No Jokers on Ingleborough

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Pen-y-Ghent in a winter suit.

I felt like I was holding all the aces. It was the day before my birthday, the sky was completely cloudless and the hills had a new dusting of snow. What’s more, I was driving along the A65 with an appointment with Ingleborough. The only thing I hadn’t decided was quite which route I would follow. I’d been perusing the map and some favourite websites the night before to try to make a decision. I hoped to find Purple Saxifrage flowering as we did last year on Pen-y-ghent. Now, Saxifraga Oppositifolia is rare in England, but I’d found several references to the fact that it grows on Ingleborough as well as Pen-y-ghent, not least in John Self’s online book ‘The Wildlife of the Lune Region’ which suggests that an exploration of the steep and fractured cliffs of the western face would be the best place to look. I also found an enthralling description of a route which would fit the bill perfectly.

But now that I could see those western slopes through my windscreen, I knew that they were in a deep shade and seemed likely to be so for some time to come. Knowing that I had to play the hand I’d been dealt, I decided to start my ascent from Clapham instead.

The first trick of the day was to find the right path out of the village and then a steepish pull brought me to Long Lane…

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Long Lane. The edge on the right is Robin Proctor’s Scar which I photographed last year during a walk from Austwick.

Long Lane climbed slowly but steadily and, although it was cold, it was wonderful to be out in the sunshine.

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Long Lane again.

I generally try to climb a hill on my birthday, but over the years I’ve learned to be flexible when work or other commitments have not allowed me to. This year I chose to take my birthday walk a day early, simply because the weather forecast was much better for that day.

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Rayside Plantation and Ingleborough Cave.

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Trow Gill.

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Pretty soon I’d reached the snow. At home we’d had rain the night before, but here it had fallen as a snow.

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Ingleborough and Simon Fell.

We see Ingleborough from Eaves Wood and on our daily drive in to Lancaster, and it has a very distinctive profile, so the view from the south-east was oddly unfamiliar.

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Pen-y-ghent.

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Looking back towards Norber. Distant Pendle Hill on the left-hand skyline.

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From the area around Long Scar I’d turned left on a marvellous green lane which made the going very easy. Even through areas of limestone pavement…

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Ingleborough and Simon Fell.

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Pen-y-ghent.

The breeze was only gentle, but still chilling, so I was pleased, after passing through the gate into the large field called The Allotment, to find a small hollow by a stream which afforded some shelter.

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It was a real suntrap! Everything was coming up trumps. I parked myself beside the beck: time to get a brew on.

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A prospect to warm the hearts ♥.

I felt quite warm and cosy sunbathing here, although there was plenty of evidence that I was kidding myself a little:

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Ice diamonds? ♦

I’d been listening to Meadow Pippits serenading the sun and I think I saw a couple of Wheatears, although I couldn’t be sure. It was great to hear some birdsong after the cold spring we’ve endured.

I sat for around half an hour in the sun, but then it was time to get going again. After the very gentle climbing I’d been doing, the next section was a little steeper, but brought the compensation of even better views.

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Pen-y-ghent and Ribblesdale.

Soon I’d reached the top edge of the great bowl between Simon Fell and Ingleborough.

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And then I was on the ridge itself, with new views to take in.

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Whernside and the valley of the River Doe. (Doedale?)

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The western edge of Simon Fell and Souther Scales Fell.

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Black shiver? The fissured boulder on the left is so distinctively gritstone that it had me thinking of all the rock features of the Dark Peak which still seem so familiar even though it’s many years since I visited any of them.

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Black Shiver from the other direction. I think.

The broad plateau of the top of Ingleborough was busy with walkers eating their sandwiches. I walked around the edges, thinking I could find some sort of shelter, but it seemed to be impossible to get out of the icy wind. Even the four way shelter at the very top didn’t seem to offer much protection, so I decided not to join the clubs ♣.

So I carried on, dropping down towards the prominent notch which is where, at some time in the past, a landslip has dropped down the slopes (hence Falls Foot on the lower slopes).

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My descent took me past a layer of broken limestone crags…

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Which is what I was looking for. So I began clambering around beneath those, in search of the, initially elusive, Purple Saxifrage.

