Hutton Roof, A Snake and Skaville

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Speckled Wood butterfly.

Whit Bank Holiday weekend. This first two photos are from another opportunistic quick fix: B had a party at Capenwray Hall, I thought I would have a couple of hours at least to get out for a walk from there. Sadly the driveway which I had assumed would be a right-of-way, because it links to a footpath, turned out to be private. I drove to the Plain Quarry car park on Hutton Roof instead, but was a while getting there because I got stuck behind a couple of cyclists on a very, very narrow country lane (they weren’t riding abreast, the lane was just too narrow for me to safely pass).

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As a consequence, my walk was a bit shorter than I had hoped, but at least I managed to get out for a wander in the end. It was hot and sticky and quite hazy. Once again on Hutton Roof I was tantalised by a cuckoo which called incessantly and seemed so close that I was sure that I must see it if I looked hard enough. I didn’t, but not for want of trying.

I didn’t linger too long looking for the cuckoo however, because I wanted to get back for a surprise visitor which I knew would be arriving toward the end of the party…

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It’s some kind of Python. B was very taken with it.

On the Sunday we all went to Cartmel to see Jools Holland and his Big Band. I didn’t take any photos, so I’ve added a youtube clip of Mister Holland featuring two members of The Selecter, who also appeared as guest singers at Cartmel – a real highlight for me.

It was a great afternoon, with three support acts, a fair, sunshine, a tasty picnic with some friends, and a few family games of Kubb.

On the Monday we took our canoes to (S) Fell (Ten) Foot Park at the southern end of Windermere. It being a beautiful, sunny Bank Holiday Sunday the park was extremely busy. I’ve certainly never seen it so packed. Not that it really detracted from our fun. We messed about in our boats and then had a swim in the Lake. Well, four of us did: TBH was engrossed in her book.

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Hutton Roof, A Snake and Skaville

Hutton Roof Sunset

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So, obviously, I’m aeons behind. But here are some photos from back when the evenings were long and I could get out for a wander after work. You’ll never guess – I climbed Hutton Roof and watched the sunset.

I’d parked, as I often do, at Plain Quarry, but broke with the norm by taking a track I’d noticed before. On the map the track ended abruptly at a wall – I was hoping there would be a gate in the wall and I would be able to continue heading across the slopes to Lancelot Clark Storth Nature Reserve.

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The woods were of densely packed beech and, given how sunny it was, surprisingly dark – much gloomier than this photo suggests. The leaf litter was deep and crunchy and my footfalls made enough noise for three people – unnervingly so: I kept looking behind to see who was following me.

Sadly, there was no gate. so I turned and followed the wall uphill instead, which eventually brought me to some limestone pavement…

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And then fine views from the vicinity of the summit.

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Looking to the Forest of Bowland.

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Looking to Ingleborough.

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Middleton Fells.

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Howgills

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I’d quite a bit of time to wait for the sunset. I wandered about a bit, messed around with my camera and it’s settings, and finally found a comfortable spot to lie down and enjoy the show.

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Hutton Roof Sunset

Whitsun Treadings III: Hutton Roof

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Hutton Roof, my new favourite place. Honour dictated that I share it with our friends. We had a cracking picnic lunch (the luxurious sort with stoves and cool boxes and hot soup) in the Plain Quarry car park and then had a wander up to the top.

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Every time I’ve been on Hutton Roof this year I’ve heard cuckoos. We also heard them the day after on Warton Crag, and we usually hear them when we camp at Nether Wasdale, but I’ve very rarely seen cuckoos. In fact, the only definite sighting I can recall was many years ago in Eskdale when I watched a cuckoo flying low over the hillside with an entourage of really angry small birds in tow. So I was quite excited when I thought I saw a cuckoo perched on a tree well ahead of us….

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…is it a cuckoo? I know that it’s not a good photo, but there’s something about the way it’s clinging to that branch which I find compelling. Probably wishful thinking!

We would have had a more general look around, but the forecast was for the weather to deteriorate and it did, right on schedule, just after we reached the trig pillar; so we came straight back down again. The kids were all keen to sit mesmerised in front of electronic devices anyway.

