Levens Park and Force Falls

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Another weekend afternoon jaunt, this time with the whole family, on an old favourite walk through Levens Deer Park. The park is a proper deer park, attached to Levens Hall, and has its own herd of domesticated fallow deer, of a breed particular to the park, and likewise it’s own breed of goats, although we didn’t see those on this occasion.

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It’s spread out either side of the River Kent…

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…and this walk follows the western bank for a while, leaves the park briefly, crosses a road bridge and then returns via the eastern bank.

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We met the deer pretty much as we entered the park.

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A nice opportunity to try out my new favourite toy’s zoom facility.

Another chance cropped up after we’d left the park, when we spotted a grey heron sat on the verge of the minor lane ahead of us. It was really very gloomy at this point, both because it was late in the afternoon and also because it was overcast, so I’m quite chuffed with the result…

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The minor lane is extremely quiet since it’s a dead-end, having been chopped off when the A590 dual-carriageway was built. A path continues however, under the main-road’s bridge over the Kent….

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….to Force Falls.

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We stopped here for a while to watch some canoeists shooting the falls.

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I did take some photos, but they were taken through a tall hedge, before a resident of one of the cottages by the falls invited us to watch from their car-parking area.

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There’s a sign at the other end of the park which says ‘No Swimming’. We never ignore that. Not at all.

It looked exhilarating. One canoeist did capsize as he went over, but they’d obviously got a good safety routine organised and he was soon rescued.

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Most of the return leg follows this avenue of magnificent oaks, dating back to 1690 when the park was first laid out.

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Some of the oaks are hollow, and there’s little that’s more enticing to a small boy than climbing inside a hollow tree.

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I was more absorbed by the sun setting ahead of us.

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I’ve taken photos of the boys inside this tree before, when they were tiny-tots…

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….but the opening used to be much smaller and for a time they weren’t able to get inside.

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On the wooded banks of the Kent, snowdrops were flowering. Spring is on its way!

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Levens Park and Force Falls

The Creative Use of Odd Moments

Only short walks to report on of late. Train station commutes, with the regular accompaniment of the sound of drumming woodpeckers. One afternoon last week, I took a little excursion to Brigsteer Woods on the other side of the estuary. When I left the house it was raining, on the way it began to clear and there was briefly a rainbow. When I parked the car at the edge of the wood the sun was shining. Where I entered the woods there were a number of odd structures (see above).

The principal reason for heading this way was because this is probably the best daffodil wood that I know. Sadly, although there were no end of daffs on display, the flowers weren’t open.

The sky was looking pretty ominous and by the time I finally found some open flowers I was being pelted with hail stones.

 

 Hail stones on moss.

Leven’s Hall

Later that same day, with the light fading, I was in the Milnthorpe area, acting as Dad’s taxi. I drove up to Leven’s Bridge and had a short walk along the Kent.

The Creative Use of Odd Moments

Meandering

My idiosyncratic progress up the Kent got off to a contrary start on New Year’s Day when we walked downstream rather than up. On our second visit, we recommenced from a point slightly further up river than our previous highest point, leaving out a short section between New Barns and just short of Arnside Coast Guard station. Today we further sabotaged the integrity of the project by walking from Levens Bridge…

…thus neglecting a substantial section of the river from Arnside Promenade. The thing is, we hadn’t originally intended to walk by the river at all. We were headed for Scout Scar, but when I realised how cold the wind was, and with stronger winds forecast, I made a snap decision to stop short and stay lower down. As it transpires, last night’s BBC forecast was very accurate – it was chucking it down at six when S woke up. By the time it was light the rain had stopped and the sky was clearing and when we started our walk the sun was beaming down from a clear blue sky.

On Monday the Kent flooded and there was plenty of evidence of that inundation here – a tide line of leaves, grass and rubbish running through a field perhaps 100 yards from the usual course of the river and a similar draping of detritus on all trees and fences close to the river. You can see some of that debris on this tree trunk – whether it was itself left by the river I don’t know.

Inevitably, we had to stop for a while to throw stones into the swiftly flowing Kent…

I watched jackdaws in the tall trees nearby and then the tiniest notion of red in a tree top drew my attention to a woodpecker – my first of the year.

This was to be a retread of a walk that the boys and I did last May and having discussed that walk, we were all on the look out for the goats and deer that reside here in Levens Park. All that we encountered however was a convention of Barbour jacket wearers who were out shooting pheasant. Once upon a time, this might have got my goat, but since I’m happy to eat pheasant I can’t really object anymore.

After leaving the deer park the field paths stray a little way from the river, but then a minor lane, now a dead end, brings you to a path beside the river which passes beneath the dual carriageway of the A590 – the main road into the South Lakes. Under the bridge we marvelled at the loud hum of the speeding traffic and the rhythm of the thuds as tyres bumped over the expansion joints in the bridge. Music of road bridges anyone? (Perhaps best left to avant garde nutcases like Einsturzende Neubauten)

Just beyond the bridge, the lane passes Force Falls…

The river was still running very high and the falls were very impressive today. The white water on the left obscures a man made fish ladder, although the lowest step still stands out as very straight and concrete. On a couple of occasions I have seen salmon leaping here – mainly in the main stream and not the ladder.

This view is from the parking space of some cottages which are right by the falls.

‘How exciting for the people who live here’ was A’s view.

