How Do I Get Down?

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We were at Fellfoot park with a bunch of friends from the village, for the annual church picnic. To us the park has become Fell-ten-foot Park because of Little S’s unfortunate experience here: our family has track record with tree-climbing accidents. I spotted A high in the tree and decided to take a photo. She managed a smile, as you can see, but was hissing at me, not wanting to attract the attention of our friends, but wanting a private word with me:

“I don’t think I can get down.”

After taking this ideal opportunity to lecture a captive audience on the inadvisability of climbing anything you aren’t absolutely sure you can definitely climb back down, I relented and helped her find the good footholds on the knobbly trunk which she was having difficulty picking out from above.

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The weather was very changeable and would eventually have us abandoning our idea of a barbecue in the park. However, this didn’t deter The Tower Captain from taking his Mirror Dinghy for a row…

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…or the boys and their friend E from swimming to the far bank. This was some feat, because, after rain, this bottom end of Windermere has quite a strong current.

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A and I also took one of our inflatable canoes out, which she described as ‘extremely relaxing’; presumably much more enjoyable than being stuck up a tree.

I chatted to a National Trust volunteer about photographs of camping pods which were on display and she told me that the plan is for the Park to become a campsite, or perhaps, in part a campsite. Apparently it has been one in the past. The Trust’s campsite at Low Wray, at the far end of the lake, was fully booked for the entirety of August when I tried to make a booking, so more capacity for camping on the lake shore seems like a sensible plan.

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How Do I Get Down?

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll

Skelwith Bridge – Skelwith Force – Elter Water – Elterwater – Little Langdale – Slater Bridge – Stang End – High Park – Colwith Force – Skelwith Bridge.

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The Langdale Pikes seen across Elter Water. 

How appropriate, after a post about favourite walks, that in my next bit of catching up from the summer hols, I’m recounting a walk which, in slight variations, I’ve walked many times, in all seasons, in all weathers, alone on occasions but often with big groups of friends and which definitely qualifies at least as one of my favourites, particularly for when time is short, or the forecast is a bit iffy.

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Skelwith Force.

A dodgy forecast was partly responsible for us choosing this route. We were going out with our friends Beaver B and G and their family again; the original plan had been to get the boats out on one of the lakes, but with showers, possibly prolonged, expected, we decided that a low level walk was a better option. We’d actually run through a number of alternatives the night before and it was eventually G who suggested something in this area.

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Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle (Leptura quadrifasciata).

This was spotted by Little B pretty much at the top of the track between Langdale and Little Langdale and it led us both a merry dance as we tried to photograph it in damp and gloomy conditions. It’s led me on another merry dance as I’ve tried to identify it – I was struck by it’s superficial resemblance to the Sexton beetle which I photographed recently, which wasn’t helpful because this is not even a closely related species.

We’d had drizzle, then a bright spell as we lunched by Elter Water, then rain as we climbed up and over into Little Langdale. Now it began to brighten up.

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Little Langdale Tarn.

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Slater Bridge.

Over Slater’s bridge and heading along Little Langdale we paused a while to watch cyclists riding their bikes through a ford on the infant River Brathay and then, a little further along, spotted a Roe deer down by the stream.

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Little Langdale. Blake Rigg on Pike O’Blisco and Busk Pike on Lingmoor behind.

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Stang End.

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The barn at Stang End with it’s impressive tiers of stacked fire wood.

Our perseverance through the rain was paying off now with some beautiful warm, sunny weather. The garden at Stang End was busy with Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies sunning themselves.

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High Park.

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Colwith Force.

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Peacock butterfly.

We interrupted this large beetle, here already scuttling for cover, as it was preying on the earthworm seen in the top left of the picture.

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Here is the predator after I’d fetched him (or her) out of hiding…

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I’m reasonably sure that this is a Violet Ground Beetle, Carabus violaceus, although there are several very similar species of large, black beetles which also have that violet tint.

