a beetle on its back’, or, similarly ‘Song from Under the Floorboards’ which has Howard Devoto declaring ‘I am an insect’. But I’ve shared both of those before, I think. Californian punk band Flipper also recorded a version of ‘There Was An Old Woman who Swallowed a Fly’, but, to be frank, I never really liked it. It’s altogether a very punky collection of songs. I’m not sure whether that reflects a squeamishness about insects in mainstream music, or just the fact that it’s with punk that I am best acquainted? There must be some good butterfly songs, but aside from ‘Caterpillar’ by The Cure, which, again, I’ve shared before, I can’t think of any at present.
A speedwell. I don’t think it’s germander, the leaves were wrong. But I’m not sure what it is. It was tiny.
This footpath sign is looking decidedly worse for wear.
A magnificent copper beech near Hollins Lane.
I thought these looked a bit exuberant for cowslips. I now realise but they are false oxlips, a hybrid of primrose’s and cowslips. There is a separate plant, the oxlip, but that isn’t found in the northwest.
The plants are tall like cowslips, but the flowers look more like primroses and radiate around the top of the stem rather than drooping all on one side as cowslips usually do.
…here are some shy and retiring cowslips.
…which I saw a little further into the walk, are a bit more vivacious but still not as boisterous as the false oxlips.
Early Purple Orchid.
Carnforth saltmarsh and the Forest of Bowland from Heald Brown.
I was heading for Jenny Browns Point, with the aim of crossing the sands of the miniature bay between Know Point and Park Point.
On Heald Brow many of the grassland flowers had appeared.
Although the wildflower key tells me that tormentil flowers from June to September, I’m pretty sure that this is tormentil flowering in early May.
A buttercup, I don’t know which kind.
Speckled wood butterfly.
Warton Crag and Quicksand Pool.
A small group of greylag geese were sunning themselves on the far bank of quicksand pool. Most moved as I approached, but this one…
…gave me a steady stare…
…then had a leisurely stretch as if to say, “Don’t flatter yourself that I’m moving on your account. ”
Before strolling away nonchalantly.
You can see where I was heading almost dead centre in the photo above. I weaved a bit to investigate any foreign looking objects. Lord knows what this was or where it had come from.
On Heathwaite, I tried a slender path which I haven’t followed before. It gave tantalising views of the sands I had recently crossed.
Eventually I reached the more familiar viewpoint by the bench. That’s Know Point right of centre, so you can see part of my route across the sands.
Nothing – and I mean, really, absolutely nothing – is more extraordinary in Britain than the beauty of the countryside. Nowhere in the world is there a landscape that has been more intensively utilised – more mined, farmed, quarried, covered with cities and clanging factories, threaded with motorways and railway lines – and yet remains so comprehensively and reliably lovely over most of its extent. It is the happiest accident in history. In terms of natural wonders, you know, Britain is a pretty unspectacular place. It has no alpine peaks or broad rift valleys, no mighty gorges or thundering cataracts. It is built to really quite a modest scale. And yet with a few unassuming natural endowments, a great deal of time and an unfailing instinct for improvement, the makers of Britain created the most superlatively park-like landscapes, the most orderly cities, the handsomest provincial towns , the jauntiest seaside resorts, the stateliest homes, the most dreamily spired, cathedral-rich, castle-strewn, abbey-bedecked, folly-scattered, green-wooded, winding-laned, sheep-dotted, plumply-hedgerowed, well-tended, sublimely decorated 50,318 square miles the world has ever known – almost none of it undertaken with aesthetics in mind, but all of it adding up to something that is, quite often, perfect. What an achievement that is.
I have three books on the go at the moment: I’m still reading ‘The Age of Absurdity’ by Michael Foley, I’m well into ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ by Bill Bryson and I’ve recently started ‘Damned’ by Chuck Palahniuk, of ‘Fight Club’ fame. No prizes for guessing which of the three the quote comes from. I’m a big fan of Mr Bryson – Little Dribbling has a mixture of curious facts, lyrical description and curmudgeonly comedy which I’m finding very absorbing. He does repeat himself a little – he often expresses a fondness for our path network for example, but I’m ready to forgive him that.