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Andy’s post about this walk, and another short, local ramble on Warton Crag the following day, is here.

Whitsun Treadings III: Hutton Roof

Hutton Roof Ramble

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A first post work bimble of the year. I came across this path, which climbs up from the car park at Plain Quarry, on one of our orienteering visits.

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Hoverfly.

A pair of jays flew ahead of me in quick bursts, perching tantalisingly almost in view each time.

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This thrush was much more obliging.

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I’m sure I’ve said this many times before on the blog, but Hutton Roof is always great value – there’s plenty of interest close to hand and the views are terrific.

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Warton Crag and Morecambe Bay.

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Looking towards the Forest of Bowland.

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Trig pillar and Ingleborough in the background.

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Looking toward the Lakeland Fells

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Howgills

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Middleton Fells

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Hills around Bullpot Farm

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Haven’t had a photo of a robin for a while. It was a great evening for birds, I could hear more than one cuckoo and the shrubs on the hillsides seemed to be thronging with busy birds. I tried to take photos of a meadow pipit, some warblers and several tits, without much success, but at least robins can be relied upon to pose.

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Since ant mounds seem to have become, like robins, another regular feature here’s one which has doubled as a picnic spot. I’ve noticed halved hazelnut shells clustered on mounds before. I suppose the diner has an elevated position from which to keep a look out whilst enjoying a substantial repast. The Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs by Bang and Dahlstrom (not Bang and Olufsen, hi-fi geeks!) informs me that neatly split shells like this are the work of an adult squirrel.

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I was improvising a meandering loop around the common and back to the trig. There’s a great deal of open access land on and around Hutton Roof, much of which I’ve never explored. This stile was beckoning me into one such area, on the north side, heading down towards Cockshot Hill. On this occasion I resisted the temptation, reasoning that I would be heading away from the sun and in to shadow, but I shall have to go back soon and see where this leads me.

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Ingleborough in shadow.

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I think that this notable feature is Blasterfoot Gap, but if I were you, I wouldn’t take my word for it.

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Blasterfoot Gap again. Perhaps.

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Farleton Fell with the Lakeland Fells behind.

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Another limestone edge.

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Limestone Pavement.

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Eventually I wound my way back to the trig and then retraced my steps back to the car. Some time I shall have to bring a stove and some warmer clothes to watch the sunset from here.

Hutton Roof Ramble

Hutton Roof – The Case of the Missing Trig Pillar

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Rumours about the demise of this blog are, I understand, circulating like wildfire, causing consternation and distress amongst our legion of fan. I thought I’d better do something about it, to whit: getting my arse into gear.

So -  back in the summer, when daylight, and even sunshine, were in plentiful supply, I was joined by A and B and our friend Beaver B (no, I shan’t explain….oh well, go on then, suffice to say it’s more to do with Boy Scouting than Wild-West-Frontier animal skinning type activities) for an afternoon stroll on Hutton Roof.

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We pulled off the Clawthorpe road and headed up via Lancelot Clark Storth, a Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve. Every time I come this way, I seem to find a different path to follow. So eventually we reached high ground in an unfamiliar spot and with no sign of the top. We followed a promising looking path.

Which brought us to a large cairn….

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…which I recognised. I’d climbed up to it, I thought, from one of the principal paths across Hutton Roof on a previous visit. "The main path is just down there" I said. But scrambling down the small limestone edge through dense scrub to a path which I vaguely recalled might be nearby didn’t seem a very attractive option. There followed a good half-hour, or maybe more, of wandering aimlessly in convoluted spirals and curlicues looking for a significant path, a recognisable landmark or the elusive trig pillar. Beaver B has a dodgy ankle, but if he resented my useless navigation and our fruitless search across broken limestone pavements and tussocky grasslands, he hid it well.

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B found lots of these elegant little snails in a tree. We tried some hazelnuts, which seem to have been both large and abundant this year.

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The heather was flowering. It always impresses me that this ericaceous plant grows on the limestone hills roundabout. I’m sure I read somewhere that this is a result of pockets of acid soil which date back to ash from the Borrowdale volcanoes.