I spotted these prominent plant stalks in a cliff…

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They were much too large to be saxifrage, but intriguing none-the-less. I shall have to return later in the year to see if I can discover what this is.

Eventually I found what I was looking for…

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…but the flowers weren’t quite open. Or not many of them were…

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I’d read that the flowers are purple when they first open, then gradually turn pink. There’s quite a contrast in fact, with the flowers we saw last year:

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Further exploration brought me to a dramatic spot…

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…where, with snow on steep ground, a limestone cliff above and another cliff, of a different rock, below, I decided that discretion was required and turned back.

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Panorama of Whernside. Click to see larger version.

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Whernside and the extensive limestone pavements of Raven Scar and Twisleton Scar, part of the Great Scar Limestone.

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Gritstone rockfall below limestone crags. To say that the geology of this area is complex is a massive understatement.

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The Yoredale Series are layers of sedimentary rocks – limestones, sandstones, shales and a cap of gritstone – which characterise the Yorkshire Dales. In the photo above you can see two sets of crags, the lower limestone, the higher gritstone with gritstone boulders below the limestone.

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The crags at the top of The Falls. In shade still.

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And, on the other side of the gully, free of snow.

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Icicles, in spades. ♠

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Still quite cold, then!

Just along the edge from the Falls there are two heaps of stones…

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…that looked likely to be the remains of some sort of manmade structures. There’s a long history of Ingleborough being occupied, with an Iron Age hill-fort and hut circles and, even more improbably, a very short-lived Hospice Tower built in 1830, the base of which can still be seen on the summit. What age or purpose these small rocky piles might have had, I don’t know, but it’s interesting to speculate.

I climbed part of the way back towards the summit, detouring once again to check out a couple more limestone crags and find some more saxifrage.

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One short climb brought me to the Limestone Load, a level shelf between the two sets of crags which had gritstone features on the surface, but also a long line of dolines…

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Some of which had obvious limestone features…

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I was heading for Little Ingleborough…

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Looking back to the summit.

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Little Ingleborough.

On the descent from Little Ingleborough I finally found somewhere sufficiently sheltered to make me feel inclined to stop for another brew and a late lunch.

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Gaping Gill – Fell Beck falls 98m into the largest underground chamber in England which is naturally open to the surface.

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Gaping Gill pano.

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Bar Pot, another entrance to the Gaping Gill system. An exit too: whilst I was taking the photo some scraping sounds augured the emergence of a lone caver.

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Trow Gill.

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The path descends through Trow Gill, apparently formed by a meltwater torrent at the end of the last ice age.

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Foxholes a cave where human and animal remains have been found.

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Clapham Beck Head where the water from Gaping Gill finally resurges.

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Clapham Beck is one of the sources of the River Wenning and so is another tributary of the Lune, so that this walk is another instalment of my exploration of the Lune catchment area.

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Ingleborough Cave. I haven’t been in there for years, but it’s well worth a visit. Must take the kids.

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Clapham Beck.

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Since I dropped into the shelter of Trow Gill it had been feeling much warmer, so in Clapdale Wood I stopped for one final cup of tea.

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The Lake. Imaginatively named, don’t you think? And – it’s a reservoir.

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Clapham Beck.

Scenes from Clapham…

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Market Cross.

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In ‘Walks in Limestone Country’, Wainwright wrote:

Of the many walks described in this book, the ascent of Ingleborough from Clapham is pre-eminent, the finest of all, a classic. A lovely village….charming woodlands……..an enchanting valley……natural wonders………a climb to a grand mountain-top. Oh yes, this is the best.

I can’t help feeling that in amending my plan for the day I made a good choice. You might say that I played my cards right. Or that I was dealing from a full-deck.

Joker

What’s that? Which birthday was it? Haven’t you worked that out yet? Just to clear-up any ambiguity: I didn’t come across any humorous types on Ingleborough. No jokers, you might say. Which leaves?

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My mapping app gives 13½ miles and just over 2000′ of climbing. Not a bad little outing.

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No Jokers on Ingleborough

Beinn Bhreac

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With another forecast for not particularly favourable weather, what to do with our Sunday? Over a lengthy breakfast, various options were tossed out for inspection, mulled over, discussed and ultimately rejected before Beinn Bhreac finally came out on top.

