Fine WX on Whitbarrow

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Green Hairstreak.

My first Green Hairstreak and, therefore, very exciting for me, I can tell you. In fact, my first Hairstreak of any description. As is the way of these thing, I saw a few more that day and then another closer to home in Eaves Wood a couple of days later. Just before we saw this, we also saw a butterfly or a moth which, unfortunately, I didn’t get a decent photo of. It looked, in terms of the general shape, like a butterfly; had brown forewings with a little dash of white and orange hindwings with a chocolate brown crescent on each. The latter is very characteristic of the many yellow underwing moth species, but I can’t find one that fits otherwise, and, like I say, it really looked more like a butterfly. I think it’s destined to remain a mystery.

The occasion was an ascent of Whitbarrow with our friend BB and three of his kids. Here he is…

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…on the excellent path which climbs the southern end of the escarpment.

When we reached the higher ground we settled in this sheltered spot which also has excellent views.

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BB had brought his portable radio kit with him and wanted to get on the airwaves and play with that. Equally, I’d brought my Bushbuddy stove and wanted to play with that…

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I don’t use it all that often and was reminded of one reason why that is, as it took an age to bring a small kettle of water to the boil for a brew.

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The view along the edge towards Gummer How.

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Ingleborough and Farleton Fell seen over a broad meander in the Kent.

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Whitbarrow is a limestone plateau and it’s a fair walk to the top at Lord’s Seat.

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It was lovely walking, but windy, and we soon had to put several layers back on. The contrast in the temperature compared to our sheltered lunch spot was amazing.

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Lord’s Seat.

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Scout Scar with the Howgills in the background.

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The Kent, Morecambe Bay and Arnside Knott.

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Arnside Knott again.

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Green Tiger Beetle.

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All the routes down the western side of Whitbarrow are steep, the route we took being no exception.

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Gummer How.

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The edges from near Witherslack Hall.

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Whitbarrow has appeared on the blog many times now. It seems to have become my go-to choice for a walk with friends. Perhaps because I feel like it deserves to be better known. On this occasion, it was actually BB’s suggestion. He has fond memories of climbing it when he was a boy.

Oh, WX, by the way, is amateur radio shorthand for weather.

And that’s 73 from me. (I’ll let you look that one up).

 

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Fine WX on Whitbarrow

Half-term Happenings: Lancaster, Lune, Meal, Murmuration.

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On the Thursday of our February half-term week, we were looking to combine another ‘easy’ walk, which allowed the possibility of shorter or longer alternatives, with a lunchtime meal. We hit upon driving to the park and ride carpark, just off the motorway by Lancaster, which has the advantage of being free, then walking into town. We could then either walk back or catch the dedicated bus service if need be.

From the carpark, after crossing a couple of busy roads, it’s easy to access the path beside the River Lune. That took us to John Rennie’s 1797 aqueduct, which carries the Lancaster Canal over the river.

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We climbed up to the canal and then followed that into Lancaster.

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The River Lune and the (smelly) Carrs Billington plant.

We were heading for the Sun Hotel for lunch. The food was magnificent…

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I’ve included this slightly blurred photo of B instagramming his choice, because I know at least one reader of the blog who appreciates a huge burger.

The vegans were happy too…

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In fact, I think we all enjoyed our meals.

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After that enormous repast, we decided that we were all fit enough to walk back to the car. This time we followed the Lune rather than the canal.

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‘Little’ S and my nephew L. The latter wanted to pose in front of this cafe for some reason?

The dull cloud of the morning had cleared, so we had terrific views of the aqueduct reflected in the placid waters of the Lune to accompany our walk.

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On the way home, as we drove along Storrs Lane by Leighton Moss, I thought I saw a Starling murmuration, so we stopped to take a look. This is definitely a winter phenomenon and even in mid-February I suspect that there were perhaps less birds than we had seen earlier in the year, when we often saw people parked to watch the Starlings as we drove home from Lancaster in the late afternoons.

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The advantage we did have though was clear skies and good light.

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Still photos really don’t do this justice: the way the cloud of birds wheels together and pulses and fluidly changes shape.

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It was an unexpected bonus at the end of a very enjoyable day.

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Half-term Happenings: Lancaster, Lune, Meal, Murmuration.

Little and Often: In Training

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A three walk Sunday, all part of my Little and Often campaign. First, a familiar wander to the Cove and across the Lots. The sun was shining and the light was lovely.

Then I dropped S off at his climbing lesson and drove up onto the edge of the Forest of Bowland hills, walking a brisk out and back route to Grizedale Dock Reservoir…

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…via Holme Wood…

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When I have more time to spare, there are definitely some good walks to be had in that area, so I shall be looking to go back, probably one summer evening. The weather had deteriorated and there were flecks of rain blowing in the wind, but it was good to be out.

