Jenny Brown’s Two Times

Walk The First: Silverdale Green – Woodwell Clifftop – Hazelwood Hall Grounds – Heald Brow – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Bottom’s Wood – The Lots – The Cove

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Last Saturday. When this post is published I will be up to date; a dizzying prospect.

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Chaffinch.

As the title suggests this was a two walk day and both walks took me to Jenny Brown’s Point, although by different routes, the first on my own and the second in company.

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It was another good day for bird-watching: just before I took this photo, which looks down an avenue of trees towards Hazelwood Hall, I spotted a woodpecker in a nearby Beech, and as I took it, two Buzzards lifted from one of the trees ahead and circled, the smaller male bird stooping toward the female as they do in their spring display flights.

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Warton Crag and the salt marsh from Heald Brow.

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The tide was very high and the channels of Quicksand Pool were brim full.

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I’ve posted before about the old wharf at Jenny Brown’s Point; boats must once have landed there, but it’s not all that often that I’ve seen the tide high enough to reach it.

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Here’s the Robin (again?) which hopped along the path into Jack Scout ahead of me.

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Hazel Catkins.

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I usually assume that a bird which looks as scruffy as this Blue Tit is a juvenile, but it must be too early in the year for that. Is it moulting?

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Near Woodwell, two Roe Deer came pelting over a garden wall and raced across the road with a greyhound in half-hearted pursuit.

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Walk The Second: Silverdale Green – Clarke’s Lot – Fleagarth Wood – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Bottom’s Wood – Spring Bank

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The Howgill Fells – the dusting of snow (just about visible in the first photo at the top of the post) has almost gone.

Arriving home from my first walk, I found that TBH had arranged with some friends a family walk to Jenny Brown’s Point.

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It had clouded over considerably since the morning, but it was still a very fine walk.

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There’s a way around this mudbath, but the DBs chose to ignore that fact, naturally.

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The tide had receded, but left some pools in its wake.

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Unlike the Howgills, the Bowland Fells still retained a dusting of snow.

So that’s it – I’m completely up to date. What’s next?

Jenny Brown’s Two Times

The Call of Nature.

Clark’s Lot – Fleagarth Wood – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Woodwell – Clifftop Path – Silverdale Green – Hagg Wood.

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Perhaps the weather on New Year’s Day was a portent of the weather to come after all – at least for the next day anyway, which also dawned frosty, clear and bright.

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Everywhere I went the trees, bushes and hedgerows were busy with birds, not really singing, but flitting about, jinking from branch to branch and keeping up a constant chatter as they did so. At various points during the walk I tried, and failed, to photograph Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Chaffinches, and maybe a solitary Bullfinch. Only Robins can be relied upon to pose, so they will have to stand in for all of the rest. This one…

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…was on a branch by the path through Fleagarth Wood.

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Warton Crag across the salt marsh.

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The foreshore by the chimney near Jenny Brown’s Cottages is eroding fast…

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And exposing more remnants of the area’s industrial heritage…

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Two views of Quicksand Pool.

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In the field beside the road between Jenny Brown’s Cottages and Jenny Brown’s Point there’s a line of hawthorns. Both the trees and the area around them were busy with Blackbirds. Blackbirds are quite territorial I think, and not always tolerant of each other, but I’ve noticed on the Rowans in our garden that they will happily feed together where there’s an abundant harvest of berries.

In amongst the Blackbirds, there was one paler bird…

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Surely that’s a…

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…Fieldfare!

There was another Fieldfare being very elusive on the other side of the road, but I was surprised not to see still more since they seem to be a very gregarious bird.

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Haws.

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Traveller’s Joy.

This Robin…

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…hopped along in front of me on the path into Jack Scout. I’ve been back to Jack Scout twice today and exactly the same thing happened both times. Presumably, that was the same Robin each time. What advantage can be gained by such strange behaviour I wonder?

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Jack Scout, the Bay and Humphrey Head.

At Woodwell I stopped to answer a call of nature and a Robin landed on a fence post right behind me.

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What chance flowers in January?

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Actually, I think that, strictly speaking, these aren’t flowers. The flowers will have been small and white and cradled by these bracts, followed by small, dark berries.

