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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Sarlat-la-Canéda

A Fawn, Branched Bur-reed and More Orchids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Orchids of Great  Britain and Ireland by David Lang.

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

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

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A view to Eaves Wood.

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

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

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A Fawn, Branched Bur-reed and More Orchids.

Weeds

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

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

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

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

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

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The flowers are stunning.

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I can’t find this little chap…

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

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Rounded Snail (perhaps?)

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Blackbird.

 

Weeds

Farleton Fell – a long awaited encounter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking toward Whitbarrow and the Kent Estuary.

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

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

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

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Enjoying the view.

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

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Following the edge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farleton Fell – a long awaited encounter.

Watch Me Now

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

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House Sparrow

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Newly-laid hedge by Townsfield.

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Primroses on the bank on Cove Road.

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Hazel Catkins.

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Marsh Tit.

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Daffodils in the woods near Far Arnside.

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Green hellebore in amongst the daffs.

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Grange and Hampsfell.

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

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Park Point.

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Redshank.

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Arnside Knott from New Barns.

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

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

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

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

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Whitbarrow Scar, the Kent, the viaduct.

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

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

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

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

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

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Silverdale Moss.

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Trees near Hagg Wood.

This photo…

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

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

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

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

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

Watch me now, oh….”

Watch Me Now

A Different World.

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Peacock Butterfly on Hemp Agrimony.

When I finished my last post by musing about the origins of the name of the Scotch Argus butterfly and a possible link to the mythical giant Argus, I didn’t anticipate that the first photo in the subsequent post would be of a Peacock, whose Latin name recalls the same story. The Peacock was known at one time as the Peacock’s Tail. It’s Latin name is Inachus Io, recalling the Greek nymph Io and her father (variously a King, a Giant or a River God depending on which version you read). I’ve referred to this myth before, but here’s a slightly different version taken from Robert Graves ‘The Greek Myths, Volume One’:

“Io, daughter of the River-god Inachus, was a priestess of Argive Hera. Zeus, over whom Iynx, daughter of Pan and Echo, had cast a spell, fell in love with Io, and when Hera charged him with infidelity and turned Iynx into a wryneck as punishment, lied: ‘I have never touched Io.’ He then turned her into a white cow, which Hera claimed as hers and handed over for safe keeping to Argus Panoptes, ordering him: ‘Tether this beast secretly to an olive-tree at Nemea.’ But Zeus sent Hermes to fetch her back, and himself led the way to Nemea – or, some say, to Mycenae – dressed in woodpecker disguise. Hermes, though the cleverest of thieves, knew he could not steal Io without being detected by one of Argus’s hundred eyes; he therefore charmed him asleep by playing the flute, crushed him with a boulder, cut off his head and released Io. Hera, having placed Argus’s eyes in the tail of a peacock, as a constant reminder of his foul murder, set a gadfly to sting Io and chase her all over the world.”

Trickery, lust, infidelity, duplicity, jealousy, deceit, murder, revenge – the Greek Gods seem all too human in this tale, as in many others.

Here’s Hermes slaying Argus, from an Athenian vase now held in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Argus seems quite awake in this pictorial version of the story. In some tellings, Io is irresistible even after her metamorphosis into bovine form, which is hard to imagine; her portrayal on this ancient pot doesn’t really help in that regard.

Panoptes, incidentally, means ‘all-seeing’, an attribute to which I can definitely not lay claim…

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Skullcap.

Skullcap is apparently a very common plant, but this is the first time I can recall spying it in flower. I found it in the increasingly wet meadow at the end of Hawes Water.

“Skullcap, Scutelleria galericulata, is a delicate species of fens and banks of ponds, canals and slow rivers, locally common throughout much of Britain. The plant’s English and Latin names both derive from the shape of the blue flowers, which reminded early botanists of the leather helmet or galerum worn by Roman soldiers.”

from Flora Britannica by Richard Mabey.