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I haven’t featured a Robin in the blog for an unusually long time. This one looks a bit tatty,  but juvenile Robins have speckled feathers, which are moulted at around two to three months, so could this be a juvenile, born in May or June, which has almost changed into adult plumage?

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Almost back, crossing the footbridge near Skelwith Bridge.

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We were quite late finishing, having not set-off particularly early, and had wondered whether the promised tea and cake at Chesters By The River would be thwarted, but the new take-away section (well, new since I was last there) was still serving, so a mutiny by the kids was averted. I had the beluga lentil dish, seen near the front of the counter above, as an alternative to cake, and very nice it was too. Chesters, both cafe and shop, had been very busy when we had passed earlier and their success seems well deserved. If only they would reinstate the missing apostrophe in their name, I could thoroughly recommend a visit.

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll

Gait Barrows Again

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Female Common Darter.

A very pleasant wander around Gait Barrows which happened almost a month ago now – how the summer has flown by! It was memorable for the large number of dragonflies I saw – although very few would pose for photos – and, rather sadly, for the dead Fox cub I came across.

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Male Migrant Hawker.

As I manoeuvred to find a good position from which take the photograph above, I almost trod on this large Frog…

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Bumblebee on Betony.

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Speckled Wood.

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The ‘mystery plant’ – flowers still not open, but showing more colour – I need to go back to check on their progress.

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Broad-leaved Helleborine.

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Hoverflies on Hemp Agrimony.

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Robin’s Pincushion Gall.

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Wall-rue (I think), a fern.

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Knapweed and St. John’s Wort.

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Grasshoppers have often been evident from their singing on local walks, but I haven’t always seen them, or my photos haven’t come out well when I have.

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Although this doesn’t have the distinctive shieldbug shape, I think that this is a fourth instar of the Common Green Shieldbug – an instar being one of the developmental stages of a nymph. This website is very helpful.

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Hoverfly.

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On a previous walk I’d been thinking that Hemp Agrimony, which is very common at Gait Barrows, was a disappointing plant in as much as it’s large flower-heads didn’t seem to be attracting much insect life, but that seems to have been a false impression, because on this occasion quite the opposite was true.

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Buff Footman (I think), a moth.

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Another Common Green Shieldbug nymph – perhaps the final instar.

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The verges of one particular overgrown hedgerow at Gait Barrows are always busy with Rabbits, which usually scatter as I approach, but two of them played chicken with me – not really seeming very concerned and only hopping on a little each time I got closer.

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Time was marching on and I was keen to head for home, but I diverted slightly up the track towards Trowbarrow because I knew that I would find more Broad-leaved Helleborines there. These were much taller and more vigorous than the single plant I had seen earlier.

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Curiously, there was a wasp feeding on the flowers, as there had been on the first one I saw. I noticed earlier this year that wasps seem to like Figwort, perhaps the same is true Helleborines.

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Figwort and Helleborine both have small, tubular flowers – it may be the case that wasps are well adapted to take advantage of this particular niche – different insects definitely favour different kinds of flowers.

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Gait Barrows Again

Tarn Sike and a Round of Sunbiggin Tarn

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Tarn Sike is both a stream and a nature reserve. The nature reserve, owned by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, is open to the public, but you’d have to know that it is there, because it’s about 300 yards from the road, and there’s no indication on the ground until you reach the entrance.

The stream is another tributary of the Lune, rising as Rayseat Sike and flowing through Cow Dub and this little tarn…

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…unnamed on the OS map, before continuing as Tarn Sike. On the map it disappears intermittently, presumably going underground, before joining Rais Beck which flows into the Lune. I assume that the water from Sunbiggin Tarn must also come this way although the map doesn’t seem to show any outflow stream.

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Meadow Pipit.

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The reserve is a (very) wet meadow containing distinctly different habitats. In some places tall, lush vegetation predominates.

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Meadowsweet.

