Middlebarrow in Every Kind of Weather.

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“The forecast for tomorrow shows every kind of weather, what a cop out.”

This was A, on Saturday evening; she knows how much this symbol winds me up on a long range forecast, suggesting, as it does, some straddling of the fence from the meteorologists. Of course, it could also imply that the weather is destined to be very mixed. That’s exactly how Sunday turned out.

No ‘Listed Lancaster’ posts from last week, not because I didn’t get out for any lunchtime strolls – although I was restricted a little, it was a busy week – but because when I did get out the weather was always gloomy and not really ideal for photographs. I particularly enjoyed my walk on Wednesday, when we had snow, but even the photos I took then are  rather grim and monotone.

Saturday too was very wet, but it did finally brighten a little late on, and I abandoned the second half of Ireland’s cakewalk against Italy to make the most of it. Not much to show for it in terms of photos of views or leaves or sunsets etc, but every walk seems to throw up something, in this case a wet poster…

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Long-suffering readers will know that I have become quite interested in Thomas Mawson and his gardens, which have featured on this blog a number of times. I’m hoping that I will be free on the evening of this lecture. If not, there were plenty of other things to choose from: a talk on ‘Bees in Your Garden’, another on ‘Sweet Peas’ and a third on ‘An Underwater Safari in Morecambe Bay’, music at the regular ‘Bits and Pieces’ event at the Silverdale Hotel, the John Verity Band appearing soon at the same venue, and, at The Instititute, Lancaster Band The Meter Men, who play Hammond Organ infused funk and are, in my opinion, superb. And that’s just a small selection of the entertainment on offer, seen through the filter of my own interests. Silverdale it seems, like Stacy’s Mom, ‘has got it going on’.

Anyway, back to Sunday: I set off, as I often do, without a clear idea of where I was going. Initially though, I chose to climb to the Pepper Pot on Castlebarrow, to take a look at the clouds racing past. I went via the Coronation path because I knew that would take me past the Snowdrops which featured at the top of the post.

From time to time, new paths seem to appear in Eaves Wood, a reflection, I suppose, of how many people regularly walk there. Whenever I walk past one, I wonder where it goes and resolve that, next time I’m out, I’ll find out. On Saturday I finally acted on that impulse. The first path I followed cut a corner between two paths which I know well. Even so, I felt very pleased to have taken it and I’ve been back and walked it again since.

From Castlebarrow I followed the path along the northern edge of Eaves Wood, beside the wall which marks the boundary between Lancashire and Cumbria. I met a couple walking their dog, who emerged from the trees at the side of the path. Looking back from where they’d come I thought I could detect the thinnest of thin trods, a hint of a path. Naturally, I followed it and it brought me to a drystone wall, in a spot where an old ants’ nest against the wall made it easy to scramble over. It was evident that people had climbed the wall here. I could see that just beyond the wall was the rim of Middlebarrow Quarry…

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Silverdale Moss, Scout Hill and Farleton Fell from Middlebarrow.

The quarry is huge, but is well concealed from most directions. Again, I thought I could see a path heading along the edge of the quarry. In all the years I’ve been here I’ve never walked around it. It is private land, but it’s not a working quarry anymore and I can’t see what harm could be done by wandering around. So I did.

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Middlebarrow pano. Click on it to see enlarged version.

The path turned out to be a bit sketchy in places. And it was easy to lose where there was limestone pavement…

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Some of the pavements were coated in moss, others had grass growing over them, which made it hard to see the grykes.

True to form, the weather threw everything at me: rain, sleet, hail, but odd moments of sunshine too.

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There’s a ninety metre contour somewhere around the rim of the quarry, making it the highest point on the limestone hill on which Eaves Wood sits. It’s certainly a good view point for Silverdale Moss and I shall be back here again.

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Whitbarrow catching the sun.

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I took this photo in an attempt to show the heavy snow which was falling. You’ll have to take my word for it.

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And this one to show the state of many of the paths after the wet weather we’ve endured.

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By the time I was leaving the woods, the snow had stopped again.

I timed my walk to arrive back to watch England squeak past Wales in the rugby by the finest of margins.

Then I was out again. Since it was still cloudy, and I knew I was too late for the sunset, I only took my ‘new’ phone with me and not my camera.