Kent Estuary from The Knott.
I’m enjoying ‘Damned’, but probably shouldn’t have read another humorous book so hard on the heels of ‘A Pelican at Blandings’ and ‘Service with a Smile’. Palahniuk is witty, but he’s not Wodehouse.
Lakeland Fells from the Knott.
Whitbarrow Scar. The tree on the right is a Lancashire Whitebeam…
…with silvery leaves.
Later, I defied the lockdown to go out a second time and walk to the end of the lane, about 260 yards perhaps…
….the evening light was lighting the church and the stratus (?)…
I think my eyes were functioning okay.
Two unlikely covers today. First up, Baby Charles’ cover of The Arctic Monkey’s ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’.
And then World Domination Enterprises’ decidedly lo-fi, noise-fest cover of Lipps Inc’s ‘Funkytown’
It was either this or their classic ‘Asbestos Lead Asbestos’. Terrific live band. (In the 80s: I have no idea what they are up to now!)
We imagine that as soon as we are thrown out of our customary ruts all is over, but it is only then that the new and the good begins. While there is life there is happiness. There is a great deal, a great deal before us.
This is Pierre, in ‘War and Piece’ talking about his incarceration following the sack of Moscow. Seemed apposite somehow.
Arnside Knott from near Know Point. I’d walked across the sands from Park Point – something I’d been thinking of doing for a few days beforehand.
Roe Deer Buck in Eaves Wood – one of a pair I encountered.
Late sun on Silverdale and the Bowland hills.
A man of no convictions, no habits, no traditions, no name…emerges – by what seems the strangest freak of chance – from among all the seething parties…is borne forward to a prominent position. The incompetence of his colleagues, the weakness and inanity of his rivals, the frankness of his falsehoods and his brilliant and self-confident mediocrity raise him…his childish insolence and conceit secure him …glory. He more than once finds himself on the brink of disaster and each time is saved in some unexpected manner.
He has no plan of any kind; he is afraid of everything; but the parties hold out their hands to him and insist on his participation.
He alone, his insane self-adulation, his insolence in crime and frankness in lying – he alone can justify what has to be done.
He is needed for the place that awaits him and so, almost apart from his own volition and in spite of his indecision, his lack of plan and all the blunders he makes, he is drawn into a conspiracy that aims at seizing power, and the conspiracy is crowned with success.
Do you have a clear picture? Can you guess who the passage describes? Yes – you have it – it’s Napoleon. In Tolstoy’s words. I’ve edited out all of the specific references to times and places which would give the game away. I can’t help thinking that this might fit quite a few leaders past and present. There’s a great deal more of this in ‘War and Peace’; I think it’s fair to say that Tolstoy did not hold Napoleon in high regard.
I think that this is a female orang-tip, but white butterflies are almost as tricky little brown birds. (Not as awkward as yellow dandelion like flowers however!)
White tail, three bands of yellow – I think that this might be a garden bumblebee (bombus hortorum) which would be entirely appropriate because it was in our garden when I photographed it.
A and I walked around Know Point on the sands.
We spotted a spring issuing from the base of the cliff…
…I’ve realised that all of the channels on the Bay close to the shore, some of them quite wide and deep in places, are fed by deceptively small springs like this.
We ran out of sand and had to clamber up the rocks…
..and down again to Cow’s Mouth…
I’d quite forgotten about the little cave there…
As we rounded the corner towards Jack Scout, the tide came racing in…
Fortunately for us it’s an easy scramble up the rocks and into Jack Scout.
I spotted this in Fleagarth Wood….
These little painted stones seem to be everywhere. I know this idea predated the lockdown, but present circumstances seem to have given the craze new impetus. I thoroughly approve. Especially when they are as skilfully rendered as this.
Ramsons in Fleagarth Wood – almost in flower.
Now that I have ‘finished’ ‘War and Peace’, I wanted to read something completely different. I’ve actually started several books, but some have fallen by the wayside and two have emerged as joint ‘winners’. The first is ‘A Pelican at Blandings’, which, now I’m well into it, I realise I have read before. It doesn’t matter. I love P.G.Wodehouse and particularly the Blandings novels. I haven’t read them all, but I have read several, some of them repeatedly. The plots are much the same every time, it’s the manner of the telling which is important and, as ever, this one is making me smile (again).
The other book is ‘The Age of Absurdity’ by Michael Foley. Its superbly written and so densely packed with ideas that I’m beginning to feel like I should be reading it very slowly with pencil in hand to underline passages and scribble notes in the margins. I was feeling very smug, reading a chapter about the elevation of shopping to an end in itself rather than a means to an end, when I came across…
My own compulsion is buying books…in the hope of acquiring secret esoteric knowledge….I have increasing numbers of unread purchases. A new book retains its lustre of potential for about six weeks and then changes from being a possible bearer of secret lore into a liability, a reproach, a source of embarrassment and shame.
Oh dear. That’s me. We’re surrounded by tottering heaps of my compulsively purchased secondhand tombs.
Still, both ‘War and Peace’ and ‘The Age of Absurdity’ have been rescued from those stacks, so there’s hope for the other neglected volumes yet.
Tunes. First, ‘Grandma’s Hands’ a great Bill Withers song you may not know:
Then Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’, built around a sample from Mr Withers
Finally, the marvellous Hackney Colliery Band’s cover of same:
Consider the other kingdoms. The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals. Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze. Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be. Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.
Another item from my list was ‘read more poetry’ a goal which I have singularly failed to meet.
New beech leaves.
It’s usually at this time of year that I become most enthusiastic about poetry, habitually scanning through my e.e.cummings collection, looking for something new about spring to furnish a post full of photographs of the usual collection of my favourite springtime images. Newly emerged beech leaves, for example.
This year cummings should have had a run for his money because I’ve acquired large collections by Frost, MacCaig and Oliver all of which I was very keen to dip in to.
However, I have been reading ‘War and Peace’, another item from my list, which has turned out to be pretty all-consuming. Fortunately, I’d already read quite a chunk of the Mary Oliver collection before I completely submerged in Tolstoy.
My first speckled wood butterfly of the year.
I’ve finished now. Well, I say I’ve finished; in fact I have a handful of pages of the epilogue left still to read. Which probably seems a bit odd, but in the last 50 or so pages Tolstoy abandons his characters (again) and turns back to tub-thumping. Historians have all got it wrong and he is just the man to set them straight.
Speckled wood butterfly – my first of the year, looking newly minted.
Don’t get me wrong: although it took a while, I was completely hooked by the book and really enjoyed the various intertwined stories of the characters. But there are many lengthy historical sections about the stupidity, vanity and in-fighting of generals which are not so interesting. In particular, Tolstoy is at pains to dismiss any notion that Napoleon was is any way a military genius and spends many pages making his point. There are also several philosophical digressions about history and what drives the actions of nations and peoples. Whenever I was reading these sections I was reminded of the Gang of Four song ‘It’s Not Made by Great Men’, which makes the same point but way more succinctly.
Whilst these digression are often interesting in themselves, I did find they were often a frustrating distraction from the story. Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ has sections of polemic laced through the story which, it seemed to me, are entirely redundant. And I’ve heard it said of Moby Dick that it’s best to skip the chapters which are solely Melville’s detailed descriptions of Atlantic whaling. Having said that, Tolstoy’s character assassination of Napoleon is hilarious, and I’ve just found a guide to the book which says, ‘Anyone who tells you that you can skip the “War” parts and only read the “Peace” parts is an idiot.’ It also says that the book will take 10 days at most to read and I’ve been reading it for more than a month. So, doubly an idiot, obviously.
The journey of the central characters is totally absorbing though, so I would definitely recommend it.
Anyway, back to the walk: when I first spotted this nest, it had two crows in it and I got inordinately excited, as I always do when I find an occupied nest. However, they soon left the nest and on subsequent visits the nest has always looked empty. Now the leaves on the surrounding trees are so dense that I can’t even see the nest.
On our walks together TBH and I have frequently found ourselves passing comment on the fact that livestock seem to be being regularly moved about. I don’t know whether that’s standard husbandry or perhaps because of the prolonged dry spell we’ve had.
There’s a herd of young calves, for instance, on the fields between Holgates and Far Arnside which seem to have been moved into just about every available field at some point.
I was examining these trees, trying to work out which was coming into leaf first, and only then noticed all the splendid dandelions.
Of course, once you stop to look at the flowers, then you notice other things of interest too…
Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius))
Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum).
Daisies (of the Galaxy)
Silver birches line a path on the Knott.
And have come into leave.
Hazy views from the Knott.
…flowering this time.
I got very excited about this pair, purely because I didn’t know what they were. I’ve subsequently decided that they are linnets, but I have a poor record when it comes to identifying this species, having previously incorrectly identified red poll as linnets on more than one occasion. If they are linnets, then they’re missing the striking red breast and throat of a male linnet in its breeding plumage.
There were several small groups of birds flitting overhead, including, I think, more linnets and, without any doubt, a small charm of goldfinches.
I also caught a fleeting glimpse of what I think was a redstart – I’ve only seen them in the hills before and was doubting my own eyes to a certain extent, but they do arrive in the UK in April and the RSPB distribution map does show them as present in this area, and mentions that they favour coastal scrub when in passage, so maybe I was right after all.
One of my favourite Clash songs…
“You see, he feels like Ivan
Born under the Brixton sun
His game is called survivin’
At the end of The Harder They Come”
Ivan is the character played by Jimmy Cliff in the film ‘Harder They Come’, so it’s entirely appropriate that Jimmy Cliff eventually covered the song…
I always enjoy Nouvelle Vague’s unique take on punk and post-punk songs, it’s well worth a trawl through their repertoire..
And of course, the Paul Simenon’s, bass line was sampled by Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, for Beats International’s ‘Dub Be Good to Me’…
It’s been covered by German band Die Toten Hosen and live by the Red Hit Chilli Peppers, and Arcade Fire, and probably lots of others. There’s a nice dub version out there and Cypress Hill didn’t so much sample it as rewrite the lyrics for their ‘What’s Your Number?’.
Spoiler: Dad (and anybody else who doesn’t like rodents) mouse pictures imminent later in this post.
There’s a section of Inman’s Road where the sun gets through the canopy and warms the stones of the track. It seems to be a popular spot with butterflies. Strangely, despite their flashy colours, I often don’t see them until I’ve got too close and one of them takes to the wing. And once one lifts off, they all go.
There then ensues one of those, for want of a better phrase, butterfly dances, in which the assembled Lepidoptera swirl around each other in a merry waltz. Or is it merry? I can never decide whether the dance is an expression of aggression, curiosity, amour, or sheer joy, perhaps, at the end of lockdown hibernation.
“Where do I live? If I had no address, as many people
do not, I could nevertheless say that I lived in the
same town as the lilies of the field, and the still
“I ask again: if you have not been enchanted by this adventure – your life – what would do for you?”
There was some doubt, I believe, about the future of these Exmoor ponies who, for years, have been used for conservation grazing at Gait Barrows. Apparently their services are no longer needed, but fortunately a new home has been found for them. You could say that they’ve been put out to grass.
So – what about my so called lockdown aspirations? Lets deal with an easy one – have I caught up with my blog? Well, yes and no: at the outset, I was still writing about last summer’s holiday, so things have definitely moved on.
But since I’m out walking and taking photos just about every day, new material is accruing at much the same rate as I’m posting it. I suppose one way to look at it is that I’m close to reaching an equilibrium, which doesn’t sound like a bad place to be.
The Bay post sunset.
“And consider, always, every day, the determination of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles.”
Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), also know as a Field Mouse. The white belly, large back feet (for jumping) and general cuteness differentiate this from a House Mouse.
The wood mouse is the most common species of mouse in Britain. Very common in our garden judging by the number the cats leave lying around in the house. This one had a lucky escape, I rescued it from the cats and persuaded it to shelter in a cereal packet, before releasing it onto our patio. Understandably, it was terrified and I was able to take some photos before it ran off.
All winter, it’s been evident that something or other was burrowing in our compost heap. The size of the holes had me convinced that it must be rats, but subsequently I’ve found a few bedraggled wood mice corpses near the compost, so maybe they were the culprits.
A few days after I rescued this little chap, I found another one in the house. (Or perhaps the same one?) B and I tried and failed to catch it. In the end, the whole family were enlisted. It got behind some bookcases – we had to unladen three large bookcases, and move them. The mouse was still too quick for us, but we had it surrounded, and staked out the desk it had nipped behind. B, armed with a feather duster, flushed it out and S dropped an ice-cream tub over it. We re-wilded the perisher and then all we had to do was move all of the furniture back into place and try to work out how to get the contents of the shelves back into place, although it was evident to all that we somehow now had at least four bookcases worth of books, maps, craft items, correspondence, shoe boxes full of who knows what etc to ram back in.
A Sunday evening to remember!
I realise, a little belatedly, that I’ve posted about my birthday, and mentioned my birthday presents, without having said anything about the gifts I received at Christmas. Principally, I got to spend time with family, which now seems even more important than it did at the time. But I also asked for a couple of things. And just to make sure that the message didn’t get garbled, having asked, I ordered them online for good measure. If a thing is worth doing….
There were just two items: a CD, ‘Doggerel’ by Fontaines DC, of which more at some point I’m sure, and a book, ‘Devotions’ the selected poems of Mary Oliver.
It was a comment on this blog which first alerted me to the poetry of Mary Oliver. It took me a while to track that comment down, but it was on this post. And Moira, I don’t know if you are still reading, but I hope that you are well and coping with the vicissitudes of lockdown, and you should know that I am extremely grateful for the nudge you gave me.
For the purposes of this post, wanting something suitable to quote, I opened a page at random in the book and found the poem ‘Evidence’. All of the quotes, and the title, come from that.
“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in
singing, especially when singing is not necessarily
Which brings me to:
Back in March, I was involved in a marvellous project, ‘These Hills Are Ours’, which involved climbing Clougha Pike from Morecambe seafront, as part of a volunteer choir and singing a specially composed song. I expected today’s blogpost to be about that walking and singing, but the film of the event is still under wraps, so I’m biding my time.
However, the week before, a group from Stockton had done much the same thing, climbing Roseberry Topping and that’s them in the film.
Two more walks, in London and Devon, were envisaged, but I suspect the coronavirus may have put a stop to those.
It’s only now that I’ve realised that Boff was lead guitarist in Chumbawumba, which for most people, I know, means the one-hit wonder Tub-thumping, but I was more than a bit obsessed, for quite some time, with their first album, the snappy title of which should appear below in the video. The phrase “it’s a nice sound, it’s a happy sound and it’s not doing anybody any harm” became a bit of standing joke for me, my brother and our flat mate S.
They did make other records, but there was a long hiatus before the second, and by then I had literally moved on, started teaching and somehow it passed me by. Maybe I’ll delve into their archive now.
Oh, and I almost forgot about yesterday’s quiz question. It was, of course, Rockafeller Skank, by Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim:
One consequence, apparently, of the current situation, has been the reduction of seismic noise; that is seismic readings caused by human activity. The journal Nature reports a drop by one third in Belgium, and I read somewhere, sorry, I can’t remember where, that in London it’s down by about a half.
Heading towards Hawes Water. A fence on the left has been partially removed. Similar fences, between woodland and pasture, have been removed across the Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve. Will they be replaced or is this part of a new management plan?
It’s difficult to gauge whether paths around Silverdale are quieter now than they usually are, because I’m not normally out myself mid-week in the daytime. I think that they have got busier, though, since the extra clarification which has made it clear that it’s okay to drive a short distance for your daily exercise.
I didn’t drive for this walk, in fact I haven’t driven anywhere for weeks, but I did walk a little further than usual, as I have done from time to time.
The cairn at Gait Barrows.
Ash flower buds.
TBH and I have both been noticing on our walks (and runs in TBH’s case) that, when we are beneath Beech trees this spring, every step brings a satisfying crunch. The local Beeches seem to have produced a bumper crop of mast last year. That’s not unusual: every three to five years Oaks and Beeches produce a huge crop and those years when that happens are know as mast years.
