One Summer Evening

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There were lots of climbers enjoying the evening sunshine at Trowbarrow. Sadly, down in the base of the quarry it was already shady. I had come in search of Bee Orchids…

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And found that there were lots flowering, more than last year I think.

Almost as an afterthought, on the way home I called in at Leighton Moss to take in the view from the skytower…

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I thought I might see some Red Deer out amongst the reeds and meres, and sure enough, there they were…

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What I hadn’t anticipated was the commotion caused by a Marsh Harrier making regular raids on a group of nesting Black-headed Gulls.

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The photos didn’t come out very well, but watching the acrobatics of the harrier and the organised and vociferous defence of the gulls was breathtaking.

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When the harrier stayed away for a while, some of the gulls turned their attentions to the deer and attempted to drive them away too. The deer looked more bemused than worried.

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The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

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One Summer Evening

Fat Man on a Bike

Or: A Promise Fulfilled

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B on his bike. Not the fat man.

The actual Easter Weekend was at the end of our fortnight off. The Surfnslide crew were scheduled to join us and, in the run up to the weekend, although we were all, as ever, excited about the impending visit, the Dangerous Brothers in particular had just about reached fever-pitch.

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At Trowbarrow Quarry.

Rather rashly, when we had last seen him, Andy had promised that on his next visit he would bring his bike and accompany the boys to their favourite local mountain biking venue.

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Andy on his bike. Not the fat man.

For weeks before Easter they had been pestering me to remind him of his promise. And now that he had finally arrived they couldn’t wait to get out on their trusty steeds. So, on Good Friday, we all agreed to head for Trowbarrow Quarry.

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Little S.

Our two-family party spilt into a cycling group and walking-to-watch-the-cyclists-fall-off brigade. Somewhat to everybody’s surprise, especially my own, I decided to join the ranks of the cyclists, which meant something of a delay whilst the entire party lent a hand to replace both of my bikes inner tubes. (You’d be right to conclude that my bike doesn’t leave the garage very often.)

Once we’d set-off, it was to discover that TBH’s bike wasn’t in a good state of repair either: one of the wheels was out of true and wobbled prodigiously as she rode. I waited a while and lost the others as TBH decided to turn back for home. When I eventually got going again, for some reason I didn’t take the first turn, along Moss Lane, but went the long way around beside Leighton Moss. It wasn’t much of cycle, but by the time I arrived I was already jelly-legged.

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At the Quarry, the boys were showing Andy, the honorary Dangerous Brother, all of the steep banks which they enjoy riding down, and also the various mounds and edges they like to jump off.

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Little S on his bike. Not the fat man.

They all looked much too steep to me.

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I decided to try out my camera’s sports setting instead of attempting any feats of derring-do.

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I did have a couple of freewheels down this, less intimidating, slope…

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A on my bike. Not the fat man.

The net result of my change of heart was another puncture for my bike. Andy very kindly cycled back to our house for his car so that he could collect me and my long-suffering bike.

The ‘Fat Man on a Bike’ was, of course, me. But also the late Tom Vernon who wrote a book of that name after radio and television series about his cycling exploits. I can’t really recall anything about Vernon, apart from the title of his book. In my mind, he seems to have become muddled with Richard Ballantine, who wrote ‘Richards Bicycle Book’…

…a book which I thoroughly enjoyed when I was in my teens and very much bicycle obsessed. B is similarly bike fixated now. Of course, things have changed in the intervening years. I joined the Cycle Touring Club and fancied a set of Carradice panniers (handmade in Nelson, Lancashire since 1932), B hangs out in local quarries with his mates and has just acquired a dropper seatpost (whatever one of those is). We didn’t have mountain bikes, although I did enjoy off-road cycling, or rough-stuff as we used to call it. I even briefly kept a diary of my cycling exploits, a sort of forerunner to this blog, with carefully hand-drawn maps of the routes.

Finally, a bit of nature to round off the post…

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In one corner of the quarry, we spotted a couple of what I think are slime moulds, probably the False Puffball, Enteridium lycoperdon, which is apparently common in Britain in the spring. According to this article, slime moulds, once thought to be fungi, are now classed as amoeba. They are certainly very strange.

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Enteridium lycoperdon is found across Europe, but also in Mexico, where, in the state of Veracruz, it is known as Caca de Lune or Moon’s Excrement.

If this is False Puffball, then it is in its plasmodial stage, preparing to spore. The plasmodial stage is mobile, which I find very disconcerting – it looks like some sort of fungi, but it can move around. How very odd.

My extremely limited knowledge of slime moulds is a perfect example of one advantage of blogging – if it weren’t for a question I posted years ago, I wouldn’t even know they existed.

Fat Man on a Bike

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

An Orchid Hunt

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser in the garden again.

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The final day of our Whit half-term holiday. TBH and I were out for a turn, looking for various kinds of orchids: I’d heard the previous day that there were Fly Orchids flowering at Trowbarrow Quarry, and felt that there would probably be Bee Orchids too, TBH wanted to see the Lady’s-slipper Orchids at Gait Barrows.

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The Elder was in flower and TBH had been busy making cordial, as she habitually does at this time of year. Very nice it is too.

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Trowbarrow.

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Comma butterfly.

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Fossilised coral at Trowbarrow.

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Common Spotted-orchid and Quaking Grass.

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Common Blue Butterfly on Bird’s-foot Trefoil its principal food-plant.

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Northern Marsh-orchid. Possibly.

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Bird’s-eye Primrose by Hawes Water. At the southern limit of its range.

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Common Spotted Orchid again.

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Northern Marsh-orchid or maybe a hybridisation of same with Common Spotted-orchid.

