Elderflower Foraging

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Eaves Wood

Well – that answers one question: the hay was yet to be cut. TBH had been making elderflower cordial, but wanted to try a new recipe (spoiler alert – it’s very nice) and asked if I could bring back 40 heads of elderflower. No problem, I said, there’s loads at Gait Barrows.

I took a circuitous route to Gait Barrows – calling in first at Lambert’s Meadow, Myer’s Allotment and Trowbarrow Quarry.

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I can’t identify this tiny fly, but I was quite taken by its orange speckled wings.

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Volucella pellucens – a striking hoverfly, the larvae of which live in wasps nests as scavengers. Even wasps get pestered in their homes: a comforting thought somehow.

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I’ve been thinking that I really must make more of an effort with grasses and the like, but now I’m looking at a page of sedges which look, to my untutored eye, practically identical. This is one of them, I think, maybe Glaucous Sedge? This is the female spike – pretty striking I thought.

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Another sedge perhaps, maybe one of the many yellow sedges?

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Azure damselfly.

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Another hoverfly.

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I thought taking photos of our wild roses might likewise encourage me to begin trying to distinguish between them, but I clearly need to make notes about the leaves and the thorns and the colour of the stems and I’m probably too lazy to do that. Having said that, since Dog Roses are usually pink, I shall assume that this is a Field Rose.

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A cowslip which has gone to seed.

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Oedemera lurida – the larger green insect on the right.

The flower here is one of those yellow daisies over which I have so much difficulty. I’ve been reading, and enjoying, ‘Chasing The Ghost’ by Peter Marren. It’s subtitled ‘My search for all the wild flowers of Britain’. Except, it turns out that actually it’s his search for the last fifty species he hasn’t seen. Excluding all of the ‘casuals’ – non-native plants which have self-seeded from a garden, or from bird-food or somesuch. And he isn’t going to try to see the many sub-species of dog-rose or whitebeam because they are too numerous and too troublesome to tell apart. Likewise the hawkweeds, of which, apparently, 415 subspecies have been identified. So far. Peter Marren is a Proper Botanist, and he needs expert help. Another comforting thought.

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Yellow Rattle – gone to seed and now showing the ‘rattles’ – the pods in which the seeds literally do rattle. 

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Common Blue butterfly.

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Oedemera lurida again, this time on Mouse-ear-hawkweed, a yellow daisy which has the decency to be easy to identify.

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Unidentified (solitary?) bee on unidentified flower.

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The view from the bench at Myer’s Allotment over the meres of Leighton Moss. 

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Tutsan. 

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Tutsan, from the French toute-saine meaning all healthy. Herbalists laid the leaves over wounds and apparently it does have antiseptic properties. Tutsan has a reputation for inducing chastity: allegedly, men should drink infusions made from the plant, and women should spread twigs below their beds.

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The leaves, when dried, are reputed to smell like ambergris and so it is also called Sweet Amber. Ambergris, known in China as ‘dragon’s spittle fragrance’, is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish colour produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or excreted by sperm whales. I remember a dog-walker found some on Morecambe beach year or two ago and sold it for thousands; tens-of-thousands even. It must be true, I read it in a tabloid.

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We have quite a bit of it in our garden. Tutsan that is, not ambergris. It’s a weed I suppose, but a beautiful plant which is interesting year round; the berries go from yellow through red to black. It seems that hoverflies like it just as much as I do!

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The Trough.

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Trowbarrow quarry – there were quite a few people climbing.

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Maybe I should have asked them to fetch me down some elderflowers?

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I couldn’t resist another visit to the Bee Orchids…

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…to try to catch them whilst the sun was shining on them…

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A Gait Barrows view.

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An unusually tall and prolifically flowered Elder. Most of the flowers would have been out of reach, but I didn’t even try, so confident was I that I knew of a plentiful supply of Elder up on the limestone pavement.

There were plenty of other distractions in the grykes up on the pavement. For instance, now that it has just about finished flowering, I spotted several more patches of Angular Solomon’s-seal…

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Tutsan grows in the grykes too, but the red leaves are a sign that it is not exactly flourishing, presumably with little soil or water to thrive on.

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Bloody crane’s-bill.

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Eye bright.

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Field Rose?

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Female Large Skipper. (Large compared to a Small Skipper, but still quite diminutive).

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I watched this bird circling far overhead. Everything about it – size, shape, the way it flew – convinced me that it was a raptor, but if it was I now can’t pin it down to any particular species. I thought it might be another Peregrine, but I can’t see any sign of the moustaches a grey, male Peregrine might show in any of my, admittedly rather poor, photos.

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When I arrived at the spot where I was convinced I would find an abundance of elderflower, I found two stunted shrubs growing from grykes – each with a handful of unopened  flowers, neither use nor ornament for making cordial I assumed.

I eventually found another area of pavement, with a handful of small specimens, which did have almost enough flowers for our purposes.

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With those stowed away in my rucksack, I headed home via Hawes Water. On the disturbed ground there, after last year’s work, there were several tall Mullein plants growing…

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I had to have a closer look because the leaves often have interesting residents. This isn’t what I was expecting however…

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A pair of mating Green Shield Bugs!

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Green Shield Bugs live on the sap of a variety of plants. I didn’t realise that they used to be confined to the south of the country, but have been progressing steadily northward with climate change.

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Best not to pick up Shield Bugs since they can release a noxious smelly liquid, giving them their alternative name of ‘Stink Bugs’.

Incidentally, I picked up my copy of ‘Bugs Britannica’ to see what it had to say about Shield Bugs and discovered that it was co-written by Richard Mabey and Peter Marren. I think mainly by Peter Marren, because I believe that was when Richard Mabey was suffering from the depression which he would go on to write about in ‘Nature Cure’.

