New Year Floral Survey

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – The Row – Burtonwell Wood – The Clifftop – Heald Brow – Quaker’s Stang – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Gibraltar Farm – Woodwell – Emesgate Lane.

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Quince Flowers.

After a string of grey, overcast, foggy, damp days, New Year’s Day was a corker: bright, sunny and, out of the wind, even quite warm at times. TBH was wiped out by a rotten cold, but the rest of us had been out on New Year’s Eve and the children, lightweights to a man, weren’t up very early. Eventually, Little S emerged into the light and I told him I was heading out to take advantage of the sunshine and asked him to ring me when the others got up, chiefly because the day before we’d got halfway through a game of Pandemic, a board game my brother sent us for Christmas, and I’d promised to finish it with the kids when they were ready.

The first surprise, apart from the glorious sunshine, was the thicket of Quince on the ¬†corner of Elmslack Lane which was studded with bright red baubles. I suppose it must have been flowering when I walked past it earlier that week, but it took some brighter conditions to draw my attention to that fact. When I spotted a Marigold (I think?), which must have self-seeded where it sat at the end of a gravel drive….

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…I was reminded again, as I often am, of Richards Adams marvellous ‘A Nature Diary’ in which the author, most famous for Watership Down, explores the lanes, hills and coasts around his home on the Isle of Man. His winter entries often gleefully list the flowers he has found unexpectedly in bloom. I wondered how I might fare with a similar scheme on New Year’s Day. Almost immediately, I spotted Snowdrops and a single Celandine. Also…

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…quite a bit of Winter Jasmine in gardens. All of those might reasonably be expected, but I was a bit more surprised by the extent to which the brambles were flowering wherever I saw them in the woods…

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The Jubilee Monument on Castlebarrow.

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In Eaves Wood.

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In Burtonwell Wood.

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I think that this might be Yellow Jelly Fungus, also known as Witches Butter, but I’m not sufficiently confident about that, or hungry enough, to try adding this allegedly edible fungi to my diet.

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Heald Brow.

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Meadow Ant Mounds on Heald Brow.

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Evidence of Badger predation of Meadow Ants? Apparently Badgers are partial to ants.

It was a good morning for birds, if not for bird photographs: I heard and saw Nuthatches, a Buzzard, various tits, several Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one Green Woodpecker.

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Ragwort.

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Dandelion.

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Gorse.

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Daisy.

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Quaker’s Stang and Warton Crag.

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Sea Beet.

It wasn’t just the flowers which caught my attention; Sea Beet is the wild ancestor of Beetroot, Sugar Beet and Perennial Spinach, grows all year by the coast, is packed full of vitamins and is reputedly delicious. Spring is apparently the best time to eat it, so, seeing it growing on the edge of the salt-marsh, I made a mental note to come back this way, later in the year, with some sort of receptacle in which to carry away some forage.

There were quite a few people enjoying a New Year’s Day constitutional down by the salt-marsh, but I felt like I might be the only one who spotted the completely unexpected flight of a Speckled Wood butterfly and, moments later, a Painted Lady…

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Butterflies can only fly when the temperature is high enough, so the fact that they were here at all was testament to the genuine warmth by this sheltered, south-facing bank. It’s still a bit of a puzzle however, since Speckled Wood butterflies are unique in that they can overwinter as either a caterpillar or a chrysalis, but I don’t think they generally hibernate, as some other species do. And Painted Ladies famously migrate northwards from North Africa over several generations during a summer and then return in the autumn. Perhaps this one was a straggler.

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The large tree behind the old chimney had a couple of clumps of…

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…exquisitely ochre fungi.

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Jenny Brown’s Cottages.

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This looks like a Hawk’s-beard, although I’m not remotely confident about that. Maybe Rough Hawk’s-beard, but that’s supposed to flower in June and July, so if it is, it’s a confused specimen.

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Jack Scout.

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I’ve previously reported that the berries on Flowering Nutmeg, here growing close to Woodwell, reputedly taste chocolaty. In the interest of accuracy, I tried a berry and can now correct my error – it didn’t taste at all like chocolate. It was bitter and not at all pleasant. Oh well – you live and learn.

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More flowers. These were staked, clearly a garden plant, but Stinking Hellebore is actually native to the British Isles. This plant is very early to flower and would be one of the few you might expect to see at this time of year.

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Emerging Cuckoo Pint leaves: spring is on the way!

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Hydrangea. In retrospect these are not actually flowers at all I don’t think, but the remains of the large bracts which once surrounded the actual flowers.

We never did finish that game of Pandemic. I eventually rang Little S, when it seemed too late in the day for the rest of the family to still be in bed. It transpired that they were watching a film instead, so I was free to continue my New Year’s Day ramble without feeling guilty about having abandoned them all. We have played several times since.

The following day our old friend X-Ray visited and he and I and B played another new game, sent by my brother, Queen Domino. It’s a companion to, and can be combined with, King Domino, which we’ve enjoyed enormously since we got it last Christmas. Although I won, I didn’t really feel that I’d grasped the strategy for Queen Domino; I think that might take numerous games.

After our game, X-Ray and I went for a rather late wander down to Jack Scout and managed to miss what was, apparently, quite a spectacular sunset.

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Next time will have to do.

A pretty good start to 2019. I hope you’ve enjoyed the same.

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New Year Floral Survey

Brighter Later

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The first Saturday in October began overcast and rather autumnal, but brightened up whilst I was out for the first of my strolls that day, a circuit via Clark’s Lot, Hollins Lane, Heald Brow, Jenny Brown’s Point, Jack Scout and Woodwell.