I noticed that a lot of the Meadowsweet was infected with a grey rust, or what I assume is a rust, and when I paused to take a closer look, I saw this tiny insect…

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I think that this is a Common Froghopper, a ‘spectacularly variable species, with many dramatically different colour forms’ (Source). Froghoppers are also the species which produce Cuckoospit, a protective froth which the nymph lives inside. Coincidentally, I found another Froghopper a few days after this walk on the keyboard of a laptop at work and I can attest to their athletic prowess – they can really jump!

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Marsh Cinquefoil seed-heads?

In amongst the tall plants, often almost hidden, there were numerous…

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…Northern Marsh Orchids. Many were slightly browned and looked like they might be ‘going over’, but my Orchid book suggests that they flower from mid-June right through July.

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A yellow daisy – possibly Rough Hawkbit.

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Marsh Lousewort – present in huge numbers where the taller plants weren’t so dominant.

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Bird’s-eye Primrose.

There are also several areas with much less verdant growth, apparently ‘Limestone flushes’. Here there were lots of…

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….Fragrant Orchids. I’ve not seen these before, but have discovered that they can be found much closer to home, so shall be on the look out for them. I’ve read that they smell of carnations, but I can’t say that I noticed that. Hopefully, I’ll have another chance to sample that scent sometime soon.

This…

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…was the first of several similar tiny, delicate structures I saw. I think that you can just about make out a couple of spider legs inside, suggesting that the architect is lurking within. It seems to have woven a stem of Quaking Grass into it’s web. There were also long strands of gossamer acting like guy-ropes, bending the grass stem over and anchoring the structure to the ground below. I would be fascinated to know more precisely what this is, if anyone has any idea?

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As I left the reserve, the sun came out. I was thinking that it was a shame that I hadn’t seen any butterflies yet, when…

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Green-veined White?

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A pair of Small Heath.

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A Chimney Sweeper moth.

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Early Bumblebee.

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Ringlet.

Ringlets, in particular, were suddenly legion, fluttering up from under my feet at almost every step.

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A rush or sedge? I can’t find anything in my guides which looks this much like a blackberry.

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Red Admirals seem to like basking on drystone walls.

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The next meadow which Tarn Sike runs through has clearly been ‘improved’ to some extent, but was packed with wildflowers.

I returned to my car, grabbed my rucksack and set-off again, taking the path which heads across Ravenstonedale Moor and which is parts of the Dales High Way, a long distance walk which, on further investigation, I find very appealing.

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Meadow Pipit.

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Tarn Sike and Ravenstonedale Moor.

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Distant view of Sunbiggin Tarn.

This area is very quiet, even on a sunny, summer Saturday. The only other walker I met all day followed me across the moor here. However, as I was trying to photograph this…

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…Skylark, the peace was shattered by an unexpected racket.

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I’d seen a sign by the road urging ‘Motor Vehicle Users’ to show restraint and wondered what it meant. Now I knew. This is a bridleway and……I’ll let you add your own rant.

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Sunbiggin Tarn.

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Looking back to Great Asby Scar.

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I saw numerous Small Heath butterflies, through most of the day. It was quite breezy and I noticed that, once they had landed, they would almost lie flat on the ground, presumably to get out of that wind.

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The walking is pretty easy-going, over, admittedly quite feature-less moorland, but fortunately, there were lots of small birds about to offer diversion…

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Skylark, crest raised in alarm.

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Skylark, crest down again.

I took lots and lots of photos of LBJs. Over the years, I’ve spent a good deal of time comparing such photos with the illustrations in my Collins Bird Guide and trying to decide whether I’d photographed a Meadow Pipit or a Skylark. After this walk, on which I’m confident I photographed both, I’m inclined to think that all of my previous photos may have been Meadow Pipits. In flight the song and behaviour of the two species is obviously different, but on the ground I’ve always been unsure. My friend, The Proper Birder, tells me that Skylarks are larger and bulkier, but without seeing the two side-by-side that’s hard to differentiation. Of course, the Skylark has a crest, but crests aren’t always raised. I can see here that the Skylark’s chest is paler and much less streaked and that it has a heavier beak. Will this mean that I no longer agonise over identifying moorland LBJs? Probably not.

