All we have to do is look.

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How is it that we can have Roe Deer in our garden, even up near to the house, but I still get excited when I see one across a field, partially obscured by reeds? This one, incidentally, is male, unlike the two which were recently in our garden and seems to have lost it’s winter coat completely.

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How is it that I feel drawn to return to Gait Barrows every year to see the reintroduced Lady’s-slipper Orchids and photograph them yet again, even though it’s overcast and the photos won’t be as good as those I’ve taken before?

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Not that I’m complaining.

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I’m very lucky I suppose, that I never tire of the views over the Gait Barrows limestone pavements. Or of our ever changing skies.

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Or Rowan flowers.

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‘You can’t see Venice twice for the first time,’ Mirabel said. After the first excitement of newness, will there always be the same enchantment every year, watching the rose buds open, the irises unfurl? It’s the challenge that faces us all at some point, and which faces me now, twenty years on from the beginning of the garden. And it’s true: you can change the colour of your tulips, you can forswear roses in favour of dahlias, you can even move house and make a new garden, but you can never leave yourself behind. For it is the eye which becomes jaded – the mind, not its object. Even for Traherne it was a struggle to retain that freshness of vision, to protect it from the eroding sea of experience. As he constantly reminded himself, ‘I must become a child again.’ But even if we cannot see all anew each year, we can each time strive to see it deeper, differently: the experience can be enriched not impoverished. A rose at forty or at eighty means something different from a rose at twenty; we naturally bring to it more associations, whether personal or literary or historical, more ‘back story’. And if we can’t see Venice twice for the first time, neither can we step into the same river twice – the world is perpetually changing, renewing itself. See how different a single rose, a single petal can be, not only every year, but every day, and every hour of every day, as the world turns around it – in all weathers, in every season, bud and bloom, calyx and corolla. All we have to do is look.”

Katherine Swift The Morville Hours.

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Traherne is Thomas the seventeenth century poet, Mirabel is Mirabel Osler who writes, like Swift, about gardening. I’ll probably have more to say about ‘The Morville Hours’ at some point, but for now, suffice to say that it is an excellent read, and I’m not an enthusiastic gardener.

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Ear Fungus.

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And all we need to do is look.

That being said, I’m happy to stick with just looking. Any additional interaction is generally unwelcome.

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I wasn’t overly struck with the attentions of these six ponies. Admittedly, they were pretty docile, just following me across the field.

But the calves in the next field ran after me. Now, of course, here in front of my computer I can see that they were inquisitive, gambolling playfully perhaps, and not ravening beasts braying for blood after all.

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Anyway, there were only five of them. And I reached the stile before they made it across the field.

In the next field, there were more like thirty. It was a large field and I felt quite uncomfortable walking across it with all of them behind me. Could they tell that I’d had roast beef for my tea? I only stopped to take a photo once there was a wall between them and me.

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Since this is not something which usually happens to me, four times in one week seems like more than just a coincidence. I shall have to assume that either I have suddenly started to emit some sort of ‘hunter-gatherer’ pheromone which is inducing this behaviour, or that it’s a spring-time, fading-light instinct particular to this season in herding animals. The latter seems more plausible.

All we have to do is look.

Little and Often – Tuning In

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A cool, bright and sunny day, mostly spent at a Rugby tournament at Preston Grasshoppers.

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I was out early for a short walk, but not early enough to catch the clear skies with which the day began. Whilst I was drinking my kick-starting cup of tea, thin high cloud had appeared, spread and, particularly to the east, began to coalesce into a covering layer.

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A Drone Fly?

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This photo, taken from Castlebarrow, clearly shows the ‘sandier’ beach we’ve enjoyed of late along the Silverdale shoreline.

One consequence of my insistence on a daily wander (or two) seems to be that I am tuning in to my surroundings and beginning to pick-up on things I might otherwise have missed. As I came down off Castlebarrow I picked out the tchoo-tchoo of a Marsh Tit and have several poor photos to prove it. Likewise the thin contact calls of Goldcrests – I watched three of them hopping about in the dense foliage of a Yew, failing miserably to get a clear photo of any of them.

Of course, I have many wildlife encounters which fail to produce a photograph. I didn’t manage, for example, to catch the Blackbird which I watched chasing a Magpie above The Lots, apparently pecking at the larger bird’s tail-feathers. Also, I’ve seen Roe Deer in the woods several times of late, but either they have been away too quickly for me, or it’s been too dark to bother trying to photograph them, or I haven’t had my camera with me. (Increasingly, I leave it behind if it’s late and the sky is very gloomy).