Later still, I was out again, past Arnside Tower…

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…hoping to catch the sunset from the Knott. Sadly, although the weather had improved again, a bank of cloud over the Irish Sea smothered that idea. I’ve made similar mistakes since, leaving it a little too late to get out on a sunny afternoon and thereby missing the sunshine altogether. I shall make a mental note not to be so tardy in future.

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Humphrey Head and last signs of the departed sun.


 

In the summer, I shall be attempting to complete the annual 10 in 10 challenge. Briefly, the idea is to walk a route over 10 Wainwrights in 10 hours or less. This year the route starts at the Swinside hotel, goes over some of the Northwestern Fells, down to Buttermere and then back over Dale Head and High Spy, among others. You can find out more here.

It’s not the sort of thing I would usually do, but I shall be joining my old school friend John and frankly I’m relishing the challenge. Whether I will still feel that way on the day remains to be seen. It’s more than a little Quixotic for me to imagine that I can tackle all of the ascent involved in the time allowed, but I shall give it a go.

The event is a fundraiser and I’m hoping to get some sponsorship for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. My Just Giving page is here. All donations, however small, will be most welcome. I should add that the sponsorship is not a condition of my entry and that I’ve already paid a fee to enter which covers all costs, so all sponsor money would go directly to charity.

Plug over, for now at least, although I will probably add links to forthcoming posts too.

 

Little and Often: In Training

Pre-Xmas Weekend: Pen-y-ghent

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As ever, we got together with a gaggle of old friends for the weekend before Christmas. After several years at Chapel-le-Dale, this year we moved, but only a little way up the road to Gearstones Lodge. Here’s the lodge…

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I’ll take a moment to say that, if you are after simple, comfortable and spacious accommodation in a fantastic location for a largish group at a good price, then this place is going to be very hard to beat.

The first time we booked accommodation for a weekend before Christmas, A was just a baby and spent most of the weekend happily rocking furiously or sleeping in the only warm room at Slaidburn hostel. Now here she is, in the first photo, practically all grown up. It’s not the best photo of either A or Pen-y-ghent, which is hidden in the cloud behind,  but I’ve included because it’s a very typical A pose: she doesn’t want me to take her photo, but is tolerating my antics with a bemused look which tells me just how little she appreciates it.

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Here she is again. We were all hunkered down behind the wall seeking some shelter from the wind and rain. We’d parked in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and were climbing Pen-y-ghent with the intention of continuing back to Gearstones afterwards.

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A and J.

As often happens, somebody had stopped to change a layer or swig some water and somebody else had taken that as a queue for a lunch stop. We have a lot of lunch stops when walking together. I think there may even have been more scoffing underway when I caught up with the rest of the party at the top of Pen-y-ghent, having lagged behind a little, as is my wont. Certainly, an ‘official’ lunch stop was declared in the sheltered hollow…

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Around the opening of Hunt Pot.

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From there we diverted slightly from the most direct route to take a look at the highly impressive Hull Pot…

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Usually, the streambed above the pot is dry, but one compensation of the weather being so wet was the opportunity it afforded to see the falls cascading over the edge of the pot.

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And that’s it for my photos of that day. We still had quite a long way to walk, but it was very overcast at first, then dark for the last hour or so and anyway, I was busy chinwagging.

The ground we covered from Pen-y-ghent back to Gearstones did look very interesting, when we could still see it, and I look forward to going back to have another look in more conducive conditions.

Andy has helpfully included a map of our route in his post and there are more photos too.

And for photos from Pen-y-ghent in better weather, here are two previous posts of my own: here and here.

Back at the hostel, we dried out over cups of tea then enjoyed some top-notch grub and no doubt lots of silly anecdotes.

I’ve finished a number of walks in the dark this winter, which is just how winter walks should finish, and which gives me a handy excuse to include this…

‘It Might Get Dark’ by White Denim, which has something of Marc Bolan about it. I’ve heard White Denim quite a bit since I started listening to Radio 6. They’re touring the UK in February…..

Pre-Xmas Weekend: Pen-y-ghent

Parched

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Sitting here, now that normal service has been resumed, watching the rain beyond the window, the long, hot dry spell from earlier in the summer seems almost like a vague memory of a dream or a summer from long ago.

Just to prove that it really did happen, here are a hodge-podge of photos from several evening outings in July. The photo above, from Arnside Knott, was taken on an evening when we completed this year’s Limestone Grassland Survey of Redhill Pasture. It’s a good thing that we had the experience of last year to call on, because in the dry conditions, many plants had finished flowering and were almost desiccated and so very difficult to identify.

On still summer evenings, you can usually spot hot air balloons in this area. These days they all seem to be red and bear the logo of a well-known ‘fingers-in-every-pie’ corporation. (‘Jack-of-all-trades, master of none’?)

