Walking the Lanes above Brockhole.

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Little S was invited to a party at the Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole. Looks like another job for taxi-Dad! Once I’d dropped him off with our friends, I had around three hours to wait until the party would finish. The forecast hadn’t been great, but not diabolical either, so – just for a change – I thought I’d get out for a walk!

I started on Mirk Lane which took me up to Newclose Wood where I found another Woodpecker nest. The adult was back and forth to the nest, but it was very difficult to get a clear view for a photograph.

The path, seen above, brought me out to a minor road on the outskirts of a hamlet seemingly composed entirely of fairly new houses. This set the tone for much of the walk, taking me past many large expensive looking properties, most of them with great views across Windermere to the Langdale Pikes. Many of the gardens, and hedges, were full of Rhododendrons which were flowering and looking splendid.

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Wansfell above was lost in cloud, but the weather generally held, bar a few occasional drops of rain. The whole route was resplendent with wildflowers, changing subtly as I climbed the hill and came back down again.

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Foxgloves.

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Meadow Crane’s-Bill, probably.

One short section of roadside verge had three different Crane’s-Bills.

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French Crane’s-Bill, I think. A species introduced from the Pyrenees.

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Wood Crane’s-Bill (I think).

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Windermere.

Skelghyll Lane took me past more grand properties. At one point, I was pleased to see a smaller, more rustic looking building with a traditional round Cumbrian chimney, but then realised that it was actually a garden folly.

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Holbeck Ghyll.

I passed a hedge absolutely cloaked with tent moth caterpillars…

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Water Avens seedhead.

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Low Skelghyll.

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Hol Beck.

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Early Bumblebee on Marsh Thistle (I think, in both cases).

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Marsh Lousewort.

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Lousewort.

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Robin Lane.

Robin Lane, which is part of the old route from Ambleside to Troutbeck, is a favourite of ours and very familiar, but it was really interesting to approach it via the lanes from Brockholes which I’ve never walked before.

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Windermere.

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Cantharis Rustica (Soldier Beetle).

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Mouse-ear-hawkweed.

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Lady’s Mantle.

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Wain Lane, by which I returned to Brockhole, has handsome stone barns all along its length.

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Ribwort Plantain.

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Garden Chafers.

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Roe Deer.

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White-lipped Snail.

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Silver-ground Carpet Moth.

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Honeysuckle.

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Another Wain Lane Barn.

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Another Roe Deer.

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Middlerigg Tarn.

I’ve never been to Middlerigg Tarn before. It’s difficult to get a proper view of the tarn, it being bordered by trees and a high wall, but there are one or two gaps. It’s not in the Nuttall’s Guide to the tarns of the Lake District, or in Heaton-Cooper’s, but it is a very peaceful spot.

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Yellow Irises.

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White Clover.

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Comfrey.

As I was almost back to Brockhole, I was looking over into a field on my right at pony dressed in a Zebra-skin print coat. I noticed a buzzard, relatively close by, sitting on the ground…

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Sadly, it took off just as I was taking a photo.

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White Stonecrop.

I’d been worried about arriving late for the end of the party, but actually arrived with half-an-hour to spare, so was able to get some soup and a pot of tea in the cafe there. Then when I picked up S, he declared his intention to stay a little longer to play on the adventure playground. The weather had improved considerably so that I was able to sit in the sun and read the book I’d brought for just such an eventuality – ‘Counting Sheep’ by Philip Walling.

I’d seen a lot of sheep of many different kinds during my walk. Apparently the UK had more breeds of sheep than any other country. Here are a few examples from my walk…

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This looks some of the very dark Scottish sheep, like Hebridean or Soay, but I’m not sure that it is either of those.

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I’m pretty sure that this is a Swaledale.

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I think that this is a Blue-faced Leicester, but as ever, stand ready to be corrected.

 

 

Walking the Lanes above Brockhole.

Leck Beck and Ease Gill Kirk from Cowan Bridge.

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Another Wednesday night and another after-work outing, this time starting at Cowan Bridge which is between Kirkby Lonsdale and Ingleton. This row of cottages is the village’s claim to fame. It once housed the Clergy Daughters’ School, once attended by the Bronte sisters…

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…and the model for the Lowood Institution in Jane Eyre, although apparently the reality was even more brutal than the fictionalised version. Maria and Elizabeth both died of tuberculosis after an outbreak of typhoid at the school.

