Tarns and Birketts above Grasmere

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Helm Crag and Seat Sandal above Grasmere.

Early December, I have a Monday off work; the school is closed, a one day holiday. Ordinarily, I would prefer not to have an extra day off in December, when daylight is short and the weather is likely to be ropey, but it seems that I am in a very tiny minority amongst my colleagues who voted to continue our recent practice of having a long weekend in December.

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But, as luck would have it, when the day came around, the forecast was pretty fair and I was glad to have a day to myself with no Dad’s Taxi duties to perform. So it was that I had parked up in the long lay-by on the A591 just outside Grasmere (thus avoiding exorbitant parking fees) and was climbing out of the village toward Silver How.

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Grasmere.

It was a frosty morning, with a few wisps of mist still clinging to the valleys.

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Langdale Pikes. The rocky hummock in the middle distance is Lang How.

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A sundog or parhelion.

I’ve posted photos of this phenomena before. I’ve even been told that they are a common occurrence, but I don’t feel that I see them all that often.

Parhelion: a bright spot in the sky appearing on either side of the sun, formed by refraction of sunlight through ice crystals high in the atmosphere.

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Langdale Fells from Silver How.

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Helvellyn and Fairfield from Silver How.

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Grasmere and Rydal Water.

The broad ridge which runs along the northern edge of Langdale abounds in knolls and small tarns. The latter seem mostly to be choked with plants and on their way to drying out. My aim was to climb the knolls, well – the ones which qualify as Birketts at least – and to visit all of the tarns.

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Silver How Tarn.

For the names of the various tarns I’m following the lead of John and Anne Nuttall in their ‘The Tarns of Lakeland’ guides (two volumes, well worth having).

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Brigstone Tarn and Lang How.

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The Nuttalls don’t give a name for the small tarn in the foreground, the one behind is Youdell Tarn.

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Youdell Tarn with the Langdale Peaks behind.

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I’ve included this photo because it was taken from Lang How and it shows Swinescar Pike (the grassy hummock on the left) and Castle How (the broad grassy lump on the right).

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Looking back along the ridge from Little Castle How. Windermere in the distance.

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Great Castle How has two summits: on the OS map, one is named and the other has a spot height. The photo above shows the top with a spot height (left of centre of the photo) and was taken from the other top…

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This is the named top…

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…from the one with the spot height.

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Easedale Tarn.

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Castle How Tarns with Blea Rigg behind.

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One of the (three) Castle How Tarns.

Blea Rigg is another Birkett and I had originally half-intended to include it on the route, but it’s probably best that I didn’t: I descended by Easedale Tarn and arrived back in Grasmere with little daylight to spare. Still I hadn’t done too badly: four Birketts, eight tarns and one Wainwright (Silver How), all crammed into one relatively short walk.

I enjoyed my excursion into tarn bagging. I believe there’s a tradition of bagging the tarns by swimming in them. I opted not to do that; I would have had to break the ice to do so, and I suspect that many of the tarns, choked with reeds as they are, are rather shallow to swim in. From the photographer’s point of view, it probably makes at least as much sense to visit tarns as it does to climb to summits. Some tarns are well off the beaten track too, which is another bonus. I think you can expect more tarn-bagging walks as and when I can find the time – I think I may have another stray Monday off next December…

 

 

Tarns and Birketts above Grasmere

Sabre Wasp and Much, Much More…

Another commuting home walk. TBH wanted to take the quick route home over the golf course but I turned the other way round to the visitor centre at Leighton Moss. Standing on the duckboards peering into the dipping-pond I was startled by a movement almost under the wooden walkway. A splash and a wriggle and something which was gone almost before I had seen it. Surely a fish – but was it not too big to be swimming in this shallow reed-choked water? The water where I had seen the movement was clouded with mud but I watched and waited: the waterweed moved in an odd way, then a liquid gloop and large ripples – much bigger than the concentric rings around the pond-skaters – spread across the pool. I moved around to another vantage point and then another gurgling splash and the same frustrating half glimpse of movement. But wait – that stick hanging in the water…it has eyes! I don’t have much experience of fish beyond catching sticklebacks in buckets many, many years ago and so I don’t know what kind of fish this might be – I wondered whether it might be an eel?

I was headed for Trowbarrow quarry but before I got there I was distracted again, this time by a comma butterfly…

…and, as is so often the case, once I had stopped to take one photograph I began to notice more things around me – a large dragonfly flew past, then a couple of white butterflies. This peacock butterfly was sunning itself on the middle of the path…

…and a tiny frog crawled away from me and hid, rather imperfectly, on the edge of an old molehill…

On the notice-board at the entrance to Trowbarrow I could hardly miss this impressive creature…

…which I’ve subsequently discovered is a rhyssa persuasoria or sabre wasp:

Using highly sensitive detectors on her antennae, the female locates a horntail grub in a pine trunk and then, although her ovipositor is no thicker than a human hair, she drills through the wood to lay an egg on the grub.

