Harter Fell and Birks Bridge.

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On the Saturday of our Easter weekend I stayed at home with TBH, who, unfortunately, was suffering from her worst bout yet of labyrinthitis. Most of the rest of the party went for a swim in the Kent at Levens. It really was that warm, which is hard to believe now that it’s late May and the wind is howling outside beneath grey skies.

Easter Sunday was B’s birthday. How to entertain a teenager on their birthday? Fortunately, B was happy to fall in with our plans for a shortish walk up Harter Fell, followed by a swim in the River Duddon. TBH was feeling much better, but not well enough to want to join us.

This…

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…is Birks Bridge, where we planned to have a dip after our walk.

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You can see that the water is crystal clear. Deceptively deep too, it was possible, we later found, to jump from these rocks into the water without hitting the bottom.

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River Duddon.

First of all though, we had a hill to climb. The initial ascent was very steep and it was unseasonably hot. Here we are…

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…resting after the first steep pull.

This rocky tor…

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…is Maiden Castle. It’s very imposing and we’d picked it out from the car park as somewhere worth visiting. Actually, around the far side it can be easily scaled via a grassy ramp. That’s be sat on the top.

From this point on, not only did the angle ease, but there were lots more rocky knolls, so that a variety of different entertaining options for scrambling to the top were available. Andy and the DBs were in their element. I followed on more slowly, picking my route and avoiding some of the steeper sections they sort-out.

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At the top itself, there were plenty of sheltered spots for some lunch and a sunbathe…

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But also lots more rocky knolls to enjoy…

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B tells me that this photo…

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…gives a misleading impression about the route he is climbing, which, apparently, was “much steeper than that!”

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A and B have been up here once before, although I’m not sure how well they remember that visit , it was a long time ago after all.

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Hazy view of the hills around Upper Eskdale.

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Bird’s-eye view of Hardknott Roman Fort.

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We chose the simple option of retracing our steps down to the valley. By this time, the haze had begun to clear and the views were improving.

The others were setting a cracking pace, no doubt eager for the swim to come, but I was distracted by the great number of Peacock and Orange-tip butterflies which were flying.

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Orange-tips are one of those species of butterfly which rarely seem to land, at least when I have my camera handy. Fortunately, there were other distractions…

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…I love the way the almost lime green new Beech leaves complement the layer of old orange leaves which always blanket the ground beneath Beeches.

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They look pretty good against a blue sky too.

Eventually, a couple of Orange-tips decided to oblige and pose for photos…

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All that and a swim still to come!

Andy has photos of us swimming (as well as lots more pictures of the DBs scrambling). The water was refreshing of course, but not as cold, frankly, as I thought it might be. My theory is that the rivers are a good bet after prolonged dry spells, which is exactly what we’d just had. Once you were immersed, it wasn’t bad at all, and even Little S, who has no padding whatsoever and often suffers with the cold, managed a good long swim.

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Little S and I both like to climb a hill on our Birthdays if possible. I think this might be a first for B, but the combination of sunshine, old friends, some scrambling, and a swim is surely a hard act to follow.

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Harter Fell and Birks Bridge.

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.

New Year Floral Survey

Starling Pillowcase.

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A couple of weekend walks from the same day in December. First a turn around Eaves Wood in some revitalising sunshine and then a late walk up to Heathwaite and then the Knott via the ‘new’ path I found from Far Arnside. Along the way I encountered a large flock of Starlings feeding noisily in amongst some calves. After the sun had set, I watched two large raptors soaring over the estuary against a backdrop of the last of the colour in the sky from the sunset.

How many songs do you know which mention Starlings? At the moment I can only think of one…

‘Starling Pillowcase and Why?’ by Leicester’s vastly under-appreciated Yeah Yeah Noh, an archetypal John Peel band if ever there was one and a real blast from my past.

‘I remember sun through the cloud…’

Starling Pillowcase.

Leaves Online

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Having dropped Little S off for his climbing session, I was hoping to get out for another short wander and, to that end, had been poring over maps the night before, looking for a likely route. Blessed with paths, as we are near home, it always comes as a bit of a surprise when I’m looking for routes elsewhere and find that options are limited or nonexistent.

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It’s quite hard to see much in the way of possibilities for walks directly from the University campus, but my eye was drawn to an area on the map with several largish splodges of blue and I eventually settled on a short circuit from Scorton Picnic site.

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What it lacked in length it made up for with charm.

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The River Wyre.

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I shall guess that this small area of water, and the many others close to the motorway nearby, is a former gravelpit and probably dates back to the building of this stretch of the M6.

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I went a little off-piste at the far end of the walk, in order to get a photo to show just how close to the M6 this little scrap of woodland is.

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TBH has sometimes described my blog, to the uninitiated, as “photos of leaves and stuff”. Whilst I was selecting photos for this post, it occurred to me that I could rebrand my blog as ‘Leaves Online’.