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Beinn Bhreac had the advantages of being a shortish walk, not too high and, for those with a bagging habit, the prospect of a tick, since it’s a Graham, and therefore, I think, also a Marilyn, (I’m pretty sure that the Grahams must be a subset of the Marilyns).

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In the early and late stages of the walk we also had some partial views of Loch Lomond.

The wind was pretty fierce again and this large boulder provided the best shelter we could find and so was the venue for two butty stops, one on the way up and the other on the way down again.

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The highest stage of the walk was quite wild again, although the wind was perhaps just a notch down on what it had been the day before.

Spikes and ice-axe were once more pressed into service, although it transpired that the steep ice-bound rocks which prompted that choice could actually be easily circumvented.

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As we descended, the cloud lifted momentarily giving us a bit of a view back up the hill.

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Years ago, pre-blog, we had a wander around some of the Luss hills on an equivalent weekend to this one. I was decidedly off-colour that day, but was still left with a decidedly favourable opinion of the area, which this walk has done nothing to dispel.

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The Tower Captain and Loch Lomond.

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Maps!

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Beinn Bhreac

Beinn Mhic Mhondaidh

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A frozen over River Orchy.

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A view from the approach walk through the forest.

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Wild weather on the summit.

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Drifted snow and icicles.

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Back in the forest – and a hint of blue sky!

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More ice.

 

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Maps!

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The occasion of this walk was our annual Highland Gathering of old friends. After heavy snowfalls followed by Atlantic gales our party was somewhat smaller than it should have been, with some people not able to make it. On the Saturday, those of us that did manage to get there mostly opted to climb Beinn Mhic Mhonaidh above Glen Orchy which was not too far from where we were staying at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, is a Corbett for those who are bothered by such things, and is not too high given the low cloud and strong winds forecast.

One unanticipated difficulty was that the start of the track was closed, due to tree felling and the building of a replacement bridge over the Orchy, but after a bit of a conflab we decided that with the machinery standing silent on the track, and with the new bridge clearly almost finished, we would ignore the signs and go ahead anyway.

I’m not generally very keen on walks though pine plantations, but have to admit that the lower stages of this route, both up and down, were very pleasant, with some shelter from the wind and occasional views of the surrounding hills. Beyond the trees, the climb was steep. Initially, where there was a thin layer of fresh snow over frozen and icy ground, the going was much too exciting for me, but after we put our spikes on, and swapped a trekking pole for an ice axe, I felt a lot more secure and enjoyed the climb, especially some of the less steep sections of old neve which were in perfect condition.

When we hit the ridge, the wind was making walking quite challenging – I was glad I had goggles and a balaclava so that only the end of my nose was exposed to the the scouring ice and snow which was being blown about. Fortunately, almost as soon as we started to descend, the wind dropped considerably.

Back at the hotel, the beer, the meal and the conversation were all highly enjoyable, but I’m afraid I led the field in the Snoring in the Residents’ Lounge Stakes.

Andy, who booked and organised the weekend (cheers Andy!), has more and better photographs in his post about this walk here.

Beinn Mhic Mhondaidh

Spindrift on Selside Pike

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Another snow-hunting expedition. The forecast was once again for mixed weather: wintery showers and maybe some brighter spells, but also for fierce winds. This is our crew shortly after we’d left the cars. We were joined by three of our friends, one of whom long-suffering readers might recognise as The Tower Captain, otherwise known as the Faffmeister, and also by their highly excited dogs.

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High Street and Kidsty Pike across Haweswater.

We’d had quite a bit of rain and snow on the journey up and as we drove alongside Haweswater it was snowing pretty heavily and settling on the road. But soon after we’d parked we had probably the sunniest spell of the entire day.

Our plan was simple: follow the Old Corpse Road, which crosses between Mardale and Swindale, to its highest point and then divert up Selside Pike, returning by the same route. This had been one of the possibilities I’d considered for the day that we’d been up to the Garburn Pass and, never one to waste things, I’d decided to revivify the idea for this outing.

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Waterfalls on Hopgill Beck.

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Rough Crag, High Street and Kidsty Pike.

