Nuthatches and Butterflies

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One route into Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve leaves Red Bridge Lane, crosses a small field and then the railway line and then you are into another field, but this one s part of the reserve. Cross that field and you come to a gate in a hedge beside which stands this big old Ash tree.

As I approached the tree, I could see, on the trunk, an adult Nuthatch passing food to a fledgling. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo, but then watched the pair for quite a while, taking lots of, mostly unsatisfactory, pictures.

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Both birds were on the move, but more so the adult which moved both faster and more widely around the tree. The youngster seemed to be foraging for itself, whilst also emitting high-pitched squeals to encourage the parent to keep it supplied with tasty grubs. Their meetings were so brief that this is the only one I captured, and even then the exchange of food had already happened here.

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This is the juvenile. I’m sure of that fact, but can’t really put my finger on why I’m so confident. I suppose, like a lot of juveniles, it’s a little smaller and dumpier, its colours slightly duller. I think the eye-stripe is shorter and not quite so bold. Looking for some confirmation in my bird books, I came across a distribution map, from a book published in 1988, which shows Nuthatches as absent from this area and only resident further south. I’m quite surprised by that, because when I moved to this area, just a few years after that publication date, one of the first things that struck me was how often I spotted Nuthatches, a bird which, until then, I had only seen relatively infrequently. I see that the RSPB website has a map which shows that they have subsequently extended their range into southern Scotland.

There was a Starling flitting in and out of the tree too and a Kestrel hovering above the field beyond.

Once I was into the woods near Hawes Water I watched several more Nuthatches. All adult birds I think, but all equally busy and perhaps seeking food for nestlings or fledglings too. I took lots more photos, but in the woods there was even more shade than there had been under the Ash and they’re all slightly blurred.

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Common Blue Damselfly

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The flowers of Common Gromwell are hardly showy, but they have succeeded in attracting this very dark bee…

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…at least it’s a bee, but it’s colouring doesn’t quite seem to match any Bumblebee, so I’m a bit puzzled. Any ideas?

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A crow by Hawes Water.

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In the meadow beyond Hawes Water I was very pleased to spot a single Northern Marsh-orchid.

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Hawes Water.

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I assume that this is a day-flying moth. There were loads of them in the meadow, obvious in flight, but then apparently disappearing. I realised that they were folding their wings and hugging grass stems and were then very difficult to spot. I have two photos of this specimen and both seem to show that its head is a tiny hairy outside broadcast microphone, which seems a bit unlikely.

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There are huge warrens and large numbers of rabbits at Gait Barrows. Every now and again, you see a black rabbit in amongst the crowds; a genetic remnant of an escaped domestic pet?

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I think that this is a female Northern Damselfly, and am now wondering if the ‘Red-eyed’ damselflies I posted pictures of recently were the same. Maybe.

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With more certainty, this is a Northern Brown Argus. I’ve pored over this guide, and for once, the ocelli seem to exactly match, making me feel more confident than usual.

Anyway, what ever species it is it looked pretty cool with its wings closed and even better…

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…with them open. In most guides these are brown and orange butterflies; I suspect that the rich variety of colours on display here is due to the deterioration of the scales on the wings, but, truth be told, I don’t really know.

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There were several Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries around. Two in particular kept me entertained for quite some time.

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One soon decided to settle down and tried out a few likely looking perches, without moving very far.

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The other was flitting about far more, now close by…

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…then ranging a bit further, then back again. I thought the first had chosen a final spot, although, looking again, you can see that it’s feeding here…

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…not that I can see a flower. Maybe drinking?

The second SPBF was still haring about…

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Every now and again it would ‘bounce’ the settled butterfly, which at first would provoke a brief flight, then progressively less energetic wing-flapping until almost no response followed; just a short of dismissive shrug.

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Eventually, the second butterfly found a perch and stopped moving too. I’ve watched a SPBF do this in the late afternoon once before. I didn’t realise that was so long ago!

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Late afternoon light on Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

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Distant Lakeland peaks on the horizon.

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A late finish.

Nuthatches and Butterflies

Trampled Underfoot

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We had a succession of misty mornings. Generally, I was too slothful to be out for a walk early enough to capture them in photographs. I saw an amazing drone shot, on Faceache, which showed the very top of Arnside Knott poking above a sea of mist. To be up there then would have been amazing. Next time!

