Levens Deer Park and Force Falls

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Force Falls River Kent.

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Bullfinch.

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River Kent.

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Avenue of trees (Oaks and Sweet Chestnuts).

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A hollow tree (one of many).

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Bagot Goats.

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River Kent.

This little outing has appeared on the blog many times before. These photos are from the Monday immediately after our Howgill camping trip. A had dance lessons, which meant I had a two hour window and this walk proved to be easily manageable in that time frame, actually with time to spare without hurrying unduly. A perfect, peaceful leg stretcher.

Levens Deer Park and Force Falls

Blakethwaite Bottom Wild-Camp

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Carlin Gill (Carlin Gill Beck on the OS Map, but surely the ‘beck’ is redundant.)

The Hardman, the Shandy Sherpa and I have been discussing the possibility of getting our respective kids out for a wild-camp together for a year or two now. Earlier this year that pipe-dream moved a little closer to reality when we all committed to two summer weekends which we would reserve for that purpose. The second weekend would be a fall-back: if the forecast for the first weekend was diabolical, we planned to keep our powder dry and wait for the second weekend. We also had a destination picked out: Upper Eskdale, somewhere that Andy and I have both camped many times before, and wanted to share with the kids.

When the first allotted weekend was approaching the forecast was, if not diabolical, at least not very encouraging, with lots of wind and rain expected. Andy sent an email all but scotching any chance of his participation, much to my relief, but Brian responded by stating that if we were both out, he – as befits the Hardman – would take his own kids camping more locally, in ‘a peat bog on Kinder’. I consulted my family: TBH bowed out before I’d even finished asking, S rapidly agreed, A was more reluctant to abandon our plan, but thought that was for the best, but B is made of sterner stuff and expressed a desire to hold firm to our plan. Andy must have had a similar conversation with TJS because on the Friday night they drove up to ours. In the meantime, A had changed her mind and decided to join us and, with the worst weather predicted for the Western lakes, we’d hit upon Plan B: a walk up Carlin Gill and a camp at Blakethwaite Bottom (as recommended by no less an authority than Mr Knipe).

Frankly, I was concerned that we might all be barking mad.

We parked the cars just off the Fairmile Road at about two o’clock on the Saturday afternoon after several hours of continuous heavy rain. The Lune was a thick brown torrent and Carlin Gill was also running very high. Although the cloud was low, the rain was slackening and showing signs of finally coming to an end. Our original plan to follow Carlin Gill now seemed a bit unwise, especially given that we would probably need to cross the gill, which was going to be extremely difficult, if not down right dangerous.

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Grains Gill, Weasel Gill and Carlin Gill. 

Instead we climbed up out of the valley, passing a small herd of horses on our way, and over the top of Linghaw, where it was very blowy. From the col between Linghaw and Fell Head we took the path which traverses the steep slopes round the head of Small Gill.

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What a find this was! I always enjoy a contouring path and I think that in this case the fog enhanced the drama. The kids seemed to be enjoying themselves despite the adversity…

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B’s rucksack, which is almost as big as he is, is vintage, an old Berghaus model which my Dad used when we walked the Pennine Way together in 1985. Come to that, I was also using my 1985 bag, a Karrimor Jaguar 6. Will Sports Direct honour the lifetime guarantee do you think?

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The cloud was gradually lifting a little, giving tantalising glimpses of sunshine down in the Lune Gorge.

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I’d made a last minute decision to keep the weight in my pack down by borrowing TBH’s little point and snap camera, which was now telling me that it’s battery was spent. I found that if I turned it off and turned it back on again, I could convince it to keeping eking out a few more pictures.

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Folded strata at the top of Black Force.

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The Spout.

Blakethwaite Bottom, it transpired, was somewhat waterlogged, but after some careful reconnaissance we found a good spot. It was stony, with just a very thin covering of soil, which made it hard to get the pegs in, but it was sheltered, with a handy water source and proved to be surprisingly comfortable.

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The weather was still threatening to brighten up…

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So, after we’d eaten, we climbed Uldale Head. The top was still in mist, but we had good views from just short of the summit. A real gale was blowing up there. We all enjoyed playing with the wind – the kids were using their coats as wings, and jumping up to see how far it would carry them. We all spread our arms and leaned as far forward into the wind as we could get away with. I didn’t take any photos, but A has one of me looking quite demented and I’m worried that Andy might soon be posting something similar (Edit: my fears are confirmed – his take on our madcap outing, with more, and better, photos, is here.)

