Whitbarrow with JS.

Mill Side – Whitbarrow Scar – Fell Edge – Cowmire Hall – St. Anthony’s Cartmel Fell – Pool Bank – Park Wood – Witherslack Hall – Beck Head – Mill Side.

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This is my friend JS, stood by the summit cairn on Whitbarrow Scar. He’s appeared on the blog a few times before, most recently two years ago, when B and I joined him for an ascent of Haystacks, the last top in his round of the Wainwrights. Thinking about it now, he has to be my oldest friend, I can’t think of anyone else who I’ve kept in touch with since we were knee-high to a grasshopper and started school together.

JS was back in the Lakes for a week’s holiday and, since another parent had kindly offered to pick up B from his rugby camp, I was able to join him for a walk. He was keen to try something new and, after a long drive the day before, wanted something relatively straightforward to ease him into the holiday. A walk on Whitbarrow and through the wonderful Winster valley seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

The weather was a bit mixed, even when I took this photo…

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Fell Edge, looking across the Winster Valley to Cartmell Fell.

…with a bit of blue sky in it, it was actually still raining on us. This was after, rather embarrassingly, we’d wandered around on the plateau looking for one or other of the descent routes, my ‘local knowledge’ proving to be a bit less impressive than I had hoped.

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Cowmire Hall, a late Sixteenth Century Tower House. Yet another of the Winster valley’s listed buildings.

I didn’t take many photos, partly, perhaps, because of the weather, but mainly because I was much too busy catching up with JS. We talked about family, finance, mutual friends, board games, introversion – and the book on that subject ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain which JS had read and was very eloquently recommending – wild-camping, our respective ailments, walking, facebook and it’s pros and cons, the tremendous fungi we kept spotting and almost certainly a whole host of other things, whilst also, no doubt, revisiting some shared memories of days long past.

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I didn’t even take any photos of St. Anthony’s Church, where we huddled in the porch for a late lunch. (You can see pictures from a visit this spring here.)

I’m happy to report, after the gloomy news from my last visit, that ‘The Hiker’s Rest’ self-service cafe near Beck Head is once again open for business. I had my stove with me, but was very happy to stop for a comfortable brew. Even more so when we discovered that the previous entry in the visitor’s book was by members of Fleckney Walking Club, Fleckney being a village almost two hundred miles from Beck Head, but only a couple down the road from Kibworth where JS and I grew up.

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Whitbarrow with JS.

All Good Things

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All good things must come to an end, or so they say. And so: to the last weekend of our holiday. Actually, these photos were all taken on the Friday. The Saturday was rather damp. I still got out for a walk and took lots of photos of a hugely varied selection of fungi, but I must have only had my phone with me and the photos are all hopelessly blurred. On the Sunday, I was out so late that the few photos I took were almost completely dark, but for a thin line of light along the western horizon.

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Red Admiral.

On the Friday then, I was out in the garden, drawn out by the butterflies on the Buddleia. A subsequent walk took me past this old postbox on Cove Road…

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To The Cove itself…

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And thence onto The Lots where I hoped to find…

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Autumn Lady’s-tresses flowering.

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These are tiny plants, extremely easy to miss, but once you’ve spotted a couple your eye seems to tune in, and pretty soon you’re realising that there are loads dotted about. In ‘Wild Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland’ David Lang says that Autumn Lady’s-tresses are mainly distributed in the southern half of England, so we must be lucky to have them on The Lots and at Jack Scout.

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The Latin name is Spiranthes spiralis, the second part of which presumably refers to the way that the flowers spiral around the stem.

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Carline Thistle.

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Maybe not the most promising flower – a brown thistle, but I’m very fond of them.

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As you can probably tell.

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Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly.

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An Inman Oak.

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Rosehips.

Back in the garden, the seedheads on the Staghorn Sumach caught my eye…

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Apparently this can be used as a seasoning, and something similar is used in the Middle East – I haven’t plucked up the courage to try it yet.

