A Saturday Triptych – Fit the First.

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Last Saturday and an early start revealed the forecast clear skies and frost, which had brought a low lying mist, particularly, it seemed down towards Hawes Water. I thought I’d missed the sunrise, but in fact was out just in time to catch it. And when the sun duly gilded the southern flank of Eaves Wood I was induced to bend my steps that way.

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Eaves Wood.

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The Coronation Path.

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Honesty.

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Not a great photo, I know, but I was thrilled to see another Tree-Creeper so soon after my last encounter.

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The Ring O’Beeches.

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A Ruddock.

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Hawes Water mist.

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The rabbits were much more tame than usual. In fact, I felt like all the wildlife I saw was remarkably sanguine about my proximity.

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This is one of the many gap-stiles I’ve been firmly wedged in over the years. It’s particularly awkward because the ground is higher on the far side, but it’s getting easier!

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Hawes Water.

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A Warbler. A silent warbler, so I don’t know which flavour. There were lots of small birds about. In this spot a male Bullfinch was tantalising me with flashes of its scarlet belly from the far side of the hedge.

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Cowslips.

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Another gap-stile, the fat man’s agony. To be honest, this one still requires fair bit of wriggling. I suspect that I will never find it easy to manoeuvre through.

I found myself – I hadn’t planned it – following a new favourite route of my, from Hawes Water, through Yealand Allotment and ’round the back’ of Leighton Moss. I’ve never quite followed exactly this route before this year, but this was now the third time recently.

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This one was singing – a Chiff-chaff.

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Willow catkins.

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Very different Willow Catkins – there are several kinds of willow and it’s a bit of a blind spot for me – I shall have to work on it.

I’d arrived at the Lower Hide. I dithered momentarily – to go in or to continue toward home? Just a brief stop I decided. But then, there was already a birder in the hide, and as is so often the case, a chatty, knowledgeable and generous birder at that.

He told me about recent sightings – a Whitethroat on Walney Island, a Bittern at Martin Mere, and, just that morning, an Osprey perched on a log by the River Bela near Milnthorpe.

“The Cattle Egrets are over there at the back of the mere by the reeds, if you’re interested.”

A nice way to put it, implying as it did, that I was already up to speed about the presence of Cattle Egrets. I wasn’t, although I had been wondering about the cars I’d seen parked along Storrs Lane over the last week – now I knew why they’d been there, twitchers in all probability.

Needless to say, I was interested. I’d never seen Cattle Egrets before, and whilst they were only bright white specks in the distance, with the aid of the powerful zoom on the camera, I would soon have a good view of them and some photos to boot.

What a good time then, for the camera battery to go flat. I’m not sure I’ve ever let this happen before, or not since I bought this new camera with a rechargeable battery, well, not till now at least. I suppose I have been taking a lot of photos recently.

Then, just to rub salt into the wound, a male Marsh Harrier decided to perform a number of leisurely fly-pasts. And then something very strange started to happen. First it was a male Pheasant. It was stood by the path. When I approached, instead of running comically away, or noisily taking to the air squawking and flapping, it sat calmly preening itself, completely ignoring me, even when I was a yard away. Then a Great Tit dropped to a tree trunk beside the path and continued to feed until I was in touching distance. Not one, but three successive male Wrens – normally fast-moving birds, hard to photograph –  landed on prominent perches near to me and began to sing lustily. I felt almost invisible. When I saw a rather portly man with a very large camera jogging along the Causeway ahead of me, I knew, with a sinking feeling, that there would inevitably be a Bearded Tit on one of the grit trays. There was. And me with no working camera. It was a conspiracy – the birds were laughing at me!

Still, it had been a good walk, the sun was still shining, it was still very early. Time to head home for a cup of tea, a bit of a chat with the folks, a bit of pottering, put the ham on to boil, recharge the battery, and then out again…

A Saturday Triptych – Fit the First.

Beneath the Boughs

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I was out early today, a half-moon still high in the western sky.

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It was my intention to watch the sunrise from Castlebarrow, but a line of cloud in the East was going to delay the sun’s first appearance and it was far too cold to stand around waiting.

Instead, I took a turn around Eaves Wood and watched the sunrise from the Ring O’Beeches.

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Later, I was out again with A. She chose the route and took me for another, longer tour of Eaves Wood. I hadn’t noticed the Snowdrops flowering there when I passed the in half-darkness earlier.

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I’ve walked past this new(ish?) bench once before…

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…, but didn’t notice then the small plaque attached to it.

