Elderflower Foraging

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Eaves Wood

Well – that answers one question: the hay was yet to be cut. TBH had been making elderflower cordial, but wanted to try a new recipe (spoiler alert – it’s very nice) and asked if I could bring back 40 heads of elderflower. No problem, I said, there’s loads at Gait Barrows.

I took a circuitous route to Gait Barrows – calling in first at Lambert’s Meadow, Myer’s Allotment and Trowbarrow Quarry.

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I can’t identify this tiny fly, but I was quite taken by its orange speckled wings.

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Volucella pellucens – a striking hoverfly, the larvae of which live in wasps nests as scavengers. Even wasps get pestered in their homes: a comforting thought somehow.

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I’ve been thinking that I really must make more of an effort with grasses and the like, but now I’m looking at a page of sedges which look, to my untutored eye, practically identical. This is one of them, I think, maybe Glaucous Sedge? This is the female spike – pretty striking I thought.

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Another sedge perhaps, maybe one of the many yellow sedges?

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Azure damselfly.

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Another hoverfly.

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I thought taking photos of our wild roses might likewise encourage me to begin trying to distinguish between them, but I clearly need to make notes about the leaves and the thorns and the colour of the stems and I’m probably too lazy to do that. Having said that, since Dog Roses are usually pink, I shall assume that this is a Field Rose.

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A cowslip which has gone to seed.

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Oedemera lurida – the larger green insect on the right.

The flower here is one of those yellow daisies over which I have so much difficulty. I’ve been reading, and enjoying, ‘Chasing The Ghost’ by Peter Marren. It’s subtitled ‘My search for all the wild flowers of Britain’. Except, it turns out that actually it’s his search for the last fifty species he hasn’t seen. Excluding all of the ‘casuals’ – non-native plants which have self-seeded from a garden, or from bird-food or somesuch. And he isn’t going to try to see the many sub-species of dog-rose or whitebeam because they are too numerous and too troublesome to tell apart. Likewise the hawkweeds, of which, apparently, 415 subspecies have been identified. So far. Peter Marren is a Proper Botanist, and he needs expert help. Another comforting thought.

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Yellow Rattle – gone to seed and now showing the ‘rattles’ – the pods in which the seeds literally do rattle. 

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Common Blue butterfly.

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Oedemera lurida again, this time on Mouse-ear-hawkweed, a yellow daisy which has the decency to be easy to identify.

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Unidentified (solitary?) bee on unidentified flower.

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The view from the bench at Myer’s Allotment over the meres of Leighton Moss. 

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Tutsan. 

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Tutsan, from the French toute-saine meaning all healthy. Herbalists laid the leaves over wounds and apparently it does have antiseptic properties. Tutsan has a reputation for inducing chastity: allegedly, men should drink infusions made from the plant, and women should spread twigs below their beds.

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The leaves, when dried, are reputed to smell like ambergris and so it is also called Sweet Amber. Ambergris, known in China as ‘dragon’s spittle fragrance’, is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish colour produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or excreted by sperm whales. I remember a dog-walker found some on Morecambe beach year or two ago and sold it for thousands; tens-of-thousands even. It must be true, I read it in a tabloid.

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We have quite a bit of it in our garden. Tutsan that is, not ambergris. It’s a weed I suppose, but a beautiful plant which is interesting year round; the berries go from yellow through red to black. It seems that hoverflies like it just as much as I do!

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The Trough.

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Trowbarrow quarry – there were quite a few people climbing.

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Maybe I should have asked them to fetch me down some elderflowers?

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I couldn’t resist another visit to the Bee Orchids…

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…to try to catch them whilst the sun was shining on them…

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A Gait Barrows view.

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An unusually tall and prolifically flowered Elder. Most of the flowers would have been out of reach, but I didn’t even try, so confident was I that I knew of a plentiful supply of Elder up on the limestone pavement.

There were plenty of other distractions in the grykes up on the pavement. For instance, now that it has just about finished flowering, I spotted several more patches of Angular Solomon’s-seal…

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Tutsan grows in the grykes too, but the red leaves are a sign that it is not exactly flourishing, presumably with little soil or water to thrive on.

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Bloody crane’s-bill.

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Eye bright.

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Field Rose?

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Female Large Skipper. (Large compared to a Small Skipper, but still quite diminutive).

