Around Orain

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Our annual Highland gathering, transferred this year to a new venue – The Bridge of Orchy Hotel. On the Saturday, the party split into several smaller groups. I joined the posse heading for the ridges just behind the hotel: a round of Coir’ Orain taking in Beinn Inverveigh and Meall Tairbh.

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It was one of those sort of days when I took a few photos before we entered the cloud.

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One at the highest point…

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Meall Tairbh (665m).

…possibly; there was some dispute at the time.

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And then a few more photos after we had emerged from the clouds.

The weather wasn’t great, but we’ve had much worse. It snowed a bit, at times, but at least it didn’t rain, so it was a round of Orain, rather than a round in the rain.

This lukewarm, lack lustre description, perhaps makes it sound as if I didn’t enjoy the day. But I did. Enormously so, in fact. Partly because of the excellent company, but mostly because, when all’s said and done, wandering around  a soggy hillside in the mist and the snow is my idea of fun. I like it. Admittedly, I don’t always think I will in advance, and it’s proving difficult to think of anything exciting to say about it in retrospect. However, round the day off with a very fine steak and some inconsequential chatter with your oldest friends and you have a recipe for contentment, in my view at least.

No hill-day is complete without some element of list-ticking. Meall Tairbh, whilst not high enough to be a Munro, or a Corbett, is, apparently, both a Marilyn and a Graham, probably a Hump, not a Donald, but maybe a Trump. I’ve added it to my personal list of Hills to Revisit when the Weather is Kinder.

As usual, the weekend was organised (very well), booked (at a discount), and generally only took place because of all-round good-egg, Andy, who’s account of this walk you can read here.

 

 

 

 

 

Around Orain

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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

Soft as the Earth

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Sunday afternoon’s walk (after B’s rugby match in Preston and a delicious lunch whipped up  by TBH). It was only going to be a short one: a chance to stretch my legs and grab some lungfuls of fresh air. First I had an errand to run, returning a child’s coat which had been left at our house (which made a nice change from retrieving one of our own children’s lost coats from wherever they have left them), so I walked over to Oak Tree Barn to do that. This is on Bottom’s Lane, near Bottom’s Farm and is really part of Bottom’s Barn, a much better name for comedic purposes, and one which I shall steadfastly use henceforth.

Anyway, continuing to walk from there, I noticed that the sun was setting. There are lots of good places locally from which to watch the sunset: Warton Crag, Jack Scout, Arnside Knott and, closer to home, The Cove all fit the bill. But in a field with Hagg Wood to my west didn’t seem like a great choice of vantage point.

I dithered momentarily about where to go next, but in the end decided to cut across to the Row and hence into Eaves Wood. A gateway in Jubilee Wood gave me another slightly obscured view of what looked to possibly be a stunning sunset…

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I climbed slightly to pass through the Ring o’Beeches. The sky to the South had some lovely deep blues offset with a little pink.

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Also the moon…

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But through the trees I could still glimpse some patches of highly coloured sky and so decided to head up to Castlebarrow. I suspected that I would be too late, and would miss the light show.

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Humphrey Head.

Not quite. The tide was in. The Bay was picking up the pastel yellows and oranges from the sky.

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It was enormously peaceful. It was just a shame I didn’t have the wherewithal to make a brew to sit with and enjoy it.

Instead I decided to extend the walk and head down to The Cove and across The Lots.

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It was getting pretty dark by now and Tawny Owls were hooting on every side. In winter, a spring rises at the base of the low cliff here, but aside from the gentle murmur of the water and the calls of the owls, it was still and quiet.

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Magic.

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And the title? Well, this post could have been ‘An Unexpected Bonus’ but I’ve used that title before. In the previous post, I had intended to quote from Auden’s ‘In Praise of Limestone’. But forgot.

I quite like:

‘soft as the earth is mankind’

But it continues …

‘soft as the earth is mankind and both
Need to be altered.’

Which puts an entirely different slant on it. A bit sinister I thought.

So, I’m going to go for:

‘when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.’