Fortunately, the walk along Leck Beck from Cowan Bridge is a much more cheery prospect.

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There were great swathes of flowers. An under-storey of Ramsons…

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…the subtle yellow tinge of Crosswort…

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…spikes of Bugle…

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…a really dense patch of Stitchwort…

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…lots of Bluebells and Hawthorn…

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…and another Wild Privet tree, which was heavily infested with webs full of caterpillars…

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The village of Leck.

I’m currently reading ‘Counting Sheep’ by Philip Walling and realising just how variable the sheep I pass on my strolls are. By Leck there was a flock of quite long-wooled sheep, very different from the hill-sheep you might expect to see in this area. Apparently, there are thought to be more breeds of sheep in the UK than in any other country in the world. Although, as usual, I really don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m going to stick my neck out and hazard a guess that this lamb…

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…is a South Down.

Leaving Leck I crossed a couple of fields and then entered Springs Wood…

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A substantial footbridge over the beck was leaning at an alarming angle…

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I suspect that after rain this can be a raging torrent.

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Just short of the boundary to open access land, I was intrigued by this lonely wooden cabin…

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…but can’t find any information about it on the interweb.

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I’ve walked this way at least a couple of times before, once with my Dad shortly after he retired, when he brought a caravan up and camped behind the Whoop Hall Inn near Kirkby Lonsdale and we had a very good week’s walking together. That must have been back in the early nineties and we had to stick to the footpath which follows the hillside somewhat above the beck. This time I decided to more closely shadow the watercourse, where possible. That immediately brought me onto some very soggy ground, an ideal place to find Marsh Valerian…

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Early Purple Orchid.

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Leck Beck.

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Cream-spot Ladybird.

I found three broken eggs on the ground, all around the same size (quite large) but all slightly different in colour.

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I had to climb away from the stream a little here to find a stile. I descended toward the stream again, but realised that the bank was too steep, so had to climb again to the path.

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I didn’t find Leck Beck Head, the resurgence where all this water flows from, but the path brought me to the edge of a steep sided ravine. I found a way into it, but, although no water was flowing through it, there were large pools and also rocky, dry ‘falls’, so that I was unable to make progress along the bottom of the ravine. I climbed out and then found another way in, further uphill which brought me to Ease Gill Kirk…

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…a really atmospheric spot where the walls of the ravine are absolutely peppered with caves, many of them, presumably, entrances into the The Three Counties System, “the longest and most complex system in Britain” (source) with around 89km of passages.

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I climbed out of the ravine yet again, then dropped down into it again a little further ‘upstream’. It was more open here and must have been very close to where I joined Ease Gill when I came this way last. (I’m a bit taken aback to find that was three years ago.)

A group of four Ravens were apparently very vexed by my intrusion and circled around ronking noisily. What I’m pretty sure was a Cuckoo dashed across the empty stream bed and into a tree above on the hillside. I followed, climbing away from Ease Gill, this time for the last time, and finding an outcrop of limestone to sit beside for a quick bite to eat.

The nature of the terrain changed from here on, as I crossed mostly pathless, heathery moorland, passing numerous sinkholes and quite a few potholes, usually marked out by the trees protruding from them.

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Smokey Hole or Peterson Pot, not sure which.

They have sonorous names – Smokey Hole, Peterson Pot, Death’s Head Hole, Eyeholes, Long Drop Cave, Rumbling Cave, Rumbling Hole and Short Drop Cave – but are not particularly exciting to look at, at least from above. Rumbling Hole does at least have the sound of running water to enliven it.

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Looking towards Morecambe Bay and Warton Crag – there’s a hot-air balloon flying in the distance.

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Great Coum and Crag Hill.

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Another largish egg, but clearly of a different species.

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Leck Fell House and Gragareth.

The moor was extremely busy with small birds.

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Meadow Pipit?

