Walking the Lanes above Brockhole.

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Little S was invited to a party at the Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole. Looks like another job for taxi-Dad! Once I’d dropped him off with our friends, I had around three hours to wait until the party would finish. The forecast hadn’t been great, but not diabolical either, so – just for a change – I thought I’d get out for a walk!

I started on Mirk Lane which took me up to Newclose Wood where I found another Woodpecker nest. The adult was back and forth to the nest, but it was very difficult to get a clear view for a photograph.

The path, seen above, brought me out to a minor road on the outskirts of a hamlet seemingly composed entirely of fairly new houses. This set the tone for much of the walk, taking me past many large expensive looking properties, most of them with great views across Windermere to the Langdale Pikes. Many of the gardens, and hedges, were full of Rhododendrons which were flowering and looking splendid.

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Wansfell above was lost in cloud, but the weather generally held, bar a few occasional drops of rain. The whole route was resplendent with wildflowers, changing subtly as I climbed the hill and came back down again.

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Foxgloves.

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Meadow Crane’s-Bill, probably.

One short section of roadside verge had three different Crane’s-Bills.

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French Crane’s-Bill, I think. A species introduced from the Pyrenees.

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Wood Crane’s-Bill (I think).

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Windermere.

Skelghyll Lane took me past more grand properties. At one point, I was pleased to see a smaller, more rustic looking building with a traditional round Cumbrian chimney, but then realised that it was actually a garden folly.

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Holbeck Ghyll.

I passed a hedge absolutely cloaked with tent moth caterpillars…

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Water Avens seedhead.

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Low Skelghyll.

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Hol Beck.

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Early Bumblebee on Marsh Thistle (I think, in both cases).

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Marsh Lousewort.

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Lousewort.

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Robin Lane.

Robin Lane, which is part of the old route from Ambleside to Troutbeck, is a favourite of ours and very familiar, but it was really interesting to approach it via the lanes from Brockholes which I’ve never walked before.

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Windermere.

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Cantharis Rustica (Soldier Beetle).

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Mouse-ear-hawkweed.

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Lady’s Mantle.

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Wain Lane, by which I returned to Brockhole, has handsome stone barns all along its length.

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Ribwort Plantain.

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Garden Chafers.

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Roe Deer.

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White-lipped Snail.

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Silver-ground Carpet Moth.

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Honeysuckle.

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Another Wain Lane Barn.

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Another Roe Deer.

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Middlerigg Tarn.

I’ve never been to Middlerigg Tarn before. It’s difficult to get a proper view of the tarn, it being bordered by trees and a high wall, but there are one or two gaps. It’s not in the Nuttall’s Guide to the tarns of the Lake District, or in Heaton-Cooper’s, but it is a very peaceful spot.

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Yellow Irises.

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White Clover.

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Comfrey.

As I was almost back to Brockhole, I was looking over into a field on my right at pony dressed in a Zebra-skin print coat. I noticed a buzzard, relatively close by, sitting on the ground…

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Sadly, it took off just as I was taking a photo.

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White Stonecrop.

I’d been worried about arriving late for the end of the party, but actually arrived with half-an-hour to spare, so was able to get some soup and a pot of tea in the cafe there. Then when I picked up S, he declared his intention to stay a little longer to play on the adventure playground. The weather had improved considerably so that I was able to sit in the sun and read the book I’d brought for just such an eventuality – ‘Counting Sheep’ by Philip Walling.

I’d seen a lot of sheep of many different kinds during my walk. Apparently the UK had more breeds of sheep than any other country. Here are a few examples from my walk…

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This looks some of the very dark Scottish sheep, like Hebridean or Soay, but I’m not sure that it is either of those.

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I’m pretty sure that this is a Swaledale.

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I think that this is a Blue-faced Leicester, but as ever, stand ready to be corrected.

 

 

Walking the Lanes above Brockhole.

