A Slow Ripening Fruit

P1080921

So, here in my online diary we’ve reached the tail-end of September and my memory of that time is slightly hazy. Fortunately, I have photographs to help; here are Little S (who in just a few more years will be towering over me) and TBH approaching the top of Warton Crag.

From where, even on a cloudy day, there’s always some sort of view…

P1080918

But we weren’t on our own…

P1080923

…oh no!…

P1080924

Because this was our annual At Home weekend when some of our old friends congregate at our house.

P1080925

I know what happened, for the simple reason that it was undoubtedly the same things that always happen on these weekends: a bit of a walk each day, despite the weather, which actually wasn’t too bad this time around; endless cups of tea, a few beers, loads of food, including a takeaway from the local curry house and the usual recycling of old stories and even older jokes.

P1080926

One the Saturday we walked to and from Warton Crag, via Leighton Moss and Summer House Hill.

On the Sunday we must have visited Jack Scout because that’s where this giant limestone seat is, but I can’t recall how we got there or back again.

P1080934

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.”

Aristotle

These curious Turkeys jumped up onto a wall to assail us as we passed their field.

P1080938

Must be time for another caption competition…?

Advertisements
A Slow Ripening Fruit

After Desmond

P1050299

The storm came, the rains fell and the field behind our house developed a huge puddle. Or a small lake? It has flooded before, although not often, but this is the largest expanse of wet which we’ve seen there. It has never, to our knowledge, burst through the wall and flooded Bottom’s Lane for instance…

P1050305 

…and I’ve never seen the graveyard flooded before. When you look at the depth of the water compared to the headstones you should bear in mind the fact that the ground in the cemetery is considerably higher than the land around it – soil was brought in to give a sufficient depth to make burials feasible; generally, the bedrock is not far beneath the surface in this area.

P1050312 

Little S was very taken by the transformed landscape. Waterscape.

P1050316 

This is Lambert’s meadow, or Lambert’s Lake as it seems to have become.

P1050317 

Naturally TBH had to wade through the water to get to the submerged bridge.

P1050325 

Sadly, I didn’t capture the expression on her face when the inevitable happened and the water over-topped her boots.

P1050339 

Burtonwell.

Later, as the light was fading, I had another short walk on Warton Crag.

P1050342

There’s often flooding around Warton, but I’ve never seen it like this. With Kendal and Lancaster both flooded, in Silverdale we had a very lucky escape with no adverse effects at all. The extent of our fortune was brought home to me as the sun sank and the familiar view was eerily unfamiliar because of the absence of streetlights or lighted windows – Warton, Carnforth, Lancaster and many other places south of us were without electricity and would continue to be so intermittently for much of the following week.

P1050351

After Desmond

Warton Crag Hill Fort

P1040845

Another Heritage Open Day, and another guided walk organised by Morecambe Bay Partnership. I hadn’t booked this one, but having enjoyed the previous day’s outing on and around Piel Island, and having always been intrigued by the presence of a hill-fort practically on our doorstep on Warton Crag, decided that it would be a shame to miss this opportunity to find out more.

Apparently, until relatively recently, the ruins on the crag were obvious on even quite impressive, but….

P1040848 

….since most of the crag came into public ownership as nature reserves, it has become heavily wooded, and I’ve never been able to find any tangible sign of former occupation. The walk, and the talks which accompanied it, were fascinating. Finding out about this artist’s impression of what the Crag may have looked like…

Warton Crag Fort

…was worth the entrance fee alone. (Not that there was an entrance fee.) The painting is by John Hodgson, and I’d love to have a framed print of it on my wall.

A group from an archaeology evening class in Lancaster have been carrying out what has clearly been a pain-staking and very thorough survey of the remains on the hill. With the help of one member of the class we toured the area and looked for some of those ruins. 

P1040852

The walls are extremely difficult to spot, even when you are almost standing on top of them. Apparently, they are a bit easier to find in the winter months when some of the undergrowth dies back. We saw some photos taken after an area of trees had been felled and one section of wall there was quite clear and easy to see.