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I don’t know what kind of tree these very large, yellow leaves came from, but they were a real tonic. So much so that I picked one up and waved it around, like a flag.

Better yet, as I neared the end of my walk I spotted a butterfly in a sun-warmed clearing. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo sadly, but I was quite impressed to have seen one at all at the tail-end of November.

I’ve been enjoying thinking about matching tunes to posts, however tenuously, so….

I’m not sure how big the audience is for the juxtaposition of photos of leaves and the sounds of the Wu-Tang Clan? Perhaps a bit of a niche market, do you think?

Leaves Online

Lest We Forget

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Mean and moody clouds seen from the Cove on a November Saturday with the tide well in.

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Much brighter weather on the Sunday.

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Ragwort.

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These autumnal images come from a walk in Eaves Wood and then down to Woodwell on Armistice Day. Later we we were back at the Pepperpot, where a beacon was lit, one of many around the country, to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.

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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

Thermophilous

Hagg Wood – The Row – Jubilee Wood – Waterslack Wood – Middlebarrow Quarry – Black Dyke – Red Hills Wood – Arnside Knott – Heathwaite – Far Arnside.

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A Red Admiral. The ivy was thronged with other insects too – particularly wasps, but bees and hoverflies and several Red Admirals to boot.

A sunny Sunday in September and a walk which just about encapsulates the obsessions which fuel this blog: butterflies, fungi, and robins; an ascent of Arnside Knott; views of the bay, the Cumbrian Fells and of Ingleborough; some detective work to identify a plant; clouds; some backlit leaves; and a novel botanical term thrown in for good measure.

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Once again there was lots of fungi to see that day – this photo will stand in for the many I took.

I managed to get out for numerous walks that day; B had played rugby against Vale of Lune that morning, a team which features many of his school friends, and whilst they were warming up, and again when they were changing and eating, I squeezed in a couple of little wanders on what was a very bright, but initially quite chilly, morning.

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This bridge on the edge of Middlebarrow Wood is looking decidedly worst for wear.

Later, I was out again on a glorious autumn afternoon and, as has become my habit, I headed for the Knott.

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Arnside Knott.

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Middlebarrow Wood and a distant Arnside Tower.

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The Kent viaduct and the Eastern Fells. It was a clear day – you can just about pick out Skiddaw in the northern lakes if you know what you are looking for.

I’m pretty sure that this was the day when I exchanged pleasantries with a chap near the top of the Knott. We admired the view and he told me that he recognised me from numerous Silverdale Coffee mornings and then advised me to lose some weight. Naturally, I told him, in no uncertain terms, to mind his own business, before eviscerating him with a rusty spoon.

No I didn’t. But I was tempted.

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The Kent and the Coniston Fells.

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You’re never far from a bench on a walk in this area, particularly on the Knott.

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Looking south, the Bowland Fells and the bay.

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Bramble leaves.

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Bracken.

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Another view south, taken by another bench.

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Ingleborough, taken at the full extent of the zoom.

From Heathwaite I took a path which I thought would curl around to Hollins Farm, but instead it took me to a gate and then steeply downhill to meet the coast path near the caravan park at Far Arnside. Another new path for me – it seems amazing that there could be still paths so close to home which I don’t know, given how I’ve criss-crossed the area so obsessively over many years. This one is a delight and opens up new possibilities for walks taking in the Knott. I’ve been back already.

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Robin in full song.

There’s a time, at the tail end of summer, when the birds stop singing. It’s always cheering to hear their voices return to the local woods.

Some Buddleia bushes at Far Arnside were even busier with Red Admirals than the ivy had been close to the start of the walk.

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With the Red Admirals was a close cousin of theirs…

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…a Painted Lady.

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Far Arnside coast.

The plant growing abundantly here is Rock Samphire, which is apparently “thermophilous, growing well and increasing in numbers with warmer summers”. (Source.) Knowing that, and given the summer we had, it’s not surprising to see so much of it growing here.

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These purplish globes are the seed pods.

Rock Samphire was once a popular vegetable, more popular in fact than the unrelated, and now very trendy, Marsh Samphire. I’ve tried it and found it a bit strong, but maybe I should give it another go, steamed and served with lashings of butter perhaps? Or, maybe without quite so much butter?

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From Far Arnside I walked back on the mud of the bay. The sun disappeared behind a cloud; I didn’t much appreciate the shade, but I was very taken by the light.

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Another Robin.

Currently, there’s a gale howling beyond the window and it’s been raining most of the day. Looking back at these photos of a sunny day has been a real tonic. Perhaps that’s what I should have told the old gent on the Knott: “Leave me alone, it’s not my fault: I’m thermophilous, I thrive and grow well in warm summers”. It would have been a new excuse at least.

Thermophilous