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

More Quick Fixes

Or: Driving Miss A

Scenes from the life of a taxi-driving Dad.

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Guides have a Thursday evening outing to ‘Pets At Home’? Perfect, I’ll nip up Scout Scar to take in the wide-open views.

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Consecutive dance lessons for an hour and a quarter in Milnthorpe on a Monday evening? No worries – a circuit from Sandside Back Lane through the woods to Storth, up to Cockshot Lane and then to the diminutive summit of Haverbrack – another Small Hill with a Disproportionately Good View.

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Panorama from Haverbrack – Kent Estuary, Whitbarrow Scar and the distant Cumbrian Fells.

This photo is from a fortnight ago. I’d also walked the same circuit a couple of weeks before that, under gloomy skies, when I didn’t take any photos.

I walked it again tonight. It had been sunny all day (whilst I was stuck at work waiting for a session of ‘Wellbeing’ training*) but whilst we ate tea the eastern sky had turned an impressively thunderous black.

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I did get rained on a bit, but the dramatic dark skies and fast-moving strips of sunlight were more than sufficient compensation.

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On a whim, I diverted slightly to visit Sandside’s infamous ‘Orchid Triangle’. Somebody (I’m not being secretive, I can’t remember who) told me about this unprepossessing spot years ago, but I misunderstood their directions and could never find any orchids. Then somebody else (again – it’s a mystery who it was) corrected my mistake, but somehow I’ve never gotten around to checking for orchids at an appropriate season.

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But today – what a stroke of luck: lots of orchids. At first I thought that they’d finished flowering, what with the lack of colour in the flowers, but now I can see that in fact many of the flowers have yet to open.

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This is Common Twayblade (I’m pretty sure of that, although I’ve never seen it before) and the flowers are a yellowy-green. Not the most spectacular orchid perhaps, and apparently ‘quite common’, but it made me very happy none-the-less.

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Not so happy with the photos, but that just gives me a reason to go back soon to have another go.

Flowers didn’t feature in the ‘7 secrets of happiness’ talk at work today, although we were exhorted to ‘be mindful’ which seemed to entail noticing changes in the weather and the seasons. (I think there might be a bit more too it than that). Music was missing too. Literature, drama, art – not mentioned. Exercise was advocated, but not fresh air, sunshine, great views…

Maybe I should deliver the training next time?

Oh, and finally…

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…another book recommendation.

Imagine this: a young man goes to University, joins a Hiking Club, becomes a bit obsessed with walking and list-ticking, gets into a few scrapes, garners an assortment of amusing anecdotes. Sound familiar to anyone? Craig Weldon has woven a very readable book out of those youthful exploits. He really does become a bit list obsessed, somewhat of a monomaniac, and it doesn’t always seem to make him happy (the part where he moves to England and seems grimly determined to drive as close as he can to the top of Marilyn’s and then bag them with the minimum of effort or enjoyment is a bit hard to fathom, but mercifully short). On the whole it’s life-affirming stuff, and made me smirk knowingly in several places. Besides which, anyone who singles out Ben Mor Coigach and Ben a’Chrulaiste for praise can’t be all bad. I’m even feeling almost inspired by his determination to go walking in foul weather. Almost.

(Available for loan – first shout).

Oh – of course – Craig Weldon has a blog, so you can sample his writing for free: Love of Scotland.

*Rant edited out. Don’t get me started.

More Quick Fixes

Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Ship.

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A couple of posts back, I was waxing lyrical (well trying to anyway) about four consecutive Sundays of really superb weather last November. The first was spent climbing Clough Head and Great Dodd on my own, the second on Dale Head and Hindscarth with a gaggle of old friends, and this, the last of them, saw me strolling over Haverbrack and Beetham Fell with the family.

“But, hang on,” I hear you cry, “that’s only three!”