On our trip, this…

P1040855 

…was about the clearest view we had. The wall was a bit more obvious than the photo suggests, but it would still have been very easy to walk past it without noticing.

P1040858 

Bright and sunny like the previous day, it was also reasonably warm, so that bees and butterflies were out and about.

P1040860 

P1040862

Warton Crag Hill Fort

Whitsun Treadings IV: Wildflowers and Cuckoo Fanciers On Warton Crag

P1030678

It’s a cause of ongoing frustration to TBH that I tend to snap away taking endless photos of distant views whilst neglecting to capture images of our family and friends. On this occasion I not only managed the latter, but also apparently spurned the marvellous views as well. Instead I took lots of photos of flowers.

P1030685

Warton Crag is a modest hill and a quick ascent and descent could almost certainly be managed in around half an hour. (Less I suppose given that Joss Naylor could run from Wasdale Head up Scafell Pike and back in 47 minutes.) But we chose instead to sort of spiral in, via the Three Brothers and numerous pleasant copses and glades.

 P1030687

When we’d arrived in the car-park we heard a cuckoo calling. We heard the same again several times whilst we were out that day. Rather suspiciously we often saw the same two people, away from the principal paths, just before or after we heard the cuckoo(s), and always in roughly the direction we thought we’d heard the cuckoo from. Later, the Proper Birder told me that the BTO were trying to catch cuckoos in the area so that they could attach a tracking device to them. The Proper Birder was very excited because two of the cuckoos they tagged were from close to her home in the Forest of Bowland. On the BTO’s website you can track the southward progress of the birds. You can see also that they didn’t find a bird on Warton Crag. But they wouldn’t have been there had they not had good intelligence that cuckoos were present, so it is possible that some of the calls we heard weren’t recordings being used to lure cuckoos, but actual resident cuckoos, which would make them the first I have heard in the immediate area around home.

Whitsun Treadings IV: Wildflowers and Cuckoo Fanciers On Warton Crag

Clouds, Mist, Sunset, Moon from Warton Crag

A Saturday afternoon early in January. The day after our Black Fell outing in fact. The forecast for the day was pretty dismal, except that around three o’clock the cloud and rain was apparently going to clear to give a final hour of sunshine to close the short winter day. And it did. The transformation was so quick that it was quite stunning: blue sky suddenly seemed to materialise where all had been grey and gloom.

I’d planned ahead – I would head to Carnforth to do some grocery shopping, but pause en route for a quick jaunt up Warton Crag. I found a path I’d never followed before, which gave a very pleasant stroll to the top. I didn’t stop to take photos – the views were clear, extensive and glorious, but they would be so much better from a higher vantage point I thought, and besides, I wanted to reach the summit in time for the sunset.

P1000565

But when I got there, a low blanket of cloud had rolled in off the sea. The Cumbrian Fells were obscured.

The bay was only hazily visible…

P1000566 

And the coast to the south and the Bowland hills were missing from the view too….

P1000564 

But as you can see, the sun was suffusing the thin layer of cloud with colours and the cloud was still rolling through, shifting and tearing, putting on a real show.

P1000573

There were a few other people at the top, chatting, taking photos and enjoying the spectacle.

P1000577 

Gradually the cloud was thinning and clearing away.

P1000579

And the sun was inexorably sliding towards the horizon.

P1000584 

P1000589 

P1000597 

P1000598

P1000604 

P1000606 

As soon as the sun finally disappeared, the temperature appreciably dropped. Or maybe it just felt colder. When I checked my watch, I could hardly believe that I’d only been watching for about 15 minutes – I took so many photos, and I felt like I’d been there an age.

In the meantime, the Lake District hills had reappeared to the north…

P1000608 

As I turned to head back to the car, I noticed that the moon was already high in the eastern sky. The shadowy bulk to the right of the moon is Ingleborough.

P1000637 

My new camera does pretty well with hand held shots of the moon (switched to black and white mode and with the exposure compensation turned down as far as it will go).

