In Praise of Limestone

Castlebarrow – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Gait Barrows – Silverdale Moss – Hazelslack – Beetham Fell – Beetham – Dallam Deer Park – Milnthorpe – River Bela – Sandside Cutting – Kent Estuary – Arnside – Arnside Knott – Heathwaite – Holgates

This could have been ‘A Snowdrop Walk’ but I think I’ve already had at least one of those in the last nine hundred posts (the last one was number 900, I now realise). It might also have been ‘The Ruined Cottages Walk’ since I passed three ramshackle buildings, generally not too far from where the snowdrops were.

P1090465

Before I departed, I’d already been for a wander to the Co-op to pick up croissants, rolls and eggs for everybody else’s breakfast. After a second, leisurely cup of tea, I set-off at around ten and was soon at the edge of Eaves Wood, by a substantial patch of snowdrops, donning a coat as it began to first rain and then hail.

P1090464

It had been sunny only moments before and I decided to head up to Castlebarrow – not part of my original plan – to get a higher viewpoint. Just short of the top, I disturbed a Buzzard which flapped lazily out of a tall standard left in an area which had otherwise been cleared of trees.

When I reached Castlebarrow and the Pepperpot…

P1090468

…it had stopped raining, but it looked like Lancaster was probably getting a hammering.

P1090471

The weather seemed idyllic again when I reached Hawes Water.

P1090473

Another pair of Buzzards were circling overhead, but by the time I had dug my camera out of my rucksack, they had disappeared behind the trees. I would hear the plaintive kew of Buzzards several more times during the walk, but this was the last time I saw any. Nor did I see the Sparrow-hawk which I saw here last week and forgot to mention in the appropriate post.

Having stopped to look though, I now realised that atop one of the trees down by the reed fringed shore of the lake…

P1090479

…perched a Cormorant. I’ve seen them here before and they’re hardly uncommon on the Bay, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised (and delighted) to find one here.

In the woods there was a Nuthatch and a Treecreeper, both too elusive for me and my camera. And of course…

P1090489

…more snowdrops.

P1090490

Looking back across Hawes Water to Challan Hall. (The Cormorant was still on its high perch).

By the bench on the boardwalks near the lake another walker had stopped for a breather. He had company…

P1090498

Although I was heading for Beetham Fell, I didn’t feel any need for urgency and took a detour across the meadow, by the hedge…

P1090503

…wondering about the very tall cloud above the Gait Barrows woods, and whether it might be an ill omen, weatherwise…

P1090505

P1090507

I was heading for the Gait Barrows limestone pavements…

P1090508

P1090510

P1090511

P1090512

P1090516

It’s not all that far from there to Silverdale moss, but you can see that in the meantime, the weather had taken another turn for the worse…

P1090517

The Cloven Ash.

It was pretty gloomy, but I could pick out a few Greylag, one of them clearly sitting on a nest, also a distant white bird, probably a Little Egret, and what I could identify, with the aid of the camera, as a male Golden Eye.

P1090523

I turned to take some photos of these King Alfred’s Cakes on some logs left from the demise of the Cloven Ash and, as I did, it began to hail, soon quite ferociously.

P1090530

I pulled my coat back on again, and then turned back to the Moss, because the nesting Greylag was clearly upset about something and was honking vociferously. A Marsh Harrier was quartering the reeds, at one point dropping and spiralling down to a spot very close to the excited goose.

P1090533

It was gloomy and chucking it down, so none of my photos came out brilliantly, but it was fantastic to watch.

P1090537

Fortunately, the rotten weather didn’t last too long, and soon I was shedding layers for the long climb from Hazelslack to the top of Beetham Fell.

P1090542

Arnside Knott, Kent Estuary and Hampsfell from Beetham Fell.

Last Easter, when A and I came through this way on our walk to Keswick, we noticed a huge area of Snowdrop leaves, though the flowers had long since finished. I decided then that I would be back this February to take another look.