I didn’t find what I was looking for at Trowbarrow and at Gait Barrows the Lady’s-slippers were rather dried-out and exhausted looking.

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It was a very pleasant walk though.

 

An Orchid Hunt

Trowbarrow Views

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The forecast promised that the weather was going to improve. I set out on trust, although there were still a few spots of rain in the fairly strong wind.

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The hay has since been cut – they were collecting it in today – but then the grasses were long and swaying in the breeze. The dominant, red-tinged grass here is, I think, Yorkshire Fog, but I’m really not sure about the patch of pale grass standing out amongst the red. Cocksfoot?

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Yorkshire Fog.

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Bittersweet.

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Leighton Moss.

Fortunately, by the time I reached Leighton Moss, the view to the west was finally looking promising…

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The reeds along the boardwalk were looking tatty and half-eaten. It didn’t take much sleuthing to discover the reason why.

Alongside the reeds, there were lots of these large Dock leaves. (We have several Docks – I have no idea which these are).

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Many of them were infected with a fungus causing red blotches on the upper sides of the leaves…

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And crusty white rings on the undersides…

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I’ve done my lazy research, and I think that it’s a rust fungus called Puccinia Phragmitis.

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Common Spotted-orchid and Quaking Grass.

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Red Wall.

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Bee Orchid.

I was looking for the Fly Orchid which apparently flowers here. I didn’t find it, but more of the Bee Orchids had come into flower. Also, while I was poking about, I found a narrow path which I assume is the climbers’ descent route from the top of the main crag. I’ve never been up to the top before, but the views were excellent…

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Humphrey Head.

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Leighton Moss from Trowbarrow.

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Common Spotted-orchid and Quaking Grass again.

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And another (but quite different) Common Spotted-orchid.

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Hedge Woundwort.

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The clouds were back.

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Six for gold.

Towards the end of the walk I came across a couple of bumblebees once again apparently asleep on flowers. It was very windy and when I grabbed one of the flowers to try to hold it still for a photo the bee waved one leg in a half-hearted fashion, like a person might if you tried to rouse them from deep sleep.

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Trowbarrow Views

Pulchritudinous Pruinosity

Lambert’s Meadow – Bank Well – The Row – Myer’s Allotment.

Later that day: A Tour of Trowbarrow

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Ragged Robin

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A Green-veined White on Cuckooflower.

Cuckooflower is one of the food-plants for the caterpillars of Green-veined  White. This butterfly was flitting from Cuckooflower t0 Cuckooflower, ignoring the many other blooms on offer. Green-veined Whites favour damp areas, which makes Lambert’s Meadow a perfect environment for them.

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Emerald Damselfly (I think).

At Myer’s Allotment my every step seemed to raise clouds of damselflies. Once landed again, they weren’t always easy to pick out against the ground, despite, in some cases, their vivid metallic colouration.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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The Cinnabar.

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Bee Fly.

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Myer’s Allotment view.

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Broad-bodied Chaser (again).

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Black-tailed Skimmer.

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A new dragonfly to me and therefore very exciting. This is either a female or an immature male. Males ‘develop a blue pruinescence on the abdomen darkening to the rear with S8-10 becoming black’. (This from the British Dragonfly Society website).

S8-10 refers to the eighth to tenth segments of the tail.

Pruinescence, or pruinosity, is a dusty looking coating on top of a surface. Well I never. I particularly like pruinosity and shall be using it at every suitable opportunity. ‘Look at the pruinosity on ‘ere!’ for example.

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Another Green-veined White. (I think).

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Common Blue.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil (with bee).

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Fossilised Coral at Trowbarrow.

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More Trowbarrow fossils.

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I think that this might be a Tree Bumblebee, a species which only arrived here from Mainland Europe this century and has spread rapidly, helped by the profusion of bird-boxes in the UK, where it tends to build nests, even sometimes evicting resident Blue Tits in the process. (Yes, I know, the temptation to draw some kind of political parallel here would be almost overwhelming were I of the persuasion that we can somehow up-anchor and sail away across the Atlantic, as many people seem to be at present. But I’m not.)

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Common Blue Damselfly.

Pulchritudinous Pruinosity

Trowbarrow and Back – Glorious Mud

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Thursday’s wander. We gave the kids two options: Haweswater or Trowbarrow and they chose the latter.

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This is another part of the trough, a natural feature which runs across the area. That’s B demonstrating his climbing skills.

We were intrigued by this tree….

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…which has a huge area on its trunk completely free of bark. According to the boys this is because it has been struck by lightning; I’m not sure why they concluded that, or if they may be right or not.

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At Trowbarrow (a former limestone quarry) we discovered that two ponies have been enlisted to keep the vegetation in check. It was A’s idea to pet the larger of the two, but the small one was clearly jealous and insisted on our attention.

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We’d had some rain overnight with the result that some of the paths were very muddy.

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The boys were delighted.

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I had a really great view of a nuthatch on a tree-trunk right by the path. Sadly the photos have not turned out as sharp as I had hoped.

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In the woods it’s common to hear a bird tapping a tree-trunk. Nuthatches do it. I think that great tits do too. This one was. You can see that it has something in its beak here, a seed perhaps? There are several more seeds jammed into the crack in the bark; I have a feeling that the nuthatch was using the tree like a workbench – the seeds are held in a vice and can be conveniently worked on.

As well as stopping to photograph the nuthatch, I was also having to pause to indulge a particularly vociferous cough which insisted on being heard. The others left me behind. Not to worry: I didn’t want for company. If you look very closely, on the left-hand side of the photo.

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You might just about pick out….

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…a robin!

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Which was singing very sweetly. Hence the slightly ruffled throat feathers.

Trowbarrow and Back – Glorious Mud