P1000635

Having found a path which was new to me on my way up, I followed my favourite old familiar one on the way down. It follows a limestone edge and on this occasion gave great views of a thin smear of mist rising across the salt marsh and the fields.

P1000647

P1000648 

And of the lights coming on in Warton, Millhead and Carnforth and the flooded fields which surround Warton every winter.

P1000659 

P1000666 

P1000676

The moon and Ingleborough again. It was, for all intents and purposes, dark when I took this shot – I’m amazed how much colour it has in it. I’m quite excited about the potential of my new toy!

Not bad for a walk that lasted around an hour and half.

Clouds, Mist, Sunset, Moon from Warton Crag

Warton Crag and the Three Brothers (2 and 36)

Warton Crag Quarry Car park

Another cold and bright day, just over a week ago now. (I’m getting quite behind, which is good: it’s because we’re getting out together a lot.) We decided to head for Warton Crag. The boys and I had been here just a week before, but fortunately the hill is criss-crossed by paths and it was very easy to ring the changes. We followed a path out of the north side of the large quarry car park and then turned up the hill. I was struck by the profusion and variety of the lichen adorning the scrub here…

Lichen I 

Lichen III 

Lichen IV 

Lichen V 

Very quickly, views opened up to the North….

Coniston Fells from Warton Crag 

Coniston Fells from Warton Crag.

A little further up the slope we met a family indulging in the traditional Easter pastime of egg-rolling. It’s not something I’ve ever tried, but maybe next year…?

There’s been a great deal of moaning, and I’m as guilty as the next man, about our apparent perpetual winter, but I have to say that the snow on the surrounding hills really enhances the view. As well as the Lakeland Fells to the North, we had grandstand views of the Forest of Bowland to the South and in the East the distant sentinel of Ingleborough.

Distant Ingleborough from Warton Crag 

…which is distinctive from just about any direction….

Ingleborough (telephoto) 

As I say, there are numerous routes to the top of the crag, and all of them have some points of interest along the way, like a limestone crag to scale for instance….

A and S investigate a limestone crag 

Fortunately, there’s an easy way up just a few yards along the crag from here.

View from near the summit of Warton Crag 

Like all the local hills, Warton Crag is of very modest elevation and we were soon at the top.

By the trig pillar 

Where alongside the trig pillar stands a replica beacon erected, I believe, in 1988 to commemorate the defeat (by the weather) of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Beacon 

From the top we dived into the woods…

The way through the woods 

Heading for The Three Brothers….

Three Brothers 

…which were a big hit with the kids who saw them as an excellent opportunity to do a little bouldering.

The Three Brothers are a little off the beaten track and take a bit of seeking out. You’ll rarely encounter other walkers in this area. We did meet two groups of roe deer however, first a group of three and then, shortly after, another pair.

Roe deer bottoms

From that point on we were winding our way through the woods back towards the car. Passing a few more interesting features along the way….

Easter Island Heads 

…including a substantial area of gooseberry bushes which I have mentally noted as a destination for a foraging trip in the summer.

Descending through the trees

Warton Crag and the Three Brothers (2 and 36)

Life’s Rich Pageant

Thursday afternoon – blue skies and sunshine naturally.  Once again I was walking home from Carnforth. This time I decided to stop to look at the churchyard at Saint Oswald’s in Warton, inspired by Francesca Greenoak and the flower dappled  churchyard at Holy Trinity in Seathwaite. Sadly at Saint Oswald’s all is carefully manicured lawns – not much scope for wildflowers here. The churchyard is very large – not too surprising when you realise that historically Warton was a huge parish incorporating Silverdale, the Yealands and several other villages. Since the grounds were a little disappointing I popped into the church itself…

Apparently there may have been a church here since before the Norman conquest and the oldest part of the current building is 14th Century. The Stars and Stripes hangs alongside the Union Jack inside the church, sent by American servicemen after WW2 due to Warton’s connection to the ancestors of George Washington, also celebrated in the name of one of the village’s pubs…

On this occasion I wasn’t tarrying for a pint however: too much to see. Behind the pub the crag road climbs steeply and a little way up that road is a small car park, the back wall of which is liberally festooned with red valerian…

..which confusingly, can also be white…

..an introduced species from the Mediterranean which is obviously very happy on these limestone cliffs.

