Fool’s Day in Brigsteer Woods

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There was a time when I considered the limestone hills of Furness – Hampsfell, Whitbarrow, Yewbarrow, Cartmell Fell and Scout Scar – this little snippet of the White Peak, overshadowed by the higher hills of the neighbouring Lake District, to be my weekend stomping ground. These days there are more calls on my time, and when I do head away from home for a walk, I tend to follow the crowds to the Lakes or the Dales.

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I do still occasionally get to Brigsteer Woods, especially at this time of year to see the daffodils which crowd the woodland floor. But I ought to come more often, it’s only a 20 minute drive from home.

The daffs are probably near the end of their flowering period, but there’s plenty of other things to see…

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The Bluebells are starting to flower.

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There’s plenty of Wood Anemones too.

I walked past a patch of brambles and a host of insects lifted and hovered briefly before apparently going back to their sunbathing. At first I took them for Honeybees, but they were Drone Flies I think, or most of them were; a hoverfly which imitates a bee.

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Almost every bramble leaf seemed to have a resident fly.

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In fact, I soon realised, every suitable spot was occupied. It was like being on a busy beach in midsummer.

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They weren’t all hoverflies, I did spot a marmalade coloured bee, I suspect a Tawny Mining Bee, but wasn’t fast enough to get the photograph which might have confirmed that fact.

Once again, there were Chiff-Chaffs, merrily chiff-chaffing, and this time I did even manage a picture, although not a great one…

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And another Roe Deer buck, which was calm enough to stand and stare at me for long enough for me to take a few snaps.

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Through the trees I could see the shimmer of what I took to be light reflected on water. The Lyth valley has had problems with flooding in the past, but surely the weather hasn’t been that bad of late?

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I’d forgotten reading about the creation of a new wetland and a hide by the National Trust team from the Sizergh Estate.

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Mute Swan

As luck would have it, the sole occupant of the hide was one of that National Trust team, watching the mere patiently through a sizeable telescope. He told me that these swans, over the back of the new wetland…

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…were Whopper Swans, although given the quality of my photograph, I think I shall have to take his word for it.

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Two squabbling Coots briefly raised a cacophony.

I liked the view across the pools to distant cloud-cloaked Lakeland hills…

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Little Egret.

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Whitbarrow Scar.

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Scout Scar.

The dike behind the hide was fringed with a very verdant crop of Ramsons, or Wild Garlic.

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And growing in the dike, I think that this vigorous plant may be Celery-leaved Buttercup…

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Violets.

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More Ash flowers.

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Blackthorn blossom.

The hedge here was thronged with birds, Great Tits, Blue Tits and a pair of Jays but they led me and my camera on a merry, fruitless dance.

Park End Farm had a small orchard of what I took to be the Damsons for which the Lyth Valley was once famous.

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From Park End Farm, I climbed up to Wells Garth. Which gave me a different view of both Park End Moss and Whitbarrow Scar.

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A bird of prey hovered overhead.

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From the outline and the colours, I assume that it’s a male Kestrel, although at first glance I thought it was something larger.

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Yellow Archangel.

From Wells Garth a number of options present themselves. A favourite of mine used to be to continue from here on to Scout Scar. You could also climb up to the tiny Helsington Church. But I needed to take the most direct route back.

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Kent Estuary, Arnside Knott and Whitbarrow Scar.

Friends had bought me a ticket for an am-dram production of Up Pompeii!. And a very enjoyable fest of innuendo, double entendres and unadulterated smut it was too. Titter ye not.

Fool’s Day in Brigsteer Woods

Brigsteer Woods Revisited

Helsington Church - St. John's

In the afternoon of my morning stroll around Eaves Wood and Haweswater, I was operating a Dad’s taxi service, dropping A off with our friends who live near Crossthwaite at the head of the Lyth valley. I managed to persuade the boys to join us, so that we could visit Brigsteer Woods on the way home. After a slight navigational error, I opted to take them to the little fell church, St. John’s at Helsington, first. The church is not particularly old and has little to recommend it, except for it’s splendid situation, with open hillside all around and a great view of the Lyth valley (when it isn’t hazy due to an unseasonal heatwave). The churchyard is a pleasant and peaceful spot however,

At Brigsteer Woods, we did almost exactly the same walk as the one we did here twelve months ago. Once again, the principle reason for visiting is the fabulous carpet of wild daffs.

