Equinoctial

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The evenings are drawing in, and the windows for post-work walks are rapidly closing.

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Time to squeeze in a few trips to The Cove to catch some sunsets.

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Equinoctial

Garden Visitors Again and a Hawes Water Wander

Eaves Wood – Hawes Water – Wildflower Meadow – West Coppice – Moss Lane – The Row – Hagg Wood

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A Saturday morning and we have visitors in our garden. Two Roe Deer. They were there, on and off, all day, shuttling between our garden and our neighbour’s.

Much later, TBH and I head out for a wander around Hawes Water.

I found broken eggs when I was in the high fields above Roeburndale, and again on this occasion…

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…it was quite a large egg, perhaps a Wood Pigeon’s? (I really know next to nothing about identifying eggs however, so this should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Always good with an egg anyway.)

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By Hawes Water, the Bird’s-eye Primroses have just come into flower…

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Although not all of them are there yet…

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We extended our usual Hawes Water route slightly to cross one of Gait Barrow’s unimproved flower meadows and then turn back across the shoulder of high ground of Trowbarrow, joining Moss Lane much further down than we usually would, near to the row of former quarrymen’s cottages. Above the meadow, a Buzzard was wheeling…

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In most of the fields, where fertiliser is regularly added, not many wildflowers prosper. Dandelions do well however.

When we were tidying up from our family tea, the two Roe Deer returned to the garden. One of them was not only eating the new leaves from our Sumach tree, but also rubbing her face against the branches. To help with the irritation of that moulting winter coat?

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To our surprise, as we all stood at the kitchen windows watching they came up the garden towards us.

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There is a price to pay for these visits, I noticed yesterday that some of our Aquilegias have been decapitated, shorn of their shapely purple flowers, but that’s something I can live with – and fortunately the Aquilegias have self-seeded all around the garden, so there are plenty more.

Garden Visitors Again and a Hawes Water Wander

Quince, Sparrows, Blackbirds, Sunset

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This cheery Quince is on one of the verges of Cove Road, practically on our doorstep. About a week before I took these photos, I’d previously tried to capture the Sparrows which like to congregate here, but was frustrated by low light. Then, the flowers had been tight buds, like small scarlet berries.

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We have a couple of Quince in our garden, they’ve been there since we moved in, stuck in pots – little more than large buckets really – and ‘trained’ against an east-facing wall. They aren’t very happy and in twelve years have barely grown, producing few flowers and no fruit.

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I think I should stick them into a border. Maybe then I can have a go at making Membrillo to go with the Manchego which the kids like so much.

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A lot of recent walks have been at the end of a sunny day, but when the sun has been dipping behind cloud. By contrast, this one took place on a wet day which had brightened up.

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Blackbirds, female and…

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…male.

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Forsythia.

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This was a couple of days before the Spring Equinox, but nobody had told the woodland plants which exploit the period before the trees come back into leaf; the Ramsons (above), Dog’s Mercury and Cuckoo Pint which carpet the local woods were all in full swing, not waiting for any official starter’s pistol.

I didn’t go very far, just up to the Pepper Pot to look at the bay and the sky…

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…then down through Eaves Wood by a route I don’t often take…

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And along to The Cove to look at the bay and the sky some more.

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Finally across The Lots and home along Spring Bank an appropriately named local street.

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When I turned the corner from the lane into our front garden I almost walked into a Roe Deer buck. I’m not sure which of us was more startled. Earlier, when it had been raining, the boys had been anxious to point out to me the pair of Roe Deer which were foraging at the bottom of our garden. Now there were four deer. They fled into our neighbour’s garden. I followed them as best I could, by walking round into our back garden. I didn’t get any photos of the deer, but I did spot an enormous Bumblebee…

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…which was very industriously exploiting the large patch of these early flowers which I have never been able to identify. I took lots of photos, all of them a bit rubbish, but it was quite dark at this point!

Quince, Sparrows, Blackbirds, Sunset

Slightly Blurred

Clark’s Lot – Hollin’s Lane – Slackwood Lane – Leighton Moss – Trowbarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood

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In like a lion, they say of March, but if I remember right, this had been a very pleasant day, although sadly, a Wednesday spent at work. I had the idea that I would get out and catch some sunshine, but, as you can see from the photo above, by the time I reached Clark’s Lot, only a few minutes from home, the sun was already sinking behind the trees.