Mr Marren is, it seems, a pan-lister, a phenomena which he discusses in ‘Chasing the Ghost’: pan-listers are spotters who are like twitchers on steroids – they have tick-lists for all living things larger than bacteria apparently – fungi, plants, insects, birds, slime-moulds, lichens, etc. Even in the UK that’s tens of thousands of species.

It occurred to me that I might fit into that bracket, except I’m much too lazy. I don’t keep lists and I only very rarely travel to see something in particular. Although, I’ve always enjoyed myself on the few occasions that I have done that – I’m thinking of the saxifrage on Pen-y-Ghent or the gentians in Teesdale.

Anyway, what I was actually on the look-out for were caterpillars of the Mullein Moth…

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Once you get close, they are quite hard to miss!

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Years ago, when we lived on The Row, some Mullein appeared in our garden and, although I suppose they are weeds, they’re large and quite striking, so we left them to flower. Then the voracious caterpillars appeared and completely stripped the plants of leaves and flowers.

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Bird’s-eye Primrose.

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When I reached the meadows near Challan Hall, I realised that there were perhaps a dozen Elder trees here, all of them plastered with blossom.

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I didn’t need much more, but I cam back a day or two later to discover that the trees were mostly on steep banks, leaving most of the flowers out of reach, and even where they weren’t, the trees were well protected by an understorey of brambles and nettles.

The cordial is well worth it though.

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The verge of the railway line had a fine display of Oxeye Daisies.

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This should have been my first stop for elderflowers – a small elder growing behind our garage.

Elderflower Foraging

Nuthatches and Butterflies

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One route into Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve leaves Red Bridge Lane, crosses a small field and then the railway line and then you are into another field, but this one s part of the reserve. Cross that field and you come to a gate in a hedge beside which stands this big old Ash tree.

As I approached the tree, I could see, on the trunk, an adult Nuthatch passing food to a fledgling. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo, but then watched the pair for quite a while, taking lots of, mostly unsatisfactory, pictures.

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Both birds were on the move, but more so the adult which moved both faster and more widely around the tree. The youngster seemed to be foraging for itself, whilst also emitting high-pitched squeals to encourage the parent to keep it supplied with tasty grubs. Their meetings were so brief that this is the only one I captured, and even then the exchange of food had already happened here.

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This is the juvenile. I’m sure of that fact, but can’t really put my finger on why I’m so confident. I suppose, like a lot of juveniles, it’s a little smaller and dumpier, its colours slightly duller. I think the eye-stripe is shorter and not quite so bold. Looking for some confirmation in my bird books, I came across a distribution map, from a book published in 1988, which shows Nuthatches as absent from this area and only resident further south. I’m quite surprised by that, because when I moved to this area, just a few years after that publication date, one of the first things that struck me was how often I spotted Nuthatches, a bird which, until then, I had only seen relatively infrequently. I see that the RSPB website has a map which shows that they have subsequently extended their range into southern Scotland.

There was a Starling flitting in and out of the tree too and a Kestrel hovering above the field beyond.

Once I was into the woods near Hawes Water I watched several more Nuthatches. All adult birds I think, but all equally busy and perhaps seeking food for nestlings or fledglings too. I took lots more photos, but in the woods there was even more shade than there had been under the Ash and they’re all slightly blurred.

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Common Blue Damselfly

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The flowers of Common Gromwell are hardly showy, but they have succeeded in attracting this very dark bee…

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…at least it’s a bee, but it’s colouring doesn’t quite seem to match any Bumblebee, so I’m a bit puzzled. Any ideas?

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A crow by Hawes Water.

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In the meadow beyond Hawes Water I was very pleased to spot a single Northern Marsh-orchid.

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Hawes Water.

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I assume that this is a day-flying moth. There were loads of them in the meadow, obvious in flight, but then apparently disappearing. I realised that they were folding their wings and hugging grass stems and were then very difficult to spot. I have two photos of this specimen and both seem to show that its head is a tiny hairy outside broadcast microphone, which seems a bit unlikely.

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There are huge warrens and large numbers of rabbits at Gait Barrows. Every now and again, you see a black rabbit in amongst the crowds; a genetic remnant of an escaped domestic pet?

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I think that this is a female Northern Damselfly, and am now wondering if the ‘Red-eyed’ damselflies I posted pictures of recently were the same. Maybe.

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With more certainty, this is a Northern Brown Argus. I’ve pored over this guide, and for once, the ocelli seem to exactly match, making me feel more confident than usual.

Anyway, what ever species it is it looked pretty cool with its wings closed and even better…

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…with them open. In most guides these are brown and orange butterflies; I suspect that the rich variety of colours on display here is due to the deterioration of the scales on the wings, but, truth be told, I don’t really know.

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There were several Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries around. Two in particular kept me entertained for quite some time.

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One soon decided to settle down and tried out a few likely looking perches, without moving very far.

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The other was flitting about far more, now close by…

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…then ranging a bit further, then back again. I thought the first had chosen a final spot, although, looking again, you can see that it’s feeding here…

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…not that I can see a flower. Maybe drinking?

The second SPBF was still haring about…

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Every now and again it would ‘bounce’ the settled butterfly, which at first would provoke a brief flight, then progressively less energetic wing-flapping until almost no response followed; just a short of dismissive shrug.

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Eventually, the second butterfly found a perch and stopped moving too. I’ve watched a SPBF do this in the late afternoon once before. I didn’t realise that was so long ago!

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Late afternoon light on Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

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Distant Lakeland peaks on the horizon.

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A late finish.

Nuthatches and Butterflies

Home from Milnthorpe

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The River Bela and Whitbarrow Scar.

After our swim, A had to get home, I forget why now, but I was in no hurry, so asked TBH to drop me off in Milnthorpe, so that I could walk back. I followed the River Bela through Dallam Deer Park and out towards it’s confluence with the Kent. The path then picks up the embankment of the old Arnside branch line, rejoining the road near the ‘orchid triangle’ at Sandside, a small section of roadside verge renowned for the orchids which appear there, not that I could find any on this occasion.

