Turned Out Nice Again.

P1142334

It rained and it rained and then it rained some more for good measure. Here in the North-Wet we made copious cups of tea and quietly went about the business of evolving webbed feet and gills. It seems in retrospect, that we did very well to grab such a stunning day back before Christmas and even the walk over Whin Rigg and Illgill Head, with it’s unfortunate mud-skating incident, at least stayed much drier than many days have of late.

And then suddenly – some proper winter weather: cold, clear, crisp and frosty. Sadly, I’m still in no fit state to take full advantage – those lucky people who were walking in the Lakes, or North Wales and probably the Dales must have had a grand day. (I’ve seen some photos from the Glyders and a report from the Southern Uplands where the weather was cloudy, but eventually cleared. The Pieman was abroad in the Pennines, and a couple of friends from the village were, separately, walking near Ulswater and tell me that it was very fine, but I haven’t seen anything on t’interweb yet from the Lakes.)

Anyroad up, we didn’t miss out completely. On Saturday the kids went to Dalton Zoo with their grandparents. I had work to do, but in the afternoon TBH and I drove up to Bowness where we had a short stroll along the lake shore and then went for afternoon tea at the home of the world’s most expensive pudding (which amazingly, at £22,000, has now sold). The afternoon tea is a bit cheaper than that.

Sunday morning was clear and frosty again and I tried, in vain, to tempt the ankle-biters to come out to witness the sunrise.

Moon

Maybe they knew more than they were letting on. The moon was clear and bright in the western sky, but without climbing to a vantage point, which I didn’t want to do because of my ankle, I could see that the sun had risen, but couldn’t actually see the sun!

P1152344

I know…a little more patience was required.

Still, I like to get out whilst everything is coated in frost…

P1152337 P1152341

Later we were in Arnside. The boys and I had a walk along the promenade…

Arnside viaduct P1151101

Ammendment: of course there was a blogger out in the Lakes.

And – a back-packing trip from Snowdonia with stunning views and cute ponies to boot.

Advertisements
Turned Out Nice Again.

The Holly and the Ivy

The holiday season has been and gone, the decorations are safely stowed away for next year and I’m back at work. Somehow I’ve managed to let the blog slip again – not that I have a lot of walking to report upon. We did stroll for lunch at the Wolfhouse Gallery a couple of times, and of course there were walks in Eaves Wood.

I haven’t seen the mobs of waxwings which have apparently been marching up and down Stankelt Road bearing banners and placards with slogans like ‘We’re over here chump, how can you miss us?’, but there were redwings and fieldfares in Eaves Wood, and after last winter’s cold-snap I’m much more aware of what I’m looking for when there are mixed thrush flocks about.

I also managed to get a photo (of sorts) of one of the pee-wits in Potter’s field:

 

Before the thaw arrived and left everything sodden, we had some very fine days and an impressive build up of frost.

Frost ‘flowers’ on the ivy.

Probably appropriate to follow with…

I made it down to the Cove once too, where the frost picked out the trees beautifully.

From Cove Road.

Here is the crew after the candle-lit service on Christmas Eve:

 

A belated Happy New Year to all who drop by.

The Holly and the Ivy

Cock Robin and Balancing for Pleasure

I’m beginning to wonder whether perhaps I should write my posts, forget them for a couple of days and then edit them before posting. The problem is that I’m usually at least a couple of days behind as it is, but at least I might be less inclined to inexplicably omit details that seemed interesting at the time.

For instance, the heron that we watched on New Year’s Day that was behaving quite strangely for a heron. It was beside the stream that flows into the Kent at New Barns, cutting a deep channel in the mud as it does so. Because of the depth of that channel the heron was well hidden from the group of walkers which were on the bank, seemingly very close by. It’s pose suggested that it was hunkered down beside the bank, sheltering from the biting cold. It was occasionally craning it’s neck in a kind of ‘up periscope’ manoeuvre to peek at the walkers, but it didn’t do what I would expect a heron to do with walkers close by and fly away.

Much less timid than herons are robins which can be positively brazen in their self confidence.

This one was by the entrance to the cafe at New Barns, which on New Year’s day was closed.

When we finished our walk the tide was rolling in up the estuary, bringing lots of the ice from the sands back in with it. The icy wasn’t floating, but bobbed, rolled, sank, popped up again edge on – moved with the currents.

Another suggestion for Idle Pleasures Two….

Balancing on Things – free, fun and environmentally sound.

Arnside Knot from the Kent estuary.