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We never did find the top. Eventually we returned to the prominent cairn, and almost immediately found an easy way down to the path, which, it transpired, was exactly where I’d thought it would be. Which was little comfort after all the navigational incompetence which had preceded this realisation.

Fabulous spot Hutton Roof, I really should get there more often.

Hutton Roof – The Case of the Missing Trig Pillar

Butterflies and Bees on Burton Fell

After our wonderful week in Wales, we had a few days at home.

On one hot and sunny day we joined an RSBP children’s activity outing which was great fun (we took our own children along with us – it would have been a bit weird otherwise). Towards the end of the day we were sifting through the mud of the bay, seeking out coastal wildlife. Every overturned rock revealed a multitude of tiny crabs and each trowel-full of mud contained a number of miniscule shrimp-like crustaceans. Another member of the group found the shell of a sea potato, a kind of sea urchin.

The following day – if anything, hotter and sunnier than the last – we were joined by some friends for one of our favourite walks: around the shore to Arnside for ice-cream, then back along Black Dyke and through Eaves Wood. I don’t seem to have taken a single photo on either day.

Near the end of the week, with the sun shining once again, the kids and TBH, with some good friends of ours, were back on the bay. The children swam in one of the channels.

I chose to be anti-social and went for an afternoon stroll on Burton Fell instead.  Where is Burton Fell? Well, I’m a bit vague on it’s exact boundaries: it’s one region of the sprawling limestone hill, other parts of which are called Dalton Crags, Lancelot Clark Storth and Hutton Roof Crags. It’s close to home – we can see it from our kitchen windows.

Looking towards the Lakeland Fells

With limited time (well that’s my excuse), I cheated a little by parking in a relatively high spot on the Clawthorpe Fell Road.

As I set off, the views were superb, but, as is often the case, I was mostly busy scanning the immediate vicinity, looking for one thing in particular. I was on a mission, scouting for a distinguished member of our local flora.

I wasn’t having any luck however, but there were lots of butterflies compensating for that fact. In the open areas, it was meadow browns…

 Meadow Brown

Around the tall bracken there were lots of busy white’s, and in the trees a couple of red admirals.

Stripey snail-shell 

When I lost the rather sketchy path I was following, that tall bracken became a bit of a nuisance; I was relieved when it thinned and I found another tentative path heading uphill toward areas of limestone pavement.

Carline Thistle 

Carline Thistle

I still hadn’t found the flowers I was hoping to see, but there were more butterflies about. I chased around for a while in an effort to get a photo of this rather elusive grayling….

The grayling again 

This butterfly, the largest of our ‘browns’, is a master of disguise – although fairly conspicuous when in flight, it can mysteriously disappear as soon as it lands, perfectly camouflaged against a background of bare earth and stones, always resting with its wings closed. When it first lands, and when disturbed, the butterfly will raise its forewings for a second or so, revealing dark eye spots that stand out against a beautiful spectrum of browns.

from the fabulous UK Butterflies website

When I finally lost the grayling, I saw that I’d strayed further than I’d realised from the path I’d been following. I was on stony ground; aside from the carline thistles, flowers seemed to be in short supply, but nearby there was a small oasis, a purple patch of knapweed. And flying busily around the knapweed, about a dozen large, mostly orange butterflies…

Avid nectar feeder II

Dark green fritillaries.  (A slightly confusing name, since it seems to imply that there might be such a thing as a light green fritillary, but I don’t think there is.) The butterfly with which this could be confused is the high brown fritillary. (Again, I don’t think there is a low brown fritillary.)

 Dark Green Fritillary - underside of wings

The excellent UK Butterflies website has a very handy guide ( on this page) to distinguishing between them. The underside of the wings has a greenish hue in the dark green variety, and your high brown butterfly has an extra row of ocelli. Easy.

You don’t know what ocelli are? Well……err, follow the link to the handy guide then. It’s all beautifully explained there. With diagrams.

