Levens Deer Park and Force Falls

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Force Falls River Kent.

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Bullfinch.

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River Kent.

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Avenue of trees (Oaks and Sweet Chestnuts).

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A hollow tree (one of many).

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Bagot Goats.

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River Kent.

This little outing has appeared on the blog many times before. These photos are from the Monday immediately after our Howgill camping trip. A had dance lessons, which meant I had a two hour window and this walk proved to be easily manageable in that time frame, actually with time to spare without hurrying unduly. A perfect, peaceful leg stretcher.

Levens Deer Park and Force Falls

A Corvid Walk

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Later in the day, after my walk from Brockhole, with the weather now much improved, I was out for another stroll, a standard Hagg Wood, Silverdale Green, Stankelt Lane and across the Lots to the Cove wander.

The trees were absolutely full of small birds, but whilst they were very easy to hear, they were much less easy to see. The Oak above had a family of Blue Tits, which tantalised me by briefly showing themselves then hopping about in the branches, mostly obscured by leaves.

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The Sycamore helicopters which only recently appeared have changed colour already and are now tinged with red.

I watched these two Crows for a while.

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Shortly after I took this first photo, the Crow at the front leant a little too far forward, over-balanced and did an involuntary forward-roll, then sprang back-up and comically continued as if nothing had happened.

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Of course, I’m anthropomorphising, but it’s almost impossible, I suspect, not to project human emotions on to animals when you watch them going about their daily business.

Jackdaws can regularly be found in certain places in the area: Trowbarrow, Arnside Tower, the quarry on Warton Crag. I’ve realised recently that Stankelt Road is another such venue. These chimney pots had four birds perched on them…

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But when all four had flown away, perhaps unnerved by my attention, I could still hear the sounds of Jackdaws from that direction…

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There were more birds in the chimney pots! I think that these are juvenile birds sitting in nests. Some hopped out for a look around…

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…and a bit of an explore…

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When I lived around the corner on Emesgate Lane, I used to get a lot of squawking and detritus down my own chimney, most memorably an abundance of cherry seeds one summer. I suppose that may well have been Jackdaws too.

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A Corvid Walk

Helicopters

Hagg Wood – Clifftop Path – Wolf House – Jack Scout – Lindeth Road

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Bank Holiday Monday, as is so often the case, was a bit of a wash-out, weather-wise at least. What better way, then, to spend a wet day in May than chatting and playing daft games with old friends?

The Shandy Sherpa and The Beach Funster and I did escape for a shopping trip, incorporating a wander to The Cove and across The Lots.

These photos are from the day after, when the weather improved somewhat.

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These Sycamore keys – ‘helicopters’ when I was a nipper – have appeared on the Mystery Tree, or perhaps I should say Former Mystery Tree, which is by Hagg Wood.

I’ve been mulling over an idea on recent walks about why I prefer Spring to Summer, or at least one reason why I do. In Spring there’s an orderly progression of events: Snowdrops appear in the lanes and then in the woods by Hawes Water; then I expect to see Daffodils, Toothwort and Green Hellebore in short order; swallows will arrive around my birthday, Beech leaves shortly after. I know what to expect, roughly when to expect it and where I might find things. The changes are familiar, and reassuring, and limited in number.

But when summer comes around, I can’t keep up. There are new flowers everywhere, in profusion and a myriad of forms, many of which I can’t identify. One moment the new oaks leaves are yellow and wrinkly, the next they’re lush and green and obscuring the birds in the trees. Changes seem to happen at a bewildering rate. It’s not that I don’t like Summer, it’s just that I wish it would take its time a little more.

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Gibraltar Farm.

Anyway, this is now sounding like a moan, which wasn’t really my intention and which doesn’t fit at all with these photos from what was really a very pleasant stroll down to Jack Scout to watch the sunset.

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Swallows by Gibraltar Farm.

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Blackbird.

Except I missed the sunset: by the time I’d walked around the landward side of the field and reached the clifftop at the southern end of the site, the sun had already disappeared. The after show was pretty good though.