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I watched this bird circling far overhead. Everything about it – size, shape, the way it flew – convinced me that it was a raptor, but if it was I now can’t pin it down to any particular species. I thought it might be another Peregrine, but I can’t see any sign of the moustaches a grey, male Peregrine might show in any of my, admittedly rather poor, photos.

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When I arrived at the spot where I was convinced I would find an abundance of elderflower, I found two stunted shrubs growing from grykes – each with a handful of unopened  flowers, neither use nor ornament for making cordial I assumed.

I eventually found another area of pavement, with a handful of small specimens, which did have almost enough flowers for our purposes.

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With those stowed away in my rucksack, I headed home via Hawes Water. On the disturbed ground there, after last year’s work, there were several tall Mullein plants growing…

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I had to have a closer look because the leaves often have interesting residents. This isn’t what I was expecting however…

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A pair of mating Green Shield Bugs!

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Green Shield Bugs live on the sap of a variety of plants. I didn’t realise that they used to be confined to the south of the country, but have been progressing steadily northward with climate change.

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Best not to pick up Shield Bugs since they can release a noxious smelly liquid, giving them their alternative name of ‘Stink Bugs’.

Incidentally, I picked up my copy of ‘Bugs Britannica’ to see what it had to say about Shield Bugs and discovered that it was co-written by Richard Mabey and Peter Marren. I think mainly by Peter Marren, because I believe that was when Richard Mabey was suffering from the depression which he would go on to write about in ‘Nature Cure’.

Mr Marren is, it seems, a pan-lister, a phenomena which he discusses in ‘Chasing the Ghost’: pan-listers are spotters who are like twitchers on steroids – they have tick-lists for all living things larger than bacteria apparently – fungi, plants, insects, birds, slime-moulds, lichens, etc. Even in the UK that’s tens of thousands of species.

It occurred to me that I might fit into that bracket, except I’m much too lazy. I don’t keep lists and I only very rarely travel to see something in particular. Although, I’ve always enjoyed myself on the few occasions that I have done that – I’m thinking of the saxifrage on Pen-y-Ghent or the gentians in Teesdale.

Anyway, what I was actually on the look-out for were caterpillars of the Mullein Moth…

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Once you get close, they are quite hard to miss!

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Years ago, when we lived on The Row, some Mullein appeared in our garden and, although I suppose they are weeds, they’re large and quite striking, so we left them to flower. Then the voracious caterpillars appeared and completely stripped the plants of leaves and flowers.

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Bird’s-eye Primrose.

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When I reached the meadows near Challan Hall, I realised that there were perhaps a dozen Elder trees here, all of them plastered with blossom.

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I didn’t need much more, but I cam back a day or two later to discover that the trees were mostly on steep banks, leaving most of the flowers out of reach, and even where they weren’t, the trees were well protected by an understorey of brambles and nettles.

The cordial is well worth it though.

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The verge of the railway line had a fine display of Oxeye Daisies.

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This should have been my first stop for elderflowers – a small elder growing behind our garage.

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Elderflower Foraging

More Butterflies and Wild Celery

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Orange-tip butterfly on Dame’s Violet.

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As you can see, I was quite taken with the combination of a male Orange-tip and the Dame’s Violet flowers. Ii was Whitsun half-term and I was on my way to Trowbarrow Quarry to look for Fly Orchids. It has become something of an annual ritual – every year I go to look for them and every year I fail to find them. This year I had a good excuse, because apparently, due to the exceptionally dry spring, Fly Orchids were only very short this year. And they’re pretty hard to spot at the best of times. Well, they must be – I’ve never found any anyway.

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Green-ribbed Sedge again? Maybe.

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Broad-bodied Chaser.

I’m not sure whether Broad-bodied Chasers are the most common dragonflies in the area, or just the easiest to spot and photograph because of their habit of perching on the end of a stem like this. This is almost certainly a female – males begin their adult life yellow, but rapidly turn blue.

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B had warned me that Trowbarrow would be busy. He wasn’t wrong. The photo doesn’t really show the extent of it because there are plenty of hidden corners here, and a lot of the visitors were climbers on so out of sight on the quarry-face above. There were lots of picnickers, families on bikes and the afore-mentioned climbers. All seemed to be managing to enjoy the sunshine whilst maintaining sensible distancing. Still, it was a bit of a surprise after it had been pretty quiet for so long.

