Ice Fishing.

Bottom’s Lane – The Row – Bank Well – Lambert’s Meadow – Burtonwell Wood – Silverdale Green.

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It’s not always easy to persuade the boys that they want to go out for a walk. They aren’t always keen to leave their various electronic devices. But to be fair to them, once they are out, they can be relied upon to embrace the opportunity and invariably seem to enjoy themselves.

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On this occasion, I lured them out of the house with the possibility of ice at Bank Well.

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I have to confess that the boys surprised me with how many ways they managed to engage with the ice. Violently striking it with their sticks was their first idea, obviously. (How Little S didn’t fall in in the process is beyond me.) But then pressing on the ice to listen to the sounds of protest it made – quite eerie. Creating bubbles under the ice and then trying to manoeuvre the bubbles around the pond.

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Bank Well – the pond had been silting up and filling with reeds for some time, it looks like somebody had done some work clearing it.

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Finally, lifting big shards of ice out of the pond and then dropping them onto parts which were still frozen over to view the resulting carnage.

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Can’t do that on your Xbox.

Ice Fishing.

An Early Bird on Sleddale Fell

Early Sun on Kentmere Pike

A stunning forecast for Saturday coincided with a busy family day and it seemed that there was no possibility that I would get out on the hills. But my Mother-in-Law took pity on me and offered to look after the kids until lunch time. Accordingly, I was fumbling my way out of bed, bleary-eyed and yawning, at five, driving by half-past and parking up at Sadgill in Longsleddale at six thirty. There was a bright half-moon hanging huge above the Kentmere ridge to the west and in the velvet sky the stars were beginning to fade as the pre-dawn light gradually strengthened. There was enough light to walk without a headtorch, although I opted to stick with the track heading for the Gatescarth Pass whilst the light improved, a route I might not have chosen otherwise.

A bracing northerly hurtled down the valley, an owl hooted from across the river. I confess, I did wonder a little about the sanity of the enterprise. It was bitterly, bitterly cold.

Birkett suggests following the path into Brownhowe Bottom and up to the col between Tarn Crag and Branstree, but previous experience suggested that this would be an indefinite path through very boggy ground which I had no desire to revisit. On the map, a stream heading west of west-north-west almost from the top of Tarn Crag seemed to offer a promising handrail to the heights. So I followed it, after peering first into the small disused quarry close to where the stream passed under the track. After the first steep pull the gradient eased and I suspect that ordinarily the going would have been a little damp underfoot. No such problem today as everything was well frozen. Drips from the edge of peat hags had become substantial icicles and the ground crunched and crackled as I walked.

Looking back again 

A fitter man than I would have reached the summit for the sunrise, but the fitter man was still in his bed, so I had the shady hillside to myself as an orange glow spread downwards on the Kentmere ridge opposite. A Tortoise-like steady plod has long been my Modus Operandi and eventually I toiled up to the summit of Tarn Crag. As I said, it was a bitterly cold day, but here it was colder yet – the wind chill must have been considerable. I flung on all of the additional layers I was carrying, but then, perhaps unwisely, took off my gloves to take some photos. My hands were soon painfully cold, then numb and then, after I put my gloves back on, painful again as the circulation returned bringing with it a prickly burning sensation.

But the sky was almost cloudless, the clarity of the air was superb and the views magnificent.

Tarn Crag Summit - with Survey Pillar 

The pillar here is a survey pillar, built when the Manchester Corporation was flooding Mardale to create Haweswater. I didn’t go to take a closer look, but if you’re interested, there’s a photo here of another pillar (there are several roundabout) on Branstree, taken on another stunning early February day. I once camped on the summit of Tarn Crag. Arriving in the late afternoon, I had the summit to myself then too. A glorious evening was followed by a very wet morning, and then a wet day splashing my way across the Shap fells and down to Tebay.

Kentmere Pike and Harter Fell 

Sadly it was just too cold to linger for long by the summit cairn.

Tarn Crag Summit Cairn 

So I set-off again, heading toward the distant line of the Pennines. Cross Fell stood out clearly, holding more snow than any of its neighbours.