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In among all of the Foxgloves, which seem to have crept up on me and arrived tall and all-grown-up without warning, there was a single specimen with white flowers…

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Less whinging in the next post, I promise.

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Helicopters

Teesdale – an Embarrassment of Riches

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Low Force.

Make a cup of tea, maybe grab a biscuit to dunk or an apple to crunch: this is a long one with a lot of pictures, but I think it’s worth a few moments of your time. OK, settled, ready? Then we’ll begin.

I’ve mentioned before that when I read John Fisher’s ‘Wild Flowers in Danger’ last year, and realised that many of the flowers in the book grow reasonably nearby, I resolved to make an effort to see some of those flowers this year. This trip was planned to, hopefully, find one of those rarities. Once I’d decided to drive up to Teesdale, I searched my bookshelves, wondering whether I might have a book with a suitable route to follow. I found one in Christopher Somerville’s ‘Somerville’s 100 Best British Walks’. (It is, I realise now, an anthology of walks from The Torygraph – you can find the Teesdale one here.) Somerville’s description made me all the more determined to come this way, but I really wanted to incorporate High Force and so devised a longer version. Then I decided I couldn’t omit Low Force, so extended the walk again. The trouble was, I already had things to do in the early evening, so an early start was necessary. I was walking just after seven (after a drive of about an hour and a half, mostly through rain, wondering what I was playing at.)

I parked in the picnic area near the visitor centre at Bowlees. They have a ‘donate and display’ scheme, an excellent idea I thought. As I arrived, the rain cleared and the sun began to shine, just as the forecast had predicted, although a little earlier than I had anticipated.

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This is Wynch Bridge, just below Low Force. I have a picture of my Dad here (well actually he has it) taken in April 1985 when we walked the Pennine Way together. He was a little younger then than I am now, a sobering thought, and like me, he had a white beard, although his was temporary, tolerated only until we returned home from Kirk Yetholm.

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Because I had a relatively long walk planned, and wanted to get home reasonably early, I knew that I couldn’t afford to hang around taking lots of photographs.

Some chance! There were just too many distractions.

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Low Force again.

In the first instance, the falls and the river. Low Force and High Force are the consequences of volcanic activity:

“High Force is a great place to see the famous Whin Sill. This is a layer of a hard, dark rock called dolerite, known locally as ‘whinstone’. The Whin Sill formed about 295 million years ago, when molten rock at over 1000°C rose up from within the Earth and spread out between layers of limestone, sandstone and shale. The molten rock cooled and solidified underground to form a flat sheet of rock, known as a ‘sill’. After millions of years of erosion the Whin Sill is now exposed at the Earth’s surface, forming dramatic landscape features such as High Force”

Source

Then, there was an absolute abundance of wild flowers. Some familiar: Bluebells, Wood Anemones, Primroses, Marsh Marigolds, Pignut, Early Purple Orchids…

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White-lipped Banded Snail.

Some less familiar, like this Globe Flower…

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It’s a kind of buttercup, but is relatively tall and has quite large flowers. It’s found in the north, mainly in wet, upland, limestone meadows.

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There were lots of birds too, many singing from the trees by the river, Lapwings and Curlews in the meadows, Dippers, Oystercatchers and Sandpipers by the river.

I have a strong feeling that this…

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..is a Garden Warbler, but the only thing I can say categorically is that it wasn’t a Chiff-chaff, its song was far too musical.

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Cowslips.

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Curlew.

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More Globe Flowers.

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Water Avens.

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More Cowslips.

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Common Sandpiper.

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I was surprised to see this Scurvy Grass here (the other flower is Cuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock). I thought that Scurvy Grass was a plant confined to coastal locations, but I think that this is Mountain Scurvygrass – the leaves are a slightly different shape from Common Scurvygrass.

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Even more Globe Flowers.

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When I was a boy, Lapwings – or Peewits as we called them – were a common farmland bird. Even then numbers were in decline and sadly that decline has continued. We’re fortunate to still see them close to home, and in the fields and skies around Roeburndale they had been present in great numbers.

But in Teesdale they were not only plentiful, but also less wary about human visitors.

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I took lots of photos of this individual, and as I did so, it moved towards me, not away as I would have expected.

