Home from Lancaster

 

As the train is nearing Silverdale station from the South it passes Barrow Scout Fields on the right and the pools by Morecambe and Allen hides on the left. Briefly it is a fantastic slow-moving hide. On Wednesday I watched a marsh harrier flying low over the reed beds in one of Barrow Scout Fields. On Thursday I was surprised to see a stag’s head appear above the reeds. Perhaps six point antlers.

On Friday I didn’t take the train, because I’d decided to walk home from Lancaster. It’s something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while and with the longer evenings and a half-term break just beginning this seemed like the perfect time. Initially my route took me up past the Castle, which until March this year was still functioning as a prison. Parts of the castle have been open for tours however, but I must admit that somehow I’ve never got around to taking a tour. Next year is the 400th anniversary of the notorious Lancashire Witch Trials, which took place here at the castle, and perhaps when there are commemorative events on we might finally get round to it.

The castle sits on a hill above the River Lune and there are often great views of the Lakeland hills from there, but it was hazy and so I had to make do with the more immediate views of the castle itself and of the Priory Church which is adjacent to it.

From here a path drops down a steep hillside, with an open field on either side, towards the river. A slight diversion brings another piece of Lancaster’s history into sight – the remains of a Roman bath house…

It was after I took this photo that I realised that I had once again come out without a memory card in my camera and was therefore relying on the cameras limited (but very handy) internal memory. It was almost like using a film camera, except that I could of course still take pictures and then delete them. So, if you are restricted to just a handful of photos, which ones do you keep?

Well certainly a family of ‘ugly ducklings’ which I saw on the Lancaster Canal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Last year I followed the Lune out of Lancaster to Caton, but I found the Lady’s Walk path – tightly hemmed in on both sides by dense trees – a little oppressive. This time I crossed the river and followed the opposite bank. This turned out to be a much better bet with many more views of the river and of the aqueduct which takes the canal over the river.

The Russian comfrey I saw on the bank of the canal and the many mallard families didn’t, I decided, merit precious space on my camera. I don’t suppose that I would have been fast enough anyway to get decent shots of the many herons I saw along the canal. But the three geese I saw on the far bank had to be photographed, partly because I didn’t know what they were, but mainly because they looked so odd.

When I got home and looked them up I was surprised that they didn’t seem to be in my RSPB field guide. Or evident anywhere on a website Google found for me called ‘Geese of the World’. But a little more digging revealed that a domesticated species called Chinese geese can have this orange protuberance and will also, when feral, cross-breed with greylag geese.

I  passed a lone fisherman. Looking into the murky water of the canal I thought he must be overly optimistic, but a little further on, and several times after that, I saw small fish swimming near the bank, so perhaps not.

At Hest Bank I left the canal and walked by the coast and the Lancashire Coastal Way. This gave several miles of pleasant level walking (only one slight rise over Red Bank). The grassy foreshore was speckled with tiny red flowers which I now know to be Sea Milkwort.

On a few occasions I have reported in this blog my fruitless pursuit of blue butterflies. This…

…common blue clung to a plantain head by the path and sat quite patiently whilst I got a close-up.

There was a cold wind blowing, and as I rounded a turn inland to follow the banks of the River Keer the sun disappeared and I realised that my hands were beginning to feel quite numb. I pulled my work shirt over my t-shirt and that seemed to be sufficient extra insulation to do the trick. I stuck hard by the bank of the Keer until the path petered out, and then carried on anyway. Eventually I had to climb a fence and a locked gate to get onto the road but not before I had seen a striking magenta flower of what I believe to be common vetch – although if that’s what it was, I’m not sure that it is particularly common in this area.

I left the Coastal Way from the Crag Road on Warton Crag, taking a path which I don’t think I’ve followed before up onto the crag. As usual on Warton Crag I passed through open areas and some scrub. Where the path passed through a sort of tunnel in a hawthorn thicket I paused, listening to an unfamiliar bird chatter. As I waited a party of long-tailed tits bobbed overhead in the branches of the hawthorn, closely followed by a group of blue tits. Further up the hill I found a patch of hillside completely colonised by mint and ran my hands through it to release the aroma.

I had a sandwich and some fruit left over from lunch and stopped here, with a great view out over the bay, for some tea.

From the top of the crag, my route took me down to, and across, Quaker’s Stang, then up to Heald Brow – where what I thought was Quaking Grass still hasn’t opened to look like it does in the field guide – so perhaps I was wrong. As I crossed Heald Brow I saw two roe deer bucks. The first made me chortle as it was hard on the heels, seemingly with, a rabbit which made me think of Bambi and Thumper.

