Half-term Happenings: Lancaster, Lune, Meal, Murmuration.

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On the Thursday of our February half-term week, we were looking to combine another ‘easy’ walk, which allowed the possibility of shorter or longer alternatives, with a lunchtime meal. We hit upon driving to the park and ride carpark, just off the motorway by Lancaster, which has the advantage of being free, then walking into town. We could then either walk back or catch the dedicated bus service if need be.

From the carpark, after crossing a couple of busy roads, it’s easy to access the path beside the River Lune. That took us to John Rennie’s 1797 aqueduct, which carries the Lancaster Canal over the river.

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We climbed up to the canal and then followed that into Lancaster.

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The River Lune and the (smelly) Carrs Billington plant.

We were heading for the Sun Hotel for lunch. The food was magnificent…

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I’ve included this slightly blurred photo of B instagramming his choice, because I know at least one reader of the blog who appreciates a huge burger.

The vegans were happy too…

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In fact, I think we all enjoyed our meals.

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After that enormous repast, we decided that we were all fit enough to walk back to the car. This time we followed the Lune rather than the canal.

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‘Little’ S and my nephew L. The latter wanted to pose in front of this cafe for some reason?

The dull cloud of the morning had cleared, so we had terrific views of the aqueduct reflected in the placid waters of the Lune to accompany our walk.

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On the way home, as we drove along Storrs Lane by Leighton Moss, I thought I saw a Starling murmuration, so we stopped to take a look. This is definitely a winter phenomenon and even in mid-February I suspect that there were perhaps less birds than we had seen earlier in the year, when we often saw people parked to watch the Starlings as we drove home from Lancaster in the late afternoons.

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The advantage we did have though was clear skies and good light.

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Still photos really don’t do this justice: the way the cloud of birds wheels together and pulses and fluidly changes shape.

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It was an unexpected bonus at the end of a very enjoyable day.

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Half-term Happenings: Lancaster, Lune, Meal, Murmuration.

Unlisted Lancaster.

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A weekend of absolutely glorious weather – blue skies and beautiful sunshine – but a very busy one for me, so another opportunity to make the most of whatever spare scraps of time were available. B was away with school, on a rugby tour, playing a game in Essex somewhere on the Friday and then at Twickenham watching England squeak past Japan in one of the Autumn Internationals on the Saturday. TBH was also away, I think on Guiding training, which left me as chief cook, bottle-washer and taxi-driver.

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I think that these are Muscovy Ducks. They aren’t native to the UK, but there were half a dozen on the canal that day, presumably feral birds.

Little S had BJJ in Lancaster on the Saturday morning and then a birthday party with a new friend (he’s moved up to ‘big school’) in the afternoon. I drove him in for BJJ and then took him for lunch afterwards and kept him company before his party.

I needed somewhere to leave the car; there’s not much in the way of free parking in Lancaster, but there are some spots on Aldcliffe Road, by the Lancaster Canal, which had the added advantage of leaving me with a bit of a walk to meet Little S after his grappling.

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Owl sculpture in a community garden sandwiched between Aldcliffe Road and the canal.

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Having passed through the town centre, my route to meet Little S took me along St. Leonard’s Gate. I wondered how properties which get listed are chosen and others are not. This building is fairly old, and the City Council have deemed it interesting enough to warrant one of their Green Plaques, but it isn’t listed.

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The Grand Theatre, just across the road is listed, but I didn’t photograph it, because it was in heavy shade. Another time.

Some of the properties in this area are looking a bit rundown to say the least….

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I walked past this building again recently and noticed that there was a pigeon stuck inside which was flying repeatedly into one of the few remaining panes of glass in a window.

This building…

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…is St. Leonard’s House, which is listed. It was built 1881-2 and was a furniture factory, for the Lancaster firm Gillow and Company. It too was looking a tad dishevelled, but has been hidden behind scaffolding for quite some time now and is clearly being tarted up for some purpose.

There’s been a fair bit of building work in Lancaster over recent years. This…

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…is part of Caton Court, which will provide student accommodation when it’s finished.

Little S was in no doubt about what he wanted for lunch – there’s a street market in Lancaster On Wednesdays and Saturdays and one of the stalls does a hog roast. Very nice it was too. After that we still had some time to kill, so I took S to the Music Room cafe and finally got to see the interior. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise at first that there’s seating upstairs which is presumably where we needed to go in order to see the ‘very richly decorated plasterwork walls and ceiling of c1730’. I would have known that if I’d thought to check the Historic England listing in advance. Oh well: next time!

Having dropped Little S at his party I went scooting home, hoping to get out again around the village whilst the weather was so benign.

Unlisted Lancaster.

Perch in Lancaster Canal

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For reasons too tedious to go into, after work one afternoon I needed to leave my car on Aldcliffe Road and walk across town to Caton Road. It was frankly, a bit too hot for my liking, especially since I was still in my work clothes, but it did give the compensation of a walk along the canal. Now, I’ve walked along this stretch of water many, many times over the last twenty years, but I’ve never before had the impression that it was particularly densely populated with fish. On this occasion, however, it was blatantly teeming with them.

