Walking and Gawking

Eaves Wood – The Row – Bottom’s Lane – The Green – Stankelt Lane – The Lots – The Cove – Elmslack Lane

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Cherry Blossom.

The forecast was poor, but the rain was meant to stop eventually, late in the afternoon. It didn’t, but then just when it seemed set in for the entire day it suddenly both stopped raining and brightened up, leaving dramatic dark skies to the east, but sunshine overhead.

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Honesty.

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I headed up the Coronation Path (bought in 1953 by the village to give access to Eaves Wood) knowing that I would gain height with a view of those glowering clouds.

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The sun was low filtering through the trees and lighting the new Beech leaves…

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From Castlebarrow, looking over the village, I could see the hills of the Forest of Bowland were still shrouded in a layer of cloud.

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But that it was slightly brighter out over the bay…

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A Robin was serenading me from the top of a Yew tree level with the crag…

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Beech leaves in a rut, Andy Goldsworthy style?

Most of these photos were taken in the early part of the walk. After that the light was generally too poor. When I’d asked TBH to lend me her phone so that I could monitor my mileage, A had very kindly offered me hers instead, but insisted that I use a different App which she assured me was ‘better’ in some unspecified way.

This turned out to mean that the phone, rather disconcertingly, announced aloud, every kilometre, my average speed, split times, distance etc. It took me a bit by surprise the first time, to be spoken to in an American accent whilst I was ostensibly alone in the woods. It was no real surprise, on the other hand, to discover that my speed increases significantly when I stop taking photos.

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After my almost obligatory visit to The Lots and The Cove I walked past a friend’s house and discovered him having a quiet smoke on his front step. Twenty minutes later as we sat chewing the fat over a cup of tea in his kitchen, A’s phone piped up to deliver very disappointing news about my current speed and split time.

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Must try harder obviously!

Walking and Gawking

Homework – About Silverdale

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The George Whittaker Memorial Park.

Little S has Easter holiday homework – to produce a leaflet about the village. His interpretation of that brief was to design a kind of promotional pamphlet: ‘Why You Should Come to Silverdale’. He asked me to accompany him around the village to take some photos to include. Obviously, I was more than happy to do that – this is the kind of homework I like to help with. As a preliminary, I asked him to first draw up a list of places he wanted to visit and a sensible route taking them in.

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It was interesting to see the village from his perspective and the places he chose as important.

Incidentally, the ‘Climbing Tree’…

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…wasn’t on his list, but fell conveniently between the Park and the Pepper Pot…

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…both of which were.

S thought it important to include some places where potential visitors might stay, so we called at Holgates Caravan Park…

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I’d decided that I would be on my best behaviour: I had a photographic assignment to fulfil and wouldn’t be wasting time pursuing my own agenda. But then this singing Goldfinch, just by Cove Road, dented my resolve…

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Our next port of call was The Cove where Little S was far more interested in the smelly cave and the opportunities for climbing on the rocks…

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Than in the view…

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Or any birdwatching prospects…

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Shelduck.

Meanwhile, any good intentions I’d harboured had sunk without trace, foundering on the luscious purple of these Violets…

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…and the surprise of Early Purple Orchids on the Lots…

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When a relatively pale and largish bird flew up from the field into a Horse Chestnut, B asked whether it could be a Kestrel. I must admit that the same idea had crossed my mind, but it was soon apparent that we were wrong. It was a Mistle Thrush…

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We were edging towards the tree, trying to get closer in order to get better photographs. When two Jackdaws landed nearby, I assumed that the Thrush would flee, but not a bit of it…

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More accommodation!

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Gibraltar Farm campsite.

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I noticed these flowers in a copse off Hollins Lane, near to the Wolfhouse Gallery. On a larger photograph (click on the photo to view on flickr) this is unmistakably Cardamine Bulbifera  – there are small black bulbils on the stems, which is how the plant spreads. It prefers calcareous soils, and in this region is probably a garden escapee, although it is endemic to the British Isles. It seems to have several common names: Coralroot, Coralroot Bittercress, Coral-wort.

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“There is a Flower, the lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, ’tis out again!”

William Wordsworth

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This was a Celandine sort of day, starting dull but brightening up in the afternoon.

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The path up to the Clifftop.

There were other places on Little S’s list, but with the various distractions we were susceptible to, we’d already managed to make a modest walk of less than five miles drag out to around three hours. We decided to make do with what we’d got and head home for some tea.

Homework – About Silverdale

The Wells of Silverdale

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

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

 

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Cheery Dandelions.

