Two Bonus Birthday Hills

P1100250

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.

P1100254

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.

P1100256

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.

P1100255

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.

P1100261

There are several large fallen trees in the one small area…

P1100260

The area around the trees is now filling up with a thicket of saplings…

P1100259

…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…

P1100257

P1100258

P1100262

P1100263

P1100264

And I did!

P1100265

But also, on an old Yew, a new Yew…

P1100271

And…

P1100270

….something else, I’m not sure what.

P1100266

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.

P1100272

P1100274

It was really too gloomy for taking bird photos, but there were a number of duelling Robins on adjacent small trees…

P1100279

…and I couldn’t resist them!

P1100284

P1100280

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.

P1100299

Arnside Tower and Blackthorn blossom.

P1100307

Honeysuckle.

Following the path which traces the northern edge of the Caravan Park I expected to see Green Hellebore…

P1100308

Green Hellebore. No flowers in evidence. Too late or too early – I suspect the latter.

P1100310

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…

P1100312

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…

P1100313

This…

P1100316

…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.

P1100317

Cherry Blossom on the cricket club grounds.

P1100319

Primroses on a Cove Road verge.

P1100320

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.

P1100323

P1100325

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.

P1100326

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…

P1100330

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…

P1100332

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

All Wrapped Up

P1040894

You probably have to be of a certain age and disposition to know that ‘All Wrapped Up’ was a double compilation of some of The Undertones finest moments. The album sleeve featured a photo by John Pretious showing fellow graphic design student Cath Johnson wearing a dress made from raw meat and cellophane and accessorised with a string-of-sausages necklace. To put it mildly, it wasn’t to everyone’s taste; in fact it caused something of a hullaballoo. Now, I know – though I don’t understand – that not everyone shares my admiration of spiders. So I should warn you that if, inexplicably, you feel indifferent or even ill-disposed toward our arachnid neighbours, then you should probably look away now; this post consists principally of lots of close-ups of a spider at work, and like the Derry punksters LP cover, it might cause some people offense.  

P1040896 

The beautiful blue hue in the background of these photos is not the sky, or rather, it is the sky, but seen indirectly, reflected in our kitchen window. I suspect, but can’t remember, that I was on the other side of the glass, washing-up, when I first noticed this spider busily wrapping up a meal for storage purposes.

P1040900 

I’m pretty confident that this is Araneus diadematus named for the cross which occurs on its back. A common and widespread species, which is found right across Europe and North America, which might explain why, unlike many less well known species of spider, it has numerous common names – garden spider, diadem spider, cross spider, or crowned orb weaver.

P1040901 

I’m sure that I’ve used this well-known Jerome K. Jerome quote before:

“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

But it bears repetition.

P1040906 

I don’t need much encouragement to abandon the dirty dishes in the sink, but it would have been a crying shame to miss the deft way in which this spider swathed its prey in gossamer. At times the spider was delicately spinning the fly, presumably shrouding it in the process.

P1040908 

P1040909 

P1040913 

P1040912 

P1040914 

P1040916 

Once the carcass was all wrapped up, the spider rapidly carried it, hanging by a thread, up to the top of the web.

P1040917 

P1040918 

P1040919 

Apparently the colours of diadem spiders vary quite considerably, from ‘extremely light yellow to very dark grey’, but maybe that’s as much to do with the quality of the light rather then an inherent feature of individual spiders….

P1040922 

I remember assuming, at the time, that what the spider was busy dressing was a bee, but now I’m not so sure.

P1040925 

These large daisy type flowers growing in a bed adjacent to the window were full of hoverflies.

P1040926 

The spider’s prey could easily have been one of these darker hoverflies.

P1040929 

In fact, the wonderful Indian Summer we enjoyed in September and October, and which seems so distant now, was in full swing and our garden was generally very busy. The buddleia was host to a wide variety of butterflies for a change.

P1040934

I think that this sunbather is probably a Common Darter.

And, now that I was on the lookout, there were plenty more spiders to be found…

P1040931 

P1040933 

Now – if I could just get outside, with or without my camera, in some light like this….

Links:

More about the ‘All Wrapped Up’ Cover.

More about Araneus Diadematus

All Wrapped Up

Inevitably: Carn Fadryn

P1040070

Carn Fadryn towering over the campsite (thanks to the trickery of a telephoto lens)

No trip to the Llyn is complete without an ascent of Carn Fadryn.

P1040086

A view down to Hell’s Mouth.

We climb it every year and I can’t see how I shall ever tire of the experience. Lots of elements of the climb are familiarly unfamiliar, like the labyrinth spiders which festoon the gorse…

P1040098

…and seem very common here (and on the Llyn’s cliff-tops) but which I can’t recall ever having seen anywhere else.

Even the slight regret that we never branch out and divert to the summit of subsidiary bump Garn Bach has become an integral part of the day.