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The kids had their small plastic sledges with them again and weren’t long in finding an opportunity to use them. This time, I didn’t wait to watch them, but climbed a little further to…

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…the small ruined, roofless cottage of High Loup. Although we’d not walked far at all, I had it in mind that this might be our last chance of any kind of shelter from the strong winds and suggested it as a lunch spot.

I didn’t have to twist anybody’s arm.

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After our stop, we made it too the pass with relative ease, and then found a couple more spots for some sledging. Once on the ridge, I was finding the snow conditions very frustrating: it was the kind of compacted snow which suggests it will hold you, but then collapses when you shift your weight, which is hard work. At least, it was that kind of snow for me. For most of the party it was perfect snow – firm enough to walk on top of, but soft enough to take an edge and give some grip. Little S, however, had the opposite problem to me: he was making no impression on the snow, but the wind was making a huge impression on him. Between the icy snow and the gales he was struggling to stand up. He didn’t complain, but after watching him struggle for a while, it seemed madness to let him continue and I asked him whether he would like to turn back. He would. And the other boys would be very glad to keep him company. I don’t think that they were any of them very impressed with the spindrift which was attacking us. It’s a lovely word ‘spindrift’, but totally inappropriate for the wind-driven ice shrapnel which stings any exposed skin and manages to get inside every garment.

The boys were also keen to put into action their plan to use the sledges as much as possible in their descent. Unfortunately, Little S didn’t keep a tight enough grip on his and it whipped away on the breeze and is probably now lying in a field down in Swindale.

The girls, meanwhile, were keen to carry on to the top. TBH offered to accompany the boys and so I joined King Dilly Dally, and A and S in the summit party.

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Here’s A sitting on the snowdrift filled summit shelter.

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The view of the snowcapped Pennines across the Eden Valley was better then this photo suggests, but it was quite difficult to hang on to the phone at this point, never mind hold it steady for a photo.

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Baron Behindhand on the descent.

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S and A with poles nicked from their Dads.

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Rough Crag and Haweswater again.

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A modest outing of just 5 miles, but very enjoyable.

I’ve climbed Selside Pike twice before, since I started this blog. Once on another wintery February day, with X-Ray another old friend. Although it was February and very icy, in every other respect this was a very different day:

Selside Pike and Branstree

And once on a mammoth (by my standards anyway) circuit around Haweswater.

A Haweswater Round

We’ve been meaning to get out with the Duke of Delay again ever since his igloo collapsing antics on Wansfell last year:

Grand Designs – An Igloo on Wansfell

 

 

Spindrift on Selside Pike

An ¡Ándale! Walk

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Look at that sky!

When we got back from Underley, I was keen to get out for another walk whilst the daylight and the good weather lasted. I fancied one of my favourite local routes from last year, which takes in Eaves Wood, Hawes Water, Yealand Allotment and Leighton Moss. I usually walk it clockwise, in that order, but it occurred to me that the path ’round the back’ of Leighton Moss might still be flooded, so went widdershins so that I could ask at the visitor centre. Which I did. I was assured that all of the paths around the reserve were open, by a volunteer, well-intentioned I’m sure, who may have been distracted by the fact that he was just about to go on his break.

Pheasants…

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…are daft creatures, apt to stay hidden until you’re almost standing on them and then burst out in a flurry of wings and calls, leaving you every bit as flustered as they clearly are. But this hen pheasant was one of several I saw last Sunday which were apparently completely sanguine about my presence.

The meres (and paths) were partially frozen over still…

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I wondered what had caused these strange undulations and gouges in the ice in front of the public hide…

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There were lots of ducks in evidence. Mainly Shovelers, Teal and Pintails. Judging by the reactions of the proper birders who were about, the Pintails are the most exciting of these.

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I walked around to Lower Hide. The path was pretty wet and the last bit was iced over and decidedly treacherous.

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Teal on the ice.

The onward path from there was barred with a notice saying it was closed because it was flooded. I went past it anyway, as I am wont to do. But not very far. It was flooded. Oh….blast!

Time’s winged chariot was hurtling on, as it is wont to do, the sun was low in the sky…

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…and my plan was thwarted. What to do?

