Serendipty Squared

Eaves Wood – Hawes Water – Gait Barrows – Coldwell Meadows – Coldwell Limeworks – Silverdale Moss – Hawes Water – Eaves Wood

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By rights, this post should have been an account of a walk from the Leck Fell Road taking in Coum Hill and Gragareth via Ease Gill. I had it all planned: I drove as far as Cowan Bridge, but the car was playing up, unexpectedly losing power without warning or any apparent reason; so, reluctantly, I drove home – with some difficulty – left the car outside the local garage, and walked home through the village. Later, I decided to cut my losses by heading out for a local wander.

The previous week, when I’d been in Eaves Wood looking for Cuddlytoy-Makeshift -Orienteering-Controls, I was distracted by a proper hullabaloo issuing from a Birch tree which was listing from the perpendicular. I recognised the commotion as the distinctive uproar of a Woodpecker nest, with what sounded like several chicks demanding food. I scanned the tree and soon found the hole in the trunk which housed the nest. I watched for a while, but whilst both parent birds approached, they became agitated and wouldn’t visit the nest under the glare of my attention, so I left them to it. Now I was back. I could only hear one young bird this time, but it was making-up for having to perform solo by protesting its extreme hunger with remarkable vigour.

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I assumed that the other chicks had fledged and that this one would be on the point of leaving too, but I was back there a few days later, with some old friends, and the single chick was still there, and still every bit as volubly voracious. We watched it poking its head through that porthole and clammering for sustenance. This morning, however, I was back again and all was finally quiet.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Amongst the Buttercups near Hawes Water there were many Rabbits, a couple of them black. Escaped pets or the descendants of escapees?

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Blue-tailed Damselflies.

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This…

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…has me stumped. It may be a teneral damselfly, that is, a recently emerged adult which doesn’t yet have its adult colouration.

In Eaves Wood I’d seen many Squirrels. It occurred to me that, although they are always about, there are times of the year, this being one of them, when Squirrels are more active and therefore more evident. I was also thinking about a Squirrels drey and the fact that, whilst in theory I know that Squirrels live in a nest made of sticks, I”d never actually seen one before.

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Ironic then, that when I watched this Squirrel, it climbed up a Scots Pine to…

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…a drey!

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Bird’s-eye Primrose.

I was intrigued by a loud tearing sound in the reeds at the edge of the lake and went to investigate the cause. I was very surprised to find that the culprit was this little Blue Tit…

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Yellow Rattle.

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Because I find Orchids very difficult to identify, but also absolutely fascinating, I’ve long wanted a field guide dedicated solely to them. Usually, if I wait long enough, the Oxfam bookshop in Lancaster will fulfil my needs and this winter that’s exactly what happened. So I am now the proud owner of ‘A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland’ by David Lang and have become an expert.

‘Yeah right’, as A would say. This looks to me very, very like Northern Marsh Orchid, especially the majaliformis sub-species. Except, this was growing in a relatively well-drained meadow, not a marsh, and the sub-species is only found within 100 metres of the coast, and this meadow is a little further than that from the Bay.

As is often the case, I didn’t have an exact route in mind; I’d thought of going to take another gander at the Lady’s-slipper Orchids, but chose instead to take another path through Gait Barrows – one that I knew would take me past several patches of…

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…Lily-of-the-Valley.

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It was getting late, but rather than doubling-back towards home, I took the track out of the nature reserve onto the road, without really knowing where I would go next. When I reached the road, I noticed a small notice attached to a gate almost opposite. It said something like “Welcome to Coldwell Meadows AONB Nature Reserve”. I decided to investigate.

Good choice! In the meadow, no doubt tempted by the lush, un-grazed grass, were a small herd of Fallow Deer…

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These are not a native species, and whilst I have seen feral deer in this area before, the last time I did so was quite a few years ago. I assume that these are more escapees, perhaps from the Deer park at Dallam?

I also saw a Marsh Harrier, and managed to get a photo, but not a very good one.

At the far side of the field from the road a small, and very tempting, gate gave on to woods. I thought I could guess where it would take me, and I was right: a short downhill stroll brought me to the ruined chimney of Coldwell Limeworks and from there it’s only a few strides to the footpath which runs along the edge of Silverdale Moss.

