Palmate Newts, Red Tarn.

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We have three species of newts: Smooth, Great Crested and Palmate. These are the latter – the smallest British species, about 8-9 cm long. The newt at the back is a male – the spots and the red on his tail are part of his mating finery, and characteristic of male Palmate Newts.

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These…

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…are both males. The webbed rear feet are also something males develop only during the mating season.

And finally…

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…this male has a thin filament at the end of his tail – another peculiarity of male Palmates during the breeding season.

My field guide says:

“Found in lakes, ponds and canals; often occurs in fairly acid pools on upland moors.”

Red Tarn fits the bill then.

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Palmate Newts, Red Tarn.

Family Wild Camp: Little Stand

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It’s been a long time on preparation this trip: the kids have all wanted to try a wild-camp for quite some time, and have been accumulating kit via Christmas and Birthday present requests to that end. I’ve slimmed down enough to manage to squeeze into an ordinary sized sleeping bag and have bought myself a down-bag to celebrate. TBH has agreed to join us in roughing it. All we needed was the right weather, so a forecast for a couple of  settled days in the middle of Whit week had us all packing our bags for the off.

We managed to find a parking space at the top of the Wrynose pass and plodded up the path to Red Tarn.

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I camped above here, on the slopes of Pike O’Blisco, on what must have been my own first wild-camping expedition, back in September 1985. This was one potential site, if any of us had been struggling with our loads we would have stopped hereabouts.

Little S had other ideas:

“Can we swim?”

When we joined my old school-friend J on Haystacks for his final Wainwright tick, B spotted a newt in floating near the surface of the water in the small tarn near the top. It wasn’t at all surprising that it was B who first spotted the newts in Red Tarn:

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There were quite a few about, and they weren’t at all discouraged by our proximity, even when the kids entered the water…

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In the end, nobody swam. B was quite contemptuous of the other two: “Just duck in and swim. If I didn’t have this pot on I’d be swimming.”

I’m inclined to believe him.

(More about the newts in the next post)

After our Red Tarn interlude we continued to the point were the path crossed Browney Gill…

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Happy campers. Pike O’Blisco in the background.

And then set off across pathless terrain to the top of Little Stand…

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As a result of monthly walks with our friend Dr R, TBH has developed a sudden interest in Wainwright bagging, and was very excited when I erroneously told her that Little Stand is a Wainwright. I should have realised my error sooner: there is virtually no path at all on Little Stand. This is one of Wainwright’s suggested routes up Crinkle Crags, but obviously that isn’t enough to bring the crowds.

Although fair weather was forecast, we were expecting cloud cover to come in off the Irish Sea, and in fact it was already stealing in by the time we reached Little Stand.

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Scafells from Little Stand.

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Crinkle Crags from Little Stand.

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Fortunately, the kids approved of my camp-cooking and made short work of the pasta I’d brought. I found a comfortable slab of rock and sat by the tarn, using my old MSR water-filter, which requires a lot of pumping and is a bit laborious.

“Look at your Dad sat there with his legs crossed. He looks like Buddha. Look at him: he’s happy.”

I was.

I thought we might get some kind of sunset, but we had to content ourselves with a line of brightness out over the sea.

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It was at this point that the wheels started to come off, at least to some extent. The weather, as I say, was supposedly set fair. But it began to rain.

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TBH and A had already retreated to their sleeping-bags. The boys were charging around the tarn, attempting to circumnavigate it without leaving the rock at any point. I watched a pair of Peregrines circling round the steep slopes to the south, then, as the rain intensified, suggested to the boys that we hit the sack too.

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It was a pretty wet and windy night. The Quechua tent survived the wind fairly well, something I had been worried about, but the fly and the inner were pushed together at the back, which was facing the wind, so that the foot of our sleeping bags did get slightly damp.

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We woke next morning to find ourselves in the cloud. Porridge, tea and a quick pack-up and we were on our way. The general enthusiasm of the night before for climbing Crinkle Crags, Cold Pike and/or Pike O’Blisco had completely evaporated.

