Around Threshthwaite Cove.

Hartsop Dodd. My route followed the wall up to the ridge and then the skyline to the top.

A couple of weeks after my last outing, so mid-June, and I was out relatively early and parked in the small, free car-park in the hamlet of Hartsop. The car-park was already filling up despite the early hour. The earlyish start and my choice of route – short and not too far from home – were due to my plans for the afternoon.

Colourful Lichen. Possibly Red Crest (or British Soldier) Lichen.
Looking along Patterdale to Ullswater.
Grey Crag (on the right).
The long wooded ridge of Hartsop above How and Brothers Water.

After a very grey start, the clouds began to break-up and the sun could poke through, making for some glorious views.

Pano. Ullswater, Place Fell, Brock Crags, Rest Dodd, Grey Crag, Hartsop Dodd.
The hills around Dovedale: High Hartsop Dodd, Little Hart Crag, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Fairfield, Cofa Pike, Dollywaggon Pike, and Hartsop above How.
Patterdale Pano.

Once the sun appeared I started to see a number of what I thought were day-flying moths. In flight, they looked quite dark, and I thought they might be Chimney Sweeper moths, or at least something similar. But then I noticed one land and open it’s wings…

Mountain Ringlet.

They were Mountain Ringlets! Not the most pre-possessing butterfly, I’ll admit, but very exciting none-the-less. In England, they are only found in the Lake District and are quite elusive. In many years of walking in the Lakes, I’ve never seen them before. Actually, this wasn’t the first one I saw, or attempted to photograph that morning. Despite the fact that the grass was very short, when they dropped down into it they seemed to disappear, and if I approached, hoping to spot them and get a photo, they were shy and would fly-off.

I was lucky with the change in the weather:

“The adults are highly active only in bright sunshine but can be disturbed from the ground even in quite dull weather. They keep low to the ground in short flights, pausing regularly to bask amongst grass tussocks or feed on the flowers of Tormentil or Heath Bedstraw.”


There was lots of Bedstraw flowering, but my efforts to photograph the tiny white flowers weren’t very successful. I assumed that I would continue to see Mountain Ringlets during the rest of the walk, but I didn’t – they were prolific around the summit of Hartsop Dodd, but after that, no more.

Caudale Head, Caudale Quarry and Red Screes.

Caudale Moor, John Bell’s Banner, Stony Cove Pike – are there any other hills in the Lakes which glory in three different titles? I always think of it as Stony Cove Pike whereas Wainwright goes with Caudale Moor. Although I’ve climbed it many times over the years, it has often been from the Kirkstone Pass, when time has been short. I’ve never had a poke around Caudale Quarry, or climbed any of the ridges which rise on the Troutbeck side, so plenty of scope for further exploration.

Looking back to Hartsop Dodd.

I was supposed to be in a hurry, but the long steady climb to Stony Cove Pike followed a ramshackle drystone wall, perfect territory for Wheatears. I took lots of photos, all of females oddly, of which this was my favourite…

Wheatear, female.

The sun had disappeared behind a cloud again, so the light wasn’t ideal, but by now I was in full ‘birding’ mode. There were Crows, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks about too to try to capture, although generally not as close at hand as the Wheatears.

Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks will all sing in flight. I think that this songster was a Skylark…


This was definitely a Skylark, the crest is the giveaway, unusually singing from a perch.

From Stoney Cove Pike: High Street and Thornthwaite Crag.

The sun was shining again, so I sat on the summit to enjoy the views and eat my lunch.

From Stoney Cove Pike: Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke.
Thornthwaite Crag.
Thornthwaite Crag pano.
Threshthwaite Mouth and Threshthwaite Crag on Caudale Moor.

I had half-planned to include Thornthwaite Crag on my circuit, but the dawdling I been doing, photographing butterflies and birds, did not fit well with my plans so I took the lazy option, a small path which climbed very easily onto the ridge for Grey Crag.


I’d run out of water, but found a tiny rivulet crossing the slopes here and refilled my bottle. For my birthday, TBH had bought me a water bottle which includes a filter….


…the chunky white cylinder you can see inside the bottle. To be fair, I’ve been drinking water from Lake District streams with no ill effects for years, but the filter does give some added peace of mind.

Threshthwaite Mouth, Threshthwaite Crag, Caudale Moor.
Rest Dodd, The Knott, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike.
Along the ridge to Grey Crag.

The wind had really picked-up, and I had to stop to shove on an extra layer.

Threshthwaite Cove.

Some hike stats: around 6 miles and 700m of climbing according to MapMyWalk.

