First Name Terms*

A hawker

A little while back now: a drizzly weekend was rescued by the visit of many old friends (of which more later perhaps) and by a bright and sunny Friday evening. From my home-bound train I spotted a red deer stag in the reed beds of Barrowscout Fields and so it seemed the obvious choice, once off the train, to head away from home and towards the reed beds of Leighton Moss. Crossing the causeway at Leighton Moss between tall reeds, meres and occasional stands of alder, what struck me was just how quiet it was – no cacophony of gulls, no scratchy of warbler’s songs. But there were a few dragonflies about.

A hawker again

I watched the jinking flights of two dragonflies for a while. They disappeared together amongst the alders at the side of the path and when only the larger of the two re-emerged I looked for the other amongst the alder saplings. Without that clue I don’t think I would have spotted this elegant chap resting on this stem, despite the striking blue blobs. I’m pretty sure that this is not a migrant hawker, like the one I photographed at Gait Barrows back at the end of August. I think that it might be a common hawker, but frustratingly, because of the angle it was perched at, and because it was above head height, I couldn’t see the distinctive markings on the abdomen which might confirm that identification.

Leighton Moss view

My favourite Leighton Moss view.

A friend who lives nearby, but not all that nearby, was telling me recently that she had seen the egret roost at Leighton Moss, and that she was suitably impressed. I was a bit put out – egret roost? Really – how come I haven’t seen, or heard about, this? From the public hide I thought perhaps I could see some egrets in distant trees. I walked around to the Lower Hide, thinking I would have a better view from there, but although I was sure that I could see the relevant clump of trees, now I couldn’t see any egrets at all. A marsh harrier flew low over the far side of the mere, close to the trees where I thought there might be egrets and in the wake of the harrier’s passing a host of pure white birds flew up from the trees and briefly circled, seeming to savour the heavy wind, playing as rooks and jackdaws will in gusty conditions.

I continued from lower hide, on the path which curls around to Storrs Lane and which has recently become a favourite. I noticed several places where the rich black mud close to the perimeter fence had been heavily churned. Whilst examining the prints in the mud, I looked up and looking back at me, not 10 yards away, were three red deer hinds.

Red deer hinds

Of course, they were away pretty swiftly, but they stayed in view and I eventually found a vantage point where I could see them through the trees.

Three red deer hinds

It soon became apparent that these three were part of a larger group and I watched perhaps 20 deer as one after another they elegantly hopped over a fence and disappeared across a field. The last across was a fine stag.

Red deer stag

Whilst I took the photos I was noticing that the scene behind the deer was also impressive – late sun illuminating autumn colours with dark sky behind and a sliver of rainbow. Rainbow? Hang on…


It was soon raining, and continued to do so as I passed the gnarly old horse chestnut onto Storrs Lane.

Storrs Road Rainbow

But there was the compensation of a full rainbow however (couldn’t squeeze all of it into a single frame sadly).

And as I walked along the lane I did finally have a good view of the egret roost…

Egret roost

Could there be a better way to relax at the end of a working week? What a privilege it is to have this on our doorstep.

*The title is filched from the post – On the Benefits of Exploring your own Backyard – a book review, but a lot more besides.

First Name Terms*

A Haweswater Round

Regular visitors will know that a walk around Haweswater is a regular pleasure for me, since there is a small lake of that name perhaps a mile from our house. Last weekend however I had more ambitious plans – a high level circuit of it’s Lakeland namesake. I had driven up in intermittent rain, thinking that I was destined for a rainbow day, but parked close to the village of Burnbanks, which lies below Haweswater’s dam, in pleasant sunshine. I hadn’t gone far when I encountered this chap, who seemed to be in some sort of hurry. I reckon it’s a garden tiger moth caterpillar.

This caterpillar is often called a woolly bear because of its dense coat, with long white-tipped black hairs on the back and chestnut hairs on the sides. The head is shiny black….Mature caterpillars are often seen trundling over the ground at high speed in search of pupation sites.