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Rosehips and blue tits.

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The Forest of Bowland hills and Carnforth Salt-marsh from Heald Brow.

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Quicksand Pool and the chimney at Jenny Brown’s.

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Traveller’s Joy.

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Grange-over-Sands, blue skies and the Coniston Fells from Jack Scout.

The remaining photos could be from that same trip, but may well be from my second walk of the day, a familiar turn around the Cove and the Lots, because both routes finished along the same bit of track close to home. The fence around the vicarage grounds is liberally festooned with ivy and, on that day, the ivy was absolutely overrun with insects, particularly wasps, but also various flies, hoverflies and ladybirds.

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Flesh-fly.

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Greenbottle.

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A hoverfly – Scaeva Pyrastri. Very handsome with it’s curving white markings, not really shown to best advantage here, sadly.

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Some flower-heads were very busy!

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Bluebottle.

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Wasps.

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Drone fly.

I should probably celebrate the fact that I’m so easily engrossed by flies which are generally considered to be pests gathered on a plant which many would regard as a persist weed. Sometimes, however, the habit of gawping can have it’s downsides: a couple of weeks later, whilst I was similarly occupied, a wasp got trapped between my glasses and my face and stung me just below the eye for its troubles. On this occasion though, prolonged staring helped me to spot this…

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I think that this might be the pupal stage of a ladybird, although I’m not at all confident about that, and if I am right, I still don’t know which of the many varieties of ladybird this might be.


 

Brighter Later

Wildflowers on Heald Brow.

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Meadow Ant mounds on Heald Brow.

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

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

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

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Primroses.

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Cowslips.

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Early Purple Orchid.

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

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

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In amongst the standard yellow flowers were some variants…

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

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Bugle.

I dropped down to the salt-marsh.

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Warton Crag.

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

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Scurvygrass.

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Gorse at Jack Scout.

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

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Sunset from Jack Scout.

Wildflowers on Heald Brow.

Lately I’ve Let Things Slide.

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Eaves Wood.

Between work, the weather, the lurgy and lethargy, I’ve let my Little and Often resolve crumble away and I haven’t been getting out as often as I was. But now I’m off work for a couple of weeks, and the sun has come out, and in the woods spring is already well under way.

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Ramsons in Fleagarth Wood.

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Gorse at Jack Scout.

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Jack Scout view – The Coniston Fells in the distance. The horizon was tilted like that, honest.

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Wolf House.

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Daffs on Lindeth Road.

This was a short, familiar outing which I made very heavy weather of; apparently, I’m not completely over the lurgy yet. Still: time to do some catching up.

Lately I’ve Let Things Slide.

Bright Skies and Big Clouds

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Bright skies and big clouds tempted my out into bracing winds on a Friday night after work.

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Horse Chestnut by Pointer Wood.

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Traveller’s Joy, Sharp’s Lot.

The path down through Fleagarth Wood to the end of Quaker’s Stang was extremely muddy even then, heaven knows what it will be like now, given all of the rain we have endured since. When I reached the saltmarsh, I was exposed to the full force of the wind for the first time, and was surprised by how brisk it was.

The tide was coming up Quicksand Pool…

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But the muddy banks were unusually firm, so I continued along them, rather than seeking the road nearby, because that way I kept my view of the retreating sun.

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From Jenny Brown’s Point.

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Sunset from Jack Scout.

 

Bright Skies and Big Clouds

Brew with a View Too.

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Hagg Wood.

The very next evening, after my Arnside Knott excursion, I was out a bit earlier and able to enjoy the sunshine a little more, although the breeze was cool.

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Wilding apples.

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Hedgerow lichen.

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Sloes.

I was intending to brew-up and watch the sunset again, but I was also intent on collecting some sloes. I had gardening gloves with me, the thorns on Blackthorn are vicious, but, in the end, didn’t use the gloves, finding that a bit of circumspection was sufficient to protect my hands.

The hedgerow had been cut-back hard, earlier this year, and the hard, tart ‘bullies’ were disappointingly sparse.

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Haws.

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Hips.

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More wilding apples – I tried one of these, it was palatable, but nothing to write home about.

Fortunately, the Blackthorn bushes on Sharp’s Lot, National Trust land, had been left well alone and I fairly quickly filled my cup. They’re in the freezer now, I need to weigh them and decide whether I have enough for the Sloe Gin I intend to make (or maybe Sloe Vodka – I’m not find of Gin).

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TBH is a bit bemused, “But you don’t even like Sloe Gin!”

Which isn’t quite true, but she does have a point: I don’t really drink spirits these days. In truth, I’m a bit puzzled by my own enthusiasm; I think it’s maybe got more to do with the making than the drinking. Well, we’ll see.

My walk brought me to Jack Scout, but a little too late really: the sun hadn’t set, but it had dropped behind a band of cloud on the western horizon. Nevertheless, I fired up the stove again…

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…and watched the light fade behind the clouds whilst I drank my char.

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Brew with a View Too.

Moon Over Quicksand Pool

Woodwell – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Woodwell

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Little Egret in Quicksand Pool.

A very late start, so I parked the car at Woodwell and walked from there.

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Warton Crag, the moon and the Bowland Fells over Quicksand Pool.

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Inevitable sunset. The sun setting much further north now.

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I think that one of the reasons that I particularly like to watch the sun go down from Jack Scout is the way the Coniston Fells’ distinctive outline looms over Grange, behind the darker bulk of Hampsfell.

Moon Over Quicksand Pool