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I was gazing into the distant views of the setting sun and the meres of the Moss, when a crashing sound in the hedgerow focused my attention closer to hand. I couldn’t see anything in the hedge, but there in the long grass, just over the drystone wall….

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…a Roe Deer Buck. He watched me closely for a while, then barked in the eerie way they do, and bounded around the corner – the long vegetation seemingly necessitating a gait more like that of a bouncing gazelle than what I would normally associate with our own Deer.

After he’d rounded a corner and disappeared, another bark surprised me, and then a Doe, or at least, I think it was a Doe, jumped out of the grass, where she had been completely hidden, and also leapt away.

I waited a moment: there were still rustlings in the hedge. Sure enough, a third Deer appeared, quite a bit smaller than the other two…

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…but this one didn’t run away. Retreating rather in small stages, anxiously keeping an eye on me all the while and not really seeming to know quite what to do.

A bit of a puzzle this little group. I don’t think Roe Deer live in family groups and Roe Deer Kids are usually born between mid-May and mid-June, so the third Deer probably wasn’t new-born. But, on the other had, Bucks are territorial in the summer, with the rut running from mid-July to the end of August.

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The former Cloven Ash.

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With the light now very low, this might I suppose, have been enough excitement for one night, but back in Eaves Wood for the final leg of the walk, two different raptors slalomed impressively through the trees. One was a Buzzard…

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…the other, wasn’t a Buzzard, but apart from that I don’t really have any clue what it was.  Very fast and very agile between the tightly-spaced tree-trunks, it will have to remain a mystery.

Ease-gill and Gragareth are both very fine, and will wait for another walk. This last minute replacement worked out pretty well!

‘You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes, well you just might find,
You get what you need.’

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Serendipty Squared

The Wells of Silverdale

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There’s something very satisfying about a hand drawn map, don’t you think? This one is from a leaflet; one from my collection of leaflets detailing local walks, which I have acquired over the years and keep filed away on a shelf. I dug it out because I wanted to compare it with this map…

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Which is from ‘Old Silverdale’ by Rod J. Ireland, which I bought last week, a little birthday present to myself, and which I’ve been poring over ever since. This map shows more wells than the first. At some point, I shall have to see if I can find any trace of the additional wells shown. But on this occasion I contented myself with following the route shown in the leaflet.

 

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Cheery Dandelions.

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Cheery Celandines.

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Elmslack Well.

Yes, I realise that it’s actually a bin. But I’m told that it’s on the site of the old well.

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Inman’s Road.

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Not wells, I know, but these tanks formerly collected and supplied water to Hill House, now the Woodlands pub, so they seem relevant. Mains water arrived in the area in 1938 (there’s still no mains sewers). Until then the wells would obviously have been important. Also many houses had tanks on the roof which collected rain water.

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This photo is the best I managed from a satisfyingly close encounter with ‘the British bird of paradise‘, or more prosaically, a Jay. The Jay moved from branch to branch, but unusually, stayed in sight and not too far away. Sadly, never long enough for me to get any half decent photos.

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This squirrel was more obliging.

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Wood Anemones.

The Toothwort beside Inman’s Road is much taller than it was, but already beginning to look a bit tatty and past its best.

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More Wood Anemones.

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Chaffinch.

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Dogslack Well.

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Comma butterfly.

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Bank Well.

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The light was stunning and making everything look gorgeous.

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Coot chick.

Well, almost everything. This is the kind of face that only a mother could love, surely?

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Lambert’s Meadow.

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I like to think that this is a Raven, sitting atop a very tall tree, regally surveying the meadow and the surrounding woodland. But none of the photos show the shaggy throat which is supposed to make it easy to distinguish between Ravens and Crows. So, I’m not sure.

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Burton Well

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The pond at Woodwell.

There are newts at Woodwell. We hardly ever see them. But today, not only did I see one, but I managed to train my camera on it…

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Blast!

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Golden Saxifrage.

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Woodwell.

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The Ramsons in Bottom’s Wood are looking particularly verdant, but no sign yet of any flowers. On the verge of Cove Road, near to the Cove, the flowers are already on display. The flowers always seem to appear there first.