Collins Complete British Insects Michael Chinery

Burnbanks gives a satisfyingly high start and I was soon crossing rough slopes with the white of bog cotton and cuckoo flower waving in the stiff breeze and the small pink flowers of what I was pleased to recognise as lousewort down among the grass. I made a slight detour to pick up Pinnacle Howe (a bit of an insignificant knoll to be honest) and then cut back on a good track to do the same for Four Stones Hill. This at least has the benefit of a good view along Haweswater. Nearby the map shows ‘Standing Stones’. Given the name of the hill you might think that there would be four stones. But….

The map also shows ‘Cairn’ in the same gothic script and with a star which I think indicates some sort of ancient monument.

From there a short climb brought me to what felt like the first substantial fell of the day. It’s unnamed on the OS map. Birkett calls it Bampton Common, but in Aileen and Brian Evans ‘Short Walks in Lakeland – Book 2 Northern Lakeland’ it says that local farmers call this Great Birkhouse Hill, a name which has been used for one of the many knolls near Four Stones Hill on the OS map, apparently incorrectly.

Looking east towards Cross Fell in the Pennines.

It rained on and off as I traversed Low Kop (another slightly inexplicable Birkett) and then the long gradual moorland climb toward High Kop and Wether Hill. The latter has two broad grassy tops each with a 670m contour. Birkett says that the most northerly ‘is taken to be the summit’. Well I took the most southerly to be the top and I’m counting it regardless of any arguments to the contrary.

Just before I reached Wether Hill I met three walkers who’s first question, very direct, was: ‘Do you know where you are on the map?’ They’d come up from Howtown and were actually exactly where they wanted to be and now were heading down to where I had come from. The next question was: ‘You don’t have 11 friends following on behind somewhere do you? We’ve had a bet about how many people we will meet.’ I had to disappoint the questioner: not only was I alone, but they were the first other walkers I had met.

Now on the main High Street ridge, and following the old Roman road, I crossed Red Crag. Somewhere along the ridge here the nature of the terrain changes and from walking on hills with quite a Pennine character, suddenly there are steeps and crags and a quickening of the pulse. I was enjoying the views of Rest Dodd and The Nab which CJ and I climbed last year. On High Raise it began to rain in earnest. I’d been wearing my cag for some time, more to fend off the cold wind than for the short lived and light showers, but now I needed my waterproof overtrousers too. It continued to rain quite heavily as I contoured round to bag Kidsty Pike and then to climb Rampsgill Head, but here rather magically the rain stopped, the wind dropped and the sun came out, all in very short order. This was all the excuse I needed and I stopped for a first, and quite late, cup of tea and sandwich. Whilst I ate a raven landed close by, but sadly was away again before I could get a photo.

Kidsty Pike

By now, in the throes of Birkett bagging frenzy, I detoured slightly to include The Knott and then continued on to the high point of the day on Racecourse Hill (yes, really: there were race meets held up here in days gone by). I was in the cloud, but frankly I didn’t really mind – I was having a ball. So much so in fact that I blithely continued along the path by the wall which took me in the wrong direction. By the time I realised my daft mistake I was so close to Thornthwaite Beacon that I decided to bag that whilst I was at it. From there a good contouring path brought me to Mardale Ill Bell.

Harter Fell.

Upto this point, this route offers the peak bagger a low effort delight with not a great deal in the way of descent or reascent. Now I faced a couple of slightly more challenging climbs – the first taking me down to the top of the Nan Bield Pass – where I saw my last other walkers of the day – and back up to Harter Fell.

Small Water and High Street from the route up Harter Fell.

As I dropped off Harter Fell I saw three guys on trials bikes roaring through the Gatescarth Pass. Seconds later, to my surprise, they were bouncing and sliding their way over Little Harter Fell and then past me and on towards the summit of Harter Fell. They were noisy and smelly (and so were the bikes) and obviously to be frowned upon by all right thinking and upstanding members of the community. But, I must confess,  it did look like fun.

On Adam Seat I found this…

…which I think is a boundary stone. Later I found another with both L and H on it. I suspect that if I had had the whit to look at the other side of this one it would also have been engraved with an H.

As you can probably tell from the photos, the weather had improved again and on the way down to the top of the Gatescarth Pass I was briefly out of the wind and for a while it even felt quite warm.

