Stony Hazel and Rusland Moss

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The first Saturday of September and another one of those windows of opportunity which I so often seem to refer to these days. The Dangerous Brothers were still rehearsing their high-wire act in County Durham, later that day I would be chauffeuring the rest of the family and our friend R up to join them, partly so that we could collect the boys and rescue their grandparents, but also because TBH and R would be competing in the Great North Run the following day.

So, I made an early start with the intention of a walk in the Rusland Valley. I didn’t have a plan for parking, but wondered whether the verges by Rusland Church would be accommodating. They were. I don’t suppose you would be very popular parking here on a Sunday morning, and you have to choose your spot carefully…..

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I had a quick gander inside the church…

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It’s quite a large church, considering how isolated it is. There are no houses roundabout at all, it must serve several small communities.

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I took a  tour around the graveyard, looking for one headstone in particular, beneath the Corsican Pine….

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The last resting place….

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…of Arthur and Evgenia Ransome.

I have to confess that I haven’t read the Swallows and Amazons books, which I suppose might be a little unusual for a Lake District enthusiast. Last year we saw a dramatisation of Swallows and Amazons at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. Very good it was too. I tried reading it with the kids a while back too, but it didn’t seem to fire their imaginations and we didn’t get very far. I think the vocabulary was a bit of a stumbling block for them. In one of those curious coincidences, a couple of days later I was listening to ‘Great Lives’ on the way home from work, and lo and behold, it featured Labi Siffre proposing Arthur Ransome. Fascinating to discover that Ransome’s second wife, also buried here, was Trotsky’s secretary when Ransome met her. Rather marvellously, it appears that the BBC make all thirty odd series of ‘Great Lives’ available on the iplayer. The Arthur Ransome one is here. Have a listen and decide for yourself whether his life was ‘great’. It was certainly interesting: he was sued by Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde’s lover, was a journalist and double agent during the Russian revolution, as well as a very successful children’s author.

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The Rusland Reading Rooms are opposite the church. I would have liked to have a poke around in there too, just out of curiosities sake, but had to settle for a few photos from outside.

I had a very sketchy plan for my walk, setting out through these woods, marked on the 1:25000 OS map as Stony Hazel, but on the 1:50000 as Thwaite Moss. Whatever their name, they were very atmospheric, but none of my photos seem to capture just how nice they were.

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They were full of exuberant fungi.

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Once again, you can see here that it was raining a little. It was another day of mixed weather.

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I reached the far side of the woods, with a little waterfall on Force Beck.

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By the gardens of this rather attractive old mill, a reminder I suppose, of an industrial past for this apparently sleepy rural backwater.

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I hadn’t decided at this point, where my walk would take me next, and now made the slightly crazy decision to try to follow the beck. This proved to be quite tricky going, but quite charming when I stopped fighting the vegetation and stopped to look about.

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I always enjoy yellowed leaves floating in water, but they’re very difficult to photograph satisfactorily, something to do with the way light reflects off the water I suspect.

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I had hoped that I would be able to cross the beck and pick-up the track (not a right-of-way) on the far bank, which heads toward Quaker’s Wood. When I realised that wouldn’t really be feasible, I cut back to the path and thence back to Rusland Church, from where I set off along a minor lane towards the hamlet of Rusland Cross.

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The hedgerow provided interest, and breakfast. I was fascinated by this artfully rolled leaf…

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….like a small cigar. I saw several more of these through the day. Always hazel leaves, always incredibly neat and compact. I have no idea what creature is inside and whether it is pupating, or nesting or hibernating? (Actually, the latter seems a bit unlikely in a deciduous leaf.)

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Handsome Lakeland barn on the outskirts of Rusland Cross.

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Coach-house dated 1850, at the Hall at Rusland Cross.

I took the bridleway down to the right of the Hall which led me to Rusland Pool…

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..and, once across the bridge, into Rusland Moss.

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So that’s twice this year I’ve been here, having not visited for many years. I crossed the Moss to Low Hay Bridge, walked across to Hulleter and back across the Reserve again.

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I was having huge problems with my camera at this point, in fact, I thought it might be about to die on me. I did manage to get some photos of more fungi.

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And of the expansive views.

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But not, sadly, of the woodpeckers and nuthatches, which were flaunting themselves in a fashion so frustrating that it was hard no to suspect that they knew that my camera was playing up.

The camera has subsequently made something of a recovery, although the lid of the battery compartment bulges even more alarmingly then it did before, and it‘s held together with gaffer tape, which looks a tad Heath-Robinson.

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One more point of interest from the walk to report – I crept up a driveway to sneak a view of this building, marked on my map as a cross, but, I notice, on the most up to date OS map, now appearing as a red square.

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A red square, for non-map addicts, has no connection in this context toRansome’s friends Lenin or Trotsky, but represents a hostel. This is still a Meeting House, but the stables have been converted for use as a basic independent hostel. Details here. Must admit, I’m quite taken with the idea of staying there, partly because of the quiet and lovely location, but also because I’d like to see what the Meeting House is like inside. (Even as I write that however, I’m remembering that I’ve been in the Meeting Houses in both Lancaster and Warton and that, unsurprisingly, there’s nothing very remarkable to see.) Another handsome building though. And now we know why the wood behind it is ‘Quaker’s Wood’.

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Stony Hazel and Rusland Moss