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This photo doesn’t really capture it, but shoals of them were just below the surface, spreading ripples across the canal. I could see they they were striped, with a greenish, orangey tinge, so I assume that they were Perch.

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Red Valerian again. Native to the mediterranean, it has been naturalised in the UK for centuries.

In the old wharves, opposite the Water Witch pub, there were, if anything, even more fish, but much smaller ones.

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Whether these were simply shoals of smaller Perch, or something else entirely, I couldn’t say.

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They could be though, since apparently Perch spawn in shallow water in spring. I can’t recall ever seeing anyone fishing this stretch of water, which is curious since…

Perch flesh makes exceptionally good eating. Adjectives that have been used to describe their flesh include white, firm, flaky, and most importantly, boneless and well-flavoured. On the continent perch are farmed and eaten in large numbers. Indeed, in Finland perch is the third most important fish by weight, after herring and sprats.

Perch also make good sport. On a summer’s evening the smaller perch can be seen queuing up to take the bait – perfect angling for beginners – while the larger, solitary individuals are sufficiently secretive and wary to make a specimen hunters life interesting. Although no where near the size of a decent pike or salmon, a large perch is a stunning animal. The Scottish rod record stands at 4lb 14oz (2.21 kg), but bigger perch undoubtedly swim in Scottish waters.

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I was tickled, in this passage, by the image of the Perch forming an orderly queue to take the bait. How very British.

Perch in Lancaster Canal

Home from Kirkby

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Woods near High Biggins.

Mid-May and the rugby season has apparently come to an end. Or at least, there was an end-of-season award ceremony organised at Underley Park (midweek training is set to continue, seemingly indefinitely*). The ground was extremely busy, with extra-parking laid on, large marquees and a number of enormous trailers on site, not because of the junior rugby awards, but because Hollywood was in town, filming a scene (or scenes?) for a new Dr Doolittle movie. We kept our eyes-peeled, but Robert Downey Junior and Antonio Banderas weren’t in evidence. Due to all the excitement, the awards were slightly delayed, but the assembled families picnicked, played a little rounders and enjoyed the fabulous weather.

The whole event was over by around two, and having anticipated this, I had decided to fulfil an ambition I’d been nurturing throughout the season: to walk home from Kirkby. In truth, this had not been my original plan, but when TBH made a last minute decision to join the boys and I, I hastily threw my rucksack, maps and a change of shoes into the boot. So that when I set off, I didn’t have a route planned, or know quite how far I would be walking. For that reason I chose not to start from Underley Park, but asked instead to be dropped off in Low Biggins, just across the busy A65 from Kirkby.

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Cottages in High Biggins.

A short walk brought me to High Biggins, which seemed a very sleepy place and which I don’t think I’ve ever been through before.

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A coat of arms in a wall. Linked to High Biggins Old Hall? (Which I missed somehow, I shall have to come back.)

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Heading towards Hutton Roof.

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Looking back. Gragareth and Ingleborough on the horizon.

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Longfield pano.

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The hill on the right here is Scout Hill.

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Looking back again.

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Hutton Roof Crags and Farleton Fell.

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Hutton Roof.

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I liked the look of this house, on the outskirts of the hamlet, nestled into the hillside and dated 1874 over the porch door.

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On Hutton Roof Crags.

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Looking back towards the Middleton Fells.

It was hot. Just before she left me TBH asked if I had enough water and I said that I did. I was wrong. This little puddle…

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…,rather a surprise on a limestone hill, was no use to me, sadly.

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Farleton Fell. Lake District Fells and Howgills beyond.

I’d climbed on to a path slightly higher than the right-of-way shown on the map, but the views were more than sufficient compensation.

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Panorama.

Once I met the Clawthorpe Fell Road I followed that for a while, before picking up Snape Lane and dropping down to Burton-in-Kendal. I’ve walked this way more than once before, so was surprised to come across an entrance into the Lancelot Clarke Storth Nature Reserve which I haven’t used before. I shall have to come back.

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Field just outside Burton. These shiny, plastic covered fields seem to be a growing phenomena. Is the plastic acting as a sort of cloche?

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Burton-in-Kendal.

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Sadly, I didn’t read this sign the first time I walked past it. If I had, I could have saved myself a rather pointless out-and-back.

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M6 and Farleton Fell. Some people like these things apparently. Sorry there’s no junction, Andy.

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Ash tree, finally coming into leaf.

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Beetham Fell in the middle distance, Lakeland Fells beyond.

West of the motorway, there’s a tiny lump called Hanging Hill. I suspect the name probably signifies a grim past. The path doesn’t even cross the highest point, but this modest height has really expansive views.

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Hanging Hill pano.

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Lancaster Canal.

The map doesn’t show a towpath here, but clearly there is one.