Slightly blurred photos of Long-Tailed Tits have become an irregular feature of this blog. Here is another example of the genre…

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Generally, the problem is their propensity to flit about relentlessly, but this was a remarkably relaxed Long-Tailed Tit content to sit still whilst I took three photos. Sadly, the auto-focus trained in perfectly on the branches just in front of the Bumbarrel. Even when the tit moved on, it rested in new positions, allowing me to take more photos, but in high branches, silhouetted against the sky, it came out very dark. It was obviously some kind of Zen Long-Tailed Tit however.

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Down at Leighton Moss the Starlings were gathering for the roost, which isn’t the massive affair of earlier in the winter, but still worth watching.

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On the Sunday before, I’d been out for a walk in unpromising conditions, leaving my camera at home since rain looked so imminent. I hadn’t intended to stay out long, but in the end, had a great walk, on a circular route I don’t think I’ve ever walked before. (Which says a great deal about the wealth of options in this area). At Hawes Water there had been four Cormorants on the trees where I saw one not so long ago. Later it began to rain, but at Leighton Moss I was cheered by an abundance of spring fungi, Scarlet Elf Cup…

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Which was why I wanted to return to Leighton Moss, now that I had my camera with me. Whist I was taking this photo, this Robin…

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…surprised me by practically landing on my shoulder.

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At Trowbarrow there were some climbers still bouldering despite the gathering gloom, and in Eaves Wood, when it was almost dark, I met a couple of dog walkers. I wasn’t the only one thinking that it was good to be out.

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Slightly Blurred

Helvetian Holiday

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Altogether now: “We’re all going on a..”.

No, can’t see that catching on.

Anyway, we were in Switzerland last week. We being me and the kids. TBH was stuck at work, due to Lancashire and Cumbria opting for different half-terms.

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We were staying with my brother, who lives in Wetzikon near Zurich, and skiing with him and my niece and nephew.

On the first three days of our visit we skied at Atzmännig. First on the nursery slopes…

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Which proved to be the perfect place for us to get reacquainted with skiing after several years’ absence.

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Behind A here you can see what we progressed to next….

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A rather steep button lift with a short steepish red run beside it and a much longer, gentler and more enjoyable blue run curling down the hillside and back to the nursery slopes.

I had a bit of an incident on the button lift when the cord on ones of the ‘buttons’ snapped, depositing me on my behind, sliding head-first back down the hill. This made subsequent rides on the lift pretty nerve-wracking. (I should warn you that comments regarding pies, and the identity of the person who ate them all, can be easily deleted.)

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This is from our third day, when we’d moved on to the chair-lift. The views were excellent, but unfortunately the top of the runs here were steep, icy and bare in places and most of the group found them intimidating. We split the party in two, some returning to the more friendly runs, whilst I stayed with the boys who after a tentative first descent, recovered their gung-ho approach and managed to squeeze in several pell-mell runs. (Inevitably perhaps, it was actually me that injured myself in the end, making an error of judgement and coming over a slight rise much too quickly for my moderate skiing ability).

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The boys also relished these small ramps which somebody had built close to the nursery slopes.

With the snow deteriorating at Atzmännig, we decided to venture a little further afield.

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Brunni is around an hour’s drive from my brother’s and feels decidedly more Alpine in character than Atzmännig, which is in the rolling hills of the Zurich Oberland.

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As you can see, I was very taken with this view of the Haggenspitz and the Kleine Mythen.

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This photo…

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..is taken from slightly further downhill and shows the parlous state of this piste, although fortunately, the rest of it was delightful.

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Generally, after skiing, the kids wanted to play video games or watch films. But on this occasion they all settled down to draw together. They were so absorbed in their art, I couldn’t resist a picture.

