Chateau de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle

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With the chateau dominating the view from the campsite, it was almost inevitable that we would want to look around it during our stay, especially since many of the party are big fans of castles. Also, we had to settle an argument between TJS and his Dad about whether or not they had ever toured the chateau before. (They had. TJS had already been backtracking on his original vehement denials of that fact.)

We walked from the campsite and then up the hill, avoiding the route signposted as steep and unsuitable for pushchairs – not that we had any pushchairs, but it was extremely hot and so we wanted to take the easiest possible route.

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The castle was superb, with the added bonus of fantastic views of the Dordogne valley.

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And also of the Céou valley where we were camped…

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Much as we enjoyed our outing, we sought every opportunity to find some shade and take a rest. C, as you can tell, was very absorbed in her book….

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Inside. I told TJS I would take a photograph of him and the armoured rider. He obliged by looking away from the camera…

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…several times!

The castle had winding staircases, battlements, and quite a display of armour and armaments…

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I loved this sort of thing when I was a kid, and, well, in honesty, I still do.

TBH, J and I watched a sort of animated tableau telling the story of the siege of Castelnaud. We watched three times in fact, the first two with a commentary in french. It was clear that ‘les Anglaise’ were the villains of the piece and I assumed that they were the besiegers, but in fact, the third repeat and it’s english translation of the tale revealed that the castle at that time, 1442, was held by forces loyal to England. The castle was substantially rebuilt in 1214 by Simon de Montfort, who I associate with Leicester where I grew up, but, whilst he was Earl of Leicester, he also held lands in France and seems to have lived in France (it was his son, the VIth Simon de Montfort who had a greater role in English history).

We also watched a film about siege engines and there were a number of trebuchet on display on the ramparts.

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The chateau along the Dordogne here…

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…is Beynac, which will have to wait for or next visit before we look around it…

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It certainly looks promising.

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Dordogne panorama.

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I always like to find images of St. George. This carved example would have originally held a lance in those upraised arms, but now that his spear has gone missing it looks like George has thrown his hands up in surrender, or that he’s trying to lead the dragon in some sort of dance – YMCA perhaps?

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B was happy. C still wrapped up in her reading!

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J and TBH, in the stocks?

When we’ finished our tour of the castle we still had a wander back down through the village of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle to enjoy.

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We popped into the church…

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Well, most of us did…

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C was more intent on finishing her obviously very gripping book.

And, as ever, I was interested in the stained-glass windows. This…

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…is St. Denis, patron saint of France, apparently. How did I not know that until now? A third century martyr and Bishop of Paris. So he was actually French, unlike George, our own patron saint, the Village People fan, who was Greek.

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There seem to have been two St. Henry’s: one Holy Roman Emperor and latterly King of Germany and the other an english clergyman who became a bishop in Sweden. Perhaps the crown here is a clue and this is the first of them?

One final view…

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…this is the ridge of Les Jardins de Marqueyssac, where TBH and I had spent the previous day.

Another fabulous day in the Dordogne region, but it was almost time to move on…

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Chateau de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle

Les Jardins de Marqueyssac

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Whilst the rest of the party, including our own kids, were off swinging from trees and performing similar acts of derring-do, TBH and I were left with time on our hands. How delightful! As parents of three very active children, to have an entire day to ourselves was beyond a novelty, almost unprecedented in fact. We had threatened to have a lazy day at the camp-site, reading our books. I had made a good start on Hilary Mantel’s ‘A Place of Greater Safety’, her account of some of the key figures of the French Revolution. It’s a huge and magnificent book, so a day luxuriating in its company was very tempting, but in the end we decided that a day out together was too good an opportunity to miss. We flicked through some brochures and leaflets which J had picked up about various local attractions, but in the end settled on Les Jardins de Marqueyssac both because they looked attractive and because they were within walking distance.

Our walk took us across a bridge over the Dordogne…

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Where many parties of canoeists were enjoying the same sort of trip which we had undertaken just a couple of days before.

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Chateau de Castelnaud.

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Clouded Yellow butterfly.

That’s Marqueyssac…

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…at the top of the hill. It was a short but very hot and sticky climb up a road so minor that no traffic passed us at all. As we walked, we had both the views and some sun-warmed and very sweet blackberries in the hedgerows to reward us.

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Arriving at Marqueyssac, we discovered that picnics are forbidden in the grounds, but that picnic tables were provided on a terrace by the entrance which had a lovely view over the valley below.

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Once inside the gardens, we popped into a small building which housed a curious display of stuffed animals in which the creatures had been arranged into dioramas so that predator and prey were locked eternally in pursuit. Nearby, another building had a full skeleton and also another skull of an Allosaurus. The fossils were found in Arizona and bought at auction, at great expense, by the owner of the gardens. Allosaurus are from the Jurassic period and have mostly been found in the US, although the information boards seemed to be saying that there had also been recent findings in France.