I contemplated the possibilities as I wandered back to the visitor centre.

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Stopping briefly again at the public hide for another gander. There were cygnets…

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And…a willow?…catching the lovely light.

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And Black-headed gulls briefly launching into the air before making shallow dives into the water. I wonder what they were after?

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I’d heard several people discussing the Starling murmuration, and since, slightly ridiculously, its several years since I’ve been at the Moss to witness that, one possibility was to wait to watch that. It seemed to me that the other sensible option would be to head down towards Quaker’s Stang and Quicksand Pool to catch the sunset. I chose the latter. But that meant a stretch of road-walking and a need for speed to find a good vantage point before it was too late.

So, I was in the unusual position of being in a hurry on one of my walks. Which is what made me think of Speedy Gonzales and “¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! Yeehaw!”. (Well that and the fact that ‘An ¡Ándale! Walk’ follows on quite satisfyingly from ‘An Underley Walk’.)

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Quicksand Pool.

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Little Egret.

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Sunset from Quaker’s Stang.

Recent high tides had left a series of pools across the saltmarsh, making a nice foreground as the sun dropped into the Bay.

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By the time I’d crossed the Stang and was back by Quicksand Pool, the sun had gone.

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But again…

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…it was great to be out in the gloaming, enjoying a subtle light-show…

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The land reclamation wall at Jenny Brown’s Point.

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 From near Gibraltar Farm and The Wolfhouse.

An ¡Ándale! Walk

Snowballs on Whernside

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Twas the weekend before Christmas. Well, strictly ’twas the weekend before the weekend  before Christmas, but lets not get bogged down with detail. Once again, a gaggle of old friends had gathered at The Old School House in Chapel-le-Dale and, whisper it, it wasn’t raining. This came as something of a shock as usually it chucks it down when we are there. (The following day normal service was resumed).

There was some talk, on the Friday night, of an Alpine start, some of the adults escaping early to bag Whernside, but in the event, almost all of the children wanted to come too. Here we all are…

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Well, most of us. Uncle Fester and TJF took the languishing in the house option and others were yet to arrive.

The path was extremely icy, which bothered the kids not one jot, but which made me nervous on their behalf. Probably I was over-concerned, we crested the steep part of the ascent without incident and were then into deeper snow.

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Looking towards Pen-y-ghent.

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Little S with a lump of snow. He was eating it. Of course. Ingleborough behind.

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The boys were in their element. They loved the snow, the icicles, and particularly the snowdrifts.

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Fortunately, the rest of the party were very patient with us.

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B enjoying nature’s ice-lolly.

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Ribblehead Viaduct and Pen-y-ghent.

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Ingleborough again.

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On the summit, some people had a bit of a natter, whilst others – well TBH – enjoyed a hot drink from their flask…

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…and the DBs had serious snow to deal with…

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I don’t have any photos of the snowball fight which followed, since I was heavily involved. Mainly as a target, or at least that’s how it felt. The DBs are surprisingly accurate it transpires.

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Waterfall in Force Gill.

The day had still more delights for the boys: frozen puddles. In places the ice was quite thin and creaked unnervingly, not that the DBs were very bothered. And when they did eventually go through, the water wasn’t very deep, although I suspect that Little S got wet feet.

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There were further delights for the rest of us too: the cloud veiling and unveiling Ingleborough…

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…and then great company and the usual combination of stories old and new (mostly old),  daft conversations and obscure trivia (we plumbed new depths this year with area dialling codes, which are, according to TBF, absolutely compelling).

On the Sunday, in driving rain, a select (or daft) few of us took a wander up to Ivescar and then along to Ellerbeck before returning past the tiny chapel which presumably gives the hamlet its name. Although it was throwing it down and there were huge puddles everywhere, much of the ice had yet to melt, which made the going particularly treacherous. Even after just a short walk, I was drenched by the time we were back at the School House. That didn’t put a damper on the day though, or on a very relaxing weekend.

My life in dialling codes…01522, 0116, 0161, 01524. Hmmm…Manchester is a anagram of Leicester and Lancaster is Lincoln + 2. There’s more to this than I thought!

Or not.

Snowballs on Whernside

Water-Gifted.