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Common Blue butterfly on unopened Oxeye Daisy.

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Oxeye Daisy.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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When I photographed this flower, I didn’t photograph the leaves; I suspect that I was confident that I knew what I was looking at and, probably, that this was Common Bistort. However, the rounded flower looks more like Amphibious Bistort, a curious plant in that it has two different forms – one adapted to grow on land and the other which grows in water.

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After a lengthy period of dereliction, the Quarry Warehouse was restored as offices several years ago. It stands next to an enormous double limekiln and I wondered whether its presence here was due to the Furness railway line which came right past, but apparently it substantially predates the railway line…

The earliest reference to the warehouse is in a document from 1778 in the form of a lease for 99 years from Daniel Wilson to John Wakefield of Kendal, a shearmandyer. The document is for the lease of a warehouse at Sandside for ‘£5 15s and 10d yearly’. John Wakefield was listed in Bailey’s Northern Directory (1781) as a merchant and manufacturer, and again in 1790 ‘Wakefield, John and Sons’ were still listed as merchants in Milnthorpe.

Source

It’s amazing what a little lazy internet research can throw up isn’t it? I was intrigued by the word ‘shearmandyer’: another search led to lots of references to former residents of Kendal, so perhaps it was a very local term. I presume it refers to someone involved in the wool trade. John Wakefield has a short wikipedia entry. He was quite the entrepreneur: he owned a cotton mill in Burneside, a brewery in Kendal, set-up a bank, invested in a turnpike and owned five ships trading between Liverpool and the West Indies, taking Kendal cotton out and returning with sugar. Strange to think that the cotton was almost returning to where it had presumably come from. He also ran the Gatebeck Gunpowder Mill near Endmoor, for which he was censured at a meeting of his fellow Kendal Quakers.

Milnthorpe itself was once a port, which seems very unlikely now, but the building of the railway viaduct significantly changed the estuary. The Quarry Warehouse apparently once had its own wharf.

Anyway, back to my walk, I’d come this way to try to find a path around the western edge of Sandside Quarry, which Conrad had written about. This is it…

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I was very pleased to find a route close to home which I’d never walked before.

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Yellow Pimpernel.

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Sandside Quarry. Still a working quarry, unlike the many others in the area.

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Limestone pavement.

I had intended to go to the top of Haverbrack to enjoy the splendid view of the estuary from there, but it now occurred to me that I still had quiet a way to go and that it was hot and I didn’t have a drink with me, again, so I decided to head fairly directly home via Beetham Fell and its Fairy Steps…

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…down to Hazelslack Farm and then along the side of Silverdale Moss to Hawes Water and home from there.

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Buzzard.

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Painted Lady – I haven’t seen many this year so far, after a bumper summer last year.

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On the verge of the lane from Hazelslack Farm I enjoyed this mixture of Crosswort and Forget-me-nots. I was confused by the white flowers in amongst the blue until I realised that they too were Forget-me-nots which had faded in the sun.

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I think that this is a Mistle Thrush, rather than a Song Thrush, but that’s because of the ‘jizz’ of the bird on the day rather than anything specific I can pick out on this photo.

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Squirrel in the woods near Hawes Water.

Home from Milnthorpe

Firsts

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I swear, these magpies were sunbathing. I’d barely left the house, and was heading into the ginnel which would take me to Town’sfield and there they were, sunning themselves on the wall. It was then that I realised that I’d left my camera’s battery and memory card at home. But even after I’d been back to retrieve them, the magpies were still chilling out on the wall.

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Naively, I thought this large and distinctive beetle might be easy to identify. But no. I think that it’s probably a member of the Silphidae family, but beyond that, I can’t decide. On the plus side, I did discover the excellent UK Beetles website and have just spent a half hour or so reading about beetles which bury dead birds and others which prey on snails.

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There’s a fair few insects in this post, some of them difficult to identify; not so this one…

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…my first dragonfly of this summer and my first ever Four-spotted Chaser. The British Dragonfly Society website tells me that this species is common throughout the UK, so I’m not sure how they have eluded me for so long.

Of course, once I’d seen one, I spotted another about five minutes later…

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…and I’ve seen more since.

There were lots of damselflies about too. They’re a bit tricky to distinguish between, but I think that these first two…

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..are Small Red-eyed Damselflies. Their eyes are not as vividly red as I would expect, but then again, they definitely aren’t blue either and they have anti-humeral stripes on their thoraxes which aren’t present in the very similar Red-eyed Damselfly.

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This is another first, in a way, because I have seen this species before, but never in this area.

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One principal way to recognise blue damselflies, of which there are several species, is by the mark on the second segment of their abdomen. By that token, I think that this is a female Variable Damselfly, another first for me.

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And, finally, this is a more familiar Common Blue Damselfly, again, identified by the shape of the mark on the second segment.

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I was struck by the rather face-like shape of this large limestone boulder.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that grasses, sedges and the like are impossible to get to grips with, for me at least. This is a sedge, a female flower and part of the male flower at the top of the stem. I wish I knew more. Possibly Green-ribbed Sedge? I thought the female flower was pretty striking.

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A Dingy Skipper.

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Hoverflies too are very difficult to figure out. It’s a shame; there are around 250 species in the UK and many of them are very striking, but also very similar to each other.

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This distinctive leaf beetle is Cryptocephalus bipunctatus, which is another first for me, not surprisingly, since it is scarce in the UK.

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I’ve photographed this dapper hoverfly before, but not been able to identify it, despite the striking shiny golden thorax. Now, I think I may have tracked it down; it is, perhaps, Platycheirus fulviventris. It’s a shame it didn’t open its wings, because, if I’m right, it also has a pleasing black and yellow pattern on its abdomen.