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Cherry blossom.

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Jackdaw.

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Song Thrush.

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Nuthatch.

On the Lots there were Starlings and Pied Wagtails foraging on the ground.

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Crow – the second evening in a row when a crow has been perched on this branch.

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Pied Wagtail.

It was one of those magical days when lots of birds seemed content to sit still and be photographed. Lots, but not all. The Buzzards were flying above the small copse above the Cove. I watched them through the trees as, once again, they both flew in to perch on a tree at the far side of the wood. This time it was the same tree in which a Tawny Owl obligingly posed for a photo one evening some years ago. They were tantalisingly close, maybe I could get some good photos?

But when I switched on my camera, what did I notice, much closer to hand…

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…a pair of Nuthatches.

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Since I learned to recognise the slightly monotonous song of Nuthatches, I’ve come to realise how very common they are in this area. And I spot them much more often than I used to. As a boy, these were an exotic rarity to me, and fortunately their ubiquity has done nothing to reduce the thrill I still feel when I see them.

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One of the pair sat and pruned itself for quite some time and I took lots of photos before eventually turning my attention back to the tree where the Buzzards…

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…were no longer perched.

I scanned other trees for a while, and then, just as I reluctantly gave up on the idea of seeing the Buzzards again, there they were, not in a tree, but in the adjacent field, one on the ground and the other sat on a dry-stone wall, and showing to much better advantage than before. But before I took any photos, they were off again.

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Starling.

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Bullfinch.

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Morecambe Bay.

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Blackbird – in almost the same spot as the night before.

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Five for silver.

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It was getting a bit dark for bird photos at this point, but this Goldfinch was behaving in a way which I’ve noticed a couple of times recently; it was singing, swivelling sharply through ninety degrees singing again, then back and so on. The precision of it seemed quite aggressive, but at the same time, pretty comical.

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The leaflet says that this walk is ‘about four miles’, but although I’d skipped the out and back to Bard’s Well on the shore, The Move App was telling me that I’d walked five miles. And despite the Jay, the Newt and the Buzzards all evading my camera, this had been a very satisfying five miles.

The Wells of Silverdale

Ease Gill, Great Coum and Crag Hill

Bullpot Farm

This is Bullpot Farm, actually no longer a farm, but now the headquarters of The Red Rose Cave and Pothole Club. It’s the perfect spot for the club because it’s right by…

Bull Pot 

Bull Pot, which is one of the many entrances, and exits I suppose, to and from the Three Counties System, Britain’s longest and arguably most complex cave system. There are several more potholes dotted around this area.

This was the last of my post-work evening strolls this summer – and from my point of view the best. The sun was shining again – it was hot in fact.

Path 

My plan is simply described – drop down to Ease Gill, follow the stream bed up, climb to the summits of Great Coum and Crag Hill and then take a more direct route back down to the Farm and my car.

A week before I’d abandoned my plan to climb remote, untrammelled Baugh Fell on a pathless 10 mile route, following a stream almost to the top and returning over rough moorland, because I’d decided that it was too ambitious for an evening walk. This time I planned to climb remote, untrammelled Great Coum on a pathless 10 mile route, following a stream almost to the top and returning over rough moorland. What changed in that week? I don’t know – the sun was shining and continued to shine, this was a walk I’d done many times before and maybe that familiarity gave me confidence, and then I’m almost always ready to overestimate my meagre fitness.

At Bullpot farm I helloed a lady walking her dog. She was the last person I saw until I got back to my car around 5 hours later.

At 306m Bullpot farm gives a nice headstart to the climbing for a lazy hiker like me. Sadly, from there I had to head down to reach Ease Gill.

I’m not sure whether this…

The dry waterfall 

…is the feature named on the map as Ease Gill Kirk, or whether that’s a little further downstream. (I’ll take a look down that way next time!) You can see here an important feature of Ease Gill – it has no water in it, not in this section at least. There’s a small pile of boulders at the bottom of the fall facilitating it’s ascent by the bold and agile. I have climbed it in the past, but I seem to remember that I then couldn’t get up the next, higher section. This time I just went around.