Beyond the falls, the Kent flows in a shallow ravine and there are more small falls. Very noisy and impressive, but difficult to photograph. A road bridge enabled us to cross the river and as we crossed a dipper flew past heading down into the roaring spume.

TBH was very impressed with this elegant iron railing alongside the lane. It seems a trifle grand for a stock fence…

…but the top of the tower that can just be made out in the background gives the game away. It’s part of Sedgwick House, presumably once the country residence of some landed pheasant shooter, but now I believe, divided into flats.

We recrossed the A590 – this time above it on a road bridge, before reentering the deer park.

From here the path follows an avenue of tall trees. The hollow tree which B clambered inside last time was eagerly anticipated, but when we got there we discovered that having grown since then he can no longer get in!

We had to settle for the nearby tree stump remnants of a former hollow tree, with a new tree growing Phoenix like in its centre.

We had just about given up on the idea of encountering the deer when…

B in particular was entranced and was desperate to get closer for a better view of antlers. TBH managed to partially placate him by finding sticks to use so that he could have his own antlers.

A meanwhile found this little limestone seat to take a rest…

I was fascinated by the bark on some of the trees, like this Green Man we passed:

 

A little hide and seek was in order…

Several of the trees have trunks which bristle with branches above a certain height like this – I have a feeling that it might be characteristic of lime trees, but I shall have to do some research to confirm that.

A enjoyed the odd bulges in this tree trunk, as I did last spring.

I have no idea about what causes them.

From the high bank here we watched a pair of dippers in and out of the shallow water which flowed over shingle near the far bank.

As we arrived back at Levens Bridge and the end of our walk, we finally sighted the Bagot goats…

Although the river is only a few miles from its source in the hills in the Lake District, and is very fast flowing, it does manage to squeeze in a few gentle meanders as it nears the sea…

Meandering

Levens Park

Brighter weather today, but with a fresh wind.

This morning I took Ben and Sam for a short drive to Levens Park. It’s part of the grounds of Levens Hall, originally a medieval pele tower but converted into an Elizabethan ‘gentleman’s residence’. It’s probably most famous now for it’s topiary gardens. The park was laid out at the same time as the gardens – between 1694 and 1710 –  designed by a Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont. It’s an open Deer Park with huge Oaks, Beeches, Sweet Chestnuts and Limes – presumably 300 years old.

What caught my attention at first though was a much smaller tree, another Hawthorn, but with red flowers:

They could almost be Roses, couldn’t they? But they are much smaller, and are apparently a cultivar of Midland Hawthorn (as opposed to Common Hawthorn).

The river Kent flows through the park, and having left the path to take this photograph I was in a position to look down on the river. A flash of metallic blue was a Kingfisher crossing low over the water. It was a brief and distant view, but the first time that I have seen a Kingfisher for some time. Can any other British bird rival the colours of a Kingfisher?

I had promised Ben deer and so was relieved when a herd appeared on on the hillside.

These are rather unusual Fallow Deer, imported from somewhere to add exotic colour to this manicured simulation of wilderness. They are much darker than other Fallow Deer. At the moment they seem to have odd dark spots and I suspect that they are shedding a darker thicker winter coat.

Ben was captivated and insisted that we stalk as close to the Deer as possible.

I was thrilled that Ben enjoyed the Deer, but he soon put me in my place: when we left the park and crossed a field he was even more impressed by the huge sloppy cowpats that made the path into a scatological maze.

The route follows a very quiet lane beside the river for awhile. The lane is bisected by the dual carriageway of the A590 and becomes two cul-de-sacs joined by a concrete walkway under the main road. This Heron seemed unperturbed by the traffic noise:

We finally reached a road bridge and crossed the river to make our return. Ben was beginning to flag, but was revived by the excitement of crossing over the A590 on a bridge. Speeding traffic may also be more exciting then Deer when you are three.

We were soon back in the Park and stopped for a snack. We were joined by a Hen, most definitely free range:

And not remotely shy:

Our walk now followed an avenue…

of huge Oaks:

Along which we soon encountered a herd of Bagot goats:

Like the Deer, I think that these are pretty much unique to this park.

Ben preferred the Goats to the Deer, I think because they allowed him to approach without running away.

The next cause for excitement was a hollow oak.

Which naturally required close inspection:

Via the back door:

I think that this is an Oak Apple. I remember reading about the life-cycle of the wasps that live in these galls, because I was fascinated by the fact that the generations alternate living in the tree and then on the roots.

Ben had completely recovered his energy and enthusiasm by now and was climbing on the trunk of a felled oak:

(The other child is a stranger who was keen to join in but understandably nervous about the idea.)

And whizzing off on his bike to find a hiding place in the base of another giant oak:

This oak…

…was probably the biggest that we saw all day. The photo doesn’t begin to convey its majesty. I couldn’t persuade Ben to pose against it to give a scale by which to judge it.

This tree demanded attention because of these bulbous growths on its trunk:

You can see the Kent in the background.

The walk was intrinsically enjoyable, but I also enjoyed it because Ben was having such a good time. It made me recall days out from my own childhood, when we regularly visited Bradgate Park in Leicestershire. There were both Fallow and Red Deer there which was fantastic, especially during the rut. Clambering in and on hollow oaks was another common feature, as was hiding from my Dad. I often think that it was the freedom to charge around, to climb, to explore the open spaces there that first fostered my love of the outdoors. I hope that I can give the same gift to my kids.

Levens Park