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Another Dingy Skipper on Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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I’d been wandering around Gait Barrows, making my way to the cordoned off area, hoping to see a Duke of Burgundy butterfly. I didn’t.

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But I did see this, which I think is a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

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I only hesitate because distinguishing this from the very similar Pearl-bordered Fritillary is best done by looking at the underside of the wings, but the sun shining through the wings here, nice though it is, has obscured some of the colours slightly.

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None-the-less, I am reasonably confident, especially looking again at this last photo.

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This looks like another place where fencing has been removed – or is this new material waiting to go up?

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What I think is a Dark Red Helleborine with nascent flowers, which have since been eaten.

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Gait Barrows Limestone Pavement.

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Bloody Crane’s-bill.

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Angular Solomon’s-seal.

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Cirrocumulus?

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Finally, on Moss Lane, some Alexanders. I’ve previously seen this growing in Cornwall and on the Yorkshire coast, but not here, so another first of a sort.

All of that in one walk and a good chat with a friend from the village I hadn’t seen for a while. How’s that?

Most of it was undertaken at snail’s pace. A bit like putting this post together! Both the walk and the research were highly enjoyable though.


Only one song springs to mind here…

Who was best Blur or Oasis?

Answer: Pulp.

Firsts

Songs of Solomon

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Gait Barrows Meadow.

My obsession with the Bay was at least partially superseded by a similar compulsion to keep paying return trips to Gait Barrows; partly in an attempt to spot the rare butterflies which can be seen there, but in the summer Gait Barrows has plenty of other attractions.

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Yellow rattle.

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Limestone pavement.

Although there are some large open areas of limestone pavement, much of it is wooded and then there are other areas which are partially wooded. It’s quite easy to get a bit lost wandering around in this terrain, and also quite scratched as you forge a route through the generally thorny scrub between adjacent islands of open pavement. Great fun to explore though.

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Azure damselfly.

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Dingy skipper.

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More limestone pavement.

I was looking for some particular plants known to grow in the grykes here, but I was also amazed by the sheer variety of plants which obviously thrive in this rather unpromising looking habitat. A wide selection of native trees and shrubs grow in the grykes and all sorts of flowers and ferns.

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Hart’s tongue fern.

Although I was hoping for butterflies, what I was actually looking for was this…

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Angular Solomon’s-seal.

Related to, but distinctly different from, Solomon’s-seal and rarer too. I hadn’t seen it before, but had seen photos the day before on Faceache, drawing attention to the fact that it was currently flowering in the grykes at Gait Barrows.

It’s an odd-name Solomon’s-seal isn’t it? I got to wondering what the connection might be between an Old Testament King (and poet) and this plant. My trusty ‘Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain’, has this…

No one knows for certain why Solomon’s-seal is so called. One explanation is that the circular scars on the underground rooting stem, left by the withered flowering shoots of previous years, resemble document seals. Another theory is that the name arose because of the medicinal value of the plant in ‘sealing’ wounds and broken bones. A poultice made from its powdered roots has also been used to cure black eyes and other bruises. The biblical King Solomon himself was traditionally said to have approved this use.

Meanwhile the marvellous ‘Wildflower Finder’ website adds:

Quinine has been discovered only recently to be a secondary metabolite of several Solomons Seals.

So there’s another potential medicinal use, but I should warn you, if you’re worried about malaria, that metabolising Solomon’s-seals is not advised since the plant is toxic.

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Elderflower.

A fortnight later, I remembered seeing elders in flower on the pavement at Gait barrows, but misremembered the details, so that when TBH wanted flowers to make cordial I was boasting that I knew where I could lay my hands on ‘loads’, a claim which transpired to be very wide of the mark. But more on that in a future post no doubt.

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Yet more limestone pavement.

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Dark red helleborine?

I’ve been fanatically returning, again and again, to three tiny plants which I think are dark red helleborine, trying to ensure that this year I actually see them when they are flowering, and not just after, which usually seems to be the case. Frustratingly, on each visit they don’t seem to have progressed at all, with no extra growth and no sign of flowers beyond a feathery stalk…

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…which, to add insult to injury, something has eaten since I took these pictures.

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Cinnabar moth.

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This path, away from the way-marked nature trail around the nature reserve, is one I’ve wanted to explore for years, I don’t know what it was that made me feel emboldened to go and explore on this occasion. I found that the areas around the path were cordoned off with signs explaining that this was to protect the Duke of Burgundy butterflies during the breeding season. These were exactly the butterflies that I’d come looking for, but I didn’t see any on this or any subsequent visit.

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A hoverfly – rhingia campestris. It’s not often I can identify a hoverfly with any degree of confidence, but this one has a prominent snout, just about visible in the photo.

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Unfurling bracken.

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Another dark red helleborine?

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Rodent – field mouse?

Most unusual to see rodents wandering about in broad daylight, but this was the second I’d seen that day and in both cases they didn’t just disappear, but scampered about, dipping into holes, but then reappearing again shortly.

During recent visits to Gait Barrows, I’ve seen tawny owls flying in broad daylight on four occasions, including twice today. I’ve also heard the owls calling, all of which seems unusual. I was never fast enough to get even a sniff of a photo, but it was wonderful to see them anyway. I guess there’s a nest there’s somewhere.


Following on from my last post, and perhaps appropriately for a post which, even obliquely, references the raunchy ‘Song of Solomon’, some versions of ‘Whole Lotta Love’.

First, the original:

Readers of a certain age will remember the Top of the Pops theme, recorded by Collective Consciousness Society, I know I do.

Whisper it, but I’m not especially fond of Tina Turner’s slow-burn cover, but I do like The Dynamics’ reggae version:

The version I’ve listened to most, over the years, is this one…

…by King Curtis and the Kingpins. Marvellous, especially the last 45 seconds or so.