Looking East to the Pennines 

As I dropped into the hollow which separates Tarn Crag from Grey Crag and Harrop Pike the wind suddenly died away. The contrast was amazing. I was out of the wind and in the sunshine – too good an opportunity to miss, so I stopped briefly for a hot drink.

Harrop Pike 

Looking toward Harrop Pike.

Harrop Pike Summit Cairn 

Harrop Pike Summit Cairn.

Looking down to Longsleddale from Grey Crag Summit 

Grey Crag cairn, looking down into Longsleddale.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever visited the little cairned and knobbly top of Grey Crag before, but it turned out to be another victory for Birkett Bagging – a lonely spot with great views of Longsleddale and the hills across the valley, and, more distantly, of the Coniston Fells.

Longsleddale and Great Howe 

From there I picked a way through the very broken crags heading towards Great Howe, which is the high point of the broad sweep of ridge on the right of this photo. Although not evidently a ‘summit’ in any way, Great Howe is another little gem with fantastic views of the wooded slopes and patchwork fields of the lower part of Longsleddale. I took photos, but they were into the low winter sun and so not particularly successful. Great Howe has two more survey pillars, but both are slightly below the ridge and on this occasion I didn’t feel inclined to detour to investigate, besides which I was working to a deadline.

Tarn Crag from Great Howe 

Tarn Crag from Great Howe.

Grey Crag from Great Howe 

Grey Crag from Great Howe.

Upper Longsleddale from Great Howe 

Upper Longsleddale from Great Howe

The slopes between Great Howe and Longsleddale are pretty steep and crags abound. When I arrived back at the car, I could see that it is possible to take what looked like a pleasant route down the ridge and via a stile down across the fields directly to Sadgill, but from above, knowing that this wasn’t access land, I opted for a more tricky descent back to the Gatescarth track. I once climbed Tarn Crag by following Galeforth Gill, a route which I can recommend. Now I took a line down and across the hillside towards that Gill.

Goat Scar, Kentmere Pike and Longsleddale 

Goat Scar, Kentmere Pike, Harter Fell and Upper Longsleddale again.

A perfectly placed gap in the crags brought me safely down to the gill a little way below an impressive waterfall. (If you choose to follow Galeforth Gill up Tarn Crag you can avoid the fall by diverting into the gully on the right, or possibly by following the tributary stream on the left.)

Galeforth Gill 

The stream bed and the rocks beside it were coated in a fascinating variety of ice formations.

Icicles by Galeforth Gill 

I was particularly impressed by these ice coated grass blades.

Ice coated grass blades, by Galeforth Gill 

Goat Scar and Longsleddale 

A final view of Goat Scar and Longsleddale.

Sadgill Bridge, River Sprint

Sadgill.

A very quiet walk – I saw no other walkers at all until I reached the Gatescarth track, shortly before I got back to my car. There were now fourteen cars parked at the road end at Sadgill. I chatted to chap who was sitting in the boot of his 4 by 4 tying his bootlaces, evidently about to set-off.

“What’s like up there?” he wanted to know.

“Fantastic. Frozen, everything’s frozen. Not much snow, but what there is, is firm and a pleasure to walk on.”

“Cold?”

“Oh, yes – extremely cold.”

I was home again by midday.

After lunch B and his pal wanted to me to take them for some tree-climbing and den-building in Eaves Wood. Then B and I watched the thrilling Calcutta Cup match on the telly together. Finally we rounded off a marvellous day with a meal at Cinnamon Spice Restaurant in the village. Two walks, a rugby international and a curry, and it wasn’t even my Birthday.

Throw those curtains wide……

A wee map:

Tarn Crag Walk

An Early Bird on Sleddale Fell

Ninebanks

Last weekend (back before Christmas) we travelled up to Allendale for our regular pre-Christmas get-together with old friends. We (well, not me personally: I’m hopeless and would definitely cock-up the organisation if it fell to me) had booked a youth hostel for our sole use – this year Ninebanks hostel. I’m reliably informed, by TBH, that this is the eighth year that we’ve done this. Which is true up to a point, but before we used Youth Hostels we used to gather in one of our homes – this was when we were young and able to sleep on floors, and perhaps more importantly we didn’t have so many kids between us.