Brigsteer Woods 

Daffodil 

But this year, other flowers were ahead of where they’d been last time. Wood anemones were flowering…

Wood anemone 

And whereas last year we found just one bluebell with a flower spike which had evidently almost opened, this year lots of the bluebells were in full flower.

Bluebells 

There were chiff-chaffs singing in the trees again – another sure-fire indication of the arrival of spring. I even managed to get a photo of one, but from such a great distance that it isn’t much use.

The boys were on great form and charged around playing imaginative games and finding things to climb over, under and all about.

Tree-trunk balancing 

Hopefully, they’ll never feel that they are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder.

They were very excited when they found large blotches of scarlet elf cup on a mossy fallen tree trunk – probably the same spot where we saw it last year.

Scarlet elf cup 

I brushed this chap out of my hair…

Crane fly? 

…is it a crane fly?

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I’d originally planned a shorter walk, but got carried away by the boys enthusiasm. Besides which they’d run all the way down to the bottom of the hill (the half-way point) without giving me much chance to make alternative suggestions. The low sun didn’t bode well for the barbecue we had planned however…

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Brigsteer Woods Revisited

Brigsteer Daffodils

 

After dragging ourselves away from the excitement of carpet shopping, we took the kids to Brigsteer Woods. A walk in the woods is always a big hit with them – almost immediately they found a fallen tree trunk laying over a dip which provided an opportunity for feats of daring, balance and agility. The strange little woven-stick buildings I walked past on my last visit were also popular.

From an adult perspective though, the most striking thing was the ubiquity of great drifts of daffodils. Apparently, once upon a time this was a common sight all across Britain, and the reasons that such displays are much less common now are not fully understood.

The whole wood is access area and is criss-crossed with paths. We found a route which took us down, down, down to the right-of-way which runs along the bottom edge of the wood and then another track which brought us back up the hill, eventually back to the car. (If you plan to make a visit, be warned that the right-of-way doesn’t pass through the best areas for daffodils.)

Chiff-chaffs were singing in the trees overhead. Underfoot we found more violets…

This one has the nectar-guide lines. The leaves were tiny and not much use to me for identification purposes. We couldn’t detect a scent. I think that I found the stipules though…

…which have hair-like teeth. The spur was darker than the petals. I think that this is early dog violet.

Although daffodils provide the principle entertainment at the moment, it was clear that there will be a succession. Some area were completely colonised by ramsons….

And it looked to me as though there will be a good display of bluebells too. We even found a solitary scout leading the way….

There were wood anemones and primroses too.  Everything was moss-covered, even the smallest saplings were wearing shaggy socks….

In the shade of a mossy fallen tree we found some large scarlet elf-cup…

Down by the path we also had a ‘Lord of the Flies’ moment when we found a skull mounted on the branch of a small tree….

B was delighted….

…and has brought the skull home with him to add to his bone collection. Judging by the size and the teeth, which all looked like molars, I’m guessing that this is a sheep skull, although I suppose that it could be a roe deer.

Brigsteer Daffodils

The Creative Use of Odd Moments

Only short walks to report on of late. Train station commutes, with the regular accompaniment of the sound of drumming woodpeckers. One afternoon last week, I took a little excursion to Brigsteer Woods on the other side of the estuary. When I left the house it was raining, on the way it began to clear and there was briefly a rainbow. When I parked the car at the edge of the wood the sun was shining. Where I entered the woods there were a number of odd structures (see above).

The principal reason for heading this way was because this is probably the best daffodil wood that I know. Sadly, although there were no end of daffs on display, the flowers weren’t open.

The sky was looking pretty ominous and by the time I finally found some open flowers I was being pelted with hail stones.

 

 Hail stones on moss.

Leven’s Hall

Later that same day, with the light fading, I was in the Milnthorpe area, acting as Dad’s taxi. I drove up to Leven’s Bridge and had a short walk along the Kent.

The Creative Use of Odd Moments