P1090543

I think that this was the largest single patch, but the Snowdrops extend over quite a large area.

P1090549

The climb from the outskirts of Beetham uphill to Dallam Deer Park was hard work because the ground was super-saturated, a bit like your average Highland hillside. I think it was mainly due to the extent that the ground had been trampled by the sheep in the field, because once I crossed the ha-ha wall into the Park the going got much firmer.

P1090552

Dallam Deer Park, the River Bela and Milnthorpe.

P1090554

Farleton Fell.

P1090560

The Deer.

P1090561

This unusual building…

P1090564

…is a shelter for the deer.

From Milnthorpe I turned to follow the Bela, first across the park and then out to where it meets the Kent on the latter’s estuary.

In the park, a single Canada Goose joined a flotilla of ducks, mostly mallards but with a group of four diving ducks amongst them, the males black and white, the females a dull brown: tufted ducks.

P1090567

River Bela and Whitbarrow Scar.

P1090566

Greylag Goose.

P1090582

A little further along, on the Kent, a group of six small fluffy diving ducks gave me pause. Even with the powerful zoom of the camera I struggled to get decent photos, but I think that these are Dabchicks: Little Grebes.

P1090586

I was a little torn here: I had wanted to climb Haverbrack, but I also wanted to include Arnside Knott and didn’t think I had time for both. In the end, I decided to walk along the embankment (an old railway line, a Beeching casualty) which follows the Kent Estuary. The walk was delightful, but a low blanket of cloud was flattening the light so I didn’t take any pictures for a while.

P1090587

Silverdale Moss from Arnside Knott. A snow dusted Ingleborough in the background.

P1090589

In Praise of Limestone

Leaf Piercers

P1090440

Last week we had a number of cold, clear, sunny days and I enjoyed several strolls around Lancaster at lunch times and once in the late afternoon. On Friday night I managed to get home early enough to set-out for a walk before the last of the light had gone. It was soon dark and, as often happens on my night time wanders, I was listening to several owls from various directions. When one called particularly loudly, seemingly from almost directly overhead, I looked up and there it was, perched on a branch not far above my head. It was a very pale bird, not a Barn Owl, I don’t think, but a male Tawny Owl, judging by the ‘hoo-hoo’ call.

The forecast for Saturday was dreadful, so when the rain unexpectedly stopped and it began to brighten up I was especially pleased to have a good opportunity to walk down to Hawes Water to see whether the Snowdrops had appeared in the woods there.

P1090443

One regional, alternative name for Snowdrops is Snow Piercers, but this year they are more Leaf-mould Piercers. At first I was dismayed by the thought that there were less flowers than in previous years, but in fact they are abundant again, but quite well hidden by a low shrub which is also thriving in the same part of the woods, I think maybe Wild Privet, but am far from confident.

P1090451

I seem lately to be timing my arrival on the duck-boards by Hawes Water to match sunset.

P1090456

Leaf Piercers

Books, birds and more strolls.

P1090430

Sunday was a bit of a gloomy day. I was out early-ish again, the most memorable aspect of that walk being the thrush which was adding it’s voice to the gathering chorus in Eaves Wood.

The boys had rugby matches in Kirkby Lonsdale and towards the end of the matches the cloud began to break up and we even had a few brief moments of sunshine, giving me high hopes for the afternoon. However, by the time TBH and I had set out for a tour of Hawes Water the leaden skies had returned. It was a fine walk none-the-less.

P1090429

But since I don’t have all that much to say about Sunday, I thought I’d mention this:

P1080238

…which is Mercury Fountain by Alexander Calder. We saw it at the Miro Foundation last summer, but in the photo at the back you can see it at the 1937 Paris Exposition, with Picasso’s Guernica behind.