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I never learn!

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The colours were subtle, pastel shades, but very pleasant none-the-less.

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Always good to finish a day (and a post) with a colourful sunset, if you can.

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Middlebarrow in Every Kind of Weather.

Return to Crummack Dale

Austwick – Flascoe Bridge – Oxenber Wood – Wharfe Wood – Wharfe – Moughton Whetstone Hole – Moughton Scars – Beggar’s Stile – Crummack – Norber Sike – Austwick.

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Ingleborough and Moughton from Oxenber Wood.

A walk with our friends M and S (seniority has had to give way to propriety here). They live on the edge of the Lakes and haven’t explored the Dales much, I was anxious to take the rest of the family to see Crummack Dale, the forecast was good, so all-in-all, this walk seemed ideal.

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Heading down towards Higher Bark House (we would soon turn left). Moughton Scar and Pen-y-ghent beyond.

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Red Admiral.

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Waterfall on Wharfe Gill Sike (another Lune tributary).

The kids were chatting away, somewhat ahead of the adults – we were talking about Ash dieback, I’m not sure what was keeping them occupied – when I noticed that they’d all stopped and looked rather hesitant. Here’s why…

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….fortunately, he didn’t seem very bothered by our presence.

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Wharfe.

One reason for choosing to repeat a walk very similar to one I’d only recently done was my anticipation of plentiful Raspberries on the track out of Wharfe. Everyone tucked in, but nobody seemed to relish them quite as much as me, and I got left well behind.

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Bridge over Austwick Beck.

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A ford on the path. This small stream, between Studrigg and Hunterstye, unnamed on the OS map, is another Lune tributary.

After his foraging lesson in North Wales, Little S recognised the leaves of Sorrel on the path here and decided to educate the rest of the party.

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Knotgrass Caterpillar.

We weren’t the only one enjoying the Sorrel – almost inevitably it was B who spotted this colourful creepy-crawly.

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This stream flows from Moughton Whetstone Hole to join Austwick Beck and therefore is another source of the Lune. 

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Ingleborough from Moughton Scars.

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And again.

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Looking back along the scars, Pendle Hill in the distance.

Little S had bashed his leg against a bench by Austwick Beck and since then had been limping theatrically, whenever he remembered to, alternating legs from time to time. He loves hopping about on Limestone Pavements however and now underwent a remarkable recovery which enabled his foot-dragging pace to increase to a run.

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The view from just below Beggar’s Stile. Again, Pendle Hill on the horizon.

Although B is very adept at spotting wildlife, and his powers of observation are usually acute, they don’t always seem to function: when I pointed out Pendle Hill and asked him if he had noticed its bulk looming over the Scout Camp where he had spent the previous week he looked at me blankly.

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Roe Deer Buck – the sheep behind gives a good idea of their size: they aren’t very big.

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Heading back down to Austwick. The stream at the bottom is Norber Sike, you guessed it, another Lune Tributary! Obsessed? Who me?

Return to Crummack Dale

Summer’s Distillation

A late-evening, post-work wander in the Hawes Water and Gait Barrows area.

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Small Skipper.

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Common Restharrow and unidentified insect. Anyone?

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Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

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Wood Sage.

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After much deliberation I’ve decided that this is a Shaded Broad Bar Moth – it looks rather dull in my field guide, and perhaps in this photo, but was actually quite fetching with it’s range of different browns.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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There’s always something new to see – I spotted this plant and noticed that it wasn’t quite fitting in with the Betony growing nearby, being taller apart from anything else. It looked a little like a mint I thought, but the flowers were wrong. It smelled and tasted quite herby, but not minty. I’ve now realised that it is Wild Basil. (Sadly, not closely related to the garden variety).

You can perhaps tell from the light in the photos above that the sun was close to setting when I started my walk. After it had gone down, I diverted into the field between Challan Hall and Hawes Water. Down towards the lake I was watched by a Roe Deer…

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I think that this is a male, although it’s hard to see any antlers. The rut is due soon.

And beyond that, I could see another deer, this one accompanied by two fawns…

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Apparently twins are quite common. These young will have been born in May or June. Unusually, although Roe Deer mate in July or August, the fertilised eggs don’t develop for four months giving a very long gestation period and young which are born in spring rather than winter.