So – is this wasp drilling here?

Speckled wood butterfly on a hazel leaf.

Trowbarrow was busy with climbers and carpeted with flowers, although not the ones promised on the notice-board…

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From there my walk through the woods was accompanied by the calling of a woodpecker and by numerous flowers – many of which I haven’t been able to identify as yet.

This attractive mass…

…of five-petalled white flowers…

…and distinctive ring-tipped seedheads are on a plant with these…

…lobed leaves. I can’t find it anywhere in my books.

This plant is no longer flowering…

…and so I really don’t think I can identify it, but it looks like it might be interesting when it is next flowering.

It was certainly popular with spiders…

At first I thought that this was some sort of crane’s-bill…

…but then I noticed the seedheads which are all wrong for that…

…but they are attractive in their own right and must fairly rapidly decay to release the seeds within…

Considering the flowers, the seedheads and the leaves…

…together I’ve now almost convinced myself that this is musk mallow.

As a first step toward fulfilling my oft stated desire to get to grips with umbelliferae, however: I think that this very tall plant…

…with finely serrated leaflets…

…might be wild angelica…

Whilst this leaf, with a leaf-miner squiggle…

…is from hogweed.

I think that these two are harvestmen rather then spiders – note: one body part rather then two.

…but I can’t identify this bug on a chicory flower.

Wayside tractor.

This is yarrow…

…growing by the roadside like all of the remaining plants in this post.

The yarrow, with its deep, water-gathering tap roots, is one of the most persistent roadside plants. Its basal rosette escapes the mowing-machine as the cutting-blades used on grass banks and verges are set high. This means that only the flowers are lost, and the rest of the plant remains and grows again. Also, yarrows do not flower until after the spring cut and, when the autumn cut takes place, most of the plants are seeding. The species name millefolium, meaning ‘thousand leaf’, refers to the yarrow’s numerous feathery leaves.

The seedheads have an interesting structure too…

 Thistledown.

Nettle flowers.

Bumble bee enjoying tufted vetch.

As I finished the walk the light was gorgeous.

It was only a short walk, but if your eyes are open there is so much to see.

Sabre Wasp and Much, Much More…

Fail Better

 

On Saturday we had things to do in Kendal. I had thought that afterwards I might walk home along the Kent, but by the time we had looked at kitchens and windows and had some lunch it was clear that my original plan was far too ambitious. Another time. However, TBH was taking the kids to Lakeland Wildlife Oasis which seemed a convenient distance, so I walked back from there instead.

My route was improvised as I went. From Wildlife Oasis, which is on the A6, a road runs along the edge of Hale Moss. I followed that briefly, but then what looked on my map likely to be an unmetalled road or a long farm driveway (not a right of way) turned out to be a well walked path closely corralled by two high hedges.  I find on my newer map that it’s marked as a ‘road used as a public path’. It took me to Hale Head Farm which seemed to be a tiny hamlet of perhaps four or five homes, and had I continued it would have taken me to the village of Hale, but I turned right up to Fell End Farm then right on to the road and hence onto a path into the woods on Hale Fell. All of this was new paths to me, which is most unusual so close to home. Once in the woods I soon joined the Limestone Link path, which I have walked before and that took me to the splendid limestone pavement seen above, and then down to Slackhead.

At Slackhead there is an unusual shrine set in an alcove in a wall:

According to Wikipedia this is Saint Lioba (or Leoba). Why she should be here I’m not sure. I think a visit to the imposing parish church in Beetham is called for – might be the place to find out more.

From Slackhead it was back into the woods to climb Beetham Fell and visit the Fairy Steps. On route I made a short digression from the path, drawn by a dead tree heavily decorated with dryad’s saddle…

Whilst I was taking photos a roe deer raced through the trees behind me. It was much to quick for me to get a photo.

Even the dryad’s saddle seems to have moved out of frame!

The Kent Estuary from Beetham Fell.

At the top of the Fairy Steps I sat and drank some tea, took a long draught of the view and supped a few essays from J.B. Priestley’s Delight (about which more perhaps on another occasion).

Tiny salad burnet flower.

The fairy steps.

Wild strawberries (not as ripe as they appear).