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We hadn’t explore far, but felt the need for something cooling, so sat on another terrace with a great view, where customers were sprayed with a fine mist to cool them! TBH had a glace whilst I drank a glass of beer.

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The gardens were quite unlike any I’d visited before. Long and narrow, they sit atop a limestone ridge and are mostly woodland with paths bordered with neat boxwood hedges.

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Three different paths run the length of the garden and we did our best to contrive a route which took in all three as much as possible, without doing the entire length twice. At the far end of the garden from the entrance you are close to Roque Gageac…

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This photo…

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…gives a good view of the ridge which the garden occupies.

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During the entire walk we saw butterflies galore, but very few would pose for a photo. This Wall Brown being an exception…

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Roque Gageac again…

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….on the left you can see people on the belvedere from which I took the previous views.

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This little chapel…

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…was, annoyingly, locked-up and my attempts to take a photo through the slits in the door weren’t entirely successful…

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It was possible to take a short tour of part of the Chateau…

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But I found that oddly uninspiring without some context or understanding of what I was seeing.

One final view…

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…I think that’s the Chateau de Beynac on the right in the distance. This area seems particularly rich in castles and gardens and caves and other interesting places to visit. We’ll have to go back!

On the way back to the campsite, suffering from the heat, TBH decided to dive into one of the shops set-back from the road. It was in a large building divided into two – one half selling soap and the other half, full of mannequins, was supposedly a soap museum. One mannequin was shaving another. A female mannequin was washing clothes. There was a donkey, for reasons which weren’t clear to me. Photos weren’t allowed in this amazing place – it must be seen to be believed! You’ll have to go!

But prepare to be underwhelmed.

Les Jardins de Marqueyssac

To the Bakery and Back

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Each morning I walked into the village to buy the day’s bread, sometimes with Andy, but usually on my own. The bread was delicious, but I enjoyed the walk too. These photos are from those walks and also from other times when we had occasion to walk into Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. That first photo is looking back towards the campsite from a very misty morning, although the mist was rapidly clearing.

This is the same view…

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…on a relatively cloudy day and this…

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…is a panoramic view from a little further along the road, in more typical weather conditions.

The view in the other direction was very much dominated by the village and the Chateau towering above it, and often, in the mornings, montgolfières rising above that.

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Here’s part of the village…

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…when the mist had just about dissipated.

Not only were the views excellent, but the meadows along the route held lots of interest too.  These blue flowers dominated…

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I think that the flowers are Meadow Clary, a relative of Sage, which has a very limited distribution in Britain, but seems to be abundant in France. The insect is a Hummingbird Hawkmoth which is only seen as a migrant in Britain, although by coincidence I saw one today whilst out for a local wander. I also often saw Hummingbird Hawkmoths flying along a wall which bounded part of the road, seemingly investigating nooks and crevices, although I’m not sure why they would do that.

This…

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…is a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth, which can, apparently, also be found in Britain, but not in our area and I’ve certainly never seen one before.

One of the things I loved about our visit to France was the profusion of butterflies, although they weren’t always cooperative in posing for photos.

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This Scarce Swallowtail was kind however, and moved a little closer after I took that first photo…

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Wild Carrot flowers were also very common in the meadows and where the flowerheads had curled in on themselves and gone to seed there was a very good chance that you could see Striped Shield Bugs…

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…they were hard to miss!

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Spider’s webs, on the other hand, only became obvious when the mist washed them with silver droplets.

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The wall alongside the road was home, appropriately enough, to Wall Lizards.

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These two are my favourites from the many photos I took.

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The area around the wall also seemed to be the territory of some small orange butterflies which eluded my camera at first, but then turned out to be Gatekeepers which we see at home.

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I think that this first one is on a Hemp Agrimony flower and that this one…

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…is on Horse Mint.

The road crossed a bridge over the Céou which was a good place for spotting fish and also more Beautiful Demoiselles…

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Male.

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Female.

Right at the end of our stay, we came down to the bridge because some of the party wanted to emulate some swimmers we had seen by leaping from a high branch into the water.

In the event, only E managed it, not because of the height of the jump, but because of the difficulty of climbing the tree – there was a crude ladder of planks nailed to the tree-trunk, but one of the rungs was missing. Here’s E just before she jumped…

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The rest of us had to content ourselves with jumping from the bridge itself or from a small wall beside it…

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Which, frankly, was quite high enough for me.

To the Bakery and Back

Cliffs and Caves above the Céou

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The Dordogne region, at least the area we visited, is characterised by low, wooded hills (only just creeping above 200m above sea level) cut by steep-sided valleys, often with limestone cliffs and edges. The slopes above Maisonneuve were topped with cliffs and Andy had been told by his Dutch neighbours (based on our limited survey, all European campsites seem to be mostly populated by the Dutch) that a path led from the campsite up to the base of those cliffs and that there were caves to explore in the cliffs. Indeed, we could see one large cave opening high in the cliffs above.