It wasn’t just me that was enjoying the sunshine – this was to be a walk packed with wildlife encounters and in particular the butterflies were everywhere. I can’t think when I’ve seen such a diversity, there were whites and fritillaries on the wing, I saw skippers and one very dark butterfly which I couldn’t begin to identify. On several occasions I spent quite some time trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to photograph them.

Female common blue 

I think that this is a female common blue, but if she is, she must be very faded since both sexes generally have orange markings on the undersides of their wings.

A bird of prey hurtled past, swinging between the low trees above my on my right. I don’t know what it was, but thinking back, it had a pale, barred chest and was moving very fast, so it may have been a peregrine. Two buzzards, circling and calling ahead made me cringe a little. Even though they are so much more common than they once were I’m still always thrilled to see them, but I’m a bit more circumspect about their presence these days, after what happened a few summers ago.

In the lower reaches, Ease Gil is generally dry, although every now and again there were puddles and pools to catch and throw back the blue of the sky.

Ease Gill 

Somewhere near here I passed what I presumed to be a dig. A small drystone enclosure had been built around a hole covered by a battered pallet. The wall presumably to prevent the pothole flooding if and when the streambed has water in it. Further upstream I would see numerous small caves and resurgences, all part of the Three Counties System I imagine.

Ringlet 

Ringlet (I think)

Common Blue 

Common blue. Probably.

The dry streambed led me to a small limestone bluff, within which…

An actual waterfall 

…a very enclosed passage with water in it! And an actual waterfall!

From this point on, the stream alternated between wet and dry.

Bridge 

I saw several small frogs during the walk.

Small frog

I had just snapped a couple of photos of this little fellow, on whom I had almost stood, I turned and almost stood on…

Juvenile grey wagtail 

…a juvenile grey wagtail. A week before I’d spent maybe 15 minutes trying to photograph a pair of grey wagtails, but they were constantly on the move, too far away and in too much shade. This bird couldn’t have been more obliging. It sat in the sun practically between my feet. Hopped a few yards away…

Juvenile grey wagtail II 

…and then led me up the limestone gorge…

Limestone gorge 

…hopping and fluttering, never too far away. A very trusting little chap. I took loads of photos. Meanwhile his/her parents were doing their collective nuts. Flying overhead and then veering away – showing their innocent offspring how to escape. Eventually, the youngster cottoned on and left me to the gorge and my walk.

Ease gill again 

Frankly, it was delightful. Once upon a time this was something of a favourite route and I can’t believe I’ve neglected it for so long. Back before the the Access Laws were passed, this walk always had the added frisson of a possible meeting with an irate landowner, although it never actually happened to me, and it’s quite possible, probable even, that the shotgun wielding loon only existed in my imagination.

Ease gill again II 

More gorge.

Limestone gorge II 

Even more gorge.

Another dry waterfall 

Another dry waterfall.

Eventually, the gorge comes to an end and the valley opens out.

The slopes open out 

The stream still alternates, wet and dry.

Water again! 

Where the valley narrows again, there are several small falls.

Waterfall 

Once again, I initiated a wildlife encounter by almost standing on an unfortunate creature…

Huge frog 

…an impressively huge and strongly marked frog. S/he was down amongst tall sedges and so difficult to photograph.

Waterfall with Lady's Mantel 

I was impressed by the lady’s mantle growing beside this fall. I expect to see the alpine version in the hills, and often do, but apparently the larger leaved version is also endemic in British uplands.

Because I was following the stream or the streambed, I hadn’t had to give much thought to navigation. As luck would have it, I stopped for a drink and decided to take a peek at the map just, I realised, by Long Gill Foot, which was exactly where I had intended to leave the stream.

Upper ease gill 

In the past I’ve turned left hereabouts, heading up onto Crag Hill so that I could follow the watershed round to Gragareth, but I knew that I didn’t have the time for that on this occasion. I turned the other way, following Long Gill. A large bird perched on a fence post lifted lazily and in a couple of wing-beats was far across the valley – another buzzard, and a close encounter which was so brief that I didn’t even have my camera in hand before it was over. The climb was long and gentle, but I was beginning to feel a little weary. A host of LBJs entertained me – I think meadow pipits, and a wren emerged from a cavity in a drystone wall to berate me as only wrens can.

