Juvenile Heron.

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Another surprise. A Sunday afternoon stroll through Clark’s and Sharp’s Lots, down to Myer’s Allotment for the view of the Moss, and then back along the Row and across the fields. It was dull, but mild, and I’d hoped I might see some late season dragonflies, which I did, but only one, and that quickly flew by and out of sight.

As I passed Bank Well, something caught the corner of my eye. Double-taking, I was wondering why there was a pale grey boulder in the midst of the pond, when it had surely never been there before? The tall reeds around the pond made further investigation difficult, but once I’d realised that I was looking a Heron, I was surprised to see that it didn’t move, Herons usually being very shy birds, easily spooked. This one sat stock still whilst I moved around the pond looking for the best vantage point, taking many photos. Maybe this unusual behaviour can be put down to the fact that this is a juvenile; an adult bird would have a white crown and several distinctive black patches….

Heron

Here’s one I took earlier at Leighton Moss in 2011.

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Juvenile Heron.

Magical Things

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“The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”

Eden Phillpotts

I think it’s fair to say that this year I have seen more Common Lizards than I did in the previous fifty put together. To what should I attribute this phenomena? The fact that I’ve been making an effort to get out at every opportunity will go some way to explain it, but is far from being sufficient on it’s own. It’s hard to think what other factors might contribute. A local abundance of lizards? Good fortune? It would be tempting to think that my wits really are growing sharper, but sadly, I’m sure that the opposite is true. It has been facetiously suggested that a form of animal magnetism is in operation and that wildlife is drawn to me, which seems highly unlikely, although earlier during the same walk a Hawthorn Shieldbug did alight on my hand…

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TBH and I were out for a Saturday afternoon ramble through Eaves Wood and then around Hawes Water. The lizards were in the same spot where we usually see them, on the edges of the boardwalk near the lake. We saw about half a dozen. They were all very small, tiny in fact, compared to those we have seen before. Presumably they were all from this year’s brood, born back in July. I suppose that they will be hibernating fairly soon, and it’s possible that these will be my last lizard sightings for this year, but hopefully there will be many more again next year, and other magical things to keep me occupied in the mean time.

Magical Things

Whitfell and Devoke Water.

Or: Three Brews with Views.

Birker Fell Road – Rough Crag – Water Crag – White Pike – Woodend Height – Yoadcastle – Stainton Pike – Holehouse Tarn – Whitfell – Woodend Height – Devoke Water – Seat How – Birker Fell Road.

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Hesk Fell, Woodend Height and Stord’s Hill seen across Devoke Water from Rough Crag.

It was our turn to do Kitchen Duty at rugby and TBH offered to go in my stead. I didn’t need to be asked twice. The MWIS forecast gave hill fog, with the best chance of some sunshine in the west, so I drove out to Ulpha in the Duddon valley and then up to park on the Birker Fell Road. Pike How, just above the road is a marvellous view point and one to bear in mind for future reference. It didn’t take long to reach Rough Crag either and I found a comfortable spot out of the chilly wind blowing from the north…

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…and settled down for an early brew stop.

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Water Crag from Rough Crag.

Water Crag was also easily and quickly ascended.

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Looking back to Rough Crag from Water Crag.

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This rocky little knoll is Brantrake Crags. It’s off modest height and probably doesn’t appear in any guide books anywhere, but I thought it looked worth climbing. The stream beside it, Linbeck Gill, which drains Devoke Water, also looked like a good place to explore.

After Rough Crag and Water Crag, Birkett suggests a lengthy traverse to take in The Knott. For once, I’d done my research in advance and discovered that Wainwright, in his Outlying Fells book, has a separate walk which takes in the Knott, but also the ancient settlement at Barnscar and the waterfall of Rowantree Force. That seemed like a more sensible option to me, so I skipped The Knott and climbed directly to White Pike. After the previous two, very easy, ascents, this one seemed like a long way. It was well worth it though. The prominent cairn…

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…marked a spot with excellent views.

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Whitfell and Stainton Pike from White Pike.

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Cumbrian west coast from White Pike.

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Eskmeals viaduct and Isle of Mann.

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Woodend Height and Yoadcastle.