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Here’s the same view without the mist.

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I had another go at photographing the many bees on our cotoneaster; this time, the sun was shining and the results we’re much more satisfactory. I think that this is a honey bee.

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Whilst this is an early bumblebee. There were red-tailed bumblebees and tree bumblebees too, but they proved to be more elusive on this occasion.

Whilst the cotoneaster was highly popular, the bees weren’t completely ignoring the other flowers nearby.

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I assume that this is a common carder bee, although the ginger hairs on its legs are confusing me a little and the flowers, although they are growing in our garden, look very like Druce’s crane’s-bill on the wildflowerfinder website, a cross between french crane’s-bill and pencilled crane’s-bill.

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Red valerian had begun flowering on stony verges, dry-stone walls and limestone cliffs. It’s an introduced plant, originating in the Mediterranean, but seemingly very much at home here. In fact, the flowers can be pink or white as well as red. The bees seem to like it as much as I do.

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I spent an age trying to get a clear photo of this little bee, and I’m glad now that I did; I think that this is a red mason bee, which makes it a new one to me and so very pleasing.

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Wintercress again, with quite distinctive, shiny leaves…

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Green-veined white butterfly.

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These rabbit kits were looking very chilled. But there was an adult on sentry duty nearby…

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In flight, this butterfly was so pale that I thought I was looking at some sort of white, but the underside of the wings, as much green as yellow, and their distinctive shape, reveal that this is actually a female brimstone

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Common carder bee.

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A very ragged peacock butterfly.

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Another ‘new’ perspective on Hawes Water.

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Brown silver-line moth.

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As yet unidentified micro-moth.

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And yet another ‘new’ perspective on Hawes Water.

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Small heath butterfly.

I think of small heath butterflies as my companions on my summer evening post-work wanders, but I’ve never seen one close to home before.

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I took a few photographs of the small heath, I suppose I was fairly motionless for a while, so much so that this blue-tailed damselfly seemed to think that I was part of the furniture and landed on my sock. Quite tricky to get a photo!

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Lily-of-the-valley.

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Biting stonecrop, almost flowering.

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It was a shame I couldn’t get a better angle for a photo of this speckled yellow moth, it’s colour was lovely.

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Foxglove pug moth, possibly.

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Star of Bethlehem, in the hedge-bottom, Moss Lane.

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As I walked back into the village from Gait Barrows, there were roe deer in the fields either side of the road.

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After sharing a song by the band Trampled Underfoot, I thought I would post the song of the same name. I heard this on Radio 6 a few months ago and was quite taken aback; I’m only familiar with the most obvious and well-known Led Zep tracks and was surprised by how funky this sounded. Now I obviously need to trawl through their back catalogue in search of more gems. So many songs to listen to!

Trampled Underfoot

Who’ll Stop The Rain?

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Male house sparrow – with nesting material? – on the wall by the ginnel to Townsfield. 

The photos in this post are drawn from walks on several consecutive days, which were obviously a bit gloomy, judging by the photos.

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Oxeye daisy.

Never mind, there always plenty to see none-the-less.

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Speckled wood butterfly.

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Germander speedwell.

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I thought this might be creeping jenny, but it’s not, it’s the very similar, and related, yellow pimpernel.

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Which I found flowering on the margin between woods and grassland on Heathwaite. I was on my way up the Knott.

I’ve walked past this gateway many times recently and thought that maybe I’d never been through it.

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This time I tried it and discovered a path which I don’t think I’ve walked before. It runs parallel to other paths I have walked and wasn’t really significantly different to those, but I was still pleased to find a route which was new to me.

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The views were a bit limited, the lakeland hills being shrouded in low cloud, but Cartmel Fell, running up to Gummer How was clear, as was Whitbarrow Scar.

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And there’s always the Bay to admire.

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Lady’s mantle displaying the recent rain.

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The Bay from the Cove.

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Sea radish.

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Blackbird – sometimes blackbirds can be quite bold, this one didn’t seem at all bothered by my interest.

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Surprised by movement in a puddle on a path, I looked down to see this fairly large black beetle. It was swimming quite proficiently, but I couldn’t work out why any kind of water beetle would be in a puddle quite a way from any open water on the one hand, or what any other kind of beetle would be doing swimming at all on the other. I suppose I should have fished it out to have a closer look.