The vocal delivery and lyrics on this song…

‘You Need Loving’ by the Small Faces, ‘influenced’ Robert Plant and because it was a cover of Muddy Waters ‘You Need Love’…

…written by the inestimable Willie Dixon, Dixon eventually got a writing credit on “Whole Lotta Love’. If you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. Now…Willie Dixon songs…..

Songs of Solomon

Mostly Flowers and Mother Shipton

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Solomon’s-seal in Eaves Wood.

A very elegant plant, Solomon’s-seal, even if the flowers are hardly spectacular. We have some in our garden. There is a garden variety, a hybrid of Solomon’s-seal and angular Solomon’s-seal. Apparently, the hybrid is more vigorous than either of the parent plants, which makes me think that what’s growing in both Eaves Wood and our garden is probably not the garden variety, since neither show much inclination to spread.

Just after I took this photo, I spotted a pair of roe deer, I even managed to take a couple of blurred photos, one of which, rather comically, only shows the hind quarters of one of the deer. I think I photographed the same pair on another walk a few days later; they were memorable because one was still in the dull grey-brown of it’s winter coat whereas the other had upgraded to the golden-brown summer coat.

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Every year a solitary sweet woodruff plant appears in the hedge bottom along the lane from home and I welcome it like the returning friend it is and wonder why I don’t see sweet woodruff elsewhere. This year I have found it in a couple of other places, most noticeably in Eaves Wood, where some trees have been cleared it has already spread over quite an area.

It was close to where the herb paris was now flowering…

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Silverweed.

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Crosswort.

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Mayflower – the hawthorns had come into bloom.

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Challan Hall.

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Bird’s-foot trefoil and germander speedwell complementing each other very nicely.

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Early forget-me-not. Perhaps. Minuscule flowers.

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Salad burnet.

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Mouse-ear-hawkweed.

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I’m very fond of mouse-ear-hawkweed, principally, I think, because it’s just about the only yellow-flowered member of the daisy family which is easily identified, due to it’s downy leaves which have silvery undersides. The flowers are also noticeably paler than some of the hawkbits which it might otherwise resemble.

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In the meadow by Challan Hall, I was very taken by the splash of blue provided by these germander speedwells. Not quite as breath-taking as the spring gentians I might have been visiting in Teesdale, if I’d felt a long drive to Teesdale was appropriate during lockdown, but not a bad substitute.

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Wild strawberry flowers.

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I wish I’d taken more care and had a few attempts to photograph this tiny-flowered plant in the woods by Hawes Water. I now think that it’s kidney saxifrage, a plant which is only native to Kerry and West Cork in Ireland, but which has been introduced in Britain.

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I think I dismissed it as a garden escapee and moved on too quickly to look at more familiar plants!

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Common gromwell – an architectural plant much more striking for its leaves than for its unremarkable flowers.

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It took a while to track this down, but I now think that it’s winter cress. It’s bitter and peppery apparently and the leaves appear in December – hence the name.

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This stream, unnamed on the OS map, flows through Little Hawes Water and into Hawes Water, then from Hawes Water through Hawes Water Moss, across the golf course and into Leighton Moss, so I suppose that ultimately it’s one of the sources of Quicksand Pool. The water was particularly clear so that I could see the three-spined stickleback.

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Silvery for most of the year but, in breeding season, male acquires red belly and bluish dorsal sheen.

Collins Complete British Wildlife.

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Tadpoles.

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Brooklime.

A plant generally of streams, although these weren’t growing in an obviously wet spot. The flowers are instantly recognisable as speedwell flowers, and brooklime belongs to the Veronica genus with the speedwells. The fleshy leaves are obviously different however. The full latin name is Veronica beccabunga with the species name beccabunga deriving from the German word ‘beck’ I read, but surely, that’s an English word too?

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Bird’s-eye primrose – a Hawes Water speciality, growing at the southern limit of its range.

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I read online (at a source which I found whilst looking for something else entirely, and which, annoyingly, I can’t currently find) that Hawes Water is a polje, a kind of deep lake particular to karst limestone areas. I know that it is deep and doesn’t freeze over in the winter, which means that, on the rare occasions that it gets very cold here, the surface of the lake can be thronged with waterfowl.

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One of a clump of cowslips all of which had many flowers.

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A newish bench.

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Jackdaws are generally gregarious birds, but when the rest of the clattering took to the wing, spooked by the interloper with the camera, this one decided to remain alone. In fact, coming towards me to pick out a titbit from the grass…

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And yes, clattering is the collective noun for jackdaws apparently. Or train.

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Bugle.

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Peacock butterfly.

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New oak leaves.

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Male large white butterfly on bluebells.

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Lily-of-the-valley leaves.

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Lily-of-the-valley flowers.

This…

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..is Ursula Southeil, better known as Mother Shipton, sixteenth century prophetess. She lives on today as a statue  and a visitor attraction in Knaresborough: you can visit the cave in which she was reputedly born.

She also lends her name to…

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…the Mother Shipton moth. I think you’ll see why.

It’s maybe a bit of a shame that this engagingly patterned moth is named after an unfortunate woman whose neighbours apparently called her hagface.

Initially, when this moth bounced past me, I got all a-flutter because I was looking for Duke of Burgundy butterflies. It was actually too early, I think, for them to be flying, and the Mother Shipton is completely the wrong colours, but I still got in a flap. Once I had my camera steady and pointed in the right direction I recognised the moth, because I’ve seen one once before, in the hills above Whinlatter.

I’ve been back to look for Duke of Burgundies since. Repeatedly. No luck. Again. But I have seen all sorts other interesting things, so not to worry. Next year!

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Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

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Song Thrush. I love the way they have to have absolutely the most prominent perch on offer to sing, like a real diva.

Since some of the trees were cleared from around Hawes Water you get tantalising views of the lake from the higher parts of Gait Barrows. I climbed this small edge..

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…to see if the lake was visible from there. It was, but it’s hard to pick it out in the photo…

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The slight gain in height gave an interesting new perspective on the limestone pavement though…

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Blackbird.