I heard lots of calls which had me thinking ‘Stonechat’, although why I felt so sure of myself I don’t know, because they aren’t birds I encounter very often. I was right though, for once; on a fencepost by Eyeholes I managed to photograph a male, though it wasn’t a very sharp image. Then a female regaled me from a perch on a Mountain Ash growing out of Long Drop cave…

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Leck Fell House again.

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This large, and slightly grisly, nest was in a tree growing from Rumbling Cave. I don’t think it was occupied. I’m not sure what the bone was, but it was quite substantial.

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Leck Fell Road, looking toward The Forest of Bowland.

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A parhelion, or sundog.

For the walk back to Cowan Bridge I stuck to the Leck Fell Road – I don’t usually choose to walk on roads, but it certainly makes navigation easy and this is a very minor road, although there was a bit of traffic, much to my surprise.

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As well as the sunset, I was entertained by a Roe Deer racing away from me across a field and by a pair of partridges comically running away, apparently petrified by my presence, but inexplicably unwilling to fly to escape.

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Leck Beck and Ease Gill Kirk from Cowan Bridge.

Little and Often – Lao Tzu

Hagg Wood – The Green – Stankelt Road – The Lots – The Cove – Townsfield

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I frequently walk past this border of Hagg Wood and it’s been interesting to watch the Blackthorn flowers transform from constellations of tight white balls into fully fledged blossom.

Ecotones are always busy with life and this one, between the woods and the open field, is no exception, being always thronged with birds. Usually I hear them more than see them, but this warbler…

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…was both silent, but also unusually easy to track with my camera.

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Warbler’s are easiest to distinguish by their songs, so I’m not sure whether this is a Chiff-Chaff or something else. And, to be honest, if it isn’t a Chiff-Chaff, then the song wouldn’t have helped me much either.

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The mystery tree is still playing its cards close to its chest, with no leaves unfurling yet, which probably means that it isn’t a Sycamore.

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Hebridean Sheep. I think.

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Chaffinch.

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I stepped into Pointer Wood, saw how deep the shadows were there and decided not to go that way. But I lingered long enough to take lots of backlit photos…

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Gooseberry flowers.

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Hazel leaves?

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Sycamore leaves.

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Ivy.

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The Lots.

The couple ahead of me in the photo are friends from the village whom I often meet when I’m walking locally, particularly of an evening. It amuses them that at the moment I wear shorts, but also a hat and gloves. Seems perfectly sensible to me.

As I approached the small copse which stands either side of the path above the cliff by The Cove, I watched a pair of Buzzards circling above it.

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There were several Starlings foraging in the second, northern-most of The Lots fields. A few years ago I spotted a Starling nest in the woods here and watched for some time as the two parent birds flew back and forth whilst their hungry brood noisily pleaded for more.

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Crow.

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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’, this oft-quoted proverb is apparently from the 64th chapter of the Tao Te Ching which is attributed to Lao Tzu. A more accurate translation, I’ve read, would be: “A journey of a thousand li starts beneath ones feet.”

But, returning to Mr Sloman and his daily target of 3 miles; that average mileage per day would yield over 1000 miles in a year. Which would no doubt feel like something of an achievement. I notice that Country Walking magazine have a 1000 mile challenge. And some bloggers are already well underway with said challenge.

So: could I manage it? Well, this modest walk is two and a half miles. I know this since TBH has loaded an App called Move onto her phone and I’ve been borrowing the phone. The app provides a step-count, a distance, time and average speed for your walk. I must confess that I love both the data and the maps and am almost tempted to get my own smart phone so that I can use it more regularly. Almost. Even with all of the gawking I did, I still managed this in just over an hour, so yes, I could probably manage this most days and then make up any shortfall at the weekends. Of course, a good time to come to this particular realisation would have been just before New Year, rather than part way through April. Still, it’s something to think of for next year. In the meantime I’ll keep practising.

This gate…

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…gives me some measure of my progress to date. In recent years it has been a bit of a squeeze for me to get through it, but now I can pass through with ease. A fact which never fails to make me smile. Sometimes I go back and forth through it a couple of times, just because I can.

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The pair of Buzzards swooped low over the wood then gracefully arced over and back to come to land on branches high at the back of the wood. I could half see them, but not well enough to get a photo.

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Behind me, a Blackbird was regaling the sinking sun with gusto.

And why not?