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Salad burnet. 

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Lady’s mantle again.

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Bird’s-eye primrose by Hawes Water.

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Gloucester Old Spot pig.

Sadly, the farm at Hawes Villa is going to close. Apparently they’ve lost the battle for planning permission for the yurts on their campsite and without the extra income that brings in the farm is not profitable. A great shame for the family and the village and that the conservation breeding programme has come to an end. On a personal note, we filled a freezer with pork from the farm and it was great to be able to buy local produce from a source that we could see with our own eyes was genuinely free range with excellent welfare.

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Just missed the sunset from Jack Scout. Again.

Oxeye daisy, germander speedwell, creeping jenny, yellow pimpernel, lady’s mantle, bird’s-eye primrose, sea radish – don’t our wildflowers have great names? The lady’s mantles pictured above are, I suspect, one of the garden varieties, which self seed freely and so have become naturalised. The latin name is Alchemilla mollis which I think also has something of a ring to it; Alchemilla from alchemy, because of the supposed herbal benefits of the plant.


After yesterday’s post with four songs all covered by one singer, todays I’ve gone for almost the opposite: covers of songs all originally performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

‘As Long As I Can See The Light’ by the incomparable Ted Hawkins

‘Proud Mary’ by Solomon Burke. I think the version by Ike and Tina Turner is better known; I believe it was Solomon Burke who suggested they should cover the song.

‘Born on the Bayou’ by Trampled Underfoot.

‘Lodi’ Dan Penn

‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ Dwight Yoakam

‘Wrote A Song for Everyone’ Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy (if the name sounds familiar, he’s from the great band ‘Wilco’).

Hmmm. Got a bit carried away there. If you’re a big fan of Creedence, and I am, you might argue that none of them are a patch on the originals. I’m not sure, but I think there’s some good stuff here. Do you have a favourite – I’m struggling?

Who’ll Stop The Rain?

Mostly Flowers and Mother Shipton

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Solomon’s-seal in Eaves Wood.

A very elegant plant, Solomon’s-seal, even if the flowers are hardly spectacular. We have some in our garden. There is a garden variety, a hybrid of Solomon’s-seal and angular Solomon’s-seal. Apparently, the hybrid is more vigorous than either of the parent plants, which makes me think that what’s growing in both Eaves Wood and our garden is probably not the garden variety, since neither show much inclination to spread.

Just after I took this photo, I spotted a pair of roe deer, I even managed to take a couple of blurred photos, one of which, rather comically, only shows the hind quarters of one of the deer. I think I photographed the same pair on another walk a few days later; they were memorable because one was still in the dull grey-brown of it’s winter coat whereas the other had upgraded to the golden-brown summer coat.

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Every year a solitary sweet woodruff plant appears in the hedge bottom along the lane from home and I welcome it like the returning friend it is and wonder why I don’t see sweet woodruff elsewhere. This year I have found it in a couple of other places, most noticeably in Eaves Wood, where some trees have been cleared it has already spread over quite an area.

It was close to where the herb paris was now flowering…

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Silverweed.

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Crosswort.

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Mayflower – the hawthorns had come into bloom.

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Challan Hall.

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Bird’s-foot trefoil and germander speedwell complementing each other very nicely.

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Early forget-me-not. Perhaps. Minuscule flowers.

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Salad burnet.

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Mouse-ear-hawkweed.

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I’m very fond of mouse-ear-hawkweed, principally, I think, because it’s just about the only yellow-flowered member of the daisy family which is easily identified, due to it’s downy leaves which have silvery undersides. The flowers are also noticeably paler than some of the hawkbits which it might otherwise resemble.

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In the meadow by Challan Hall, I was very taken by the splash of blue provided by these germander speedwells. Not quite as breath-taking as the spring gentians I might have been visiting in Teesdale, if I’d felt a long drive to Teesdale was appropriate during lockdown, but not a bad substitute.

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Wild strawberry flowers.

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I wish I’d taken more care and had a few attempts to photograph this tiny-flowered plant in the woods by Hawes Water. I now think that it’s kidney saxifrage, a plant which is only native to Kerry and West Cork in Ireland, but which has been introduced in Britain.

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I think I dismissed it as a garden escapee and moved on too quickly to look at more familiar plants!

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Common gromwell – an architectural plant much more striking for its leaves than for its unremarkable flowers.