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Whilst we were away, I discovered, or I think, probably, was reminded, that the French name for a hot-air balloon is montgolfière, which I thought was rather charming. Subsequently, it has occurred to me that, we’ve missed a trick here in Britain by not insisting that televisions be called Logie-Bairds and  jet engines Whittles and computers Babbages or Turings and hovercrafts Cockerells and….well, you can think of your own examples and post them here on the Berners-Lee Web.

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Anyway, I digress. The Lots were looking particularly desert like. I found it interesting that tiny hollows retained their greenness – because more dew collected in them, I wonder? The hot weather and a series of fairly low high-tides had combined to make the mud of the Bay unusually firm and dry and the kids, well B in particular, were keen to drag us all down there to play cricket or throw a ball or a frisbee* around.

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The only downside of that was the smell – not overpowering, but not very pleasant. But a fairly powerful aroma pervaded almost everywhere. A friend suggested to me that it was the smell of decay, which seems reasonable: the woodland floor was carpeted with brown leaves as if autumn had come early and the scent was particularly strong there.

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The ditch which runs through Lambert’s meadow had dried up completely, and Bank Well too was rapidly drying out.

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Even now, when the weather has broken, I was told yesterday that the water in Hawes Water is a couple of feet below it’s usual level.

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Branched Burr-reed again.

Finally, a puzzle…

 

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…these flowers grow in the soggy margins of Bank Well and I can’t find them in my field guides. Anyone have any ideas?

*Frisbee – disappointingly, not the name of an inventor, but taken, apparently, from The Frisbie Pie Company, whose pie-tins were used as improvised flying-discs by Yale students in the 1950s.

Parched

Foulshaw Moss Again

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Figwort.

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Wasp on Figwort.

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Green-veined White on Tufted Vetch.

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Green-veined White on Bramble.

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Large Skipper on Tufted Vetch.

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Large Skipper on Thistle.

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Large Skipper on Bramble.

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Common Carder Bumblebee (I think) on Thistle.

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Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars on Ragwort.

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Foulshaw Moss, with Arnside Knott and Meathop Fell on the skyline.

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Foulshaw Moss, with Whitbarrow Scar behind.

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Great Spotted Woodpecker, adult, female I think.

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Great Spotted Woodpecker, juvenile.

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Black Darter, female.

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Foulshaw Moss.

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Common Lizard.

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A web-tent. I couldn’t see any caterpillars within.

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Scots Pines.

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Reed Bunting, male.

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Marbled Orb Weaver Spider (perhaps).

These photos were taken just over a month ago on an evening visit to Foulshaw Moss whilst A was at her weekly dancing lessons. Since they were taken, we’ve been away for three weeks, camping in Wales and then France, and this little outing feels like a distant memory.

I have enjoyed looking through them, however, and trying to put names to things I recorded. Not here are the many small birds which tumbled about in the trees, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Linnets and Chaffinches. Also missing are the crickets and/or grasshoppers which I saw, but failed to photograph and the Ospreys, Adders and Large Heath Butterflies which I hope to see when I visit, but which have always eluded me so far.

The Black Darter, Britain’s smallest species of Dragonfly, is new to me, so that should probably be the highlight, but it was the adult Great Spotted Woodpecker, which I heard first and then picked out in flight, flying, unusually, towards me rather than away and landing at the top of a dead Birch relatively nearby, which will stick in my mind. Also, the hordes of Wasps feeding on Figwort flowers, reminding me of my observation last year that the flowers and the Wasps seem to have coevolved so that a Wasp’s head is a perfect fit for a Figwort flower.

 

Foulshaw Moss Again

Skiddaw Bivvy

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Keswick and Derwentwater – it was quite a bit darker than this photo suggests.

Friday evening. S has a class on the climbing wall in the Sports Centre at Lancaster University. It had been a busy week: S had been the Artful Dodger in his school’s production of Oliver (which was brilliant, although I may be a little biased). I’d also had a late evening at work, so hadn’t managed my usual evening walk(s). What’s-more, the nights had been hot and sticky, at least by local standards, and I’d been finding it hard to sleep. Driving home with S I had an inspiration – a way to get out for a walk and get a cooler night. Back at home I hurriedly grabbed something to eat, threw some things into my rucksack and set-off for Keswick.

I parked in the high car-park behind Latrigg, which was quite full. There were several occupied campervans which I guessed were staying the night, but numerous cars also. A couple approached me and asked about potential wild-camping spots. They’d ended up here by default after having problems with closed roads. It occurred to me afterwards that they may have been heading for the end of Haweswater, because when we were there a few weeks ago, somebody had been larking about with road-closed signs and diversion signs even though there was actually little or no work going on. Anyway, I wasn’t much use to them; I haven’t camped in this part of the Lakes before and haven’t climbed Skiddaw in an absolute age. They decided to try Latrigg, but soon overtook me on the broad path up Skiddaw, looking for a spot on Jenkin Hill, where I saw them again with their tent just about pitched.