“Sufferers from nervous disorders might be advised to take skullcap in tablet form, for the plant produces a volatile oil, called scutellarin, which is one of the best treatments for such afflictions ever discovered. The plant is dried, powdered and infused in boiling water to make a strong tonic, which calms spasms and hysteria, and relieves epilepsy and St Vitus’s dance. However, care must be taken: it is a powerful drug, and an overdose might induce the very symptoms which, at correct dosages, it alleviates.”

from Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain.

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I wondered whether the colours of Hemp Agrimony, often somewhat washed out and insipid in my photos, might show to better effect in shade: I think it worked?

I’ve certainly had a bumper year for spotting Common Lizards. The two I met basking in their usual spot, on the edging along the boardwalk by Hawes Water, were, once again, quite different from each other in their markings and colour…

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I particularly admired the go faster stripes on this specimen…

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I wondered whether the variation in colouring might reflect the gender of the lizards and have since discovered that you can sex lizards this way, but need to see their undersides in order to do so. I suspect that I’m never going to be quick enough to get my mitts on them to find out. Never mind, I’m happy just to see them.

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Hawes Water.

I presume that these alien monstrosities…

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…are the early stages, or small examples, of Robin’s Pincushion Gall, or are something similar. They’re nothing like as hairy as Pincushion Galls usually are though, and those generally develop on the stems. You can perhaps tell from the picture that each outlandish, starfish-like protuberance is mirrored on the reverse of the leaf. Quite astonishing, even before you know about the asexual lifestyle of the wasps which develop within.

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A male Small White, I think.

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Another Bull in a field with a footpath, in fact he was walking along the path, but I was turning off in another direction and, anyway, he didn’t seem remotely interested in me.

This walk was memorable for quite an abundance and variety of butterflies. Later on, I met a number of Lepidopterists, one of whom asked me if I’d seen any Brown Hairstreaks, which is what they were on the look-out for. I hadn’t. Not that I would have recognised one if I had. I did see lots of Brimstones though…

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Brimstone on Betony.

They seemed to be patronising the purple flowers by preference, which shows off their yellow to good effect. Is it vanity, do you think?

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Bumblebee on Knapweed.

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Painted Lady.

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Red Admiral.

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Another Peacock’s-tail.

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Eyebright.

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Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet Pimpernel is tiny, but not really elusive at all, unlike the character named after the flower, scourge of the French Revolutionaries. Local names for the flower included ‘change-of-the-weather’, ‘poor man’s weatherglass’ and ‘shepherd’s sundial’, due to its habit of closing whenever the skies are dull and for large parts of the day, a property, it must be said, which it shares with many other flowers.

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The mystery plant – looking increasingly like some sort of Scabious, as Simon suggested.

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Grasshopper.

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I think this might be Orpine, or Sedum telephium, the same Sedum, or Ice Plant which we grow in our gardens.

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Speckled Wood.

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A Harvestman. Definitely not a spider or a daddy-longlegs.

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I was a bit surprised to see the orange berries on the Lily-of-the-valley; I’ve never seen them before. Apparently, they rarely develop, with the plant usually spreading by sending up new shoots.

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Female Common Darter.

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Another Brimstone.

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Male Common Darter.

A Different World.

Falling for Foulshaw Figwort

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A juvenile Great Tit and a Blue Tit share a moment.

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Male Scorpion Fly – rubbish picture, but you can see the appendage which earns its name.

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Lots of these at Foulshaw at the moment, under the trees at the edge of the reserve.

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Meadow Vetchling, perhaps?

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Reading John Wright has made me think about the ways in which insects and fungi are often adapted to exploit particular plants. I saw wasps feeding on Figwort a few times on this visit. A Figwort flower and the head of a wasp seem to be a perfect fit.

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The dark wings here make me think that this could be a Cuckoo Bumblebee, on a thistle obviously, Marsh Thistle probably.

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Male Reed Bunting – seems almost obligatory now.