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It took a while to track this down, but I now think that it’s winter cress. It’s bitter and peppery apparently and the leaves appear in December – hence the name.

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This stream, unnamed on the OS map, flows through Little Hawes Water and into Hawes Water, then from Hawes Water through Hawes Water Moss, across the golf course and into Leighton Moss, so I suppose that ultimately it’s one of the sources of Quicksand Pool. The water was particularly clear so that I could see the three-spined stickleback.

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Silvery for most of the year but, in breeding season, male acquires red belly and bluish dorsal sheen.

Collins Complete British Wildlife.

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Tadpoles.

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Brooklime.

A plant generally of streams, although these weren’t growing in an obviously wet spot. The flowers are instantly recognisable as speedwell flowers, and brooklime belongs to the Veronica genus with the speedwells. The fleshy leaves are obviously different however. The full latin name is Veronica beccabunga with the species name beccabunga deriving from the German word ‘beck’ I read, but surely, that’s an English word too?

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Bird’s-eye primrose – a Hawes Water speciality, growing at the southern limit of its range.

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I read online (at a source which I found whilst looking for something else entirely, and which, annoyingly, I can’t currently find) that Hawes Water is a polje, a kind of deep lake particular to karst limestone areas. I know that it is deep and doesn’t freeze over in the winter, which means that, on the rare occasions that it gets very cold here, the surface of the lake can be thronged with waterfowl.

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One of a clump of cowslips all of which had many flowers.

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A newish bench.

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Jackdaws are generally gregarious birds, but when the rest of the clattering took to the wing, spooked by the interloper with the camera, this one decided to remain alone. In fact, coming towards me to pick out a titbit from the grass…

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And yes, clattering is the collective noun for jackdaws apparently. Or train.

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Bugle.

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Peacock butterfly.

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New oak leaves.

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Male large white butterfly on bluebells.

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Lily-of-the-valley leaves.

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Lily-of-the-valley flowers.

This…

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..is Ursula Southeil, better known as Mother Shipton, sixteenth century prophetess. She lives on today as a statue  and a visitor attraction in Knaresborough: you can visit the cave in which she was reputedly born.

She also lends her name to…

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…the Mother Shipton moth. I think you’ll see why.

It’s maybe a bit of a shame that this engagingly patterned moth is named after an unfortunate woman whose neighbours apparently called her hagface.

Initially, when this moth bounced past me, I got all a-flutter because I was looking for Duke of Burgundy butterflies. It was actually too early, I think, for them to be flying, and the Mother Shipton is completely the wrong colours, but I still got in a flap. Once I had my camera steady and pointed in the right direction I recognised the moth, because I’ve seen one once before, in the hills above Whinlatter.

I’ve been back to look for Duke of Burgundies since. Repeatedly. No luck. Again. But I have seen all sorts other interesting things, so not to worry. Next year!

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Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

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Song Thrush. I love the way they have to have absolutely the most prominent perch on offer to sing, like a real diva.

Since some of the trees were cleared from around Hawes Water you get tantalising views of the lake from the higher parts of Gait Barrows. I climbed this small edge..

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…to see if the lake was visible from there. It was, but it’s hard to pick it out in the photo…

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The slight gain in height gave an interesting new perspective on the limestone pavement though…

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Blackbird.

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I think that this might be a sedge warbler. I watched a pair of them seemingly endlessly circuiting between a dense bush and this ash tree, singing constantly. I can say, with some confidence that it is a warbler but not a chiff-chaff, because the song was wrong, but that’s as far as my confidence extends.

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Lots of bugle! This was by the stream again, but this time upstream of Little Hawes Water.

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Common carder bee, perhaps, on bugle.

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The reason photos of Little Hawes Water have never appeared on the blog is that it’s in there somewhere, or perhaps I should say that those trees are in Little Hawes Water, some of them at least, since trees grow in the pond.

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Dandelion clocks.


One of the first blues records I bought was a Howling Wolf compilation. What a choice: Smokestack Lightning, Back Door Man, Moaning at Midnight, Little Red Rooster, Killing Floor, 300 Pounds of Heavenly Joy and this…

It wasn’t until many years later that I heard this much, much older version by the Mississippi Sheiks…

And only last week that I stumbled upon Doc Watson’s rendition…

There are, of course, lots of other covers, by the Grateful Dead, Cream and Jack White for example.