P1040102

The bilberries weren’t quite what was expected however: they were much better this year than they usually are. Often they’ve been just about finished when we climb the hill, but this year, presumably due to the sluggish (non-)arrival of summer, they were still in their prime, much to everyone’s delight.

P1040103

The wood sage and the heather which you can see in the bottom left corner of this photo are also part of the ever-present backdrop to our rambles on Carn Fadryn.

An encounter with a Dorbeetle…

P1040105

…is also de rigueur, and a hairy caterpillar on, or close to, the path is another essential component…

P1040108

We usually see a few choughs…

P1040118

…which we don’t have at home in Lancashire. Nor do we have Gatekeepers…

P1040123

…which are common on Carn Fadryn, when the sun shines, as it did at the end of this walk, but which, again, we don’t have in Lancashire which is beyond the northern limit of their range.

Inevitably: Carn Fadryn

Reasons to be Cheerful

P9210906

Another garden wildlife interlude. B found a colourful spider in the garden – we know the drill now, we have a field guide with a few, wholly inadequate, pages on spiders, but they could give us a start and then the internet would help us to identify our neighbour. First, however, we need lots of sharp photos from every angle.

P9210919

And that’s where the project fell down. This was one fast moving spider. It ran across his shirt, it abseiled away on gossamer threads, it just wouldn’t sit still for a portrait. So: I think that it’s an orb web spider, perhaps, but then I’m stuck. It diverted and delighted us for a few moments though.

Also, further to yesterday’s post and its mention of ‘Great Lives’: there are 270 episodes on the iplayer. I don’t know whether that’s all of them, but it seems likely. It’s enough to be going on with anyway. I’ve just listened to Linda Smith and Charlie Gillett discussing Ian Dury with Humphrey Carpenter, from 2003. I didn’t know that the programme had been presented by anyone other than the inestimable Matthew Paris. Ian Dury and Linda Smith, what an unexpected and wonderful combination.

A short post, so here’s some of Mr Dury’s words:

You’ll See Glimpses

You’ll see.

They think I’m off my crust as I creep about the gaff.
But I’m really getting ready to surprise them all,
Because I’m busy sorting out the problems of the world.
And when I reveal all won’t they get a crinkly mouth.
I’ve given my all to the task at hand unstintingly.
When it’s all over I’ll rest on my laurels.

Here for a moment is a glimpse of my plan:
All the kids will be happy learning things.
The wind will smell of wild flowers.
Nobody will whack each other about with nasty things.
All the room in the world.

They take me for a mug because I smile.
They think I’m too out of tune to mind being patronised.
All in all, it’s been another phase in my chosen career,
And when my secrets are out they’ll bite their silly tongues.
All I want for my birthday is another birthday.
When skies are blue we all feel the benefit.

Glimpse Number 2 for the listener.
Everyone will feel useful in lovely ways.
Trees will be firmly rooted in town and country.
Illness and despair will be dispensed with.
All the room in the world.

They ask me if I’ve had the voices yet.
They don’t think I know any true answers.
It’s true that I haven’t quite finished yet.
When it all comes out in the wash they’ll eat their words.
I’ve got all their names and addresses.
Later on I’ll write them each a thank-you letter.

Before I stop, here’s a last glimpse into the general future.
Home rule will exist in each home, forever.
Every living thing will be another friend.
This wonderful state of affairs will last for always.

This has been got out by a friend.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Another Interlude

P8310703 

“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

Jerome K. Jerome

Another instance of the boys finding something fascinating in the garden and fetching me and my camera to enjoy it.

P8310710 

Watching this spider deftly spin this wasp, well half of a wasp I think, and neatly wrap it in silk was really something.

Here’s one which was already hanging in the larder to season….

P8310704 

Of course, once one thing has attracted my attention and has me gleefully snapping away, I’m inclined to start to look to see what else I can find. There were lots of hoverflies about, but I was more interested in this harvestman….

P8310707

…mainly because, until quite recently, I didn’t know that they existed. Not a spider, but related, it doesn’t produce silk, so can’t spin a web, nor does it have fangs, but it catches small prey using hooks on its long legs.

This forest bug, photographed on a different day, had a lucky escape – I was pruning a hazel which grows a good deal faster than the beech hedge it has invaded and so can often look a bit like a straggly cuckoo-in-the-nest when I spotted this bug on the underside of a leaf, just as I was about to shove it into the shredder.

P8310743 

P8310744

Another Interlude

Towyn Farm – A Coastal Stroll

P7280239

And then, almost everybody went home. Even TBH and A left, since they were booked into a Guide Jamboree camp. Originally, the boys and I were planning to head home too, but then it dawned on us that we might as well have a little more time by the coast. (Okay – we live by the coast, but a little more time by the Welsh coast, were there’s sand and cliffs etc. rather than an endless expanse of mud.)

