New Year Floral Survey

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – The Row – Burtonwell Wood – The Clifftop – Heald Brow – Quaker’s Stang – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Gibraltar Farm – Woodwell – Emesgate Lane.

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Quince Flowers.

After a string of grey, overcast, foggy, damp days, New Year’s Day was a corker: bright, sunny and, out of the wind, even quite warm at times. TBH was wiped out by a rotten cold, but the rest of us had been out on New Year’s Eve and the children, lightweights to a man, weren’t up very early. Eventually, Little S emerged into the light and I told him I was heading out to take advantage of the sunshine and asked him to ring me when the others got up, chiefly because the day before we’d got halfway through a game of Pandemic, a board game my brother sent us for Christmas, and I’d promised to finish it with the kids when they were ready.

The first surprise, apart from the glorious sunshine, was the thicket of Quince on the  corner of Elmslack Lane which was studded with bright red baubles. I suppose it must have been flowering when I walked past it earlier that week, but it took some brighter conditions to draw my attention to that fact. When I spotted a Marigold (I think?), which must have self-seeded where it sat at the end of a gravel drive….

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…I was reminded again, as I often am, of Richards Adams marvellous ‘A Nature Diary’ in which the author, most famous for Watership Down, explores the lanes, hills and coasts around his home on the Isle of Man. His winter entries often gleefully list the flowers he has found unexpectedly in bloom. I wondered how I might fare with a similar scheme on New Year’s Day. Almost immediately, I spotted Snowdrops and a single Celandine. Also…

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…quite a bit of Winter Jasmine in gardens. All of those might reasonably be expected, but I was a bit more surprised by the extent to which the brambles were flowering wherever I saw them in the woods…

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The Jubilee Monument on Castlebarrow.

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In Eaves Wood.

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In Burtonwell Wood.

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I think that this might be Yellow Jelly Fungus, also known as Witches Butter, but I’m not sufficiently confident about that, or hungry enough, to try adding this allegedly edible fungi to my diet.

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Heald Brow.

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Meadow Ant Mounds on Heald Brow.

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Evidence of Badger predation of Meadow Ants? Apparently Badgers are partial to ants.

It was a good morning for birds, if not for bird photographs: I heard and saw Nuthatches, a Buzzard, various tits, several Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one Green Woodpecker.

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Ragwort.

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Dandelion.

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Gorse.

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Daisy.

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Quaker’s Stang and Warton Crag.

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Sea Beet.

It wasn’t just the flowers which caught my attention; Sea Beet is the wild ancestor of Beetroot, Sugar Beet and Perennial Spinach, grows all year by the coast, is packed full of vitamins and is reputedly delicious. Spring is apparently the best time to eat it, so, seeing it growing on the edge of the salt-marsh, I made a mental note to come back this way, later in the year, with some sort of receptacle in which to carry away some forage.

There were quite a few people enjoying a New Year’s Day constitutional down by the salt-marsh, but I felt like I might be the only one who spotted the completely unexpected flight of a Speckled Wood butterfly and, moments later, a Painted Lady…

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Butterflies can only fly when the temperature is high enough, so the fact that they were here at all was testament to the genuine warmth by this sheltered, south-facing bank. It’s still a bit of a puzzle however, since Speckled Wood butterflies are unique in that they can overwinter as either a caterpillar or a chrysalis, but I don’t think they generally hibernate, as some other species do. And Painted Ladies famously migrate northwards from North Africa over several generations during a summer and then return in the autumn. Perhaps this one was a straggler.

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The large tree behind the old chimney had a couple of clumps of…

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…exquisitely ochre fungi.

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Jenny Brown’s Cottages.

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This looks like a Hawk’s-beard, although I’m not remotely confident about that. Maybe Rough Hawk’s-beard, but that’s supposed to flower in June and July, so if it is, it’s a confused specimen.

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Jack Scout.

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I’ve previously reported that the berries on Flowering Nutmeg, here growing close to Woodwell, reputedly taste chocolaty. In the interest of accuracy, I tried a berry and can now correct my error – it didn’t taste at all like chocolate. It was bitter and not at all pleasant. Oh well – you live and learn.

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More flowers. These were staked, clearly a garden plant, but Stinking Hellebore is actually native to the British Isles. This plant is very early to flower and would be one of the few you might expect to see at this time of year.

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Emerging Cuckoo Pint leaves: spring is on the way!

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Hydrangea. In retrospect these are not actually flowers at all I don’t think, but the remains of the large bracts which once surrounded the actual flowers.

We never did finish that game of Pandemic. I eventually rang Little S, when it seemed too late in the day for the rest of the family to still be in bed. It transpired that they were watching a film instead, so I was free to continue my New Year’s Day ramble without feeling guilty about having abandoned them all. We have played several times since.