Like Guernica its a war memorial of sorts, commemorating the Spanish Civil War:

“The mobile sculpture consists of a series of three metal plates arranged above a large pool of mercury. Mercury is pumped up so that a fine stream trickles on to the top plate. It quickens in droplets and rivulets across the plates in turn while they gyre and bow under the weight of the metal, before it vanishes quietly into the pool below. The mercury is the key to the meaning of the work. It came, like the majority of the world’s mercury at that time, from the cinnabar deposits at Almaden in Ciudad Real south-west of Madrid. This strategically important location was to be repeatedly besieged by Franco’s insurgents, and Calder’s work commemorates the miners who had successfully held off the first nationalist onslaught a few months earlier.”

I wish I’d known all that when I saw it in the flesh. This passage comes from Hugh Aldersley-Williams “Periodic Tales”, which I’m currently reading. The title suggests a book on Chemistry, but whilst there is a great deal of Chemistry, there are also great anecdotes, a deal of history, and all round a very entertaining read. Highly recommended.

Books, birds and more strolls.

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Eaves Wood – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Moss Lane – Eaves Wood

P1090153

We’ve spent Christmas at home again this year and a very fine Christmas it has been. The weather has been mixed, but we’ve had some very sunny, clear days in amongst the more typical fare. I’ve been out for local walks, beating the bounds, most days, some times two or three short walks in a day, in fair weather and foul, in company and alone, so expect a fair few posts to come, although, when the weather has been poor I’ve often left my camera at home, so not all of the walks will make it onto the blog.

Most of the walks have involved a visit to Eaves Wood, some have been almost entirely within its compass.

One familiar landmark in the wood, which I walk past very regularly, but which I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here before, are these three constructions…

P1090152

P1090154

“…three very large, stone built, water storage tanks on the surface. These were used to store water for the house before a mains supply was available. The source of this water was  a spring some four hundred yards distant, sited remarkably near the summit of the limestone ridge. The water was first directed through a pipe to a large collecting tank. From here it continued its piped journey underground into a second holding tank before finally reaching the large storage tanks referred to above.”

from ‘In and Around Silverdale’ by David Peter

The house referred to is the Woodlands, once Hill House, a pretty grand private property but now an excellent pub, affectionately known in the village as The Woodies.

I was out relatively early that morning because the forecast had predicted sunshine early, but cloud later. The cloud arrived rather sooner than I expected and by the time I had reached Hawes Water it was really quite dull.

P1090155

I met some friends on the boardwalk by the lake and they were telling me to listen out for the contact calls of Goldcrests and Nuthatches, that, in fact, there were Goldcrests in the trees around us. I’ve been quite surprised by how busy, and noisy, the birds are in the woods and trees at the moment. I’m not great at recognising bird-song and even less confident with contact calls, but I’ve seen quite a variety of birds over the last fortnight, including several Nuthatches and eventually a solitary Goldcrest.

I haven’t often been very successful in capturing images of the birds however…

P1090157

I’ve kept this diabolical, blurred photo because the birds which have surprised me most have been the Woodpeckers. I’ve once heard the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker, and most days I’ve heard several different Great-spotted Woodpeckers drumming. These are both sounds I associate with early spring, not the tail end of December. I’ve seen this bird, or at least, presumably the same bird each time, drumming on the same tree on more than one occasion, with a rival bird responding from somewhere nearby. Standing beneath the tree as the Woodpecker drums, the volume of the sound is astonishing.

I assumed that I must be wrong about this territorial drumming being a portent of spring, but this is what Mabey and Cocker have to say in Birds Britannica:

“Like many arboreal birds it is easiest to see just before leaf burst, when the adults can be located by their mechanical drumming sound, whose dying cadence reverberates through the woodland of early spring and is itself a wonderful statement of seasonal change. Both males and females create the noise and do so by striking their beaks repeatedly against a suitably rotten or hollow branch which acts in turn as a sounding board.”

So if I’m wrong, I am at least in exalted company. Or maybe it’s the Woodpeckers who are confused by the bright sunny days we’ve had? Or perhaps spring is just going to arrive early this year?