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Female Common Blue butterflies and Northern Brown Argus are very similar to each other. Both should have orange spots around the edge of their wings, which were lacking in this case…

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After consulting this excellent guide, I had decided that this was a Northern Brown Argus, because the long thin body suggests that this is a male and also because of a missing ocellus on the underside of the upperwing. But then I saw a photo of an almost identical butterfly labelled, by someone who I think knows better than I do, as a female Common Blue. So…..I’m not sure!

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Rock Rose.

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Male Common Blue – no such confusion.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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Common Twayblade. 

If I didn’t find any Fly Orchids, I did at least come across  some Common Twayblade, growing very tall and apparently defying the dry conditions.

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It was a hot day and the sheep had the right idea.

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Guelder Rose in the hedge on Lambert’s Meadow.

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Wild Celery near Jenny Brown’s Point.

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I think this is the plant from which both celery and celeriac were cultivated, but is not one for the forager since it is toxic. The same is true, apparently, of wild almonds. I’m always intrigued by how our ancestors could have managed to domesticate poisonous plants. Why would you even try, from such unpromising beginnings?

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Quicksand Pool.


For no better reason than that I’ve been listening to reggae all day whilst working, three favourites of the genre…

‘Street 66’ by Linton Kwesi Johnson

‘Funky Kingston’ by Toots and the Maytals.

‘This Train’ by Bunny Wailer.

More Butterflies and Wild Celery

Firsts

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I swear, these magpies were sunbathing. I’d barely left the house, and was heading into the ginnel which would take me to Town’sfield and there they were, sunning themselves on the wall. It was then that I realised that I’d left my camera’s battery and memory card at home. But even after I’d been back to retrieve them, the magpies were still chilling out on the wall.

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Naively, I thought this large and distinctive beetle might be easy to identify. But no. I think that it’s probably a member of the Silphidae family, but beyond that, I can’t decide. On the plus side, I did discover the excellent UK Beetles website and have just spent a half hour or so reading about beetles which bury dead birds and others which prey on snails.

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There’s a fair few insects in this post, some of them difficult to identify; not so this one…

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…my first dragonfly of this summer and my first ever Four-spotted Chaser. The British Dragonfly Society website tells me that this species is common throughout the UK, so I’m not sure how they have eluded me for so long.

Of course, once I’d seen one, I spotted another about five minutes later…

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…and I’ve seen more since.

There were lots of damselflies about too. They’re a bit tricky to distinguish between, but I think that these first two…

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..are Small Red-eyed Damselflies. Their eyes are not as vividly red as I would expect, but then again, they definitely aren’t blue either and they have anti-humeral stripes on their thoraxes which aren’t present in the very similar Red-eyed Damselfly.

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This is another first, in a way, because I have seen this species before, but never in this area.

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One principal way to recognise blue damselflies, of which there are several species, is by the mark on the second segment of their abdomen. By that token, I think that this is a female Variable Damselfly, another first for me.

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And, finally, this is a more familiar Common Blue Damselfly, again, identified by the shape of the mark on the second segment.

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I was struck by the rather face-like shape of this large limestone boulder.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that grasses, sedges and the like are impossible to get to grips with, for me at least. This is a sedge, a female flower and part of the male flower at the top of the stem. I wish I knew more. Possibly Green-ribbed Sedge? I thought the female flower was pretty striking.

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A Dingy Skipper.

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Hoverflies too are very difficult to figure out. It’s a shame; there are around 250 species in the UK and many of them are very striking, but also very similar to each other.

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This distinctive leaf beetle is Cryptocephalus bipunctatus, which is another first for me, not surprisingly, since it is scarce in the UK.

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I’ve photographed this dapper hoverfly before, but not been able to identify it, despite the striking shiny golden thorax. Now, I think I may have tracked it down; it is, perhaps, Platycheirus fulviventris. It’s a shame it didn’t open its wings, because, if I’m right, it also has a pleasing black and yellow pattern on its abdomen.

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Another Dingy Skipper on Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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I’d been wandering around Gait Barrows, making my way to the cordoned off area, hoping to see a Duke of Burgundy butterfly. I didn’t.

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But I did see this, which I think is a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

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I only hesitate because distinguishing this from the very similar Pearl-bordered Fritillary is best done by looking at the underside of the wings, but the sun shining through the wings here, nice though it is, has obscured some of the colours slightly.

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None-the-less, I am reasonably confident, especially looking again at this last photo.

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This looks like another place where fencing has been removed – or is this new material waiting to go up?

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What I think is a Dark Red Helleborine with nascent flowers, which have since been eaten.

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Gait Barrows Limestone Pavement.

