Barbondale, Brownthwaite Pike, Casterton Stone Circle

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St. Bartholomew’s Church, Barbon.

More glorious May weather and another post-work Lune-Catchment wander. This was on a Thursday evening, the day after my photos from Kirkby Lonsdale in the previous post. You remember that I pointed out how Brownthwaite Pike dominates the view from Kirkby? Equally, Brownthwaite Pike has a great view over the Lune Valley and Morecambe Bay.

Years ago, when I was single, my evenings walks rarely took me any further than I could get, under my own steam, from my front door, but just occasionally I would pack up a meal and head out for a picnic on an easily accessible hill with a good view. Brownthwaite Pike was, I think, the place I visited most often: I could park high, at Bullpot Farm, and it was an easy walk from there.

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The lychgate.

This time, I would do it properly, starting from the village of Barbon.

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Female Blackbird.

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Barbon Beck, another tributary of the Lune.

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Bluebells!

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The right of way initially follows a track which is heading up to Barbon Manor. It’s metaled and even has barriers. I presume that this is the course used for the Barbon hill-climb, an annual motor-sport event.

Soon though, the route parts company with the race-track and heads into the woods of Barbondale and more bluebells…

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Better yet to emerge from the woods into the sunshine…

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I initially assumed that this…

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…was a Hawthorn, covered in Mayflower, but it wasn’t…

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I think it might be an apple-tree. There were a couple more close-by. Maybe there was an orchard here once, when valleys like this one were more populous?

High on the hillside to my left, I spotted an unusual cairn, apparently with a chamber inside it…

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It wasn’t to be the last unusual cairn on the walk.

I chatted to a birdwatcher, who asked me if I had seen anything good? He reported Pied-flycatchers and could hear Willow Warblers nearby. I had nothing so interesting to share. But, soon after passing him, spotted a pair of Reed-buntings and then…

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…a Red-start. This was only the third time I’ve seen one and my best photo yet, although, obviously, still room for improvement. I waited to tell my new bird-watching friend, but then felt guilty because we couldn’t find it again among the trees.

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I also briefly glimpsed a raptor in pursuit of another bird just above the hillside, but soon lost sight of both. This heron…

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…sailing purposefully by, was much more obliging.

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Barbon Beck and Barbondale.

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A warbler. Could be one of those Willow Warblers?

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I heard some strange, harsh bird calls, which made me think of grasshoppers, and so thought perhaps they came from Grasshopper Warblers. I saw a few of the birds, low in the vegetation, but this is the only photo I managed. Having looked in my guide, I’m pretty sure that this is not a Grasshopper Warbler, but apart from that, am none the wiser.

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This stream, which feeds into Barbon Beck and is therefore another one of the Lune’s vast tree of sources, is not named on the map, but is, in turn, fed by several smaller streams including Hazel Sike, Little Aygill and Great Aygill. The road bridge which crosses it, however, is called Blindbeck Bridge, so I suppose this must be Blindbeck.

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Castle Knott and Calf Top.

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I was impressed with the situation of Fell House, in a remote position above Barbondale.

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I’ve seen lots of butterflies this month, but have struggled to photograph any of them. This one looks like a female Orange-tip, but has confused me because it has no wing-spots.

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The top of the beck obviously changed in nature, becoming steeper sided with outcrops of rock, I think because the underlying rock was now limestone.

I watched this bird of prey,…

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…presumably a Kestrel, hovering in roughly the same spot for ages as I climbed beside the beck. Later I watched a pair swoop across the hillside and both alight in the same tree, where I assume there was a nest, although I couldn’t see it.

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Bullpot farm.

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Cuckoo Flower.

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Female Wheatear.

The short road walk from Bullpot Farm was enlivened by numerous birds, mainly Wheatears and Meadow Pipits which were flitting around the drystone walls on either side. Also by the expansive views…

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Gragareth and Leck Fell House.

And by the calling of two Cuckoos. In fact, the sounds of Cuckoos had accompanied me most of the way up Barbondale too.

The highpoint of Barbon Low Fell is unnamed on the OS map, but I notice online that other walks have used the name Hoggs Hill, which is nearby on the map. In the absence of any better suggestions, I shall do the same.

