Little Fluffy Clouds

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Another day, another loaf. Or two.

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Aquilegia or columbine. It’s in our garden here – but it is a British wildflower.

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Song thrush.

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The beech circle.

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Middlebarrow Quarry – or The Lost World. ‘Every time I see it, I expect to see dinosaurs’, B tells me. I know what he means.

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Middlebarrow aerial shelduck display team.

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“Keep the formation tight as we come in to land.”

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“Quick breather, squadron, and we’re off again.”

Of course, having seen a peregrine once, I now keep going back to peer over the lip into the vast quarry at Middlebarrow expecting lightening to strike twice. It hasn’t. I do keep seeing the close formation aerial skills of the shelducks though. Lord knows why they feel compelled to circuit the quarry so obsessively.

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This small plaque is on a house near home. I’m sure I’ve posted a picture of it before. But now I’ve learned that it’s a fire insurance sign – showing which insurance company the house was registered with. It seems more like something you might expect to see in a more urban location, but maybe this is an antique which has been added since the signs were rendered obsolete by the inception of a national fire service? The house is very close to our small fire station, which is manned by retained fire fighters, so they should be okay if the worst happens.

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The Bay from The Cove.

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Ransoms flowering in the small copse above the Cove. 

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Orchids on the Lots.

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Green-winged orchid.

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Early purple orchid.

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Water avens.

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Bugle.

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Orange-tip butterfly on cuckoo-flower.

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A bedraggled peacock butterfly.

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Gooseberry flowers. I think.

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Lambert’s meadow.

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The skies above Eaves Wood.

It annoys me, more than it should, that I can never remember the names given to the various types of clouds. All sorts of stupid trivia is securely lodged in my brain, but even though I’ve read a couple of books on the subject, clouds just don’t seem to want to stick. I thought that if I tried to label the clouds in my photos, maybe I would start to remember a few at least. The fluffy white ones above Eaves Wood here are cumulus, right? Although, maybe some stratocumulus behind.

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And I assume these wispy ones are cirrus.

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And this is maybe cirrocumulus.

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But then….? Altocumulus and cirrus?

Hmmm. More effort required, I think.

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Oak tree in full summer garb.

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Full-throated robin.


Bit obvious I know. But good.

And, completely unrelated, as far as I know…

…the opening track from one of my favourite albums, which I was introduced to by THO, who often comments here, and which I shall always associate with a superb holiday which was split, quixotically, between the French Alps and the Brittany coast.

Little Fluffy Clouds

Bad Pint

Flowers seen on a circuit of Middlebarrow and Eaves Wood and a cautionary tale.

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A great display of wood anemone in Holgates Caravan Park.

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The path around Holgates.

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Pellitory-of-the-wall on Arnside Tower.

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Green Hellebore….

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…with more flowers than the last time I’d visited.

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Herb paris in Middlebarrow Wood. The first I’d seen which were flowering.

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Ground ivy in Eaves Wood.

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Cuckoo Pint.

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Jack-by-the-hedge….

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…or hedge garlic or garlic mustard.

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Quince.

The cautionary tale regards Cuckoo Pint a very common plant in this area and elsewhere too I suspect. We may not have the venomous snakes and spiders of somewhere like Australia, but we have plenty of poisonous plants and fungi, Arum maculatum being a case in point. I recently came across a letter to the British Dental Journal regarding two cases from this region.

Cuckoo pint (Arum maculatum) is highly irritating to oral/oesophageal mucosa and, if ingested, can cause swelling of the tongue and throat, leading to difficulty swallowing and breathing.

The first case involved a 54-year-old male who, whilst out walking in the countryside in early January, sampled what he thought was ‘wild garlic’. Intense burning pain forced him to spit out the stalk immediately and blisters formed on his lips which lasted for some two weeks.

The second patient presented for emergency treatment at Furness General Hospital having eaten a curry made from ‘wild garlic’. In this case, severe burning pain in the oesophagus was experienced.

As the letter goes on to point out, by April the leaves do not really look alike, but in January and February they are two of the earliest new leaves to appear on the woodland floor, the tips are pointy, the leaves a similar green and both glossy – it is quite easy to see how a mistake could be made.

(In case you were wondering, I wasn’t the 54 year old male in question – entirely coincidence. And also – the British Dental Journal is not my regular bedtime reading.)

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I occasionally still tease my brother about the time he asked me if I’d heard the Buzzcocks cover of Fine Young Cannibals ‘Ever Fallen In Love’.

But, to be fair, it’s often not obvious that any particular song is a cover. I first heard the song ‘Domino’ when I bought the Cramps LP ‘Off The Bone’, which, at the time, I didn’t even realise was a compilation album. It’s great stuff. Musical weekly Sounds described it as “…a hell-fire cocktail of gutter riffing and chattering Rockabilly voodoo strum into which is dropped an electric sugar cube of psychedelic power”. Not that I would have read that at the time – I was always an NME man myself.

My mum likes Roy Orbison, but maybe more the ballads of the sixties rather than the rockabilly which he recorded when he was at Sun.