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Summer’s Distillation

Norber, Crummack Dale, Austwick Beck

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Oxenber Wood, from just above Austwick.

My post-work walking outings this year have been exceptional. So much so that I’m almost regretting the fact that work has come to an end for the summer*. This walk started on a sunny afternoon in Austwick, a picturesque village which, inexplicably, I completely neglected to photograph.

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Robin Proctor’s Scar and Nappa Scars.

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Robin Proctor’s Scar.

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Moughton Scar.

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Wheatear.

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Skylark. I think.

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Classic perched Norber Erratic.

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Skylark and Meadow Pipit – the Proper Birder told me that Skylark’s are larger!

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I spent quite a long time exploring the famous Norber Erratics, zig-zagging back and forth taking photographs of birds, boulders and the expanding views. I was pleased that the erratics were so clearly of a different rock than the underlying white limestone, having been mistaken about erratics before.

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I wasn’t expecting to stumble across a manhole cover. A caver’s dig?

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Seems likely. A quick google reveals that this is indeed a dig, an attempt to find an easier route into Nappa Scar Cave, which was itself discovered by a digging party in 2013.

The very white, highly-textured limestone, made for very distinctive drystone walls…

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View to a distant Pendle Hill.

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Pen-y-Ghent above Moughton Scars

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Ingleborough from Norber.

Unusually, this post has no photographs of butterflies, although I did see quite a number of Small Heaths in the grassy areas between the Limestone Pavements and some Red Admirals later on.

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Pen-y-Ghent across the head of Crummack Dale.

Crummack Dale is surrounded on all sides by limestone scars and at it’s northern end by two sets of cliffs with a large area of limestone pavement in between. I’ve camped near Austwick on several occasions in the past and feel that I must have been this way before, but, then again, if I have then surely I would remember: this is truly breath-taking scenery. To me it compared with seeing High-Cup Nick or Malham Scar for the first time. My photos totally fail to do justice to it, but perhaps that explains why it isn’t as well known as it might otherwise be – it is difficult to capture the grandeur of this scenery in a photo.

This photo…

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…was taken at Sulber Gate. Next time I’m in this area I intend to sit here and make a brew and eat a lengthy picnic whilst I enjoy this view.

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Panorama, click on the photo (or any other) to see a larger version on Flickr.

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Thieves Moss.

I was a bit surprised to discover that this area, in amongst all of this limestone, is genuinely a moss, that is wet and boggy, with Bog Asphodel and Cotton Grass and a few acid-loving plants you might not expect to see hereabouts.

I wouldn’t normally include a picture of a stile…

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…but this is named on the map: it’s the Beggar’s Stile. A path continues from here along the edges of Moughton Scars and I must come back to try that path sometime soon, but on this occasion I wanted to drop down into Crummack Dale.

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To seek out another tributary of the Lune, Austwick Beck, which is the dark line in the middle of the photo below…

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And which flows out of a cave mouth, which was unfortunately rather difficult to photograph because the sun was just above the horizon, making the light difficult.

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Austwick Beck Head.

To the east…

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…another stream flows down to join Austwick Beck from a spring at Moughton Whetstone Hole, somewhere else I shall have to come back to explore another time.

The Limestone Pavements had been busy with Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. This wall was  host to several families of Wheatears, juveniles and adults alike, all perching on the crest of the wall, or the wire, or the fence posts…

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Juvenile Wheatears.

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Crummack.

As I approached Crummack I could near a Buzzard calling from the crags off to the right. I scanned in vain, but couldn’t pick it out, until it flew away from the crag and apparently straight for me. It made a bee-line, but then veered off when it was about half-way between me and the crag, landing in the trees surrounding the farm at Crummack. I wondered whether the apparent flight in my direction was just a coincidence and continued to check the trees trying to spot the bird. I couldn’t see it, but could still hear it calling and then I noticed a second, larger Buzzard, presumably the female, heading up the valley towards the trees.

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When I lost sight of this second Buzzard, I wandered a bit further down the valley, but stopped again a little way on to admire the view. The smaller Buzzard, the male, now made a second flight, arrow-straight and unmistakably heading directly for me, this time leaving it much later to veer off and return to the trees. This was nothing like the close shave I had in the past, but I definitely felt like I was being warned off. I did get a photo of the male, just as it changed course, but it is disappointingly blurred.