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Cheery Celandines.

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Elmslack Well.

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

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Inman’s Road.

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

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

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This squirrel was more obliging.

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Wood Anemones.

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

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More Wood Anemones.

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Chaffinch.

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Dogslack Well.

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Comma butterfly.

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Bank Well.

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The light was stunning and making everything look gorgeous.

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Coot chick.

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

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Lambert’s Meadow.

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

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Burton Well

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The pond at Woodwell.

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

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Blast!

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Golden Saxifrage.

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Woodwell.

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

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Cherry blossom.

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Jackdaw.

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Song Thrush.

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Nuthatch.

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

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

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Pied Wagtail.

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

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

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…a pair of Nuthatches.

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

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

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…were no longer perched.

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

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Starling.

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Bullfinch.

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Morecambe Bay.

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

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Five for silver.

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

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

The Wells of Silverdale

Two Bonus Birthday Hills

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Cove Road Quince flowers.

So, I had a little op, part of my ongoing review of local surgery facilities. I had the same op 24 years ago. On that occasion, I spent a few days in hospital afterwards, and although the aftermath was a good deal better than the few days prior to the procedure, suffice to say that it wasn’t entirely comfortable. This time then, I knew what to expect. What’s more the surgeon had warned me that I would need at least a week off work to recuperate (and then scotched that silver-lining by sending me a date at the beginning of a two week holiday period) and I had been sent home with a handy collection of pain-killers to help me get by.

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Violets.

I went under the knife on the day before my birthday, so not much chance then of my usual walk on my birthday, and certainly no hill-climbing, at least that’s what I thought, which was why I was so keen to drag the kids up Pen-y-ghent and Helvellyn in the days beforehand.

But this time, the op had been performed as a day case, so at least I was sent home. And it had gone much better than expected and I wasn’t really experiencing much pain. A little discomfort would be nearer the mark.

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This clump of sedge is close to the Elmslack entrance to Eaves Wood. I’ve walked past them countless times before, but never noticed them flowering, or are they fruiting? To the left of the rush the shorter, fine ‘grass’ is actually some kind of garlic or chive – it has a strong garlic flavour and smell.

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A consultation of ‘Roger Phillips Grasses, Ferns, Mosses & Lichens of Great Britain and Ireland’ has led me to the conviction that this is Hairy Woodrush.

In fact, I felt pretty good. I’d been told I couldn’t drive for 24 hours. And that I couldn’t be left alone during the same period. But nobody had categorically told me that I couldn’t go for a birthday walk. And the sun was shining. Or at least, it was when I set off, although a wave of cloud was rushing in from the west, presumably carried in on a front of some kind.

I did go out on my own, which probably contravened the terms of my release, but I took my mobile so that I cold phone for help, if I fell unconscious or somesuch….

I planned to head up to Castlebarrow, giving me a hill, however small, as is my custom on my birthday and a vantage point to watch the weather change, but I was distracted by the area of fallen trees just off the path, which the children used to enjoy visiting in order to build a den between the roots of two large trunks.

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There are several large fallen trees in the one small area…

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The area around the trees is now filling up with a thicket of saplings…

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…in contrast with other nearby areas where the mature trees still stand and the woodland floor is only covered with old leaves and the odd patch of Cuckoo Pint.

I expected to find fungi growing on the dead wood…

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And I did!

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But also, on an old Yew, a new Yew…

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And…

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….something else, I’m not sure what.

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New leaves…Hazel?

Because of all of my faffing about admiring dead trees and fungi, by the time I reached Castlebarrow, the blue sky had virtually all been enveloped by the cloud.

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It was really too gloomy for taking bird photos, but there were a number of duelling Robins on adjacent small trees…

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…and I couldn’t resist them!

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Blue Moor Grass

From Castlebarrow I dropped down on to the northern side and took a dog walkers path into Middlebarrow which I may have followed before, but which I don’t know well. I heard a Green Woodpecker yaffle very close at hand. Scanning the nearby trees I was rewarded with a flash of exotic green and red as the woodpecker flew away. I frequently hear Green Woodpeckers but very rarely see them, so this was a special moment.

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Arnside Tower and Blackthorn blossom.

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Honeysuckle.

Following the path which traces the northern edge of the Caravan Park I expected to see Green Hellebore…

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Green Hellebore. No flowers in evidence. Too late or too early – I suspect the latter.

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Primroses.