The following day brought torrential rain, or heavy snow at higher levels. We went to Satis Park, a sort of swimming pool. There was a wave pool, a heated outdoor pool (it was quite surreal, swimming outside as it snowed), a cascade ride and eight different slides. Obviously, the kids loved it. At one point I found myself on a slide on which I should have been seated on a rubber ring, but wasn’t – I fell off at the start. This was OK to begin with, although a bit rough, especially since I was already quite bruised from the skiing. OK that was, until the point where jets of water under the rubber ring drove it up a small slope. Without the rubber ring I didn’t go up the slope. The jets were remarkably effective at removing my trunks however. Fortunately, the slide was in an enclosed tunnel. Sadly, this section, and only this section, was transparent*. I managed to get to my feet, and retrieve my trunks, hopefully not in that order, only to be knocked down when the jets fired again. Eventually I managed to walk up the incline, narrowly avoiding being mown down by another slider, who was probably quite surprised to overtake me in the tunnel. It’s possible that I’m too old for this kind of thing.

Anyway, the fresh snow was most welcome and the next day we returned to Brunni for what would turn out to be our best day of skiing of the trip (but sadly also our last).

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The Kleine Mythen  and the Haggenspitz again.

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The Grosser Mythen.

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The Haggenspitz and the Kleine Mythen. Yet again.

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On out first visit we’d stuck to the two Haggenegg T-bar lifts. This time we took a ride up the cable car to Holzegg, which gave us an opportunity for a closer look at the Grosser Mythen…

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And, after a little exploration of the area around Holzegg, a delightful run back down to the valley through the trees…

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My brother has recently become the proud owner of a 7-seater VW California Beach**. Since there were seven of us, this proved ideal and we travelled in style.

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The views during the drives were superb, especially on the way to and from Brunni. I was also constantly entertained by the huge number of Buzzards and Kites we saw during every journey.

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Zurich See.

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On the Sunday we had a lazy day, before our flight home, although we did manage to fit in a very pleasant stroll around Wetzikon in the sunshine.

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*At least my shorts didn’t disintegrate completely, which is what happened to our old friend Uncle Fester many years ago on one of the slides at the outdoor pool in Chamonix.

** I’m not jealous. Not remotely. Oh no. Not even a little bit.

Helvetian Holiday

In Praise of Limestone

Castlebarrow – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Gait Barrows – Silverdale Moss – Hazelslack – Beetham Fell – Beetham – Dallam Deer Park – Milnthorpe – River Bela – Sandside Cutting – Kent Estuary – Arnside – Arnside Knott – Heathwaite – Holgates

This could have been ‘A Snowdrop Walk’ but I think I’ve already had at least one of those in the last nine hundred posts (the last one was number 900, I now realise). It might also have been ‘The Ruined Cottages Walk’ since I passed three ramshackle buildings, generally not too far from where the snowdrops were.

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Before I departed, I’d already been for a wander to the Co-op to pick up croissants, rolls and eggs for everybody else’s breakfast. After a second, leisurely cup of tea, I set-off at around ten and was soon at the edge of Eaves Wood, by a substantial patch of snowdrops, donning a coat as it began to first rain and then hail.

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It had been sunny only moments before and I decided to head up to Castlebarrow – not part of my original plan – to get a higher viewpoint. Just short of the top, I disturbed a Buzzard which flapped lazily out of a tall standard left in an area which had otherwise been cleared of trees.

When I reached Castlebarrow and the Pepperpot…

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…it had stopped raining, but it looked like Lancaster was probably getting a hammering.

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The weather seemed idyllic again when I reached Hawes Water.

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Another pair of Buzzards were circling overhead, but by the time I had dug my camera out of my rucksack, they had disappeared behind the trees. I would hear the plaintive kew of Buzzards several more times during the walk, but this was the last time I saw any. Nor did I see the Sparrow-hawk which I saw here last week and forgot to mention in the appropriate post.

Having stopped to look though, I now realised that atop one of the trees down by the reed fringed shore of the lake…

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…perched a Cormorant. I’ve seen them here before and they’re hardly uncommon on the Bay, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised (and delighted) to find one here.

In the woods there was a Nuthatch and a Treecreeper, both too elusive for me and my camera. And of course…

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…more snowdrops.

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Looking back across Hawes Water to Challan Hall. (The Cormorant was still on its high perch).

By the bench on the boardwalks near the lake another walker had stopped for a breather. He had company…

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Although I was heading for Beetham Fell, I didn’t feel any need for urgency and took a detour across the meadow, by the hedge…

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…wondering about the very tall cloud above the Gait Barrows woods, and whether it might be an ill omen, weatherwise…

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I was heading for the Gait Barrows limestone pavements…

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It’s not all that far from there to Silverdale moss, but you can see that in the meantime, the weather had taken another turn for the worse…

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The Cloven Ash.