Depending on who you believe the song was either cowritten by Orbison and Norman Petty, better known for working with Buddy Holly and the Crickets, or was the work of Sun Records supremo Sam Philips.

Personally, much as I love The Cramps, I think the original is the best in this case.

It’s only now that I’ve finished the post, that I’ve realised that I’ve written about a poisonous plant and included a song from a band whose bassist was called Poison Ivy  (wife of lead singer Lux Interior). Maybe my subconscious at work?

Bad Pint

Two for Joy

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Arnside Tower.

What a tonic blue sky is, and the light that comes with it…

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Beech leaves.

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Green Hellebore.

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Middlebarrow Quarry.

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Shelduck

This was the first of several occasions when I’ve watched Shelduck in groups of half a dozen or so, flying around and around Middlebarrow Quarry, honking loudly. Occasionally they will settle on a ledge, but then off they go again. I can’t imagine what the purpose of this display is.

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Common Carder Bee (perhaps) on Toothwort.

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Hawes Water.

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Sunset.

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Magpies.

Magpies are another surprisingly elusive bird. They’re so common and yet all the photographs I have of them are taken from huge distances, so I was chuffed when this pair sat and posed for several portraits. Their cousins, Jays, are even more flighty and although I’ve spotted them quite a few times over the last few weeks, I don’t have a single photo to show for it.

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Goldfinches.

Around this time it was evident that many birds were building nests. I watched a Crow struggling to break a twig from a tree, then, apparently dissatisfied, throw the twig to the ground and laboriously snap off another. The second twig must have been deemed much better building material, because it flew off with that one in its beak. I also spotted these Goldfinches which were ripping Dandelion petals from unopened flowers, presumably to line a nest?

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Dunnock – I think.

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Grange from the Cove.

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The ‘salt desert’ of the Bay.

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Song Thrush.

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Curious lambs. Despite the sunshine, frost was hanging on in the shade of a drystone wall well into the afternoon.

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A new gateway at an entrance to Clark’s and Sharp’s Lots.

One of the joys of being out almost every day has been the opportunity to observe changes unfold. Not just a neat new bit of wall on a National Trust property, but new flowers appearing, leaves shooting up from the woodland floor and the changing chorus of birds in the woods too.

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Nuthatch.

As soon as the lockdown started, I realised that the Chiff-chaffs were already back with us. In the woods, I was surprised how much the birdsong was dominated by Chiff-chaffs, Robins and Nuthatches. Then the Song Thrushes swelled the ranks a little, with Blackbirds coming in a little later. Now there are too many voices for an amateur like me and I’m much more easily confused.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

Butterflies too were abundant from fairly early on. Brimstones first – although they don’t seem to like to stop to be photographed. Then Commas, Small Tortoiseshells, and Peacocks, with Orange Tips hard on their heels. I think those must all be species which overwinter in their adult forms. Certainly many of the butterflies I saw looked quite tatty.

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A near Jenny Brown’s Cottages.

It’s a shame really that I was behind with the blog – it would have given me great pleasure, as well as being a lot easier, to record the changes as they happened. Imagine that – a daily walk with my camera and no work to get in the way. How can I engineer that, do you think?

Can’t really think how to shoehorn this track in, apart from it’s fantastic. Solomon Burke with the Blind Boys of Alabama on backing vocals. Brilliant.

Two for Joy

Sauvages de ma rue*

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White Violets in a large roadside patch by Jack Scout.

“In a recent YouGov poll, just 6% of 16- to 24-year-olds were able to correctly name a picture of a wild violet. The same poll showed nearly 70% of respondents would like to be able to identify more wild flowers.”

This is another conglomeration of photos from various walks, still back at the tail-end of March.

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A misty pre-dawn.

Back then, I sometimes managed to get out early, before sitting down at the computer for the day’s work. That has since gone by the by, as I have started to sleep in a little longer, with no need to get up for a daily commute.

Being a creature of habit, I’ve often walked the same route on consecutive days, occasionally branching out to go somewhere different.

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Arnside Tower.

Variations on a walk around Eaves Wood and Middlebarrow were a favourite for a while. For some reason, I seem to be incapable of walking past Arnside Tower without taking a picture of it.

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Mist over Silverdale Moss.

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Arnside Tower again! (On another day)

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Pheasant feather?

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Early sun in Middlebarrow Woods.

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Mist over Hawes Water.

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Toothwort – this is the earliest I’ve seen this flowering. The plants I used to visit every year, which seemed to have survived their host tree being chopped down have now gone. But fortuitously, I found another, larger, patch nearby.

We talk a lot about plant blindness – what if putting names on plants could make people look at them in a different way?

The quotes in this post are all taken from a Guardian article ‘Not Just Weeds‘, about the growing phenomena of pavement chalking to identify wildflowers in urban areas. I knew I would enjoy the piece, when it started with the somewhat unexpected phrase “a rising international force of rebel botanists”, which is not a combination of words I ever thought I would encounter – it conjures up images of an orange clad Stars Wars force armed with hand lenses and wild flower keys.