All of the peaks on this walk had stunning views. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favourite, but Woodend Height would be hard to beat; from it’s top you can have great fun picking out all of the big hills of the western Lakes, across Devoke Water.

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Yoadcastle, Whitfell and Stainton Pike from Woodend Height.

Aside from the minor difficulty of surmounting a wire fence with a top strand of barbed wire, the walk around to Stainton Pike was delightful. This was yet another good view point.

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Looking back to Yoadcastle from Stainton Pike.

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Holehouse tarn and Whitfell from Stainton Pike.

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The estuaries of the Irt and the Esk from Stainton Pike.

It seemed like another brew was in order, and I found a wonderfully sheltered spot to sit to enjoy it.

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The Irt and the Esk and the dunes of Drigg nature reserve.

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Muncaster Castle.

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Isle of Mann and Eskmeals viaduct.

From there then, on to Whitfell.

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Large summit cairn on Whitfell.

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Looking back along my route.

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Duddon Estuary, Black Coombe and Buckbarrow.

On Whitfell you are a bit further away from the hills of Wasdale and Eskdale, but if anything, I thought this enhanced the view. I took several panoramas during the course of the day. Sadly, none of them were very successful, but I’ve included this one, if for no other reason than to remind myself of the great sweep of hills from Whin Rigg in the west round to Caw at the southern extreme of the Coniston Fells.

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Despite the forecast hill-fog, the higher fells were often clear…

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Scafells, Esk Pike, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags.

I’d flirted with the idea of descending from here, via Biggert to Hole House, then climbing The Pike and Hesk Fell on my way back to Devoke Water. This now seemed overly ambitious, and Hesk Fell looked every inch the tedious lump which Wainwright bemoans. So I wandered back to Woodend Height, skirting the other summits on my way.

Dropping off Woodend Height toward Rowantree How, I found another comfortable, sheltered seat and settled down for another brew.

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The view from my final brew stop.

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The same view from a little lower down: the rocky knoll on the left is Rowantree How. Note Seat How to the right of Devoke Water.

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Devoke Water and Seat How.

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Devoke Water boat house.

Seat How is another modest little top, but it is gratifyingly craggy, giving a satisfying scrambling finish to the round

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Devoke Water from Seat How.

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The pastures around Woodend, Hesk Fell behind.

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Harter Fell, Crook Crag, Green Crag, Great Crag.

I’ve often pontificated about the elements which come together to provide a good day on the hoof; I shan’t start again here, except to say that a really good walk might not just leave you wanting to come back and do it again someday, but may also fill your head with ideas for other walks you’d like to do soon. That was certainly the case with this one: not only did I find myself wanting to return to reascend many of the familiar hills I could see around me, but I also now plan to head round to the west coast to grab The Knott, and to explore the dunes at Drigg; I need to bag Buckbarrow, and The Pike, and even Hesk Fell; I spent large parts of the day thinking about a Duddon watershed walk and also wondering how to continue a high level route which would begin with Black Combe and then head north over Whitfell and these Devoke Water tops. Speculating about these more fanciful routes was great fun….in fact: where are my maps? After Harter Fell, where next?

Whitfell and Devoke Water.

Middleton Nature Reserve

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Migrant Hawker.

Being the continuing adventures of a taxi-driving Dad.

Last Saturday, B had a rugby match, playing hooker (he’s suitably bonkers) for his school team away at Morecambe High (where, many moons ago, I used to teach). Unlike some of his contemporaries, B doesn’t seem too concerned about whether his team win or lose, just so long as the result seems fair, and at the end of the game declared: “That was fun!”, despite his team having taken a bit of a hammering.

Afterwards, we dashed home, but, in my case, only for a quick turn around, as I took Little S to a nerf gun birthday party in – guess where – Morecambe. I realise that the rational thing to do would have been to take both boys to both events, but it seemed easier at the time to do it this way. With S dropped off, only a few minutes late for his war game, I had the best part of two hours to kill and decided to go hunting for one of the three Wildlife Trust reserves which I knew to be somewhere around Heysham. Idiotically, I hadn’t checked the exact locations in advance, so resorted to driving around, with more hope than confidence, until I spotted a likely looking car park and found that I had stumbled upon Middleton reserve.