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Part of the reason I’d stopped was to consult my map in order to amend my route. The western side of the valley was now in deep shade, so I opted to take the track across the dale towards Studrigg Scar.

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Clapper bridge over Austwick Beck.

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The track on the far side of the valley turned out to be a narrow affair, slightly overgrown and overrun with flies. It might have been a disappointment, given how shady it was, but for the fact that many of the verdant plants hanging over the path were canes loaded with Raspberries.

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Most weren’t ripe, but there were still more then enough for me, and they were delicious. I don’t think I’ve seen such a fine crop of wild raspberries since I was walking in the Black Forest something like 30 years ago.

From the tiny hamlet of Wharfe, rather than heading straight back to Austwick, I crossed this little brook…

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…cheerful with Monkeyflowers….

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…then over Wharfe Gill Sike and round the hillside under Wharfe Wood and Oxenber Wood (more places to come back to explore). I had hoped that I could chase the sunshine up the hillside, but it was much faster than me and I finished the walk in shade, although I could see that the sun was shining still on the slopes of the hills above Bentham.

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Flascoe Bridge and Austwick Beck.

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The final section of path had a fine display of the tall and showy Giant Bellflower, though it was getting a bit dark to take photos. This has appeared here on the blog before, but I’m much more confident about my identification this time, partly because ‘The Wild Flower Key’ is excellent, especially now that I am beginning to know my way around it a bit, but also because there are several very detailed wildflower plant websites available now.

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Norber, Crummack Dale, Austwick Beck

A Culture Is No Better Than Its Woods

Or: Another Rant with Photographs. 

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Okay, back to the same October weekend which provided the photos for the last post. I do remember the weekend a little better then I’ve been letting on. The weather was very fine, so, around the usual commitment of ferrying our children to various sporting activities, I also dragged them out for a couple of strolls.

Why just me? Were TBH and I not on speaking terms? It wasn’t that: she was staggering under an impossible burden of marking. Hardly surprising: she always is. I mention this today, because it’s hard to bite your tongue when Sir Michael Wilshaw has hit the headlines once again:

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, will raise concerns over poor leadership, “indifferent” teaching and a culture in which “misbehaviour goes unchallenged”.

from the Torygraph website.

Headteachers are now so terrified of Ofsted that a culture exists in many schools in which anybody working less than a 168 hour week is seen to be slacking. Ho-hum. I heard our esteemed Chief Inspector interviewed on The Today programme this morning and he claimed that he wants to attract ‘better’ candidates into teaching. Clearly, one sure-fire way to do that is to continually denigrate the profession in the national media. Ho-hum again.

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Anyway. Back to more pleasant memories. It was a beautiful afternoon: warm, sunny, with plenty of autumn colour, and a plethora of nuts, berries and fungi to keep a curious eye occupied.

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Our route was one we don’t chose very frequently – off Moss Lane and into the open fields of Gait Barrows.

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I think I wanted to revisit this tall wilding-apple, which we’d called upon only the weekend before with our visiting friends.

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If anything, there were even more windfall apples this time.

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Although, they were generally looking a bit scabby now and had a very tart and bitter taste.

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From there we headed up onto the limestone pavement, which in autumn sunshine is a superb place to be.

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Guelder Rose

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I’m sure that photographs of this cairn have appeared on this blog before, along with lots of other wittering about Gait Barrows and what a wonderful place it is. I’m not sure that I’ve ever posted a link to this Natural England webpage though, where you can download a 21 page pdf which has maps and details about the reserve.

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I shan’t apologise for repeating myself however: it is a wonderful place. What’s more its ours – publically owned. Very precious that, at a time when politicians of every stripe seem to be neo-cons and are either dogmatically opposed to public ownership or, at best, too embarrassed to offer open support to the idea that some things might be done best collectively, by cooperation, rather than by the operation of a marketplace.

You’ll be aware that this government’s attempt to sell off our publicly owned forests in 2011 was scuppered by the strength of public feeling. But did you know that, as I understand it, the non-descript sounding ‘Infrastructure Bill’, currently getting its second reading in the Commons, contains clauses which will make it very easy for future governments to sell public land and assets unopposed.