Dark green fritillary VI 

The fritillaries didn’t settle for long, but they didn’t seem to be at all phased by my presence, and they roamed around the isolated patch of knapweed. For a while I tried to follow them, but soon decided it would be better to find a reasonably comfortable spot to sit in and let them come to me. The whole area was maybe only one and a half yards square, so even on the far side of the patch, they weren’t too far away. But anyway, they weren’t that shy and I soon found myself using the camera’s macro setting.

Both sexes are avid nectar feeders and typically feed in early morning or late afternoon, when they will constantly fly from flower head to flower head staying at each flower for only a few seconds.

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An avid nectar feeder.

Green hued 

I always think of butterflies resting with their wings slightly raised in a shallow v, but this was the typical pose of the fritillaries…

Avid nectar feeder IV 

..with their wings curving down around the flower heads.

The fritillaries weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the knapweed.

Common Blue

I’m not entirely sure what this is. It might be a common blue. But it could also be a brown argus. Or a northern brown argus. All three species are present in this area apparently, which is unusual, maybe even unique (I’m not sure), and the underside of their wings are very similar. There are distinguishing features, but I can’t pick them out on this photo. Frustratingly, the butterfly didn’t hang around for long, kept its distance from me and I never had a good view of the upper surface of its wings.

You can see from it’s size relative to the knapweed that it was tiny in comparison to the fritillaries. Later, a similar butterfly, or maybe the same one, tantalisingly returned, but although I got a slightly sharper photo, I still can’t decide which variety this is.

Common Blue? 

Another interloper, also much smaller than the fritillaries, stood out because of it’s remarkably sturdy looking body. At first, assuming that it was a butterfly, I thought it might be some sort of skipper, but the superzoom camera is much more observant then I am: it’s a moth, a silvery y…..

 Silvery Y moth 

You can see where the name comes from, on the wing, here…

 Silvery Y moth III 

…and perhaps even better here….

Silvery Y moth IV 

I’m familiar with this species because we had one as a house guest a while ago. It looks very different when it’s resting. (There’s a couple of photos of a relative, a golden y, on this post)

The whole little patch was very busy. Sometimes the fritillaries briefly shared a flower, although I never managed to catch them together in a photo. They didn’t seem too comfortable together.

Two dark green fritillaries 

It only seemed to be the close proximity of other fritillaries which caused a problem however. A neighbouring meadow brown was entirely tolerable…

Dark green fritillary and meadow brown 

And there is nectar enough for a butterfly and a bumble bee in this knapweed…

Bumble bee and dark green fritillary 

The flowers were even more busy with bees than with butterflies. The bees were incredibly diverse in size and colour, but sadly, even more restless than the fritillaries and so hard to capture. I got a few photos though.

Questing bumble bee 

I like the fact that you can even pick out flecks of pollen on the hairs of this bee…

Bumble bee II 

I was particularly pleased to get a photo of this large and gorgeously buttery yellow bee:

Buttery yellow bumble bee 

Tentatively identified as a male bombus lucorum, the small earth humble bee, or white-tailed bumble bee using the Natural History Museums bee identifier. The one above might be bombus hortorum, the small garden humble bee, or garden bumble bee. But it might well not be. And an ID for this very pale bee is eluding me altogether….

Pale bumble bee 

I’ve often tried in vain to photograph birds in flight. It’s never occurred to me to try the same thing with an insect: if I can’t get birds what hope with a bee, say?

Dark green fritillary with bumble bee in flight 

I didn’t even realise that the bee was in the photo until later when I downloaded it to our PC. It could be bombus lapidarius, which luxuriates in three English names: the stone humble-bee, the large red-tailed humble-bee or the red-tailed bumblebee.

I’m really not sure how long I spent sitting in the sun admiring the butterflies and bees. I took an awful lot of photos, and thinking back, the memory is so vivid still, that it could have been hours, except I know that it wasn’t. Nearer half an hour, I suspect. I needed to get home, we were packing to go away again, and so I decided to have one last scout around in an attempt to find my original objective.

I failed. But I did see another grayling….

Another grayling II 

So, what was I was looking for? Well, somewhere amongst these clints and grykes..

