All Beer and Skittles?

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Just in case I’ve given the false impression that we had an endless of succession of bright and sunny days here over Christmas and New Year, I’m posting a few photos from a turn around Eaves Wood which TBH and I enjoyed on one of the two foggy, final days.

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We’d had some considerably more grotty weather than that previously too.

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Actually, if I don’t have to drive, and if it doesn’t last too long, I quite like a bit of fog for a change. The woods are quite atmospheric when full of mist.

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When the weather was poor, we managed to find other things to keep us occupied. Games are always popular. We played several old favourites over the holiday period, but we also acquired some new ones.

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Here, A and I have just finished playing my favourite of those – Carcassonne – which has quite simple rules, but really makes you think as you play.

I also picked up, second hand, this old favourite…

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…which I first played when I was in the sixth-form and which later became the fall back activity for some of our group of hill-walking friends if prolonged diabolical weather dampened our enthusiasm for being outdoors during trips to Scotland. I’m very excited about playing it again, although I’m uncertain whether I’ll ever find the twelve hours of free time needed, or six other players willing and able to join me.

All Beer and Skittles?

Handing Over The Reins

Eaves Wood – Climbing Tree – Ring O’Beeches – Jubilee Wood – The Row – Hagg Wood

Little S and I out for a stroll (I can’t remember why nobody else came along). I put him in charge of the route. He told me we were going to the Ring O’Beeches, then amused me by apparently turning the wrong way at every path junction in Eaves Wood. Rather predictably we visited the climbing tree…

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Little S had the last laugh as his zig-zagging route took us all around the wood, but eventually to his intended destination and the long Beech branch he wanted to balance on.

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Some of the Inman’s Oaks and Eaves Wood behind.

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TBH tells me that Little S was very chuffed to be designated navigator; I might try that tactic again.

Handing Over The Reins

The Call of Nature.

Clark’s Lot – Fleagarth Wood – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Woodwell – Clifftop Path – Silverdale Green – Hagg Wood.

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Perhaps the weather on New Year’s Day was a portent of the weather to come after all – at least for the next day anyway, which also dawned frosty, clear and bright.

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Everywhere I went the trees, bushes and hedgerows were busy with birds, not really singing, but flitting about, jinking from branch to branch and keeping up a constant chatter as they did so. At various points during the walk I tried, and failed, to photograph Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Chaffinches, and maybe a solitary Bullfinch. Only Robins can be relied upon to pose, so they will have to stand in for all of the rest. This one…

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…was on a branch by the path through Fleagarth Wood.

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Warton Crag across the salt marsh.

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The foreshore by the chimney near Jenny Brown’s Cottages is eroding fast…

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And exposing more remnants of the area’s industrial heritage…

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Two views of Quicksand Pool.

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In the field beside the road between Jenny Brown’s Cottages and Jenny Brown’s Point there’s a line of hawthorns. Both the trees and the area around them were busy with Blackbirds. Blackbirds are quite territorial I think, and not always tolerant of each other, but I’ve noticed on the Rowans in our garden that they will happily feed together where there’s an abundant harvest of berries.

In amongst the Blackbirds, there was one paler bird…

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Surely that’s a…

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…Fieldfare!

There was another Fieldfare being very elusive on the other side of the road, but I was surprised not to see still more since they seem to be a very gregarious bird.

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Haws.

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Traveller’s Joy.

This Robin…

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…hopped along in front of me on the path into Jack Scout. I’ve been back to Jack Scout twice today and exactly the same thing happened both times. Presumably, that was the same Robin each time. What advantage can be gained by such strange behaviour I wonder?

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Jack Scout, the Bay and Humphrey Head.

At Woodwell I stopped to answer a call of nature and a Robin landed on a fence post right behind me.

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What chance flowers in January?

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Actually, I think that, strictly speaking, these aren’t flowers. The flowers will have been small and white and cradled by these bracts, followed by small, dark berries.

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I’ve always known this plant as Flowering Nutmeg. Apparently it’s also known as Himalayan Honeysuckle, Pheasant Berry, Himalayan Nutmeg or Chocolate Berry. It’s not an endemic plant, as some of the names suggest. It grows in several places that I know of across the area. I used to have some in my garden when I lived in Arnside. I took cuttings from a plant on a roadside verge, dipped them in rooting powder and stuck them in pots on my windowsill, before transplanting them to the garden. Now that I know that they are good to eat

“The fully ripened fruit are faintly figgy in flavour with hints of bitter chocolate and burnt caramel.”

Maybe I’ll have another go at taking some cuttings this year.