Cock Robin and Balancing for Pleasure

New Barns on New Year’s Day

I don’t generally make new year’s resolutions, although I know that I ought to take a leaf out of Walkloss‘s book (or a post from her blog?) and make some kind of commitment to tackle my ‘wobbly bits’ . Another blog that I’m just catching up with – A natural history of Runswick Bay seems to be about one man’s deep engagement with the environment on his doorstep. Now…why does that sound familiar?

In a similar vein, I’ve been reading About Scout Scar by Jan Wiltshire and as a result I’m now itching to go back there to see whether I can find the fieldfares and redstarts, the scarlet elf cup and the autumn gentians that she has clearly regularly seen there (but which have passed me by on my visits). It’s as if she has mastered the jizz not just of the individual species but of the entire landscape.

As I say, I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but this last week an idea has germinated which might give me a new year plan…or a blog project. For many years I have harboured a vague ambition to follow the river Kent from sea to source. It’s a very short river – a couple of days would easily suffice. How satisfying to begin on a Saturday morning on the tidal mud of the estuary and to finish on the Sunday afternoon high above Kentmere on the slopes of High Street. But the fact is, on the odd occasion that I have a weekend all to myself, I shall be heading straight to the hills with old friends and not exploring the banks of the Kent.

So I have decided to try to tackle the Kent piecemeal. A series of walks, progressing up stream, probably circular, taking in a section of river bank and hopefully a nearby hill or view point. Once the requirement to fit the whole thing in to a weekend has gone, all sorts of possibilities open up. Both sides of the river could be explored. When the Kent is done, there would be the tributaries to consider, the Sprint, Mint, Gilpin, Bela, and Pool. After all the idea that a river has a single source is a ridiculous contrivance. In fact, there are very few stretches of the Kent which I have not walked beside or near to at some time over the years – this way I should also break some new ground.

With that end in mind, we began the new year by driving the short distance to New Barns near Arnside for our first family stroll of 2009. Yesterday was foggy and bitterly cold, with some flurries of snow. With the blue sky and winter sunshine returned, we could see as we approached Arnside, that the fog had left its mark: the woods on Arnside Knot were white with hoarfrost.

My plan had been to climb from New Barns up to Heathwaite, to follow the permission path from there down to White Creek and thus to start our perusal of the Kent by turning the corner from Morecambe Bay and walking the lower tidal reaches of the river. However, when we arrived at New Barns, the tide was out, and it seemed more sensible to do the route in reverse and enjoy walking on the mud and sand whilst we could.

There was ice everywhere, and A and B had soon discovered that the mud was unusually firm, although in places it still gave way and started sucking greedily at our boots.

We had a fabulous day here back in April and today was equally enjoyable, if a lot colder. There was ice everywhere. The retreating tide had left it in large sheets, isolated blocks like tiny icebergs and sinuous curves…

…which were great to follow.

There were ripple patterns of ice and sand…

…tiny rose ice sculptures..

…hoar frost on driftwood…

…and sea weed.

One bank of a stream was sheeted with ice…

…which on closer inspection was composed of long needles and delicate layered wafers of ice…

In some smaller hollows in the sand, ice had formed in some surprising ways, following the contours of the hollow for instance rather than freezing as a flat sheet, or freezing into discrete spikes…

And it wasn’t just the idiot with the camera who was enthused by the ice. The kids were finding that they could slide on it, stamp on it…

…chuck it around.

And after we discovered some icicles on the cliffs…

…they gleefully decided to feast on it.

“Suck this Dad, it’s delicious.”

B was all for collecting some to take home to store in the fridge.

This is an area that I always love to visit. There’s a great feeling of space and freedom here, and a wildness on the fringes of the wet Sahara of Morecambe Bay.

White Creek

In the end, we spent so much time playing with the ice that we decided to take a shortcut back to the car through the caravan park at White Creek. Heathwaite shall have to wait for another day. And although we walked ‘the wrong way’, downstream, this seems like an auspicious beginning to my modest project. One advantage of taking in both sides of the river will be the excuse to explore Meathop Fell…

…on the north side of the estuary, which I am only really acquainted with from afar.

In all, a good first step.

New Barns on New Year’s Day

Self Similarity

Yet More Sunday – Walk the Second

Having very briefly returned home and dropped off A and B and their mum to make their way to church, S and I embarked on another modest loop to celebrate creation in our own peculiar way.

In the spring I whiled away several strolls hunting for rooks. Then two pairs came and nested in an oak tree visible from the house. Hardly the huge gathering expected of a rookery, but a start. Now they seem to be back, four birds roosting in the same tree.

Walking along the perimeter of Hagg Wood, in reality just a small copse, I was attracted to the frost trimmed margins of these ivy leaves…

…and another example of the as yet unidentified fern that I spotted recently in Pointer Wood…

These specimens had brown nodules on the undersides of the leaves, presumably spore producing bodies like those on hart’s tongue fern?