Much as I’d enjoyed the confines of Ease Gill, it was pleasant to finally have some more expansive views. It had been one of those warm, still midsummer evenings and looking back towards home (I think that’s Warton Crag on the left below) I wasn’t too surprised to see…

Balloon ride over Morecambe Bay 

…a hot-air balloon, which are pretty ubiquitous in this area when the weather is like this.

The ridge on to Gragareth looked inviting….

Gragareth 

Whernside is a neighbour, but Ingleborough is always more photogenic…

Ingleborough 

The Dentdale side of Great Coum is relatively steep, and I suppose I should have wandered over to take a glimpse, but time was marching on, so I continued round to Crag Hill, which, although a little lower than Great Coum, has a trig pillar and so feels a bit more like a  summit.

Trig pillar Crag Hill 

It was nine o’clock. I’d almost stopped for a bite of tea on several occasions, but somehow nowhere had quite seemed right. Maybe a meal on the top would be ideal? But now the light was running out, so I pressed on and ate a few tomatoes and some blueberries whilst I walked.

Descent route 

The descent route offered easy going at first, but the vegetation got taller, and therefore more obstructive the further downhill I walked. I was accompanied by clouds of small moths, or seemed to be. I couldn’t decide whether they were following me, which seemed unlikely, or if every square yard of the hillside had it’s own population which were taking flight as I disturbed the peace.

I’ve often enjoyed interesting encounters with wildlife here. On one particularly memorable winter walk, a sharp, clear day, I was down by Ease Gill Kirk when I saw a large pale bird behaving in a very peculiar way. I thought at first that it might be some sort of gull, but – no, where was it’s head and neck? The body seemed to thicken and get broader then stop abruptly. It was an owl! A short-eared owl I realised later:

In late winter and spring the short-eared owl may fly high up in display, calling with hollow, booming notes and clapping its wings rapidly beneath its body.

Quite extraordinary, it’s stayed with me, though it must be at least 15 years ago. What the description doesn’t say, is that whilst the bird is clapping its wings, those wings are no-longer performing their primary function and so it hurtles towards the ground.

The only other time I can recall seeing a short-eared owl was on a very cold day on the hills around Wet Sleddale. Haven’t been back since…now there’s a plan in the offing….

Last rays of the sun on Gragareth 

The alpenglow on the slopes of Gragareth alerted me to the imminent disappearance of the sun…

Final view of the sun

But that wasn’t a problem – at this latitude, at that time of year, there’s still plenty of light for quite some time after the sun has dipped below the horizon.

I came down Aygill, where I noticed another cave entrance amongst a jumble of boulders – what I now know to be Aygill Caverns – a cave system not yet linked up to the Three Counties System, although it’s known that the water from Aygill does flow through that way.

I arrived back at the car with a little light to spare, a bit tired, a bit muddied (I managed to fall over in Aygill) but extremely satisfied.

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You can pick out my route here, I think. Long Gill is the one which has the dotted and dashed black line alongside it (I think the County Boundary). You’ll have to allow me some poetic licence for the 10 miles I quoted near the top of the post. It probably isn’t much short of that – I don’t know, I don’t really care either.

Some links.

If you want to read about the Three Counties System:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1296308/Into-abyss-Stretching-counties-70-miles-inside-Britains-vast-newly-pioneered-cave-system.html

(Sorry that it’s from Mail Online. My Granddad would be fuming, were he still around to fume.)