I feel like I’ve turned something of a corner when it comes to identifying flowers – although I haven’t entirely got the hang of using the keys I have at least learned to look at the entire plant and I’m beginning to pick up on familial traits which give useful clues. I’m far from expert, but I’m getting better.

With grasses etc. I’m not even sure that I’ve made it to square one yet.

Could this be red fescue? Gettin to grips with grasses, sedges and ferns etc. is bound to be a steep learning curve, but I know that I shall enjoy looking. Already I’m quite taken aback by the huge variety I’ve discovered since I began to take more careful note.

Meanwhile the large clumps of biting stonecrop which I noticed on a previous Thursday afternoon’s Shank’s Pony commute…

…have begun to flower…

 Across Carnforth to Clougha Pike – must get back there sometime.

When I found these…

….before on Heald Brow, I tentatively identified them as quaking grass. I’m feeling much more confident now. After all the inflorescence (ooh I know – get me) is…

Inflorescence a pyramidal panicle, with very distinctive ovoid to broadly triangular spikelets 4 – 12mm, usually purplish, shaking in the wind on slender stalks *

They’re certainly very distinctive and rather handsome too.

Here on the crag they were plentiful too and since I first saw them they have grown and spread out like a child’s mobile so that they really do quake in the breeze. Quite hard to catch on camera the overall effect…

Of course, having boasted about my abilities as a plant identifier, I can’t trace this large and very vigorous one…

…which looks like it may be about to flower…

 

…so hopefully I can come back again soon and get some more clues. (The keys led me to a couple of plants neither of which quite seemed to match, but we shall see…)

No keys needed for red clover…

 

….I just enjoyed these three flowers, all on the same plant and seeming to offer an opportunity for a sort of faked time-lapse sequence.

I saw a number of butterflies and some damselflies but none would cooperate by sitting still for a photo. I chased one orange butterfly – some sort of fritillary I hoped, and when I lost it, noticed this large egg-shell down in the grass.

I thought that this might be flea sedge….

…but I searched for images and now I’m not at all convinced.

These tiny flowers are a bedstraw, but hard to decide which one. Heath bedstraw looks favourite except that it favours acid soils.

This had been one of my slower ascents of Warton Crag. Once over the top I was into the woods and the vegetation changed.

In the shade under the canopy, there’s lots of this…

..which I think is male fern…

This is black bryony…

…which is dioecious  (ie male and female flowers on different plants) , apparently related to the yam, although you wouldn’t want to eat it – the berries it produces are poisonous (other parts of the plant can apparently be safely eaten after cooking but would you want to risk it?) According to Gabrielle Hatfield** it has several uses in folk medicine including the treatment of bruises, hence the French name ‘herbe aux femmes battues’ – the plant for battered wives.

 Lakeland hills from Summer House Hill.

Walking down past Leighton Hall I was struck by a meadow blushed white by oxeye daisies….

On the opposite side of the driveway a similar effect was achieved by more daisies..

…a mayweed or a chamomile, but I couldn’t get the closer look needed to try what looks like the tricky task of deciding which this is.

Meadow vetchling. 

So confident am I feeling, in fact, in my ability to chase down the identity of flowers that I thought I might even take on an umbellifer. How difficult could it be? The flowers seem quite distinctive…

And the pinnate leaves….

The stem is grooved. It’s growing in a damp spot on the edge of the causeway path across Leighton Moss. Easy surely?

Well…I’ve tussled with it for ages. It looks like wild celery. I quite like this idea – it would give me an opportunity to tell the story of the ‘ancient Incan’ herbal tea I was given in Peru when I went down with Cuzco tummy, which it transpired was made by steeping celery leaves in hot water. Made me feel much better though. But…if this is wild celery then why can’t I find a picture of wild celery anywhere which shows these striking red stamens?

