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

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