If you fancy spending a night at Bullpot Farm for the princely sum of £5:

http://www.rrcpc.org.uk/wordpress/accommodation-booking

If you want to hear the (slightly nerve-wracking) cry of a buzzard:

http://sounds.bl.uk/environment/british-wildlife-recordings/022m-w1cdr0001375-1200v0

Ease Gill, Great Coum and Crag Hill

The Road Less Travelled

Or: Fleeting Moments of Wonder IV

 

Leighton Hall Farm

As I came out of the woods around Deepdale a buzzard flew overhead, disappeared over the trees, but then briefly wheeled past again. I almost got a photo. I tend to use the photos I take as (lazy) notes for the blog: things that don’t end up in the camera often don’t make it into my posts either. A case in point would be the ravens I saw on my Swindale walk recently. As I walked along the valley bottom, photographing meadow pipits and wheatears, I heard a strange soft gurgle behind me and looking back and up towards the crags I saw three ravens. They were stalling and swooping: dropping like stones and then pulling sharply out of the dives and coasting steeply back up again using the momentum of their falls. Playing. Later, as I approached Scam Matthew (a minor top near to Wether Howe), a raven took off from a spot which had been out of sight, but which was very near by. Sadly I didn’t, for once on this walk, have my camera in hand. As it flew away the raven twice barrel rolled. As before in similar circumstances I had the feeling that the acrobatics were for my benefit.

I’ve been working my way through ‘Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds’ by Bernard Heinrich. I picked it up from a charity shop earlier this year, very excited to find it after reading about Heinrich’s study of ravens in ‘Nature Cure’ by Richard Mabey and ‘Crow Country’ by Mark Cocker. Heinrich speculates that Ravens have an almost symbiotic relationship with wolves and possibly other predators, perhaps even man. He visits Inuit communities and learns that the Inuit believe that ravens will indicate the presence of potential prey to hunters by dipping their wings in the relevant direction. Perhaps my intuition about ravens is not so wide of the mark after all.

My route took me down to Leighton Hall farm, joining the route I had followed the week before and in the process passing by….

…the mayweed or chamomile I had photographed en masse the week before. Having a closer look wasn’t much help for identification purposes in this case.

I considered continuing across Leighton Moss as I had the week before – there’s always so much to see there that it’s difficult to resist heading that way, but this view…

..has beckoned to me every time I’ve walked past it recently, so I decided to head this way for a change. I watched a pair of buzzards flying together over the woods of Cringlebarrow. Whilst I watched, and took several blurred photos, I was joined by first one cow and eventually a whole herd, who proceeded to walk with me for the rest of the (long) way to the end of the field. Which was slightly unnerving.

The path emerges at the small hamlet of Yealand Storrs, from where I continued into Yealand Allotment. Of which…..

To be continued!

The Road Less Travelled

Wade in the Water

One of the things that I like about the countryside around Silverdale is its intimacy. Although there are some expansive viewpoints, often a walk will traverse a patchwork of environments, tripping from moss to woodland, crossing a couple of fields, climbing a low limestone hill, skirting a salt-marsh before taking a short section of path along low sea-cliffs. The experience is one of always turning a corner and encountering something new. I enjoy the walk across the fields from Millhead to Warton for almost the opposite reason: these large fields are pancake flat and surrounded, but mostly at some distance, by higher ground – there’s a real feel of space and openness.

Looking ahead to Warton and Warton Crag.

I noticed that, after the heavy rain of Monday, the dykes which separate the fields were very full (see above). It reminded me of how tickled A is in the winter when these fields flood and Warton is moated by a large seasonal lake.

In fact – look: the next field is flooded already. The gulls seem quite happy with this arrangement.

But…oh – the path ahead is flooded too.

I could turn back and come round by the road. Or….I could just continue. It was wet. And cold. And more than a bit smelly.

I entered the woods on Warton Crag and took a path which follows the bottom edge of the wood round to Occupation Road, which bridleway I followed as far as the permission path which heads round to the Coach Road. Just before the road there’s a spot where I’ve come to expect a buzzard – they must be very territorial – I saw one almost exactly where I’ve often seen one before. In the bright sunshine it looked stunning gliding away across the next field. Sadly much too quick for me and my camera.

 The path on Summerhouse Hill

 The view from Summerhouse Hill.

What’s happening at Leighton Hall, why the caravans?

And marquees?

Ah!

A cheerful yellow daisy – I thought it seemed quite distinctive and that I would be able to identify it when I got home, but no such luck.

The small bridge on the causeway across Leighton Moss is a great place to stop to admire the view for a while. It was very peaceful yesterday. As I waited fish were breaking the surface to take flies. A small armada of ducks passed overhead, the whirr of their wings surprisingly loud.