Very sharp of you to notice – the missing sunny Sunday, probably the sunniest of the lot, was devoted to a huge rugby tournament at Sedbergh School. Naturally, I was there in my capacity as chauffeur to B, our budding sportsman. It was highly enjoyable watching him play a succession of matches, although the views of the sunlit Howgill Fells towering over the town did have me champing the bit somewhat.

Anyway, on that fourth Sunday, we were parked at Sandside on the minor lane which runs just back from the main road along the Kent estuary between Arnside and Milnthorpe. We picked up a path opposite a building which, until then, I hadn’t realised houses the offices of both Rock + Run and Marmot UK. Well there’s a thing.

Haverbrack is one of the small limestone hills in our small AONB. Employees of the aforementioned gear retailers can no doubt jog up and down it easily in their lunch break. If they were to do so, they would get a great view of the river Kent, and of the hills beyond, although, if they were also going to take photos of that view they should probably do it before they’ve passed the trees which grow near the top. As you can see above, I forgot to do that. You’ll have to take my word for the fact that it is a cracking viewpoint – another one of those Small Hills With A Disproportionately Great View.

Or, come to think of it, I could just slide in an old photo from the summer of 2011:

On top of the hill there’s a small concrete bunker which I assume is a water tank.

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Spindle berries.

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Beetham Fell, and in particular the Fairy Steps, seemed to have ousted Woodwell as the kids’ first choice local destination.

It’s said that if you can ascend the steps without touching the sides then you will get a wish granted, presumably by a local imp or sprite.

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The kids were all adamant that they succeeded.

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I’m not sure what they wished for. Maybe it was for a really huge lunch, in which case the resident imp is highly efficient, but more of that anon.

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The views from Beetham Fell are quite limited because of the blanket of trees which cover most of the hill, but you do get a view of Arnside Knott and Hampsfell across the Kent estuary.

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“Look Dad, a cave.”

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There’s a second rock band on the hillside below the Fairy Steps. Again, the path finds an impressive way through them.

I’ve mentioned this large gate hinge which is fixed to the rock wall of the natural passageway, but I know that I often manage to walk past it without noticing that it’s there.

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I wonder whether this is a remnant of the times when this route was the corpse road between Arnside and Beetham – bodies were carried to the church at Beetham for burial before Arnside had its own cemetery.

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At the bottom of the hill, you’ll find Hazelslack Farm and the remains of its peel tower.

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The original plan had been to lunch in Arnside, but it was getting late so we changed our plan and walked along the embankment of the old railway line by the estuary.

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Arnside Knott.

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River Kent and Whitbarrow Scar.

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Which quickly brought us to the Ship.

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When I lived in Arnside I used to walk here for lunch quite often, but I haven’t been back for a long time.

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The meal was excellent, both tasty and very generous. I can see us going back there.

It wasn’t much of a stroll from the pub back to our car. The others opted to head home, but my appetite for fresh air and sunshine wasn’t fully sated yet and so, with no too much light left, I took a lift part way and then walked the rest of the way home.

Low winter sun…

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….fuels one of my favourite photographic obsessions – back-lit leaves….

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Usually I use the camera’s macro facility and try to get the lens as close to the leaf as I can whilst still framing the photo satisfactorily. On this occasion I couldn’t reach to do that and so used the telephoto instead, which produced a completely different effect. Which gives me another avenue to pursue!

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Oyster mushrooms.

I took the path along the edge of Silverdale Moss, which follows a section of the Trough, a fault which passes across the area where mudstone has eroded away between two surrounding beds of limestone. It’s not particularly pronounced here, but it was enough, with the trees around it too, to cut out the sun, and suddenly it was very cold. The tree-tops above me were still catching the last rays of the sun however.

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Once past Haweswater I came out of the trees to see the woods given a kind of late autumn blush by the lowland equivalent of Alpenglow.

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Unusually, I could see the trees reflected in Haweswater too…

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Haverbrack, Beetham Fell, Lunch at the Ship.