But certainly didn’t expect to see another Green Woodpecker. I heard it first, then tracked down its position due to the sound of it knocking persistently on the trunk of a tree. I could just make out it’s head…

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And managed a frustratingly useless first-ever photograph of a Green Woodpecker. It soon flew off, and whilst I waited to see if it would return, and watched the antics of a dog which had skipped over the wall from the path and was gleefully evading its owners, I wondered about the ownership of a largish hole in the ground I could see just beyond the wall. I didn’t wonder for long…

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This…

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…is the large Blackthorn where last year I watched for a while entranced by the huge and varied population of bees frequenting its flowers. It wasn’t fully in blossom this year and I was struck by its lichen bedecked branches.

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Cherry Blossom on the cricket club grounds.

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Primroses on a Cove Road verge.

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Barren Strawberry on a Cove Road wall.

Briefly, as I neared home, the blue sky returned, but this was a very fleeting improvement in the weather – patches of blue appeared and then, in a matter of moments, virtually the whole sky was blue again, but only moments later it had all disappeared again.

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Jack-by-the-Hedge, or Hedge Garlic, or Garlic Mustard. Supposed to be good to eat, but much too bitter for me.

There’d been a dispute, apparently, about who was going to cook me a birthday breakfast, but this was a bit of a pointless argument, since I don’t eat breakfast these days. However, A deferred her menu choice and served up a very creditable Spanish omelette for lunch. We now just need to work on the other 364 days of the year.

When I’d bought the boys new boots the day before, S fixed the shop assistant with a glare and asked, “But are they waterproof?”

To which he responded; “Well, you’ll have to wax them.”

I’m glad that they got this from someone else, because I doubt they would have taken it half so seriously if I had told them. Anyway, B, particularly, was very vexed that he had scuffed his boots on Helvellyn so I decided to take advantage of their enthusiasm for their new boots and they washed them, and then applied two coats, one of a leather treatment and softer, and one of wax.

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Which, in turn, encouraged me to do the same to mine!

I’ve kept my ‘cleaning kit’ – wax, rags and brush – in the box my own relatively new boots came in, in the summer house and said box had two sizeable residents spiders…

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I think they have been living in here a while because the box also contained a couple of shed exoskeletons. I suspect that these are some kind of wolf spider, but I don’t have even a remotely comprehensive guide to British spiders, so really, I’m just guessing.

Later, A had a dance lesson in Milnthorpe. Whilst she was there, the boys and I had a simple straight up and down walk up Haverbrack…

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So, rather unexpectedly, I managed two hills on my birthday, only the modest heights of Castlebarrow and Haverbrack, but it’s a good deal more than I anticipated.

Two Bonus Birthday Hills

Quince, Sparrows, Blackbirds, Sunset

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This cheery Quince is on one of the verges of Cove Road, practically on our doorstep. About a week before I took these photos, I’d previously tried to capture the Sparrows which like to congregate here, but was frustrated by low light. Then, the flowers had been tight buds, like small scarlet berries.

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We have a couple of Quince in our garden, they’ve been there since we moved in, stuck in pots – little more than large buckets really – and ‘trained’ against an east-facing wall. They aren’t very happy and in twelve years have barely grown, producing few flowers and no fruit.

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I think I should stick them into a border. Maybe then I can have a go at making Membrillo to go with the Manchego which the kids like so much.

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A lot of recent walks have been at the end of a sunny day, but when the sun has been dipping behind cloud. By contrast, this one took place on a wet day which had brightened up.

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Blackbirds, female and…

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…male.

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Forsythia.

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This was a couple of days before the Spring Equinox, but nobody had told the woodland plants which exploit the period before the trees come back into leaf; the Ramsons (above), Dog’s Mercury and Cuckoo Pint which carpet the local woods were all in full swing, not waiting for any official starter’s pistol.

I didn’t go very far, just up to the Pepper Pot to look at the bay and the sky…

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…then down through Eaves Wood by a route I don’t often take…

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And along to The Cove to look at the bay and the sky some more.

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Finally across The Lots and home along Spring Bank an appropriately named local street.

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When I turned the corner from the lane into our front garden I almost walked into a Roe Deer buck. I’m not sure which of us was more startled. Earlier, when it had been raining, the boys had been anxious to point out to me the pair of Roe Deer which were foraging at the bottom of our garden. Now there were four deer. They fled into our neighbour’s garden. I followed them as best I could, by walking round into our back garden. I didn’t get any photos of the deer, but I did spot an enormous Bumblebee…

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…which was very industriously exploiting the large patch of these early flowers which I have never been able to identify. I took lots of photos, all of them a bit rubbish, but it was quite dark at this point!