Because it isn’t wild celery at all, it’s Hemlock Water-dropwort. You wouldn’t be well advised to be drinking  a tea made by steeping these leaves in hot water. You might find yourself with a ‘dead tongue’ which is an old Cumbrian name for this plant. Or you might just find yourself dead, since this is one of Britain’s most poisonous plants.

 

There were several of these along the causeway too. If I had needed any convincing about ‘The Wild Flower Key’ after Sheila’s recommendation, I need only have flicked through the few pages on orchids, which I have just done – and now I can pronounce with confidence, rather than my usual bemused confusion, that these are common spotted orchid.

Reed-bed view.

I listened for quite some time to a warbler (I like to think sedge warbler but I know I’m only kidding myself when I think that I can tell the difference.) and was charmed again by a family of long-tailed tits chattering and hopping about in the alders on either side of the path. One of the marsh harrier was circling overhead. Generally they fly quite low over the reed-beds, but this was much higher than usual. Also it was calling, which I’ve never heard before, a rather plaintive cry.

I’ve written before about the wonderful spiral patterns in the centre of oxeye daisies.  On this occasion paying attention to the daisies yielded additional rewards…

I think that this is a honey bee. If you look at the wings you can see a long thin cell on the outside edge, a marginal cell, which almost extends as far as the wing-tip and then three sub-marginal cells next to that which apparently is characteristic of honey bees.

Frustratingly, I can’t find this natty pin-striped hover fly in my book. Ferdinandea cuprea has grey and black stripes on the thorax but a bronze abdomen whereas through the wings this seems to have stripes. Another hover fly rhingia campestris has a prominent snout, which this seems to have, but also a very striking orange abdomen. No mention is made in the description of either of banded legs. I shall call him Malvolio, for now at least, because he is cross-gartered and yellow-stockinged.

Where the causeway crosses a bridge and the view opens-out because there’s a gap in the reed-bed, I’ve learned to approach slowly and cautiously because that way there is often something interesting to see.

There were three red deer hinds in all. Unlike last time that I saw deer at close range here, the deer soon turned and disappeared into the reeds.

Even if there’s no wildlife to see, the view is special in itself.

 

This tall plant with flowers hidden behind it’s own long and abundant stamens is common meadow-rue.

I’ve drawn a blank with this too. It’s quite small, sitting on an alder leaf. I thought maybe a wasp, but I’ve got no further than that.

 Figwort.

Pleasantly red – no idea what it is.

Bittersweet flowers are tiny but very striking. This plant is related to the potato and the aubergine, but again the berries it produces are best avoided. They cause sickness rather than death.

The plant’s species name dulcamara, is derived from two Latin words meaning sweet and bitter.

Because of the presence of the toxic alkaloid solanine in the stem, leaves and berries, they taste bitter at first and then sweet.#

 

 

Could this be star sedge?

In the hedgerow, a vigorous climber covered in lots of unopened flowers like the one above, and some open flowers….

 Tufted vetch.

Nearby…

..another purple vetch which I think is wood-bitter vetch.

 

This fern has grey-green patches where the leaves attach to the stem. Any ideas?

 

this apparently unperturbable bunny let me walk right up to it,

..and past…

..without ever being too distracted from the golf-course grass.

I noticed that many of the oxeye daisies I passed were infested with what I presume are aphids. Apparently there are around 550 British species, so I shall just content myself with ‘aphid’.

Whilst I was meandering home taking frivolous photos, the fields around the village were busy with the making of sileage…

* Guide to the Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns of Britain and Northern Europe by Fitter, Fitter and Farrer

**Hatfield’s Herbal                   by Gabrielle Hatfield

# Reader’s Digest  Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain

———————————————————————————————————————–

It’s  all Andy’s fault.

He set me a quiz question and I enjoyed both answering it (even if I did have to cheat) and the discussion which followed.

So (and also by way of a trailer for the next post) how well do you know your Lake District?

Which valley are you in if you can see: Truss Gap, Seat Robert, Mosedale Beck Forces, Gouthercrag and Hobgrumble Gill?

Life’s Rich Pageant