But here’s a bluegrass version…

Mostly Flowers and Mother Shipton

Seismic Noise and Mast Years

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Early light on St. John’s Silverdale.

One consequence, apparently, of the current situation, has been the reduction of seismic noise; that is seismic readings caused by human activity. The journal Nature reports a drop by one third in Belgium, and I read somewhere, sorry, I can’t remember where, that in London it’s down by about a half.

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Heading towards Hawes Water. A fence on the left has been partially removed. Similar fences, between woodland and pasture, have been removed across the Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve. Will they be replaced or is this part of a new management plan?

It’s difficult to gauge whether paths around Silverdale are quieter now than they usually are, because I’m not normally out myself mid-week in the daytime. I think that they have got busier, though, since the extra clarification which has made it clear that it’s okay to drive a short distance for your daily exercise.

I didn’t drive for this walk, in fact I haven’t driven anywhere for weeks, but I did walk a little further than usual, as I have done from time to time.

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The cairn at Gait Barrows.

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Ash flower buds.

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Beech mast.

TBH and I have both been noticing on our walks (and runs in TBH’s case) that, when we are beneath Beech trees this spring, every step brings a satisfying crunch. The local Beeches seem to have produced a bumper crop of mast last year. That’s not unusual: every three to five years Oaks and Beeches produce a huge crop and those years when that happens are know as mast years.

It seems that the reasons why this occurs are not completely understood. A Guardian piece on mast years hypothesises that it’s the spring weather which dictates: Oaks and Beeches are wind pollinated, so a warm and windy spring produces a lot of flowers which are successfully pollinated. If that theory is correct then this year ought to be a mast year.

On the other hand, this article, on the Woodland Trust website, posits that the lean years control the population of frugivores*, like Jays and Squirrels and then, in the bumper years, the remaining populations of these creatures can’t possibly eat all of the seeds so that some are bound to get a chance to germinate and grow.

This second theory would seem to require some element of coordination between trees, which in turn would imply that trees must communicate in some way. That might seem unlikely, but that’s exactly the thesis advanced by Peter Wohlleben in his book ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’, which I read last summer while we were in Germany and found absolutely fascinating.

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Anyway, back to my walk: I’d left Gait Barrows via the small hill Thrang Brow which is enough of a rise to give partial views of the Lake District hills, but that view never seems to translate well in photographs. From Thrang Brow a slender path heads of through the woods of Yealand Allotment. I don’t often come this way, but always enjoy it when I do.

A bright yellow sign on the far side of a wall attracted my attention…

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And I’m glad that it did, because just over the wall was a small group of Fallow Deer…

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Fallow Deer.

Sadly, most of the group were almost hidden by trees so I only got a chance of a clear photo of this one individual.

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Limekiln in Yealand Allotments.

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Peter Lane Limekiln.

I’d been thinking of incorporating Warton Crag into my walk, but I was thirsty and the weather was deteriorating, so took the path which cuts across the lower slopes to the north of the crag. Just as I took this photo…

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View of Leighton Moss.

…it began to rain. TBH, bless her, rang me and asked if I wanted her drive over to pick me up, but the rain wasn’t heavy so I decided to carry on.

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Tide line on Quaker’s Stang.

On Quaker’s Stang, an old sea defence, previous high tides had left a line of driftwood and dried vegetation right on the top of the wall, and, further along, well beyond the wall on the landward side. I’ve often wondered about the name – apparently ‘stang’ is a measurement of land equivalent to a pole, rod or perch. That sounds like it might offer an explanation, except a pole, or a rod, or a perch, is five and a half yards and Quaker’s Stang is a lot longer than that.

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This tree is very close to home. I spent the last part of my ‘walk’ watching and photographing the antics of another Treecreeper in its branches.

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Treecreeper.

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I suppose a treecreeper qualifies as an LBJ, a Little Brown Job, except that sounds derogatory and, in my opinion, Treecreeper’s are stunning, in their own muted way.

*Frugivore was a new word to me, and I’m always happy to meet one of those. Apparently, it’s an animal which lives wholly or mostly on fruit.