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Looking down the valley to Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and its Chateau.

It was a steep, sweaty (for me anyway) climb up through the trees, but well worth it when it brought us to the honeycombed, honey-coloured rocks.

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There were small caves immediately…

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Irresistible to the DBs…

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Of course, when you climb up to a cave you then have to get back down again; B found getting down from this one much more difficult than getting up had been and I found myself guiding his feet down into suitable footholds.

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There were long lines of ants spreading across the cliffs.

Turning along the base of the cliffs we soon came across a larger cave…

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…with several entrances…

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…and evidence of former occupation…

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I think it’s fair to say that there’s a long history of cave occupation in the area – the famous Lascaux caves with their paintings are in the Dordogne after all.

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Of course the DBs found a tight little passage to crawl through…

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I preferred to be outside watching a lizard expertly negotiating the rock walls…

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I think that this is a Common Wall Lizard, rather than the Common Lizards we see at home, but I’m not confident about that at all.

We continued along the base of the cliffs, coming across more cave openings, this one…

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…being the largest.

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The path continued…

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…but we were feeling ready for a swim, so turned back.

Our young friend E though had other ideas, she wanted to follow the path in the other direction up to the top of the crags to see the view. Her mum J…

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…and TBH and I decided to join us. Others may have too, but the message didn’t get to all of the party. The climb was mercifully short…

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And the views, when we got to them, were well worth the modest effort…

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The Céou Valley

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Camping Maisonneuve.

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There were a couple of Hummingbird Hawkmoths flying around near the top of the cliffs, which excited me greatly since they are rare visitors to Britain. I didn’t manage to photograph them this time, but would have many more opportunities.

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Céou Valley Panorama.

Castelnaud and its Chateau didn’t exactly dominate the view…

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…but they certainly stood out…

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…especially the Chateau…

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Finally, back down through the woods for a well-earned swim.

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Cliffs and Caves above the Céou

Scarborough’s North Bay

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A fortnight ago now. B’s rugby team had a tour to Scarborough.

We stayed at Scarborough YHA, which was terrific, very comfortable and welcoming. What’s more, I survived Friday night’s drinking games relatively unscathed.

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Before Saturday’s match we had an hour to spare, so took a short trip down to Scalby Mills. The hostel is tucked away on the banks of Scalby Beck and this is where the beck emerges into the sea.

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After some team photos the boys all darted off to charge around on the beach. B managed to fall over and get plastered in mud. Also, when we rinsed away the mud it was to reveal some nasty scratches on his shines from the rocks he’d fallen on.

There was some speculation amongst the adult members of the party about how far it would be to walk around to the Castle on the far side of the bay. Perhaps that set some cogs whirring in my head.

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The facilities and pitch at Scarborough RUFC were amazing and the boys really enjoyed their game.

In the afternoon, we went to a water park with a wave pool and lots of slides for the kids and open-air heated pools and lager for the dads. The sun was shining, but the wind was artic, so this was a very odd experience. I could see that a second beer was likely to follow hard on the heels of the first, and knowing that mid-afternoon drinking would wipe me out, I decided to leave B with his friends and in the capable hands of the other dads and have a bit of a wander.

I first returned to the hostel, where one of the wardens recommended a path which follows the beck to meet the cliff-path, the Cleveland Way no-less, just north of Long Nab. I was pleased to see a hedge of Blackthorn decked in white blossom, a spring event which I always look forward to, but which I seem to have missed this year at home.

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Scalby Beck.

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My first thought when I reached the cliffs was that I must walk the Cleveland Way some time. It’s an idea I’ve often entertained.

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North Bay.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Alexanders…

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…growing abundantly in several places on my walk. They’re unmistakable, even though it’s eight years since I last saw them, when we were down in Cornwall.

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My walk took me along the sea-front, which was being splashed by waves.

And then up to the grand houses of Queen’s Parade.

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North Bay from Queen’s Parade.

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Scarborough Castle.

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South Bay from near the Castle.

 

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The Castle was just closing as I arrived, not that I had time for a visit. Another time.

I dropped down through a park, full of Alexanders, called The Holms and then back along the sea-front to the hostel.

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‘Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers.’ by Ray Lonsdale.

“The sculpture is based on a retired miner Ray became friends with who turned out to also be one of the first soldiers to relieve the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War II.

This piece of art is not just about Freddie Gilroy but represents all the normal people that were pulled out of an ordinary life and forced into a very extraordinary and dangerous one during the World Wars.”

The statue is huge, perhaps twice life-size and very striking.

