An Excursion to the Jonte Valley.

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We didn’t travel away from the campsite often when we were in the Cévennes, but we did have one grand day out. The journey itself was interesting, giving us another opportunity to look down into the Tarn Gorge.

And also to enjoy some more roadside entomology.

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It seems that as well as a bewildering variety of Grayling butterflies, the Continent is also home to several similar species of Ringlets. This is one of those. It looks very like a Marbled Ringlet, but online sources refer to that as an Alpine species. I remember seeing something similar when we visited the Vosges, although revisiting my post from the time I can see that it was perhaps slightly different. And also, to my surprise, a photo of what looks very like a Silver-washed Fritillary, so that I may have been wrong about never having seen one before.

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I can’t find this tiny moth, either in my field guide or online, so I don’t know what it’s called, but I do know that it’s stunningly patterned.

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This is a Red-winged Grasshopper, similar to the Blue-winged variety which featured in a recent post. You can’t see the bright red flashes which appear, to startling affect, when the insect hops into flight, but you can see the red hind-legs…

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Marbled Ringlet?

The drive over the higher ground was pleasant without being spectacular. It brought us to Meyrueis…

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In the valley of the Jonte, a tributary of the Tarn.

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Above Meyrueis, we stopped again briefly at a small hillside chapel – Notre-Dame du-Rocher…

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I enjoyed the contrasting colours of these flowers…

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And have included this second photo because of the tiny, pale Ladybird in the top left corner of the white flower.

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Gatekeeper.

We were soon underway again, heading for the excellent Grotte de Dargilan, of which more to follow…(eventually).

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An Excursion to the Jonte Valley.

The Kleiner Schillerfalter and Other Beautiful Bugs.

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One of the things which I really enjoyed in France was the abundance and variety of the butterflies. They were everywhere; although, often quite difficult to photograph. Whilst the Dordogne had been impressive in that regard, the Tarn Gorge area was better yet. What follows then is a collection of photographs of some of the butterflies, and other insects, which I saw in and around the campsite. (There will be even more butterflies to come, from various days out.)

First up, the Lesser Purple Emperor, in German the Kleiner Schillerfalter, or Smaller Shimmer Butterfly. Like many of the other insects here, I spotted this during a short afternoon wander a little way upriver. Here are the underside of the wings…

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And here when they are slightly open…

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Brown, orange and white you’ll notice, but when opened a fraction more…

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Bright, iridescent blue! Absolutely stunning. I’ve been wondering how the wings could  change colour like that and eventually tracked down an explanation: apparently the scales on the wings have tiny structures on them which diffract light waves and subsequently cause interference which gives the iridescent colour.

That was the first and, so far at least, only Lesser Purple Emperor I’ve ever seen; but there were some more familiar species about too.

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Large Skipper.

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A very tatty Peacock.

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Common Blue(?)

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Comma (Robert le Diable to the French).

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This is another species which was new to me, although they can be found in England. It’s a Marbled White.

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Dragonflies like this one…

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…were extremely common along the river’s edge. I’m pretty confident that it’s Onychogomphus uncatus, the Large Pincertail Dragonfly.

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There were more Beautiful Demoiselles…

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Although the related Banded Demoiselle…

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…seemed to be more prevalent. I think that this…

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…female is a Banded Demoiselle, because they are apparently brighter than female Beautiful Demoiselles.

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A Blue-winged Grasshopper. I wish I could show you what it looked like in flight, when those blue wings were on show. It’s not only Schillerfalters which can undergo a startling transformation of colour.

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Another female Great Green Bush-cricket, this time in our Kubb set.

Finally, back to butterflies and one that got away, just about. I saw lots of Swallowtails during our trip, but this is the only one I managed to photograph*.

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This was in the village of Les Vignes and taken from a considerable distance. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

(*The photograph in a previous post was of a Scarce Swallowtail, a similar and related species.)

The Kleiner Schillerfalter and Other Beautiful Bugs.

A Different World.

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Peacock Butterfly on Hemp Agrimony.