It’s as much a social event as anything – communal meals, rehashing old stories, a kids party, a few beers. This year tobogganing and a music intros quiz also featured. There wasn’t really enough snow for the former and every stone and rut bumped and jolted as we slid down the icy field. Frozen mole-hills proved to be particularly hazardous and all of the sleds were fatally damaged over the course of the weekend. I finished the trip with very painful sciatica which I think was probably as a result of the sledging.

I did manage to fit a couple of walks in too though. On Saturday I was up early for a pre-dawn start with the Adopted Yorkshireman (henceforth AYM). We walked a horseshoe around the valley of Wellhope Burn – up to the trig pillar at Hard Rigg, across Hesleywell Moor, over Whimsey Hill and the Dodd before turning North back toward the hostel. It was phenomenally cold – I’m essentially a very warm person and usually find that I can’t wear gloves for long, but on this occasion I comfortably wore two pairs together.

Hard Rigg

Twice – on the way up Hard Rigg and right by the trig point, we saw a mouse darting from a hole in the snow and then disappearing into another hole. Must be a hard won existence.

Where the going underfoot consisted of fresh snow over tussocks (approaching Hard Rigg) or fresh snow over heather and peat hags (the Dodd) it was hard work – letting the AYM break trial is not much help since his legs are about 3 yards long and it’s nigh on impossible to match his stride, and even if you do manage it’s only to find that he walks with his toes pointing out at 45 degrees and you can’t turn your feet to match his prints without the advantage of double-jointed ankles. Fortunately much of our route followed a wall in the lee of which old drifted snow had frozen into solid neve which was a delight to walk on. This was my first time around this moorland but with the boggy bits frozen it was probably an ideal time to visit. True to form however, on the Dodd I did manage to crash through some ice into peaty water which filled one of my boots – it was, needless to say, very cold.

Later on in our walk it brightened up considerably but for some reason I didn’t take any photos – probably too busy putting the world to rights as the AYM and I always seem to do whenever we are together.

After the early start we back in time for a late lunch, some sledging and to cook the curries for tea (my contribution to the weekend).

On the Sunday I was out with the AYM’s other half the Adopted Yorkshirewoman. We were on the afternoon shift having been on child-minding duties in the morning. As luck would have it we hit the best part of the day – it had been rather dull and dour but as we set-off the AYW opined that ‘it might clear up’, and she was dead right.

The confluence of the River West Allen and Mohope Burn….

…still running but with  ice building up under the water.

West Allen Dale

The track which took us up on to the moors. (Remarkably ice-free unlike many of the paths and tracks we followed)

The cloud begins to reassert itself.

We enjoyed the sunshine whilst we could, because when the weather turned again it did so very swiftly. And by the time we were following the edge at Greenleycleugh Crags, visibility was very limited…

Looking along Greenleycleugh Crags to the last of the sunshine disappearing in the North.

On the way back to the hostel we passed Throssel Hole Buddhist Centre which I’m sure I’ve read about before on the interweb but which I wasn’t aware was here. We talked to a couple of people here who I would guess were a monk and a nun from the centre. They were having problems with their water source. The centre is in Limestone Brae which is a small hamlet stretched out along the road on a steep valley side. Having seen the name Limestone Brae on a road sign I had been expecting it to be some sort of interesting geological feature.

At the end of our walk, in almost complete darkness, we came across a gathering of hares – I think seven in all. I thought that hare’s were essentially solitary creatures and was surprised to find them fraternising in a field.

In all a great weekend, and we didn’t get round to exploring Allen Banks or visiting the forts on nearby Hadrian’s Wall. We shall have to return.

