Hutton Roof, A Snake and Skaville


Speckled Wood butterfly.

Whit Bank Holiday weekend. This first two photos are from another opportunistic quick fix: B had a party at Capenwray Hall, I thought I would have a couple of hours at least to get out for a walk from there. Sadly the driveway which I had assumed would be a right-of-way, because it links to a footpath, turned out to be private. I drove to the Plain Quarry car park on Hutton Roof instead, but was a while getting there because I got stuck behind a couple of cyclists on a very, very narrow country lane (they weren’t riding abreast, the lane was just too narrow for me to safely pass).


As a consequence, my walk was a bit shorter than I had hoped, but at least I managed to get out for a wander in the end. It was hot and sticky and quite hazy. Once again on Hutton Roof I was tantalised by a cuckoo which called incessantly and seemed so close that I was sure that I must see it if I looked hard enough. I didn’t, but not for want of trying.

I didn’t linger too long looking for the cuckoo however, because I wanted to get back for a surprise visitor which I knew would be arriving toward the end of the party…


It’s some kind of Python. B was very taken with it.

On the Sunday we all went to Cartmel to see Jools Holland and his Big Band. I didn’t take any photos, so I’ve added a youtube clip of Mister Holland featuring two members of The Selecter, who also appeared as guest singers at Cartmel – a real highlight for me.

It was a great afternoon, with three support acts, a fair, sunshine, a tasty picnic with some friends, and a few family games of Kubb.

On the Monday we took our canoes to (S) Fell (Ten) Foot Park at the southern end of Windermere. It being a beautiful, sunny Bank Holiday Sunday the park was extremely busy. I’ve certainly never seen it so packed. Not that it really detracted from our fun. We messed about in our boats and then had a swim in the Lake. Well, four of us did: TBH was engrossed in her book.

Hutton Roof, A Snake and Skaville

Reasons to be Cheerful


Another garden wildlife interlude. B found a colourful spider in the garden – we know the drill now, we have a field guide with a few, wholly inadequate, pages on spiders, but they could give us a start and then the internet would help us to identify our neighbour. First, however, we need lots of sharp photos from every angle.


And that’s where the project fell down. This was one fast moving spider. It ran across his shirt, it abseiled away on gossamer threads, it just wouldn’t sit still for a portrait. So: I think that it’s an orb web spider, perhaps, but then I’m stuck. It diverted and delighted us for a few moments though.

Also, further to yesterday’s post and its mention of ‘Great Lives’: there are 270 episodes on the iplayer. I don’t know whether that’s all of them, but it seems likely. It’s enough to be going on with anyway. I’ve just listened to Linda Smith and Charlie Gillett discussing Ian Dury with Humphrey Carpenter, from 2003. I didn’t know that the programme had been presented by anyone other than the inestimable Matthew Paris. Ian Dury and Linda Smith, what an unexpected and wonderful combination.

A short post, so here’s some of Mr Dury’s words:

You’ll See Glimpses

You’ll see.

They think I’m off my crust as I creep about the gaff.
But I’m really getting ready to surprise them all,
Because I’m busy sorting out the problems of the world.
And when I reveal all won’t they get a crinkly mouth.
I’ve given my all to the task at hand unstintingly.
When it’s all over I’ll rest on my laurels.

Here for a moment is a glimpse of my plan:
All the kids will be happy learning things.
The wind will smell of wild flowers.
Nobody will whack each other about with nasty things.
All the room in the world.

They take me for a mug because I smile.
They think I’m too out of tune to mind being patronised.
All in all, it’s been another phase in my chosen career,
And when my secrets are out they’ll bite their silly tongues.
All I want for my birthday is another birthday.
When skies are blue we all feel the benefit.

Glimpse Number 2 for the listener.
Everyone will feel useful in lovely ways.
Trees will be firmly rooted in town and country.
Illness and despair will be dispensed with.
All the room in the world.

They ask me if I’ve had the voices yet.
They don’t think I know any true answers.
It’s true that I haven’t quite finished yet.
When it all comes out in the wash they’ll eat their words.
I’ve got all their names and addresses.
Later on I’ll write them each a thank-you letter.