I was without a camera recently when, in Eaves Wood, I spotted a Tawny Owl perched on a nearby branch. In fact, at first I didn’t see it, but just noticed that something was awry, out of the ordinary, and that I ought to look again, more closely. The owl’s plumage was extremely effective camouflage against the tangle of branches in the gloomy wood and it took a moment for the shapes to resolve themselves in my brain into an owl, which, due to the steepness of the slope was perched at my eye-level and not five yards away. We stared at each other for a long moment, and then, without ever having made a sound, the owl turned first its head, then its shoulders and then dropped silently from the tree and winged effortlessly away. Magic.

Little and Often – Tuning In

Fool’s Day in Brigsteer Woods

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

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

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

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The Bluebells are starting to flower.

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There’s plenty of Wood Anemones too.

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

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Almost every bramble leaf seemed to have a resident fly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mute Swan

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

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

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Two squabbling Coots briefly raised a cacophony.

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

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Little Egret.

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Whitbarrow Scar.

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Scout Scar.

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

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

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Violets.

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More Ash flowers.

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Blackthorn blossom.

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

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

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

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A bird of prey hovered overhead.

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

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Yellow Archangel.

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

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Kent Estuary, Arnside Knott and Whitbarrow Scar.

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

Fool’s Day in Brigsteer Woods

Garden Guests

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Long-suffering readers of this blog will know that it’s not unusual for roe deer to visit our garden. However, I don’t think we’ve ever had four together before. In the photos the deer are actually in next door’s garden. (I don’t suppose that they recognise the boundary). That put them right by one of our windows, or one of them was at least, with the others frustratingly obscured by a fringe of trees…

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Later they were all at the bottom of our garden when I needed to go down to the compost bins. To my surprise they didn’t immediately scarper when I left the house, but huddled in a corner watching me nervously. When I reached the compost bins they rushed to get away – back to next door’s garden via our patio, walking inches past our patio doors were S was leaping about with excitement, apparently unobserved by the deer.

A few mornings later we were visited by a solitary buck, but that time I didn’t get any pictures.

Garden Guests

Silverdale to Keswick I: To Kendal

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With Lancashire playing silly b*****s with the Easter Holidays this year, the boys have a completely different fortnight off to the rest of the family. A and I decided to make a virtue of necessity and head off on our own little holiday jaunt: a walk from Silverdale to Keswick. Here she is setting off, on the Tuesday after Easter Monday, fully garbed in waterproofs since the sky was a monotone grey and a light rain was falling.

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We walked past Challan Hall…

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…and Hawes Water, diverting ever so slightly to check whether the toothwort which appears here every year was flowering…

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It was…

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From there we continued alongside Silverdale Moss…

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I can’t recall having seen it so flooded before, though I suspect that had we visited midwinter, the meres would have been even more extensive. A couple of spots of brilliant white in amongst the reeds were Little Egrets, whilst a Heron flapped away in that laconic, slow-motion fashion that they have.

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The bridge over Leighton Beck. A did all of the map-reading on this first day and some of it thereafter.

We passed Hazelslack Farm with it’s Peel Tower and then began the ascent of Beetham Fell. This old coffin route finds a fault in a line of crags…

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…which leads to a bit of a viewpoint…

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…and hey-presto, the clouds have broken, there’s some blue sky at last, it’s stopped raining and there’s an odd moment of sunshine.

The Fairy Steps…

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…brought us to the top of the Fell and an improved vista…

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…of Arnside Knott, the Kent Estuary and Hampsfell.

Dropping down the far side of the hill we encountered our first clumps of daffodils, which would become something of a feature of the walk.

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Another feature of the walk were the frequent stops for both of us to take photos.

Close to the boundary of the woods there’s a ruined building with a huge patch of snowdrops below it. Sadly, they’d finished flowering, but I’ve made a mental note to come back and take another look next February.

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By the time we’d reached Beetham, it was spitting with rain again.

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Beetham.

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St. Michael and All Angels.

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In addition to stopping to take lots of photographs of flowers, birds, butterflies, leaves etc whilst I’m walking, I also like to take a proper look around any interesting places I pass. There was a tension here though between exploring thoroughly and reaching our night’s lodgings, so we didn’t look into the church. It’s well worth a look however. Photos of the interior here, from a previous visit.

The optimism about the weather which I’d felt on Beetham Fell had been a little premature it seemed, and as we walked through Dallam Deer Park the heavens really opened.

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Most of the Fallow Deer were sheltering under the trees looking slightly forlorn, although some were still out in the open…

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As we dropped down the hill past Dallam Hall and towards the River Bela…

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…one decision seemed to have been made for us. We’d been debating where to buy lunch, but although it was still quite early our minds were being made up for us by the inclement weather. Booth’s in Milnthorpe had become the new favourite in the bidding.