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After the diverse, but elusive, moths and butterflies of my last visit, this time these small pale moths were to be seen all around the boardwalks in the more open, heathland areas. It’s a ‘wave’. But there are lots of those to choose from: Common Wave, White Wave, Small White Wave, Cream Wave, Small Cream Wave, Silky Wave, Grass Wave – and that’s just the ones which are pale with brownish stripes. Some of these species live in woodland, some have marginal black dots on their wings, or more prominent dark spots in the centre of their hind-wings, or on both wings, none seemed to fit the bill perfectly, but I’m going to tentatively plump for Common Wave, as it’s the best fit as far as I can tell.

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An Alderfly. Perhaps.

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Another Cuckoo Bumblebee? On Cross-leaved Heath.

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I spoke to somebody, who told me they had spoken to somebody else earlier, who had photographed six Adders that day at the reserve, one of them basking on a boardwalk. I didn’t see any snakes at all, but I did spot this Common Lizard.

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The ‘cotton’ from the Bog Cotton has completely coated some areas.

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Bog Asphodel.

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Bog Myrtle catkins.

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Green Lacewing. There are 18 British species and this is one of those, I’m fairly sure.

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Foxglove seed-heads. Handsome aren’t they.

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It’s been interesting to visit three weeks running and see how things have progressed. The Meadowsweet is flowering now. Here’s some with Tufted Vetch…

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I’m sure that I’ve read somewhere that blue and white flowers in a garden together traditionally signify The Virgin Mary, but I can’t remember where I read that, so I may be wrong. It is, however, the kind of useless detail which I tend to remember, unlike, for instance, important things like people’s names.

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Soft Rush.

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See: wasp, Figwort – made for each other. Britain has nine species of Social Wasp, but I’m going to tentatively identify this as a Tree Wasp – Dolichovespula sylvestris.

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I’m quite chuffed with this photo, even though it’s clearly rubbish. I’ve been seeing these birds at Foulshaw and listening to their chatter, and thinking that they were Linnets, but not being sure. I’ve taken lots of photos, but only ever getting silhouettes, which looked right, but hardly proved conclusive. This one is only a slight improvement, but does show a bit of red and confirms that they are Linnets after all.

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A Saint John’s-wort. There are several different Saint John’s-worts. If I’d taken clear photos of the leaves and the stem, then maybe, just maybe, I would know which this was. But I didn’t; so I don’t.

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Blue Tit.

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Common Valerian.

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Meadowsweet. A powerful analgesic apparently.

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Figwort and Bindweed.

Figwort grows at Lambert’s Meadow and also in Middlebarrow Wood and probably in lots of other places locally, but it’s not a very inspiring plant where I’ve seen it. At Foulshaw, however, it really seems to thrive – it’s always tall, but here it has huge thick stems and masses of flowers and is generally more impressive and imposing than it is elsewhere that I’ve seen it.

Having been impressed, I decided to look Figwort up in ‘Hatfield’s Herbal’. Apparently Figwort, like Meadowsweet, had a widespread reputation as a painkiller. Mothers used it to quiet teething children. It was renowned as a treatment for piles, once known as ‘figs’ and hence the name. And it was also known as a treatment for Scrofula, now called Glandular Tuberculosis, but once called The King’s Evil, because the touch of a monarch was supposed to cure the disease. Figwort was apparently regarded as the next best thing.

Now this put me in mind of John Graunt and his ground-breaking 1663 book Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality, which I like to use when I’m teaching Statistics. Graunt carried out an analysis of the causes of death recorded in London Parishes over several years.

I don’t particularly enjoy teaching Statistics, but lists like the one above never fail to get students engaged. Both the figures and the causes of death are eye-opening. Simply being a child (a Chrisome is a child less than one month old) is the most common cause of death. ‘Kild by feveral accidents’, “Bit with a mad dogge’ and ‘Suddenly’ usually illicit comment, as does the fact that 454 people have died by ‘Teeth’, 28 by “Wormes’, 114 by ‘Surfet’ (which, yes, is eating too much) and 6 by ‘Murtherd’. Another similar page has ‘Wolfe’ as a cause of death. What are we to make of ‘Rising of the Lights’ or ‘Plannet’ or indeed ‘King’s Evil’? You can find suggestions on this fascinating website. Timpany, disappointingly, is not death by Kettle Drum.

Falling for Foulshaw Figwort