The whole journey took around six and a half hours. My pedometer gave the route as just a little shy of 15 miles, which I suppose is probably not too wide of the mark.

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Home from Lancaster

A Sedgwick Circuit

On weekend mornings TBH and I often take it in turns to have a lie in, to snuggle back down under a duvet recently occupied by five and doze off, enjoying the muffled sounds of mayhem from downstairs. This weekend, after her extra duvet time on Saturday morning, TBH was reminding me that in the years BC (before children, before chaos – take your pick) I didn’t really approve of late rising, I generally wanted to be up and about. This germinated a seed of thought that resulted in an early start on Sunday, breakfasting with the kids and then heading off for a short walk on my own in lieu of forty winks.

Whilst we were tucking in to our chocolate wheetos the kitchen windows were reverberating with the impact of a heavy hail shower – which didn’t bode well, but when I parked the car by Force Bridge, where we had crossed the Kent on Saturday, the lightening sky was clear and gradually becoming blue. The ground was still seasoned with a peppering of hail stones as I set off once more along the Kent – for the first time picking up where I had left off on our previous walk. I followed a minor lane beside the Kent and was surprised to find a footpath sign pointing directly into the river. A study of the map revealed a tiny section of dotted green line connecting the lanes on either bank – presumably marking the site of an old ford.

Shortly beyond the lane end a footbridge crosses the Kent.

The sky had just about lightened sufficiently to make photography without flash feasible.

I always feel compelled to have a wander across bridges so that I can stand in the middle and admire the views up and down stream, and down into the water. The bridge swayed slightly with my movements. I wondered when there might ever be more than 25 people wanting to cross together…

Like most sections of the Kent I have walked this way before, but unlike the very familiar stretches downstream, probably only on two or three occasions. I remember on an ill-fated backpacking trip, which began from my home in Silverdale and ended ignominiously two days later in Sedbergh with one foot very badly blistered, I stopped for a brew hereabouts and watched a mixed flock of thrushes, including numerous fieldfares. Ever the optimist, I hoped that I might see some again. I didn’t, but the birds that I saw and heard were one of the highlights of the walk. The handful of bird calls and songs that I managed to learn to recognise last year are rewarding me with satisfaction out of all proportion to the effort I put in. Fishing around in my bag to dig out my camera, I was aware, and very pleased to be aware, that there were a handful of jackdaws in the treetops on the far bank. Jackdaws and ….yes, rooks with them. When I turned to continue along the bank I could see the birds and also a small rookery – would the nests be new ones or is it still a little early for that?

My walk along the river to Hawes Bridge was immensely enjoyable. The path follows the field edges but the river banks themselves are wooded and the trees were full of twittering blue tits and tee-chooing great tits. A cormorant flew along the river heading downstream – quite unusual to see a normally low flying bird from below. A grey wagtail hopped about on a large limestone island which split the river.

Hawes bridge takes advantage of the river narrowing through the limestone. I headed right up the road and then joined a path which immediately went under another bridge, Crowpark Bridge…

Which was the first of several now redundant bridges I would encounter on my return to the car. Including Larkrigg Hall Bridge…

…which had a fine stand of larches alongside it, and Horse Park Bridge…

I was following the route of the Lancaster Canal, opened in 1797, which ran from Preston to Kendal. This northern section was cut-off when the M6 was built and as you can see is now dry in parts. It has fetching new sign posts however which declare that it is part of the Lancaster Canal Trail.

Near Larkrigg farm a buzzard lifted out of a tree and flew close overhead. Momentarily, I had a wonderful view, but by the time I had faffed about with my camera and located the raptor in the viewfinder, it was well gone…

Long-tailed tits chattered to one another as they passed from hedgerow shrubs to a tall tree.

In Larkrigg Spring woods the bird call rose to a bewildering din and I was once again lost and unable to discern what I was hearing. More effort required!

As I approached the village of Sedgwick the clouds which had appeared in the eastern sky began to glow, then the sun finally made an appearance…

To the west, little Sizergh Fell was picked out in the sunshine, contrasting with the black clouds massing behind it. The canal passes through Sedgwick rather aloofly, crossing the main road over a small aqueduct and is quickly out the other side.

Another missed photographic opportunity when the camera decided to play up again just as Sedgwick Hall and the snow covered Lakeland Fells in the distance behind it were bathed in sunshine. By the time my camera agreed to behave, the sunshine was gone….

And shortly afterwards I was beating a hasty retreat to the nearby car as hailstones once again rained down from the sky.

A Sedgwick Circuit