The path which descends through the trees towards Hazelslack Farm has one section which is always wet and muddy. Even today it still was, despite the very dry spring we’ve had. I presume that there must be a spring of some sort there in the woods. In the meadows of long grass I thought that I saw a blue butterfly. It was small, had it’s wings closed when I saw it, and the undersides weren’t blue, so quite why I thought that it was blue I’m not sure. Had I managed to get a photo then perhaps I might be able to identify it from my guide books, but I didn’t. I also saw a blue butterfly a while back on the Lots – this one was definitely blue, but although I chased after it for a while , once again I didn’t get a photo. On my way home from work recently I found a woodpeckers nest high above the path in a dead birch, I was drawn initially by the noisy demands of the nestling but after several visits managed to see both the youngster poking it’s bright red-crested head out of the hole, and a parent visiting the nest.

Hazelslack Tower.

I was heading for Silverdale Moss and on a short section of road walking I was stopped in my tracks by a very pleasant aniseed scent. It evidently came from this umbellifer with very large long seedheads…

I tried the leaves and they had a mild and pleasant aniseed flavour, but apparently I should have tried munching on the seeds too. This is sweet cicely which was once added to stewed fruit because the plants natural sweetness reduced the amount of sugar needed.

Some brambles nearby were flowering and were covered in bumble bees. I snapped away with the camera and took a whole host of useless blurred shots. Never mind. Now that I had started to look, the diversity of different insects (not all bees) was fabulous. One stood out – much bigger than the others with very striking black and yellow stripes like a wasp – it might have been a wasp….

…but this, the sole picture I have, is not much use for identification purposes.

Oak apple.

Lime flowers about to emerge, what kind of lime? – I’m not sure but I think I know now what to look for next time I encounter a lime.

After Hazelslack Farm the path crosses a stream, and shortly after two more streams – all three were dry, in sharp contrast to the soggy path on Beetham Fell.

Leighton Beck bed – no water.

This did give me an opportunity to photograph from the streambed the little footbridge which crosses Leighton Beck here.

The footbridge – it’s made from two large slabs of limestone…

This is an area in which I almost invariably see a buzzard. And when I see a buzzard I almost invariably try to take a photo, and almost invariably fail. The autofocus seems to be the problem, but this time I did get a picture…

…this cropped version is not as sharp as I would like, but it’s a start. What was it Beckett said, something about failing better…

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

(What did we do before search engines?)

So this is my best failure to date on the buzzard photo front.

A damselfly on a huge burdock leaf. (Not sure which type – very hard to tell.)

I was now on the path along the edge of Silverdale Moss, which passes my old friend The Cloven Ash…

 

I think that maybe the gap between the two halves of the tree has widened since last time I came this way.

But still standing.

Grass seed-head (can’t do grasses – anybody?)

In the woods near Haweswater I stopped by another very busy patch of brambles. Although there were once again many bumble bees, my eye was caught by a couple of very striking hoverflies in natty two-tone outfits…

This is volucella pellucens, which according to my field guide is ‘very fond of bramble blossom’.

The bramble flowers all seemed to be drooping so that the flies hung underneath which made them a little tricky to do justice to.

 

The next focus of my attention was much more obliging.

Although he moved several times, he kept returning to this dead stalk, his wings loudly whirring like a playing-card fastened to catch the spokes of school-boy’s bike. I say ‘he’ advisedly as this is a broad-bodied chaser and the female is yellow. I’m pretty sure that I saw two females on the edge of the salt-marsh a few weeks ago. I’m also pretty sure that this is the first male I have ever seen. In the flesh that is – I’ve seen them before on other blogs – mainly I suspect at Bogbumper who always has great photos.

Whilst I was snapping away and trying not to chuckle too loudly at my sudden good fortune, this landed nearby…

I must admit that I took it for a moth, because of its thick and hairy body, but I was wrong, it’s a butterfly, a skipper, I think a large skipper (but I’m a bit tentative about that!).

And then (boy the photo opportunities were coming thick and fast)…

…a blue-tailed damsel fly.

Is there a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? And since we dabbled in Beckett before…

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

Well – the sun certainly shone, and if there was nothing new, well then there was a cornucopia of sights and sounds which were new to me.

Fail Better

Glowing Angel Hair

A sunny Sunday stroll with A (and her baby doll). As you can see here, the snow had mostly gone except where it had been compacted down to sheets of ice. Principally our driveway. It was still very cold however with plenty of frost and ice. Any walk with A inevitably involves a great deal of conversation, but this was also a walk of distant views to places where the snow lingered: the Howgills from the field near home…

..,Ward’s Stone and Clougha Pike across Carnforth salt marsh from Heald Brow…

…, and Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man as we turned towards home…

It was also, from my point of view at least, another opportunity to attempt to capture the effects of the low winter sunshine, with varying degrees of success. I was particularly struck by the way the light was catching the ‘angel hair’ on traveller’s joy in a hedge.

