Half-term Happenings: Lancaster, Lune, Meal, Murmuration.

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On the Thursday of our February half-term week, we were looking to combine another ‘easy’ walk, which allowed the possibility of shorter or longer alternatives, with a lunchtime meal. We hit upon driving to the park and ride carpark, just off the motorway by Lancaster, which has the advantage of being free, then walking into town. We could then either walk back or catch the dedicated bus service if need be.

From the carpark, after crossing a couple of busy roads, it’s easy to access the path beside the River Lune. That took us to John Rennie’s 1797 aqueduct, which carries the Lancaster Canal over the river.

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We climbed up to the canal and then followed that into Lancaster.

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The River Lune and the (smelly) Carrs Billington plant.

We were heading for the Sun Hotel for lunch. The food was magnificent…

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I’ve included this slightly blurred photo of B instagramming his choice, because I know at least one reader of the blog who appreciates a huge burger.

The vegans were happy too…

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In fact, I think we all enjoyed our meals.

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After that enormous repast, we decided that we were all fit enough to walk back to the car. This time we followed the Lune rather than the canal.

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‘Little’ S and my nephew L. The latter wanted to pose in front of this cafe for some reason?

The dull cloud of the morning had cleared, so we had terrific views of the aqueduct reflected in the placid waters of the Lune to accompany our walk.

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On the way home, as we drove along Storrs Lane by Leighton Moss, I thought I saw a Starling murmuration, so we stopped to take a look. This is definitely a winter phenomenon and even in mid-February I suspect that there were perhaps less birds than we had seen earlier in the year, when we often saw people parked to watch the Starlings as we drove home from Lancaster in the late afternoons.

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The advantage we did have though was clear skies and good light.

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Still photos really don’t do this justice: the way the cloud of birds wheels together and pulses and fluidly changes shape.

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It was an unexpected bonus at the end of a very enjoyable day.

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Half-term Happenings: Lancaster, Lune, Meal, Murmuration.

Dragons etc.

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Casterton Beck. (Actually unnamed on the map, so I made up an appropriate seeming name). Anyway, another Lune tributary!

B’s rugby training was switched to the playing fields at Casterton School. I forgot this was happening – B had some harsh words to say about that – but after we had wandered around cluelessly at Underley Park for a while, I remembered. More cluelessness followed, driving around looking for which part of the school we needed, and B was eventually deposited with his team. Since I’d forgotten about the change of venue, I hadn’t thought to look at a map for a suitable perambulation to wile away my time whilst waiting.

I decided to follow my nose to see where that took me and set off along some minor lanes which brought me round a loop and back to the village. Then I followed a track (I now realise, not a right-of-way. Oh well, never mind.) which brought me to an unusual bridge over the beck seen above and to an actual footpath.

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The Grange.

The path took me through some woods and then, after a right turn, to a rather spick and span looking Casterton Grange. No wonder it looks so neat and tidy: it’s currently up for sale, though I couldn’t find an asking price online; probably one of those cases where if you need to ask, then you can’t afford it! The house was built in 1848 for a vicar, David Barclay-Bevan. You might think a country vicar would struggle to afford such a palatial property, but he was independently wealthy, his father was a partner at Barclay’s Bank (source). The house was designed by Ewan Christian an ecclesiastical architect who restored Southwell Minster and Carlisle Cathedral and later went on to design the National Portrait Gallery.

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I’m not sure what tempted this ladybird out: it was cold and wet.

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Casterton Old Hall.

I think Casterton Old Hall is part of the school. This building dates back to seventeenth century. The Historic England listing makes me want to see the inside, especially the fireplace “with Tudor-arched opening, twisted wood, columns and overmantel with relief panels of busts, dragons, etc., probably of 1530-40 re-used”.

Later, I was out again for a short, local stroll in the fog.

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In Eaves Wood.

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Finally, this…

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…was taken a few days later when, looking out of the staffroom window at work, I realised that the sky was clear and the sun setting and so dashed out for a few moments, climbing the hill to the castle to try to catch the sunset from there.

Since that photo makes this a ‘Sunset Post’ I feel fully justified in appending a song. A Song of the Weather in fact:

I heard this recently on 6 Music. Not quite the stereotypical 6 Music tune perhaps, but then, I’m not sure what is. I remember Flanders and Swann for ‘The Hippopotamus Song’ which along with ‘The Runaway Train’ and a couple of Bernard Cribbins songs, ‘My Brother’ by Terry Scott, Alan Sherman’s ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah’ and, no doubt, numerous others, which will occur to me too late, once I’ve clicked on ‘Publish’, was a regular part of my Saturday morning radio listening when I was a nipper.