The idea of compiling a kind of day-y-day playlist originated when Andy and I were discussing a mixtape I made, many moons ago, for our long drives up to Scotland for walking holidays. One of the songs on the tape was The Band’s ‘The Weight’. It’s still a song I adore. As well as the original, there’s a great version by Aretha Franklin, but here (subject to it not getting blocked) is Mavis Staples singing it with Jools Holland’s orchestra from one of his hootenannies:

I’ve seen Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra a couple of times live and can definitely recommend them. Last time I saw them, at Cartmel Racetrack, we went with friends and took the kids with us. There was a fair there too, and several support acts, including the Uptown Monotones who have become a firm favourite. Anyway, the kids were mortified when the adults all had the temerity to dance. In public! One of my sandals fell apart whilst I was dancing, I’m not sure whether that was a consequence of my vigorous enthusiasm or my inept clumsiness. Or both.

Seismic Noise and Mast Years

Two for Joy

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Arnside Tower.

What a tonic blue sky is, and the light that comes with it…

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Beech leaves.

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Green Hellebore.

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Middlebarrow Quarry.

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Shelduck

This was the first of several occasions when I’ve watched Shelduck in groups of half a dozen or so, flying around and around Middlebarrow Quarry, honking loudly. Occasionally they will settle on a ledge, but then off they go again. I can’t imagine what the purpose of this display is.

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Common Carder Bee (perhaps) on Toothwort.

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Hawes Water.

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Sunset.

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Magpies.

Magpies are another surprisingly elusive bird. They’re so common and yet all the photographs I have of them are taken from huge distances, so I was chuffed when this pair sat and posed for several portraits. Their cousins, Jays, are even more flighty and although I’ve spotted them quite a few times over the last few weeks, I don’t have a single photo to show for it.

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Goldfinches.

Around this time it was evident that many birds were building nests. I watched a Crow struggling to break a twig from a tree, then, apparently dissatisfied, throw the twig to the ground and laboriously snap off another. The second twig must have been deemed much better building material, because it flew off with that one in its beak. I also spotted these Goldfinches which were ripping Dandelion petals from unopened flowers, presumably to line a nest?

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Dunnock – I think.

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Grange from the Cove.

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The ‘salt desert’ of the Bay.

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Song Thrush.

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Curious lambs. Despite the sunshine, frost was hanging on in the shade of a drystone wall well into the afternoon.

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A new gateway at an entrance to Clark’s and Sharp’s Lots.

One of the joys of being out almost every day has been the opportunity to observe changes unfold. Not just a neat new bit of wall on a National Trust property, but new flowers appearing, leaves shooting up from the woodland floor and the changing chorus of birds in the woods too.

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Nuthatch.

As soon as the lockdown started, I realised that the Chiff-chaffs were already back with us. In the woods, I was surprised how much the birdsong was dominated by Chiff-chaffs, Robins and Nuthatches. Then the Song Thrushes swelled the ranks a little, with Blackbirds coming in a little later. Now there are too many voices for an amateur like me and I’m much more easily confused.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

Butterflies too were abundant from fairly early on. Brimstones first – although they don’t seem to like to stop to be photographed. Then Commas, Small Tortoiseshells, and Peacocks, with Orange Tips hard on their heels. I think those must all be species which overwinter in their adult forms. Certainly many of the butterflies I saw looked quite tatty.

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A near Jenny Brown’s Cottages.

It’s a shame really that I was behind with the blog – it would have given me great pleasure, as well as being a lot easier, to record the changes as they happened. Imagine that – a daily walk with my camera and no work to get in the way. How can I engineer that, do you think?

Can’t really think how to shoehorn this track in, apart from it’s fantastic. Solomon Burke with the Blind Boys of Alabama on backing vocals. Brilliant.

Two for Joy

Sauvages de ma rue*

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White Violets in a large roadside patch by Jack Scout.

“In a recent YouGov poll, just 6% of 16- to 24-year-olds were able to correctly name a picture of a wild violet. The same poll showed nearly 70% of respondents would like to be able to identify more wild flowers.”

This is another conglomeration of photos from various walks, still back at the tail-end of March.

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A misty pre-dawn.

Back then, I sometimes managed to get out early, before sitting down at the computer for the day’s work. That has since gone by the by, as I have started to sleep in a little longer, with no need to get up for a daily commute.

Being a creature of habit, I’ve often walked the same route on consecutive days, occasionally branching out to go somewhere different.