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Great Ewe Fell.

The path took me past the enclosed field seen in the photo above. Curiously, the air here was full of Swallows, which had been absent until now. Did the relatively high concentration of sheep in the fold attract flies and mean rich-pickings for the hirundines?

I’d been climbing, almost imperceptibly, and now the views were beginning to open out.

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Gracetemoor and the Northern Howgills, where the Lune rises.

A pair of Buzzards were circling above the stand of trees by Gracetemoor (an unusual name for a farm!).

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I picked up the path on the far side of the road and followed it as far as the first gate. By the wall, there was a large, spectacular thistle…

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…I think, Musk Thistle. Easy to overlook plants like thistles, but the flowers on this are really quite stunning…

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Attractive to bumblebees too!

I left the path here and climbed up to Great Ewe Fell. I was surprised to see toadstools fruiting at this time of year, but saw many more from that point on…

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As soon as I started to gain some height, the views were magnificent.

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Northern Howgills again.

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Bents Farm and Wild Boar Fell

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Wild Boar Fell and Northern Howgills panorama – click to see larger version. (Same applies  to all other photos).

Just short of the top of Great Ewe Fell there was a small cairn – as much excuse as I needed to stop and drink in the views again.

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Shortly beyond, another cairn, this one at least in the vicinity of the actual top and a new view towards the Northern Pennines and the Upper Eden Valley.

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Looking along the limestone hills toward Great Asby Scar.

I suppose I might have climbed from here onto the higher Nettle Hill, but I had a more attractive target in mind…

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…the Potts Valley. I’ve often looked at this spot on the map and thought it looked like it would be delectable.

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Even the area of six enclosed fields and its two stands of mature trees was attractive. I was intrigued by the building, which seems too remote to be more than a barn, but which does have a chimney and seems to be in an excellent state of repair.

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Juvenile Wheatear. (I think).

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Potts Beck.

Now, I’ve strayed off my Lune Catchment exploration a little here, over the watershed, since Potts Beck is a feeder of the Eden, transforming into Water Houses Beck and then Helm Beck before it gets there.

Somewhere hereabouts I also crossed some other kind of border. Before Great Ewe Fell, I’d passed numerous sink-holes, enough to suggest that I was in limestone country, but after Ewe Fell I started to encounter exposed scars, crags, clints and grykes. The change seemed to influence the relative prevalence of birds – where pipits and larks had dominated, now there seemed to be Wheatears in every direction I looked, particularly along the dry-stone wall which ran alongside Potts Beck.

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I never really had a firm plan for the day, but when I’d looked at the map I’d thought that I would either climb directly out of the Potts Valley and onto Little Asby Scar, or would continue along the stream and take the field paths into Little Asby before heading onto the scar. The second route was definitely Plan B, held in reserve in case it proved difficult to get across the wall in the valley bottom. In the event, there was a ladder stile, but I hadn’t considered the possibility that the Potts Beck itself might be hard to cross. Fortunately, I found a spot where a couple of small islands in the stream made it possible to hop across dry-shod relatively easily.

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Once across, I took a slender tread which contoured back towards the top fringe of Armaside Wood. I watched a Buzzard, I think a tiercel, swooping back and forth across the valley. As I approached the trees, he swept over the top of the canopy, seemingly to take a closer look at me. A similar thing happened when I was walking in the valley of the Wenning a few weeks ago, although on that occasion the female was also present and both birds were audibly vexed by my presence. Ever since my close encounter with a Buzzard a few years ago, I’ve been a bit wary of them in the summer and so decided to turn more steeply uphill away from the trees and any potential nest.