As I approached Hoggs Hill then, I noticed another raptor, a Kestrel again I think, sat calmly on a wall, watching me.

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I scrabbled to get my camera pointing in the right direction and focused, but the bird was away before I managed that…

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Hoggs Hill.

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Middleton Fells from Hoggs Hill.

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Crag Hill and Great Coum.

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Forest of Bowland.

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Brownthwaite Pike.

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Close to the top of Brownthwaite Pike there’s an absolutely huge cairn. It’s so big that you can see it from Kirkby on the far side of the valley below. I can’t find any reference to it on the Historic England map, but there’s plenty of speculation online about the possibility that it might be ancient and perhaps a burial cairn.

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You can see why this spot might have been chosen as it commands clear views over the Lune Valley, the Bowland Fells and Warton Crag , where there was a hill-fort.

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I descended by this…

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….arrow-straight lane.

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Looking towards the hills of home.

From the lane I could look down on an ancient site which is recorded on the Historic England map…

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Casterton Stone Circle.

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Here’s another view of the henge from a little further down the lane. I’ve read that the stones only protrude slightly above the surrounding turf, but it certainly stands out from a distance.

Closer to hand, on the verges of the lane, there was lots of Lady’s Mantle coming into flower…

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And also many spears of Bugle…

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But what I appreciated particularly was the way the two were frequently growing together, intermingled…

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There was also a bit of what I think was Sheep’s Sorrel about. This one…

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…growing on a tree trunk.

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The leaves certainly had the refreshing, citrusy flavour characteristic of both Common and Sheep’s Sorel, and I munched on a few as I walked.

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The track brought me to the minor road which lead, ultimately to Bullpot Farm and I turned to follow it in the opposite direction, downhill.

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Crosswort.

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I think that this must be the wind farm which I photographed last summer from Burns Beck Moss.

I turned on to Fellfoot Road, another track, and found…

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…several small sheepfolds each with a large boulder inside.

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They are Andy Goldsworthy sculptures.

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There are sixteen of them in all, but I only passed four of them on this walk.

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I’m a big fan of Goldsworthy, but don’t know quite what to make of these. I’ve walked past some of them a couple of times before. One day, I suppose I will walk the entire lane and collect the full set.

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It was getting rather late now.

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So I was hurrying to get back to my car in Barbon and didn’t stop for long to admire Whelprigg…

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…a rather grand house built, apparently, in 1834.

Another glorious evening outing.

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Barbondale, Brownthwaite Pike, Casterton Stone Circle

Long Meg Walk II – Long Meg and her Daughters

Long Meg and her daughters

The next stop on our itinerary was at Long Meg and Her Daughters a stone circle. It’s a large circle (the second or third largest in the country depending on which website you believe) and so quite hard to squeeze it all into one photograph. (There are aerial photographs and articles here and here.)

It’s an ancient site possibly dating from 1500 BC according to W.G.Collingwood*, whose ‘Lake District History’ (1925) I’m reading at the moment. He makes it clear that this is at best an educated guess. Other sources give even earlier dates. It’s also possible that Long Meg herself predates the stone circle from which she stands aloof.

Some daughters

The circle is of granite boulders – I can’t find even any supposition as the where these were brought from: the local stone is sandstone. Opinion as to the number of stones also seems to vary wildly – the kids counted and got 65, but apparently it’s impossible to count the stones accurately anyway. The stones were witches – turned to stone by a wizard, or for dancing on the Sabbath. If anyone could count the stones and get the same total twice they would break the spell and release the witches, or bring down bad luck on their own heads, or be able to hear Long Meg whispering if they put their ear to her side, or possibly all three.

Long Meg, meanwhile, is of local red sandstone, stands outside the circle and is very tall and thin.

Long Meg

She apparently is decorated with spirals, cup and ring marks and concentric circles although I didn’t find all of those. There’s a bit of chiselled graffiti too.

Long Meg Carving

I shall have to go back some time and have another look – maybe then I’ll catch the daughters dancing or Long Meg whispering.