When I finished my last post by musing about the origins of the name of the Scotch Argus butterfly and a possible link to the mythical giant Argus, I didn’t anticipate that the first photo in the subsequent post would be of a Peacock, whose Latin name recalls the same story. The Peacock was known at one time as the Peacock’s Tail. It’s Latin name is Inachus Io, recalling the Greek nymph Io and her father (variously a King, a Giant or a River God depending on which version you read). I’ve referred to this myth before, but here’s a slightly different version taken from Robert Graves ‘The Greek Myths, Volume One’:

“Io, daughter of the River-god Inachus, was a priestess of Argive Hera. Zeus, over whom Iynx, daughter of Pan and Echo, had cast a spell, fell in love with Io, and when Hera charged him with infidelity and turned Iynx into a wryneck as punishment, lied: ‘I have never touched Io.’ He then turned her into a white cow, which Hera claimed as hers and handed over for safe keeping to Argus Panoptes, ordering him: ‘Tether this beast secretly to an olive-tree at Nemea.’ But Zeus sent Hermes to fetch her back, and himself led the way to Nemea – or, some say, to Mycenae – dressed in woodpecker disguise. Hermes, though the cleverest of thieves, knew he could not steal Io without being detected by one of Argus’s hundred eyes; he therefore charmed him asleep by playing the flute, crushed him with a boulder, cut off his head and released Io. Hera, having placed Argus’s eyes in the tail of a peacock, as a constant reminder of his foul murder, set a gadfly to sting Io and chase her all over the world.”

Trickery, lust, infidelity, duplicity, jealousy, deceit, murder, revenge – the Greek Gods seem all too human in this tale, as in many others.

Here’s Hermes slaying Argus, from an Athenian vase now held in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Argus seems quite awake in this pictorial version of the story. In some tellings, Io is irresistible even after her metamorphosis into bovine form, which is hard to imagine; her portrayal on this ancient pot doesn’t really help in that regard.

Panoptes, incidentally, means ‘all-seeing’, an attribute to which I can definitely not lay claim…

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Skullcap.

Skullcap is apparently a very common plant, but this is the first time I can recall spying it in flower. I found it in the increasingly wet meadow at the end of Hawes Water.

“Skullcap, Scutelleria galericulata, is a delicate species of fens and banks of ponds, canals and slow rivers, locally common throughout much of Britain. The plant’s English and Latin names both derive from the shape of the blue flowers, which reminded early botanists of the leather helmet or galerum worn by Roman soldiers.”

from Flora Britannica by Richard Mabey.

“Sufferers from nervous disorders might be advised to take skullcap in tablet form, for the plant produces a volatile oil, called scutellarin, which is one of the best treatments for such afflictions ever discovered. The plant is dried, powdered and infused in boiling water to make a strong tonic, which calms spasms and hysteria, and relieves epilepsy and St Vitus’s dance. However, care must be taken: it is a powerful drug, and an overdose might induce the very symptoms which, at correct dosages, it alleviates.”

from Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain.

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I wondered whether the colours of Hemp Agrimony, often somewhat washed out and insipid in my photos, might show to better effect in shade: I think it worked?

I’ve certainly had a bumper year for spotting Common Lizards. The two I met basking in their usual spot, on the edging along the boardwalk by Hawes Water, were, once again, quite different from each other in their markings and colour…

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I particularly admired the go faster stripes on this specimen…

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I wondered whether the variation in colouring might reflect the gender of the lizards and have since discovered that you can sex lizards this way, but need to see their undersides in order to do so. I suspect that I’m never going to be quick enough to get my mitts on them to find out. Never mind, I’m happy just to see them.

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Hawes Water.

I presume that these alien monstrosities…

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…are the early stages, or small examples, of Robin’s Pincushion Gall, or are something similar. They’re nothing like as hairy as Pincushion Galls usually are though, and those generally develop on the stems. You can perhaps tell from the picture that each outlandish, starfish-like protuberance is mirrored on the reverse of the leaf. Quite astonishing, even before you know about the asexual lifestyle of the wasps which develop within.

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A male Small White, I think.

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Another Bull in a field with a footpath, in fact he was walking along the path, but I was turning off in another direction and, anyway, he didn’t seem remotely interested in me.

This walk was memorable for quite an abundance and variety of butterflies. Later on, I met a number of Lepidopterists, one of whom asked me if I’d seen any Brown Hairstreaks, which is what they were on the look-out for. I hadn’t. Not that I would have recognised one if I had. I did see lots of Brimstones though…

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Brimstone on Betony.

They seemed to be patronising the purple flowers by preference, which shows off their yellow to good effect. Is it vanity, do you think?

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Bumblebee on Knapweed.

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Painted Lady.

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Red Admiral.

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Another Peacock’s-tail.

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Eyebright.

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Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet Pimpernel is tiny, but not really elusive at all, unlike the character named after the flower, scourge of the French Revolutionaries. Local names for the flower included ‘change-of-the-weather’, ‘poor man’s weatherglass’ and ‘shepherd’s sundial’, due to its habit of closing whenever the skies are dull and for large parts of the day, a property, it must be said, which it shares with many other flowers.

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The mystery plant – looking increasingly like some sort of Scabious, as Simon suggested.

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Grasshopper.