Three Wainwrights: Hartsop Dodd, Caudale Moor, Grey Crag.

My plans for the afternoon? To settle down in front of the googlebox and watch Leicester Tigers trounce Saracens in the Premiership Final. It was a bit tense for a while there, but the result came out right in the end.

Around Threshthwaite Cove.

Half Term at Home

The Cove

Not sure what happened during the first half of February. Rain probably; by the bucketload. The most significant thing to happen over half-term is that my parents came to visit, which was terrific – it had been a long while since we had seen them.

I think we had some mixed weather that week, but I managed to get out for several local walks and even saw some blue skies and sunshine.

View from Castlebarrow.
Winter Aconites and Snowdrops.
Snowdrops in Eaves Wood.
Eaves Wood.
The ruined cottage in Eaves Wood.
Hawes Water.

I wondered whether all the tree-felling by Hawes Water would affect the Snowdrops there, but fortunately it doesn’t seem to have had any impact.


I know this second photo looks much the same as the first, but there’s an insect on one of the flowers in the centre of the photo. Perhaps a drone fly. I thought it was pretty unusual to see a fly outside in the middle of February.

Scarlet Elf Cup.
New rustic picket fence around the restored summer house by Hawes Water.

This is Jelly Ear Fungus or Wood Fungus. It’s allegedly edible – I have eaten it, in a restaurant years ago and I can’t say I was impressed.


These black cords, called rhizomorphs, are how Honey, or Bootlace, fungus spreads. They grow beneath the bark of an infected tree, but can also spread beneath the soil to reach new trees. Honey fungus will kill its host tree. I think it’s quite common in this area.

Honey Fungus mushrooms are bioluminescent (the gills glow in the dark), although their ghostly greenish light emissions are usually far too weak to be visible to the human eye in a normal woodland environment, even on a moonless night. To see this effect it is necessary to sit close to some of the mushrooms in total darkness (in a windowless room) until your eyes have become accustomed to the dark and your pupils are fully dilated.


A rash of fungus appears along Inman’s Road, the path along the bottom edge of Eaves Wood, every autumn. I think it’s Honey Fungus. It’s never occurred to me before to bring some home to test the bioluminescence, but I think this year I will.

Lumpy Bracket fungus?

I think that this might be Lumpy Bracket fungus, partly because in the same way that Jelly Ear fungus usually grows on Elder, this fungus typically grows on Beech, especially stumps, which is exactly what was happening here. Where a large number of Beeches have been (controversially) felled by Hawes Water, many of the stumps now host this fungus.

Gloucester Old Spot piglets at Hawes Villa farm.

I thought, obviously mistakenly, that Hawes Villa had stopped keeping pigs. Happily, I’m wrong.


Walking along Bottoms Lane I was struck by the abundance and diversity of the mosses and lichens living in the hedge.

How many different species here?
Back in Eaves Wood again.
By the Pepper Pot.

Because there were cold winds blowing all week, my Dad, who really suffers with the cold, was understandably reluctant to venture out. TBH had the bright idea that the gardens at Sizergh Castle might be relatively sheltered. She was right.

Family photo – I took several, but none in which everybody managed to look at the camera simultaneously.

A is in a wheelchair – lent to us by the National Trust for our visit – because she had broken a bone in her ankle whilst dancing. Little S (you can see here how diminutive he is!) delighted in pushing her around at great speed and alarming her with his ‘driving’ skills.

More Snowdrops in the grounds of Sizergh.
The Winter Aconites again.

Four fields between Holgates and Far Arnside had been seeded with what looks to me like Ribwort Plantain. A bit of lazy internet research reveals that it can be used as fodder. Certainly, when we’ve been back to the fields, after stock have been introduced, the leaves have been pretty thoroughly stripped off. I read that growing plantain can improve soil structure. And also, more surprisingly, that its seeds are used as a thickening agent in ice-cream and cosmetics.

Far Arnside.
Looking to Knowe Point.
The Bay.
Grange. Hampsfell behind with a dusting of snow.
Turning the corner into the Kent Estuary.

The weather le me down a bit here. I walked around the coast in glorious sunshine, but by the time I’d climbed the Knott from White Creek, not the longest of ascents, it had completely clouded over.

Bit of snow on Arnside Knott too.

And finally, on a very damp final day of the break, the flocks of Starlings which roost at Leighton Moss briefly gathered above the field behind our house, so that we had a grandstand view from our garden.



Half Term at Home

Birds, birds, birds…and Primroses


Early April, when the branches are mostly bare and the birds are busy mating and nesting is a great time to spot and take photos of birds. This Bullfinch photo is a bit of a cheat, since it wasn’t taken on a walk, but through our window, by where I was sitting on a Thursday evening.