Ninebanks

A Bevy of Birds*

 

Or: My Favourite Christmas Present Concluded (for now)

Crossing the Kent Viaduct

I didn’t get far after finishing my lunch before I was distracted again by Fieldfares and Redwings. Arnside, with its promenade, has pretensions to seaside resort status  – in fact I have some rather fine old black and white postcards which prove its history as a resort. At one end of the promenade is a small strip of formal garden with lots of evergreen bushes, many festooned with berries and, on this day also festooned with birds. Most of them moved when I passed, but not all…

I liked the way this Fieldfare was caught peering at me through the branches. One Redwing was unusually content to sit whilst I took a few photos:

I was on the far side of the flood defence wall from the bushes and so was partially hidden from the many birds on the ground beneath the bushes picking up berries and some food which somebody had obviously put out for them. Or at least they were trying to get the food and berries, but one very aggressive Fieldfare was seeing off all-comers.

It was very shady behind the wall, so the photos are not what they might have been, but the antics of this bird entertained me for quite some time so – here s/he is showing tail feathers to warn of a blackbird…

…these are my berries, I’m not eating them now but…

Striking another aggressive pose – it’s a shame that this didn’t come out more clearly (but there’s so much character here even though it’s blurred)…

Taking an opportunity to tuck in…

… and resting for a moment…

The small trees along the railway embankment were also heavily laden with a mixture of Fieldfares, Redwings and Starlings…

 

The next stage of the walk took me along the embankment of an old railway line, following the landward side of the salt marsh bordering the river Kent. It was bitterly cold and here the slightest of breezes made me feel that cold quite acutely for the first time.

Looking back along the embankment to Arnside Knot.

At this point the road crosses the embankment. It’s possible to cross the road and follow the disused railway line into a cutting, but I preferred to drop down onto the mud at the side of the estuary, thinking that it might be frozen and firm for a change. It was.

Rather dimly, I wondered why the snow here was only in isolated patches and not the deep covering I’d seen everywhere else. Then it dawned on me that the river here is tidal (this being an estuary) and that the sea would have been up over this area recently. So this must be ice…

Little forests of ice crystals. Clinging to every grassy hummock, or in any slight channels where water might have gathered…

 

In other places the mud was covered in a layer of thick glassy ice, elsewhere a layer of ice stood above the mud, crunching and cracking with every step.

In the river ‘icebergs’ floated in great clumps. As if to demonstrate what had happened, as I reached the river bank a large piece of the ice which had accumulated along the edge of the river broke off and fell into the water.

The ‘icebergs’.

Looking down river towards the sea.

A little further along the river, four Goldeneye, one male and three females, were practising their synchronised swimming in a gap in the ice…

I’d set myself the deadline of two in the afternoon as a final time before I should turn for home. In the back of my mind I also had the idea that I would like to get to where the Bela, one of the Kent’s tributaries, flows onto the estuary. But it had become clear that it wouldn’t be possible to stick to my deadline and reach the Bela. So, although it wasn’t quite two, I decided to head back through Storth.

The trees and shrubs in the gardens here were once again full of Starlings…

and Fieldfares…

From Storth my route involved following a minor lane, but with trees either side and Bullfinches (that song again) I could almost have been in the woods.

A Kestrel sat high in a tree top, quite content to let me get closer and closer…until I turned on my camera that is. The lane brought me to Hazelslack farm, which has an old Pele tower…

…much smaller than Arnside Tower.

One of the barns at the farm sounded like it was full of Starlings, and many were congregated on the guttering…

You can see the local peacocks on the tower walls in the background too, albeit out of focus.

From here I could pick up a path again. A Buzzard flew over, then I watched a small group of Goldfinches flitting from tree to tree by the path. As I approached Silverdale moss a Snipe burst from cover with a surprisingly loud flurry of wings.

Ice in Leighton Beck.

Another Buzzard appeared over the tree-tops loudly kew-kewing as it floated by.

Looking across Silverdale Moss to Arnside Tower.

The Cloven Ash is more cloven than it was last time I visited.

I was interested to see whether Haweswater’s great depth had protected it from the cold, but no, it too was frozen over.

Reed seed head.

Reeds catching the winter sun.