“Even if we don’t get lunch from Booth’s, can we just go in and browse?”, was A’s opinion on the matter.

In fact, when we’d bought a bit of lunch, the rain had stopped again and the sun was shining. We found a bench in the car park, spread some gear out to dry and tucked in. A fine time, as we sat mud-spattered and bedraggled, for a friend from the village to roll up in her car, wind down the window and inquire what we were up to.

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The path out of Milnthorpe took us up a slight hill and that modest elevation gave fine views of the Kent Estuary…

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…Whitbarrow Scar, and Heversham Head…

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The next part of the route had been a bit ticklish to plan. We needed to get to Levens Bridge: the Cumbria Coastal way would do that, via a series of minor lanes; we could climb Heversham Head, but the paths we would use zig-zag furiously; we opted for the most direct route, involving some walking along the main A6, but mostly on a parallel road which runs through the villages of Heversham and Leasgill.

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St. Peter’s, Heversham.

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With another daffodil decorated cross.

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The pump, from 1900, at St. Mary’s Well, which according to the sign on the wall behind, supplied the village with water for around 1000 years.

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Whitbarrow Scar.

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Leasgill.

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Leven’s Hall and its famous topiary.

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From Levens Bridge we would follow the River Kent upstream to Kendal.

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The Bagot Fallow Deer in Levens Deer Park.

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Initially, we could choose which bank of the river to follow and unfortunately we chose the West bank, still a source of much recrimination since…

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…a crucial bridge was closed, forcing us to retrace our steps back to a road bridge and then follow the East bank after all.

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All the way along the river we were to see plastic bags, traffic barriers, bundles of twigs and various other detritus in the branches of riverbank trees far above our heads. It was very sobering to see just how high the river-level had reached in last November’s floods.

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Happily we also saw goosander on the river and grey wagtails bobbing about on its margins.

Hawes bridge was also still closed…

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The river eventually brought us to…

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Where we were staying in the Hostel, formerly YHA, now independent, and highly recommended. I’d booked a two-bed room, but we were upgraded to a bigger, en-suite room, the only disadvantage being that it was on the third floor . The shower was very hot and very powerful and very welcome. We just had time to grab a meal in the Brewery Arts Centre (handily close by the hostel) before settling in to watch ‘Batman versus Superman’, about which the least said the better. (Oh alright, if I must, my detailed review: it was rubbish, but I managed to sleep through quite a bit of it, so not all bad).

By popular demand (well Alan and Andy): maps.

Silverdale to Milnthorpe:

Silverdale to Milnthorpe

Milnthorpe to Hawes Bridge:

Milnthorpe to Hawes Bridge

Hawes Bridge to Kendal:

Hawes Bridge to Kendal

 

 

Silverdale to Keswick I: To Kendal

An Entomologist on Arnside Knott

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Another day of blue and sunny skies and an afternoon, post rugby walk up the Knott and back with B. The interest started before we left the house, with a visiting row deer in the garden. Unusually, I was in the garden at the time – most of the time deer will only visit when we are safely ensconced in the house.

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A Speckled Wood.

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On Heathwaite – a clearing on the wooded ridge which leads down from the Knott towards the sea – B and I had fun exploring the many large meadow ant hills. Most of them seemed to have at least one resident spider and B also enjoyed catching grasshoppers.

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The view South to Warton Crag and the Bowland Fells.

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Red Admiral.

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Arnside Tower.

An Entomologist on Arnside Knott

Two Walks by the Bela

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More ‘Creative Use of Odd Moments’, or ‘Excerpts from the Diary of a Taxi Dad’. On a Monday evening A has two consecutive dance lessons in Milnthorpe; this creates a welcome opportunity for a bit of a daunder and since Dallam deer park and the river Bela’s confluence with the Kent are both conveniently close by it’s natural to head that way for a look-see.

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TBH generally does this particular taxi-run, because Monday night is also the appointed niche for my social life, such as it is, but with the evenings drawing in I snatched the opportunity to forgo the delights of the Lancaster City Quiz League and to get some fresh air and a little exercise instead.

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This last photo was taken near the end of the walk, when it was, frankly, almost dark. These two Fallow Deer bucks, part of a domesticated herd kept in Dallam Deer Park, stood out a ghostly white under the spreading shade of a riverside tree, seeming to concentrate and reflect the light of the recently risen moon. I was surprised, given the relative darkness, that the camera managed to capture an image.

A week later I took a more direct route to the level ground beside the Bela’s final few yards, having missed the sunset the week before by dallying elsewhere.

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I still missed the sunset, but the afterglow wasn’t too shabby.

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There was a chill in the air which had me regretting choosing to wear shorts.

Two Walks by the Bela