Before I stop, here’s a last glimpse into the general future.
Home rule will exist in each home, forever.
Every living thing will be another friend.
This wonderful state of affairs will last for always.

This has been got out by a friend.

Reasons to be Cheerful

A Grand and Healthy Life

Just when we’d begun to forget what wet weather was like, I walked home from Carnforth and it rained. Never mind: I enjoyed the raindrops on the newish beech leaves and the bluebells in Hyning Scout Wood and most of all I enjoyed the smell of the rain falling on very dry earth and the subtle way that the scent changed depending on where I was.

More of a problem than the rain was the fact that somehow I had managed to pack odd shoes to change into to walk home in. Rather than face the humiliation (and discomfort – a lesser consideration!) of walking through Carnforth and Warton wearing one sandal and one shoe (I know – beggars believe), I opted to walk home in my work shoes. Result: very sore feet.

At this point I wanted to continue the comedy theme with ‘It’s a Grand and Healthy Life’ by local boy George Formby – if only to share a poets wisdom on the benefits of hiking (aside from getting wet and having sore feet that is).


Some chaps like a game of tennis, some like boating on the sea.
Some are fond of cricket or a ball they want to kick it
But there’s only one sport that appeals to me.

I love to hike, that’s what I like, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.
I tramp a mile, then sit a while
A bumblebee there in the grass comes and stings me on my elbow.
Down comes the rain and I get wet through,
I can’t blow my nose because it’s already blue
I catch a chill, and feel so ill. Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.

I love to hike, that’s what I like, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.
While tramping back, the night was black,
My girl tripped into a ditch I said, "you are a clumsy bounder."
She shouted help! I thought I’d begin
Pulling her out but she kept pulling me in
The ditch was high, we drank it dry, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.

I love to hike that’s what I like, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life.
My girl and me, sat neath a tree
A great big blackbird with its claws came and tore off my girl’s jumper
When she got home she heard mother shout
You haven’t come home the same as when you went out
She hung her head and blushing said, Ee! but it’s a grand and healthy life

But it doesn’t seem to be available on YouTube, and it isn’t quite the same in writing, so here’s ‘Swimmin with the Wimmin’:

A Grand and Healthy Life

Greater Langdale Round

 Or: Knock Three Times

After a night of high octane pub-quizzing in Keswick, CJ and I drove in convoy over Dunmail Raise and parked in the National Trust car-park in Langdale. From Keswick we’d been able to see at least some of the lower hills and it hadn’t been raining, but we’d been in the cloud over Dunmail Raise  and the cloud had been very low, and a steady light rain falling, ever since. We were soon in the cloud as we climbed the path beside Stickle Ghyll (or Mill Gill depending on who you believe). Even in the rain Langdale is popular and there were many other walkers on the the path. We met a couple of parties with kids who had turned back because they were unhappy about the point where the path crosses the stream – it did involve standing on submerged rocks, but wasn’t too bad. Anyway – the path on the right bank continues up to Stickle Tarn I believe. When we arrived at the tarn the cloud was so dense that we couldn’t see the far bank – but we could see lots of small fish with a dark stripe on their sides.

CJ was keen to try Jack’s Rake. At the back of my mind a little (timid) voice was telling me that I didn’t fancy Jack’s Rake, but I didn’t listen to it and accompanied CJ up to the base of the scramble. I hadn’t got far up the steep and wet beginning of the rake however before I decided that it definitely wasn’t for me on this occasion.

CJ continued up the rake and I retreated and then turned up easy gully. Again – a little voice was speaking to me, a vague recollection: “You did this before and got stuck near the top”. But again I didn’t listen: to my cost. After a very steep climb I found the gully blocked by large boulders. Clearly this route is used but I couldn’t see any easy way to get past the boulders and so reluctantly had to descend back to the base of the gully and the start of Jack’s Rake again.