It was pretty gloomy, but I could pick out a few Greylag, one of them clearly sitting on a nest, also a distant white bird, probably a Little Egret, and what I could identify, with the aid of the camera, as a male Golden Eye.

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I turned to take some photos of these King Alfred’s Cakes on some logs left from the demise of the Cloven Ash and, as I did, it began to hail, soon quite ferociously.

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I pulled my coat back on again, and then turned back to the Moss, because the nesting Greylag was clearly upset about something and was honking vociferously. A Marsh Harrier was quartering the reeds, at one point dropping and spiralling down to a spot very close to the excited goose.

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It was gloomy and chucking it down, so none of my photos came out brilliantly, but it was fantastic to watch.

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Fortunately, the rotten weather didn’t last too long, and soon I was shedding layers for the long climb from Hazelslack to the top of Beetham Fell.

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Arnside Knott, Kent Estuary and Hampsfell from Beetham Fell.

Last Easter, when A and I came through this way on our walk to Keswick, we noticed a huge area of Snowdrop leaves, though the flowers had long since finished. I decided then that I would be back this February to take another look.

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I think that this was the largest single patch, but the Snowdrops extend over quite a large area.

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The climb from the outskirts of Beetham uphill to Dallam Deer Park was hard work because the ground was super-saturated, a bit like your average Highland hillside. I think it was mainly due to the extent that the ground had been trampled by the sheep in the field, because once I crossed the ha-ha wall into the Park the going got much firmer.

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Dallam Deer Park, the River Bela and Milnthorpe.

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Farleton Fell.

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The Deer.

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This unusual building…

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…is a shelter for the deer.

From Milnthorpe I turned to follow the Bela, first across the park and then out to where it meets the Kent on the latter’s estuary.

In the park, a single Canada Goose joined a flotilla of ducks, mostly mallards but with a group of four diving ducks amongst them, the males black and white, the females a dull brown: tufted ducks.

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River Bela and Whitbarrow Scar.

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Greylag Goose.

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A little further along, on the Kent, a group of six small fluffy diving ducks gave me pause. Even with the powerful zoom of the camera I struggled to get decent photos, but I think that these are Dabchicks: Little Grebes.

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I was a little torn here: I had wanted to climb Haverbrack, but I also wanted to include Arnside Knott and didn’t think I had time for both. In the end, I decided to walk along the embankment (an old railway line, a Beeching casualty) which follows the Kent Estuary. The walk was delightful, but a low blanket of cloud was flattening the light so I didn’t take any pictures for a while.

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Silverdale Moss from Arnside Knott. A snow dusted Ingleborough in the background.

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In Praise of Limestone

Residual Light

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A new month. Which started for me with one of those late night conversations in which the world is put thoroughly to rights. I’ve had plenty of those conversations in the past. This one was substantially different than any I’ve been involved in before, because I really felt that two of the three people involved really might change the world in significant ways. I mostly listened, excited and dizzied in equal measure. I realise that this is all rather cryptic and probably seems like hyperbole, but I shall keep my counsel until events have either confirmed or balked my suspicions.

Later that day, I was up unusually early to get into Lancaster for a pre-operative assessment. Nothing major, in fact a procedure I’ve had before, although unfortunately that means that I am well aware of the uncomfortable aftermath of the surgery. Ho-hum.

At lunchtime, I picked up new glasses. My first vari-focals: I am officially old. Suddenly the world has swum back into focus and has unexpected textures and details. Happily, I managed to resist the temptation to tell the lady who sold me my the specs that she was much more wrinkled than I had hitherto realised.

What kind of idiot wears 10 year old specs with a scratched lenses and an out-of-date prescription? This kind of idiot, that’s who! Well, not any more. (Not for another 10 years anyway).

What a good day then to get home early enough to get out whilst the sun was still shining. There are primroses flowering on the bank on Cove Road where they always appear early. Even earlier this year than is usual I think. The sun had sunk behind a bank of western cloud before I reached the Cove, but the residual light was still showing the Bay to pleasing effect.

Inevitably, things change, for good or evil. But the primroses and the sunsets are a reliable constant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Residual Light