The following day our old friend X-Ray visited and he and I and B played another new game, sent by my brother, Queen Domino. It’s a companion to, and can be combined with, King Domino, which we’ve enjoyed enormously since we got it last Christmas. Although I won, I didn’t really feel that I’d grasped the strategy for Queen Domino; I think that might take numerous games.

After our game, X-Ray and I went for a rather late wander down to Jack Scout and managed to miss what was, apparently, quite a spectacular sunset.

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Next time will have to do.

A pretty good start to 2019. I hope you’ve enjoyed the same.

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New Year Floral Survey

Yewbarrow Woods and Boretree Tarn

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Rusland Pool and Border Moss Wood from Crooks Bridge.

The prospect of this day, and the one to follow, had loomed large in my thoughts ever since B’s rugby fixture list was sent out back in September, because this Sunday showed no match and no training. A day off! In the few days running up to the weekend I kept sorting through weather forecasts and maps and guidebooks; dizzy with the countless possibilities, but also concerned that the weather was expected to be universally dreadful.

As the day approached and the forecasts for persistent rain didn’t improve, I decided that I better find something which didn’t venture too high into the hills and settled on visiting a couple of places between Windermere and the Rusland Valley which I’ve had my eye on for a while.

I drove up to the Lakes in very wet and grey conditions, wondering whether to call it quits, turn tail and head home again. After I’d found a spot to pull off the road in the Rusland Valley, I realised that I’d managed to come out of the house without my OS map. Fortunately, I’d spent a long time during the week staring at this part of the map and had a pretty clear memory, I thought, of the route. When I found an information board featuring this map…

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…my mind was made up: I took a photo on my phone, donned my waterproofs, girded my loins and embarked.

This is the map I should have been looking at…

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…although my copy doesn’t have the green dotted line through Yew Barrow Dale and Skinner Pastures which must be a recently created right of way.

My route took me along that path to Border Moss Wood, where I did an out-and-back in order to visit Rusland Pool and Crooks Bridge. Rusland Moss, a little further up the valley, is a good place to see Red Deer and I hoped I might see some on this occasion too. As I stood on the bridge, admiring the misty views, three deer ran down to the river, swam swiftly across and quickly bounded away again.

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The woods on this walk were an absolute delight, even in the rain, and I’m really looking forward to revisiting in the spring and the autumn.

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I’m afraid my photo doesn’t convey how impressive this tree was: it must have fallen down a long time ago and now four of its branches have grown strong and tall like individual tree trunks in their own right.

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Yewbarrow Woods.

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A tiny unnamed tarn in the mist.

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Boretree Tarn.

I’ve never been to Boretree Tarn before. It’s not too far from High Dam and I’m wondering whether it might be just as good for swimming when the weather and water temperature are both more clement. On this occasion, I found a comfortable spot by the edge of the tarn and tucked in to some very welcome cabbage and chorizo soup. There were a couple of swans and a few ducks to keep me company, but otherwise it was a quiet and tranquil spot.

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The view, such as it was, from Rusland Heights.

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Approaching Hall Brow Wood.

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Skowbarrow Beck.

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In Hall Brow Wood.

It was a relatively short walk, about six and a half miles, and by the time I got back to the car I was drenched, but I’d enjoyed my self none-the-less. I shall think of the trip as reconnaissance for future visits in better weather.

Towards the end of the walk the cloud had been lifting a little and beginning to show signs of breaking up. Just as I started the engine to set-off home, literally as I turned the key in the ignition, the windscreen was suddenly suffused with lovely golden light from the low winter sun, and I wondered if the weather was going to play a dirty trick by improving now that I’d finished walking, but I needn’t have worried: the sunshine was extremely short-lived and it was soon raining again.

I’d managed a good walk, despite the weather, and still had another iron-in-the-fire….

Yewbarrow Woods and Boretree Tarn

Leaves Online

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Having dropped Little S off for his climbing session, I was hoping to get out for another short wander and, to that end, had been poring over maps the night before, looking for a likely route. Blessed with paths, as we are near home, it always comes as a bit of a surprise when I’m looking for routes elsewhere and find that options are limited or nonexistent.

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It’s quite hard to see much in the way of possibilities for walks directly from the University campus, but my eye was drawn to an area on the map with several largish splodges of blue and I eventually settled on a short circuit from Scorton Picnic site.

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What it lacked in length it made up for with charm.

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The River Wyre.

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I shall guess that this small area of water, and the many others close to the motorway nearby, is a former gravelpit and probably dates back to the building of this stretch of the M6.

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I went a little off-piste at the far end of the walk, in order to get a photo to show just how close to the M6 this little scrap of woodland is.

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TBH has sometimes described my blog, to the uninitiated, as “photos of leaves and stuff”. Whilst I was selecting photos for this post, it occurred to me that I could rebrand my blog as ‘Leaves Online’.