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After a bite of lunch, and whilst walking around the reserve, I met a man who told me that he remembered when this was the site of a petrochemical plant. Now it has two large ponds and a mixture of meadows and scrub.

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Hoverfly, possibly Helophilus pendulus, on an Alder leaf.

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Fox and cubs.

This patch of waste ground maybe a tad unprepossessing at first glance, but look a little closer and there is a great deal to enjoy. I was very much put in mind of Richard Mabey’s marvellous book The Unofficial Countryside, which is about how nature, left to its own devices, can reclaim scraps of once industrialised land like this.

The sun was warm and there were no end of dragonflies about, although few of them would pose for a photo.

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Female Common Darter.

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Speckled Wood.

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Blackberries.

There were lots of flowers still in bloom and it was obvious that, had I had been here earlier, in the summer, there would have been even more to see.

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Wild Carrot, the ancestor of all domestic carrots.

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When the flowers turn into spiny seeds, the umbel curls in on itself.

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More hoverflies on what I assume are Michaelmas Daisies.

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A willowherb?

I could hear the contact calls of small birds from all sides and, with lots of teasels and other tall seed-heads about, I wondered whether they might be Goldfinches. Eventually, they flew across the path ahead of me, then settled above me, on teasels growing on a high bank. Here’s some of them…

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The photo didn’t come out brilliantly and only a small part of the charm are here, but the flocks of Goldfinches which gather at this time of year are delightful, so I wanted to include the photo anyway.

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Common Toadflax.

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Mute swans – could they still be nesting in mid-September?

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There were plenty of half-hidden reminders of the areas past – the remnants of tarmac covered surfaces, these huge tyres, odd bits of buildings here and there, but they mostly seem to be slowly disappearing.

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Abundant Haws.

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Crane Fly.

A blade of grass apparently dancing in a way completely contrary to the direction of the wind alerted me to this spider, which was busy constructing a web.

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Male Common Darter.

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As I came to the end of my walk and was running out of time before needing to head off to pick up Little S, I came to a really sheltered spot where, not only were there even more dragonflies, but, in addition, the Common Darters were sunning themselves in obvious spots, as seems to be their wont.

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Male Common Darter.

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Male Common Darter.

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Alder cones.

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Male Common Darter.

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Mating Common Darters. I’ve been confused in the past by the colour of females like this one, expecting the females to be yellow, but this pale blue colour is apparently typical of older females.

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Drone fly, or something similar, on Evening Primrose.

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Guelder Rose berries.

Middleton Nature Reserve

Wren Gill

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A bit of an odd one this because these photos were almost all taken in a brief flurry at the end of our little outing, shortly before we set-off to return to our car, and those that weren’t were taken in another short burst roughly three hours before. It’s easy to distinguish between the two sets, because soon after the first ones were taken, when the kids were eating their lunch and I was making a brew…

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…the cloud finally broke and the sun shone for much of the rest of the afternoon.

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Carabus problematicus.

This beetle was on the patch of rock where I set up my stove. It scampered away rather shyly and when I fetched it out from under a boulder, I noticed a rather unpleasant smell – I’m not sure if this was a defence mechanism from the beetle or the scent of something else concealed by the boulder. The beetle looks very like the one in my previous post, but I think that the obvious striations on its back mean that it is of a related, but different, species.

Anyway, between the two sets of photos, we were playing in the stream. It was a week after our visit to Tongue Pot; B was really keen to go back there, but I persuaded him that there were opportunities for swimming closer to home. We drove to Sadgill, in Longsleddale, and then walked up the valley until we reached the access land and a convenient gate in the wall. The track, which heads towards the Gatescarth Pass, was busy, not with walkers, there was just one other party of adults and toddlers, heading for the stream like us, but with four-wheel drives and trials bikes. I’ll let you fume on my behalf.

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I’ve called the post Wren Gill and higher upstream that’s how it begins. But down the valley it’s the River Sprint and, to add to the confusion, the OS map has Cleft Ghyll too, although that’s written in black rather than blue, so may refer to the narrow deep-sided ravine the stream briefly flows through.