It was difficult to get quite the shot that I wanted since the seedheads which were lit-up were high in the hedge and reaching up to get a photo from the right angle involved doing battle with a vicious bramble.

Still – backlit seedheads – another totem for the alphabet, and something else to be on the look out for.

Ash buds

And in my search for images of ‘leaves and stuff’ perhaps I shall make more of an effort to include seedheads, buds, bark, cones….

Glowing Angel Hair

Thistledown Days

…or A Touch of Autumn

Dr Tim Entwisle, executive director of the Botanic Gardens Trust in Sydney, says there should be at least five seasons rather than four.

And maybe he has a point – can’t see it catching on though. Four three month seasons are, as he points out, rather arbitrary and it doesn’t take much looking to find signs and foretastes of the coming season at any time of year. So here in our English summer we are indeed experiencing ‘a touch of autumn’.

I’ve been out a couple of times recently, once on my own and once with family and friends*. To be scrupulously honest, I set off on the first walk without much enthusiasm, really from a sense of duty – the sun was shining, I was home alone, and if I didn’t drag my carcass out I knew that I would be kicking myself later. I hadn’t got more than fifty yards from the door however before a sizeable patch of tall thistles attracted my attention and I was back in the swing of things. There was a great deal of thistledown, something the kids enjoyed when we passed that same patch on the second walk – throwing it, chasing it and catching it again, even stuffing it in their pockets for later. Not all of the flowers had gone to seed yet though, a fact clearly appreciated by both this bee…

  

… and the photographer.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself though, my first insect encounter took place before I had even left the house…

    

This moth is a Garden Carpet** which had been trapped in the porch for a couple of days. Attempts to release it by leaving the door open had failed. It’s amazing how the brain stores things away – I knew that this was a … erm… something Carpet, presumably after A and I had our ‘moth breakfast’ earlier this year, because before then I was totally clueless. Now I’m just almost totally clueless.

It was only a short walk, but as ever there was plenty to see. I could select summery images of flowers like this Ragwort…

…or this tiny Selfheal…

Or if I intended to emphasise the imminence of autumn, I might draw your attention to fallen Hazelnuts…

…or Cuckoo Pint berries…

But I’m happy to enjoy the transition from summer to autumn, and the changing scenes and seasons: I don’t feel the need to coin a new term to cover the period when summer and autumn coexist cheek by jowl.

Whilst we away in Germany, TBH and I were both impressed by the volume of the evening chorus of crickets (or grasshoppers? or….who makes all the noise?). We never saw the culprits though. I heard a few grasshoppers on this walk too. They weren’t so loud and generally, even where the grass was short, I could only see a brief glimpse as they sprang away from my clodhoppers and disappeared in the vegetation again. But, on the limestone pavement in Pointer Wood, this fellow not only showed himself, he also agreed to pose for photos….

I’ve had a look at my field guide, but apart from the fact that this is a grasshopper and not a cricket, I’m none the wiser. I think that grasshoppers vary quite a lot in colouration even within a single species. His camouflage is first rate though isn’t it? Small wonder that they’re more often heard than seen.

*I was intending to cover both walks here, but I’ve run out off steam.

**As ever, I stand ready to be corrected on any and all of my identifications – my moth has now escaped, in case you were worried.

Thistledown Days

An Evening Dawdle

Yesterday the weather finally broke and a downpour washed away the hot and heavy weather we’ve been having. After a bit of a set-back, I’ve been at home for the last two weeks and have honoured a self-imposed house arrest, but having just been signed off for another fortnight, and feeling slightly stir crazy, I decided that rest and recuperation would have to include some modest walks. So yesterday evening found me beating the familiar path to the Cove and across the Lots.

I hadn’t left the driveway before I stopped to spend several fruitless minutes trying to photograph the bees and hover flies sampling the flowers on the Lime tree in our neighbour’s garden. The flowers where swinging pendulously on long bracts in the stiff breeze and even catching a sharp image of them proved to be beyond me, but I’ve posted this one anyway because I think it catches something of the warm evening light. I have no idea which of the many species of Lime this tree is, but I hope that it might be Silver Lime because its nectar is narcotic to bees.

There’s a lot to be said for dawdling: a brisk march might have burned more calories, but I might have missed the effect of the sunlight on the Lime flowers, and I would certainly have missed these tiny flowers…

…on Goosegrass, or Cleavers, growing tall in the hedges around Town’sfield. Our kids call it Sticky Weed because the plant is covered with tiny bristles which means that thrown at a jumper it will invariably stick. It needn’t be a jumper, any garment will do – particularly if it is one of mine, as far as the kids are concerned.