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I’m sure I’ve quoted W.H.Davies poem ‘Leisure’ before. It must be his best remembered poem. I found his ‘Autobiography of a Supertramp’ very entertaining.

During both walks I saw, and heard, a buzzard coasting above the treetops.

I noticed last weekend that the Robins were singing, seemingly from every tree and bush. Great tits have begun to join them and I think I heard a Chaffinch today too.

I was out for a third time later, briefly in Eaves Wood, then crossing the Lots, but having set-off in the half-darkness again, didn’t take any photos.

Beneath the Boughs

A Snowy Sunrise

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Snow came to Silverdale, an unusual occurrence.

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I’d been up for a while, catching up on some red-ink dispersion, but was now heading for those woods on the skyline, to catch the sunrise.  I should really have set off earlier; twenty minutes before the sun came up the clouds were suffused with a pink glow which I didn’t have a decent vantage point to photograph.

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When the sun did finally rise, it was obscured by the clouds on the eastern horizon. I suppose I could have waited, but my toes were cold, I had places to be (well a place – Cartmell – to collect B from a night away with his team-mates), and if I had stayed put, I would have missed the spectacle of the sun appearing through the snow-rimmed trees…

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As I’ve noted before, coming back down the hill creates an illusion of a second sunrise…

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And with that, astonishingly, I’m up to date.

Feels a bit weird.

A Snowy Sunrise

Another Sunrise and Two More Sunsets

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The last day of our Christmas and New Year break. ‘All good things must come to an end’ they say. Well, who are they and why are they such a pain in the you-know-where?

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I was up early for another sunrise from Castlebarrow.

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In fairness, there’s no call to be up particularly early at this latitude to catch a sunrise.

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Nice though to grab a revitalising pre-breakfast leg-stretcher, a lungful of fresh, cold air and a free light-show.

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One advantage of watching the sunrise from a hilltop is that you can effectively watch it rise again as you descend the hill…

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Our old friend X-Ray came over for lunch, tea and a card game or two. As usual on such occasions we went out for a bit of a wander too. We all toddled down to the Cove and then the rest of the family decided that they’d had enough exercise for today, thank you very much, and left X-Ray and I to continue down the coast to Jack Scout. From where we watched the sunset over the bay….

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Not as spectacular as the previous days offerings from Warton Crag, but very pleasant none the less.

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We continued round Jenny Brown’s point and along the edge of the salt marsh.

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You can see that the light was getting a little low. And we still had a fair way to go back up through Fleagarth Wood and through Sharp’s Lot to the village. X-Ray has dodgy ankles and wasn’t entirely impressed by my choice of route for what had become a night hike. I, on the other hand, am rather relishing finishing my walks in the dark. At least for the moment.

Later that week I managed to make an early exit from work and dragged the boys out for another venture to the Cove.

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For yet another sunset.

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Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, I’ve had the tune playing mentally since I typed the post title – I’m one sunrise short, I know.

More sunsets to follow.

Another Sunrise and Two More Sunsets

What Camera?

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Early December – I’m still more than a month behind!

For quite some time now, well over a year I reckon, I’ve been debating about buying a new camera. Much as I’ve enjoyed the Olympus, it has been physically deteriorating for a while now. And I’ve had a feeling that it’s performance has begun to slide somewhat too.

But what to buy? I haven’t even been able to decide what kind of camera to buy, let alone what model. The convenience and relatively low cost of another bridge camera was tempting – after all, I have liked the Olympus. But the pocketability of a compact also had some attractions. Then again, for many years I used an SLR and I seriously considered upgrading to a DSLR. Then there’s the mirror-less cameras to consider, and consider them I did. At great length. I drove myself, and perhaps several other people, mad going over it again and again, reading reviews, shopping around. Several times I was convinced I had finally made a decision, but could never quite bring myself to make a commitment, put my hand in my pocket, sign on the dotted line etc etc.

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Then, over the Black Friday weekend, my friend and colleague The Proper Birder emailed me to say that she intended to replace her own camera – with a direct replacement, exactly the same model she already owned, because she likes it so much. She was getting a good deal, did I want to order one, because she was going to the shop and could pick it up for me? I’d seen her photographs of exotic birds taken in the Caribbean, which were pretty stunning, and I’d also read several reviews of the camera and thought it might be the one for me. So I finally took the plunge and bought myself an early Christmas present.

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These photos are the fruits of my first trip out with that camera, a brief, early expedition to watch the sun rise from Castlebarrow, above the village. 

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What did I choose? A Panasonic Lumix FZ200 – another bridge camera. In the end I decided that having a huge zoom and a macro facility all without needing multiple lenses was perfect for me.