On the Friday, when I got home from work, having finished for the Easter break, I headed out for a wander round Heald Brow, to the south of the village.

View of The Howgills.
Forsythia catching the sun.
Hazelwood Hall.

I think someone had been doing some major pruning, because a better view of Hazelwood Hall had opened up from the adjoining Hollins Lane. My interest in the hall is due to the gardens, which I believed to be designed by Lancaster architect Thomas Mawson, although the current Wikipedia entry is slightly confusing on that score and seems to imply, in one section, that in fact Mawson’s son Prentice was responsible, only, later on, to state that it was Mawson himself who designed the garden working with another son Edward.

Hazelwood Hall 1926

Certainly the tiered terraces, the loggia and the use of stone pergolas are very similar to other Mawson gardens I’ve visited.


On Heald Brow, I noticed a Great-spotted Woodpecker in a very distant tree. I’ve included the photo, rubbish though it is, just to remind myself that I saw it, because, quite frankly, I was chuffed that I could pick it out in the tree-tops.


Likewise this Bullfinch. I know that it’s the second of this post, but I don’t seem to have seen many this year.

The Saturday was a glorious day, a great start to our holidays, so I set-off for Gait Barrows in search of birds and butterflies.


I did take no end of photos of butterflies and other insects and even more of birds, but above all else I took pictures of Primroses which seem to have proliferated all around the reserve.

Primroses with Bee-fly.
Blue moor grass – typical of limestone grassland.
Hazel catkins catching the sun
All that’s left of one of the former hedgerows. Still need to have a proper look at what’s grown back.
A Drone Fly, I think, but it’s the texture of the wood which I really like.

There were Drone flies everywhere and I took lots of, I suppose, quite pointless photographs of them, but then occasionally what I took to be another Drone Fly would instead transpire to be something more interesting, like this Bee-fly…


I was quite surprised to see this machinery in the woods by Hawes Water, but the path from Challan Hall around to Moss Lane, which is supposed to be wheelchair friendly, had been getting increasingly muddy and Natural England were having it widened and resurfaced, so bully for them.

Cherry blossom?

I can’t really identify lichens and, I think because I can’t, I don’t always pay them the attention they merit. I think this is Ramalina farinacea, but I wouldn’t take my word for it, and, looking again, I think there are probably at least three different lichens in the photo above.

Honeysuckle leaves, some of the earliest to appear, catching the light.

Although it was months ago, I remember my encounter with this Comma butterfly very vividly. It was sunning itself on some limestone, as you can see, and I slowly edged toward it, taking a new photo after each stride. Eventually, I upset it and it moved, finally settling on a nearby tree-trunk, at which point I started edging forward again.


What struck me was that, if I hadn’t seen the Comma land, I don’t think I would have picked it out. Whilst the underside of its wings are drab in comparison to the patterned orange of the upper wings, the underwings are beautifully adapted to conceal the butterfly in a superb imitation of a tatty dead leaf.



…is a warbler. I don’t think it’s a Chiff-chaff, they have a very distinctive song which I can actually recognise, so I can recall getting excited because this had a different song. Sadly, I can’t remember the song at all, and can’t identify which warbler this is without that additional clue.

No such confusion here…


…this is a make Kestrel. I wish I’d managed to capture it in flight when it’s colours looked stunning.

And I suspect that this is a Chiff-chaff…


Though I couldn’t swear to it.

Another mystery here…


…with a bone suspended in a Blackthorn bush. I know that Shrikes impale their prey on the thorns of this tree, but Shrikes are quite small and I think that this bone is probably a bit too big for that. Also, Shrikes are very rare in the UK these days and are not generally seen this far West (although I know that they have occasionally been spotted at Leighton Moss).

Ash flowers beginning to emerge.
More Hazel catkins.
And again!
White violets.

I was back at Gait Barrows the following day, but the skies were dull and I didn’t take many photos. On the Monday, I had another local wander, including a visit to The Cove…


The Tuesday was a bit special, so I shall save that for my next post…

Birds, birds, birds…and Primroses

I Like Birds


Daffodils at Far Arnside.

These photos are all from the weekend in March after schools in England all closed for an indefinite period. So, strictly speaking, a couple of days before the lockdown arrangements came into force. The week before had been pretty frantic at work, trying to get everything organised for the new arrangements before we were all sent home, so it was great just to get out and relax and enjoy the obvious signs of spring.



And Green Hellebore.


TBH on the coast path.