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Arnside Tower.

Variations on a walk around Eaves Wood and Middlebarrow were a favourite for a while. For some reason, I seem to be incapable of walking past Arnside Tower without taking a picture of it.

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Mist over Silverdale Moss.

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Arnside Tower again! (On another day)

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Pheasant feather?

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Early sun in Middlebarrow Woods.

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Mist over Hawes Water.

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Toothwort – this is the earliest I’ve seen this flowering. The plants I used to visit every year, which seemed to have survived their host tree being chopped down have now gone. But fortuitously, I found another, larger, patch nearby.

We talk a lot about plant blindness – what if putting names on plants could make people look at them in a different way?

The quotes in this post are all taken from a Guardian article ‘Not Just Weeds‘, about the growing phenomena of pavement chalking to identify wildflowers in urban areas. I knew I would enjoy the piece, when it started with the somewhat unexpected phrase “a rising international force of rebel botanists”, which is not a combination of words I ever thought I would encounter – it conjures up images of an orange clad Stars Wars force armed with hand lenses and wild flower keys.

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Hawes Water.

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Goldfinch.

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Silverdale from Castlebarrow.

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Green Hellebore.

In my experience, the effort required to try to put names to plants has made me look at them in a different way. And treasure them too. I’ve been really thrilled, for example, to have found this large clump of Green Hellebore, which I must have walked past hundreds of times before and missed, in Middlebarrow Woods.

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One anonymous London tree name chalker said: “I’ll keep labelling as I go on my daily walks. I think it’s really tapped into where people are right now.

“Botanical chalking gives a quick blast of nature connection, as the words encourage you to look up and notice the tree above you, the leaves, the bark, the insects, the sky. And that’s all good for mental health. None of us can manage that much – living through a global pandemic is quite enough to be getting on with. But it’s brought me a great amount of joy.”

And so, on the subject of joy, to today’s musical choice. I realised, when it was too late, that a post about vitamin D ought to have been accompanied by a sunshine song. So, here it is a day late:

Once, I’d settled on ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, it was quite difficult to decide which version to use. If I’d managed to find a video of Jimi Hendrix, during the Lulu show, dismissing ‘Hey Joe’ as ‘rubbish’ and breaking into ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ as a tribute to Cream, who had announced that they had split that day, then it would have been that version hands down. I like the original. There’s a great version by Ella Fitzgerald again. But, in a serendipitous moment, whilst I was pondering those three, I stumbled across this version by Spanky Wilson, which I’d never heard before. To be honest, I’m not sure that I’ve heard of Spanky Wilson before. Enjoy.

*Sauvages de ma rue – wild things of my street. An underground guerrilla movement of rebel botanists. Maybe.

 

Sauvages de ma rue*

2020: Little and Often Rides Again

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What a difference a day makes: the view from the Cove on New Year’s Day. Not as clear and  colourful as it had been the day before. Even on grey days though, I find the view of the bay compelling.

I was out three times on New Year’s Day. And the day after. And the day after that. And on many days in January.

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A screenshot of my January walks from MapMyWalk.

In 2018, when I was completing the 1000 mile challenge, my ‘Little and Often’ approach served me well. In the first half of 2019, in training for the 10in10 charity walk, I tried to make my walks longer, but maybe didn’t squeeze as many in. Never the less, I was still well on course to walk a 1000 miles last year. But then the MapMyWalk app packed up on my ageing phone, so it became more difficult to keep track of my milage, and the nature of our summer holiday wasn’t too conducive for getting a lot of walking in.

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Brown Rolls

In September, back at work, I should’ve picked up the cudgel, but didn’t.

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January 2nd. Another early start.

In December, B and I availed ourselves of free trial membership of a Cross Fit gym in Kendal. We enjoyed it so much that, when we were offered discounted membership, I was sorely tempted to join, even after I’d worked out that there were no classes, aside from the introductory lessons we had already done, that we could actually make.

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I contemplated giving the Cross Fit gym in Lancaster a whirl, but then over Christmas, when I had time to consider my options, I began to rethink.

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I read this interview with Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara, who advocates walking both for mental health and for maintaining cognitive abilities. I was so impressed that I borrowed his book ‘In Praise of Walking’ from the library, although I have to confess that I didn’t finish it: it’s wide-ranging, I would recommend the sections on neuroscience.