Free Lunch

Across the fields and the golf course to Leighton Moss – Free Lunch – Home via Myer’s Allotment

Silverdale has an annual food fair, a recent innovation, and this year TBH won a voucher there in the raffle, exchangeable for lunch for two in the cafe at the Leighton Moss visitors’ centre. The boys were, indeed are, still at school, but TBH and A had now finished so the three of us wandered over for a bite. When we got there, it was to find that their electricity was off due to some work being done by the suppliers, but the centre has photo-valtaic panels and they seemed to be coping remarkably well. A enjoyed her humus and falafel wrap, despite it being ‘too leafy’ and TBH and I both loved our prawn salad.

TBH couldn’t be induced to venture onto the reserve (and to be fair, we did need to get home for the boys return from school) but the promise of striking Cinnabar Moth caterpillar lured TBH and A to join me in visiting Myer’s Allotment on our return journey. Here they are…

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…enjoying the view from the top of the hill.

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There was plenty to see within the reserve too.

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Rock Rose.

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Harebells.

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Self-heal.

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A lone Common Red Soldier Beetle – must be hunting!

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Normal service is resumed! Caption competition anyone? I think that those contrasting antennae are very expressive.

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Hoverfly on Ragwort.

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Bumblebee on Ragwort.

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Meadow Brown.

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I suppose the Meadow Brown is one of or drabbest butterflies. But I have to confess that I’m still captivated none-the-less.

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Damselfly.

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Red-tailed Bumblebee.

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Gatekeeper  Butterfly and Common Red Soldier Beetle.

Ardent followers of Beating the Bounds, if such a beast exists, will have seen photographs of Gatekeepers many times before; most, if not all, taken in North Wales, where we camp each summer and where Gatekeepers are extremely common. In fact I associate them with that area, because I’ve always assumed that we don’t get them here. Oops. Wrong again. Mea culpa.

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I almost missed this Gatekeeper too. It was resting low on Ragwort, very still, with its wings folded and very close to the ground. The dark patches are apparently scent scales and are only found on males.

I was studying that particular Ragwort because of its other residents…

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Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.

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There weren’t as many caterpillars evident as there had been on my previous visit, but there were enough to make good on my promise. Not that it mattered particularly; A was very happy photographing butterflies with her iPod. Nice to see that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree!

Free Lunch

ISO 3200

A walk to Myer’s Allotment with a defective camera brain.

Summer is in full swing, although you wouldn’t know that now, looking out of our windows at soft, low skies and heavy rain. But anyway, summer, of a sort, is here, which means Hogweed flowering on the verges of Bottom’s Lane and Soldier Beetles doing what comes naturally…

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Apparently Soldier Beetles hunt small insects, but I’ve only ever seen them doing one thing, they seem to be very single-minded.

The dreadful grainy nature of the photos is due to the fact that I had the ISO set to 3200. Which is very frustrating, but at least I know now that I haven’t broken it, which was my original diagnosis. I have no recollection of changing the setting, but then I only discovered the mistake when I inadvertently pressed the wrong button on the camera, or I suppose, in the circumstances, the right button.

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I’ve seen striking back and yellow bugs like this one, with their stark geometrical markings, on Hogweed before, and even tentatively guessed at what they are, but I’m now doubting my previous opinion, so I shan’t compound the error by restating it here.

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In Burtonwell Wood, and under the bracken at Myer’s Allotment, a number of fungi seem to be flourishing, probably a consequence of the abundant rainfall we’ve had of late.

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Lambert’s Meadow Common Spotted-orchid. (Probably)

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This grass seed-head was catching the sun and looked so pink that at first glance I mistook it for a flower.

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Agrimony.

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There’s a reason I haven’t given up on this walk and it’s poor quality pictures, and the reason is the treasure I found at Myer’s Allotment. There’s a fair bit of Ragwort growing in the open glades there and Ragwort is an important food plant for…

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…Cinnabar Moth caterpillars. In their burglar’s stripy jerseys they look like they will be easy pickings for predators. In actual fact I managed to walk past several plants before I noticed any of the residents, although once I’d seen one plant festooned with caterpillars I quickly realised that many other Ragwort plants were similarly busy. In any case, the vivid yellow and black get-up is intended to draw attention: it’s a warning. Ragwort contains strong concentrations of alkaloids and is highly poisonous, and since they feed on it, the caterpillars are also highly toxic and can brazenly feast with no fear of interference.