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The moon rising over the Dodds.

It was already after sunset when I started my walk and I was surprised by the freshness of the breeze, so much so that I hastily stuffed an extra jumper into my bag which I happened to have in the boot of the car. TBH and I had noticed that the moon was full when we went out for a short stroll after Little S’s theatric triumph, so I was anticipating a light night and that’s how it turned out – I only used my headtorch close to the top of Skiddaw when the ground was rocky and I wanted to avoid a trip.

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I arrived on the top at around half twelve. Even then the sky to the north still held a good deal of light. There were a few people about – I suppose that this is a traditional weekend for fell-runners completing the Bob Graham Round.

I was after something much more modest – a place to kip-down for a few hours. I’d remembered that the highest parts of Skiddaw are very rocky – like a slag heap, one friend has subsequently described it – but felt confident that I would find somewhere. Ironically, given my enthusiasm for wild-flowers, it was the sight of tiny white stars of the flowers of a bedstraw – there are many species – which stood out in the darkness and led me to a spot with at least a thin covering of soil. It’s wasn’t a spot I could recommend – sloping, uneven, hard, stony and not entirely out of the, by now, pretty fierce wind, but, somewhat to my surprise, I not only slept, but slept quite well. It was cold though – I discovered that when needs must I can get right down inside my sleeping bag and close it over my head. Between my sleeping bag, the thin pertex bivvy bag I have and the extra jumper I’d brought I just about stayed on the right side of comfortable.

I woke at around three, momentarily panicking a little because it was so light that I was worried that I’d missed the sunrise, despite the fact that I’d set an alarm for 4.20am, precisely to avoid that eventuality. I should have taken a photograph at three – the colours in the northern sky were superb, but I’m afraid my head was soon down again for a little more shut-eye.

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In the event, I didn’t need the alarm: two groups of people walked past my little hollow about 10 minutes before it was due to go off, timing their arrival on the top just about perfectly for the sunrise.

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It’s a while since I’ve watched a sunrise from a mountain. Perhaps I won’t wait so long this time to repeat the experience.

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There was evidently a layer of cloud hanging low over the Solway Firth to the north and the Eden Valley to the east and odd wisps of mist closer to hand.

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Bassenthwaite Lake.

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An early party on the summit.

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Derwentwater and the surrounding hills.

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Derwentwater and the Fells pano.

For reasons which now escape me, I climbed Skiddaw Little Man in the dark on the Friday night, but I’d stuck to the main path which omits the top of Jenkin Hill, and avoids Lonscale Fell and Lonscale Pike altogether, so on my way back to the car I diverted slightly to take them all in.

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Jenkin Hill, Lonscale Fell and Blencathra behind.

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Looking back to Skiddaw Little Man and Skiddaw. 

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Derwentwater and the Fells from Jenkin Hill.

From Lonscale Pike, I found a slight path, which followed the wall down close to the edge of Lonscale Crags. Part way down, I realised that the weather had already warmed up considerably and decided to sit down to admire the view with a bit of porridge and a cup of tea.

Nearby, I spotted this large caterpillar…

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…which I think is of the Hairy Oak Eggar Moth. B and I saw some similar caterpillars on Haystacks two summers ago.

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Foxglove.

As I got close to the car park again, and was down amongst the bracken covered hillsides, there were numerous moths and some Small Heath butterflies and a host of small birds about. Sadly none of my photos turned out very well.

Back at the car, I dumped my rucksack and set-out to tick-off Latrigg, it being so close by and the weather so favourable. Incidentally, the car park was already full, at 9 in the morning, breaking the usually reliable rule that car-parks in the Lakes are almost empty before 10, I presume because people were seeking an early start to escape the heat of the day. There’s a direct path to the top, not shown on OS maps, but also a more circuitous one, which I chose, partly because I wasn’t in a hurry and partly because I thought it would give better views.

Latrigg was busy with walkers, runners and Skylarks.

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I watched this Skylark in flight and then, after it had landed on a small mound, walked slowly toward it, taking photos as I approached.

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This Skylark…

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…didn’t require the same effort. It landed quite close to the path and then flew just a short distance further on, before having a ‘dust bath’ on the path. Although it was much closer than the first bird, it wouldn’t pose and look at the camera in such an obliging way.

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Keswick from Latrigg.

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Keswick from Latrigg pano.

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Skiddaw massif from Latrigg.

Highly enjoyable, although it did leave me a bit wiped out for the rest of the weekend. Hopefully, I’ll try another summit bivvy, if the opportunity arises – without a tent I can manage with my small rucksack, which wasn’t too heavy, aside from the two litres of water I was carrying.

Skiddaw Bivvy