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Wild Thyme.

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Biting Stonecrop.

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Armaside Wood and the Potts Valley.

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Little Asby Scar.

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Another Wheatear.

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I stopped by this cairn and embarked on a doomed attempt to make a decent cup of tea. The wind had increased considerably and my stove didn’t function well. This is not the cairn marked on the map, but must be close to the high-point marked with a spot-height of 356m.

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Sunbiggin Tarn again and the eastern fringe of the Lake District hills.

Dropping down towards the minor road, I watched a large and fleet-footed Hare race away. I’ve seen Hares several times this year, but am never fast enough to get even close to taking a photo.

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Bell Heather.

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Sunbiggin Tarn from Grange Scar.

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Eden Valley and Northern Pennines from north of Great Kinmond.

I picked up the Dales High Way again to take me down towards Tarn Moor and the car. I needed to get home, but even if I hadn’t the weather wasn’t looking promising for continuing the walk on to Great Asby Scar. In addition to the strengthening wind, high frets of cirrus…

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…and lower, wind-smoothed clouds…

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..not to mention the dark threatening masses advancing from the west, all presaged a downturn in the weather.

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Wheatear.

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Skylark with huge grub.

Things had changed rapidly and the skies were now an ominous grey. Still time, however, for a pair of Curlews to circle me making their distinctive calls. I’m convinced this behaviour must be to deflect attention from a nest – several times now this year, Curlews have flown around me even as I’ve continued to walk along a path.

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The light was far from ideal, so I’m reasonably pleased with my photos.

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Down where the path met the road, and then along the road verges, the ground was very wet and there was another fine display of flowers. Due to the, by now, very strong wind, it was hard to get pictures, but these…

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…Northern Marsh Orchids came out less blurred than the others. I included this second because it seemed much darker then the others I saw that day…

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Sunbiggin Tarn Circuit

This was another area which I’ve been meaning to visit for quite some time, although I always thought that when I came I would climb Great Asby Scar – that will have to wait for another trip. Poring over my maps to trace the various sources of the Lune has spurred me on to finally check out this area and the Lune Catchment has come up trumps yet again.

Tarn Sike and a Round of Sunbiggin Tarn

Trowbarrow Views

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The forecast promised that the weather was going to improve. I set out on trust, although there were still a few spots of rain in the fairly strong wind.

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The hay has since been cut – they were collecting it in today – but then the grasses were long and swaying in the breeze. The dominant, red-tinged grass here is, I think, Yorkshire Fog, but I’m really not sure about the patch of pale grass standing out amongst the red. Cocksfoot?

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Yorkshire Fog.

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Bittersweet.

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Leighton Moss.

Fortunately, by the time I reached Leighton Moss, the view to the west was finally looking promising…

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The reeds along the boardwalk were looking tatty and half-eaten. It didn’t take much sleuthing to discover the reason why.

Alongside the reeds, there were lots of these large Dock leaves. (We have several Docks – I have no idea which these are).

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Many of them were infected with a fungus causing red blotches on the upper sides of the leaves…

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And crusty white rings on the undersides…

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I’ve done my lazy research, and I think that it’s a rust fungus called Puccinia Phragmitis.

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Common Spotted-orchid and Quaking Grass.

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Red Wall.

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Bee Orchid.

I was looking for the Fly Orchid which apparently flowers here. I didn’t find it, but more of the Bee Orchids had come into flower. Also, while I was poking about, I found a narrow path which I assume is the climbers’ descent route from the top of the main crag. I’ve never been up to the top before, but the views were excellent…

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Humphrey Head.

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Leighton Moss from Trowbarrow.

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Common Spotted-orchid and Quaking Grass again.

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And another (but quite different) Common Spotted-orchid.

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Hedge Woundwort.

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The clouds were back.

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Six for gold.