All-told the walk was almost exactly 5 miles, so I had an answer for those who had been wondering in the morning.

The following day we were in York for another match. Then last weekend, Little S was away on his team’s tour, this time to Dublin (accompanied by TBH). Both tours were superbly organised and very friendly, and great experiences for the boys. What’s more, I enjoyed myself too.

 

 

Scarborough’s North Bay

Lancaster: The Heights, Aldcliffe, Lune

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Another taxi-Dad related walking-window which involved staying in Lancaster after work to wait for A. I started on the footpath which runs between this field, which the kids tell me is called ‘The Heights’, and the Haverbreaks housing estate, which my former colleague Dr PH used to call ‘The Magic Kingdom’ when we ran along its private roads during our lunch breaks years ago.

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I’m not sure whether Lancaster is built on seven hills like Rome, but it certainly does lay on a series of modest heights, some of which, like this one, give excellent views. The hills in the background are Arnside Knott and the long ridge of Cartmell Fell, with the higher Lake District Fells behind.

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Lancaster Castle.

The path took me down to the Lancaster Canal and I turned south-west along the towpath for a time. On the far side of the canal, some of the gardens of the Haverbreaks houses run down to the canal bank. The gardens always look very pleasant, but I was more interested in the flowers growing in the shallow margins of the canal itself…

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White Water-lily.

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Flowering Rush

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Meadowsweet and Marsh Woundwort.

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A house in Aldcliffe.

I left the canal to take the lane into the tiny hamlet of Aldcliffe. This is less than a mile from where I’ve worked for the past 20 years (nearly), but I’d never been here before!

From Aldcliffe a path snakes down towards the Lune. For most of its length it was hemmed in by two very tall hedges and seemed to be a haven for a wealth of insect life, notably butterflies including several Red Admirals, some Speckled Wood and…

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Comma.

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Salt marsh by the Lune.

I had a choice of paths around Aldcliffe Marsh, but took the shorter, eastern option because I was already realising that I had underestimated the length of the walk, or at least how long it would take me.

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Rosebay Willowherb.

There were a wealth of flowers and plenty of butterflies along this section of the walk, but I took only a few photos because I was hurrying now.

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Great Willowherb.

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Green-veined White on Bramble.

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Gatekeeper.

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A (very vigorous) Melilot.

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Bumblebee with very full pollen basket.

Embarrassingly, after a stomp through town, I arrived, hot and sweaty, half-an-hour late for my rendezvous with A. Fortunately, she was very forgiving.

This route, and variations on it, have great potential for walks from work, just as long as I’m more careful with my time-keeping in future!

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Lancaster: The Heights, Aldcliffe, Lune

Killington Constitutional

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From Burns Beck Moss it was only a short drive to Killington. This is Killington Hall. It’s 15th Century with alterations or additions from 1640 and 1803. Oh, and 2017.

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The peel tower is described as ruined, without a roof or a floor, on the description given with the listed building status, but it is clearly being restored at present – the windows have glass in them again and it is being reincorporated into the house by the look of it.

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Opposite the Hall is All Saints Church.

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According to a notice within the church, this is 13th and 14th Century and was built by the Pickering family who lived in the Hall (the Hall occupies the site of an even older building).

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This…

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…is a fragment of medieval glass, showing a lion from the crest of the Pickering family.

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“The east window, by Christopher Whall, dates from 1907”. (Source)

At the side of the peel tower runs Hall Beck…

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…another tributary of the Lune.

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Old School House, Killington.

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The Middleton Fells.

This was a relatively short walk. You can trace my route on the map below: down the hill to Hallbeck, back up the other side of the stream, then south to Beckside, up to Harprigg then north back to Killington via Aikrigg.

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Hall Beck at Hallbeck.

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The Middleton Fells and Beckside.

It was mostly through farmland and not particularly spectacular in itself, but with great views of the Middleton Fells.

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Burns Beck (again!) at Beckside.

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Barn at Low Harprigg.

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Harprigg. An unusual entrance I thought, I can’t find any historical details on the internet.

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Red Admiral.

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This Corvid – as usual, I’m not confident about which type – sat just beyond a gate from me, apparently oblivious until I opened the gate. Sadly, it wouldn’t turn around for a better portrait.

Near to this…

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…transmitter? Phone mast? Whatever – was the highest point of the walk and also the best spot for views.

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Howgills, Lune and Rawthey valleys and Holme Knott.

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Middleton Fells.

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Burns Beck yet again.

I’d seen many more hedgerows cloaked with tent webs, but no sign of either caterpillars or moths in them. Now, as I stepped over stile, lots of small white things fluttered down out of the hedge, looking remarkably like petals falling on a gentle breeze. But they weren’t petals…

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Back to Killington.

Killington walk

Killington Constitutional