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I’ve always known this plant as Flowering Nutmeg. Apparently it’s also known as Himalayan Honeysuckle, Pheasant Berry, Himalayan Nutmeg or Chocolate Berry. It’s not an endemic plant, as some of the names suggest. It grows in several places that I know of across the area. I used to have some in my garden when I lived in Arnside. I took cuttings from a plant on a roadside verge, dipped them in rooting powder and stuck them in pots on my windowsill, before transplanting them to the garden. Now that I know that they are good to eat

“The fully ripened fruit are faintly figgy in flavour with hints of bitter chocolate and burnt caramel.”

Maybe I’ll have another go at taking some cuttings this year.

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I couldn’t identify a flock of birds in the woods – they didn’t seem like tits or finches, but seemed too small to be anything else – but one of them landed briefly on a distant branch and a photograph revealed them to be more Fieldfares.

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From Silverdale Green to Hagg Wood the path follows a field wall, on the far side of which is a line of tall Oaks (probably planted by the Inman family I believe). Each of these trees had it’s own population of chattering, restless birds, which I enjoyed failing to photograph.

I was admiring the shape and stature of the final tree before the wood, when I realised that this one isn’t an Oak.

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But, although I’m confident that it isn’t an Oak, I’m not sure what it actually is. Never mind, I shall come back when it has some leaves, to see whether I can figure it out.

The Call of Nature.

Tiny Winging Darting Floating

Townsfield – The Cove – The Lots – The Shore – Cow’s Mouth – Jack Scout – Jenny Brown’s Point – Heald Brow – The Cliff Path

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A local, post-work stroll in glorious sunshine, remarkable for its bird-spotting opportunities right from the off. The hedgerow along Townsfield was seemingly full of birds.

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Great Tit.

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Blue Tit.

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House Sparrows.

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I wasn’t the only one taking an interest…

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Nor was it only the hedgerow which was busy: overhead a couple of Corvids were harassing a Buzzard…

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Usually, I have to crop my bird photos. This Chaffinch was sitting in such a prominent spot, just above the path by The Cove, that it hasn’t been necessary on this occasion.

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Chaffinch song is one of the few which I can reliably recognise, which means that when I hear it I always feel profoundly pleased with myself, Chaffinches and life in general.

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Just beyond this Chaffinch’s perch, stands a much larger Ash tree. I once saw a Tawny Owl sat in its branches and now habitually glance over just in case. It’s nearly six years since I saw the owl and I don’t think I’ve seen anything in the same spot since, so my optimism is perhaps misplaced. Except…There was something in the same tree again. The owl was back! But…wait, it wasn’t right for an owl somehow. I fumbled for my camera, but too late, the raptor opened it’s wings and glided effortlessly away. I managed to take one photo, but only of a space between the trees which the bird had just vacated. So, what was it? I’m pretty confident that it wasn’t a Buzzard, and also that I spotted dark wing-tips as it flew, so I suspect that it was one of the local Marsh Harriers – although that would put it some way off their usual patch.

On the Lots, a dozen or so Starlings were picking-over the sward…

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I wanted to go back to Jack Scout again, and fancied a different route, so went down Shore Road to The Beach (as it’s known locally – there’s no sign of any sand) and from there around the shore to Cow’s Mouth (another cove) and Jack Scout.

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It was a clear evening and the camera’s zoom reveals the profile of the Coniston Fells…

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One advantage of knowing a few birdsongs is that from time to time I realise that I’m hearing something different and start looking for the culprit. I’m not always successful, but occasionally that tactic can pay dividends…

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Blackcaps aren’t necessarily migrants. Three of them, two females and a male, overwintered in and around our garden many years ago, when we lived on The Row. But despite that fact, I only generally see them at this time of year, when the males are busying singing to establish and protect a territory. And even in Spring I don’t see them often, so when I do spy one I’m always thrilled. Getting a photo too was a real bonus.

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From Jack Scout I headed around Jenny Brown’s Point towards the chimney. I’m not very confident with wading birds, but I guess that these are Redshank…

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I can’t decide whether this rather rough wall…

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…is an archaeological remnant of the buildings which once accompanied the chimney here, and which has been revealed by the action of the tides on the foreshore; or whether it has been more recently constructed for some reason.

I was very taken by the red hue in the tips of the branches of these trees…

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There’s a David Hockney painting ‘Bigger Trees Nearer Warter’ which I’m sure has almost exactly the same hue.