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Blackthorn Blossom in late evening light.

 

Little and Often – Lao Tzu

One Man and his Blog

Eaves Wood colours.

Sunday. Another fine morning. B and I out investigating the sheep-dog trials in the field behind our house.

We watched as a young shepherdess and her collie manoeuvred three sheep around a course and into a small pen.

These trials are a fairly regular event: charity fund raisers organised by the local farmer.

It seems quite odd now to think that sheep-dog trails once had quite a following as a televised sport. Phil Drabble, who used to present ‘One Man and his Dog’, also wrote on country matters and when X-Ray and I were last out for a walk together we discovered that we both had read and enjoyed his ‘Badgers at my Window’.

From the trials, B and I climbed into Eaves Wood. Looking along the edge of the trees as we entered the woods revealed a stunning display of colour.

Once again there were back-lit leaves….

 

 

And huge numbers of these large off-white toadstools, often growing in large groups and always with several leaves collected in the cap.

 

B enjoyed the drifts of beech leaves.

And we both had a climb in our favourite beech tree.

 

I was out again later, this time with both of the boys in tow, in the very last of the light. We found a nice path from Castle Bank to the Pepper Pot which we haven’t used before. Leaving the top, we saw two roe deer bouncing across a clearing, much to the boys delight.

One Man and his Blog

Yes, We Have No Bitterns

Lest, after my previous post, I’m accused of painting TBH as the villain of the piece, I should make it clear right away that Wednesday’s very successful trip was entirely her idea. She’d seen a poster advertising a guided Bittern walk at Leighton Moss and suggested that I should go. Having set off a little later than I really should have (no surprise there for anyone who knows me well) I had to hurry as I walked to the visitor centre, but I still arrived a little late. The idea is that Bitterns, which are notoriously shy birds, can be most easily seen when the water in the reed beds, where they usually feed, is frozen and they are forced to come out to open water to feed. Unfortunately, the frost had been a little too efficient and frozen the meres too leaving very little open water.

From Lillian’s hide we watched Buzzards circling high above Warton Crag and a pair of Swans in the only remaining small area of open water. An unidentified brown bird of about the right size briefly caught the corner of my eye and then disappeared back into the reeds, tantalising us with the possibility of a Bittern sighting, but when it finally reappeared turned out to be just a female Pheasant – a trick they often play apparently. We strolled along the road which borders the reserve, in the direction of the causeway, and were encouraged to listen for the song of a Bullfinch. I shall be listening out for it from now on – one to add to my small but slowly growing tally of familiar birdsongs – it’s very simple, quite like a Greenfinch I thought, but less rasping.

On the causeway our party was swelled by the addition of a very confident Robin which seemed to follow us for a while, landing on railings and posts very close by and then hopping about round our feet.

There was some discussion about whether he actually craved our company, but it seemed to me at least that it was the birdfeed on the path which held more interest…

A couple that followed us along the path reported having persuaded the Robin to land on their hand to take food. A show of complete confidence, or utter desperation?

From the public hide it was possible to see a larger area of open water with many ducks congregated on the ice along the edge of that water…

..and many more ducks, another pair of swans and a huge number of coot in the open water beyond. We watched another buzzard, but this one flew low over the reeds, which is rather more characteristic of the Marsh Harriers which will be here in the summer, before dropping into the reeds and eventually reappearing to roost in a distant tree.

An icy wind was driving into our faces through the windows of the hide. We left to walk a little further along the causeway to where it crosses an open channel over a modest bridge. We were warned to watch out for Water Rail. I missed the first couple, too busy watching a huge flock of the diminutive Teal rising from the water to wheel over our heads – pure magic. I did eventually see some Water Rail though, skittering rather comically on the ice along the edge of the reedbeds. Something else small and fast ran across in front of us  – a Stoat.

We made our way back along the causeway…

The seed heads on the reeds glinting in the sunshine…

By Myer’s farm we saw Marsh Tits, more Bullfinches, and a Treecreeper improbably feeding on the Gable-end of the farmhouse itself. In amongst the trees we were warned to watch out for Siskins feeding on the Alders and sure enough that’s exactly what we saw. From Lillian’s hide again we saw a Heron standing right out in the middle of the ice for no reason we could fathom. A Snipe made several fly-pasts, and just as we were set to leave, a Water Rail obliged us with our best view yet.