Towards the end of the walk I came across a couple of bumblebees once again apparently asleep on flowers. It was very windy and when I grabbed one of the flowers to try to hold it still for a photo the bee waved one leg in a half-hearted fashion, like a person might if you tried to rouse them from deep sleep.

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Trowbarrow Views

All we have to do is look.

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

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

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Not that I’m complaining.

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

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Or Rowan flowers.

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

Katherine Swift The Morville Hours.

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

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Ear Fungus.

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And all we need to do is look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

All we have to do is look.

Teesdale – an Embarrassment of Riches

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Low Force.

Make a cup of tea, maybe grab a biscuit to dunk or an apple to crunch: this is a long one with a lot of pictures, but I think it’s worth a few moments of your time. OK, settled, ready? Then we’ll begin.

I’ve mentioned before that when I read John Fisher’s ‘Wild Flowers in Danger’ last year, and realised that many of the flowers in the book grow reasonably nearby, I resolved to make an effort to see some of those flowers this year. This trip was planned to, hopefully, find one of those rarities. Once I’d decided to drive up to Teesdale, I searched my bookshelves, wondering whether I might have a book with a suitable route to follow. I found one in Christopher Somerville’s ‘Somerville’s 100 Best British Walks’. (It is, I realise now, an anthology of walks from The Torygraph – you can find the Teesdale one here.) Somerville’s description made me all the more determined to come this way, but I really wanted to incorporate High Force and so devised a longer version. Then I decided I couldn’t omit Low Force, so extended the walk again. The trouble was, I already had things to do in the early evening, so an early start was necessary. I was walking just after seven (after a drive of about an hour and a half, mostly through rain, wondering what I was playing at.)

I parked in the picnic area near the visitor centre at Bowlees. They have a ‘donate and display’ scheme, an excellent idea I thought. As I arrived, the rain cleared and the sun began to shine, just as the forecast had predicted, although a little earlier than I had anticipated.

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This is Wynch Bridge, just below Low Force. I have a picture of my Dad here (well actually he has it) taken in April 1985 when we walked the Pennine Way together. He was a little younger then than I am now, a sobering thought, and like me, he had a white beard, although his was temporary, tolerated only until we returned home from Kirk Yetholm.

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Because I had a relatively long walk planned, and wanted to get home reasonably early, I knew that I couldn’t afford to hang around taking lots of photographs.

Some chance! There were just too many distractions.

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Low Force again.

In the first instance, the falls and the river. Low Force and High Force are the consequences of volcanic activity:

“High Force is a great place to see the famous Whin Sill. This is a layer of a hard, dark rock called dolerite, known locally as ‘whinstone’. The Whin Sill formed about 295 million years ago, when molten rock at over 1000°C rose up from within the Earth and spread out between layers of limestone, sandstone and shale. The molten rock cooled and solidified underground to form a flat sheet of rock, known as a ‘sill’. After millions of years of erosion the Whin Sill is now exposed at the Earth’s surface, forming dramatic landscape features such as High Force”

Source

Then, there was an absolute abundance of wild flowers. Some familiar: Bluebells, Wood Anemones, Primroses, Marsh Marigolds, Pignut, Early Purple Orchids…

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White-lipped Banded Snail.

Some less familiar, like this Globe Flower…

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It’s a kind of buttercup, but is relatively tall and has quite large flowers. It’s found in the north, mainly in wet, upland, limestone meadows.

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There were lots of birds too, many singing from the trees by the river, Lapwings and Curlews in the meadows, Dippers, Oystercatchers and Sandpipers by the river.

I have a strong feeling that this…

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..is a Garden Warbler, but the only thing I can say categorically is that it wasn’t a Chiff-chaff, its song was far too musical.

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Cowslips.

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Curlew.

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More Globe Flowers.

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Water Avens.

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More Cowslips.

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Common Sandpiper.

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I was surprised to see this Scurvy Grass here (the other flower is Cuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock). I thought that Scurvy Grass was a plant confined to coastal locations, but I think that this is Mountain Scurvygrass – the leaves are a slightly different shape from Common Scurvygrass.