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Rabbits too were both numerous…

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…and less wary than those I usually encounter.

This…

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…I’m hoping, is yet another phenomena which I’ve noticed several times over the years: when I manage to put a name to something, or notice it for the first time close to home, I then find that it is much more common than I previously realised. It happened with Bee Flies, Eyebright, Gatekeeper butterflies and I could probably quote a host of other instances if I put my mind to it. The surprising thing about this is that each of these things was apparently invisible to me for a period before I suddenly cottoned on to its presence. Now I think the same thing may happen with Wild Privet (supposing that is what this is!).

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What’s this ball of fluff?

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A fledgling Lapwing, watched over by a cautious parent.

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Bugle.

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Lady’s Mantle.

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Mountain Pansy.

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I came across Mountain Pansies several times during the day, at various altitudes. They were numerous and very variable in colour. Sadly, many of my photos didn’t come out too sharply.

As I approached High Force, I entered England’s largest Juniper woodland.

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I’ve never thought of an area of Junipers as woodland before, but I suppose it is. This one was rumbustiously alive with bird song, but the songsters were very well hidden on the whole. Only this Song Thrush showed itself for more than a brief moment.

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I’m hoping that somebody can help me with an identification for this tree. It was growing through a Juniper. I suppose it superficially resembles Elder, but I don’t think it is Elder.

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Sadly, the Junipers are under threat from a disease which is killing them off. At either end of the wood there were boot cleaning stations to be used as you exit, to stop the spread of the disease.

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I saw several Junipers with these orange fungal fruiting bodies on them and wondered whether this might be the pathogen.

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It isn’t, but I’m glad I photographed it, because these are telial horns of one of the species of Gymnosporangium. These fungi infect Junipers, produce these fruiting bodies which release spores which go on to infect a different plant: apples, pears, hawthorn, rowans…trees which are all from the same family (and a different species for each different species of Gymnosporangium, I think). There they produce a rust, galls on the leaves and then new fruiting bodies which produce spores which complete the life cycle by infecting Junipers. A parasite with alternating host species – where is the evolutionary advantage there?

Down below the Junipers, this…

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…had me puzzled. But I think it is a white flowered Bugle. Is that possible?

I’d finally reached High Force…

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Ironically, this view was taken from behind a safety barrier, but at the top of the waterfall, I could lean out and take a view straight over the drop…

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Just beyond High Force I witnessed a family meal for four. I actually thought I was watching some sort of territorial dispute, so aggressive were these juvenile Dippers.

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They kept up a constant racket and shook those stubby wings angrily.

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Eventually, one of the adults took some time out to preen itself close to the river bank…

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This was close to the incongruous scar of Dine Holm Quarry.

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The path climbed away from the rive for a while, on Bracken Rigg, before dropping down to the farm at Cronkley.

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Green Hill Scar and Cronkley Scar.

The meadows here were resplendent with a yellow wash of Marsh Marigolds.

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I had my first human interaction of the day here, a cheery wave from a very happy looking young lad driving a piece of farm machinery. (It wasn’t big enough to be a tractor, but a bit too big to be a quad bike so…I’m not sure what to call it.)

In the riverside meadows here there were several Redshanks…

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High House and the Scars again.

And lots of Lapwings…

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I also spotted a male Reed Bunting…

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The next long stretch by the river as it curved around Cronkley Fell was every bit as superb for birdwatching as the earlier sections had been, but with a definite change in the kind of birds showing.

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I think this is a Meadow Pippit.

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I would have missed this Frog, but for the fact that it took an extravagant leap into a sidestream as I crossed it, splashing very conspicuously.

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Common Sandpiper again (okay, not all of the birds were different).

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Wheatear.

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I’m even more convinced (i.e. almost convinced) that this is a Meadow Pippit. There were actually two birds which flew along the edge of the river ahead of me.

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More Bird’s-eye Primroses.

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Falcon Clints.

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Raven Scar and Fox Earths.

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Looking back down on Falcom Clints and the River Tees.