The climb from there to Branstree was rather featureless and grassy and with my legs beginning to tire I needed to employ every trick in the book to maintain some interest – I know that I can get disheartened on dull slopes like this one and then my pace can slow as I stop to take frequent rests.

Fortunately, I was distracted, for a while at least, by…

..a spiny caterpillar. I can’t identify this one. Any suggestions?

As I neared the top I was watching this cloud and wondering – is it anvil shaped? The forecast I had heard on the radio had predicted thundery showers in the north in the afternoon and so I wanted to keep a weather eye on….well, the weather.

It was clear that somewhere in the Eden valley was being subjected to a fairly intense shower. And finally there was the rainbow which I had anticipated. As I watched, the colours of the little truncated rainbow became progressively brighter…

I’m not sure that this photo does it justice – at the time I was sure that it was the most incandescent rainbow I had ever seen.

Fortunately, there was little climbing left to do now – just a long walk over High Howes and Selside Pike, from where I liked the look of Swindale…

The Forces Falls on Mosedale Beck looked particularly worth a visit.

And then over boggy ground with many knolls some of which are Birketts and some of which aren’t, without any particularly obvious distinctions between the two.

Haweswater Round

It was half past eight when I finally arrived back at my car. I had been out for ten and half hours. But it had been quite a day. I think about twenty miles* and quite a bit of up and down. 21 Birketts in all, neatly doubling my total for the year. (Although some aren’t new – X-Ray and I did Banstree, High Howes and Selside Pike last year) (Actually I walked this entire route once before, about 10years ago, but that was pre-blog, so doesn’t count.)

*Bing maps said very slightly under 19, my pedometer gave 33.77km. The pedometer also said 49675 steps. Isn’t that 5 days worth of exercise all in one day? If I’d only eaten 25 portions of fruit and veg whilst doing it I could have lived on choc-ice and chips and sofa-surfed until Thursday!

A Haweswater Round

Supernumerary Rainbow

I was sitting with S in his room as he drifted off to sleep, reading, perhaps appropriately, ‘Cosmic Imagery’ by John D. Barrow a great book to dip in to on just such an occasion, when that call went out again – “Dad, Dad come and look at this.”

Two very intense complete hoops – it took me a while to find my cameras and the photos are not a patch on how it looked at the time, but…as well as the reversed secondary it’s just about possible to see inside the principal rainbow a fainter band which is a supernumerary rainbow. There’s a scientific explanation here.

This crop is not exactly sharp but it is possible to see the extra colours inside the violet.


The next day we were enjoying sunshine in the garden when they were at it again. This time they wanted to show me a slowworm which their mum had found in a flowerbed. Very beautiful – and not particularly slow when we picked it up. No photos  this time sorry – but there is one here from earlier in the year.

Supernumerary Rainbow

Rainbow over the Bela

TBH and I had been in Kendal (looking at oak flooring if you must know) and had intended to squeeze a short walk in on the way home. The weather was very changeable – sunshine and showers – a rainbow day. We were in two minds, but eventually opted for a little trip along the Bela. We started our trip accompanied by a full double rainbow. (Admittedly it’s a bit hard to see the second one in the photo above.)

Large fish were leaping from the river making impressive splashes.

A good example here…

…of how the sky inside the rainbow appears paler than the sky outside.

This little walk punches well above its weight. We were soon on the pancake flat land leading out to the Kent estuary and the eye is led by the high ground either side of the Kent valley to the distant hills of the Lake District.

Rainbow over the Bela

A Pot of Gold

Ironically, whilst I’ve been laid up the weather has been stunning. Now it’s broken, but yesterday’s clouds and rain brought an amazing double rainbow.

The second arc stands out a little better here…

And also the fact that the sky bounded by the rainbow looked much lighter than that outside it. Is that a well known phenomena? I don’t recall noticing it before.

I haven’t messed with the saturation or colour on these photos at all. I took quite a few.

In lieu of anything intelligent to say about rainbows I’ll ask a question. Is anybody out there in the blogosphere familiar with the books of Mary Webb? I’ve done quite a bit of reading whilst I haven’t been going out for evening walks. Amongst other novels I finally got round to revisiting Thomas Hardy and read Far From The Madding Crowd. I enjoyed it immensely. Then last weekend I picked up Gone To Earth by Mary Webb from our local coffee morning book stall. I’m no expert on literature, but it seems to me that the this book bears comparison with the Hardy, and has a great deal in common with it. But we don’t hear about Webb’s Shropshire like we do about Hardy’s Wessex. Apparently, Webb wasn’t particularly successful during her own lifetime, but gained some posthumous popularity after a ringing endorsement from Stanley Baldwin.


