Wildflowers on Heald Brow.

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Meadow Ant mounds on Heald Brow.

The Friday evening of the first May Bank Holiday weekend. TBH and Little S had tootled off to Dublin for their rugby tour. The team had had a surprise good luck message from “you know, that England rugby player, Dylan Thomas”, as TBH put it. Turned out to be Dylan Hartley, which is almost as impressive.

A and B and I were also going away, but A had a DofE training event on the Friday night and Saturday morning, so I decide to take advantage of the good weather we were having and get out for a local ramble.

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The ‘force that drives the green fuse’ had been hard at work and Heald Brow was resplendent with trees bedecked with new-minted leaves and a host of wildflowers.

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Primroses.

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Cowslips.

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Early Purple Orchid.

I walked a small circuit around Heald Brow and stumbled across an area carpeted with Primroses…

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If anything, this is even more impressive than the patch nestled in the limestone pavement at Sharp’s Lot which I am always keen to visit each spring.

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In amongst the standard yellow flowers were some variants…

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In the past, I’ve always assumed that these colourful exceptions were garden escapees, but now I’m wondering whether it was simply mutations like these which led to the selective breeding of the diverse variants which are now available for gardens.

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Bugle.

I dropped down to the salt-marsh.

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Warton Crag.

Which, unfortunately, left me in deep shade for some time.

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Scurvygrass.

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Gorse at Jack Scout.

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A Jack Scout shrub – shaped by the lashings of salty winds off the Bay.

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Sunset from Jack Scout.

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Wildflowers on Heald Brow.

Towards the Waking

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – Ring O’Beeches – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Thrang Brow – Yealand Allotment – Yealand Storrs – Leighton Hall – Summer House Hill – Warton Crag – Crag Foot – Quaker’s Stang – Heald Brow – Woodwell – The Green

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The forecast for last weekend wasn’t dreadful, but it didn’t create much gleeful anticipation either – it was for dry weather, but cloudy and dull. Actually, on the Saturday morning (when I was busy) there was a bit of sunshine, but when I got out for a walk in the afternoon it was so gloomy that I didn’t bother to take any photos at all.

On the Sunday morning, neither of the boys were playing rugby and I had contemplated setting off early and heading out for a walk in the hills, but, given the forecast, decided to walk from home instead. I was still out quite early, in time to catch the sunrise from Castlebarrow, by the Pepper Pot, or so I thought, but perhaps due to the cloud low in the eastern sky, the sun didn’t actually appear until I was heading through the woods towards the Ring O’Beeches.

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I suppose it was the low trajectory of the winter sun which enabled me to apparently take several sunrise photos, each from a new vantage point, with probably about 50 yards between them.

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This was a bit of a surprise: pale blue sky and clear sight of the sun.

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From the boardwalk by Hawes Water, Challan Hall was catching the early light. Two Cormorants were interrupted by my presence and circled above the lake, before roosting in their usual spot in the dead tree on the far shore.

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Hawes Water and Challan Hall.

In the fields near Hawes Water, I was entertained by a pair of Buzzards, one of which eventually  flew across my view, tantalisingly close to my lens, but sadly the only photograph I was quick enough to take came out blurred beyond recognition.

I was a little concerned that the forecast had misled me into making a poor choice and thought that a short diversion to the minor hummock of Thrang Brow would give me a clearer idea. I haven’t been there for a while; it has a view of the Lakeland hills, although nothing to rival the view from Arnside Knott or Haverbrack. Or rather, sometimes it has a view of the Lakeland hills; on this occasion I couldn’t see anything much beyond Arnside Knott and even that was a bit lost in the haze.

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Arnside Knott from Thrang Brow.

I’m glad I went that way though, because then I remembered a small trod which wends it’s way through the woods and limestone pavements of Yealand Allotment and which I haven’t followed for quite some time.

My original plan, when I reached Yealand Storrs, had been to follow the road for a while and then climb into Cringlebarrow Woods, but for some reason I decided instead to cross the road and follow the path across the fields towards Leighton Hall. I hoped that the fields might have dried out a bit after a relatively rain-free week, but actually the going was very heavy. My hastily amended plan involved turning left at Leighton Hall Farm to cut up to Deepdale and so to Cringlebarrow Woods that way, but I could hear heavy machinery in operation and, thinking that there was some tree-felling underway, changed my mind again. Past the Hall and up Summer House Hill it was.

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Leighton Hall and Leighton Moss from Summer House Hill.

The view from Summer House Hill can be a cracker, but once again, anything at all distant was looking a little murky.

The field at the top of the hill had bluey-green, or greeny-blue….stuff…spread across the surface…

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This…

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…is the base of the former summer house which gives the hill its name. It had been very liberally…blued…

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Does anybody have any idea what this is?

