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…


…enjoying the view from the top of the hill.


There was plenty to see within the reserve too.


Rock Rose.






A lone Common Red Soldier Beetle – must be hunting!


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


Hoverfly on Ragwort.


Bumblebee on Ragwort.



Meadow Brown.


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





Red-tailed Bumblebee.


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.


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…


Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.


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…


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.


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.


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.


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


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





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…


…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…


Others were relatively huge…


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


The Soldier Beetles were almost as pervasive…


And completely predictable…


This grasshopper…


…- 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.



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



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.



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.



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.


Fleetwith Pike again.


Seat and High Crag.


North-Western Fells over Buttermere.




B enjoying some unexpected sunshine.

We saw a couple of these…


…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.


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?).



Buff-Tip Caterpillar


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…


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:                                                       More images and information about Buff Tips                 ‘The Fly Trap’ by Fredrik Sjöberg                                                               Wikipedia’s entry on René Malaise.

Buff-Tip Caterpillar

Inevitably: Carn Fadryn


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.


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…


…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.


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.


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…


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


We usually see a few choughs…


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


…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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


Nesting swan.


Little grebes.



A pied-wagtail again!


*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

Tudweiliog Refrain – Turn, Turn, Turn

Chilling at Towyn Farm 

I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God.

So, finally the travail temporarily halted, giving a chap a chance to enjoy the good of all his labor. It feels like quite a long while ago now, but at the back end of July we made or annual trek down to the Llynn Peninsula for the summer gathering of the clans.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

A time to chill on the campsite and a time head for the beach; a time to snorkel and gawp at sea-life and a time to play beach cricket; a time to build elaborate castles and a time to row an inflatable dinghy around the bay; a time to burn sausages on the barbie and a time for a chinwag with a cup of tea.

All of the usual fun and games in fact. The weather was good once again – windy but generally bright. The inflatable dinghy was new: TBH bought it for little S’s birthday. It’s pretty huge – certainly big enough for the whole family to use together, at least at present. Watching TBH rowing it round in circles will be one of my abiding memories of the week.

I did more snorkelling this year than I have before, I managed to get out at some point almost every day. The top of a low reef of rocks is revealed as low tide approaches and those rocks seem to be the most likely place to spot things. There are regularly many fish, some of them quite large. This year I saw a dogfish and followed it around the rocks for a while. I also watched a fairly sizable spider-crab methodically picking titbits off the rocks to eat. Rock-pooling too is very rewarding and B’s aptitude and enthusiasm for spotting and catching all kinds of interesting fauna continues to grow.

I didn’t take my camera down to Porth Towyn at all this year, but since we go there every year, and have been doing so for many years, there are several previous posts with lots of photos.

Part of what makes this holiday so relaxing is it’s predictability – every year we go back to the same laid-back campsite and essentially do mostly the same things we enjoyed the year before.

One slight departure this year: one afternoon, whilst the kids were being entertained at the circus (thanks Jane), TBH and I managed a short walk along the beach at Porth Dinllaen near Morfa Nefyn. It’s a bigger sweep of beach than Porth Towyn, with a great view to Yr Eifl and it’s neighbours.

 Porth Dinllaen looking east

One the west side is a narrow headland…

Porth Dinllaen - looking west 

…near the end of which the lifeboat station is being rebuilt.

Building a new lifeboat station 

It was a cracking walk, which I’d happily do again, especially since we didn’t get as close a look as we would have liked at Borth Wen on the far side of the headland.

A regular fixture in our Tudweiliog trips is an ascent of Carn Fadryn. It’s a small hill, but it dominates this part of the peninsula and a modicum of effort is hugely repaid with vast views and a throng of wildlife.

Carn Fadryn 

A flock of choughs were flying over the boulder field, and two pale bids of prey swept down low over the hillside.

The bracken covered lower slopes seem to be a haven for creepy-crawlies. Labyrinth spiders cover the gorse with their intricate webs and hosts of butterflies, whites and…..

Gatekeeper I 


Gatekeeper II 

…flutter around the bracken. We always seem to see and least one dor beetle, and B enjoyed trying to catch the many grasshoppers….


A little higher up, this hairy oak eggar moth caterpillar was inching across the path.

Oak Eggar Moth Caterpillar 

It’s quite a large caterpillar, I wondered about the moth.

Oak Eggar Moth Caterpillar 

Carn Fadryn doesn’t take long to climb, but once you’re up there are bilberries to snaffle and views to be admired…

Carn Fadryn View 

Lunch at the top, or some sort of snack at least, is de rigueur.

Snack time 

Snack time 2 

Another Carn Fadryn View 

The kids seem to have decided that a visit to a castle is another essential element of this, or indeed any, holiday. We’ve visited Caernarvon a few times, and last year branched out with a trip to Beau Maris. This time we took a short drive to Criccieth. 

Criccieth Castle 

It has a small castle, a little deficient in dungeons and battlements and such like, and with only one one tower and winding staircase, but the cracking views over the town and along the coast in both directions go a long way to compensate.

Along the coast from Criccieth Castle 

And in t'other direction. 

The Keep 

Criccieth Sea Front

Today’s post has been brought to you by the wonderful northwest coast of Wales, by the Byrds and by Ecclesiastes.

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Shit happens.

Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

Make the most of it while you can.

Seems about right to me.

Or am I missing the point?

Tudweiliog Refrain – Turn, Turn, Turn