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I couldn’t identify a flock of birds in the woods – they didn’t seem like tits or finches, but seemed too small to be anything else – but one of them landed briefly on a distant branch and a photograph revealed them to be more Fieldfares.

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From Silverdale Green to Hagg Wood the path follows a field wall, on the far side of which is a line of tall Oaks (probably planted by the Inman family I believe). Each of these trees had it’s own population of chattering, restless birds, which I enjoyed failing to photograph.

I was admiring the shape and stature of the final tree before the wood, when I realised that this one isn’t an Oak.

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But, although I’m confident that it isn’t an Oak, I’m not sure what it actually is. Never mind, I shall come back when it has some leaves, to see whether I can figure it out.

The Call of Nature.

All’s Right With The World

Park Road – Eaves Wood – Middlebarrow – Arnside Tower – Saul’s Road – Arnside Knott – Shilla Slope – Black Dyke – Middlebarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood.

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Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gull.

The day after Boxing Day was the kind of bright sunny day which always makes me feel cheerful.

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in His heaven—

All’s right with the world!

Which is apparently a passage from Browning, although I know it because Wodehouse’s characters are apt to quote it when all is going well (which is to say, just before everything goes horribly, comically wrong).

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And yes, I know that the lark isn’t really on the wing at the end of December, well at least not in its characteristic steep display flight, but sunshine and blue skies just make everything look fresh and special and spring like.

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Reading up on the water tanks in Eaves Wood for my previous post, I was reminded that amongst the former owners of Hill House (now the Woodlands pub) were the Inman family  who were responsible for the planting of many of the trees in the woods.

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I think the circle of trees in the Ring o’Beeches must have been planted. I wonder if it was by the Inmans, who owned the wood in the first half of the Nineteenth Century?

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The larches too must have been planted.

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Arnside Tower.

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Arnside Tower Farm.

The hill behind the farm is Arnside Knott and that steep slope is covered in a very loose scree, known locally as shilla. After I’d climbed the Knott I took a route which looped around and recrossed my ascent route, taking me down to a path through those trees at the bottom of the slope.

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Saul’s Road.

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I’d walked out of the front door before I’d decided where to go, but with a host of competing ideas in my head – it’s nice to have so many options. I’d plumped for Arnside Knott because I’d assumed that there would be great views of the Lakes…

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…but in fact everything beyond Whitbarrow Scar and Gummer How was lost in a grey haze. Never mind: plenty to see close at hand.

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Magic.

All’s Right With The World

Snettisham

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When (sadly) our guests had to leave us, they were heading off for another family get together. We did the same – taking a long drive down to Snettisham, near the north Norfolk coast, to meet my parents, my brother and his kids and a gaggle of assorted Aunts, Uncles and cousins from my mum’s side of the family.

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This courtyard, where we enjoyed many sunny breakfasts and also several barbecued meals was one of my favourite parts of the trip: it was a very relaxing spot in which to sit and relax.

We spent a significant part of the week on nearby beaches, particularly near Hunstanton, but we did get out for a couple of strolls. These photos…

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…were taken in Snettisham Woods.

I was struck by the number of trees there, which, whilst they were clearly oaks of some kind, were also slightly unfamiliar. The first thing which struck me was how glossy the leaves looked. Then I noticed that the acorns weren’t quite as expected…

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…some being ‘hairy’, others ‘knobbly’…

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As well as Snettisham Woods this woodland is called Lodge Hill Plantation – it seems that somebody has been collecting exotic oak trees. I thought that I might find something about these oaks on t’internet; I didn’t, but I did find this leaflet which covers exactly the same route that we came up with.

More Norfolk adventures to follow.

Snettisham

Arnside Knott with the Boys

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So, lets get the obligatory photo of a robin out of the way first. Did you know that a robin’s heart beats something like a 1000 times a second? I can tell that you’re impressed. I intend to store up a lot more trivia about robins and then drip-feed it onto the blog, because robins are so obliging when it comes to posing for photos.

Other birds are available, but they will insist on keeping their distance.

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I don’t know how fast a blue tit’s heart beats. I’ll look in to it and get back to you. Don’t hold your breath.

This was another Saturday afternoon, post-child-to-sport-ferrying stroll. I persuaded both boys to join me. Actually, if I remember correctly, TBH and A had gone off shopping together (a mother daughter bonding ritual) so the persuading went something like: “You’re coming for a walk.”