 

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Two Family Walks

P1050727

Two local walks in fact. The first from the end of January.

P1050725 

More Oystercatchers.

Not far. Just to The Cove with my Mum and Dad…

P1050730 

The second, mid February, began as a den building session in Eaves Wood.

P1050735 

I had a stove with me, and A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov, and envisaged a lazy morning loafing in the leaf litter reading and drinking tea. But somehow I ended up embroiled in the construction work.

P1050739 

Later, I was out again, this time on my own, on a bit of an seasonal pilgrimage to see the massed snowdrops in the woods near Hawes Water.

P1050743

Two Family Walks

Not November

P1050208

P1050211 

P1050213 

P1050215 

P1050216 

P1050218 

P1050219 

P1050221 

P1050223 

P1050225 

P1050231 

P1050234 

P1050235 

P1050237 

P1050238 

P1050239 

P1050241

There’s a gale already raging outside as the latest winter storm rolls in off the Atlantic. These photos then, from the end of October, taken during a family stroll around Hawes Water and back home, are the antithesis of everything we’ve experienced since they were taken, full as they are of light, warmth, blue skies, butterflies, and leaves of myriad colours. Although November’s long since gone I’m put in mind of this poem by Thomas Hood, which, I’m surprised to find, I don’t seem to have shared through this forum before:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
November!

November seems to be doggedly persistent this year having dragged on for at least twice it’s allotted interval now. I hope it exhausts itself soon.

Not November

Where The Wild Things Were.

P1010864

The clocks go forward the clocks go back: a flurry of posts and momentarily I’m almost up to date, but then, wham – all of a sudden I’m miles behind again. How did that happen? It’s not all bad – partly it’s because I’ve been managing to get out quite a bit, even if only for a few snatched moments here and there. So – lots of catching up to do and how am I going to begin? With a digression of course!

Libraries.

Library – a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for use or borrowing by the public or the members of an institution

(You knew that obviously, I seemed to have strayed into the beginning of a round from The Unbelievable Truth there.)

A while back, I took the kids to the village library – which is small but perfectly formed, as they say – so that they could return some books. Now I don’t often use the library these days, or the larger library in Lancaster either. I have a bit of a second-hand book buying habit, to the point where the house is slowly silting-up with the accumulated piles of as-yet-unread, but never-the-less highly desirable old books I’ve smuggled in. But whilst I was at the library I thought to check the non-fiction shelf for a recently published book about the history of Leighton Moss I’ve been wanting to read. Rather surprisingly, it wasn’t there. But what I did find….

P1020230

 

…encouraged me to rediscover the library habit.

Once upon a time, the local library was pretty much the centre of my universe. It wasn’t the same village library – this was on Paget Street in Kibworth, where I grew up. A slightly bigger library in a slightly bigger village. We visited often, and I can remember the layout well. One end of the building was dedicated to children’s books. I can even remember reading Where The Wild Things Are there, although it was the terrific pictures of the wild things which stuck with me rather than any details of the story. I also vividly recall getting my own library tickets and being trusted to walk the half-mile into the village on my own to choose books. And then greedily devouring those books and taking them back almost immediately after borrowing them. I often read surreptitiously into the night, long after I was supposed to be asleep. Later, I can remember deciding that I had outgrown the children’s section and making what felt like a huge journey across to the other side of the room to try the books for grown-ups.

Anyway, talking of books for grown-ups, here’s a recommendation: the first of the library books I read was ‘A Buzz in the Meadow’ by Dave Goulson. I’ve been on the look out for his ‘A Sting in the Tale’ since, Emily reviewed it on her Adventures in Beeland blog. If you believe the blurb on ‘A Buzz in the Meadow’, it’s about a meadow in France that Goulson owns and the insects which live there. But that’s very far from all of the story. The meadow and farm house which he bought form a convenient frame for a whole load of other stuff.