Cinnabar, rather appropriately, is a toxic ore of Mercury. It is often bright scarlet which is presumably the link to these moths, because the adults are black and scarlet. I photographed adults here earlier in the year; you can see photos in this post. At that time the females were presumably laying eggs; I would hazard a guess that the caterpillars on any one plant are all part of the same brood. They were certainly all of very similar sizes on each plant, whereas across different plants their growth varied enormously: in some cases they were tiny…

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Others were relatively huge…

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The caterpillars were pretty ubiquitous, even sneaking into this photo I took of Lady’s Bedstraw..

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The Soldier Beetles were almost as pervasive…

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And completely predictable…

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This grasshopper…

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…- I shall stick my neck to and say that it is a Common Green Grasshopper – was much less of an exhibitionist, I only noticed it because I was examining the labyrinth of insect-bored canals on the large flake of bark which it was sitting beside.

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I shall have to get myself back to Myer’s Allotment now that I’ve (accidentally) sorted out the problem with my camera. Sadly, there’s no option to similarly reset my defective grey matter.

ISO 3200

Haystacks

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Fleetwith Pike

My old friend JS had just one more Wainwright to bag. He is, I think, the most well-organised man I have ever known (I say ‘man’ advisedly, I’ve worked with a few women who would give him a run for his money) and typically he had planned out his Wainwright bagging so as to leave the last for his 50th Birthday. When I saw him down in Nottingham a few weeks ago he invited me to join him and I didn’t need to be asked twice.

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Buttermere.

The forecast wasn’t great, but for most of the day the weather was pretty kind to us. We met in Buttermere village and walked along the southern shore of the lake before climbing towards Scarth Gap.

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Haystacks.

I’d dragged B along for the walk and JS’s sisters and a brother-in-law were also in the party. The pace was very leisurely, which suited me just fine. I could see that B was getting a little restless however, so we took an off-piste route, seeking out some easy scrambling.

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Fleetwith Pike again.

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Seat and High Crag.

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North-Western Fells over Buttermere.

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Panorama.

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B enjoying some unexpected sunshine.

We saw a couple of these…

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…large, hairy caterpillars. I think that it’s a Hairy Oak Eggar Moth caterpillar. This one didn’t move at all and was still in exactly the same spot when we came back down. If it had chosen a spot in which to pupate, then it had chosen badly because it was right on the path.

In the little tarn between the many small knolls on the top, B spotted a newt floating just below the surface of the water.

A champagne lunch was planned for the summit, but some members of the party, not regular walkers, objected to the ‘rock climb’ where the path crossed some slabs just below the top, so the champagne was quaffed a little way short of the top. I’m pretty sure it tasted just as good as it would have done a few metres higher. Having traveled in a rucksack, the bottle had had a good shaking and the cork rocketed skyward most impressively.

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A family party with champagne. The bobble hats had all been especially knitted for the occasion.

We returned by exactly the same route. The weather had done us proud, but as we were almost back to the lake shore path the heavens finally opened, and when the rain came it came with a vengeance. We’d been waiting for the others, but now decided to make a beeline for the car. B was nonplussed as the path became a stream and we were both quickly soaked, but it wasn’t far to the car, and we both had a change of clothes in the boot, although we had to run the gauntlet of the midges as we changed.

I’m not sure how many Wainwrights I have left to bag – some I’ve never done, and others I’ve been up many times, but not since I started keeping a record. Maybe I should be taking a leaf out of JS’s book and thinking ahead – which one should I choose to finish on? And who would I invite to join me? (And carry the champagne?).

Haystacks

Haystacks

Buff-Tip Caterpillar

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The latest in a series of posts which begin with the phrase: “Dad, come and look at This!”

I can’t find this striking caterpillar in my field guide, but a bit of internet sleuthing reveals it to be a Buff-Tip Moth, Phalera bucephala.

Probably not most likely to be seen crawling down our pebble-dashing, these caterpillars are usually gregarious and feed on a variety of plants together. The fact that this one was seen alone, on our wall, on a sunny day in September makes me think that it was searching for a place to pupate.