The bill would permit land to be transferred directly from arms-length bodies to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). This would reduce bureaucracy, manage land more effectively, and get more homes built. 

from www.gov.uk

Does that sound like a chilling threat to you? It does to me.

You can find what George Monbiot had to say, writing in the Guardian, about the bill, during its first reading, here.

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Meanwhile, back at Gait Barrows, the light was low-angled and lovely, and I was taking photos like a man possessed.

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Now here, now there, some loosened element,
A fruit in vigor or a dying leaf,
Utters its private idiom for descent,
And late man, listening through his latter grief,
Hears, close or far, the oldest of his joys,
Exactly as it was, the water noise.

from Bucolics, II: Woods by W.H. Auden

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This post’s title too is harvested from Woods. It would make a great exam question wouldn’t it?

“A culture is no better than its woods.” Discuss.

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I’m not sure that bodes too well for English culture, since we’ve very successfully decimated our woods and have so very little natural woodland left. Perhaps that’s what Auden was driving at.

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Auden was one of the four poets I studied for my O-Level English exam, along with Betjeman, Owen and R.S.Thomas. I don’t remember reading this particular poem however – I was alerted to its existence thanks to Solitary Walker and his new poetry discussion blog, The Hidden Waterfall.

You can find the entire poem here.

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This couplet is also rather wonderful:

The trees encountered on a country stroll
Reveal a lot about a country’s soul.

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I have to confess that we didn’t realise that we were in the business of investigating the health of the nation’s soul. We just thought we were enjoying some fresh air, some sunshine, some good company and some fine views.

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A Culture Is No Better Than Its Woods

The Caves of Ribblehead

So, here I was, back at Ribblehead, with a bit of time on my hands, clear blue sky overhead and wall to wall sunshine spreading its munificence to one and all. And when I say ‘one and all’, I do so advisedly, because, in stark contrast to how quiet it had been at seven thirty, Ribblehead was now thronged with people.

I had ‘Walks in Limestone Country’ in my pack: I had a bit of a shufti at that and decided that Walk 22: The Caves of Ribblehead, or at least part of it, was just what was required.

This is one of several entrances to Roger Kirk cave.

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I didn’t venture into this one, and now that I’ve read a little more about it*, I’m happy with that decision.

(*If you’re thinking of poking around in these caves, you’ll need a more knowledgeable and comprehensive guide. Fortunately, there’s one available here, and a very interesting read it is too.)

The caves in this first section of Wainwright’s walk are all close to Runscar (the OS map has Runscar Scar but that sounds awful, a tautological nightmare like Windermere Lake or Torpenhow Hill)

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Runscar’s clean white rocks add interest to what otherwise might be a rather bleak stretch of moorland.

I couldn’t find all of the cave entrances which Wainwright mentions, but, disconcertingly, found some that he doesn’t mention. Both Thistle Cave and Runscar Cave have upper and lower sections. I didn’t find the top entrance to Thistle, but I had a good poke around in Runscar Cave. Which was most enjoyable.

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Then I was across the limestone pavement (Penyghent in the background)….

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…and heading towards the upper branches of a tree apparently emerging at ground level from the otherwise tree-less moor. The tree is a good marker for Cuddy Gill Pot…

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You can scramble down into the bottom of the pot, pausing on route to enjoy a marvellous display of primroses…

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At the bottom, Cuddy Gill appears from under a low lintel of rock and almost immediately disappears beneath another. In the bright sunshine it was hard not to notice that some of the rock had tiny, shiny crystals catching the light and sparkling. What would these be in sedimentary rock? (A geologist’s opinion required please. Amateurs welcome. Actually, almost any opinion welcome – keep it clean however, this is a family show.)

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Not far from the pothole, and upstream, is Cuddy Gill Cave, which also has a number of entrances. I had a bit of a look in there, but it’s narrower and the rocks are sharp edged, and to my mind, worth a look, but not as satisfactory as Runscar Cave.

Here’s Penyghent again…..

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…because, well….why not?

Turning back towards the car I came across this resurgence, which I now know is Runscar Cave again.

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I went in a little way, but when it looked like I might need to use my knees, decided that shorts are not the best attire for caving and left it at that.