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Even more Globe Flowers.

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When I was a boy, Lapwings – or Peewits as we called them – were a common farmland bird. Even then numbers were in decline and sadly that decline has continued. We’re fortunate to still see them close to home, and in the fields and skies around Roeburndale they had been present in great numbers.

But in Teesdale they were not only plentiful, but also less wary about human visitors.

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I took lots of photos of this individual, and as I did so, it moved towards me, not away as I would have expected.

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Rabbits too were both numerous…

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…and less wary than those I usually encounter.

This…

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…I’m hoping, is yet another phenomena which I’ve noticed several times over the years: when I manage to put a name to something, or notice it for the first time close to home, I then find that it is much more common than I previously realised. It happened with Bee Flies, Eyebright, Gatekeeper butterflies and I could probably quote a host of other instances if I put my mind to it. The surprising thing about this is that each of these things was apparently invisible to me for a period before I suddenly cottoned on to its presence. Now I think the same thing may happen with Wild Privet (supposing that is what this is!).

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What’s this ball of fluff?

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A fledgling Lapwing, watched over by a cautious parent.

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Bugle.

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Lady’s Mantle.

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Mountain Pansy.

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I came across Mountain Pansies several times during the day, at various altitudes. They were numerous and very variable in colour. Sadly, many of my photos didn’t come out too sharply.

As I approached High Force, I entered England’s largest Juniper woodland.

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I’ve never thought of an area of Junipers as woodland before, but I suppose it is. This one was rumbustiously alive with bird song, but the songsters were very well hidden on the whole. Only this Song Thrush showed itself for more than a brief moment.

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I’m hoping that somebody can help me with an identification for this tree. It was growing through a Juniper. I suppose it superficially resembles Elder, but I don’t think it is Elder.

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Sadly, the Junipers are under threat from a disease which is killing them off. At either end of the wood there were boot cleaning stations to be used as you exit, to stop the spread of the disease.

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I saw several Junipers with these orange fungal fruiting bodies on them and wondered whether this might be the pathogen.

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It isn’t, but I’m glad I photographed it, because these are telial horns of one of the species of Gymnosporangium. These fungi infect Junipers, produce these fruiting bodies which release spores which go on to infect a different plant: apples, pears, hawthorn, rowans…trees which are all from the same family (and a different species for each different species of Gymnosporangium, I think). There they produce a rust, galls on the leaves and then new fruiting bodies which produce spores which complete the life cycle by infecting Junipers. A parasite with alternating host species – where is the evolutionary advantage there?

Down below the Junipers, this…

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…had me puzzled. But I think it is a white flowered Bugle. Is that possible?

I’d finally reached High Force…

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Ironically, this view was taken from behind a safety barrier, but at the top of the waterfall, I could lean out and take a view straight over the drop…

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Just beyond High Force I witnessed a family meal for four. I actually thought I was watching some sort of territorial dispute, so aggressive were these juvenile Dippers.

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They kept up a constant racket and shook those stubby wings angrily.

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Eventually, one of the adults took some time out to preen itself close to the river bank…

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This was close to the incongruous scar of Dine Holm Quarry.

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The path climbed away from the rive for a while, on Bracken Rigg, before dropping down to the farm at Cronkley.

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Green Hill Scar and Cronkley Scar.

The meadows here were resplendent with a yellow wash of Marsh Marigolds.

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I had my first human interaction of the day here, a cheery wave from a very happy looking young lad driving a piece of farm machinery. (It wasn’t big enough to be a tractor, but a bit too big to be a quad bike so…I’m not sure what to call it.)

In the riverside meadows here there were several Redshanks…

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High House and the Scars again.

And lots of Lapwings…

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I also spotted a male Reed Bunting…

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The next long stretch by the river as it curved around Cronkley Fell was every bit as superb for birdwatching as the earlier sections had been, but with a definite change in the kind of birds showing.