I hope that my identification is correct, and that I’m also right in thinking that this caterpillar has pupated in and around our garden, because this is a fascinating moth. In it’s adult form it does a stunning impersonation of a chip of birch twig…

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This is a photo I took back in 2010 at one of the excellent Moth Breakfast events at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve. We have two birch trees in our garden, so it seems reasonable to assume that we might have these moths in our garden. It makes me determined, next May and June, to finally getting around to improvising a simple moth trap to see just what we can find in our garden. At the moment I’m reading ‘The Fly Trap’ by Fredrik Sjöberg – it’s a delightful book, though I’m hard-pressed to explain why I’m enjoying it so much. The book has several themes – the motives of collectors, the joys of living on an island, the life and works of the naturalist and explorer René Malaise. Sjöberg is an entomologist, specialising in Hoverflies and one of his themes is about the joys of sitting put and letting nature come to you. Sounds like a plan.

Links:

http://ukmoths.org.uk/species/phalera-bucephala/eggs/                                                       More images and information about Buff Tips

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Fly-Trap-Fredrik-Sj%C3%B6berg/dp/184614776X                 ‘The Fly Trap’ by Fredrik Sjöberg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Malaise                                                               Wikipedia’s entry on René Malaise.

Buff-Tip Caterpillar

Inevitably: Carn Fadryn

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Carn Fadryn towering over the campsite (thanks to the trickery of a telephoto lens)

No trip to the Llyn is complete without an ascent of Carn Fadryn.

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A view down to Hell’s Mouth.

We climb it every year and I can’t see how I shall ever tire of the experience. Lots of elements of the climb are familiarly unfamiliar, like the labyrinth spiders which festoon the gorse…

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…and seem very common here (and on the Llyn’s cliff-tops) but which I can’t recall ever having seen anywhere else.

Even the slight regret that we never branch out and divert to the summit of subsidiary bump Garn Bach has become an integral part of the day.

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The bilberries weren’t quite what was expected however: they were much better this year than they usually are. Often they’ve been just about finished when we climb the hill, but this year, presumably due to the sluggish (non-)arrival of summer, they were still in their prime, much to everyone’s delight.

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The wood sage and the heather which you can see in the bottom left corner of this photo are also part of the ever-present backdrop to our rambles on Carn Fadryn.

An encounter with a Dorbeetle…

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…is also de rigueur, and a hairy caterpillar on, or close to, the path is another essential component…

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We usually see a few choughs…

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…which we don’t have at home in Lancashire. Nor do we have Gatekeepers…

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…which are common on Carn Fadryn, when the sun shines, as it did at the end of this walk, but which, again, we don’t have in Lancashire which is beyond the northern limit of their range.

Inevitably: Carn Fadryn

Gibraltar Point

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The great advantage of visiting Skegness, from my point of view, good though the Seal Sanctuary was, was the opportunity it presented to pop to the nearby Wildlife Trust reserve at Gibraltar Point.

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Despite the blue skies it was bitterly cold, although I did see my first swallow and hear my first chiff-chaff of the year during the visit, and, as you can see above, the blackthorn was flowering which hadn’t happened yet at home, so it did feel a little like spring.

The principal phenomena I shall remember from this visit were the tattered rags of tissue paper and burst teabags apparently hanging in the branches of the sea buckthorn which grows abundantly along the edge of the low dunes.

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Except they were neither tissue paper nor teabags, but the nests of brown-tail moth caterpillars…

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The moths have overwintered together in these communal nests and were probably just emerging when we saw them, since the sea-buckthorn had abundant buds but no leaves yet.

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Apparently, these moths are considered to be a pest, although I can’t decide if that’s because of their unusually catholic tastes – they’ll live on a wide variety of plants (called polyphagia* I learn) and presumably strip them bare – or because the hairs on their bodies are extremely irritating and can cause a nasty rash, headaches and breathing difficulties. Neither traits are particularly endearing I suppose.

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Nesting swan.

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Little grebes.

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A pied-wagtail again!

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*Polyphagia, it transpires, has two meanings:

  1. an insatiable appetite for food

  2. the habit on the part of some animals of feeding on many different types of food

Both of which might equally well be applied to the caterpillars and to me.

Gibraltar Point