 

 

Soft as the Earth

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

Leaf Piercers

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Last week we had a number of cold, clear, sunny days and I enjoyed several strolls around Lancaster at lunch times and once in the late afternoon. On Friday night I managed to get home early enough to set-out for a walk before the last of the light had gone. It was soon dark and, as often happens on my night time wanders, I was listening to several owls from various directions. When one called particularly loudly, seemingly from almost directly overhead, I looked up and there it was, perched on a branch not far above my head. It was a very pale bird, not a Barn Owl, I don’t think, but a male Tawny Owl, judging by the ‘hoo-hoo’ call.

The forecast for Saturday was dreadful, so when the rain unexpectedly stopped and it began to brighten up I was especially pleased to have a good opportunity to walk down to Hawes Water to see whether the Snowdrops had appeared in the woods there.

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One regional, alternative name for Snowdrops is Snow Piercers, but this year they are more Leaf-mould Piercers. At first I was dismayed by the thought that there were less flowers than in previous years, but in fact they are abundant again, but quite well hidden by a low shrub which is also thriving in the same part of the woods, I think maybe Wild Privet, but am far from confident.

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I seem lately to be timing my arrival on the duck-boards by Hawes Water to match sunset.

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Leaf Piercers

Books, birds and more strolls.

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Sunday was a bit of a gloomy day. I was out early-ish again, the most memorable aspect of that walk being the thrush which was adding it’s voice to the gathering chorus in Eaves Wood.

The boys had rugby matches in Kirkby Lonsdale and towards the end of the matches the cloud began to break up and we even had a few brief moments of sunshine, giving me high hopes for the afternoon. However, by the time TBH and I had set out for a tour of Hawes Water the leaden skies had returned. It was a fine walk none-the-less.

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But since I don’t have all that much to say about Sunday, I thought I’d mention this:

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…which is Mercury Fountain by Alexander Calder. We saw it at the Miro Foundation last summer, but in the photo at the back you can see it at the 1937 Paris Exposition, with Picasso’s Guernica behind.

Like Guernica its a war memorial of sorts, commemorating the Spanish Civil War:

“The mobile sculpture consists of a series of three metal plates arranged above a large pool of mercury. Mercury is pumped up so that a fine stream trickles on to the top plate. It quickens in droplets and rivulets across the plates in turn while they gyre and bow under the weight of the metal, before it vanishes quietly into the pool below. The mercury is the key to the meaning of the work. It came, like the majority of the world’s mercury at that time, from the cinnabar deposits at Almaden in Ciudad Real south-west of Madrid. This strategically important location was to be repeatedly besieged by Franco’s insurgents, and Calder’s work commemorates the miners who had successfully held off the first nationalist onslaught a few months earlier.”

I wish I’d known all that when I saw it in the flesh. This passage comes from Hugh Aldersley-Williams “Periodic Tales”, which I’m currently reading. The title suggests a book on Chemistry, but whilst there is a great deal of Chemistry, there are also great anecdotes, a deal of history, and all round a very entertaining read. Highly recommended.

Books, birds and more strolls.

Beneath the Boughs

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I was out early today, a half-moon still high in the western sky.

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It was my intention to watch the sunrise from Castlebarrow, but a line of cloud in the East was going to delay the sun’s first appearance and it was far too cold to stand around waiting.

Instead, I took a turn around Eaves Wood and watched the sunrise from the Ring O’Beeches.

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Later, I was out again with A. She chose the route and took me for another, longer tour of Eaves Wood. I hadn’t noticed the Snowdrops flowering there when I passed the in half-darkness earlier.

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I’ve walked past this new(ish?) bench once before…

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…, but didn’t notice then the small plaque attached to it.

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I’m sure I’ve quoted W.H.Davies poem ‘Leisure’ before. It must be his best remembered poem. I found his ‘Autobiography of a Supertramp’ very entertaining.

During both walks I saw, and heard, a buzzard coasting above the treetops.

I noticed last weekend that the Robins were singing, seemingly from every tree and bush. Great tits have begun to join them and I think I heard a Chaffinch today too.

I was out for a third time later, briefly in Eaves Wood, then crossing the Lots, but having set-off in the half-darkness again, didn’t take any photos.

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