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Bloody Crane’s-bill.

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Angular Solomon’s-seal.

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Cirrocumulus?

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Finally, on Moss Lane, some Alexanders. I’ve previously seen this growing in Cornwall and on the Yorkshire coast, but not here, so another first of a sort.

All of that in one walk and a good chat with a friend from the village I hadn’t seen for a while. How’s that?

Most of it was undertaken at snail’s pace. A bit like putting this post together! Both the walk and the research were highly enjoyable though.


Only one song springs to mind here…

Who was best Blur or Oasis?

Answer: Pulp.

Firsts

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

Even Toothache….

…has its compensations. Having not slept well through the wee small hours, when I woke again at 5 with a proper face-ache I decided to get up and have done with it. After a leisurely pint of tea to wash down a tablet breakfast, I was soon at Leighton Moss under immaculate blue skies. There seemed to be more small bird activity along the causeway path then I would usually expect. I saw several warblers at unusually close quarters. I was heading for Lower Hide. On the path round I passed several….

….tall common valerian plants.

Just behind the hide I watched for quite some time as a bird circulated between several high treetop and shrub perches, singing the whole time. The song was a complex mix of sweet notes and the guttural whirrs and clicks that some warblers make. The flights seemed to be some sort of display with a climb at roughly 45 degrees, a similar descent, rapid wing beats and continuous singing. I took several photos, which, whilst not great, are sufficient to show that the bird was a sedge warbler. I subsequently found that sedge warblers were sometimes know as mock nightingales because of their fine singing.

From the hide I watched a great crested grebe in the mere and a marsh harrier flying beyond it, but it was the birds in the reeds which really caught my attention.

Particularly these reed buntings.

And the blue tits which were briefly with them.

I think that this is a juvenile, because of the lack of blue on the head.

I also took no end of shots of a reed warbler singing energetically from the reeds, sadly none of them came out too well.

When I eventually dragged myself away from the hide and started for home and family and breakfast, I found that the sedge warbler was still energetically circuiting the same few perches singing every bit as enthusiastically as before. I also startled another roe deer with fawn, but this pair were away very quickly – there was no question of me getting any photos.

I would have said that this was limestone woundwort, but I see from ‘The Wildflower Key’ that in fact it is marsh woundwort. The leaves and flowers are slightly wrong for limestone woundwort.

 

 Star sedge (I think).

 Meadowsweet.

These flowers, on tall stems, looked rather insignificant at first glance, but on closer inspection are rather cheery. I think they might be nipplewort, in which case I was lucky to catch them on a sunny morning since they are reluctant to open in cloudy conditions or afternoons.

I had a brief but stunning view of a marsh harrier, then spotted this male broad-bodied chaser sunning himself by the path.

Frustratingly, I also had good clear view of a male reed bunting singing from a prominent perch on a shrub and of another path-side broad-bodied chaser, this time a yellow female, but couldn’t get decent photos of either. Another time.

Even Toothache….

Life’s Rich Pageant

Thursday afternoon – blue skies and sunshine naturally.  Once again I was walking home from Carnforth. This time I decided to stop to look at the churchyard at Saint Oswald’s in Warton, inspired by Francesca Greenoak and the flower dappled  churchyard at Holy Trinity in Seathwaite. Sadly at Saint Oswald’s all is carefully manicured lawns – not much scope for wildflowers here. The churchyard is very large – not too surprising when you realise that historically Warton was a huge parish incorporating Silverdale, the Yealands and several other villages. Since the grounds were a little disappointing I popped into the church itself…

Apparently there may have been a church here since before the Norman conquest and the oldest part of the current building is 14th Century. The Stars and Stripes hangs alongside the Union Jack inside the church, sent by American servicemen after WW2 due to Warton’s connection to the ancestors of George Washington, also celebrated in the name of one of the village’s pubs…

On this occasion I wasn’t tarrying for a pint however: too much to see. Behind the pub the crag road climbs steeply and a little way up that road is a small car park, the back wall of which is liberally festooned with red valerian…

..which confusingly, can also be white…

..an introduced species from the Mediterranean which is obviously very happy on these limestone cliffs.

I feel like I’ve turned something of a corner when it comes to identifying flowers – although I haven’t entirely got the hang of using the keys I have at least learned to look at the entire plant and I’m beginning to pick up on familial traits which give useful clues. I’m far from expert, but I’m getting better.

With grasses etc. I’m not even sure that I’ve made it to square one yet.