Where a bridge crosses the small stream which flows from Little Haweswater into Haweswater I stopped to examine the snow on the banks of the stream, optimistically hoping that I might see evidence of Otter activity. I’ve seen spraints here before, which is close as I’ve come to encountering the local Otters. Nothing, I’m afraid, but whilst I looked a Kingfisher loosed a surprisingly strident call and shot out, from under the bridge I think, and away along the stream. It was the briefest streak of bright colour, but magical none the less.

The last leg of my journey took me into Eaves Wood again. I was intent on catching the sun dropping down through the trees…

There were more Redwings and Fieldfares, but don’t worry – it was now too dark to take any more pictures. I don’t think that I’ve mentioned the rather enjoyable soft chuckling sounds of the Fieldfares – another tune to add to my small but growing list of birdcalls which I can recognise. One definite success since I decided to try to learn some bird songs and calls is the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, and a pip-pip now had me turning back to see one high in the trees behind me.

* The collective noun for Fieldfares is apparently flock. For Redwings crowd. For Goldfinches I know that the word is charm. For Starlings a murmuration. And for Goldeneye it might be a wink. (But apart from charm this is all lazy internet research so take it with a pinch of salt.) What’s the collective noun for bird photos?

A Bevy of Birds*

My Favourite Christmas Present

Friday’s walk was a stunner, and may have to be split over several posts – we’ll see how it goes. Regular readers (hah!) may have noticed that I managed to get out for far more longer walks last year than I did the year before, although that activity dwindled in the second half of the year. There have been many reasons for that, but to try to ensure that I get out regularly, TBH has penciled in dates on our 2010 calendar, one a month, set aside for me (or sometimes both of us) to get out for  a longer leg-stretcher. The first of these was meant to be on Saturday, but with the weather perfect on Friday morning, I decided to strike whilst the iron was hot and set off then. With the roads still dodgy, and having not started as early as I might have, it seemed sensible to walk locally. And since I am off work recuperating something moderate, with plenty of gawking as well as walking seemed appropriate. I’m conscious of the fact that I haven’t continued my exploration of the Kent recently, and with one nearby stretch not walked since I declared my intent to walk it all from sea to source, I decided to head that way.

I didn’t take long for a first distraction to appear – setting the tone for the rest of the walk. A solitary Fieldfare on a shrub in a garden on Elmslack Lane. I got some photos, but only after the bird had unhelpfully moved from a nearby perch to one at the far end of the garden. Elmslack Lane becomes Castle Bank, a cul-de-sac which climbs steeply with houses on the left and Eaves Wood on the right. In a fairly open part of the wood I stopped to watch quite a number of Fieldfares hopping about in the grass, flying from tree to tree and generally entertaining me, whilst consistently evading my camera. After a while however four of them settled in a tree across the road in a garden. This time it was the garden of a good friend so I decided that it would be OK to intrude a little to get a little closer for photographs.

 

Two of the birds were perched together, initially both facing away from me. Note also how puffed up and spherical they are. I waited and….

…one of the birds both turned and, for want of a better term, ‘deflated’…

Here,their shapes are so different that they could be different species!

Castle Bank took me into Eaves Wood and through a stile to Holgates Caravan Park. The park has lots of woodland. There are information boards up about thinning and clearing of the trees. I could hear chainsaws and the air was full of the rather sharp smell of green wood burning. I could see neat piles of birch logs, but not where the felling was taking place.

I took a photo of Arnside Tower with a dog walker passing, mainly for Evelyn, the Castle Lady. Who wanted to see people with it.

 

The sprinkling of dots in the sky to the right of the tower are the Jackdaws which always seem to be about.

In the fields the farmers have been busy muck-spreading…

I passed Arnside Tower Farm and climbed into the woods on Arnside Knot on Saul’s Drive…

The woods here were absolutely thronging with birds in a way which I haven’t quite seen before. In the patches of exposed leaf litter, some of which you can see here, birds were busy fussing about, searching for titbits, occasionally squabbling. I tried to get photos. Against the leaves the birds – Fieldfares, Redwings, Balckbirds, I even saw a Wren looking dwarfed by the others – were incredibly well disguised, but the longer I looked the more I became aware of just how many there were.