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I don’t know what kind of tree these very large, yellow leaves came from, but they were a real tonic. So much so that I picked one up and waved it around, like a flag.

Better yet, as I neared the end of my walk I spotted a butterfly in a sun-warmed clearing. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo sadly, but I was quite impressed to have seen one at all at the tail-end of November.

I’ve been enjoying thinking about matching tunes to posts, however tenuously, so….

I’m not sure how big the audience is for the juxtaposition of photos of leaves and the sounds of the Wu-Tang Clan? Perhaps a bit of a niche market, do you think?

Leaves Online

A Little Piece of Heaven*

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Sunrise from Castlebarrow.

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Actually – it wasn’t quite sunrise, this is ‘the climbing tree’ taken a few moments before the previous photo and clearly already catching early rays.

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It wasn’t that early of course – the sun likes a long lie-in in this neck of the woods in November.

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But now that the sun was up, it was providing some lovely light, here bathing the Pepper Pot.

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Castlebarrow.

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Sun seen through the trees.

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Beech trees.

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In Eaves Wood.

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The Ring O’Beeches.

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And again.

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The ruined cottage. Might the MBA be interested?

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Oak trees, Eaves Wood beyond.

These pictures were taken early on the November Sunday morning, on the day after the walks in the previous two posts. As you can see, the weather was glorious again. With B away there was no rugby, but S has climbing sessions on Sunday mornings, in the sports centre at Lancaster University, so I was taking him to that. That still left time for a respectable trundle prior to breakfast though.

A Little Piece of Heaven*

Mending Wall

Eaves Wood – Ring O’Beeches – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Moss Lane – Trowbarrow Quarry – Storrs Lane – Red Bridge Lane – Golf Course – Bank Well – Lambert’s Meadow – Burtonwell Wood – Hagg Wood.

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A half-term Monday, no work, not a cloud in the sky: better get out for a local walk!

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In Eaves Wood.

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The circle of beeches.

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Waterslack.

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Woods near Challan Hall.

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Exmoor ponies, used for conservation grazing.

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The only fly in the ointment that day was the new fencing and padlocked gate near Hawes Water. It looked as though the intention will be to keep the public off the grassland which borders the lake which the old boardwalk used to cross. That will protect the habitat of the plants which grow there – Bird’s-eye Primrose at the southern end of its range and Grass of Parnassus for example – but will also mean that people like me who enjoy seeing those plants will no longer enjoy that simple pleasure. I could be wrong of course, I hope I am: the fencing was far from finished and I haven’t yet been back to check.

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,”
from ‘Mending Wall’ by Robert Frost

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The bright sunshine went some way to alleviate my concern about the number of poor photographs of fungi I’ve taken this autumn; with better light the camera coped admirably.

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Birch polyps.

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Hawes Water.

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Trowbarrow Quarry.

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This female pheasant seemed unusually sanguine about my close proximity. I couldn’t decide whether or not she might be sitting on a very late clutch of eggs.

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I rather liked this new (to me) carving on a dead tree by the visitor centre at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve.

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By contrast, the following day the whole family went to Blackpool Pleasure Beach in bitterly cold weather. We’d bought tickets from a charity auction.

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Poor Little S wanted somebody to accompany him on all of the white knuckle attractions, but the rest of us were relatively cowardly. TBH did eventually agree to join him on the ‘Ice Blast’.

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Here they are, both looking very nervous, shortly before being sent hurtling skyward…

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I was up for taking him on ‘The Big One’ – I like rollercoasters, but it was shut due to the high winds. We had to settle for the old rickety wooden ones, which left me feeling pummelled and slightly nauseous. I must be getting old.

Here’s the rest of the family on something much tamer, but wet, which is why I refused to join them.

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To finish, another snippet of my diverse musical taste, in contrast with the previous post, this harks back to the late eighties when I waited eagerly for each addition of Maximumrocknroll where I could discover obscure punk bands, like, for example, Angst.

This song is the opener from their album “Mending Wall’. The fact that the album was named after the Frost poem was what put it into my mind, but I suppose that the song is also tangentially relevant, since it seems to be, in some way, about an inability to adapt to change (although I don’t think padlocked gates at nature reserves are explicitly mentioned). Angst were on SST records, run by Black Flag’s Greg Ginn and home not only of Black Flag, but also of Husker Du (at least for a while), Sonic Youth (for one album I think), the Meat Puppets, Saccharine Trust and a host of others including, best of all in my opinion, the Minutemen. Simply being on the label was recommendation enough for me and most of the records I bought on spec turned out to have been worth a punt.

Do people still become single-mindedly obsessed by the output of a favourite record label? I hope so. I was quietly pleased to see that Maximumrocknroll is still going strong.