We followed the stream bed from just beyond the boundary of the access land up to where the stream poured over a waterfall out of Cleft Ghyll. Then we walked down to where we’d started and did it all again.

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The first time we tried to keep reasonably dry and kept out of the deeper water, which gave us a chance to have a bit of a reccy first and also meant that nobody got too cold too quickly. The second time we took the opposite approach and swam wherever we could.

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We found a couple places where we could jump in, much to B’s delight, and also a powerful cascade which made a brilliant waterslide, although I was a bit disappointed that the kids all seemed to be able to get down without getting dunked in the pool at the bottom, a feat which I failed to replicate.

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After a few days without rain, the water was much warmer than it had been in the River Esk a week before. The weather helped too. It would be interesting to go back after a longer dry spell to have a go at the Cleft Ghyll section and beyond. Anyway, the kids are definitely sold on the idea of messing about in streams.

Wren Gill

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll

Skelwith Bridge – Skelwith Force – Elter Water – Elterwater – Little Langdale – Slater Bridge – Stang End – High Park – Colwith Force – Skelwith Bridge.

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The Langdale Pikes seen across Elter Water. 

How appropriate, after a post about favourite walks, that in my next bit of catching up from the summer hols, I’m recounting a walk which, in slight variations, I’ve walked many times, in all seasons, in all weathers, alone on occasions but often with big groups of friends and which definitely qualifies at least as one of my favourites, particularly for when time is short, or the forecast is a bit iffy.

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Skelwith Force.

A dodgy forecast was partly responsible for us choosing this route. We were going out with our friends Beaver B and G and their family again; the original plan had been to get the boats out on one of the lakes, but with showers, possibly prolonged, expected, we decided that a low level walk was a better option. We’d actually run through a number of alternatives the night before and it was eventually G who suggested something in this area.

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Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle (Leptura quadrifasciata).

This was spotted by Little B pretty much at the top of the track between Langdale and Little Langdale and it led us both a merry dance as we tried to photograph it in damp and gloomy conditions. It’s led me on another merry dance as I’ve tried to identify it – I was struck by it’s superficial resemblance to the Sexton beetle which I photographed recently, which wasn’t helpful because this is not even a closely related species.

We’d had drizzle, then a bright spell as we lunched by Elter Water, then rain as we climbed up and over into Little Langdale. Now it began to brighten up.

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Little Langdale Tarn.

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Slater Bridge.

Over Slater’s bridge and heading along Little Langdale we paused a while to watch cyclists riding their bikes through a ford on the infant River Brathay and then, a little further along, spotted a Roe deer down by the stream.

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Little Langdale. Blake Rigg on Pike O’Blisco and Busk Pike on Lingmoor behind.

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Stang End.

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The barn at Stang End with it’s impressive tiers of stacked fire wood.

Our perseverance through the rain was paying off now with some beautiful warm, sunny weather. The garden at Stang End was busy with Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies sunning themselves.

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High Park.

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Colwith Force.

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Peacock butterfly.

We interrupted this large beetle, here already scuttling for cover, as it was preying on the earthworm seen in the top left of the picture.

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Here is the predator after I’d fetched him (or her) out of hiding…

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I’m reasonably sure that this is a Violet Ground Beetle, Carabus violaceus, although there are several very similar species of large, black beetles which also have that violet tint.

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I haven’t featured a Robin in the blog for an unusually long time. This one looks a bit tatty,  but juvenile Robins have speckled feathers, which are moulted at around two to three months, so could this be a juvenile, born in May or June, which has almost changed into adult plumage?

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Almost back, crossing the footbridge near Skelwith Bridge.

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We were quite late finishing, having not set-off particularly early, and had wondered whether the promised tea and cake at Chesters By The River would be thwarted, but the new take-away section (well, new since I was last there) was still serving, so a mutiny by the kids was averted. I had the beluga lentil dish, seen near the front of the counter above, as an alternative to cake, and very nice it was too. Chesters, both cafe and shop, had been very busy when we had passed earlier and their success seems well deserved. If only they would reinstate the missing apostrophe in their name, I could thoroughly recommend a visit.

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll