Perfect?

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Swallow.

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A speedwell. I don’t think it’s germander,  the leaves were wrong. But I’m not sure what it is. It was tiny.

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This footpath sign is looking decidedly worse for wear.

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A magnificent copper beech near Hollins Lane.

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Hart’s-tongue fern.

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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.

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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.

For comparison…

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…here are some shy and retiring cowslips.

These cowslips…

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…which I saw a little further into the walk, are a bit more vivacious but still not as boisterous as the false oxlips.

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Early Purple Orchid.

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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.

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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.

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Bird’s-foot trefoil.

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A buttercup, I don’t know which kind.

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Pignut.

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Speckled wood butterfly.

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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…

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…gave me a steady stare…

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…then had a leisurely stretch as if to say, “Don’t flatter yourself that I’m moving on your account. ”

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Before strolling away nonchalantly.

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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.

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Cirrostratus?

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Herring gulls.

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On Heathwaite, I tried a slender path which I haven’t followed before. It gave tantalising views of the sands I had recently crossed.

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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.

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Bugle.

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.

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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.

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Lakeland Fells from the Knott.

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Whitbarrow Scar. The tree on the right is a Lancashire Whitebeam…

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…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…

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….the evening light was lighting the church and the stratus (?)…

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I think my eyes were functioning okay.

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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!)

Perfect?

A Man Of No Convictions

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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.

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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.

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Female chaffinch.

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Roe Deer Buck in Eaves Wood – one of a pair I encountered.

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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.


A Man Of No Convictions

Exhale.

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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!)

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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.

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We spotted a spring issuing from the base of the cliff…

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…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.

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We ran out of sand and had to clamber up the rocks…

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..and down again to Cow’s Mouth…

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I’d quite forgotten about the little cave there…

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As we rounded the corner towards Jack Scout, the tide came racing in…

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Fortunately for us it’s an easy scramble up the rocks and into Jack Scout.

I spotted this in Fleagarth Wood….

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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.

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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.

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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:

 

All very different. All brilliant.

Exhale.

The Other Kingdoms

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Cheery cherry blossom on Cove Road.

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Grange-Over-Sands from the Cove.

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The Bay and Humphrey Head from the Cove.

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Eaves Wood – the path to the beech circle.

The Other Kingdoms

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.

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Squirrel.

Another item from my list was ‘read more poetry’ a goal which I have singularly failed to meet.

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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.

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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.

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Caledonian pines.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Untidy nest.

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.

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Crow.

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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.

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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.

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I was examining these trees, trying to work out which was coming into leaf first, and only then noticed all the splendid dandelions.

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Dandelions.

Of course, once you stop to look at the flowers, then you notice other things of interest too…

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Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius))

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Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum).

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Daisies (of the Galaxy)

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Ash flowers.

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Silver birches line a path on the Knott.

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And have come into leave.

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Beech buds.

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Partially opened.

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Opened.

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Hazy views from the Knott.

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Herb Paris…

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…flowering this time.

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Bramble leaf.

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Linnets. (?)

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.

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There were several small groups of birds flitting overhead, including, I think, more linnets and, without any doubt, a small charm of goldfinches.

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Goldfinches.

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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?’.

The Other Kingdoms

The Weeds Are Rising!

Spoiler: Dad (and anybody else who doesn’t like rodents) mouse pictures imminent later in this post.

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Peacock butterfly.

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.

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Another peacock.

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
waters.”

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“I ask again: if you have not been enchanted by this adventure – your life – what would do for you?”

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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.

No?

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.

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The Bay post sunset.

“And consider, always, every day, the determination of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles.”

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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.

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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….

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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
prescribed.”

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.

Some links to the creatives…

Daniel Bye who wrote the words.

Boff Whalley who wrote the music.

and Bevis Bowden who made the film.

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:

It’s a nice sound, it’s a happy sound…..

The Weeds Are Rising!

Seismic Noise and Mast Years

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Early light on St. John’s Silverdale.

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.

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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.

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The cairn at Gait Barrows.

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Ash flower buds.

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Beech mast.

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.

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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…

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And I’m glad that it did, because just over the wall was a small group of Fallow Deer…

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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.

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Limekiln in Yealand Allotments.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Treecreeper.

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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.

Seismic Noise and Mast Years

The Salt Path

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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…

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Nothing much else to say about this very familiar route.

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So, I shall take the opportunity instead to recommend a book I read recently.

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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.

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The Salt Path

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.

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?

 

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