None of the pictures were particularly good – the best being this Blackbird…

 

…and this Redwing glimpsed through branches, apparently with snow on its beak…

… – but I enjoyed taking them enormously. Eventually another walker arrived from the opposite direction and the spell was broken – the birds made themselves scarce. The walker was carrying binoculars and guessed what I was about – ‘They’re fabulous aren’t they? The woods are full of them.’ Which turned out to be spot on.

Climbing up towards the Knot I saw a couple of Bullfinches and a solitary Long-Tailed Tit (there must surely have been others, but I only saw the one). I was over-hauled by a couple of other walkers, one of whom turned out to be an old colleague. Then on open ground close to the top, I encountered more Redwings…

Doesn’t leap out does it?

Here’s a cropped version of another photo…

From the top I could see large pieces of ice floating in the Kent near New Barns. I also had some pretty fabulous views. At this moment, my camera informed me that its batteries were low. I’d only changed them two days before so I can only assume that the batteries were effected by the extremely cold weather we were having. I did manage to take a few views…

Looking South to the Bay.

East to the Howgills.

North to Dow Crag, Coniston Old Man, Swirl How and Wetherlam.

Whilst I was taking these photos something flew close over my shoulder and landed at my feet. Another tame robin, Somebody had put food out on the wall around the topograph, but this bird seemed to expect something of me. Sadly I had nothing to give it. None the less it followed me down the hill, repeatedly swooping close to my shoulder and landing on bushes or trees nearby. On one occasion it landed on a tree almost directly in front of my face. This photo was taken on the widest angle of my zoom…

I considered heading down to New Barns, but decided to go more directly into the village to enable me to get new batteries. I saw more bullfinches on the way down into the village. From the promenade…

I watched a curlew poking about on the margins of the river…

…and then found a cafe for a pasty, some tiffin and a pot of tea for lunch.

And now TBH wants the computer, so there ends part I. To find out what happened after lunch….same bat time, same bat channel….

My Favourite Christmas Present

Yes, We Have No Bitterns

Lest, after my previous post, I’m accused of painting TBH as the villain of the piece, I should make it clear right away that Wednesday’s very successful trip was entirely her idea. She’d seen a poster advertising a guided Bittern walk at Leighton Moss and suggested that I should go. Having set off a little later than I really should have (no surprise there for anyone who knows me well) I had to hurry as I walked to the visitor centre, but I still arrived a little late. The idea is that Bitterns, which are notoriously shy birds, can be most easily seen when the water in the reed beds, where they usually feed, is frozen and they are forced to come out to open water to feed. Unfortunately, the frost had been a little too efficient and frozen the meres too leaving very little open water.

From Lillian’s hide we watched Buzzards circling high above Warton Crag and a pair of Swans in the only remaining small area of open water. An unidentified brown bird of about the right size briefly caught the corner of my eye and then disappeared back into the reeds, tantalising us with the possibility of a Bittern sighting, but when it finally reappeared turned out to be just a female Pheasant – a trick they often play apparently. We strolled along the road which borders the reserve, in the direction of the causeway, and were encouraged to listen for the song of a Bullfinch. I shall be listening out for it from now on – one to add to my small but slowly growing tally of familiar birdsongs – it’s very simple, quite like a Greenfinch I thought, but less rasping.

On the causeway our party was swelled by the addition of a very confident Robin which seemed to follow us for a while, landing on railings and posts very close by and then hopping about round our feet.

There was some discussion about whether he actually craved our company, but it seemed to me at least that it was the birdfeed on the path which held more interest…

A couple that followed us along the path reported having persuaded the Robin to land on their hand to take food. A show of complete confidence, or utter desperation?

From the public hide it was possible to see a larger area of open water with many ducks congregated on the ice along the edge of that water…

..and many more ducks, another pair of swans and a huge number of coot in the open water beyond. We watched another buzzard, but this one flew low over the reeds, which is rather more characteristic of the Marsh Harriers which will be here in the summer, before dropping into the reeds and eventually reappearing to roost in a distant tree.