Could this be red fescue? Gettin to grips with grasses, sedges and ferns etc. is bound to be a steep learning curve, but I know that I shall enjoy looking. Already I’m quite taken aback by the huge variety I’ve discovered since I began to take more careful note.

Meanwhile the large clumps of biting stonecrop which I noticed on a previous Thursday afternoon’s Shank’s Pony commute…

…have begun to flower…

 Across Carnforth to Clougha Pike – must get back there sometime.

When I found these…

….before on Heald Brow, I tentatively identified them as quaking grass. I’m feeling much more confident now. After all the inflorescence (ooh I know – get me) is…

Inflorescence a pyramidal panicle, with very distinctive ovoid to broadly triangular spikelets 4 – 12mm, usually purplish, shaking in the wind on slender stalks *

They’re certainly very distinctive and rather handsome too.

Here on the crag they were plentiful too and since I first saw them they have grown and spread out like a child’s mobile so that they really do quake in the breeze. Quite hard to catch on camera the overall effect…

Of course, having boasted about my abilities as a plant identifier, I can’t trace this large and very vigorous one…

…which looks like it may be about to flower…

 

…so hopefully I can come back again soon and get some more clues. (The keys led me to a couple of plants neither of which quite seemed to match, but we shall see…)

No keys needed for red clover…

 

….I just enjoyed these three flowers, all on the same plant and seeming to offer an opportunity for a sort of faked time-lapse sequence.

I saw a number of butterflies and some damselflies but none would cooperate by sitting still for a photo. I chased one orange butterfly – some sort of fritillary I hoped, and when I lost it, noticed this large egg-shell down in the grass.

I thought that this might be flea sedge….

…but I searched for images and now I’m not at all convinced.

These tiny flowers are a bedstraw, but hard to decide which one. Heath bedstraw looks favourite except that it favours acid soils.

This had been one of my slower ascents of Warton Crag. Once over the top I was into the woods and the vegetation changed.

In the shade under the canopy, there’s lots of this…

..which I think is male fern…

This is black bryony…

…which is dioecious  (ie male and female flowers on different plants) , apparently related to the yam, although you wouldn’t want to eat it – the berries it produces are poisonous (other parts of the plant can apparently be safely eaten after cooking but would you want to risk it?) According to Gabrielle Hatfield** it has several uses in folk medicine including the treatment of bruises, hence the French name ‘herbe aux femmes battues’ – the plant for battered wives.

 Lakeland hills from Summer House Hill.

Walking down past Leighton Hall I was struck by a meadow blushed white by oxeye daisies….

On the opposite side of the driveway a similar effect was achieved by more daisies..

…a mayweed or a chamomile, but I couldn’t get the closer look needed to try what looks like the tricky task of deciding which this is.

Meadow vetchling. 

So confident am I feeling, in fact, in my ability to chase down the identity of flowers that I thought I might even take on an umbellifer. How difficult could it be? The flowers seem quite distinctive…

And the pinnate leaves….

The stem is grooved. It’s growing in a damp spot on the edge of the causeway path across Leighton Moss. Easy surely?

Well…I’ve tussled with it for ages. It looks like wild celery. I quite like this idea – it would give me an opportunity to tell the story of the ‘ancient Incan’ herbal tea I was given in Peru when I went down with Cuzco tummy, which it transpired was made by steeping celery leaves in hot water. Made me feel much better though. But…if this is wild celery then why can’t I find a picture of wild celery anywhere which shows these striking red stamens?

Because it isn’t wild celery at all, it’s Hemlock Water-dropwort. You wouldn’t be well advised to be drinking  a tea made by steeping these leaves in hot water. You might find yourself with a ‘dead tongue’ which is an old Cumbrian name for this plant. Or you might just find yourself dead, since this is one of Britain’s most poisonous plants.

 

There were several of these along the causeway too. If I had needed any convincing about ‘The Wild Flower Key’ after Sheila’s recommendation, I need only have flicked through the few pages on orchids, which I have just done – and now I can pronounce with confidence, rather than my usual bemused confusion, that these are common spotted orchid.

Reed-bed view.

I listened for quite some time to a warbler (I like to think sedge warbler but I know I’m only kidding myself when I think that I can tell the difference.) and was charmed again by a family of long-tailed tits chattering and hopping about in the alders on either side of the path. One of the marsh harrier was circling overhead. Generally they fly quite low over the reed-beds, but this was much higher than usual. Also it was calling, which I’ve never heard before, a rather plaintive cry.