From Far Arnside, TBH and I climbed up to Heathwaite and then returned home.

On the Sunday I had a wander down to Heald Brow in the morning and then walked round Jenny Brown’s Point with TBH in the afternoon – a fairly similar walk.




Heald Brow.


I’m pretty sure this Bumble-bee was a queen: only queens survive the winter and then can be seen in early spring searching for a site for a new nest. They nest is cavities, apparently abandoned mouse holes being a favourite. I watched this one wandering around in the moss for quite some time. I’m not very adept at identifying bees but I think this might be a White-tailed  Bumble-bee, Bombus Lucorum.

The very hairy leaves around the bee are Mouse-ear-hawkweed. The fauna surveys which I’ve helped with in recent years are definitely having an impact on my recall of trivia like that. The bizarre thing is how chuffed I was to recognise the leaves and know that the flowers would be appearing soon (coming to a blog near you!)


Last year Heald Brow was my go to spot for Primroses, but on this occasion I couldn’t find many flowering and wandered around rather aimlessly trying to work out where they’d all gone.


For the most part, the Blackthorn flowers were just clusters tight little buds, but in places…


…they were open and looking magnificent.




I have an endless supply of blurred photographs of Long-tailed Tits. Even more than other species of tits, they seem to be constantly on the move, bobbing about with a frustrating knack of moving just as the camera shutter opens (or whatever equivalent activity takes place inside a digital camera).


So I was happy when this one decided to pose for a couple of photos.


I heard something on the radio recently, and I can’t remember the source, sorry, but apparently, because their vision extends into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum, the blue on the head of a male Blue Tit is an iridescent spectacle for other Blue Tits.

This episode of Radiolab, about how animals see colours, and in particular the visual acuity of the Peacock Mantis Shrimp, is absolutely fascinating.

At Woodwell…


This very vigorous plant, which I don’t recognise…


…caught my eye. It remains a mystery – I shall have to keep an eye out to see if it flowers at some point. I’d been checking on Woodwell periodically anyway, waiting for the reappearance of minnows after they were wiped out here by the hot summer of 2018, which dried the pool out completely. The good news is that they’re back; the bad news that the photos I took of them are all a bit useless.


Ramsons or Wild garlic in Bottoms Wood. Around this time, it may even have been on that weekend, I saw a group of four people squatting in the woods here, stuffing black bin bags full of Ramson leaves. I presumed they were intending to supply a restaurant somewhere. Either that, or they really love Wild Garlic Pesto, who knows?


I love the colour and form of emerging Sycamore leaves, and who can resist the cheeriness of…



Unlike Long-tailed Tits, Robins are often happy to sit still and pose for a portrait. I usually crop my bird photos, but was close enough to this Robin that I didn’t feel the need in this case…


I probably took a dozen photos of this Robin. There always comes a point, when I’m photographing Robins, when the Robin turns its head on one side and stares straight at me, as if to check whether I might be a threat or not…


And, as often as not, then continues to ignore me and sing…



Warton Crag from Heald Brow.


A newish footpath sign at Jenny Brown’s cottages. Rather handsome I thought.

In a comment, Andy has, I think unwittingly, challenged me to make a Lockdown playlist, which is exactly the kind of game I like to play. Challenge accepted. If you know Eels marvellous album ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’, then the post title will have been a dead give away:

I’m more than a bit surprised that I haven’t used this song before.

I Like Birds

Brew with a View Too.


Hagg Wood.

The very next evening, after my Arnside Knott excursion, I was out a bit earlier and able to enjoy the sunshine a little more, although the breeze was cool.


Wilding apples.


Hedgerow lichen.



I was intending to brew-up and watch the sunset again, but I was also intent on collecting some sloes. I had gardening gloves with me, the thorns on Blackthorn are vicious, but, in the end, didn’t use the gloves, finding that a bit of circumspection was sufficient to protect my hands.

The hedgerow had been cut-back hard, earlier this year, and the hard, tart ‘bullies’ were disappointingly sparse.






More wilding apples – I tried one of these, it was palatable, but nothing to write home about.

Fortunately, the Blackthorn bushes on Sharp’s Lot, National Trust land, had been left well alone and I fairly quickly filled my cup. They’re in the freezer now, I need to weigh them and decide whether I have enough for the Sloe Gin I intend to make (or maybe Sloe Vodka – I’m not find of Gin).


TBH is a bit bemused, “But you don’t even like Sloe Gin!”

Which isn’t quite true, but she does have a point: I don’t really drink spirits these days. In truth, I’m a bit puzzled by my own enthusiasm; I think it’s maybe got more to do with the making than the drinking. Well, we’ll see.