The hedgerows are currently thronged with critters: spiders, bees, hover flies etc. all busy going about their lives. Mostly they don’t sit still long enough for me to get pictures, but this red-eyed wonder was having a breather…

…probably negotiating with Jeff Goldblum for the biopic.

Of course, not all of us are in such a hurry…

…this tiny snail, at home on an ivy leaf, was moving at a pace I could appreciate.

The back of the Cove has been awash with the yellow and green of these tall plants for awhile now.

Last year I thought that they might be Sea Radish and I’m sticking with that assumption in the absence of a better guess. In fact the flowers are just about finished now.

And are giving way to these swelling seed pods…

The tide was well in…

…and unusually the wind was sufficient to provide the sound of the lap of tiny waves against the shore.

More rather fetching seed pods on the grassy bank above the cliff, this time on some sort of vetch, perhaps Bird’s-foot Trefoil?

This large, bulbous fungus is growing on the same tree trunk where last year I watched Starlings feeding their nestlings.

In the Lots, wild thyme and Lady’s Bedstraw are abundant…

Once again the wind didn’t help here and I shall have to return to try again.

This Thistle was a little more cooperative…

Prickly though it is, it seems to be occupied by a number of tiny red mites (you might need to view the full size photo on Flickr to see them.)

 

As ever, it was just great to be out and about.

An Evening Dawdle

Several Sunny Sunday Strolls with S

In point of fact it was two – but that would have spoilt the alliteration. Fresh from my moth breakfast (no moths were eaten in the making of this post – see the last post for details) S and I headed for Eaves Wood. We were met with colour almost on our doorstep in the shape of these Orange Hawkweed, which according Aichele, Aichele, Schwegler and Schwegler are Not British. Well, they were growing along the path edge amongst their cousins the Oxeye Daisies and they may be Not British, but they’re most welcome as far as I’m concerned.

We climbed past the old water-tanks…

…built to supply the grand Victorian house which is now the Woodlands pub. We were heading for the open grassy area in the middle of the wood…

 

…where I thought we might see some interesting insect life. We did – butterflies, grasshoppers and a dragonfly, but not a single photo to show for it. The flowers were more obliging. We found some more Bird’s-foot Trefoil…

Rock rose…

And this which I thought might be Yarrow…

 

…but now I’m not so sure.

I’ve often noticed this tiny creeping plant growing here in amongst the limestone…

They really are very tiny and it was difficult to get a decent photo because S had transferred to his Houdah on my back and was snoring gently. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that this is Heath Speedwell, although as ever I stand ready to be corrected.

Back in the wood, I was rather taken by the colour of these oak leaves growing close to the tree trunk…

On the margins of the wood, these flowers…

…reminded me of several other plants like this which I have noticed recently on path edges and roadside margins, sometimes this colour, sometimes with white flowers. I think that it might be Dame’s Violet another Not British species. Apparently potentially invasive, but on the plus side attractive to butterfly’s and moths.

The Wood Avens have been busy flowering, but have now started to produce their spiky fruiting bodies…

This plant is everywhere in the local woods, at least its pale green leaves often carpet whole areas of the woodland floor. But I haven’t noticed any flowers by which to identify them until Sunday…

Not that it has helped, yet…(any suggestions?)

The sycamores too are now seeding…

Another as yet unidentified bee on a hedgerow elderflower…

Later S and I were out again, walking to Bottom’s Lane and through Lambert’s Meadow to meet the rest of the family on the Row for a barbecue at a friend’s house.

Here’s the boy himself, demonstrating the correct use of a sun hat…

I know that I already posted a few dog-roses (hmmm – and a few last year) but I couldn’t resist the vibrancy of this one on the edge of Hagg Wood…

Meanwhile the honeysuckle flowers are about to open and bring with them the authentic aroma of summer evenings.

On Bottom’s lane we found this Meadow Vetchling…

And growing in several clumps on a dry-stone wall this…

…Stonecrop? Not sure which type – it doesn’t quite correspond to anything in my books. Perhaps it’s Not British.

S was more interested in this noisy cockerel:

Lambert’s meadow was a Battenburg treat of pink and yellow with Buttercups and Ragged Robin predominating.

Battenburg Cake….sounds a bit Not British to me. Hang on – it might be withdrawn from sale by the end of 2009? How dare they assail a bastion of the British tea time treat? Mushy peas too? Turkish Delight? It’s a conspiracy.

Several Sunny Sunday Strolls with S