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

The Peace of Wild Things

Hagg Wood – Silverdale Green – Clark’s Lot – Silverdale Green – Burtonwell Wood – Lambert’s Meadow – Bank Well – The Row – Golf Course – Leighton Moss – Trowbarrow Quarry – Moss Lane – Jubilee Wood – Ring O’Beeches – Eaves Wood 

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Ear Fungus.

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Blackthorn Blossom.

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More Blackthorn Blossom (with photobombing Bee?).

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Gooseberry Flowers.

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New Sycamore Leaves.

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Roadside verge White Violets.

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Emerging Horse Chestnut leaves and flower.

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Ash buds transmute into blackberries.

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Then wacky flowers.

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More Blackthorn.

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Primroses.

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Wood Anemone.

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Marsh Marigold.

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Willow Catkins.

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I liked the colours.

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And the variety.

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And the various stages.

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Obligatory Robin.

In Eaves Wood I thought I could hear Chiff-Chaffs a returning migratory warbler bringing news of spring. However, I’m very suspicious of my own bird identifications, especially when they are based on song only, so I was tempted to dismiss this as a mistake. Tempted that is, until the following morning, when a Chiff-Chaff was singing proudly from the Birch tree right by our kitchen window – incontrovertible evidence that they are back!

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

It’s that time of year again. Lots of evening walks. Lots of photographs of flowers and Robins. And poems. Not e.e.cummings yet. But soon!

The Peace of Wild Things

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

Three is the Magic Number

A Three Walk Day: A wander in Eaves Wood – The Cove and The Lots – Clark’s Lot and the Lots again (with a very excited Little S)

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Another Gatekeeper (they are everywhere now that I know to look out for them).

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Ringlet.

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We’ve had two Roe Deer fawns in our garden quite recently. This buck crossed my path in Eaves Wood. I’m sure that I’ve said this before on the blog, but the golden colour of their summer coat is stunning.

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The Cove.

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Morecambe Bay and Humphrey Head.

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Bettony.

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Bird’s-foot trefoil.

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Lady’s Bedstraw.

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Comma.

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The Comma was photographed in our garden, not on any of the three walks, in an interlude whilst I was cutting the grass.

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Why three walks?

Well, why not?

I was pleasantly surprised when Little S volunteered to join me for the final stroll of the day. He was almost frantic with anticipation for the coming few days.

Why was he so excited?

Because: school was set to finish, we were about to go away to the coast and if that wasn’t enough, his birthday, and his birthday party,  were imminent. He didn’t pause once for breath on that final, late stroll, but chatted incessantly, as he is wont to do. I think if he hadn’t, he might have exploded.

 

 

 

Three is the Magic Number

The Three Amigos Ride Again

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It’s quite a long time since CJ, X-Ray and I have been out for a stroll together. Back in 2010 it seems, although we started a walk together in January 2011, but X-Ray turned back for the comforts of the tea-shop. It was very satisfying then, that the team were back together at the end of last week. Here we are – I’m represented by my rucksack – on the summit of Whitbarrow. We’d parked near Witherslack Hall and took the relatively steep ascent from there.

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Kent Estuary and Arnside Knott from Whitbarrow.

The walk southwards along the plateau is delightfully easy walking and the Kent Estuary and the small hills of home loom larger in the view as the distance closes.

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Field Scabious (I think).

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As we dropped down through the trees towards the village we came across this mystery…

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Something hanging in netting from a tree. Artwork?

We passed through the village of Beck Head and visited the Hikers’ Rest Self Service Cafe which I first came across on a family walk just after Christmas.

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CJ, who wasn’t carrying a rucksack, bought himself a bottle of water. The cafe is well-stocked with reading material. Here X-Ray is reading a randomly selected sentence from The Complete Sherlock Holmes. From that clue, CJ correctly identified the story as The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk. Quite a party trick.

We strung some paths and lanes together, across the Winster valley, to reach the Derby Arms for lunch. The beer was good, the sun continued to shine (rather contrary to the forecast) and the food, particularly the Thai Chicken Broth, was vey palatable.