I was at least rewarded with a short-lived gap in the clouds and a view down to Stickle Tarn:

Of the beginning of Jack’s Rake:

And back up ‘Easy’ Gully:

I worked my way around the base of the cliffs and eventually hit the more conventional path up Pavey Ark. CJ was patiently waiting on the top – I was doubly glad that he had waited since I had discovered that I had packed the wrong map in my rucksack – a real comedy of errors.

Navigation from Pavey Ark to Thunacar Knott and from there to Harrison Stickle proved to be surprisingly tricky in the fog. We weren’t the only ones struggling and the we bumped into some other groups more than once, exchanging cheery ‘Have you found it yet?’ type queries.

From Harrison Stickle it became much easier and we made good progress over Thorn Crag, Loft Crag….

…and on to Pike O’Stickle.

Dropping down across Martcrag Moor we finally emerged from the cloud. Indeed the cloud must have lifted because looking back we could now see Pike O’Stickle:

Although the Langdale Pikes had been our main objective we had thought that we might well continue as far as Rossett Pike, and with the prospect of some views we decided to do just that.

 Looking across drumlins to Black Crags and Buck Pike.



Rossett Pike

As we left Rossett Pike CJ drew my attention to a bird skulking nearby behind a rock…

It’s a dotterel.

It didn’t seem unduly concerned and I was able to take a few photos before it eventually flew off with a whirring call.

Rossett Pike again.

It was very late when we finally made it back to our cars. I think of all the walks I have written about on this blog, this is the one which I have found the most physically demanding. And I’m still stiff several days later. (Although I did manage a little pogoing the following evening when I went to see The Undertones at the Manchester Academy with X-Ray – but that’s another story.)

Greater Langdale Round

Wansfell Skanking

Windermere seen from Wansfell Pike.

Last Saturday, the ankle-biters packed off to Blackpool zoo with their grandparents, TBH and I were able to head off for a walk in the Lakes. We parked in Troutbeck and had a pleasant climb from there up to Wansfell. Reaching the summit from the east side gave great ‘surprise views’ as the last couple of yards opened up a view to the west of the Coniston Fells and then the hills around Eskdale and Langdale. Perhaps even better was the view south over Windermere and to Morecambe Bay.

We found a spot out of the wind for lunch and tea and then followed the ridge, still quite boggy despite the dry weather, to Wansfell Pike, where the view is even better (because Wansfell Pike isn’t in the way).

Leaving Wansfell Pike towards Ambleside.

A dor beetle (or something like it).

Our descent route took us into the woods and past Stock Ghyll Force….

Having stopped to look at the falls we noticed a pair of grey wagtails and a pair of dippers. It seemed that the wagtails probably had a nest on the far bank of the stream. One of the dippers was clearly intent on driving the wagtails away from it’s territory. We watched the dippers fishing – quite impressive just how long they can stay under the water.

In Ambleside TBH wanted to check out the gear shops hoping for something to replace her high altitude jeans and maybe a bargain or two. Afterwards we repaired to Lucy’s on a Plate for more tea and a light snack of humus and baba ghanoush. As a result we were fairly late leaving Ambleside for the walk back over via Jenkin Crag.

Windermere from Jenkin Crag

At Skelghyll we once again watched dippers fishing in a stream. They seemed to be delivering food to a nest under a bridge – the chicks, out of sight under the bridge, kept up a constant barrage of noisy demands.

Later, with baby-sitters on hand, we were out again. This time to hear Wailing Souls play at the Brewery Arts centre at Kendal. Not a band I’m particularly conversant with, but, it transpired, rather magnificent. A highlight for me was a reggae version of the Doors ‘Love Her Madly’. There is a version of it being played live on Youtube, but it’s very raw, so here’s one of the songs from their set which I did recognise.

Wansfell Skanking

On Finding Things

…finding things is one of the purest of earthly joys.

