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sunshine, initially along the old B-road where the cats-eyes fascinated B, then on the verge of the busy A590 which has superseded the B-road , but we soon turned off past Catcragg Farm and into the peace and quiet of the woods beyond.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 …

..an 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…

REVEREND JOHN BARWICK S.T.D. BORN IN THIS HAMLET LATE DEAN OF S. PAUL’S BUILT THIS CHAPPELL A.D. 1664

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….

…tadpoles!”

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