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I think that this might be a sedge warbler. I watched a pair of them seemingly endlessly circuiting between a dense bush and this ash tree, singing constantly. I can say, with some confidence that it is a warbler but not a chiff-chaff, because the song was wrong, but that’s as far as my confidence extends.

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Lots of bugle! This was by the stream again, but this time upstream of Little Hawes Water.

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Common carder bee, perhaps, on bugle.

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The reason photos of Little Hawes Water have never appeared on the blog is that it’s in there somewhere, or perhaps I should say that those trees are in Little Hawes Water, some of them at least, since trees grow in the pond.

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Dandelion clocks.


One of the first blues records I bought was a Howling Wolf compilation. What a choice: Smokestack Lightning, Back Door Man, Moaning at Midnight, Little Red Rooster, Killing Floor, 300 Pounds of Heavenly Joy and this…

It wasn’t until many years later that I heard this much, much older version by the Mississippi Sheiks…

And only last week that I stumbled upon Doc Watson’s rendition…

There are, of course, lots of other covers, by the Grateful Dead, Cream and Jack White for example.

But here’s a bluegrass version…

Mostly Flowers and Mother Shipton

Crummack Dale from Clapham

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Waterfall in Clapham Beck.

The forecast for the Sunday after our Gummer How stroll was truly dreadful. It did seem that things might improve in the afternoon though. We’d made plans to meet friends at Clapham, but now hastily rearranged them to put back the time of our rendezvous till midday. Even so, as we drove over it was raining cats and dogs and we were having serious doubts about the sanity of the whole idea. B had elected to forgo his usual Sunday ration of rugby and, after spending all morning at home whilst we consumed endless cups of tea and nattered, he must have been wondering about his choice. Fortunately, by the time we had gathered in the car park, the rain had stopped, at least temporarily.

Clapham is an attractive Dales village, but, as is often the case, I neglected to take any photos until we were well underway. The most direct route would have taken us along Clapdale Drive and past Ingleborough Show Cave, but we would have had to pay for that privilege,  so we opted to climb up the western side of the valley and follow the path to…

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…Clapdale Farm, before turning back toward the valley bottom.

Conditions were very damp and murky, but we could see that the sun was shining down in the valley behind us. Perhaps things would clear up after all?

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Thwaite Scars.

From there we climbed up Trow Gill, where again I didn’t take any photos, you can see some from my last visit here (it’s a long post with lots of photos, the Trow Gill ones are near the end and after those there are some of Clapdale Drive and even of Clapham itself).

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Trow Gill.

From the top of Trow Gill we climbed to meet a path which dropped down into the marvellously named Clapham Bottoms, stopping en route for lunch and/or a cup of tea in the rain.

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This group photo was taken at the lowest point before we began to climb again. For Uncle Fester (on the right here with B) this was a low point both figuratively and literally; he wasn’t feeling very well and had already decided to turn back to his car. He seemed convinced that the curry we’d shared the night before to celebrate TJF’s birthday was to blame, but if that was the case, it was odd that nobody else was feeling the same ill effects.

It was a shame that he had to turn back, because from that point on the weather did finally begin to improve.

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Pen-y-ghent almost emerging from the cloud.

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Pen-y-ghent from Sulber Gate – still not quite free of cloud.

I’ve visited this area of limestone edges and pavements above Crummack Dale a few times recently and it has become a firm favourite.

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Looking down to Crummack Dale.

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Beggar’s stile.

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Moughton Scars.

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Moughton Scars pano.

Just after we’d descended below Moughton Scars, the sun made an appearance and gave us some better light for the superb views which Crummack Dale has to offer.

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Moughton Scars.

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Moughton Scars.

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Moughton Scars.

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Moughton Scars.

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Looking across Crummack Dale to Pendle Hill.

We dropped down the valley and then climbed a little, past Nappa Scars and into the Norber area…

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Norber.

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Robin Proctor’s Scar.

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Where we found a spot for another brief stop…

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The path took us under Robin Proctor’s Scar…

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Robin Proctor’s Scar.

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Robin Proctor’s Scar.

And then onto Thwaite Lane which would take us back into Clapham.

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Andy seems to think that nobody else noticed the sudden spell of bright weather which accompanied the final leg of our walk, so here’s two photos to prove otherwise.

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It was an unexpectedly glorious ending to what had begun as a filthy day – typically British weather in fact.

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I’ve nicked Andy’s map of the route; there have to be some perks of being way behind with the blog. Mapmywalk have this as just a little over 10 miles; not bad for a sociable afternoon stroll.

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After that some of the party came back to ours to share the kleftiko which had been slow-roasting in the oven whilst we were out. One of these days I’m going to get to Greece to try the genuine article.

So, a weekend with loads of old friends, two walks, a curry, a birthday to celebrate, and roast lamb. A perfect start to the half-term break!

Crummack Dale from Clapham

Tour de Farleton Fell

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Being the further adventures of a taxi-Dad. A Monday night, dance lessons for A in Milnthorpe and I decided, once I’d dropped her off, that I would drive over and make another visit to Farleton Fell. It was a gloomy evening with odd spots of rain in the breeze, but too good an opportunity to pass up.

Though I make weekly visits to Milnthorpe, and have often been to nearby Holme, I’ve never driven between them before and I was inordinately pleased to discover that there’s a tiny hamlet named Whasset along the road. I’m not sure why it amused me so much*.

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I’m also quite chuffed with how well this capture from Mapmywalk shows my route, although, it’s annoying that Newbiggin Crags have somehow been labelled as Heysham Limestone Pavement.

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From the Clawthorpe Fell Road, I followed the right-of-way over towards Holme further than we did on our Easter visit, then turned right on a promising trod which didn’t fail to deliver on that promise.