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Hawes Water.

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Goldfinch.

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Silverdale from Castlebarrow.

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Green Hellebore.

In my experience, the effort required to try to put names to plants has made me look at them in a different way. And treasure them too. I’ve been really thrilled, for example, to have found this large clump of Green Hellebore, which I must have walked past hundreds of times before and missed, in Middlebarrow Woods.

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One anonymous London tree name chalker said: “I’ll keep labelling as I go on my daily walks. I think it’s really tapped into where people are right now.

“Botanical chalking gives a quick blast of nature connection, as the words encourage you to look up and notice the tree above you, the leaves, the bark, the insects, the sky. And that’s all good for mental health. None of us can manage that much – living through a global pandemic is quite enough to be getting on with. But it’s brought me a great amount of joy.”

And so, on the subject of joy, to today’s musical choice. I realised, when it was too late, that a post about vitamin D ought to have been accompanied by a sunshine song. So, here it is a day late:

Once, I’d settled on ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, it was quite difficult to decide which version to use. If I’d managed to find a video of Jimi Hendrix, during the Lulu show, dismissing ‘Hey Joe’ as ‘rubbish’ and breaking into ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ as a tribute to Cream, who had announced that they had split that day, then it would have been that version hands down. I like the original. There’s a great version by Ella Fitzgerald again. But, in a serendipitous moment, whilst I was pondering those three, I stumbled across this version by Spanky Wilson, which I’d never heard before. To be honest, I’m not sure that I’ve heard of Spanky Wilson before. Enjoy.

*Sauvages de ma rue – wild things of my street. An underground guerrilla movement of rebel botanists. Maybe.

 

Sauvages de ma rue*

Middlebarrow in Every Kind of Weather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Silverdale Moss, Scout Hill and Farleton Fell from Middlebarrow.

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

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Middlebarrow pano. Click on it to see enlarged version.

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

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

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

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

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Whitbarrow catching the sun.

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

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

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

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

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

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I never learn!

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

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

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Middlebarrow in Every Kind of Weather.

Two Bonus Birthday Hills

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Cove Road Quince flowers.

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

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Violets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I expected to find fungi growing on the dead wood…

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And I did!

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But also, on an old Yew, a new Yew…

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And…

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….something else, I’m not sure what.

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New leaves…Hazel?

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

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

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…and I couldn’t resist them!

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Blue Moor Grass

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

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Arnside Tower and Blackthorn blossom.

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Honeysuckle.

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

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

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Primroses.

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

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

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This…

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

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Cherry Blossom on the cricket club grounds.

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Primroses on a Cove Road verge.

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Barren Strawberry on a Cove Road wall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Bonus Birthday Hills

Lost

Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit to getting lost on my own home patch, but it made for one of the most enjoyable walks I have had for quite some time.

Mum and Dad were visiting and they both joined me for a wander around Eaves Wood. Saturday had been clear, frosty and bright, but I was stuck indoors catching up on work (or trying to). Sunday had started foggy, then turned briefly bright before clouding over. There was plenty of frost and ice, but in places it was beginning to thaw, although the modest height gain on King William’s Hill made a surprising difference, slushy leaf litter and mud turning to crisp frozen ground.

As ever I was navigating by mental map and improvising a route as fancy dictated. We decided to climb the stile into Middlebarrow Wood and then, on a whim, left the one path I am familiar with there and followed a progressively thinner trod through the woods. I was assuming that the path is made by dog-walkers from the caravan park and that it would take us to the path climbing back into Eaves Wood without having to drop down into the park.

The woods were full of birds, particularly mistle thrushes, but tits too. My mum spotted a solitary tree-creeper. It was very enjoyable to be on a ‘new’ path so close to home. As in many of the higher woodland areas the trees were stunted with many birches pocked with woodpecker drills and some impressive oaks which had clearly been coppiced at some point. Many of the birches were host to polyps…

…this one with an attractively wavy perimeter.

The path eventually emerged onto the open area of limestone pavement shown in the first photograph. I was thrilled. Although I have wandered around in Middlebarrow Wood occasionally, I was sure that I had never found this feature before. We tottered across the limestone, slipping on the icy surface. It was impossible to see where the path might have crossed the rock and hardly surprisingly we failed to find the spot were it picked up on the far side. Gingerly we edged back across to the path and having retreated a little way followed another fork of the vague path. We soon came to a small clearing from which we had partial views to the north and west of Arnside Knot and the Bay. Shortly after that we recrossed the wall into Eaves Wood onto a familiar path not far from Castlebarrow.

Of course we were never truly lost. Heading down hill in any direction would have brought us to a well known path. The only danger we risked was the prospect of a slightly delayed lunch. Back in my study I can easily identify the limestone pavement on the map as a black hatched area on the southern edge of Middlebarrow Plain. I’m surprised a little that I have never sought it out before. But I know that I shall spend some time exploring that area more thoroughly in the future.

Lost