So – no Bitterns, but lots to see otherwise, including this handy juxtaposition of red and white which rightfully belongs in a previous post

…although I suppose that it’s another combination which I shall be seeking out from now on.

After lunch in the cafe, my next encounter was with this Ram…

Who is wearing a fetching dye-dispenser so that the Ewes who have been ‘serviced’ (to borrow a euphemism from Blue Peter presenter Simon Groom – does anyone else remember that episode?) are clearly identified. And what do the Ewes think about that?

This next photo is perhaps another opportunity for a caption competition…

TBH suggests…’Form an orderly queue girls!’

My walk home took me past the Railway Station…

Where I got quite excited about an apparently enormous bird roosting in a tree top on the far platform. What could it be?

Just a Mistle Thrush it seems, with feathers puffed out for warmth making it seem much larger than it really is.

All birds puff out their feathers in freezing weather, to insulate themselves with a layer of air and so keep warm. The poet Robert Graves observed that ‘puffed up feather and fearless approach’ indicated hunger in birds, but that in man these signs revealed ‘belly filled full’.

Derwent May from A Year In Nature Notes

Crossing the golf-course…

I was struck, as I had been on Tuesday, by how well used paths in the area are…

Climbing down through the trees towards Lambert’s meadow, having lots of fun trying (and failing) to capture the way that the sun was glistening on the snow on the trees, I heard a drumming in the trees above, not the insistent territorial drumming which will begin soon, but more purposeful insect seeking I suspect. Scanning the treetops, I was rewarded with a flash of red and a first sighting for the year of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

Closer to home I was serenaded by this fellow..

…the first of the many Robins I had seen which deigned to offer a tune – most were clearly much to intent on filling their bellies.

Time for one last view of the Howgills..

…before returning home.

To find everybody else on the way out to go sledging on the Lots. Passing the butchers on the way we saw Walter throw meat scraps to a host of expectant black-headed gulls. Obviously a regular occurrence. Sledging continued long after the sun had sunk below the western horizon leaving only an orange glow to remind us of it’s passing.

Yes, We Have No Bitterns

Signs of Spring at Woodwell

For various reasons we missed our doses of fresh air therapy for several days. (Although we did have a wander around the fabulous National Railway Museum at Shildon. I must admit that until last week I had never heard of it and I thought that the National Railway Museum was at York, but if you are in County Durham, fancy a free day out, and like trains, then it’s recommended.) It became apparent that we were starved of good walks when instead of suggesting ‘soft play’, the zoo or swimming for a half-term day out, the kids requested a trip to Woodwell (they do expect to use the playground and be treated to cake at the Wolfhouse Gallery as part of the walk).

On the walk down TBH drew my attention to a garden pond by the path.

“That looks like a real Heron.”

“It is a real Heron!”

The bird was so stationary, intent on the pond, despite our proximity, that she took it for one of those models that householders use to deter herons from snaffling their goldfish.

In Bottom’s Wood a few spears of Ramson leaves thrust through the leave litter.

The hazel catkins have opened.

The woods thrummed with bird song. At Woodwell I heard my first drumming woodpecker of the year. TBH mocked my enthusiastic identification of robin and great tit song – “Your two birds”. She has a point – I was baffled by everything else. Trying to find the source of a strident piping I saw two nuthatchs. One seemed to be chasing the other. (You can hear the call here.)

The fields around the Wolfhouse were home to many lambs. These two were fairly steady on their pegs…

…and were already indulging in robust head-butting games…

Some of their peers, I assume more recent arrivals, still had their umbilical cords dangling, and seemed to be wearing ill-fitting coats…

This fellow seemed particularly lacking in confidence…

…and very shaky when he stood up…

 

…but, like our own little ones, was in no doubt about what he wanted…

…or how to get it.

 

The mild spell has arrived at exactly the right time for these lambs. I enjoy a cold snap, and would have welcomed more snow in this area, but the tentative steps of a nascent spring are most welcome.

A ‘stirring the pot’ – the spring below the cliff at Woodwell.

Signs of Spring at Woodwell