Bloody January again, indeed! Except, I quite like January: the sunsets are getting later, there’s snow, but also snowdrops and spring is on the way.

Dragons etc.

Remember, remember…

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Grey Heron.

B had a match in Kirkby, but for once not at Underley Park and not playing for KLRUFC: he was playing for his school against Kirkby School, a team stuffed full of team-mates and friends from club rugby. I’d had to drop him in Lancaster to get the team mini-bus, but followed along behind so that I could watch the game. On route, I stopped briefly in Hornby for a short walk beside the River Wenning.

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Wenning weir.

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Hornby Castle.

I’ve always assumed that Hornby Castle was a Victorian fake, but apparently the castle has been here for a very long time, although it was extensively remodelled by Lancaster architects Sharpe and Paley in the nineteenth century. The castle has an interesting history, having been captured and occupied during the Civil War. William Parker, fourth Baron Monteagle, was born here according to some sources; the castle was certainly owned by his father. Parker was the peer who was warned about the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, which led to the discovery and thwarting of the scheme.

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Hornby Bridge.

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Grey Heron.

I wandered a little way along the river, photographing two herons who were both unusually placid about being closely watched.

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Two more views of the Wenning.

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Drinking fountain, Hornby.

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This decoration was apparently removed from a railway bridge, the Rat and Cat Bridge. The strange symbol above the date is a design combining P and D, denoting Pudsey Dawson (great name!) High Sheriff of Lancashire and another former owner of the castle, in fact, the same one that commissioned the late nineteenth century alterations.

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Later, I was out again, catching the sunset from Castlebarrow.

Remember, remember…

The Calf from Howgill

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Holy Trinity Church Howgill.

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I was surprised by the plain white interior – English churches are usually so austere that they don’t stretch to plaster or paint. It was only built in 1839, but a board inside suggests that there’s been a chapel here for much longer…

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Subsequent, lazy internet research suggests that this house…

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…on the far side of Chapel Beck, was once itself the chapel.

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I was intrigued by this bike, which was propped up by the church; it looked to be in working order, but the saddle, whilst it has springs, has no cover.

This was the evening after my Langdale swimming excursion. The forecast had been once again good, but in actuality there was a good deal more cloud about. In fact, as I drove along the M6 towards the Howgill Fells I was a bit taken aback to see that the sky behind them was absolutely black – it looked as though an almighty thunderstorm was on the way and I didn’t even have a coat with me. Fortunately, by the time I’d parked in the tiny hamlet of Howgill, the skies had cleared considerably.

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The Howgill Fells.

If you look at the map of my route at the bottom you’ll notice an apparent loop at one point, which is where I made a navigational error. I crossed the parched field above when I shouldn’t have, leading me to a gate with a sign on its far side saying ‘Private No Access’. This wouldn’t have been so terrible if I hadn’t been attracting the attentions of a particularly persistent Buzzard. The first time I was strafed by an angry Buzzard was in 2010, so I managed 44 years without ever upsetting any Buzzards, but these days I almost expect to be harassed by them when I’m out, it happens so often. I’m beginning to feel paranoid about it. This one adopted different tactics to any of the others – swooping toward me several times in three separate places, and after the first relatively mild shot across the bows, which was preceded by a few warning kew, kews, it came silently and, on one occasion, from behind. The last time, I could see it way across the valley…

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…and then watched it come back on a bee-line straight towards me, at eye-level, which was a bit disconcerting. I suppose the fact that this has happened several times without any injuries on my part should be reassuring, but, in the moment, that didn’t occur to me, and I took to my heels, which I’m sure was all very amusing for anyone who saw me from the nearby farmhouse of Castley.

Anyway, this…

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…is the path I should have been on.

This…

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…is where Bram Rigg Beck and Swarth Greaves Beck flow into Chapel Beck which ultimately flows into The Lune. Chapel Beck is also fed by Calf Beck, Long Rigg Beck, Stranger Gill, Crooked Ashmere Gills and Long Rigg Gill all of which ultimately feed the Lune. You can perhaps tell from the photo that I was quite a way above Chapel Beck, but sadly the path forsook all of that hard-earned height and dropped down to cross the stream, and, even more sadly, I went with it….

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…to climb White Fell, that long shoulder stretching away on the right of the photo.

It was a long, hot and sticky climb, enlivened by more views of a Buzzard, who, this time, was more interested in hunting prey than in persecuting me.

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Arant Haw. The right hand ridge is my descent route.

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Looking back down my ascent route to the Lune valley from near the top.

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Bram Rigg and Arrant Haw pano.