A bit of judicious compass work brought us back to the path at Browney Gill, where we finally dropped below the cloud.

At one point B decided to assist with the navigation:

“This is the right way, Dad. We came this way last night.”

“How do you know?”

“We passed that white sheep with a black lamb.”

From that point on, virtually every sheep we saw was white and was accompanied by a black lamb. B stuck to his guns, though, brazening it out by claiming that the same lamb and sheep were leading us down the mountain.

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Langdale Pikes.

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Pike O’Blisco.

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Happy campers again.

Perhaps things didn’t turn out quite as we had hoped, but it was still an excellent first outing. Here’s to many more.

Family Wild Camp: Little Stand

The Wells of Silverdale

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There’s something very satisfying about a hand drawn map, don’t you think? This one is from a leaflet; one from my collection of leaflets detailing local walks, which I have acquired over the years and keep filed away on a shelf. I dug it out because I wanted to compare it with this map…

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Which is from ‘Old Silverdale’ by Rod J. Ireland, which I bought last week, a little birthday present to myself, and which I’ve been poring over ever since. This map shows more wells than the first. At some point, I shall have to see if I can find any trace of the additional wells shown. But on this occasion I contented myself with following the route shown in the leaflet.

 

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Cheery Dandelions.

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Cheery Celandines.

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Elmslack Well.

Yes, I realise that it’s actually a bin. But I’m told that it’s on the site of the old well.

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Inman’s Road.

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Not wells, I know, but these tanks formerly collected and supplied water to Hill House, now the Woodlands pub, so they seem relevant. Mains water arrived in the area in 1938 (there’s still no mains sewers). Until then the wells would obviously have been important. Also many houses had tanks on the roof which collected rain water.

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This photo is the best I managed from a satisfyingly close encounter with ‘the British bird of paradise‘, or more prosaically, a Jay. The Jay moved from branch to branch, but unusually, stayed in sight and not too far away. Sadly, never long enough for me to get any half decent photos.

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This squirrel was more obliging.

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Wood Anemones.

The Toothwort beside Inman’s Road is much taller than it was, but already beginning to look a bit tatty and past its best.

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More Wood Anemones.

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Chaffinch.

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Dogslack Well.

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Comma butterfly.

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Bank Well.

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The light was stunning and making everything look gorgeous.

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Coot chick.

Well, almost everything. This is the kind of face that only a mother could love, surely?

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Lambert’s Meadow.

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I like to think that this is a Raven, sitting atop a very tall tree, regally surveying the meadow and the surrounding woodland. But none of the photos show the shaggy throat which is supposed to make it easy to distinguish between Ravens and Crows. So, I’m not sure.

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Burton Well

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The pond at Woodwell.

There are newts at Woodwell. We hardly ever see them. But today, not only did I see one, but I managed to train my camera on it…

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Blast!

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Golden Saxifrage.

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Woodwell.

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The Ramsons in Bottom’s Wood are looking particularly verdant, but no sign yet of any flowers. On the verge of Cove Road, near to the Cove, the flowers are already on display. The flowers always seem to appear there first.

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Cherry blossom.

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Jackdaw.

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Song Thrush.

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Nuthatch.

On the Lots there were Starlings and Pied Wagtails foraging on the ground.

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Crow – the second evening in a row when a crow has been perched on this branch.

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Pied Wagtail.

It was one of those magical days when lots of birds seemed content to sit still and be photographed. Lots, but not all. The Buzzards were flying above the small copse above the Cove. I watched them through the trees as, once again, they both flew in to perch on a tree at the far side of the wood. This time it was the same tree in which a Tawny Owl obligingly posed for a photo one evening some years ago. They were tantalisingly close, maybe I could get some good photos?

But when I switched on my camera, what did I notice, much closer to hand…

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…a pair of Nuthatches.