I’d followed this DofE party…

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…over Hanging Hill. I found out later that they are friends of A and had been lost, which I was wondering about, because it was quite late on a Sunday afternoon now for them not to have finished. The bright rucksack liners are colour-coded so that different groups from the same school can be easily identified from a distance, which seems like a good idea.

I passed through the tiny hamlet of Hilderstone and then through a section of the walk with very flat farmland and numerous ditches, sharply contrasting  with what had come before.

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I must have been tired when I reached the A6, that’s my excuse anyway, because I temporarily turned the wrong way. I was worried that the path leaving the A6 might not be very well-used, but I found the stile okay and it wasn’t completely overgrown. The first field though, turned out to be thoroughly water-logged, which didn’t seem to deter the Lapwings which I think were nesting there.

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White Moss is relatively close to home and has some permission paths as well as the one shown on the map, and yet it’s many, many years since I last walked here.

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I must make more of an effort!

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White Moss.

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Yealand Hall.

High excitement at the corner of Thrang Brow Lane and Storrs Lane…

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I think I counted eight or nine emergency vehicles, some of which were unmarked. I don’t know what had happened, but I hope that everyone was okay.

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Copper Beeches on The Row.

Incidentally, there were a few butterflies about, and plenty of birds to enjoy, but I didn’t take any photos, because I only had my phone with me, and anyway was trying not to hang about. The walk was a little over 14 miles, which took me a little over 5 hours, which is a good deal faster than I usually walk, but I wanted to get home in time for my tea. Which I did.

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Given that I improvised the route as I went, I think I made some good choices. Next time I walk it, I think I will go over Hutton Roof Crags and down through Lancelot Clark Storth, but otherwise I would probably stick with this route. A pie and a pint in Burton wouldn’t go amiss either!

*Which is a Good Thing. No really, it is a Good Thing. What else would you do with a Wednesday evening in the summer, when the sun is shining and the evenings are long?

 

Home from Kirkby

Thurnham Hall Birthday Bash

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A family gathering, during which I don’t seem to have taken many family photos. We stayed at Thurnham Hall, a Grade I listed 17th Century Country House, but now also a hotel with lots of cottages in the grounds.

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The occasion was to celebrate my Dad’s eightieth birthday which happened earlier in the week, and also B’s birthday. Later in the day we would have the former chapel on the right here for our sole use as we ate a very fine evening meal.

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Primroses and Celandines.

We got out for a bit of a stroll in the very welcome sunshine early on the Saturday (in fact my Dad and I did this short circuit twice).

Our walk took us past Saints Thomas and Elizabeth Church…

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Lych Gate.

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Apprentice gargoyles.

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Mausoleum in the churchyard.

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The churchyard was also full of Primroses and Daffodils.

Whilst the woods opposite…

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….were equally full of Wood Anemones and Bluebells, some of the first I’d seen this spring.

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The church is quite isolated, alone in the woods.

We also walked briefly along the Glasson Branch of the Lancaster Canal…

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Later, we were back in Silverdale, to watch a dress rehearsal of a children’s production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in which A and S were appearing as Oberon and Lysander respectively.

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The following day we were Go-Karting in Lancaster, although sadly I’d been struck down with another bug and wasn’t well enough to participate.

A fabulous weekend all round, especially because we got to spend it with my Mum and Dad and my Brother and his family.

 

Thurnham Hall Birthday Bash

Little and Often: Ever Decreasing Circles

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Lancaster Canal and Cathedral.

I’ve been trying to get out at lunchtimes, partly to bump up my mileage, partly to get some daylight since it’s generally dark when I leave for work and when I get home again, partly to force myself to take a break, but principally because, once I’m out there, I enjoy it.

These photos were all taken on my phone, but on several different days.

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The Judge’s Lodgings.

Last week, I walked the same loop three times: along the canal, down Moor Lane then up Church Street to the Judge’s Lodgings.

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Then past Lancaster Priory and the Castle.

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View across Lancaster from near the Priory.

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Lancaster Priory.

…from where there’s a view across Morecambe and the Bay to the distant hills of the Lake District…

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It’s a comfortable 3.29km, just right for a lunchtime. Or…well, it was 3.29km the first time I walked it. The second time it had shrunk to 3.14km and by the third circuit it was further reduced to only 2.99km. This week I’ve chosen to walk a different route on the basis that if I continued in this way then Lancaster might disappear altogether by June.

This wasn’t altogether a bad thing, because the new route took me past Penny’s Hospital, the almshouses on King Street.

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And past Windermere House, now flats, but originally a Bluecoat school, first built in 1772, and then the Lancaster Charity School for Girls’, rebuilt in 1849-50.

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And, next door to that, Trinity United Reform Church…

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Or, actually, the former site of Trinity United Reform Church, since the church has recently moved out.

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And across the road from there…

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…this building which has an association with Thomas Mawson, architect and garden designer, who has often been mentioned on the blog before (because I’m very taken with his gardens).

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There: I got through the whole thing without any reference to the Richard Briers sitcom.

Oh. Whoops.

Little and Often: Ever Decreasing Circles

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.

Home from Lancaster