I’ve written before about the wonderful spiral patterns in the centre of oxeye daisies.  On this occasion paying attention to the daisies yielded additional rewards…

I think that this is a honey bee. If you look at the wings you can see a long thin cell on the outside edge, a marginal cell, which almost extends as far as the wing-tip and then three sub-marginal cells next to that which apparently is characteristic of honey bees.

Frustratingly, I can’t find this natty pin-striped hover fly in my book. Ferdinandea cuprea has grey and black stripes on the thorax but a bronze abdomen whereas through the wings this seems to have stripes. Another hover fly rhingia campestris has a prominent snout, which this seems to have, but also a very striking orange abdomen. No mention is made in the description of either of banded legs. I shall call him Malvolio, for now at least, because he is cross-gartered and yellow-stockinged.

Where the causeway crosses a bridge and the view opens-out because there’s a gap in the reed-bed, I’ve learned to approach slowly and cautiously because that way there is often something interesting to see.

There were three red deer hinds in all. Unlike last time that I saw deer at close range here, the deer soon turned and disappeared into the reeds.

Even if there’s no wildlife to see, the view is special in itself.

 

This tall plant with flowers hidden behind it’s own long and abundant stamens is common meadow-rue.

I’ve drawn a blank with this too. It’s quite small, sitting on an alder leaf. I thought maybe a wasp, but I’ve got no further than that.

 Figwort.

Pleasantly red – no idea what it is.

Bittersweet flowers are tiny but very striking. This plant is related to the potato and the aubergine, but again the berries it produces are best avoided. They cause sickness rather than death.

The plant’s species name dulcamara, is derived from two Latin words meaning sweet and bitter.

Because of the presence of the toxic alkaloid solanine in the stem, leaves and berries, they taste bitter at first and then sweet.#

 

 

Could this be star sedge?

In the hedgerow, a vigorous climber covered in lots of unopened flowers like the one above, and some open flowers….

 Tufted vetch.

Nearby…

..another purple vetch which I think is wood-bitter vetch.

 

This fern has grey-green patches where the leaves attach to the stem. Any ideas?

 

this apparently unperturbable bunny let me walk right up to it,

..and past…

..without ever being too distracted from the golf-course grass.

I noticed that many of the oxeye daisies I passed were infested with what I presume are aphids. Apparently there are around 550 British species, so I shall just content myself with ‘aphid’.

Whilst I was meandering home taking frivolous photos, the fields around the village were busy with the making of sileage…

* Guide to the Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns of Britain and Northern Europe by Fitter, Fitter and Farrer

**Hatfield’s Herbal                   by Gabrielle Hatfield

# Reader’s Digest  Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain

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It’s  all Andy’s fault.

He set me a quiz question and I enjoyed both answering it (even if I did have to cheat) and the discussion which followed.

So (and also by way of a trailer for the next post) how well do you know your Lake District?

Which valley are you in if you can see: Truss Gap, Seat Robert, Mosedale Beck Forces, Gouthercrag and Hobgrumble Gill?

Life’s Rich Pageant

An Eaves Wood Stroll

We were all off last week and holidayed at home. We managed to fit in some kite flying, some beach cricket, quite a bit of cycling, some lounging in the garden and one trip to the Duddon valley of which more later. We didn’t do a great deal of walking, but we did take one stroll in Eaves Wood. Before we even really set-off I was distracted – on the glorious lupins which TBH has planted by our garage a bumblebee caught my attention, or rather the very bright pollen basket by its hind legs caught my attention.

Before we reached Eaves Wood we had called on a couple of friends, who joined us, and walked past the garden of another friend who also decided to come along so that when we entered the woods we were eight in number, three adults and five children. The children were very happy and soon disappeared, exploring and playing imaginative games.

Meanwhile I’m taking my first faltering steps in trying to identify grasses etc. I think that this might be the female flowers…

…and the male flowers…

..of glaucous sedge, which is apparently very common, and likes calcareous soils, which is generally what we have, although confusingly, it was growing close to…

…bell heather which needs acid soil so make of that what you will.

We paused for quite some time on Castlebarrow, the adults sitting, chatting and taking in the view, the children running around and generally expending some energy in a healthy way.

On the way down, almost inevitably, we stopped at the big coppiced beech, officially Eaves Wood’s second best climbing tree, for some clambering and swinging etc.

Great fun was had by all.

An Eaves Wood Stroll