My walk brought me to Jack Scout, but a little too late really: the sun hadn’t set, but it had dropped behind a band of cloud on the western horizon. Nevertheless, I fired up the stove again…


…and watched the light fade behind the clouds whilst I drank my char.


Brew with a View Too.

Two Bonus Birthday Hills


Cove Road Quince flowers.

So, I had a little op, part of my ongoing review of local surgery facilities. I had the same op 24 years ago. On that occasion, I spent a few days in hospital afterwards, and although the aftermath was a good deal better than the few days prior to the procedure, suffice to say that it wasn’t entirely comfortable. This time then, I knew what to expect. What’s more the surgeon had warned me that I would need at least a week off work to recuperate (and then scotched that silver-lining by sending me a date at the beginning of a two week holiday period) and I had been sent home with a handy collection of pain-killers to help me get by.



I went under the knife on the day before my birthday, so not much chance then of my usual walk on my birthday, and certainly no hill-climbing, at least that’s what I thought, which was why I was so keen to drag the kids up Pen-y-ghent and Helvellyn in the days beforehand.

But this time, the op had been performed as a day case, so at least I was sent home. And it had gone much better than expected and I wasn’t really experiencing much pain. A little discomfort would be nearer the mark.


This clump of sedge is close to the Elmslack entrance to Eaves Wood. I’ve walked past them countless times before, but never noticed them flowering, or are they fruiting? To the left of the rush the shorter, fine ‘grass’ is actually some kind of garlic or chive – it has a strong garlic flavour and smell.


A consultation of ‘Roger Phillips Grasses, Ferns, Mosses & Lichens of Great Britain and Ireland’ has led me to the conviction that this is Hairy Woodrush.

In fact, I felt pretty good. I’d been told I couldn’t drive for 24 hours. And that I couldn’t be left alone during the same period. But nobody had categorically told me that I couldn’t go for a birthday walk. And the sun was shining. Or at least, it was when I set off, although a wave of cloud was rushing in from the west, presumably carried in on a front of some kind.

I did go out on my own, which probably contravened the terms of my release, but I took my mobile so that I cold phone for help, if I fell unconscious or somesuch….

I planned to head up to Castlebarrow, giving me a hill, however small, as is my custom on my birthday and a vantage point to watch the weather change, but I was distracted by the area of fallen trees just off the path, which the children used to enjoy visiting in order to build a den between the roots of two large trunks.


There are several large fallen trees in the one small area…


The area around the trees is now filling up with a thicket of saplings…


…in contrast with other nearby areas where the mature trees still stand and the woodland floor is only covered with old leaves and the odd patch of Cuckoo Pint.

I expected to find fungi growing on the dead wood…






And I did!


But also, on an old Yew, a new Yew…




….something else, I’m not sure what.


New leaves…Hazel?

Because of all of my faffing about admiring dead trees and fungi, by the time I reached Castlebarrow, the blue sky had virtually all been enveloped by the cloud.



It was really too gloomy for taking bird photos, but there were a number of duelling Robins on adjacent small trees…


…and I couldn’t resist them!



Blue Moor Grass

From Castlebarrow I dropped down on to the northern side and took a dog walkers path into Middlebarrow which I may have followed before, but which I don’t know well. I heard a Green Woodpecker yaffle very close at hand. Scanning the nearby trees I was rewarded with a flash of exotic green and red as the woodpecker flew away. I frequently hear Green Woodpeckers but very rarely see them, so this was a special moment.


Arnside Tower and Blackthorn blossom.



Following the path which traces the northern edge of the Caravan Park I expected to see Green Hellebore…


Green Hellebore. No flowers in evidence. Too late or too early – I suspect the latter.



But certainly didn’t expect to see another Green Woodpecker. I heard it first, then tracked down its position due to the sound of it knocking persistently on the trunk of a tree. I could just make out it’s head…


And managed a frustratingly useless first-ever photograph of a Green Woodpecker. It soon flew off, and whilst I waited to see if it would return, and watched the antics of a dog which had skipped over the wall from the path and was gleefully evading its owners, I wondered about the ownership of a largish hole in the ground I could see just beyond the wall. I didn’t wonder for long…




…is the large Blackthorn where last year I watched for a while entranced by the huge and varied population of bees frequenting its flowers. It wasn’t fully in blossom this year and I was struck by its lichen bedecked branches.


Cherry Blossom on the cricket club grounds.


Primroses on a Cove Road verge.


Barren Strawberry on a Cove Road wall.