Limestone pavement with trees 

…grow dark red helleborine, a kind of orchid. I’d only seen them in photos on t’internet. I’ve still only seem them in photos on t’internet. Another time.

I strolled back to the car, in a little more of a hurry now, so obviously, ignoring distractions like colourful seedheads…

Self-heal? 

..or long-nosed micro moths…

A micro moth 

…or cranes flies catching the light in the bracken…

A crane fly 

I had one more hope for the helleborine. There’s a spot closer to home where, over the last couple of summer’s, I’ve seen plants which had finished flowering, but which seemed to fit the bill. What’s more, in a location not too far from the road. So I stopped to take a look.

Broad-leaved helleborine VI 

This time they were still flowering. It was a tad gloomy under the trees by now, so I struggled with photos.

Broad leaved helleborine III 

This, I’m pretty confident, is a helleborine, but the flowers are hardly dark red.

Broad leaved helleborine

The wildflower key says that broad-leaved helleborine isn’t found in this area, but I know from the excellent I Love Arnside and Silverdale blog, that it does grow here, and what’s more, that it hybridises with it’s dark red cousin. I think that this is broad leaved helleborine.

It’s a funny old game this blogging malarkey. A single post to cover a whole week’s holiday, followed by another, longer post to cover a two hour stroll. It was a special two hour stroll however. And I managed not to get carried away quoting the old testament like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.

Butterflies and Bees on Burton Fell

Dalton Crags Orienteering

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The weekend after our Brougham Castle and Hall trip, TBH once again left me insole charge of the kids (irresponsible, I know) whilst she went gadding off shopping in Manchester. We were joined by our friend M, whom we took to sample orienteering at nearby Dalton Crags. Our kids had an idea of what to expect since we took part in a fancy dress, night-time points event in Eaves Wood on the Halloween weekend.  That may have given them rather false expectations however, since the rules were complicated and we ended up as ‘Vampires’ trying to shine a red-torch on other competitors to turn them into ‘Vampires’ so that we could steal their map and points. (We succeeded only to become the victims shortly afterwards of another group of ‘Vampires’.)

Anyway, the Dalton Crags event, organised by SROC (South Ribble Orienteering Club) was much more conventional. Dalton Crags is part of the Hutton Roof limestone ridge and the start was from the same car-park where S and TBH and I began our ascent of Hutton Roof back in August.

We opted for the yellow course and the girls had soon taken charge of the navigation.

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The boys seemed happy to follow directions and race ahead to the next control.

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Whilst I enjoyed the unseasonal sunshine and mild weather, and the autumn colours…

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The route took us in and out of woodland. The limestone scenery is so complex in this area that the cartographer had invented his own unconventional symbols in an attempt to distinguish between the different areas of pavement, partially overgrown and otherwise.

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We finished in a not particularly earth-shattering time of just under an hour. We didn’t mind. In fact, if we’d finished in 18 minutes like the winner did, I would have felt cheated.

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M’s lack of enthusiasm here had a lot to do with the fact that 10 yards short of the finish she slipped and fell in a particularly muddy spot.

More photos…

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted that in my last post I mentioned ‘days out’ plural, but that I haven’t posted about the second of those. I’m not sure that it belongs on a walking/natural history/castle obsessed blog, but for the curious….

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….an eagle-owl and….?

If you have kids of CBBC age you might know that this is Steve Backshall, presenter of Deadly Sixty, all-round action man and a huge hero as far as my kids are concerned.

We went to Preston for a free Deadly Day Out courtesy of the BBC. TBH had organised the tickets before realising that she would be away and unable to attend with the rest of us. That was her story anyway.

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This is co-presenter Naomi Wilkinson with a barn owl during a falconry display which was part of the day’s events.

There were an awful lot of people there and inevitably a lot of queuing, but the kids loved it. Here they are in the results of their den-building…

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I took a ridiculous number of photos of Mr Backshall and various creatures – if you’re interested, then they’re here. I have to say – his talk and question and answer session was most impressive – he really knows his stuff.

Dalton Crags Orienteering