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Since I learned to recognise the slightly monotonous song of Nuthatches, I’ve come to realise how very common they are in this area. And I spot them much more often than I used to. As a boy, these were an exotic rarity to me, and fortunately their ubiquity has done nothing to reduce the thrill I still feel when I see them.

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One of the pair sat and pruned itself for quite some time and I took lots of photos before eventually turning my attention back to the tree where the Buzzards…

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…were no longer perched.

I scanned other trees for a while, and then, just as I reluctantly gave up on the idea of seeing the Buzzards again, there they were, not in a tree, but in the adjacent field, one on the ground and the other sat on a dry-stone wall, and showing to much better advantage than before. But before I took any photos, they were off again.

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Starling.

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Bullfinch.

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Morecambe Bay.

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Blackbird – in almost the same spot as the night before.

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Five for silver.

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It was getting a bit dark for bird photos at this point, but this Goldfinch was behaving in a way which I’ve noticed a couple of times recently; it was singing, swivelling sharply through ninety degrees singing again, then back and so on. The precision of it seemed quite aggressive, but at the same time, pretty comical.

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The leaflet says that this walk is ‘about four miles’, but although I’d skipped the out and back to Bard’s Well on the shore, The Move App was telling me that I’d walked five miles. And despite the Jay, the Newt and the Buzzards all evading my camera, this had been a very satisfying five miles.

The Wells of Silverdale

Haystacks

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Fleetwith Pike

My old friend JS had just one more Wainwright to bag. He is, I think, the most well-organised man I have ever known (I say ‘man’ advisedly, I’ve worked with a few women who would give him a run for his money) and typically he had planned out his Wainwright bagging so as to leave the last for his 50th Birthday. When I saw him down in Nottingham a few weeks ago he invited me to join him and I didn’t need to be asked twice.

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Buttermere.

The forecast wasn’t great, but for most of the day the weather was pretty kind to us. We met in Buttermere village and walked along the southern shore of the lake before climbing towards Scarth Gap.

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Haystacks.

I’d dragged B along for the walk and JS’s sisters and a brother-in-law were also in the party. The pace was very leisurely, which suited me just fine. I could see that B was getting a little restless however, so we took an off-piste route, seeking out some easy scrambling.

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Fleetwith Pike again.

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Seat and High Crag.

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North-Western Fells over Buttermere.

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Panorama.

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B enjoying some unexpected sunshine.

We saw a couple of these…

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…large, hairy caterpillars. I think that it’s a Hairy Oak Eggar Moth caterpillar. This one didn’t move at all and was still in exactly the same spot when we came back down. If it had chosen a spot in which to pupate, then it had chosen badly because it was right on the path.

In the little tarn between the many small knolls on the top, B spotted a newt floating just below the surface of the water.

A champagne lunch was planned for the summit, but some members of the party, not regular walkers, objected to the ‘rock climb’ where the path crossed some slabs just below the top, so the champagne was quaffed a little way short of the top. I’m pretty sure it tasted just as good as it would have done a few metres higher. Having traveled in a rucksack, the bottle had had a good shaking and the cork rocketed skyward most impressively.

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A family party with champagne. The bobble hats had all been especially knitted for the occasion.

We returned by exactly the same route. The weather had done us proud, but as we were almost back to the lake shore path the heavens finally opened, and when the rain came it came with a vengeance. We’d been waiting for the others, but now decided to make a beeline for the car. B was nonplussed as the path became a stream and we were both quickly soaked, but it wasn’t far to the car, and we both had a change of clothes in the boot, although we had to run the gauntlet of the midges as we changed.

I’m not sure how many Wainwrights I have left to bag – some I’ve never done, and others I’ve been up many times, but not since I started keeping a record. Maybe I should be taking a leaf out of JS’s book and thinking ahead – which one should I choose to finish on? And who would I invite to join me? (And carry the champagne?).

Haystacks

Haystacks