It seems that the reasons why this occurs are not completely understood. A Guardian piece on mast years hypothesises that it’s the spring weather which dictates: Oaks and Beeches are wind pollinated, so a warm and windy spring produces a lot of flowers which are successfully pollinated. If that theory is correct then this year ought to be a mast year.
On the other hand, this article, on the Woodland Trust website, posits that the lean years control the population of frugivores*, like Jays and Squirrels and then, in the bumper years, the remaining populations of these creatures can’t possibly eat all of the seeds so that some are bound to get a chance to germinate and grow.
This second theory would seem to require some element of coordination between trees, which in turn would imply that trees must communicate in some way. That might seem unlikely, but that’s exactly the thesis advanced by Peter Wohlleben in his book ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’, which I read last summer while we were in Germany and found absolutely fascinating.
Anyway, back to my walk: I’d left Gait Barrows via the small hill Thrang Brow which is enough of a rise to give partial views of the Lake District hills, but that view never seems to translate well in photographs. From Thrang Brow a slender path heads of through the woods of Yealand Allotment. I don’t often come this way, but always enjoy it when I do.
A bright yellow sign on the far side of a wall attracted my attention…
And I’m glad that it did, because just over the wall was a small group of Fallow Deer…
Sadly, most of the group were almost hidden by trees so I only got a chance of a clear photo of this one individual.
Limekiln in Yealand Allotments.
Peter Lane Limekiln.
I’d been thinking of incorporating Warton Crag into my walk, but I was thirsty and the weather was deteriorating, so took the path which cuts across the lower slopes to the north of the crag. Just as I took this photo…
View of Leighton Moss.
…it began to rain. TBH, bless her, rang me and asked if I wanted her drive over to pick me up, but the rain wasn’t heavy so I decided to carry on.
Tide line on Quaker’s Stang.
On Quaker’s Stang, an old sea defence, previous high tides had left a line of driftwood and dried vegetation right on the top of the wall, and, further along, well beyond the wall on the landward side. I’ve often wondered about the name – apparently ‘stang’ is a measurement of land equivalent to a pole, rod or perch. That sounds like it might offer an explanation, except a pole, or a rod, or a perch, is five and a half yards and Quaker’s Stang is a lot longer than that.
This tree is very close to home. I spent the last part of my ‘walk’ watching and photographing the antics of another Treecreeper in its branches.
I suppose a treecreeper qualifies as an LBJ, a Little Brown Job, except that sounds derogatory and, in my opinion, Treecreeper’s are stunning, in their own muted way.
*Frugivore was a new word to me, and I’m always happy to meet one of those. Apparently, it’s an animal which lives wholly or mostly on fruit.
The idea of compiling a kind of day-y-day playlist originated when Andy and I were discussing a mixtape I made, many moons ago, for our long drives up to Scotland for walking holidays. One of the songs on the tape was The Band’s ‘The Weight’. It’s still a song I adore. As well as the original, there’s a great version by Aretha Franklin, but here (subject to it not getting blocked) is Mavis Staples singing it with Jools Holland’s orchestra from one of his hootenannies:
I’ve seen Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra a couple of times live and can definitely recommend them. Last time I saw them, at Cartmel Racetrack, we went with friends and took the kids with us. There was a fair there too, and several support acts, including the Uptown Monotones who have become a firm favourite. Anyway, the kids were mortified when the adults all had the temerity to dance. In public! One of my sandals fell apart whilst I was dancing, I’m not sure whether that was a consequence of my vigorous enthusiasm or my inept clumsiness. Or both.
Another February late afternoon, post-work wander to The Cove, but this time I actually made it in time for the sunset. Some of the winter storms coincided with high tides and reshaped the shingle beach at The Cove, also leaving a heap of driftwood and other detritus at the back of that beach…
Nothing much else to say about this very familiar route.
So, I shall take the opportunity instead to recommend a book I read recently.
It’s a memoir. A couple lose their family home and discover that he has a terminal illness. With nowhere to live, and against all advice, they decide to walk the Southwest Coastal Path, camping along the way. It’s a lovely read, much more uplifting than the grim circumstances might suggest.