P1010867 

Not unlike the way in which I’m going to attempt to string a series of digressions around these pictures from a post-work walk. It was a fairly digressive walk in itself: I was tempted away from the main path around Haweswater by primroses, up a narrow trod which climbs through what I think an Orienteer might class as a slight reentrant. Because the boys and I have previously found badger trails in this area, I’ve often assumed that this path is another of those, but the shotgun casings, oddly out-of-place in a National Nature Reserve, had me reconsidering. The woods are wonderfully unkempt hereabouts, with fallen branches and fungi-decked trunks on every side.

 P1010873 

P1010870

And some curious odds and ends of human detritus lying about too..

P1010875 

I followed a very faint path, losing it and then regaining it from time to time. This is it…

P1010877 

…it wasn’t especially obvious. Not like these…

P1010878 

…Scarlet Elf Cup.

Their parabolic surfaces, as vivid as a guardsman’s regimental tunic, focus the feeble heat of the winter sun on thousands of minute, flask-shaped sporangia embedded in their surface, which respond by discharging a silent fusillade of invisible spores.

from The Guardian Country Diary

‘A Buzz in the Meadow’ has a section about the way that some flowers can generate heat. Parts of cuckoo pint flowers can feel quite warm to the touch apparently, a fact that I look forward to checking soon. In fact the book is full of really surprising and fascinating facts about the kinds of flora and fauna you might easily overlook.

P1010883 

Found sculpture: a tangle of twigs – some fallen, some live – suspended like a natural mobile.

In a second section, Goulson moves on to the web of interconnections, not all of them perfectly understood, between the many denizens of his land.

P1010884 

A query: at the base of tree – some….foam? What could have caused it?

P1010885 

I was still clinging to the notion that I might be following a badger highway. But there was a high deer fence around an area of coppicing to my left. And bird-boxes liberally distributed around this part of the wood…

P1010886 

So I was probably deluding myself. But then we’re good at that aren’t we? The last section of Goulson’s book is about the alarming rate at which the world is losing entire species: how we’ve almost entirely eradicated megafauna, how new pesticides are are scandalously harming our bees…..

P1020319 

According to last Friday’s paper 10 percent of European bee species are threatened, but it’s worse for bumble bees, with the figure rising to 25 percent. In China bees are already so scarce that children are employed in orchards to climb the trees and pollinate blossoms using brushes. We’re depressingly adept at thinking of ourselves as somehow apart from nature; that the natural world is either something to be exploited or something to be managed and preserved. But we are part of those webs of interconnectedness, whether we acknowledge that fact or not and it must be in our own self-interest to modify our behaviour before it’s too late.

P1010892 

It was getting quite late on my walk and a bit gloomy in the woods. I’ve been enjoying the way the birdsong is gradually swelling, with more birds adding their voices each week. The song thrushes are very vocal in the evenings at present. I was impressed with the way the camera caught this one, despite the low light and the tangle of surrounding branches.

But then equally frustrated by my inability to get it to focus properly on the small nubs appearing at the base of this tree, as they do every year.

P1010901 

They were the emerging spears of another spring curiosity – toothwort – a parasitic flower without leaves, which gathers nourishment from the roots of the tree below.

P1010904 

P1010909 

I finished my wander with a view of Haweswater and back to the car.

P1010915 

There used to be a path across this meadow….

P1010916 

…but something has changed and now it doesn’t drain as it did, and even in wellies I found I had to go around.

I should at this point have gone home for my tea, since I was needed quite soon for a football-training-taxi-run. But I decided I just about had time to catch the sunset over The Bay…

P1010917 

Meanwhile my Mum tells me that the library in her village is scheduled to shut soon. Not an uncommon occurrence I know, in these straitened times. But this is a particularly crazy plan, since this library has hardly been there for long, a brand-spanking new facility was only recently built. Now it will shut.

P1010930

I hope we won’t wait to find that miss what we had when it’s gone.

Where The Wild Things Were.