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Every once in a while a day comes along which stands out not just from the normal run of things, but even amongst the good days. A real jewel. It seems to me that I’ve been very fortunate lately, in that the year just gone was unusually rich in days of that kind, and this day was one of the best.

It was a Monday early in December, a scheduled day off. In September, seeing this date on the calendar is likely to make my hackles rise and have me moaning about the pointless use of a precious holiday in the darkest days of the year, when I would much prefer an extra day in the Spring. But as the date actually approaches, I do begin to look forward to an opportunity to get out. Last year I went to the Lakes and climbed some fells, but this year, full of cold, I decided to restrict myself to a local stroll.

It was a cold morning, with a hard frost and a blanket of mist, although both had substantially cleared by the time I had dropped A and B off at the station and sent Little S off to school.

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Burtonwell Wood and Hagg Wood.

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Eaves Wood.

Black-headed gulls were lined up along the spine of the roof of Row Hulls, a field barn, probably discussing the blue skies, low sun and the fine morning to come.

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But then a Black-backed gull landed amongst them and many of the gossipers fled.

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The Golf Course.

We’d had several successive sharp, frosty days and I was heading down to Leighton Moss thinking that the meres might be frozen over. When I arrived at the visitor centre I was greeted by a very helpful volunteer who filled me in on all of the more exciting birds I might see, but also warned me that most of the paths were flooded.

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Leighton Moss.

The meres were frozen, aside for a few odd open stretches.

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Nuthatch.

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Great Tit.

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I waded down to Grizedale and Jackson hides. Apparently there was a Green-winged Teal on show in one of the meres at that end of the reserve, not that I spotted it.

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Robin.

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There were lots of common-or-garden Teal and Pintail, Wigeon,  and Shoveler to see. Also geese flying overhead and this solitary Cormorant preening itself…

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…and then drying-off in the sunshine.

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Robin.

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Blue tit. 

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Wren.

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Dunnock.

I was heading now for the causeway and the Public Hide and spotted this Heron…

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….in a field very close to both the path and the road. My standard procedure with nervous birds like herons is to take a photograph, then move forward a step or two, then take another picture and so on. But this time I didn’t need to. To my astonishment, the Heron slowly and deliberately paced towards and then past me.

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The causeway looks dry here, but it wasn’t further down. My shoes proved to be quite waterproof, although not always high enough on my ankle to prevent a little icy dampness creeping into my socks.

When I reached the Public Hide a chap told me that he had been watching two Otters running on the ice, one quite nearby and the other across the far side of the mere. I settled down for a cup of tea from my flask and didn’t have to wait too long before…

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…an Otter briefly popped up, trying, it seemed, to jump through a small hole in the ice on to the surface. It tried a few times, but then disappeared again.

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I had originally planned to walk right around to Lower Hide, but had been warned that the path was badly flooded and therefore closed. I went a little way in that direction anyway.

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Heron.

Before turning back to the Public Hide. For some reason I decided to have one more look, not from the hide itself but from a small viewing platform alongside it. Rustling in some reeds nearby had me scanning the area just in front of me when…

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…an Otter popped up very close by. I had time to take three photos, but then it was gone, only to reappear by a post right in front of the hide. This was by far and away the best sighting of an Otter I’ve had at Leighton Moss and also the best anywhere in many, many years.

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I set-off back along the causeway with an added spring in my step.

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Long-tailed tit.

I continued my wander through Trowbarrow Quarry and along Moss Lane.

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Grey wagtail.

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Natural England’s plans for the area around Haweswater have upset some people in the village. A boardwalk will be removed and some Beech trees clear-felled. I think that these trees are the ones ear-marked for removal…

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I understand why people don’t like it when trees are felled, but personally I’ve always assumed that this is a plantation in which the trees are too close together and have grown tall and scrawny as a result. Not at all like some of the splendid, huge Beeches which the National Trust chopped down in Eaves Wood a few years ago.

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I paused on the apparently condemned boardwalks for another tea stop and watched a couple more Cormorants fishing in the lake.

Incidentally, the post’s title is more Ted Hughes, from his poem ‘The Otter’. You can find it in it’s entirety here.

Water-Gifted.