E. V. Lucas from the essay On Finding Things

I found this gem on Saturday, in a very short essay. The essay is in a book, Modern Prose whose title has rather overtaken it since it was first published in 1922. My copy is the fourth edition from 1926 and it cost me a pound at a local second-hand bookshop. It’s small and rode snugly in my back-pocket when I took the kids and their friend S to the village playground on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful warm sunny morning – perfect for sitting in the park reading a book, or so I thought – but the kids wanted help with the zip wire, and then S’s Dad joined us and filled me in on the local geo-caching scene. So I had to come back to E. V. Lucas on Saturday night. I enjoyed reading the essay – even though, or perhaps because, I felt like taking issue with much of what it had to say. After a promising start it strikes a rather less positive note:

I have, in a lifetime that now and then appals me by its length, found almost nothing.

Lucas enumerates his lifetime’s finds: a couple of brooches, a carriage key, sixpence, some pennies, ‘a safety-pin, a pencil, some other trifle’. By coincidence, when we were out on the fell last weekend my friend GP found a tenner lying on the hill-side. Apparently, this was not the first such find he has made and there was some jealous comments about his good fortune. I couldn’t recall ever finding anything of pecuniary value whilst out walking although, on reflection, I did once find a perfectly good Silva compass sticking out of the peat on Black Hill in the Peak District. When I pulled it out of the bog, I half expected to find a sunken hand grasping it. I used it for years, but then lost it myself – perhaps somebody else found it and then used it in turn?

The disappointing ‘half-century’ of paltry finds which Lucas describes is surely a result of his narrow focus on what kinds of things he hopes to discover. Actually, there’s a hint in the essay that his attitude may have been quite different to what he implies, when he refers to a ‘a great moment, once, in the island of Coll, when after two hours of systematic searching I found the plover’s nest’. So – who was E. V. Lucas? A little bit of lazy internet research throws up thousands of links, all of which (well – the first couple anyway) lead to different pages containing the same article. Poor E. V.  suffers the indignity of having his writing described as ‘insipid’, but my sympathies are enlisted when I read that he wrote a column for the Sunday Times called ‘A Wanderer’s notebook’, and that one of his books was an anthology of poetry called ‘The Open Road’. Perhaps I’ll unearth one of his books some day when I’m browsing the dustier shelves of a second-hand bookshop somewhere.


Our weekend had got off to a fantastic start when we ‘found’ a band which we had never seen before and which we very much enjoyed. We went to the Brewery Arts Centre at Kendal with our friends T&A to see the African Jazz All-stars. We didn’t really know what to expect – I wanted to go in case they turned out to be like the African Jazz Pioneers – whom I’ve loved for years after GP (yes him again) played one of their albums repeatedly on a long drive down to the Alps one summer. All we had to go on was this one clip I found on Youtube:

Happily, the gig was tremendous. TBH has been playing my meager collection of African jazz CDs around the house ever since (although I’m not sure that I’ve convinced her of the merits of Fela Kuti. Yet). The only disappointment was that the Malt Room at the Brewery had been set out with tables and chairs making it very hard to dance.


On Sunday the pleasant sunshine had evaporated to be replaced with more familiar cold wet cloudy autumnal weather. Naturally I took the boys for a walk in the woods. We were joined by CW and a gaggle of kids – some of them hers, some borrowed. The kids mostly coped exceedingly well with the inclement weather. They expected to find a bear in the woods and when none appeared took it in turns to roar and play the part.

Of course kids love finding things – and when they’re little it can be almost anything – sticks, stones, leaves, fungi. At the Ring of Beeches they played hide and seek, finding each other, until they found this low branch which turned out to be perfect to sit on and bounce:

We’ve often noticed how much more our kids enjoy a walk when they have some friends for company, and this was no exception. Even soaking wet through on the exposed top of Castlebarrow most of them managed to raise a smile:

On Finding Things

Silvery Y

…which sounds like the title of a notional Sonic Youth tune, maybe an out-take from Daydream Nation, but which is in fact a moth…

This one was trapped in S’s bedroom for a while and became “my moth”.

It transpires that there are several British species of moth named for a y on their wings. I wonder if they all have those odd protuberances too.

Here’s a bit of Sonic Youth (from Daydream Nation)…just in case you’re curious. Give it a minute and a half – then it kicks off…

The original youtube page is here.

Silvery Y