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I’d just said hello to a couple who were walking with their dog, when I was surprised to see a Jay sitting calmly in a tree relatively close by. It’s not that I don’t see jays – I do – but that having seen them, I then usually almost immediately lose sight of them, because they are generally very shy and soon make themselves scarce. Since this one didn’t fly off, I thought I would play my customary cat-and-mouse game of edging forward with my camera and taking another photo every couple of strides. To my surprise, the Jay flew  toward me, down to the ground and then continued to hop in my direction before stopping to grub around in the leaf litter.

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It was a shame that the sun wasn’t still shining: Jays are so unlike their monotone Corvid cousins, with their pink and blue plumage and their striped head.

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Fortunately, the sun was soon shining again, if perhaps a little weakly in the haze.

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Peter Lane Lime Kiln.

Lime Kilns are a bit of a feature of the area and I often pass them on walks, but rarely remember to take photos of them.

The same could be said of sheep…

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…these few stood out because they are of an unusual breed for this area (I can’t work out which).

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Warton Crag’s Easter Island Heads.

There’s been a fair bit of tree-felling near the top of Warton Crag, which I think will take a little while to get used to. The view from the top was predictably limited…

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River Keer from Warton Crag.

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More Tree-felling.

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Quicksand Pool and Quaker’s Stang.

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Brown’s House and the ‘smelting’ chimney from Quaker’s Stang.

For the last part of my walk the sun came out again.

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Warton Crag and the salt-marsh from Heald Brow.

I like this time of year: it’s still winter, with the possibility of snow and ice, which is fine, but it also feels like we’re sliding inexorably toward spring.

When all sap lies quiet and does not climb,
When all seems dead, I cultivate
The wild garden rioting in my memory,
Count in advance the treasures which
The sleeping sap contains,

And winter runs from now toward
The waking of the sap and spring.

from Garland for the Winter Solstice  by Ruthven Todd.

Towards the Waking

Another Brief Account of a Brief Local Outing

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Right. It’s raining. I’ve no work and no plans for a few days, time to get back up to date, so that I can perhaps write about some walks which I can remember properly.

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These photos from a February half-term walk with TBH, without the kids (what were they up to? probably ransacking the house or somesuch).

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An early sign of spring.

After a wander across Heald Brow, round Jenny Brown’s Point and through Jack Scout, TBH was keen to get home. I extended the walk a little by continuing across The Lots to The Cove.

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Still playing with the panorama setting. These two seem to be more successful than many I’ve taken. Wonder why?

Another Brief Account of a Brief Local Outing

Where the Wild Things Are

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Nothing to do with Maurice Sendak’s evocative book I’m afraid, apart from the fact that I’ve appropriated his title. I have been thinking of launching into another of my occasional polemics, but I’ve decided that I enjoyed this walk too much to turn the account of it into an intemperate rant. So lets suffice to say that ‘where the wild things are’ is not in some distant, untouched, inviolate wilderness, but is on our doorstep, all around us. Nature lives cheek by jowl with manunkind: it doesn’t have much choice.

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Leaving aside the downsides of that fact – since I’ve decided not to rant – one happy consequence is that the wildness and wet, the weeds and the wilderness, can still be appreciated by anybody prepared to step outside their doors.

All through the winter months the fields around the village are full of birds probing the soil for food. Rooks and jackdaws, sometimes curlews, but most noticeably flocks of oystercatchers.

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My attempts to take photographs of them have not generally been very successful, and once again, the presence of me and my camera spooked the oystercatchers, along with a couple of stray black-headed gulls, but at least I caught them sweeping away this time.

It was E.E.Cummings again who provoked my pondering the relationship between man and nature:

when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage –
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age

when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
– and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close

when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn – valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude – and march
denounces april as a saboteur

then we’ll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind (and not until)

Not the hymn to spring I keep promising I know, but it’s another new addition to my growing list of favourites.

Anyway, this was half-term’s final Saturday afternoon and a meandering beating of the bounds, a glorious final fling for the holiday. (I did briefly get out on Sunday, but it was drizzling when I set-off and it went downhill weatherwise from there, so we’ll draw a veil over that.) The rest of the crew were furiously stitching Little S’s new teddy bear so I was once again on my own.

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Looking into Lambert’s Meadow.

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In Burtonwell Wood there were more snowdrops to enjoy and a shy pair of roe deer who escaped through the trees long before I could even retrieve my camera from its case.

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Larches and beeches. The right-most of the two beeches has a holly growing out of a hollow in its trunk. (The holly doesn’t have too many leaves though – I wonder whether it is struggling.)

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New leaves! Honeysuckle always makes an early showing.