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The unique (as far as I know) selling point of the FZ200 is that, although its zoom is relatively modest by current standards (x24 where x50 is not unusual now) it allows a wide f2.4 aperture throughout the range of the zoom, letting more light in to the camera and therefore giving a better chance of getting good shots with the zoom in low light. Trying to take photos of squirrels running around in the trees on a gloomy morning with the Olympus for example would have been a complete waste of time.

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What Camera?

An Early Bird on Sleddale Fell

Early Sun on Kentmere Pike

A stunning forecast for Saturday coincided with a busy family day and it seemed that there was no possibility that I would get out on the hills. But my Mother-in-Law took pity on me and offered to look after the kids until lunch time. Accordingly, I was fumbling my way out of bed, bleary-eyed and yawning, at five, driving by half-past and parking up at Sadgill in Longsleddale at six thirty. There was a bright half-moon hanging huge above the Kentmere ridge to the west and in the velvet sky the stars were beginning to fade as the pre-dawn light gradually strengthened. There was enough light to walk without a headtorch, although I opted to stick with the track heading for the Gatescarth Pass whilst the light improved, a route I might not have chosen otherwise.

A bracing northerly hurtled down the valley, an owl hooted from across the river. I confess, I did wonder a little about the sanity of the enterprise. It was bitterly, bitterly cold.

Birkett suggests following the path into Brownhowe Bottom and up to the col between Tarn Crag and Branstree, but previous experience suggested that this would be an indefinite path through very boggy ground which I had no desire to revisit. On the map, a stream heading west of west-north-west almost from the top of Tarn Crag seemed to offer a promising handrail to the heights. So I followed it, after peering first into the small disused quarry close to where the stream passed under the track. After the first steep pull the gradient eased and I suspect that ordinarily the going would have been a little damp underfoot. No such problem today as everything was well frozen. Drips from the edge of peat hags had become substantial icicles and the ground crunched and crackled as I walked.

Looking back again 

A fitter man than I would have reached the summit for the sunrise, but the fitter man was still in his bed, so I had the shady hillside to myself as an orange glow spread downwards on the Kentmere ridge opposite. A Tortoise-like steady plod has long been my Modus Operandi and eventually I toiled up to the summit of Tarn Crag. As I said, it was a bitterly cold day, but here it was colder yet – the wind chill must have been considerable. I flung on all of the additional layers I was carrying, but then, perhaps unwisely, took off my gloves to take some photos. My hands were soon painfully cold, then numb and then, after I put my gloves back on, painful again as the circulation returned bringing with it a prickly burning sensation.

But the sky was almost cloudless, the clarity of the air was superb and the views magnificent.

Tarn Crag Summit - with Survey Pillar 

The pillar here is a survey pillar, built when the Manchester Corporation was flooding Mardale to create Haweswater. I didn’t go to take a closer look, but if you’re interested, there’s a photo here of another pillar (there are several roundabout) on Branstree, taken on another stunning early February day. I once camped on the summit of Tarn Crag. Arriving in the late afternoon, I had the summit to myself then too. A glorious evening was followed by a very wet morning, and then a wet day splashing my way across the Shap fells and down to Tebay.

Kentmere Pike and Harter Fell 

Sadly it was just too cold to linger for long by the summit cairn.

Tarn Crag Summit Cairn 

So I set-off again, heading toward the distant line of the Pennines. Cross Fell stood out clearly, holding more snow than any of its neighbours.

Looking East to the Pennines 

As I dropped into the hollow which separates Tarn Crag from Grey Crag and Harrop Pike the wind suddenly died away. The contrast was amazing. I was out of the wind and in the sunshine – too good an opportunity to miss, so I stopped briefly for a hot drink.

Harrop Pike 

Looking toward Harrop Pike.

Harrop Pike Summit Cairn 

Harrop Pike Summit Cairn.

Looking down to Longsleddale from Grey Crag Summit 

Grey Crag cairn, looking down into Longsleddale.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever visited the little cairned and knobbly top of Grey Crag before, but it turned out to be another victory for Birkett Bagging – a lonely spot with great views of Longsleddale and the hills across the valley, and, more distantly, of the Coniston Fells.

Longsleddale and Great Howe 

From there I picked a way through the very broken crags heading towards Great Howe, which is the high point of the broad sweep of ridge on the right of this photo. Although not evidently a ‘summit’ in any way, Great Howe is another little gem with fantastic views of the wooded slopes and patchwork fields of the lower part of Longsleddale. I took photos, but they were into the low winter sun and so not particularly successful. Great Howe has two more survey pillars, but both are slightly below the ridge and on this occasion I didn’t feel inclined to detour to investigate, besides which I was working to a deadline.