Earlier in the summer we’d seen a lactating Roe Deer hind on our patio and I wondered if she had hidden a fawn, or fawns, nearby.

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Then we had a few visits from a hind, possibly the same one, with two fawns in tow. That’s the hind at the top of the post.

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The fawns’ white spots were beginning to disappear, but were still visible.

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They came right up under the kitchen windows. I was particularly pleased to catch the mother whilst she was in the sun, because that way you can see the wonderful colour of their summer coats.

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They’ve been back since, or at least a similar family have, but now have duller, winter fur and the fawns have completely lost their spots.

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I took this photo, as I often do, to remind me to go to the advertised talk. Which, a couple of weeks later, I duly did. Very good it was too.

I’ve seen Brian Yorke talk before. He’s very knowledgable and funny to boot. Unless you live locally, you might not have the chance to to catch up with one of his talks on flowers or ferns or bird migration, but he does have an excellent website where you can keep up with his latest finds and quirky drawings.

Anyway, back to the Friday: in the evening, we met with some friends for a beach bonfire, a chinwag and a few convivial drinks…

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I think that it was our good friend G who suggested the event.

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I hope it becomes a regular thing.

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B seemed to enjoy hunting for driftwood logs to sit on and/or burn.

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Sitting around a fire on a beach inevitably has me thinking back nostalgically to happy weekends on the Welsh coast a long time ago, with a different group of friends.

Finally, one last image of a Roe Deer, this time one of the young ones, as it passed through a sunny spot beneath our kitchen window…

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All Good Things

Terracotta Warriors.

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A few less photos in this post compared to the last (mammoth) one. Not that there wasn’t just as much of interest to see at the World Museum in Liverpool, in particular in their Terracotta Warriors exhibition, but it was quite dark in the exhibition, and extremely busy, so I didn’t take many photos and of those I took most are quite blurred.

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The exhibition, which covered a substantial period of Chinese history and several generations of royal tomb burials, was absolutely fascinating. I was particularly struck by this huge bronze bowl, which weighs 212kg and was buried on top of a pit filled with terracotta strongmen and acrobats – apparently the bowl would have been lifted by strongmen as part of a performance.

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We’ve been to the World Museum before, in fact this was Little S’s fourth visit, since we recommended the Egyptology section of the museum to the local primary school. On this occasion, we were joined by family fried X-Ray who’d expressed an interest in seeing the exhibition way back at the start of the year when we booked the tickets. The World Museum is always a great place to visit and we did the full tour again, including a planetarium show. We were hoping to have time to visit Liverpool’s Central Library again too, and/or the Walker Art Museum, but didn’t, partly due to the all too familiar incompetence of Northern Rail (I’ll spare you the details).

 

Terracotta Warriors.

A Final Wander Along the Tarn

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The title just about says it all, really.

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Right at the end of our trip, we decided to have a little stroll upstream, along, and mostly in, the River Tarn.

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There’s a small village just beyond the campsite, on the opposite side of the river from the road, which we wanted to take a peek at. It’s supplied by means of a cable stretched across from the road and we were intrigued.

On the way back to the campsite, those of our kids who had accompanied us, along with TBF, decided to swim, but soon discovered that the water was mostly too shallow….

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One of the great pleasures of our trip to France for me was the exotic flora and fauna we got to see, but on this occasion I was equally excited to spot a pair of Dippers…

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In my mind at least, these birds are closely associated with the rivers and streams of the North and so seem like old friends from home, and I was delighted to see them.

In equal measure, it was a shame that our time spent holidaying with old friends was coming to an end. It had been a fantastic trip.

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On final thought about the Tarn: it rises in the Cévennes, not too far from where we were camped, and runs through a limestone gorge and yet the pebbles on the river bed were in every conceivable hue and texture of rock imaginable. I was reminded of the diversity I marvelled at on shingle beach on a Baltic shore, when we visited years ago.