I finally left the river for the short climb to Man Gate and onto Cronkley Fell. It was here that I hoped to spot the rare flowers I had set out to find, but I had already enjoyed my walk so much that I decided that if they proved hard to find, I would be none-the-less happy about my decision to come this way.

In the event, I could hardly miss them…

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Spring Gentians.

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On Cronkley Fell several areas are fenced off to protect the flora, presumably from sheep and rabbits.

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The gentians are present here because of the Sugar Limestone…

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A metamorphic rock which has been crystallised by volcanic activity. It produces a fine, granular, almost sandy soil.

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I think that these tiny, delicate flowers…

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…are Spring Sandwort, such a good indicator of the presence of lead that it was also once known as Leadwort.

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More Mountain Pansies.

We are lucky at home, we have Bird’s-eye Primroses flowering nearby, right on the southern limit of their range. But I’ve never seen them growing in such profusion as they were here…

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I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a place sufficiently out of the wind to make it feasible to get my stove lit for a brew. Since I couldn’t, I rattled on, heading back down towards Bracken Rigg.

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Dropping down Birk Rigg I met a couple of walkers, the first I’d spoken to all day. It was around noon – these are lonely moors.

Well, they had been. I was vacillating: should I head back down Bracken Rigg and retrace my steps along the river, or vary the route by continuing along the higher moorland path. I’d enjoyed the riverside path so much that I was very tempted to follow that course, but just as I reached the path junction, a huge party came along the Pennine Way towards me from the river; I changed my mind and stuck with the higher path.

If I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have seen…

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…this, which I think is a Golden Plover. The only reason I’m unsure is that all of my books show that black patch on the belly extending all the way up to the face. But this is summer breeding plumage, so perhaps this is a transition phase.

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An unusual stile.

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Holwick Scars.

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Holwick.

I turned out of Holwick on a minor lane heading back down towards Bowlees. A small, grey raptor landed in a tree ahead. It was gone almost as quickly with a lapwing in hafl-hearted attendance. It had something clutched in its claws. A Lapwing chick? It occurred to me later that this might have been a Merlin?

The hedge bottom by this same lane had a superb display of very tall Water Avens.

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This Common Carder Bee was enjoying the Water Avens too. Moving with great agility from one flower to the next, without flying.

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Lovely colours!

As I arrived back at Low Force…

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I found myself quickly stripping off layers – it had been sunny for much of the morning, but now it was finally warming up.

I had thought at one point that I might struggle to get back for my later engagement, but now found that I unexpectedly had time for a bite of late lunch at the Visitor Centre…

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I ate outside by a busy flowerbed…

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…with bird-feeders just beyond.

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Nuthatch.

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Siskins.

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What a day!

And it wasn’t over yet: the reason I wanted to get home early was that The John Verity Band were playing at Five O’Clock in the Silverdale Hotel and we’d promised the kids we would take them. (It’s not often a former member of Argent plays in the pub around the corner – and if you know who Argent were, then you are showing your age). In the event, the kids made us leave at the interval – in some sort of weird role-reversal they complained that it was ‘too loud’. I was really enjoying myself. Fortunately, it seems that the band will be returning to the Lower House later this year, maybe more than once.

Teesdale

Teesdale – an Embarrassment of Riches

Roeburndale Round

Wray – Hunt’s Gill Bridge – Outhwaite Wood – River Roeburn – Barkin Bridge – Lower Salter – Haylot Farm – Melling Wood – Mallowdale – Mallowdale Bridge – Higher Salter – Harterbeck – Stauvin – Four Lane Ends – Hunt’s Gill Bridge – Wray

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River Roeburn in Outhwaite Wood.

May arrives and brings with it the post-work evening walk season. Well, what I think of as ‘the post-work evening walk season’. Of course, I’ve been walking after work in the evenings all winter, in the rain and the dark, and during the spring, as the evenings have lengthened, my walks around home have gradually lengthened with them. But now there’s enough light to justify a short drive and a longer walk somewhere a little away from my home patch.