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Calf Top.

The small tarn close to the summit of Calf Top was completely dried out.

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Looking back to Calf Top from Bram Rigg Top.

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The Three Peaks from Calders.

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Arant Haw from Calders. Black Combe on the right-hand horizon, Arnside Knott and the Kent Estuary in the centre. The lake in the distance is Killington Lake.

Clouds massed again and it got a bit gloomy, but the Lakeland Fells, although quite distant, seemed very sharp and individual hills, like the Langdale Pikes and the Scafells and Great Gable, stood out clearly…

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The Eastern Fells are not quite so distinctive…

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It was getting quite late now, but the sun had dropped below the level of the cloud and the views from Arant Haws and, better yet, from the ridge off Arant Haws were stunning.

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Tebay Gorge and Howgill Fells.

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Howgill Fells.

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Arant Haw.

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Lune Valley, Morecambe Bay, Arnside Knott, Kent Estuary, Killington Lake, Black Combe.

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Tebay Gorge.

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Nine miles (ish) and a fair bit of up and down, Not bad for a Thursday evening.

The Calf from Howgill

A Walk from Claughton

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Claughton Hall Farm.

A mid-week, post-work stroll. I wanted a shortish walk and not too much of a drive, so that I could guarantee an early finish. For one thing, I wanted to get back to take B to Lancaster for a late start to a school-trip to France. And for another thing, the forecast was for the weather to finally break, with rain expected as the evening progressed and gale force winds in the early hours. So I’d been poring over the map, looking at Lune tributaries close to my work-place in Lancaster. The slopes behind the villages of Caton and Claughton have several streams – Mears Beck, Westend Beck, Barncroft Beck and Claughton Beck – to which there is, frustratingly, little or no access. However, whilst inspecting these I inevitably noticed the gothic script close by denoting Claughton Hall and was instantly intrigued. A quick search on the internet and I knew that this was something I had to go and see for myself – “Large house, c.1600 with C15th remains, moved to present site and rebuilt 1932-5.” (from Historic England).

The house, which used to be in the village of Claughton, was dismantled and rebuilt half way up the moors above the village. One wing was left in situ however, now called Claughton Hall Farm and seen in these first two photos.

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Claughton, incidentally, is pronounced Klaften by locals and probably a hundred and one other ways by the rest of us.

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St. Chad’s Church.

St. Chad’s Church is next to the farm. There has apparently been a church on this site for almost a thousand years, although the current building only dates back to 1815, so it’s a shame to see it locked-up and abandoned and disappearing behind thickets of weeds and saplings.

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There’s only one path from Claughton which heads up into the hills so I decided just to do an out and back. There look to be a couple of other good options, but both require a little more time and effort.

I hadn’t gone far up the track before I came across this…

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…by a path which was shadowing Claughton Beck. This seem to me like a kind invitation to visit the falls, so, pleasantly surprised, I left the track and set-off by the beck, but didn’t get far before I came across a tangle of fallen trees blocking the path and elected to turn back again…

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Honeysuckle.

Despite the gloomy skies, I was enjoying the views down the valley to the hills around Kirkby and, dominating the view, Ingleborough.

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I was also intrigued by the low, partially wooded hill in the middle distance, which I now know to be Windy Bank, behind Hornby and between the Lune and the Wenning, and which is now on my list of places I need to visit for a walk.

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Lune Valley pano.

Sadly, behind me there was no view of Claughton Hall, only a dense hedge of Leylandii, or something similar. I reflected that the impulse which drives somebody to move their home away from a village and half-way up a hill might also lead them to screen themselves completely from the outside world, but I’ve since discovered that the hall could still be photographed from the track relatively recently. The gateway was open and I suppose I could have taken a wander down the drive, but I’ve settled instead for a photo of the hall, from around 1910, before it was moved…

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Source

From this point on, the walk turned into a bit of a birding excursion, as these Lune Catchment walks have often been prone to do.

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Juvenile Wren, at least I think it’s a juvenile.

It may partly be to do with the time of year: there are lots of fledglings about and they don’t seem to share the caution of their parents. Then to, the parents themselves are busy fussing over their brood, providing food and guidance.

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Along the track there were several more of these curious headstones and I began to think that perhaps they weren’t an open invitation to the hoi-polloi like me. Maybe they’re for visitors to the hall?

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Hedge Woundwort. The gorgeous ginger bumblebee just wouldn’t pose for a photo.

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This strikes me as unusual, although I’ve no real idea whether it is or not: Claughton has a brickworks which is supplied from a clay-pit (essentially a large quarry) on the hillside above, via this aerial ropeway.