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I think this is a Meadow Pippit.

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I would have missed this Frog, but for the fact that it took an extravagant leap into a sidestream as I crossed it, splashing very conspicuously.

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Common Sandpiper again (okay, not all of the birds were different).

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Wheatear.

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I’m even more convinced (i.e. almost convinced) that this is a Meadow Pippit. There were actually two birds which flew along the edge of the river ahead of me.

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More Bird’s-eye Primroses.

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Falcon Clints.

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Raven Scar and Fox Earths.

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Looking back down on Falcom Clints and the River Tees.

I finally left the river for the short climb to Man Gate and onto Cronkley Fell. It was here that I hoped to spot the rare flowers I had set out to find, but I had already enjoyed my walk so much that I decided that if they proved hard to find, I would be none-the-less happy about my decision to come this way.

In the event, I could hardly miss them…

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Spring Gentians.

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On Cronkley Fell several areas are fenced off to protect the flora, presumably from sheep and rabbits.

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The gentians are present here because of the Sugar Limestone…

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A metamorphic rock which has been crystallised by volcanic activity. It produces a fine, granular, almost sandy soil.

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I think that these tiny, delicate flowers…

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…are Spring Sandwort, such a good indicator of the presence of lead that it was also once known as Leadwort.

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More Mountain Pansies.

We are lucky at home, we have Bird’s-eye Primroses flowering nearby, right on the southern limit of their range. But I’ve never seen them growing in such profusion as they were here…

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I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a place sufficiently out of the wind to make it feasible to get my stove lit for a brew. Since I couldn’t, I rattled on, heading back down towards Bracken Rigg.

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Dropping down Birk Rigg I met a couple of walkers, the first I’d spoken to all day. It was around noon – these are lonely moors.

Well, they had been. I was vacillating: should I head back down Bracken Rigg and retrace my steps along the river, or vary the route by continuing along the higher moorland path. I’d enjoyed the riverside path so much that I was very tempted to follow that course, but just as I reached the path junction, a huge party came along the Pennine Way towards me from the river; I changed my mind and stuck with the higher path.

If I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have seen…

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…this, which I think is a Golden Plover. The only reason I’m unsure is that all of my books show that black patch on the belly extending all the way up to the face. But this is summer breeding plumage, so perhaps this is a transition phase.

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An unusual stile.

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Holwick Scars.

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Holwick.

I turned out of Holwick on a minor lane heading back down towards Bowlees. A small, grey raptor landed in a tree ahead. It was gone almost as quickly with a lapwing in hafl-hearted attendance. It had something clutched in its claws. A Lapwing chick? It occurred to me later that this might have been a Merlin?

The hedge bottom by this same lane had a superb display of very tall Water Avens.

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This Common Carder Bee was enjoying the Water Avens too. Moving with great agility from one flower to the next, without flying.

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Lovely colours!

As I arrived back at Low Force…

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I found myself quickly stripping off layers – it had been sunny for much of the morning, but now it was finally warming up.

I had thought at one point that I might struggle to get back for my later engagement, but now found that I unexpectedly had time for a bite of late lunch at the Visitor Centre…

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I ate outside by a busy flowerbed…

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…with bird-feeders just beyond.

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Nuthatch.

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Siskins.

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What a day!

And it wasn’t over yet: the reason I wanted to get home early was that The John Verity Band were playing at Five O’Clock in the Silverdale Hotel and we’d promised the kids we would take them. (It’s not often a former member of Argent plays in the pub around the corner – and if you know who Argent were, then you are showing your age). In the event, the kids made us leave at the interval – in some sort of weird role-reversal they complained that it was ‘too loud’. I was really enjoying myself. Fortunately, it seems that the band will be returning to the Lower House later this year, maybe more than once.

Teesdale

Teesdale – an Embarrassment of Riches