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My route had taken onto the south side of higher ground and therefore into the shade, a mistake which needed rectifying. Fortunately, there’s a path which climbs steeply up to Heald Brow which would take me back into the sunshine. As I climbed the birds singing from all of the nearby trees gave me plenty of excuses to pause and scan the trees for the musician’s. Two Chiff-chaffs were competing, one at the bottom of the slope, the other at the top. In a line of trees several Robins were duelling hard. But loudest of all, ringing out over all of them, was a solitary Song Thrush…

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Not the best photo of a Song Thrush I know, but what surprised me about this photo was the wildlife I didn’t expect to capture in it: the shoals of insects which were flying all around the Thrush. It’s this bonanza which drives so much of the birdsong, brings the migrants, fuels the nesting season. I wasn’t thinking that at the time, I must confess; I was more concerned about climbing the hill with my jaws firmly closed so as to not find myself with a mouthful of unwanted protein.

Time for one more bird on this walk, in a tall Ash on the edge of Pointer Wood. Not the sharpest photo, but more evidence of my occasional success with birdsong, which is how I located this Nuthatch…

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Tiny Winging Darting Floating

An ‘At Home’ Weekend

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Of course we’re often, in fact usually, at home at weekends, but this weekend, the first in October, was different in as much as it was our annual get-together in Silverdale with our friends, a gaggle of whom had come over to stop. As so often seems to happen on these occasions we walked to Arnside and back on the Saturday and didn’t get around to climbing Warton Crag on the Sunday.

We were duty bound to go to Arnside – it was the Apple Day, which happens once every two years and which we always try to attend. Everything apple related was on offer – apple-bobbing, apple-peeling, apple-juice, an apple-pressing demonstration, information about growing apples and making cider…oh, and of course, welly-wanging. No, I don’t see the connection either.

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I bought a mixed bag of different apples to try – I particularly liked the Charles Ross.

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In addition to general apple-related festivities, local and national conservation charities were represented, various traditional crafts were demonstrated and lots of people were selling foodstuffs of various kinds.

The boys were most excited to see the pennants flying in the orchard which they had helped to decorate at school.

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On the Sunday we visited the Burtonwell Wood Rift Cave, an attraction which was enjoyed by children of all ages…

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Then we wandered down to Jenny Brown’s point, stopping on the way to chat to the small group working on the excavations around the old chimney there.

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Since our friends always visit in autumn their visit always coincides with the flowering of the ivy and the frenzied feeding of wasps, bees, butterflies et alia which seems to ensue.

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Not too dissimilar from the scene in our kitchen on the Saturday night when we all shared a take-away from our local curry-house, although nobody went so far as to stick their proboscis into the Handi Achar.

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Traveller’s Joy.

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A highly enjoyable weekend getaway without any need for stressful travelling on our part. Marvellous!

An ‘At Home’ Weekend

Where the Wild Things Are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking into Lambert’s Meadow.

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

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

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New leaves! Honeysuckle always makes an early showing.

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

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

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Heald Brow is dimpled with meadow ant mounds.

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Some of which have been got at….

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…I presume either by badgers or by green woodpeckers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quicksand Pool.

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The old quay at Jenny Brown’s Point.

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

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

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Arnside Knott.

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

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Fish eggs.

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

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

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

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This was only an afternoon stroll….

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…but it was a real corker!

Roll on the next staycation.

Where the Wild Things Are

Back To Jenny Brown’s

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A Sunday stroll. One of our favourite routes: down through Fleagarth wood to the salt marsh, round to Jenny Brown’s, Jack Scout and home again via Woodwell.

The kids are posing here on the remnants of the bridge which, when I first moved to the area, used to cross Quicksand Pool, but which was laid low by the moving channels hereabouts.

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The channels are continuing to shift, and the old wharf is now under threat of being undermined.

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It may not last much longer. Soon afterwards we heard that moves are afoot, sponsored by local charity Morecambe Bay Partnership, to get an archaeological survey organised, involving local people. I put my name down as a volunteer, but couldn’t think in what capacity I might be qualified to assist, apart from perhaps as a hod-carrier, or chief cook and bottle washer.

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The wharf is already damaged.

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I wonder what will be turned up, and whether a bit of sleuthing will reveal the purpose of these mysterious odds and ends.