As ever my companion was fascinated by the wonders of the natural world, and expressed his delight in his usual inimitable fashion…

Which meant that he missed what would undoubtedly have been the highlights of the walk for him…

…this jacketed pony and his diminutive Shetland Pony companions…

…and these Long-Faced Leicester sheep, which for some reason decided to follow us around Pointer Wood. Perhaps they recognised a kindred spirit exiled from the east midland home of fox-hunting, ‘mild’ beer and “ay up me duck” greetings. Or perhaps they thought that I might feed them.

Despite the indifference of S, I was still convinced that the frost made just about any subject worth photographing, not matter how banal…

Another sharp frost again this weekend and I shall no doubt take lots more pictures like this one…

…and this one…

…I liked the way that the darkness of the leaf contrasted with the frosted emphasis of the skeletal framework.

I did find some variations on favourite themes though. This dew spattered oak leave had been frozen into something new…

…and the dew-drops on the twigs, which had been frozen on Saturday, now had an additional opaque layer of ice crystals…

Fungi are another staple motif of my walks and my blog…

I hope that I can get away with one final photo of frosted leaves…

…if only as an excuse to remark that the structure of the central leaf mirrors that of a tree itself, a self-similarity on an entirely different level than my unrelenting repetition of the same few walks and the same few images. Which, in my mind at least, brings me back to where I started: celebrating creation in my own peculiar way.

Walk the Third

After lunch the whole family were out again, this time in the company of Dr R and her daughters. Our walk took us past the crooked tree which sparked The Crooked Tree Competition with Ron at Walking Fort Bragg. It looks different again now that its branches are bare…

What I have never noticed before, and I’ve walked past this tree countless times, is the tree watching me…

 

The Owl-Tree Competition starts here!

Martin and Sue spotted a watchful tree on their visit to the area, but that tree looked much less benign.

After an unscheduled loo stop at a friend’s house on The Row, our walk took us past Dog Well and Bank Well and then across the golf course to Leighton Moss. We warmed up in the cafe there, but didn’t have time to watch the mass starling roost before setting off for home in near darkness.

Two bright ‘stars’ appeared early in the southern sky. I would have assumed that one of them was Venus, but been stuck with the other, but Dr R tells me that it was probably Jupiter. I was absorbed for the remainder of the walk trying to picture the relative positions of the Sun and the planets if Venus and Jupiter could appear in the same part of our sky.

Self Similarity

Ice Needles and Crunchy Puddles

More Sunday

Making the most of the clear frosty conditions I managed to squeeze in three short ambles on Sunday. Traced out on a map I suspect that the routes, looping and intersecting, might look like the beginnings of a rather drunken spider’s web.

Walk the First

After our exploration in the garden, the whole family set off for a jaunt through the village and across the Lots to the Cove. It was fascinating to see how the frost transformed everything. I took several pictures of leaves, their details picked out in a frost x-ray:

Sadly, no photograph can convey the deeply satisfying noise we made kicking through the leaf-litter made even crisper by its icy coating. Nor the sonorous scrunch of each footfall on the frozen earth and ice sleeved grass.

Our shadows were long…

…the novelty of every surface coated in ice needles like iron-filings clinging to the pole of a magnet was wonderful…

…the air was clear and the views were outstanding…

(Regular readers will recognise this view as one that I photograph frequently. I hope that you aren’t bored of it yet, because I’m certainly not)

On the far edge of the tidal pool three cormorants stood beating their out-stretched wings – perhaps trying to circulate some blood as well as dry their wings. Three widgeon sat in the shallow margins of the water with their heads tucked back between their wings, dealing with the cold in their own way. The cormorants objected to my attempts to edge across the icy mud in order to get a decent photo and flew off, but they were almost immediately replaced by two others which began to dive, disappearing into the water for surprisingly long fishing trips. Further out, oyster-catchers and curlew probed the mud with their curved beaks.

On our way back through the village we found lots of puddles with a crust of ice to walk, slide and stamp on.

Before we crashed through it in our wellies, the ice was patterned with surface tension chevrons:

Ice Needles and Crunchy Puddles

Hoar Frost Candy Coating

Sunday

On Sunday morning, the world which had been lost in the fog, emerged new-minted and white, sun warmed and hoar frost candy coated. The kids were very excited and could hardly wait to get outside. I felt just the same way. We hastily donned all of our warm winter layers and in the first instance, explored our garden. Whilst the kids were smashing the ice on puddles I was snapping away with my camera.

Every surface was furred with ice crystals. All of the plants highlighted with a white wash.

But the kids pointed out that it was the spiders’ webs which were most dramatically transformed….

Hoar Frost Candy Coating