At that point CJ had to speed back to the cars, needing to make an assignation at Oxenholme Station prior to a planned wild-camp at Sprinkling Tarn, so took the direct route via the road. X-Ray and I took a slightly more circuitous route.

First stop was Latterbarrow, where the wildflowers were stunning (I can’t think why I didn’t take any photos)

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Meadow Browns.

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A pleasant walk through woods brought us to Witherslack Church, also known as Barwick’s Church…

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There’s a little more about this church in this post about my first visit back in 2010 with B.

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We sat in the churchyard for a while and I watched this Red-Tailled Bumblebee’s progress around the flowerbeds.

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One final short, steep climb over Yewbarrow and a steady descent brought us back to the car. We still had one final treat in store however: a fox cub strayed on to the road as we drove back down the valley.

A very fine walk; hopefully our next outing will come around less than six years from now.

The Three Amigos Ride Again

Free Lunch

Across the fields and the golf course to Leighton Moss – Free Lunch – Home via Myer’s Allotment

Silverdale has an annual food fair, a recent innovation, and this year TBH won a voucher there in the raffle, exchangeable for lunch for two in the cafe at the Leighton Moss visitors’ centre. The boys were, indeed are, still at school, but TBH and A had now finished so the three of us wandered over for a bite. When we got there, it was to find that their electricity was off due to some work being done by the suppliers, but the centre has photo-valtaic panels and they seemed to be coping remarkably well. A enjoyed her humus and falafel wrap, despite it being ‘too leafy’ and TBH and I both loved our prawn salad.

TBH couldn’t be induced to venture onto the reserve (and to be fair, we did need to get home for the boys return from school) but the promise of striking Cinnabar Moth caterpillar lured TBH and A to join me in visiting Myer’s Allotment on our return journey. Here they are…

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…enjoying the view from the top of the hill.

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There was plenty to see within the reserve too.

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Rock Rose.

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Harebells.

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Self-heal.

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A lone Common Red Soldier Beetle – must be hunting!

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

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Hoverfly on Ragwort.

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Bumblebee on Ragwort.

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Meadow Brown.

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

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Damselfly.

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Red-tailed Bumblebee.

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Gatekeeper  Butterfly and Common Red Soldier Beetle.

Ardent followers of Beating the Bounds, if such a beast exists, will have seen photographs of Gatekeepers many times before; most, if not all, taken in North Wales, where we camp each summer and where Gatekeepers are extremely common. In fact I associate them with that area, because I’ve always assumed that we don’t get them here. Oops. Wrong again. Mea culpa.

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I almost missed this Gatekeeper too. It was resting low on Ragwort, very still, with its wings folded and very close to the ground. The dark patches are apparently scent scales and are only found on males.

I was studying that particular Ragwort because of its other residents…

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Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.

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There weren’t as many caterpillars evident as there had been on my previous visit, but there were enough to make good on my promise. Not that it mattered particularly; A was very happy photographing butterflies with her iPod. Nice to see that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree!

Free Lunch

Along the Margin of a Bay – to Far Arnside for the Daffodils

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A lot of words and/or worms in recent posts. Less of each of those in this one. Simply put, this was a family Sunday afternoon stroll, with the added company of our friend L at least until her knees were bothering her too much and she turned back, which was a shame because that meant she missed Far Arnside, which is the best place within walking distance for wild daffodils.

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I tend to think of fungi as principally an autumnal delight, but there are plenty of spring fruiting types too and we found quite a few on this short wander.

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Earthballs.

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Arnside Tower

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B has a real genius for finding small creatures. This handsome spider…

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…was inside a hollow plant stem.

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Inkcaps.

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Crepuscular rays over the Bay.

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I wasn’t particularly confident that the daffs would be flowering. But some of them were.

In the caravan park by the woods the zoom on the camera helped to confirm that a tiny bird in a hedge was a goldcrest, the first I’d seen for a while, or at least the first I could be certain of. By coincidence, I’ve seen one again today – I watched it through a window at work for a while.

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Along the Margin of a Bay – to Far Arnside for the Daffodils