I was improvising a trajectory which busily went nowhere. On Heald Brow, which I haven’t visited for a while, there’s a loop of permission path which perfectly suited the circuitous curlicues of my route. Whilst wandering I encountered…

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…what I assume is another of the village’s many wells.

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Heald Brow is dimpled with meadow ant mounds.

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Some of which have been got at….

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…I presume either by badgers or by green woodpeckers.

A supermoon had brought unusually high tides which had left the salt marshes flooded…

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This departure from the norm was too much to resist and so I took the steep path which headed down in that direction.

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The raised bank which has held back the flooding here is Quaker’s Stang – an old sea defence.

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This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,

Generally there’s a small trickle of water here, a tributary of Quicksand Pool, which drains Leighton Moss. On this occasion it was flowing with quite some volume, power and noise.

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This ash tree was still carrying buds –  I suspect it was left here by the receding waters and I think the same probably applies to the shingle ‘beach’ beneath it.

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I’m pretty shaky when identifying wading birds, but I’m hoping that the new camera will help with that. This is a redshank.

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Quicksand Pool.

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The old quay at Jenny Brown’s Point.

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I had intended to head up onto Jack Scout, but rounding the corner I found that the sand was firm and decided to continue round back to the village. ( It wouldn’t have worked without wellies; I had to wade an ankle deep channel.)

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The sun was heading towards the horizon; the wind was blowing cold and fresh; the views were expansive. Sometimes the ‘wildness and wet’ are not too hard to find.

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Arnside Knott.

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Noisy creatures gulls, but I’ve often noticed that, around sunset, they can been observed ghosting silently out into The Bay, drifting by overhead.

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Fish eggs.

Once again I was stalking oystercatchers. This time they let me get a bit closer.

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I took a few pictures of the birds. Then a picture of the sunset, or two. Then moved slowly a little closer to the oystercatchers.

Finally, the birds patience with me ran out and I almost got the birds and the sunset together….

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This was only an afternoon stroll….

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…but it was a real corker!

Roll on the next staycation.

Where the Wild Things Are

Kite Flying Day

“There! It’s a bird, well….it’s more like a dragon, but it has panda paws and a mane like a lion.”

It was my turn to fly the kite and A was lying in the grass and spinning stories from raw materials provided by the clouds. When she held the line and coaxed the stalling and swooping kite with sharp tugs and murmured commands, and it was my turn to weave tales from the clouds I initially saw only clouds or plumes of smoke, but eventually I managed to join in. Best of all though was just to lie back in the sunshine – a brief respite in a string of squally days – and watch the clouds scudding overhead.

Later I was out for an evening stroll. The sky had changed – behind and above the clouds which had fed our imaginings was a layer of fretted cloud, like a ripple pattern left by the retreating tide in firm sand – mackerel sky?

On the limestone pavement in Pointer Wood I saw this….

The distinctive pattern on its back make me think that it might be a mottled grasshopper, but I’m probably wrong.

I took the permission path to Heald Brow and on the way encountered several very large dryad’s saddle bracket fungus.

 

Bowland Hills and Morecambe Bay from Heald Brow.

Agrimony

It was, as is often the case on my evening walks, really a bit dark for photographs. As well as the agrimony, I saw mullein, harebells, thyme, self-heal, white campion, ragwort and meadow crane’s- bill.

Down by quicksand pool, I could hear more sea-birds than I could see. A turnstone (I think) struggled with the wind on the far bank of the creek.

There’s always something to find on the salt-marsh and tonight it was the feathered remnants of a bird, which it seems had made a meal for something…

Mullein.

Also know as ‘Adam’s flannel’ because the large hairy leaves were used as nature’s toilet paper.

From Jack Scout.

Kite Flying Day

Pop Goes The….Stoat?

A Two Walk Saturday. The first, with my Mum and Dad, a stroll to The Cove, across the Lots, a pause at Kay’s to buy some of their delicious sourdough bread, and eventually to Heald Brow which despite its modest height has expansive views over Warton Crag to the Bowland Fells which still held a little snow around Ward’s Stone the highest part of the moors. Whilst we admired the view a weasel ,or a stoat (I can’t tell), raced across the open grass ahead of us – that’s two sightings this year, can’t be bad. Year’s ago on a long back-packing trip I had stopped for a brew, had my stove going and was sat on my rucksack. A little further along the path lay a dead thrush. A stoat, or a weasel (I can’t tell), emerged from the nearby hedgerow and with many nervous glances at me came and dragged the thrush a little further along the path before disappearing again. This process was repeated several more times which kept me entertained whilst the kettle boiled, the tea brewed and I drank my cup the the dregs.

Closer to home the fields are full of sheep which are already surprisingly large and robust. In the background you can perhaps make out more snow patches on the distant Howgill Fells.

Pop Goes The….Stoat?