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Close by, to the north, low tide shows the remains of a long stone embankment stretching a mile into the sea, the remains of a controversial land reclamation scheme. An Act of Parliament (1874) permitted the Warton Land Company to enclose an area stretching from Jenny Brown’s Point to Hest Bank. Work began in 1875, building the embankment from limestone extracted from the quarry at Jenny Brown’s Point, but proved much more difficult than had been expected by the surveyors and engineers. In 1885 the company was declared bankrupt.

from the website of the Mourholme Local History Society

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Just a couple of weeks later there was a local history weekend in the village (of which more anon). I attended a talk about the Matchless disaster, subject of a new book.

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Here we are in the Gaskell Hall, just after the talk. It was absolutely fascinating, setting the accident in context. I have to confess, I hadn’t previously heard of the ill-fated Matchless.

Just beyond the remains of the embankment is the site of a boating disaster – the sinking of the Matchless in 1894. A pleasure boat sailed from Morecambe with 33 passengers, taking the much-travelled route to Grange, and carrying a cargo of millworkers holidaying in Morecambe. A sudden squall caught the boat broadside, rolled the boat over, and resulted in 25 passengers drowning. 8 others, together with the boat’s skipper, were saved by other pleasure boats. The inquest that followed was brief and hurried, and seemed to be something of a whitewash.

from the website of the Mourholme Local History Society

Matchless Sketch

Many of the victims were from Burnley. I think I shall always think of this tragedy when I visit Jenny Brown’s from now on. And also of the image of Barnum and Bailey’s circus crossing the sands with elephants amongst their company, which was another story we heard that weekend. What a sight that must have been!

We searched for, and found, fossils in the cliffs below Jack Scout.

S also found…

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….a sponge.

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Crepuscular Rays

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Jack Scout seat.

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Traveller’s Joy.

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The Bay from Jack Scout.

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This is the Wolfhouse, named for this crest and its motto: Homo homini lupus.

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A bit of lazy internet research reveals that this is (or maybe) a quote from the comic play Asinaria by Titus Maccius Plautus from 194BC. It’s more normally quoted as ‘Homo homini lupus est’ – Man is a wolf to man. Not the cheeriest thought, but in light of the total disregard for safety which led to the loss of life in the Matchless disaster, or in Morecambe Bay’s other great tragedy 110 years later, when the cockle-pickers were drowned, perhaps depressingly accurate at least some of the time.

That’s a very sombre note on which to end an account of what had been a most enjoyable saunter!

Back To Jenny Brown’s

An Autumn Ramble

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Little S, who isn’t that little anymore, but is probably always destined to be Little S in my mind even when he’s towering over me, has often been the family’s reluctant walker. Pleasing to report then, that last autumn he began to suggest, even to demand, that we take him out on walks.

These photos are from one of several local walks we did together, this one will stick in my mind because it was just the two of us, with the rest of the family being busy elsewhere.

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We discovered a superabundance of fungi and ferns, and in one spot a woodland windfall of surprisingly sweet and tasty apples (these were decidedly not crab-apples). I’ve made a mental note of the place for future reference.

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This, I think,…..

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…is a Harlequin ladybird. It’s not native to the UK, but was introduced in 2004, is extremely invasive and represents a threat to our indigenous species.

We’d walked through Pointer Wood and Clark’s Lot, through Fleagarth Wood, past the old chimney to Jenny Brown’s Point (near where, S insisted I take this picture)….

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At Jack Scout we stopped to do a spot of birding, having, for once, remembered to bring some binoculars along for that purpose. Memorably, we watched a black-backed gull catch a crab – we could clearly see the crab frantically wriggling its legs whilst pinned in the gull’s beak. A pair of crows then harried the much larger gull, with, I think, some partial success – I’m fairly certain that they gained possession of part of the crab.

Later the same day, we all had a wander down to Leighton Moss. From Lillian’s Hide, we spent quite some time watching a pair of snipe in the reeds at the near edge of the mere. They were incredibly difficult to spy, their camouflage is so effective. This photo was taken at maximum zoom and has then been heavily cropped:

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It was only today, six months later, that I realised that both of the birds are in this shot. Can you pick them both out?

They were pointed out to us by some Proper Birders, who very kindly let us view the snipe through their powerful monocular. They thought, or perhaps hoped, that these might be the more uncommon jack snipe, but I think that they were wrong – some of the many photos I took show the yellow crown stripe which identify them as plain old snipe.

An Autumn Ramble