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So: if the Cévennes are limestone hills, where do all of these other, patently not limestone, pebbles originate?

A Final Wander Along the Tarn

La Grotte de Dargilan

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The purpose of our journey to the Jonte valley was to visit a show cave, la Grotte de Dargilan. Both the Dordogne and the Cévennes, being limestone regions, are dotted with caves, including many show caves. In fact, we’d driven almost directly past another show cave to get to this one, having decided that, from the leaflets we’d seen, this one looked the better bet. We lunched on a sunny terrace with a great view of the gorge and then joined our group to pass through an unprepossessing doorway in the hillside.

The cave was discovered, I think, by someone following a fox. Similar stories are told about Victoria Cave in the Dales and the famous Lascaux cave in the Dordogne. The huntsman will certainly have had a surprise when they found themselves in a vast cavern, stuffed full of amazing stalagmites, stalactites and flowstone features.

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As a boy, family visits to show caves in the Peak District were a favourite treat of mine. I’ve since done a little bit of caving and have also visited most, I think, of the show caves in the Dales, but I’ve never seen anything half as spectacular as this.

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There was so much to see that features which might have been considered highlights elsewhere were passed without comment by the guide.

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I took no end of photos, but, in the strongly contrasting light, the results were a bit hit and miss. I’m glad to have the mementoes, however.

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The huge scale, variety and sheer number of features was breath-taking.

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The tour took over an hour, and in truth I would have appreciated a little longer to take it all in.

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Mostly the tour guide spoke only in French and we were happy to ignore him and just look about us, but at one point he switched to English to explain that we would now be descending to ‘the best part’ of the cave. I was a bit sceptical about the claim that things could be any more impressive.

But he was absolutely right.

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We came to a long, high and relatively narrow passage where one wall was completely covered in tiers and tiers of flowstone.

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It was huge.

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And absolutely astonishing.

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Dargilan is known, apparently, for it’s coloured limestones. Minerals in the flowstone have dyed the rock in a variety of pinks, corals, yellows, white and cream. Here…

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…the dividing line between two different colours was amazingly sharp.

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The cave had one final surprise, a column, 17 metres tall I think, again covered with intricate flowstone features…

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I think most of the party enjoyed it immensely. B claimed to be underwhelmed:

“It’s just rocks though, isn’t it?”

But he’s a wind-up merchant and you have to take the things he says with a pinch of salt.

La Grotte de Dargilan

Sainte-Enimie

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This, I hope, is Sainte-Enimie*, a small village upriver from our campsite which we drove to in an absolute downpour. (*I’m relying on Andy to correct me if I’m wrong.)

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It was a fetching little place, very charming, and I took lots of photographs, which, in the gloomy conditions, was probably a little optimistic on my part.

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When we returned to the campsite, it was to find that, if anything, the weather had been even worse there, with hail as well as rain, and that the cloudburst had left everything liberally spattered with mud, and our event shelter looking like a fully-furnished paddling pool. A few days later, when we were leaving for the long haul home, this area of France had terrible floods, so I suppose we were lucky really.

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Sainte-Enimie

Cirque des Baumes.

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Whilst we were camping in the Tarn Gorge, I’d mooted the idea of a walk from the rim of the gorge back down to the campsite, hopefully, by walking downhill, mitigating the worst effects of the heat; but when most of our party completed a walk, TBH and I had driven B to the hospital in the town of Millau instead, to get a painful ear checked out. (He’s okay now, although the problems continued for quite some time after our holiday ended.) That trip was not without it’s own interest – when we drove out of the town, onto the hillside above, we saw a great host of circling Red Kites – but I was extremely disappointed to have missed out on the walk, and so was very pleased when TBH and J agreed to an early morning foray, in J’s case for a second time.

We parked at Point Sublime, with fine views into a misty gorge.

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There were plenty of distractions on hand too, with both butterflies and Wall Lizards about to keep me and my camera occupied.