Tarn Crag from Great Howe 

Tarn Crag from Great Howe.

Grey Crag from Great Howe 

Grey Crag from Great Howe.

Upper Longsleddale from Great Howe 

Upper Longsleddale from Great Howe

The slopes between Great Howe and Longsleddale are pretty steep and crags abound. When I arrived back at the car, I could see that it is possible to take what looked like a pleasant route down the ridge and via a stile down across the fields directly to Sadgill, but from above, knowing that this wasn’t access land, I opted for a more tricky descent back to the Gatescarth track. I once climbed Tarn Crag by following Galeforth Gill, a route which I can recommend. Now I took a line down and across the hillside towards that Gill.

Goat Scar, Kentmere Pike and Longsleddale 

Goat Scar, Kentmere Pike, Harter Fell and Upper Longsleddale again.

A perfectly placed gap in the crags brought me safely down to the gill a little way below an impressive waterfall. (If you choose to follow Galeforth Gill up Tarn Crag you can avoid the fall by diverting into the gully on the right, or possibly by following the tributary stream on the left.)

Galeforth Gill 

The stream bed and the rocks beside it were coated in a fascinating variety of ice formations.

Icicles by Galeforth Gill 

I was particularly impressed by these ice coated grass blades.

Ice coated grass blades, by Galeforth Gill 

Goat Scar and Longsleddale 

A final view of Goat Scar and Longsleddale.

Sadgill Bridge, River Sprint

Sadgill.

A very quiet walk – I saw no other walkers at all until I reached the Gatescarth track, shortly before I got back to my car. There were now fourteen cars parked at the road end at Sadgill. I chatted to chap who was sitting in the boot of his 4 by 4 tying his bootlaces, evidently about to set-off.

“What’s like up there?” he wanted to know.

“Fantastic. Frozen, everything’s frozen. Not much snow, but what there is, is firm and a pleasure to walk on.”

“Cold?”

“Oh, yes – extremely cold.”

I was home again by midday.

After lunch B and his pal wanted to me to take them for some tree-climbing and den-building in Eaves Wood. Then B and I watched the thrilling Calcutta Cup match on the telly together. Finally we rounded off a marvellous day with a meal at Cinnamon Spice Restaurant in the village. Two walks, a rugby international and a curry, and it wasn’t even my Birthday.

Throw those curtains wide……

A wee map:

Tarn Crag Walk

An Early Bird on Sleddale Fell

Turned Out Nice Again.

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It rained and it rained and then it rained some more for good measure. Here in the North-Wet we made copious cups of tea and quietly went about the business of evolving webbed feet and gills. It seems in retrospect, that we did very well to grab such a stunning day back before Christmas and even the walk over Whin Rigg and Illgill Head, with it’s unfortunate mud-skating incident, at least stayed much drier than many days have of late.

And then suddenly – some proper winter weather: cold, clear, crisp and frosty. Sadly, I’m still in no fit state to take full advantage – those lucky people who were walking in the Lakes, or North Wales and probably the Dales must have had a grand day. (I’ve seen some photos from the Glyders and a report from the Southern Uplands where the weather was cloudy, but eventually cleared. The Pieman was abroad in the Pennines, and a couple of friends from the village were, separately, walking near Ulswater and tell me that it was very fine, but I haven’t seen anything on t’interweb yet from the Lakes.)

Anyroad up, we didn’t miss out completely. On Saturday the kids went to Dalton Zoo with their grandparents. I had work to do, but in the afternoon TBH and I drove up to Bowness where we had a short stroll along the lake shore and then went for afternoon tea at the home of the world’s most expensive pudding (which amazingly, at £22,000, has now sold). The afternoon tea is a bit cheaper than that.

Sunday morning was clear and frosty again and I tried, in vain, to tempt the ankle-biters to come out to witness the sunrise.

Moon

Maybe they knew more than they were letting on. The moon was clear and bright in the western sky, but without climbing to a vantage point, which I didn’t want to do because of my ankle, I could see that the sun had risen, but couldn’t actually see the sun!

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I know…a little more patience was required.

Still, I like to get out whilst everything is coated in frost…

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Later we were in Arnside. The boys and I had a walk along the promenade…

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Ammendment: of course there was a blogger out in the Lakes.

And – a back-packing trip from Snowdonia with stunning views and cute ponies to boot.

Turned Out Nice Again.