I watched a large dragonfly quartering the field margin between Leighton Moss and the road. It wouldn’t settle for a photo, but whilst I was trying to catch it I noticed this maternal moment between these rabbits.

Oaks in late sun – notice the fallen tree in the background, brought down by Monday’s storm.

Wade in the Water

More Close Encounters

Meadow Brown

The ‘buzzard attack’ incident happened on a walk from the village of Nether Kellet back home to Silverdale. The walk was packed with incident, but otherwise of a low key nature and not offering any threat to life and limb, apart from the frequent nettle stings.

Nether Kellet was selected as a start point from convenience – the kids were there for a birthday party so a lift was on offer. (TBH was driving, even on the quieter country lanes it’s considered bad form to let children under seven drive). The journey home began inauspiciously in a shower – it was that sort of day: lot’s of cloud, some sunny spells, some showers – of which the first was the worst. As soon as it stopped and I pulled down my hood there were plenty of things to see. Whilst I was trying to find the best position to capture this obliging meadow brown, a day-flying micro-moth decided to muscle in on the action, landing on an adjacent grass-stem.

I have no idea what it is – my ‘Complete British Insects’ has only two pages to cover micro moths. I need a moth guide.

Can’t find these little critters in my book either. I saw no end of them, mostly on umbellifers and mostly multiplying with gusto. Do they like damp days or is it just a coincidence that that’s when I seem to notice them?

Slugs and snails certainly like damp days and both were out in force on paths and plants.

Between Nether Kellet and Over Kellet my map (an old green pathfinder 1:25000) showed the path toeing a delicate line between two large quarries. The path doesn’t actually do that anymore, but sadly I didn’t realise that at first and spent a good deal of time wandering backwards and forwards wondering where I was. Probably I was distracted by a fine collection of fungi by the car-park of the quarry companies offices (that’s my excuse anyway).

Eventually, when I realised what had happened I decided to follow the road into Over Kellet.

It was on the rather fine path heading from Over Kellet towards Capenwray (which I’m pretty sure I’ve never walked before) that I had my one-sided altercation with an aggressive buzzard.

This is the view from the top of the rise just beyond the copse where I assume the buzzards were nesting. The woodland on the right is a mixture of native species and seemingly several types of conifers – it looked almost like an arboretum, it would be interesting to know it’s history. The valley behind that wood is presumably where the Keer rises, behind that the western edge of the Pennines lurk. On the left the noticeable edge is the steep western face of Farleton Fell.

I passed Capenwray Old Hall Farm, crossed a bridge over the Lancaster Canal, then under a viaduct which I don’t remember from my previous trip this way….

….and then turned left to follow the Keer. The Keer is a very small river – really just a stream with an over grown sense of it’s own importance. At first I was in the fields alongside the river – there are stiles over the fence giving access to the riverbank but there was no real evidence of a path. Where the river flowed under a road bridge the right-of-way crossed from one bank to the other and now I was right on the bank. Which was very overgrown. There was a path but nobody had told the nettles and grasses and brambles etc and they were doing their best to obliterate it. My calves and shins are beginning to itch just with the memory of the nettle rash inflicted on them.

There were compensations however. The air around me seemed to be constantly full of electric blue damselflies.

They wouldn’t sit still for long and the autofocus on my camera doesn’t cope well with a complex background, but I’m reasonably happy with this photo at least.

Having moaned about the nettles, I’m actually thinking that I’d like to go back to this stretch of the Keer in sunnier weather and in stout trousers rather than shorts, because there was a wealth of plant and insect life.

I think that this is a Red-tailed Bumble-bee, Bombus Lapidarius, a male because they have the ‘dirty white collar’. (Which makes him a white collar worker?)

And I think that this…

…is common hemp-nettle. Having stopped to photograph the flower, as is so often the case I then noticed something else of interest.

It seems to me that this tiny chap must be a froghopper – he does have a coiled and ready to spring look don’t you think?

The same plant was also host to…

….this tiny but stunning bug. Chrysolina Menthastri I believe – “found mainly in waterside habitats”, “feeding on mint and other labiates”.

Labiates?