An icy wind was driving into our faces through the windows of the hide. We left to walk a little further along the causeway to where it crosses an open channel over a modest bridge. We were warned to watch out for Water Rail. I missed the first couple, too busy watching a huge flock of the diminutive Teal rising from the water to wheel over our heads – pure magic. I did eventually see some Water Rail though, skittering rather comically on the ice along the edge of the reedbeds. Something else small and fast ran across in front of us  – a Stoat.

We made our way back along the causeway…

The seed heads on the reeds glinting in the sunshine…

By Myer’s farm we saw Marsh Tits, more Bullfinches, and a Treecreeper improbably feeding on the Gable-end of the farmhouse itself. In amongst the trees we were warned to watch out for Siskins feeding on the Alders and sure enough that’s exactly what we saw. From Lillian’s hide again we saw a Heron standing right out in the middle of the ice for no reason we could fathom. A Snipe made several fly-pasts, and just as we were set to leave, a Water Rail obliged us with our best view yet.

So – no Bitterns, but lots to see otherwise, including this handy juxtaposition of red and white which rightfully belongs in a previous post

…although I suppose that it’s another combination which I shall be seeking out from now on.

After lunch in the cafe, my next encounter was with this Ram…

Who is wearing a fetching dye-dispenser so that the Ewes who have been ‘serviced’ (to borrow a euphemism from Blue Peter presenter Simon Groom – does anyone else remember that episode?) are clearly identified. And what do the Ewes think about that?

This next photo is perhaps another opportunity for a caption competition…

TBH suggests…’Form an orderly queue girls!’

My walk home took me past the Railway Station…

Where I got quite excited about an apparently enormous bird roosting in a tree top on the far platform. What could it be?

Just a Mistle Thrush it seems, with feathers puffed out for warmth making it seem much larger than it really is.

All birds puff out their feathers in freezing weather, to insulate themselves with a layer of air and so keep warm. The poet Robert Graves observed that ‘puffed up feather and fearless approach’ indicated hunger in birds, but that in man these signs revealed ‘belly filled full’.

Derwent May from A Year In Nature Notes

Crossing the golf-course…

I was struck, as I had been on Tuesday, by how well used paths in the area are…

Climbing down through the trees towards Lambert’s meadow, having lots of fun trying (and failing) to capture the way that the sun was glistening on the snow on the trees, I heard a drumming in the trees above, not the insistent territorial drumming which will begin soon, but more purposeful insect seeking I suspect. Scanning the treetops, I was rewarded with a flash of red and a first sighting for the year of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

Closer to home I was serenaded by this fellow..

…the first of the many Robins I had seen which deigned to offer a tune – most were clearly much to intent on filling their bellies.

Time for one last view of the Howgills..

…before returning home.

To find everybody else on the way out to go sledging on the Lots. Passing the butchers on the way we saw Walter throw meat scraps to a host of expectant black-headed gulls. Obviously a regular occurrence. Sledging continued long after the sun had sunk below the western horizon leaving only an orange glow to remind us of it’s passing.

Yes, We Have No Bitterns

Glowing Angel Hair

A sunny Sunday stroll with A (and her baby doll). As you can see here, the snow had mostly gone except where it had been compacted down to sheets of ice. Principally our driveway. It was still very cold however with plenty of frost and ice. Any walk with A inevitably involves a great deal of conversation, but this was also a walk of distant views to places where the snow lingered: the Howgills from the field near home…

..,Ward’s Stone and Clougha Pike across Carnforth salt marsh from Heald Brow…

…, and Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man as we turned towards home…

It was also, from my point of view at least, another opportunity to attempt to capture the effects of the low winter sunshine, with varying degrees of success. I was particularly struck by the way the light was catching the ‘angel hair’ on traveller’s joy in a hedge.

It was difficult to get quite the shot that I wanted since the seedheads which were lit-up were high in the hedge and reaching up to get a photo from the right angle involved doing battle with a vicious bramble.

Still – backlit seedheads – another totem for the alphabet, and something else to be on the look out for.

Ash buds

And in my search for images of ‘leaves and stuff’ perhaps I shall make more of an effort to include seedheads, buds, bark, cones….

Glowing Angel Hair