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Wall Brown.

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I think that this is a Silver-washed Fritillary, you can perhaps see why its called that in the photo below.

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Five-spot Burnet Moth.

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We passed no end of these silken tents, apparently constructed by the caterpillars of the Pine Processionary Moth.

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Another Blue-winged Grasshopper. I think.

The path was steep and narrow, but well worth the effort as it descended past a series of huge rock towers and cliffs.

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J, you will notice, is wearing a shocking pink hat. She has pink Crocs too. Her children are appalled by both, which is, of course, entirely the point. She is making up for the sobriety of her youth. I’m sure she completely sympathises with Jenny Joseph’s poem ‘Warning’ which begins…

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”

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Wall Lizard.

I thought I saw a bird of prey alight on top of a distant tower and the amazing zoom on my camera helped to confirm that fact.

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It was exhilarating to watch the raptor soaring above the hillside, in and out between the karst features, eventually landing not too far above us…

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I have quite a few photos of the bird in flight, none, sadly, very sharp, but I think they show enough detail to suggest that it was a Rough-legged Buzzard, not something that I’ve seen before.

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Wall Lizard.

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Karst scenery.

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This was a terrific walk for butterfly spotting and on this steep hillside section there were a great deal of quite dark butterflies flitting through the trees. They were hard to catch in repose and generally, I think, belonged to species not found in Britain. Frankly, I’m not sure what this is; continental Europe seems to have numerous types of Grayling – I wonder whether this is one of those?

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It was J’s turn to pick out a large bird on a distant rock tower – this time on the one seen ahead in the photo above.

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A Griffon Vulture; soon joined by a companion….

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They didn’t seem to be very busy and I continued to take occasional photos as we descended past the tower.

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A Dusky Heath?

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Another Grayling of some description?

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Looking back up into the Cirque des Baumes.

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Striped Shield Bug – less prevalent , it seemed, than in the Dordogne, but still around.

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The Dryad? Love the eye-spot.

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This small butterfly led me a merry dance and I only managed to photograph it from some considerable distance. Could it be a Glanville Fritillary?

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Having reached the bottom of the valley, we climbed a little way back up to a point under the cliffs…

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Wall Lizard.

Where there was a tiny chapel…

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La Chapelle Saint-Hillaire.

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Sadly, the chapel was locked, but I managed to get an image of the interior through a small hole in the door…

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One final look back up into Cirque des Baumes.

We were down in the valley now and walking along the road, which for me was saved by the butterflies and flowers along the roadside. We passed a garden where a Buddleia was festooned with butterflies and moths, particularly fritillaries which I took to be more Silver-washed.

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Clouded Yellow.

When we were almost back at the campsite we paused by the ‘Mushroom Rock’ to take in the view and wave to friends and family below, then J and TBH rushed ahead to get out of the full glare of the sun and to get a cool drink, but I was distracted again by more butterflies and moths…

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This is a new species to me, a Jersey Tiger Moth, there had been several on the Buddleia earlier, but they were a bit too far away to be photographed very successfully. Unfortunately, you can’t see the stunning red underwings in this photo.

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When I took this shot of another Five-spot Burnet Moth I didn’t even see the two rather striking shield bugs nearby. I wish I had; the purple one in particular looks like it was stunningly patterned.

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Small Skipper.

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Perhaps not surprisingly, this striking insect is not in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’. It will have remain a mystery.

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The underside of a Jersey Tiger Moth.

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Small Skipper and Silver-washed Fritillary.

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Jersey Tiger Moth.

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When we’d been kayaking on the Tarn and had pulled our boats onto a shingle beach to jump into the river and swim, a Scarce Swallowtail landed on the end of one of the kayaks. I managed to get very close to it with my phone, but none of my photos came out well. I was really pleased, then, to get another chance for some photos.

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Large Skipper.

Only a mornings stroll, but the views and the wildlife will stick with me for a long time I suspect.

Cirque des Baumes.