Labiate:

1. Having lips or liplike parts.

2. Botany

a. Having or characterizing flowers with the corolla divided into two liplike parts, as in the snapdragon.

b. Of or belonging to the mint family Labiatae.

Aren’t search engines wonderful? I think that Common Hemp Nettle is a labiate plant, so if I’m right about that and if I’m right about the plant being Common Hemp Nettle then I may have correctly identified the bug.

Whatever, there was another of the plants along the riverbank and once again closer inspection revealed…

They’re amazing whether they are Chrysolina Menthastri or not. It’s surprising that such striking insects don’t have a common name, or maybe that’s just my book – a quick search gives ‘Mint Leaf Beetle’ on several websites.

Sadly the ‘path’ beside the Keer got slowly worse. To add insult to injury I didn’t see any kingfishers where I’ve seen them before – where the river flows under the motorway.

By now I was well behind schedule and should have been at home roasting a chicken for the family tea. The walk became a bit of a route march in an attempt to get home reasonably quickly. From the A6 a track took me to Borwick Lane, I was quickly through Warton on the Coach Road and then over the shoulder of Warton Crag on the bridleway.

At the start of Quaker’s Stang I was surprised by the farmer and his collie who had somehow managed to sneak up behind me on a quad-bike. I opened the gate for them and received a cheery “Same time t’mora” by way of thanks before they whizzed off across the Stang.

Another Buzzard was perched in the last of the hawthorns on the Stang, although I didn’t see it until it took off. I watched it land in an ash by a tall dead tree, knowing that my path would take me right under that tree. When I got there, the bird was still there. It released an impressive volley of droppings and then, calling stridently, flew off back over the salt-marsh. It landed on some trees below. I had to climb a little higher to get a vantage point from which I could see it, but I could hear it calling all the time. Alternating with the kew of the buzzard was a slightly higher, harsher sound which I assumed was the farmer whistling to his collie.

She was a long way away (I decided that it was a female bird but without any justification for that assumption) so I tried using the digital zoom.

Frankly, I’m surprised that the photo is even recognisable – with the maximum zoom I was finding it difficult to keep the bird in the viewfinder. She continued calling for quite some time – long after I had moved on I could still hear her, and was obviously agitated, but didn’t try to steal my hat for which I am very grateful – twice in one day and I might not have wanted to venture out again.

More Close Encounters

Buzzard Attack!

Long-suffering readers of this Blog will perhaps have realised that getting some good photos of a buzzard or buzzards is a long cherished ambition of mine. (My best effort so far can be found here.)

On Tuesday I spurned an opportunity to get some close-up action shots of a prey’s-eye view of a buzzard swooping.

I was walking locally, but a little off my usual immediate patch. Approaching a thin stand of mature trees I heard a kew kew and moments later a buzzard flew from the trees ahead and to my left. Then a second, smaller bird appeared from the trees more directly in my path. As I walked through the trees both birds circled overhead and continued to call. The calls of the smaller (and therefore probably male) bird seemed always to be quite close overhead, although I only had quite brief glimpses of it through the leaf canopy. I was soon into the field beyond the trees and was continuing on my way when I felt, heard – whoosh, and finally saw the smaller buzzard whizz close over my head. I didn’t see it until it had already passed over, but I felt that it had probably only narrowly missed my head. What’s more it banked, turned and swooped back toward me!

Calmly, I raised my camera and waited……..

Actually….I took to my heels! I don’t think that there were any onlookers, but if there had been they would perhaps have enjoyed the spectacle of a portly figure, bent double, arms waving ineffectually, running across the field, chased by the buzzard making repeated swoops low above my head.

The buzzard relented after perhaps 7 or 8 passes and landed in a tree on the edge of the small stand where I had first seen it.

From where it continued to call stridently. I didn’t take too well to my decision to stop to take photos and moved to successively closer trees…

…before flying back over again (at a more comfortable distance)….

…and then stooping at my head one last time, admittedly in a rather more half-hearted way.

Throughout the female had stayed away, but she now flew back into view, calling still, and the male flew to join her in the stand of trees.

Excitement over!

It seems that I may have had a lucky escape.

Buzzard Attack!