Mending Wall

Doddington Hall – Picnic and Gardens

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Many moons ago, we toured Doddington Hall with my Mum and Dad. It’s not too far from where they live. On the second day of our trip to Lincolnshire this summer, TBH and I were eager to go again. For some reason, Dad wasn’t so keen, and kept turning up alternatives which he thought might appeal to the kids. He balked however, at the idea of accompanying them on a treetop trek, so in the end Doddington Hall won out.

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There was a wedding in the hall that day, so we were restricted to the gardens, but that kept us well occupied beyond the advertised closing time, so it wasn’t really a problem.

Be warned, if you’re planning a visit: there are signs near the entrance forbidding picnics in the gardens. There’s a lot of green space at the back of the carpark though, which was a halfway decent alternative, but a bit rough on my Mum and Dad who prefer not to sit on the ground these days (or prefer not to have to get up again, anyway).

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There is a cafe in one of the many estate buildings, which looked to be doing a roaring trade. I’m told that the cakes that some of the party sampled there later in the day were very good. The wasps certainly liked them.

Just by where we picnicked, there was a small pond…

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And so some potential for flora and fauna…

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Common Darter (I think).

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Tachina Fera on Mayweed – both very tentative identifications.

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Tachina Fera again.

This photo shows the strong black stripe on an orange abdomen which makes me think that this fly is Tachina Fera. The larvae of this fly parasitise caterpillars.

The plant is Gipsywort…

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“Rogues masquerading as itinerant fortune-tellers and magicians used in past centuries to daub their bodies with a strong black dye produced from gipsywort, in order to pass themselves off as Egyptians and Africans. Swarthy looks were supposed to lend greater credibility to these vagabonds when they told fortunes; it was this use that gave the plant its names of gipsywort and Egyptian’s herb.”

Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain

Moving into the gardens…

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Little S was particularly impressed with the huge…

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…squashes, pumpkins? I’m not sure which.

He won’t really remember our last visit, since he was barely a year old at the time.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

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Large White.

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Moorhen.

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Another Tortoiseshell.

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This bee was absolutely coated in golden pollen, having just emerged…

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…from a courgette flower.

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Something that really stuck in my memory from our previous visit were these gnarly old Sweet Chestnut Trees.

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They predate the hall, making them very, very old indeed.

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One more Tortoiseshell.

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The gatehouse.

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Unicorn topiary.

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The Hall is Elizabethan and was built, between 1595 and 1600, by Robert Smythson, who was the master stonemason when Longleat was built and who also designed the highly impressive Hardwick Hall, among others. Apparently, it has never been sold, which must be highly unusual. These days it seems to be the centre of a thriving industry, with several shops in the grounds, as well as the cafe and weddings. Not to mention the biennial sculpture exhibition in the gardens….of which, more to follow…

Doddington Hall – Picnic and Gardens

The Helm

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Kendal nestling in the hills.

A Saturday morning, during our May heatwave. A had another DofE practice – she and her companions walked from Windermere to Gilpin Bridge, with a camp en route at Great Tower Scout Camp. Our involvement mainly consists of hoping that her knee holds up, but she did first need dropping off at Oxenholme Station near Kendal.

Above Oxenholme there’s a small hill (185m) called The Helm, which I have long intended to climb without ever actually getting round to it. TBH was taking the boys to BJJ, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to put right that omission.

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A female Orange-tip. I think.

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An information board close to where I parked – just off the minor road north-west of the Helm – informed me that the rock underlying the hill was Silurian, which confused me: isn’t that a geological period rather than a type of rock? Anyway, that sparked my interest and an app on my phone informs me that the rock is ‘interbedded siltstone and mudstone’ which was indeed laid down during the Silurian period. I’ve always just assumed that the Helm was another of our little local limestone hills, but this makes it older than the Carboniferous rocks of its neighbours.

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Looking south along the ridge to Castlesteads. Arnside Knott in the distance.

The sign also informed that dogs should be kept on leads at all times to protect ground nesting birds. An edict which was cheerfully ignored by the many dog walkers who were out enjoying this splendid morning.

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The west side of the hill is a common and is laced with paths, but initially I stuck to the broad ridge, which had brilliant views.

In the photo above you can see what looks, at least, like a rampart of Castlesteads, an Iron Age hill-fort, which, according to Historic England, is an ‘exceptionally small’ example of its type.

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South from the top. Arnside Knott again and the Kent Estuary.

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Natland with Scout Scar beyond.

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Scout Hill and Farleton Fell.

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The view to the north-east.

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The western slopes were studded with Rowans just coming into flower.

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Helm panorama.

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A very modest walk, but highly enjoyable.

This…

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…is Benson Knott which lies north of The Helm and is another local hill I’ve been intending to climb for an absolute age. Soon…hopefully.

The Helm