The circle is not quite on top of a hill, but it does command very extensive views and is well worth a visit. If you’re lucky you will find it very quiet as we did – just a couple of other families were there when we visited. In the middle of the circle are two very substantial willows – presumably quite old themselves, but I was tickled to think that the stones may have seen several generations of willows grow from saplings to gnarly ancients and eventually topple.

Here’s a slideshow with lots more pictures of stones and an admixture of kids tearing around and climbing on things:

*Interesting chap W.G.Collingwood, author, historian and artist, friend of both John Ruskin and Arthur Ransome (Collingwood’s boat was the Swallow).

Long Meg Walk II – Long Meg and her Daughters

Sea Wood, Aldingham, Birkrigg Common

In the car we’d been listening to Michael Hordern read ‘Prince Caspian’. I suspect that Michael Hordern could have made almost anything interesting to listen to, but the kids are quite Narnia obsessed at the moment. A has begun to read the books, the kids have all seen the films – in fact they had watched ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ at the flicks the day before with their mum whilst I was painting – and they are already busy preparing their costumes as characters from ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ for World Book Day. Today their mum had taken over the painting duties (fiddly stuff involving gloss paints and woodwork – beyond my meagre capabilities) and I was making a virtue of necessity and taking the rest of the crew for a staycation exploration day.

At the beginning of ‘Prince Caspian’ Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy unexpectedly find themselves in a wood, by a shore. They soon find a stream across the beach, and then the ruins of Cair Paravel in which they find a well. In the cold and the mist we embarked into a wood, by a shore. The kids soon found a rivulet issuing from a black plastic pipe. Just into the wood we found a mysterious ditch…

…at the end of which there was……a well!

…or something the kids were happy to believe was a well. I soon found that my companions had been renamed Peter, Edmund and Lucy. Lucy found a rough circle of erratic boulders, which she announced were the ruins of Cair Paravel’s keep and the magic was complete.

Whilst their imaginations ran wild, I was noticing that the Ramson leaves are much more advanced than the ones I spotted earlier in the week in Bottoms Wood near home.

 Spent puffballs.

We followed the lower edge of the woods and when we ran out of wood we turned about and came back along the foreshore.

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Lucy had turned to beachcombing and was filling her pockets with stones and shells…

The boys were enjoying the mud and puddles and scrambling on the low cliffs. They were particularly taken with one twisted oak, the roots of which had been exposed by erosion, leaving a a space into which they climbed – a den which they were very reluctant to leave.

 Crab apples in the shingle.

Sea Wood is a Woodland Trust property, and has been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time. We would have missed the delights of Aldingham however had we not been alerted to its potential as a lunch spot by Danny at Teddy Tour Teas. So thanks Danny! Our lunch wasn’t as elaborate, or mouth-watering, as Danny’s but we enjoyed it none-the-less.

We couldn’t find all 27 of these, but were fascinated but those we did find.

I think that they might be Large White chrysalides (plural for chrysalis apparently).

Aldingham has a beach of sorts, which was also a big hit. We don’t expect to find sand on the fringes of Morecambe Bay and were very excited to find it here.

 More beachcombing. St. Cuthbert’s in the background.

Parts of the beach were shale. with a fabulous variety of shapes and shades in the stones.

Naturally, beyond the thin strip of sand, the mud and pools of the bay exerted an strong pull on the boys.

They also enjoyed this overspilling trough…

The pipe beyond it seems to be superfluous now.

Superfluous except as a balance beam for S. Both boys were keen to climb on the remnants of this groyne too. Perhaps the explanation for why there is a beach here at all?

We found a few balls like this on the beach…which I think might be fish eggs? That’s what I told my kids anyway, so if anyone can elucidate further…?

On the verge of the lane just back from the beach, butterbur flowers were emerging and by the wall of St. Cuthbert’s (this is one of the spots were St. Cuthbert’s remains are said to have rested apparently)….

….common speedwell?

 Aldingham Hall.

The final part of our triumvirate, another long anticipated visit, was the small stone circle on Birkrigg Common, just above Sea Wood and not too far from the road.

From whence we repaired to Ulverston and ‘soft play’ for them, Earl Grey for me.

We very much enjoyed our day and the strong consensus was that we shall have to return to all 3 locales for further exploration. Perhaps when the sun shines.

Sea Wood, Aldingham, Birkrigg Common