Celandines, Buds, Sunset, Hirundines.

Hagg Wood – The Green – Clark’s Lot – Hollins Lane – Slackwood Lane – Leighton Moss  – Lower Hide – Yealand Allotment – Hawes Water – The Row – Hagg Wood

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Lesser Celandines enjoying the sunshine.

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The western edge of Hagg Wood, a small copse which edge’s Bottom’s Lane, seems to be a good place to spot our common songbirds, or at least at the moment it is, whilst the trees have no leaves.

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Chaffinch.

I keep returning to this particular path at the moment, because I’m anxious for clues to help me identify The Mystery Tree. It has been suggested that it might be a Sycamore, A Field Maple or an Ash. Here are its buds…

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…which categorically rule out the latter. And if it’s a Sycamore, it will be in leaf very, very soon, so I shall soon be able to confirm or discount that possibility.

The oak trees, which form the line which ends with the mystery tree, have much browner buds, in clusters and part way along the twigs as well as at the ends, rather than singly and only at the ends of the twigs.

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As well as the ground cover plants, which I mentioned in my last post, many of the woodlands under-storey shrubs are coming into leaf ahead of the trees above them. Honeysuckle is one of the earliest and is now often fully decked out with leaves. The raspberry canes have leaves again, and the gooseberry bushes have both leaves and flowers…

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Gooseberries are quite common locally and are very obvious at this time of the year, but, sadly, much less easy to spot in July when they are fruiting.

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Leighton Moss from the ‘Sky Tower’.

Although I’d set off with blue skies and sunshine, by the time I reached Leighton Moss, the sun was sinking low and it was beginning to get a little dingy for photography. Which was a bit frustrating, because I was very struck by the Alder trees…

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On the left are the cone-like fruit which have been on the tree all through the winter, on the right the long dangling male catkins, and just above those the tiny female catkins.

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As I struck out across the causeway, the sun was sinking behind the ridge of slightly higher ground which isn’t named on the OS Map, but which I shall call Silver Helme after the Scout Camp which is situated there.

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From the causeway I continued along the Lower Hide path, which, in my mind at least, is ’round the back’ of Leighton Moss.

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Eventually reaching Lower Hide itself.

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I was enjoying getting a variety of different perspectives on the sunset. I was also very excited because skimming low over the water were lots of very fast-flying birds…

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Hirundines!

Even if it hadn’t been so dark, I’m not sure I would have been able to tell whether these were House Martins, Sand Martins or Swallows. But I don’t care, because I know what they mean – they’re here to tell us that spring has arrived!

The remainder of my walk was a bit dark. I’d neglected to bring a headtorch. Again. Half an hour later, having crossed Yealand Allotment to Hawes Water…

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It was still just about light enough to see to walk.

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In the woods I heard something crashing about in the trees – Roe Deer I thought. Which was confirmed moments later when one of them ‘barked’ nearby. This is a pretty unearthly cry, and quite loud when it’s close to. I think that if I hadn’t heard them before I might have been unnerved by it.

When I passed Hagg Wood again, it was Orion’s belt I was trying to photograph (without success) and I was glad that I’ve walked these field paths many times before, including in the dark, because there was no moon and it was exceedingly dark, so it helped that I knew exactly where I was going.

Celandines, Buds, Sunset, Hirundines.

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.

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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.

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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…

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

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The weather seemed idyllic again when I reached Hawes Water.

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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…

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…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…

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…more snowdrops.

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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…

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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…

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

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I was heading for the Gait Barrows limestone pavements…

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Dallam Deer Park, the River Bela and Milnthorpe.

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Farleton Fell.

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The Deer.

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This unusual building…

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…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.

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River Bela and Whitbarrow Scar.

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Greylag Goose.

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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.

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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.

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

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In Praise of Limestone

Leaf Piercers

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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.

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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.

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

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Leaf Piercers

Books, birds and more strolls.

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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.

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

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…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

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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…

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“…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.

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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…

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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

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

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More Oystercatchers.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Two Family Walks

Not November

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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