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I think this might be Orpine, or Sedum telephium, the same Sedum, or Ice Plant which we grow in our gardens.

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Speckled Wood.

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A Harvestman. Definitely not a spider or a daddy-longlegs.

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I was a bit surprised to see the orange berries on the Lily-of-the-valley; I’ve never seen them before. Apparently, they rarely develop, with the plant usually spreading by sending up new shoots.

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Female Common Darter.

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Another Brimstone.

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Male Common Darter.

A Different World.

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

An Entomologist on Arnside Knott

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Another day of blue and sunny skies and an afternoon, post rugby walk up the Knott and back with B. The interest started before we left the house, with a visiting row deer in the garden. Unusually, I was in the garden at the time – most of the time deer will only visit when we are safely ensconced in the house.

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A Speckled Wood.

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On Heathwaite – a clearing on the wooded ridge which leads down from the Knott towards the sea – B and I had fun exploring the many large meadow ant hills. Most of them seemed to have at least one resident spider and B also enjoyed catching grasshoppers.

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The view South to Warton Crag and the Bowland Fells.

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Red Admiral.

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Arnside Tower.

An Entomologist on Arnside Knott

Dersingham Bog

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Dersingham Bog is a largish nature reserve hard by the Royal residence at Sandringham. You can visit Sandringham, although you have to pay a hefty fee. Dersingham bog, on the other hand, is completely free – and a much more attractive proposition. The bog is encircled, to the west, by a steep escarpment – a remnant of a former coastline. It came as quite a surprise to find this relatively wild area in the midst of rural Norfolk.

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The boys were all mightily impressed with the numerous grasshoppers we spotted.

My nephew….

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…proved to be equally adept at catching them as his cousin B.

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There are several UK species of grasshopper and I have to confess that I can’t tell them apart. I thought that this rather strikingly coloured specimen…

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…would be easily identified, but I’m not even sure that I can do that with any confidence.

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A shield bug, getting in on the action.

There are a couple of small car parks and three adjacent, way-marked routes on the edge of the bog. By joining two of those routes together we found a walk suitable for the many age-groups represented in our substantial party…

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If you ever find yourself wavering in the proximity of Sandringham, I can heartily recommend Dersingham Bog as an alternative.

Dersingham Bog

Claife Heights and Latterbarrow

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I think that this was the day after the one we spent paddling on Windermere from Harrow Slack, if not it was at most a couple of days later. I was back at Harrow Slack, but without the boats or the rest of the family, with the prospect of a free day and a chance to get out for a walk. The forecast was pretty mixed, so I’d opted for a wander around the low hills above Windermere rather than anything more adventurous. And indeed, there were a few drops of rain in the air as I embarked on the steep climb away from the lake shore.

Still, there’s usually something to brighten the way, on this occasion, these tiny….

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….but rather splendid Small Balsam flowers. Introduced from South East Asia apparently.

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Keen on shade and lime-free, nitrogen rich soils, and seeming very happy in these Lakeland woods.

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I’m finally beginning to remember to take lots of photos when I find something new I want to identify, and having a record of the shape of the leaves was very helpful here (meant I could rule out some very wide of the mark ideas I initially had).

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Growing in amongst the Small Balsam, but with much larger, more insistently showy flowers, were a relative, Touch-me-not Balsam, which is, apparently, our only native Balsam.

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It’s Latin name is Impatiens noli-tangere and both names refer to the explosive nature of the seed heads. (Impatiens – impatient or not-allowing, noli-tangere – do not touch; the Latin and popular names are essentially the same.)

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Anyway, both plants were plentiful here, and most welcome at a time when not much is flowering in the deep, late-summer shade.

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You don’t climb very far on this path before you encounter….

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…The Viewing Station. Built in the 1790s and now undergoing significant repair work under the auspices of the National Trust, this building had tinted viewing windows – with different coloured glasses meant to simulate the views during different seasons and even, through a lilac window, the moonlit view. Later, I read, dances were held here. The National Trust plan to restore the building and eventually open a cafe.

By the time I was reaching the top of the hill, the sky was clearing and it was getting quite warm. The views were only partial ones, but enjoyable none-the-less. That’s Belle Isle down there, the near shore being the one we’d paddled in the lee of.

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There’s quite a network of paths across the Claife Heights area and I had the option to turn right to head for High Blind How the highest point in these hills, but instead I went left and downhill.

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Towards Far Sawrey….

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This is the Village Institute in Far Sawrey…

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Silverdale has it’s own Institute, and after a recent coup, a new committee has been inviting suggestions about what should happen to it’s building and field and how they should be used. Ideas seem to have flooded in, some of them quite radical. My main concern is that the field isn’t too messed about with, so that the sports which take place there on our Field Day can continue. But I do like the idea of some picnic tables.