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I also read this long article, also from the Guardian, and was impressed with its reasoning. The principal argument, it seems to me, is that it is inactivity which is the enemy, and that periodic bouts of intense activity are not the answer, and may even be counter-productive:

For those of us who can’t move to Sardinia and become a shepherd, a review published in the Lancet in 2016 found that “high levels of moderate-intensity physical activity (ie, about 60-75 min per day) seem to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time”.

So even if we go to the gym on a Saturday morning, our absolute inactivity at other times can still be damaging to the body. Low and moderate activity for longer or sustained periods seems to produce the best results. It looks like excessive high-intensity activity (the kind we see in elite athletes) drives metabolism and cell turnover, and may even, when all factors are taken into account, accelerate the ageing process.

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‘High levels of moderate-intensity physical activity’ sounds like walking to me. Indeed:

So far, researchers agree that sustained periods of low-level activity seem to work well. Aiming for 10,000 steps a day is a good idea, but 15,000 better resembles the distances likely covered by our prehistoric ancestors, and indeed by those Sardinian centenarians.

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A trial suggested to me that 15,000 steps equates to about 6 miles for me. (I’ve subsequently realised, if I believe MapMyWalk, that it’s actually a bit further). I’m sure that I was also influenced in my choice of that distance, by my fondness for this quote from Bertrand Russell:

Unhappy business men, I am convinced, would increase their happiness more by walking six miles every day than by any conceivable change of philosophy.

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So I resolved to attempt to walk 6 miles every day. I knew that it was probably a quixotic enterprise, but I’m fond of those too. And actually, in January I very nearly averaged that distance each day. Since then, things have got busier and I haven’t done quite so well, but I’ve still been out and about a great deal.

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Hawes Water

Many of those walks have been in the dark, but few, surprisingly, given how much rain we had this winter, in a downpour. Even so, I have lots of photographs, and lots of walks to report. I’m going to have to be selective, and will probably concatenate several walks into single posts as I have done here, whilst ignoring others altogether.

2020: Little and Often Rides Again

Farewell to 2019

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It seems odd to start a post with a sunset, given that I often finish with one. This was taken at The Cove on the day that all of our guests left us.

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Homemade pizza is a staple at our house, particularly on Friday nights, but we’ve run out of white bread flour, so we may be struggling tomorrow. Back at the tail-end of December, of course, we had no inkling of the coming crisis.

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Moroccan Spiced Rolls – flavoured with Ras-el-Hanout. A bit odd frankly.

TBH dropped me off on her way to Carnforth. I was trying to increase my daily mileage a bit and had decided to walk back over Warton Crag. I took only one photo…

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…but I enjoyed my walk despite the fog and damp.

On New Year’s Eve I got out for three strolls. I’d climbed to the Pepper Pot before sunrise…

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And then took numerous sunrise photos as I progressed via the Circle of Beeches path…

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Later, TBH and I went for a sunny Hawes Water wander.

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This time last year, I was struck by the number of plants I found incongruously flowering, seemingly out of season. I didn’t notice the same variety this year, but I was very surprised to find Honesty flowering along the Coronation Path, which climbs into Eaves Wood.

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Honesty

Later still, but before the partying began, I was up at the Pepper Pot again, to watch the sunset. The light was glorious.

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Looking towards the Forest of Bowland.

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The sun sets over the bay. The prominent headland is Humphrey Head.

From Eaves Wood I continued down to The Cove, wanting to enjoy the last of the light.

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Finally, a tune…

Farewell to 2019

Meeting

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Some photos from two shortish local walks during the half-term. The first was a trip over the Knott on a hot sunny day, when the views were decidedly hazy.

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I spotted this clump of pink flowers a little way from the path, near the top of the Knott. They had me puzzled at the time and I’m still none the wiser.

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This bee seemed to like them, whatever they were.

Much as I enjoy a wander up the Knott, that wasn’t the sole purpose of this trip: I was heading over to Arnside to drop in on Conrad of the Conrad Walks blog. Having conversed over the internet for many years, it was great to finally meet and chat. Hopefully, we’ll get out for a walk together too in the not too distant future.

The second outing was a wander around Hawes Water.

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An ant mound which has been very thoroughly dug over.

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The dead oak between Hawes Water and Challan Hall – the foreground of many photos before it fell.

Meeting