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Skylarks.

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I passed Moorcock Hall, a farm, and then the wind-farm on Caton Moor. The towers are huge and, up close, a bit oppressive.

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I was convinced that this must be a juvenile Stonechat. I’m not sure why I was so sure, since I can’t recall ever having seen one before.

Perhaps stupidly, I’d set off with just my camera and a map for company. No bag, or coat, or other kit. To the north I’d seen the hills of the Lake District slowly disappear in a miasma. There’d been odd drops of rain in the air and I’d wondered about the sanity of continuing. But when I reached the summit of Caton Moor, which I’ve never visited before, it brightened up and I was even treated to a little weak sunshine.

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The Three Peaks from Caton Moor.

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Ward’s Stone from Caton Moor.

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There were clear paths heading off towards Littledale and Roeburndale, which would be the two other possible walks I could envisage on Caton Moor. I was particularly taken with the path towards Roeburndale. Another time.

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Small Heath butterfly.

I saw loads of these on my evening walks last summer, so I was pleased to finally see one this year.

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Walking back past the wind-farm I kept seeing a pair of Painted Lady butterflies. I couldn’t understand how I kept losing them and then seeing them as they flew up apparently from almost under my feet. Then I spotted one with its wings closed…

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Beautiful, but also cunningly disguised.

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I also saw a family of the same kind of birds that I seen on the wall when I was on the way up…

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But this time with an adult male Stonechat initially with them on the wall…

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…though he soon flew off.

A lovely outing and the rain held off until I was safely ensconced in my car. By the time I got home it was raining hard and when I dropped B off it was pelting down. The wind also eventually arrived, if anything even worse than forecast. There was a lot of debris on the roads the following morning and we drove past the end of a lane which was blocked by a fallen tree.

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A Walk from Claughton

High Dam and Thornton Force.

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We didn’t visit High Dam and Thornton Force in the same trip, but on two consecutive days over half-term. The Wednesday was overcast, but still warm and sticky and the boys and I decided to check out High Dam. It’s above the southern end of Windermere near Finsthwaite.

As the name suggests, it’s a reservoir, with a dam…

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…but don’t worry, it’s not drinking water.

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Columbine on the dam.

The water is relatively shallow (but deep enough to swim in), peaty, and was surprisingly warm – in other words: not freezing.

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We started from the small bay southwest of Roger Height…

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…and swam across to visit the two little islands. On the second a fallen tree, laying out over the water, gave the boys a chance to jump in, which seems to be essential. We swam back, and then back across again, by which time Little S was worn out. So we swam to the southern shore exiting close to the western end of the dam (which looks further on the map than back across the lake would have been, but Little S was happy with it).

Having said the water was warm, I should perhaps qualify that admitting that Little S’s fingers were a bit blue by the time we got out of the water.

As well as being a bit muggy, it was a windless day and I had been surprised that we weren’t attacked by midges when were changing to get in the water. We weren’t so lucky when we were changing back again. Overall, though a great place to swim, which is not too far from home.

Talking of which…

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…this is Thornton Force, on the River Twiss above Ingleton. My cousin R is lucky enough to own a house nearby and generous enough to invite us to visit during half-term. The invite was an open one, but since his sister, my cousin K, was also visiting with her family on the Thursday we decided to crash their family get together. It was great to see them again.

I’d already bribed the boys with the possibility of a walk to Thornton Force and Little S almost immediately started to drop not so subtle hints like: “I’ve got a good idea – we could walk to the waterfall and have a swim.”

Eventually, we let him have his way. The pool below the force turned out to be of a good size and ideal for swimming. The photo was taken when I visited one evening last summer. It was much, much busier this time. But we were the only ones swimming and the falls had a lot less water coming over them so that we could duck our heads into them, which was very bracing. I entrusted TBH with the camera, but she took lots of close-ups of peoples heads – all very well, but not really showing where we were swimming.

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That evening TBH got a fire going in our new fire-pit and the kids lit sparklers and tried making campfire popcorn (not entirely successful, well, actually, not remotely successful, but maybe the fun was in the trying)

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Those are both swimming spots we will visit again, I’m sure.

High Dam and Thornton Force.

Devil’s Bridge

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Another Kirkby evening stroll. The heron was there, fishing in much the same spot as last time.

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The water looked cool and inviting. I watched as fish jumped from the water to take flies. I felt sure that I would be able to see them swim away under the water, but I couldn’t. Just once I managed to follow the fish briefly, but it was soon lost against the background of rocks and pebbles.

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Under Devil’s Bridge some lads were swimming. Very wise.

Devil’s Bridge