Briefly, as I neared home, the blue sky returned, but this was a very fleeting improvement in the weather – patches of blue appeared and then, in a matter of moments, virtually the whole sky was blue again, but only moments later it had all disappeared again.



Jack-by-the-Hedge, or Hedge Garlic, or Garlic Mustard. Supposed to be good to eat, but much too bitter for me.

There’d been a dispute, apparently, about who was going to cook me a birthday breakfast, but this was a bit of a pointless argument, since I don’t eat breakfast these days. However, A deferred her menu choice and served up a very creditable Spanish omelette for lunch. We now just need to work on the other 364 days of the year.

When I’d bought the boys new boots the day before, S fixed the shop assistant with a glare and asked, “But are they waterproof?”

To which he responded; “Well, you’ll have to wax them.”

I’m glad that they got this from someone else, because I doubt they would have taken it half so seriously if I had told them. Anyway, B, particularly, was very vexed that he had scuffed his boots on Helvellyn so I decided to take advantage of their enthusiasm for their new boots and they washed them, and then applied two coats, one of a leather treatment and softer, and one of wax.


Which, in turn, encouraged me to do the same to mine!

I’ve kept my ‘cleaning kit’ – wax, rags and brush – in the box my own relatively new boots came in, in the summer house and said box had two sizeable residents spiders…


I think they have been living in here a while because the box also contained a couple of shed exoskeletons. I suspect that these are some kind of wolf spider, but I don’t have even a remotely comprehensive guide to British spiders, so really, I’m just guessing.

Later, A had a dance lesson in Milnthorpe. Whilst she was there, the boys and I had a simple straight up and down walk up Haverbrack…


So, rather unexpectedly, I managed two hills on my birthday, only the modest heights of Castlebarrow and Haverbrack, but it’s a good deal more than I anticipated.

Two Bonus Birthday Hills

Lichen and….Rose of Sharon?

A walk in Eaves Wood, the day after our encounter with Mrs Gaskell (yes, I know I’m even further behind than usual).  Typically, there was much nattering for the adults and enthusiastic tree climbing for the kids (and Dr A).

I found this lichen on a tree stump. Sheila once commented here about the frustration of being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none when it comes to identifying flora and fauna. Lichen is one of the areas in which I can’t even claim to be a jack-of-all-trades. I did once borrow a book on lichens from the library, but didn’t really feel much better equipped to identify them as a result. So I will, for now at least, content myself with dumb admiration.

I’m getting better with flowers, but this low shrub has me confused (again!). Although it is superficially a little like tutsan, the leaves and flowers aren’t quite right. So – another Saint John’s Wort then: rose of sharon? But ‘The Wildflower Key’ tells me that the flowers of rose of sharon are solitary. And these don’t look very solitary to me….

So – stumped again.

Lichen and….Rose of Sharon?

Yewbarrow with B – Butterflies, Bugs, Badger Bogs and Barwick’s Church

Or My Favourite Christmas Present IV

April was almost over and I hadn’t squeezed in my solo walking day out. So I packed up and by 7.30am was ready to set off, probably for Wetherlam from the Greenburn side. Just as I was about to leave B appeared (having just woken up) and asked if he could go with me. So – a quick breakfast for him and a swift change of plan. After a short drive we were parked near to the Derby Arms and were walking in bright sunshine, initially along the old B-road where the cats-eyes fascinated B, then on the verge of the busy A590 which has superseded the B-road , but we soon turned off past Catcragg Farm and into the peace and quiet of the woods beyond.

One of the first things we encountered was a number of large holes beneath some trees in a small hollow, which may or may not have been a badger sett. Nearby there were badger latrines – badgers dig neat little scoops in the ground and use those for their droppings – we spotted them in several places through the course of our walk and I’ve seen them before on nearby Whitbarrow: it seems that this area is a hotbed of badger activity.

In the woods the sunshine seemed to have enticed lots of butterflies to show themselves. Through the course of our walk we saw lots of peacocks…

Peacock butterfly on blackthorn flowers.

…numerous whites…

I think that this might be a female orange-tip – we saw several males later in the day but none would sit still for a photo.

This could be a green-veined white but I’m not at all sure.

Another peacock.

We saw speckled woods too, one brimstone and an orange butterfly which fluttered by far too quickly to be identified.

Near to the possible badger sett we came across a hawthorn liberally festooned with … impressive coral like lichen.

And not far from there we found a single cowslip in full display…

..we saw many more cowslips later, but no more which were as tall as this, or on which the flowers were fully open like this. I did wonder whether this might be an oxlip since it lacks the orange spots which cowslips seem to have, but my book says that oxlips are found from the east midlands eastwards, so not up here.