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I’d originally intended to come up below the limestone edge, something I must do another time, but this path brought me on to a wide shelf, which gradually narrowed to a broad ledge, part way up the crags.

I followed a Green Woodpecker up the edge. I got one photo, but the bird was just a black silhouette against the sky. They almost always seem to elude my camera. Almost.

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Arnside Knott, Beetham Fell, Haverbrak, River Kent, Whitbarrow.

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The ledge at its narrowest.

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Middleton Fells and Ingleborough.

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Summit pano.

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Looking back along the edge to Warton Crag and the Bay.

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On our last visit, we turned right roughly where I was stood when I took the photo above. This time I carried on.

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It was a delightful choice.

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Ingleborough from Newbiggin Crags.

My path continued to the right, but the path heading downward looked attractive too and it was clear that the slopes below had several paths to explore.

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I’ll be back.

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There’ll be other Mondays.

This was quite a high level tour. I also would like to try a much lower one, incorporating a visit to Lupton Beck and Whin Yeats Farm

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…where they make two different cheese with their own unpasteurised milk. I’ve been eating a lot of cheese recently, and when I say recently I’m referring to any period during the last fifty years, but I’ve also been seeking out unpasteurised cheeses, because I’ve read that they are good for my gut microbiome, and any excuse will do me. Local unpasteurised cheese seems like an even better bet. I’ll report back.

*I apologise. This was completely disingenuous. I absolutely know why I was amused. It was the prospect of annoying the residents by getting the name wrong. Whass’at? Whass’up? Was it? Wha’at? No? I’ll get me coat.

 

Tour de Farleton Fell

Let’s Get Lost

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The Bay, Grange and Arnside Knott from Middlebarrow Plain.

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The low, wooded, limestone lump which lies just north of the village has a whole host of names attached to it, not all of them on the map: The Pepper Pot, Castlebarrow, King William’s Hill, Jubilee Wood, The Ring O’Beeches, Middlebarrow Wood, Middlebarrow Plain, Middlebarrow Hill (surely a tautology?), Eaves Wood, The Coronation Path and Inman’s Road. These are the public titles; we have our own landmarks too – The Climbing Tree, The Witches Steps, The Balcony Path, Forest School. In its entirety, it makes sense to call it Middlebarrow, since it lies between the two larger hills of Arnside Knott and Warton Crag.

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It’s criss-crossed by paths, most of them not on the map, and is a fascinating area to explore, which, long-suffering readers will know, I often do.

The wall which runs roughly east-west across the hill is the boundary between Lancashire and Cumbria and more often than not I tend to stick to the Lancashire side of the divide when I’m in the woods.

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But Middlebarrow Plain is managed for butterfly conservation, and has permission paths running through it. I ought to visit more often. It gives new views and has an area of limestone pavement…

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The first time I stumbled across this feature it was entirely by accident, but these days I know where to find it.

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I suspect that this is a Yew, kept in this Bonsai form by the attention of Roe Deer who seem to love Yew.

Back on the Eaves Wood side of the wall, I decided to try getting a little lost again. I took a faint path past a fallen Beech…

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This tree must have been coppiced years ago and until relatively recently had five huge trunks, now, sadly, all fallen.

I knew that the path would eventually peter out, but rather than turning back, continued downhill, safe in the knowledge that eventually I would have to hit one of the paths below.

En route I discovered a huge Wood Ants’ nest and a large birds’-nest, maybe Ravens’ or Buzzards’.

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Hardly a major adventure.

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But it kept me entertained.

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I’m a bit stunned that I haven’t used this title before, given how much I like the song. Apparently it predates the Chet Baker version, but that’s the one I know…

Let’s Get Lost

No Jokers on Ingleborough

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Pen-y-Ghent in a winter suit.

I felt like I was holding all the aces. It was the day before my birthday, the sky was completely cloudless and the hills had a new dusting of snow. What’s more, I was driving along the A65 with an appointment with Ingleborough. The only thing I hadn’t decided was quite which route I would follow. I’d been perusing the map and some favourite websites the night before to try to make a decision. I hoped to find Purple Saxifrage flowering as we did last year on Pen-y-ghent. Now, Saxifraga Oppositifolia is rare in England, but I’d found several references to the fact that it grows on Ingleborough as well as Pen-y-ghent, not least in John Self’s online book ‘The Wildlife of the Lune Region’ which suggests that an exploration of the steep and fractured cliffs of the western face would be the best place to look. I also found an enthralling description of a route which would fit the bill perfectly.

But now that I could see those western slopes through my windscreen, I knew that they were in a deep shade and seemed likely to be so for some time to come. Knowing that I had to play the hand I’d been dealt, I decided to start my ascent from Clapham instead.

The first trick of the day was to find the right path out of the village and then a steepish pull brought me to Long Lane…

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Long Lane. The edge on the right is Robin Proctor’s Scar which I photographed last year during a walk from Austwick.

Long Lane climbed slowly but steadily and, although it was cold, it was wonderful to be out in the sunshine.

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Long Lane again.

I generally try to climb a hill on my birthday, but over the years I’ve learned to be flexible when work or other commitments have not allowed me to. This year I chose to take my birthday walk a day early, simply because the weather forecast was much better for that day.

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Rayside Plantation and Ingleborough Cave.

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Trow Gill.

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Pretty soon I’d reached the snow. At home we’d had rain the night before, but here it had fallen as a snow.

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Ingleborough and Simon Fell.

We see Ingleborough from Eaves Wood and on our daily drive in to Lancaster, and it has a very distinctive profile, so the view from the south-east was oddly unfamiliar.

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Pen-y-ghent.

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Looking back towards Norber. Distant Pendle Hill on the left-hand skyline.

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From the area around Long Scar I’d turned left on a marvellous green lane which made the going very easy. Even through areas of limestone pavement…

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Ingleborough and Simon Fell.

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Pen-y-ghent.