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And perhaps a sign like this one.

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I resisted the temptation to join the crowds at Hill Top in Near Sawrey, Beatrix Potter’s former home and struck off uphill once again. It was very pleasant, easy walking. Just after I crossed Wilfin Beck I paused for a few minutes to watch the antics of a pair of Nuthatches in the trees by the path.

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On the verge of the broad track, I noticed a Small Copper sunning itself…

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And when I’d taken a few photos of the butterfly, I realised that there was a grasshopper sat almost alongside…

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And then, that there were actually three grasshoppers, not just one…

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I wonder sometimes, just how much I miss when I’m out, because it’s so easy to pass interesting things by unknowingly.

These are definitely grasshoppers, the short stubby antennae distinguish them from crickets, but further than that I have little confidence. Grasshoppers vary enormously. These might be Field Grasshoppers I think. Maybe.

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Now that my attention was focused on the track’s verges, I realised just how many different flowers there were to see…

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Harebells.

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I assumed that this was Yarrow, but now realise that it’s a related plant – Sneezewort, Achillea ptarmica from ptarmos the Greek word for sneezing. An old medicinal plant used for colds, but also recommended by the herbalist Nicholas Culpepper for toothache.

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A vetch.

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A yellow one. (I know, I was doing quite well there for a while.)

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Eyebright.

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Devil’s-bit scabious.

Part of the reason for coming this way, was that it would take me past Moss Eccles Tarn….

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…which once belonged to Beatrix Potter.

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Apparently Potter and her husband used to come up to the tarn to row a boat and fish on summer evenings.

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Quite a mixed herd of cattle of various shades, shapes….

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…and sizes on the open ground above the tarn.

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I’m not overly fond of sharing a field with a bull. Fortunately, he wasn’t the least bit interested in me.

This….

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..is Wise Een Tarn. With a view of the Langdale Pikes behind. The higher hills were generally hidden in the clouds all day, so this was a rare view. Claife Heights feature in Wainwright’s outlying fells. He says that the tarns here are all reservoirs, none of them appearing on nineteenth century maps. Real or man made, they’re all quite attractive.

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I don’t know who owns the tarn, but I envy them their secluded boathouse and boats – what a spot to wile away the weekends in!

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Another little reservoir.

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Mint.

The next section of the walk took me into the forestry plantations, which I suppose might have been tedious, but for the fact that there was a profusion of large and colourful fungi to distract me.

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I’m afraid I’ve made no attempt to identify these. One day perhaps I’ll get to grips with toadstools, but they’re very difficult to tell apart.

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I could have done with Beatrix Potter’s company. Before she was the successful children’s author we now know she became, she made a painstaking and very thorough study of fungi and lichen. She came up against the prevailing prejudices of her time and wasn’t able to present her findings to the scientific societies because women weren’t allowed to attend the meetings. We’d seen some of her watercolour studies of fungi at Wray Castle a few days before. (She visited Wray Castle with her father when she was eighteen, her first visit to the Lakes). I believe that there are more on display at the Armitt Museum in Ambleside, which, until now, has somehow passed me by, but I intend to investigate when the chance arises.

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Whilst I was in amongst the trees, the weather deteriorated: you might notice that some of the fungi look a bit damp. So was I.

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When I left the trees to climb Latterbarrow, it was chucking it down. Latterbarrow is another one of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells, and although it’s a mere 803’ above sea level, it’s an excellent viewpoint. I know that because I’ve been here before on a better day. On this occasion there was no view.

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Just the very tall obelisk, and two other walkers huddled under a pink umbrella on the far side.

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I remember a few years ago, sitting on Jenkin Crag above Winderemere and being surprised to see a stretch of water above and beyond the Lake. I’ve wanted to visit Blelham Tarn ever since. And I’m pleased that I did, but I don’t have any photos to show for it – the rain continued and I had a bit of soggy splodge down hill past the tarn to the Grounds of Wray Castle.

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It was a bit late in the day for lunch, but I hadn’t eaten mine, so I settled on the roots of a lakeside oak, by one of the Castle’s boathouses, and tucked in. It had briefly stopped raining, but when it started again, I was nicely shielded by the branches of the tree. I enjoyed watching the raindrops puckering the surface of the lake.

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All that remained was a pleasant stroll along the lake shore back to the car – the same route I’d cycled (twice) recently.

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The weather took a turn for the better again, and the views were very pleasant.

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The island on the right here…

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….is Thompson’s Holme, which I think will be one of our first targets when we get the boats out again next summer.

Claife Heights

Claife Heights and Latterbarrow