B was having a whale of a time, but was stopping to investigate every stick, hole in the ground or bug that he could find, so progress was slow.

7-spot ladybird.

I had been hoping that our route would give us views over the adjacent Nichols Moss where a woodland grows on very flat boggy ground. To that end we took a slight detour down hill towards the farmhouse at Slate Hill, but to no real avail. Never mind – I shall have to come back another time to try the path along the western edge of the moss.

Emerging from the wood we came across Witherslack church.

“Lets go in and have a look Dad.” So we did.

As you can see this painted wood panel is dated 1710 and apparently shows the coat of arms of Queen Anne. The church is a little older…


Barwick was a Royalist in the civil war and was imprisoned in the tower by the Parliament.

Back in the woods again, we saw a wood mouse sitting perfectly still on a rock. It was a way away and this was the closest I managed to an in focus photo…

…my first attempt to use the camera’s digital zoom.

We were climbing to the small hill of Yewbarrow. The open areas and woodland clearings on Yewbarrow are spotted with mounds, some of them large, which are the work of yellow meadow ants.

Where are the ants Dad?

Is the ant carrying an ant larvae or some food stuff? Lots of the ant mounds had half hazelnut shells scattered on them – obviously a lunch spot for someone, but who…?

B had been asking about his own lunch since about 10 and so when we reached the top i gave in and we stopped to eat. It was perfect weather for a picnic. “Like summer” B opined, and he was right. Yewbarrow has a great view of the cliffs of the western side of Whitbarrow, although I didn’t take any photos since it was quite hazy.

Back in the woods, we met this fellow…

Which I’ve subsequently discovered is oieceoptoma thoracicum and which feeds on other insects in dung, carrion and rotting fungi.

B admiring a particularly large meadow ant mound.

More emerging sycamore leaves and flowers (can’t resist the colours).

B found a rotting log with this tiny red mite on it. I can’t find it in my books. As ever suggestions more than welcome.

We dropped out of the woods again towards Hall Garth farm.

“Look Dad….


Gooseberry flowers.

A short reascent along the woodland edge and a finish through Latterbarrow nature reserve brought us back to the car and a well-deserved choc-ice for B from the Witherslack community shop.

A Latterbarrow cowslip.

Yewbarrow with B – Butterflies, Bugs, Badger Bogs and Barwick’s Church

Joy in the Morning

Early Morning Oak

It’s possible that an observant reader might have noticed that I like to steal my post titles* from songs or novels or ..well wherever inspiration strikes. This one comes from a Jeeves and Wooster novel. I haven’t read it recently, but the first chapter from it was appended to the end of ‘Summer Lightning’ which I borrowed from Lancaster library as a stand in for ‘Uncle Fred in the Springtime’ which I need to read for out book group, but they didn’t have. ‘Summer Lightning’ was excellent – pure escapism, with a high chuckle count. I’m wondering now whether I still need to find ‘Uncle Fred in the Springtime’ for our book group, since reading any Wodehouse novel is much the same as reading any other. You expect high farce and the usual selection of stock characters – but it’s the fabulous dialogue and Wodehouse’s turn of phrase which keep me coming back for more.

So – why ‘Joy in the Morning’? In Howard Jacobson’s pitch for ‘Rasselass’ on Open Book’s neglected classics programme, he described ‘the pursuit of happiness’ as ‘one way or another….the story of every novel’. He makes great claims for ‘Rasselass’ and I must say that I enjoyed reading it this time much more than I can remember enjoying it when I read it before. I can see now why Jacobson described it as ‘chock full of wisdom’ and I can see myself turning to it again in the future. Curiously, it doesn’t have much to say about happiness except in a negative way – time and again the central characters meet or seek out people who they think are happy and then they (and we) discover why they aren’t happy – so we learn about happiness in a negative way: what happiness isn’t.

In Stephen Graham’s ‘A Tramp’s Sketches’ there’s a chapter: ‘A Thing of Beauty Is A Joy For Ever’ (he likes to poach titles too). After an opening which refers to Nietzsche, Kant, Stendhal, Bernard Shaw, Ibsen and Darwin he hits us with a paragraph of pure Graham:

… knowledge of the beautiful is an affirmation. Something in the soul suddenly rises up and ejaculates “Yes” to some outside phenomenon, and then he is aware that he is looking at Beauty. As he gazes he knows himself in communion with what he sees – and sometimes that communion is a great joy and sometimes a great sadness. Thus, looking at the opening of dawn he is filled with gladness, his spirits rising with the sun; he wishes to shout and sing. He is one with the birds that have begun singing and with all the wild Nature waking refreshed after the night. But looking out at evening of the same day over the grey sea he is filled with unutterable sorrow.