A little searching and referral to Wikipedia reveals that Cold Comfort Farm is a parody of Mary Webb, and that there was a Powell and Pressburger film of Gone to Earth.


An fascinating article on rainbows reveals that the paler sky within the rainbow is normal, that the secondary rainbow is reversed (check out the second photo above), and that the sky between the rainbows is the darkest of all and is called Alexander’s band.

A Pot of Gold

The Earth Moved


A late evening rainbow. The third of these four trees in the field behind our house has a mini rookery. Last year there were two nests, this year three.

What I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post was Tuesday’s great excitement. We had our own earthquake. Ulverston across the bay was the epicentre and it was apparently 3.5 on the Richter scale, so pretty small beer as these things go. But my first experience and quite disconcerting – our building shuddered and groaned. My boss and I went outside expecting to see…well, perhaps a light aircraft sticking out of the roof.

That day at work was also enlivened by a woodpecker feeding on a pear tree just outside the room in which we were meeting. A female woodpecker, or so my colleague, who is a proper birder, tells me.

The Earth Moved

Not Peak-Bagging II

On Sunday morning we drove down to Inverarnan just north of Loch Lomond. We had intended to park in Glen Falloch as near as possible to the start of a hydro track, but couldn’t find anywhere to stick three cars. Some hasty route revision followed, and we hit upon the idea of following the Allt Arnan uphill. The going wasn’t particularly easy – more frogs attested to the generally bogginess, and where the stream flowed under the railway we had to scramble in the streambed on very greasy rocks, but the stream did add some interest to the climb. Frequent drizzly showers tested the functionality of my new waterproofs. When we hit the track which we had originally intended to climb, the sun briefly appeared. Uncle Fester took an unscheduled detour towards the Lairig Arnan and when he realised and headed back to join us, announced that he and his dodgy knees would be heading back to the warm and dry pub in Inverarnan. From this point the climb steepened considerably and route finding became a puzzle as we picked our way through the crags.


Despite the gradient, I found a nice snail’s pace plod and was able to make steady progress uphill. I lost the others as I contoured westward looking for easier angles and they stopped for some lunch (I was still weighed down with another full breakfast).

Showers still threatened, but occasionally there were even patches of blue sky…

…and partial views of Loch Lomond…

Everything went well until, nearing the summit of Troisgeach, I crested the slope onto a more exposed part of the ridge and was instantly buffeted by very powerful winds. It had been windy in the night, and breezy at times as we climbed, but nothing had prepared me for this. I was finding forward progress difficult. I couldn’t find the others. The terrain was such that they could have been nearby, or turned back without seeing me. Then again, they might have already gone on to our agreed aim of the Corbett Meall an Fhudair. I carried on a little further by dropping slightly back down the hillside out of the wind and contouring, but eventually decided that this was no fun and that I would turn back. Almost immediately I saw two figures below me on the ridge. They looked like Mogs and the Shandy Sherpa – it seemed logical to assume that they had indeed turned back and missed me, whilst the Adopted Yorkshire Man and Geordie Munro – ardent peak baggers – had somehow struggled on. I didn’t have to descend far to be back out of the wind and I enjoyed the craggy hillside again on the way down, although finding a route through the crags was more difficult going down than it had been on the way up.

I followed the track, occasionally stopping to watch the amorous frogs in the track side ditches or to admire rainbows up the valley.

I was saved the long walk down the track and then the main road to Inverarnan by an engineer who was working on a pipeline project in Gleann nan Caorann and who stopped to pick me up.

The Adopted Yorkshire Man and Geordie Munro were already in the car, having hitched a lift from the head of the valley after succesfully ticking-off Meall an Fhudair.

Back in Inverarnan the weather felt pleasantly spring like – it was hard to believe just how ferocious the wind had been up on the hill.

Not Peak-Bagging II