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Must go back and have a more thorough gander sometime.

I’d seen this tight cave entrance under a small bluff on my way out, but a lady with two dogs was sat nearby eating her lunch and it seemed rude to interrupt. I crawled a small way into it now, but, not knowing what I was letting myself in for, thought better of it. In fact this is the exit for the top section of Thistle Cave.

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As I say, I shall definitely have to come back and follow through the top sections of Thistle and Runscar Caves as Stephen describes on A Three Peaks Up and Under:

A Rabbit Round Ribblehead

The Caves of Ribblehead

Gait Barrows Puzzles

On the Sunday after our picnic, there was a sheep-dog trial on in the field behind our house. (Photos of a previous trial are here if that floats your boat.) Our house is separated from the field by a sort of ha-ha wall topped with both a hedge and a fence. Somehow however, our friend E, whose Dad organises the trials, came through a ‘gap’ to play with B. I’d planned to take B to Haweswater, hoping that he might have a chance to see some lizards – E was happy to join us, so we all went.

When we arrived on the boardwalks, we were a little too early: the sun had yet to climb high enough over the trees to warm the boards and there were no lizards to be seen. B expressed a desire to go to the ‘limestone place’ so we agreed to have a wander around Gait Barrows and then return, hopefully to find our quarry.

We followed a high hedgerow, vying with each other to be the first to spot the many dragonflies that were hunting around the hedge. Unlike the darters I had photographed earlier in the week, which settle on a perch for much of the time, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on passing insect prey, these were hawkers which stay on the wing for much longer and so are much harder to photograph. Fortunately, E spotted this one apparently taking a rest…

Dragonfly - migrant hawker?

I suspect that this is a male migrant hawker, the small yellow triangle at the front of the abdomen is distinctive apparently. My field guide has  a map which shows the distribution of this species extending from the South West below a line which runs roughly from the Bristol Channel to the Humber, which would mean that I wouldn’t see them in Lancashire, but a quick search reveals that they are now regularly found further north in Cumbria, especially close to the coast.

The boys were great company. I like to walk and gawp, but they were even slower than me – they not only wanted to stop to look, they were also keen to have hands on experience. Here…

What do you reckon that is then? 

…I think that they were investigating a puddle, possibly releasing a toad they had caught into the puddle in the (possibly mistaken) believe that it would be happier there than elsewhere in the field.

Exploring the limestone pavements, Gait Barrows 

The limestone pavements were a huge hit and in fact after we had explored for a while, they were reluctant to leave. I resigned myself to admiring the views, near and far, for a little longer.

View from the top 

Eaves Wood and Arnside Knott.

Guelder Rose berries 

Guelder-rose berries.

Isn't water great? 

Meanwhile they had found some little rock-pools and were enjoying playing with the water.

We found a few curiosities which had us stumped, at least for a while. These tiny delicate stars…

Old biting stonecrop flowers

…had me thinking that I had found a species of flower which was new to me. It was only when I looked at the photos at home that I realised that I was being fooled again by biting stonecrop – these white husks being the remnants of the yellow flowers. (This is the where and when and why of how they puzzled me earlier this year)

One of the puddles…

What? 

…was full of these rather unpleasant looking balls.

Any ideas? 

It occurs to me now that maybe they were rabbit-droppings washed here by rain, but if anyone knows better….?

When I thought that I had persuaded the boys to head back towards Haweswater and ultimately home and lunch, they discovered, on the path by the limestone pavement, lots of dark stones (“Gemstones Dad – we’re rich!”) with which they proceeded to fill their pockets, and would have filled mine had I let them.

Another puzzle 

Some were greeny-black…

Greeny black stone 

Some were rough and pitted…

Pitted stone 

And some were shiny, smooth and black…

Shiney black stone 

What they are, and why they can be found here amongst the limestone I don’t know.

Halved hazelnut shells.

We also saw many heaps of empty hazelnut shells, some of them quite sizeable. According to ‘The Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs’ shells which have been spilt in half like this, rather then gnawed through, are the work of squirrels.

Eventually I managed to coax the boys back to the boardwalk, by which time the sun was lighting the boardwalk and there were a few common lizards about again. Marvellous.

Gait Barrows Puzzles