The breeze was only gentle, but still chilling, so I was pleased, after passing through the gate into the large field called The Allotment, to find a small hollow by a stream which afforded some shelter.

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It was a real suntrap! Everything was coming up trumps. I parked myself beside the beck: time to get a brew on.

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A prospect to warm the hearts ♥.

I felt quite warm and cosy sunbathing here, although there was plenty of evidence that I was kidding myself a little:

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Ice diamonds? ♦

I’d been listening to Meadow Pippits serenading the sun and I think I saw a couple of Wheatears, although I couldn’t be sure. It was great to hear some birdsong after the cold spring we’ve endured.

I sat for around half an hour in the sun, but then it was time to get going again. After the very gentle climbing I’d been doing, the next section was a little steeper, but brought the compensation of even better views.

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Pen-y-ghent and Ribblesdale.

Soon I’d reached the top edge of the great bowl between Simon Fell and Ingleborough.

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And then I was on the ridge itself, with new views to take in.

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Whernside and the valley of the River Doe. (Doedale?)

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The western edge of Simon Fell and Souther Scales Fell.

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Black shiver? The fissured boulder on the left is so distinctively gritstone that it had me thinking of all the rock features of the Dark Peak which still seem so familiar even though it’s many years since I visited any of them.

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Black Shiver from the other direction. I think.

The broad plateau of the top of Ingleborough was busy with walkers eating their sandwiches. I walked around the edges, thinking I could find some sort of shelter, but it seemed to be impossible to get out of the icy wind. Even the four way shelter at the very top didn’t seem to offer much protection, so I decided not to join the clubs ♣.

So I carried on, dropping down towards the prominent notch which is where, at some time in the past, a landslip has dropped down the slopes (hence Falls Foot on the lower slopes).

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My descent took me past a layer of broken limestone crags…

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Which is what I was looking for. So I began clambering around beneath those, in search of the, initially elusive, Purple Saxifrage.

I spotted these prominent plant stalks in a cliff…

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They were much too large to be saxifrage, but intriguing none-the-less. I shall have to return later in the year to see if I can discover what this is.

Eventually I found what I was looking for…

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…but the flowers weren’t quite open. Or not many of them were…

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I’d read that the flowers are purple when they first open, then gradually turn pink. There’s quite a contrast in fact, with the flowers we saw last year:

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Further exploration brought me to a dramatic spot…

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…where, with snow on steep ground, a limestone cliff above and another cliff, of a different rock, below, I decided that discretion was required and turned back.

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Panorama of Whernside. Click to see larger version.

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Whernside and the extensive limestone pavements of Raven Scar and Twisleton Scar, part of the Great Scar Limestone.

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Gritstone rockfall below limestone crags. To say that the geology of this area is complex is a massive understatement.

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The Yoredale Series are layers of sedimentary rocks – limestones, sandstones, shales and a cap of gritstone – which characterise the Yorkshire Dales. In the photo above you can see two sets of crags, the lower limestone, the higher gritstone with gritstone boulders below the limestone.

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The crags at the top of The Falls. In shade still.

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And, on the other side of the gully, free of snow.

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Icicles, in spades. ♠

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Still quite cold, then!

Just along the edge from the Falls there are two heaps of stones…

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…that looked likely to be the remains of some sort of manmade structures. There’s a long history of Ingleborough being occupied, with an Iron Age hill-fort and hut circles and, even more improbably, a very short-lived Hospice Tower built in 1830, the base of which can still be seen on the summit. What age or purpose these small rocky piles might have had, I don’t know, but it’s interesting to speculate.

I climbed part of the way back towards the summit, detouring once again to check out a couple more limestone crags and find some more saxifrage.

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One short climb brought me to the Limestone Load, a level shelf between the two sets of crags which had gritstone features on the surface, but also a long line of dolines…

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Some of which had obvious limestone features…

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I was heading for Little Ingleborough…

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Looking back to the summit.

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Little Ingleborough.

On the descent from Little Ingleborough I finally found somewhere sufficiently sheltered to make me feel inclined to stop for another brew and a late lunch.

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Gaping Gill – Fell Beck falls 98m into the largest underground chamber in England which is naturally open to the surface.

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Gaping Gill pano.

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Bar Pot, another entrance to the Gaping Gill system. An exit too: whilst I was taking the photo some scraping sounds augured the emergence of a lone caver.

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Trow Gill.

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The path descends through Trow Gill, apparently formed by a meltwater torrent at the end of the last ice age.

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Foxholes a cave where human and animal remains have been found.

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Clapham Beck Head where the water from Gaping Gill finally resurges.

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Clapham Beck is one of the sources of the River Wenning and so is another tributary of the Lune, so that this walk is another instalment of my exploration of the Lune catchment area.

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Ingleborough Cave. I haven’t been in there for years, but it’s well worth a visit. Must take the kids.

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Clapham Beck.

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Since I dropped into the shelter of Trow Gill it had been feeling much warmer, so in Clapdale Wood I stopped for one final cup of tea.

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The Lake. Imaginatively named, don’t you think? And – it’s a reservoir.

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Clapham Beck.

Scenes from Clapham…

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Market Cross.

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In ‘Walks in Limestone Country’, Wainwright wrote:

Of the many walks described in this book, the ascent of Ingleborough from Clapham is pre-eminent, the finest of all, a classic. A lovely village….charming woodlands……..an enchanting valley……natural wonders………a climb to a grand mountain-top. Oh yes, this is the best.

I can’t help feeling that in amending my plan for the day I made a good choice. You might say that I played my cards right. Or that I was dealing from a full-deck.

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What’s that? Which birthday was it? Haven’t you worked that out yet? Just to clear-up any ambiguity: I didn’t come across any humorous types on Ingleborough. No jokers, you might say. Which leaves?

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My mapping app gives 13½ miles and just over 2000′ of climbing. Not a bad little outing.

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No Jokers on Ingleborough