Not that they were particularly upset by the idea. You can see…

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…that they were entirely inappropriately dressed for a walk in early February. But the sun was shining and although the wind was cool, it didn’t feel too bad, so long as we kept moving. And the boys did keep moving. By the time we reached Arnside Tower we’d already had a wander around Eaves Wood, visiting and clambering up some favourite trees, and crossed Middlebarrow where the boys startled a rabbit and then cornered it under a fallen tree trunk – they were fascinated and wanted me to take a photo. The rabbit was understandably shy.

In the woods on Arnside Knott we found a huge den…

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….which the boys thoroughly approved of. They also found several new climbing frames on which to practice their gymnastic routines.

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As B explored another tree I was astonished to hear S imploring him to come down. Since S doesn’t generally seem to have much of a radar for danger, I hate to think what B was doing to bring this on. I didn’t look: I daren’t. Fortunately, just as there had been on the rest of the walk, there were numerous small birds darting about in the trees to divert me.

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I took a close interest in this nuthatch, and pretty soon B was running up behind me and telling me it was time to move on.

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Only as far as the next enticing tree obviously.

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From the top of the Knott the views were not what they might have been. Although the skies were clear, there was a murky haze, of a sort which I generally associate with warm spring days when, it seems to me, the landscape is drying out after the winter and creating a sort of warm fug.

At the bench near to the top of the Knott, I finally gave in to S’s demands and we stopped for a snack. Now that we’d stopped, the wind put paid to any notion we might have harboured about spring having arrived. We piled on all of our spare clothes, but we were soon chilled to the marrow regardless.

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S was all for phoning home and begging a lift from his mum. But since there were several flaws in that plan, we just got on the move again.

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S didn’t believe that would be effective, but it soon was, and the boys drifted into one of their endless discussions about Minecraft or Lego Batman 3 or some such.

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I think if we could have waited another 15 minutes or so, the sunset would have been really spectacular, but S had only just warmed up again, and it didn’t seem wise to wait in those circumstances.

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There’ll be other sunsets.

Arnside Knott with the Boys

The Cloven Ash: a Retrospective

For many years, every walk along the path which skirts the edge of Silverdale Moss has been enlivened by an encounter with an old friend – The Cloven Ash.

June 2010.

Seen from its northern side it looked like a typical mature ash – magnificent, but nothing out of the ordinary.

But from the South, it was more obviously remarkable…

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…because of the cleft running through its middle.

March 2009.

These last two photos are from the first reference I can find to this tree on my blog, but even then I was making an intentional visit to it to see how it was getting on. I suspect that if I tried harder I could probably find earlier photos which document my relationship with this ash, but those pictures, if they exist, are harder to find because it was only in March 2009 that I started to think of it as ‘The Cloven Ash’, and call it that on the blog, which makes it easy to search for. The name in itself is probably part of the reason that the tree occupies a place in my affections – it always reminds me of Italo Calvino’s novella ‘The Cloven Viscount’ (which I probably had in mind when I coined the soubriquet). It’s a book that I love, and that I’ve read many times, along with its companions ‘The Baron In The Trees’ and ‘The Non-Existent Knight’ which form Calvino’s ‘Our Ancestors’ trilogy.

January 2010.

Every time I walked past the Ash I would convince myself that the cleft had grown slightly, and then decide that perhaps it hadn’t. I could never make up my mind.

June 2010.

February 2011. New fence!

Looking at the photos now: it was growing wasn’t it, a least a little?

On windy days, the two halves of the tree would sway slightly together and apart in a steady rhythm. I suppose I was rubber-necking really: continually revisiting the site of a potential accident.

And then this October just gone, on the way back from Beetham Fell with Our Camping Friends I was shocked to discover not only that…

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October 2014.

…half of the tree had gone…

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…but also that the fallen wood had been cut down in size a little and tidied up and that the sawn logs were covered in moss, suggesting that it had been down for quite some time. I suppose the fact that I’d missed that reflects the relative infrequency of my local walks of late.

And then, as I returned home from our lunch at The Ship in Sandside, a further outrage…

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…the other half had also toppled. The Cloven Ash is no-more!

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The dry-stone wall hadn’t come very well out of the disagreement.

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Although, I have, in a way, been gleefully anticipating the collapse of this tree and all of the destructive potential that implied, since I first noticed the fault line which ran through it, I am now, of course, very sad to see its demise.

I suppose I should greet the oyster mushrooms which had already sprouted from the base of the exposed trunk as cheerful messengers of regeneration and rebirth, like fungal Hare Krishnas . Only more grey.

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You can find references, and/or photographs of or about the Cloven Ash on older posts here.

The Cloven Ash: a Retrospective