That “Yes”, the idea of a sudden and unexpected affirmation really strikes a chord with me. A feeling, a brimming over almost – intense well being, a broad smile, as Graham says: the need to shout and sing – that can sneak up on me in many circumstances but particularly on a walk. So when I left the house early this morning I had no clear idea where I was heading, but it was with a certain expectation – I was looking for a “Yes” moment.

Of course – going looking for the pot of gold is a fool’s errand and setting off expecting to be thrilled by a view or a moment is almost certainly counter productive. There were some pleasant views to be had…

Pre-dawn cloudscape.

But nothing to quicken the pulse or make the heart soar.

The sky was clear and, wanting to keep the light in the east in view, I set off toward it and toward Leighton Moss.

Reflected trees at Leighton Moss – spooky isn’t it?

After the astonishing rain we’ve been having the meres had spread and the paths were underwater. A sign warning of flooding and the need for Wellington boots was, rather ironically,  marooned on a dry island of path with flooding all around it – you had to get your feet wet in order to get close enough to read it. A huge group of coots and mallards were roosting on the islands just by Lilian’s Hide. I pottered around the edges of the reed beds – exploring almost submerged boardwalks, photographing leaves and reeds…

and then turned for home. A roadside hedge, heavy with haws was being plundered by several blackbirds…

and a thrush.

When I stopped to try to photograph them I realised that there were numerous other birds in the hedge too – great tits and blue tits, chaffinches…

and, in a small ash tree, a nuthatch tap tap tapping at a branch.

As I climbed the hill back toward the village the sun climbed above the horizon…

This turned out to be perfect timing since I was now heading west with views ahead of trees bathed in sunlight.

A tree stump by the road was host to…

some tiny earthballs…

…each hollowed with a jagged exit wound through which the spores had been fired.

I had forgotten by now about my ‘mission’ and was thoroughly absorbed in an attempt to capture the way the low sun was emphasising the remaining autumn colour on certain beech, oak and hazel trees. Not with much success, but it was keeping me busy. In Clark’s Lot, a patch of colour seen distantly across the cleared area of limestone pavement caught my eye…

I thought that it was the rust colour which attracted me, but winding back the zoom on my camera, I realised that in fact it was the contrast between that rust and the white of the surrounding birch trunks which appealed…


…and there it was, quite unexpectedly…joy in the morning! It may not have yielded much of a photo, but I can tell you that this morning, with the sun picking out the leaves, it looked fantastic….and I could feel my smile muscles working overtime, and…is that me singing? I believe it is!

Then of course, Nature conspires to put more flashes of red in my way. A robin in amongst holly berries…too much – tone it down please. Haws against traveller’s joy…

…that’s the ticket!

Sprawling over the fence from the wood, a cotoneaster, presumably grown from a berry carried here by a bird from a garden?

This too is lacking in subtly with both leaves and berries a very rich red…

I think that I prefer the different greens on offer in the lichens (or liverworts?) on this small fallen branch…


* Some alternative titles for this post:

The Sun Also Rises

Happiness Makes Up in Height What it Lacks in Length

Its a new dawn, its a new day, its a new life for me
And I’m feelin good

OK – that last one’s getting a bit long for a title. (Great song though**) Any other suggestions? This is a game that anyone can play.

**When Nina Simone is singing it, not one of the pale imitations by the likes of Muse or Michael Buble. Actually, when the horns come in on this song – that’s another example of one of those face twitching encounters with ‘a joy for ever’.

Joy in the Morning

Leaning Against a Wall

After a tiring day spent insulating our loft, TBH and I decided to take a quick stroll and take in some fresh air. Whilst she washed away the irritating residue of mineral wool, I sat on a bench in our garden drinking a cup of tea. She was taking a while, so when the tea was gone, I shuffled down the drive and across the road to lean on a wall and get a view of the changing western sky uninterrupted by houses or trees. The sun, setting whilst I watched, was glazing the sign outside the church with gold…

…and painting the clouds with colour…


The wall itself was not without interest…

We did eventually go for our short wander. The moon was already high in the sky to light our way when the sun set.

You’ve seen better pictures of the moon obviously. But I’m astonished that I can get results like this with a relatively cheap hand held camera. What would Galileo and his contemporaries make of it? B is quite moon obsessed – I can see that I shall have to find out about the craters and seas evident here.

Leaning Against a Wall