If the outing featured in the last post was partly inspired by somebody else’s blog post, then this walk was, I think, influenced by one of my own posts. I’ve been at this blogging malarkey for a while now and am rapidly approaching the one thousand post milestone. Most of my posts illicit a trickle of interest and then disappear without trace, but some have a curious afterlife, which I can follow via my blog stats. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this. For example, one post about a walk in the Wye valley gets a visit or two just about every day and the same holds true for a handful of other posts. The oddest of these afterlives is the curious popularity of this post, which attracts lots of readers from India, where, I can only imagine, a teacher or lecturer sets assignments on the essay ‘On Finding Things’ by E.V.Lucas. In search of something to plagiarise, the students who find my post about a family stroll in the woods must be sorely disappointed. Anyway, a post about a walk around Roeburndale, which TBH and I enjoyed four years ago at around this time of year, is another which has been making regular appearances in my stats of late. Which got me thinking about a return visit.

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I was intrigued by this small tree, or large shrub, down by the river on the edge of the wood, by a riverside meadow. I’ve pretty much convinced myself that it is an example of our native, Wild Privet. The flowers are plentiful and quite striking.

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My only nagging doubt is caused by the fact that I remember privet hedges having tiny leaves, but I suppose that they may have consisted of imported cultivars of another privet?

Once again, the Bluebells and Ramsons in Outhwaite Wood were stunning…

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All too soon, the permission path leaves the river and climbs up through the woods to traverse their top edge, close to the field boundary.

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Before eventually dropping down to cross the river by this footbridge…

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This is the stretch of river where I brought the children to swim a few years ago, and we were eaten alive by insects. No such problem on this occasion.

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Roeburndale – Ingleborough in the distance.

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Little Salter Methodist Chapel.

The route which TBH and I had followed turns left here and cuts across the valley before heading down, but I decided to continue onward, adding an extra loop around the head of the valley. (A PDF leaflet of that route can be found here and here, at least at the moment: the link I added to my previous post doesn’t seem to work anymore).

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Approaching Haylot farm I spotted a couple of Hares, a treat since it’s something I don’t see all that often. Years ago – I can date it fairly precisely to the early 1990s – I watched a pair of Little Owls near this farm. I don’t think I’ve seen any since.

Just past the farm, I walked through a small field where I was mugged by a flock of sheep. I’m familiar with the late evening behaviour of sheep at lambing time, whereby they will group together and follow a walker through a field, making a proper racket in the meantime, but this particular flock were the most aggrieved and aggressive bunch I have ever come across, shepherding me out of their field on no uncertain terms, snapping at my heels as I went. Well almost. It was very unnerving.

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More Wild Privet in Melling Wood.

The path through Melling Wood was an absolute delight. Firstly, there were no aggressive sheep. Secondly, the path contoured across the precipitous slopes of Mallow Gill. I definitely need to come back this way again. This path is part of the Lancashire Witches Way which I intend to investigate further.

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Mallowdale Pike and High Stephen’s Head – Ward’s Stone, the highest point in the Bowland Fells is not too far behind.

This was a great walk for birdwatching, but I didn’t do so well with my camera. In open fields there were Curlews and Lapwings on every side, but none of my photographs came out very well…

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I could hear Cuckoo’s constantly, and thought I saw one in Outhwaite Wood, as well as a Pied Flycatcher, though I couldn’t swear to either. I missed the Hares too, which were gone before I could train my camera on them.

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Brownthwaite Pike, Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough.

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Just after reaching the road at Harterbeck, I found a comfortable boulder to sit on to enjoy the sunset and have a bite to eat. The farmer was still out and about tending his sheep and came over for a chat. He was tickled by the possibility that I might be walking home to Silverdale that night (which I wasn’t obviously), and also by the fact that I originate from the ‘flat country’ of Lincolnshire. (I know, it’s not all flat Dad, but I’ve given up trying to argue that one).

I decided to follow the road down back to Wray: easy navigation and no more mad sheep encounters. Even though the temperature dropped rapidly once the sun had gone, I was accompanied, most of the way down, by the flickering wings of bats which were coursing up and down the lane.

A great walk, but quite a long one for an evening after work, I estimate close to 10 miles. I was glad to get back to my car in Wray, but already scheming about my next outing.