Quince, Sparrows, Blackbirds, Sunset

Slightly Blurred

Clark’s Lot – Hollin’s Lane – Slackwood Lane – Leighton Moss – Trowbarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood

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In like a lion, they say of March, but if I remember right, this had been a very pleasant day, although sadly, a Wednesday spent at work. I had the idea that I would get out and catch some sunshine, but, as you can see from the photo above, by the time I reached Clark’s Lot, only a few minutes from home, the sun was already sinking behind the trees.

Slightly blurred photos of Long-Tailed Tits have become an irregular feature of this blog. Here is another example of the genre…

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Generally, the problem is their propensity to flit about relentlessly, but this was a remarkably relaxed Long-Tailed Tit content to sit still whilst I took three photos. Sadly, the auto-focus trained in perfectly on the branches just in front of the Bumbarrel. Even when the tit moved on, it rested in new positions, allowing me to take more photos, but in high branches, silhouetted against the sky, it came out very dark. It was obviously some kind of Zen Long-Tailed Tit however.

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Down at Leighton Moss the Starlings were gathering for the roost, which isn’t the massive affair of earlier in the winter, but still worth watching.

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On the Sunday before, I’d been out for a walk in unpromising conditions, leaving my camera at home since rain looked so imminent. I hadn’t intended to stay out long, but in the end, had a great walk, on a circular route I don’t think I’ve ever walked before. (Which says a great deal about the wealth of options in this area). At Hawes Water there had been four Cormorants on the trees where I saw one not so long ago. Later it began to rain, but at Leighton Moss I was cheered by an abundance of spring fungi, Scarlet Elf Cup…

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Which was why I wanted to return to Leighton Moss, now that I had my camera with me. Whist I was taking this photo, this Robin…

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…surprised me by practically landing on my shoulder.

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At Trowbarrow there were some climbers still bouldering despite the gathering gloom, and in Eaves Wood, when it was almost dark, I met a couple of dog walkers. I wasn’t the only one thinking that it was good to be out.

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Slightly Blurred

Soft as the Earth

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Sunday afternoon’s walk (after B’s rugby match in Preston and a delicious lunch whipped up  by TBH). It was only going to be a short one: a chance to stretch my legs and grab some lungfuls of fresh air. First I had an errand to run, returning a child’s coat which had been left at our house (which made a nice change from retrieving one of our own children’s lost coats from wherever they have left them), so I walked over to Oak Tree Barn to do that. This is on Bottom’s Lane, near Bottom’s Farm and is really part of Bottom’s Barn, a much better name for comedic purposes, and one which I shall steadfastly use henceforth.

Anyway, continuing to walk from there, I noticed that the sun was setting. There are lots of good places locally from which to watch the sunset: Warton Crag, Jack Scout, Arnside Knott and, closer to home, The Cove all fit the bill. But in a field with Hagg Wood to my west didn’t seem like a great choice of vantage point.

I dithered momentarily about where to go next, but in the end decided to cut across to the Row and hence into Eaves Wood. A gateway in Jubilee Wood gave me another slightly obscured view of what looked to possibly be a stunning sunset…

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I climbed slightly to pass through the Ring o’Beeches. The sky to the South had some lovely deep blues offset with a little pink.

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Also the moon…

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But through the trees I could still glimpse some patches of highly coloured sky and so decided to head up to Castlebarrow. I suspected that I would be too late, and would miss the light show.

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Humphrey Head.

Not quite. The tide was in. The Bay was picking up the pastel yellows and oranges from the sky.

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It was enormously peaceful. It was just a shame I didn’t have the wherewithal to make a brew to sit with and enjoy it.

Instead I decided to extend the walk and head down to The Cove and across The Lots.

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It was getting pretty dark by now and Tawny Owls were hooting on every side. In winter, a spring rises at the base of the low cliff here, but aside from the gentle murmur of the water and the calls of the owls, it was still and quiet.

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Magic.

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And the title? Well, this post could have been ‘An Unexpected Bonus’ but I’ve used that title before. In the previous post, I had intended to quote from Auden’s ‘In Praise of Limestone’. But forgot.

I quite like:

‘soft as the earth is mankind’

But it continues …

‘soft as the earth is mankind and both
Need to be altered.’

Which puts an entirely different slant on it. A bit sinister I thought.

So, I’m going to go for:

‘when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.’

 

 

Soft as the Earth