Three of our friends stayed for one more day, but then they were due for a few days in the Lakes.

After the fine weather we’d been having, the day began rather cool, with a strong, blustery wind. We opted for a short excursion along the coast path.

The gorse along the cliff-tops here, and the gorse which covers the lower slopes of Caryn Fadryn, are covered with large, elaborate webs. The centre of each has a opening leading into a webbed tunnel…

 P7280240

You can see that this one has snared a couple of ladybirds, a smattering of dewdrops and also a litter of flotsam, I can’t decide what it all is. This is the home of a labyrinth spider, agelena labyrinthica. B and I had seen several on Carn Fadryn a couple of days before, they lurk in the entranceways of their lairs, but tend to scuttle away when you peer in at them.

P7280241 

I’m puzzled by these photos. I think that there are two spiders here, both of them agelena labyrinthica, locked in an embrace or a macabre dance of death? I’m only speculating.

P7280242 

The coastal walking is lovely here. We should enjoy it more often. On this occasion, with the strong wind, there were waves crashing onto the rocks and beaches, which is unusual: this stretch of coast is often sheltered from the prevailing winds.

P7280243 

I’m always intrigued by this small building, half built into the cliff-top, and by the ramshackle collection of huts which back this natural harbour, unnamed on the OS map.

P7280244 

P7280250 

P7280247 

Nearby, there’s also the remnants of what must have been a very exposed house.

P7280252 

And just across the headland, another natural harbour, Porth Ysgaden.

P7280254 

We stopped here for drinks and snacks and to explore the rocks and tide-pools, which were large and full of small fish.

P7280255

With the weather brightening the majority vote was that would should head back for lunch and then the beach. I was outvoted, but have to confess that the beach was enjoyable – the waves were big enough the make bodysurfing viable, which is not normally the case. The kids also played a warped version of boules in which they kept reinventing the rules and adding water hazards, and which they seemed to find endlessly amusing.

Towyn Farm – A Coastal Stroll

Carn Fadryn – Birthday Hill

Male gatekeeper

Gatekeeper (male).

It’s a long old drive from North Lancs down to Tudweiliog. The children are much more patient* than I ever was in these circumstances and it’s actually fairly rare to hear a plaintive ‘Are we nearly there yet?’

Still, they can get a little restive at times. This year, as we crested the pass which takes us through the hills and onto the peninsula, we had a beautiful view along the coast and they were asking where the campsite was in relation to what we could see. As I tried to explain, little S cut in:

“Is that Birthday Hill Dad?”

It was.

Grasshopper 

He was referring to Carn Fadryn (or I notice, Garn Fadryn on new information boards which have been erected), which we do generally climb every year, and often on his birthday. This year he was adamant when we asked how he wanted to spend his day: climb Carn Fadryn and then go to the beach. Perfect day.

Spider 

I’ve written about Carn Fadryn often: the butterflies and labyrinth spiders, the amazing views, the bilberries, the iron age fort. It’s a small hill, but it punches well above it’s weight.

The horde on the summit 

The ‘camping friends’. Well, most of them.

Actually, this year the weather was a little murky and the views weren’t all they might have been. (Fortunately it rapidly cleared and by the time we got back to the cars it was scorching again, so S got his beach fix.)

I think we all enjoyed the climb none the less. TBH had brought cakes, and even candles to the summit, although the strong breeze meant that it was pretty much impossible to get all of the candles lit simultaneously.

Trying to light the candles 

S didn’t seem to mind.

P7260128 

Male Wall Brown 

Wall Brown (male).

The birthday boy - laden with loom bands 

Our little crowd have been captivated by the loom band craze just like the rest of the world’s children apparently have+. Here Little S is modelling the look, with, I think, everybody’s loom band bracelets.

The 'naughty nine' - well seven of them.

The kids have taken to calling themselves ‘The Naughty Nine’, which, since they aren’t at all, is very sweet. I realise that there are only seven of them here. I suppose the other two must have been getting into mischief. Putting rocks into Andy’s rucksack hopefully.**

*Audio books on the CD player are largely to thank for that I think. At the moment, the whole family is gripped by the chronicles of Skulduggery Pleasant, especially when read by Rupert Degas, who produces an astonishing range of different accents and voices. Michael Morpurgo stories are a firm favourite too, although I struggle with how decimatingly sad they often are.

“This one’s OK Dad”, they’ll tell me, and then, half-way through, when the central character dies of a brain tumour having suffered being orphaned, deported, enslaved, brutally beaten and alcoholic,  on top of losing his best friend and his adopted mother, they have to reassure me that it isn’t going to get any worse.

+Their enthusiasm may just be beginning to wane.

**An ignoble thought. He made me a cup of tea at the top with his very expensive whizz-bang stove.

Carn Fadryn – Birthday Hill