Roeburndale Round

Back to the Bela

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Another Monday night bout of ballet lesson related Dad’s taxi duties provided a window sufficient for a good long walk, but, unusually, wading through a quagmire of lethargy, I took a while to get going and then eventually set off to repeat the short circuit along the Bela to its confluence with the Kent and back via the Orchid Triangle and the road past the Heronry.

I was photographing a distant Little Egret when I noticed this Heron sat on the river bank. I adopted my standard iterative approach – take a photo, walk a few paces, take another, repeat. As a rule, Herons are very cautious and will soon fly away if you get very close at all, but this one was unusually forbearing, so that when it did take off I was poised to catch another picture…

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By where the Heron had been a sitting, a Mallard and her chicks…

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How many in her brood?

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Seven!

It seems to me that she must be a relatively successful parent, as Mallards go. These are not particularly young ducklings and she still has seven. I well remember the instructive experience of taking our small children to see the ducklings at Bank Well one spring back when we lived nearby. There were 14 little balls of fluff to begin with, the next day there were only 12. Then 10. And so on.  Eventually, there were none. Like ‘ten in the bed’, but more final. A harsh introduction to ‘nature, red in tooth and claw’ for the kids.

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A little further along the bank, a pair of Greylag Geese seemed to be without goslings.

The Heron meanwhile, had only moved on as far as the top of the weir.

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Below the weir, a pair of Mute Swans were feeding…

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The Bela and Dallam Bridge.

It not being as windy as it was last time I came this way, I was able to get some slightly better photos of the Oak Apple Galls

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When I was in my early teens, my parents let me subscribe to a partwork called The Living Countryside. I’d always loved books about animals and had quite a collection of animal encyclopaedias, but what I loved about The Living Countryside was the fact that it covered only British wildlife and brought everything closer to home. It built up into several large tomes, which sadly I no longer have. Apart from my general enthusiasm, I don’t remember many individual articles, but I do remember reading about gall wasps, because I was so astounded by their life-cycle.

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This gall contains numerous grubs which will eventually become gall wasps, both male and female. The female wasps are winged and can fly, but weakly. After mating they fly to the ground, burrow down to the roots of an Oak tree and lay eggs. A gall forms on the roots producing a new generation of flightless wasps, all female. This generation is agamic, that is asexual. The wasps crawl up the trunk of the tree and lay eggs on twigs. The eggs irritate the tree, causing it to form the gall around the eggs. And so on.

This seemed, and still seems to me to be more like something you might read in a Science Fiction novel than in a Natural History magazine.

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The Oak, meanwhile, has its own reproductive agenda and is busy flowering.

This patch of woodland…

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…is the site of the Heronry. I watched several Herons and Little Egrets fly in and out.

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I guess that they too have young secreted up there in the trees.

This Chaffinch…

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…was serenading me when I got back to my car and continued to do so whilst I changed my footwear.

Turned out to be well worth the effort to get out after all, despite my initial lethargy.

Back to the Bela

A Saturday Triptych – Second Helpings

Sharp’s Lot – Fleagarth Wood – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – The Clifftop

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Welsh Poppy.

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Welsh Poppies.

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Dandelion Wine anyone?

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I intend to keep an eye on this tree, as well as the Mystery Sycamore, since it’s close to home, but I don’t know what species it is.

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Distant Howgills.

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Blue Tit.

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Clark’s Lot (or Sharp’s Lot or Pointer Wood)

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This was something of a butterfly walk, this being the first of several Peacocks I saw, and before this I had already fruitlessly chased both an Orange Tip and a Brimstone.

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I always eagerly await the arrival of new Beech leaves each spring, but this year I’ve really come to appreciate the colour of emerging Oak leaves.

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Field Horse-tail?

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Quaker’s Stang and Warton Crag.

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Early Purple Orchid.

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The Old Chimney.

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Bluebell.

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Robin.

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Cowslips.

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Forget-me-nots.

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Primroses and Bluebells.

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Peacock and Violets.

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Another Robin.

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Dandelion with Honey Bee. 

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Banded Snail on Hydrangea leaf.

A Saturday Triptych – Second Helpings