B, who had persuaded me that coming on the weekend was a good idea, thoroughly relished the whole affair. As the light faded, he was devising a makeshift boules set from various rocks he found around the camp. I offered to play him, and almost immediately, everyone else was keen to join in.

I slept much better than I did on Little Stand, partly because we were much more sheltered from the wind, but mostly, I think, because I’d borrowed TBH’s new sleeping mat – it’s much heavier than mine, but the extra weight may be worth it. In the night I realised that the burbling sound of the stream by the tents had completely gone – a reflection of the falling water levels.

I woke the next morning to the sound of a shower on the flysheet, but, mercifully, it was short-lived. We’d been joined at some point…

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…by some Fell Ponies. Although some seemed quite large to qualify as ponies.

There were seventeen horses in total, including four foals.

I had a quiet brew, and since I couldn’t hear any evidence of activity from the others (unless you count a bit of snoring), decided to head off for a short wander.

I climbed round to Hand Lake, then turned back over Docker Knott and Over Sale, returning via Great Ulgill Beck. The sun even shone.

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Churn Gill and Middleton.

When I got back, breakfast was on the go, under the intense gaze of a herd of cows which  had joined the horses, but which seemed much more intent on closely examining what we were doing than the horses were.

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Breakfast was on the go, that is, except in our tent, where A and B were still luxuriating in their sleeping bags. Andy had loaned us his three man Lightwave tent, an astonishing piece of kit, which had been just right for the job. (A has a three person tent by Quechua, which I’m impressed with, it’s very light, but I was worried about it’s potential performance in foul weather). Incredibly generously, Andy’s now made the loan indefinite, and I can’t wait to get out and use it again, before he comes to his senses!

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Naturally, Sod’s Law was in operation, as usual, and as we packed the tents away another brief shower ensured that we didn’t get them away dry. Then, as we set off, we were subjected to one of the fiercest, coldest spells of rain I’ve experienced in a long while – something akin to the torrential downpours which accompany thunderstorms in the bigger mountain ranges. Fortunately for us, it only lasted about ten minutes.

We retraced our steps to the top of Black Force. You can see here…

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…that Andy is descending the faint path down the rib at the edge of the falls, but there was a strong wind blowing across the hillside and I had visions of one of the kids being swept over the edge. They followed Brian down the gully to the right of the rib, which was steep but manageable.

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Brian crossing Carlin Gill – much less water in it by now.

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Black Force.

All that remained was a saunter back to the car, with several crossings of the gill, which most of the children found highly amusing. Of course the weather had one more shower for us, arriving just as we stopped for a bite of lunch and a brew…

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I don’t think anyone was disheartened. Certainly not the kids, they were too busy lobbing boulders into the beck to really notice.

A little further down the valley we stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a horse. The pelvic and thigh bones were huge. I noticed the gleam in B’s eye and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he wasn’t to take any of them home with him. He defiantly carried a massive bone a little way, but I think he left it behind. Either that or he’s hidden it well since we got back.

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Carlin Gill in calmer mood.

We arrived back at the cars almost exactly 24 hours after we had set off, a bit soggy but decidedly happy.

“How did that compare with Little Stand?”, I asked B.

“Even better.”

I think, and hope, that for the kids, this trip, with the wind and the rain, the horses and the cows, the stream crossings and heavy showers, the nine pm, hilltop, human kite festival, was a bit of an adventure, a break from the norm. I’m not sure, with retrospect, that different weather conditions would have made the trip any more enjoyable than it already was. It was certainly memorable. I am sure though, that what’s key on a outing of this sort is the company you keep, and in that regard we couldn’t have asked for more.

The only tarnish on the weekend was the fact that we returned to find that Andy’s new(ish) car was badly dented, we think by a horse. I wondered whether anybody had heard of anything similar happening to cars left on the Fairmile Road?

Blakethwaite Bottom Wild-Camp

The Twiss and the Doe.

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Juvenile Dipper.

“That’s a pretty full set of experiences for an evening walk. Flowers, birds, deer, caves, gorges, rivers.”

“Yes – I may continue this theme of exploring tributaries of the Lune – a walk which starts low in the Lune valley and then climbs up into the hills gives a tremendous variety of scenery, flora, fauna etc.”

“I think your suggested tributary project is a good idea.”

This exchange, between Andy, Conrad and myself, from the comments on a previous post, really set me to thinking. The idea of exploring the tributaries of the Lune, which started life as no more than an off-the-cuff remark, now seemed really quite enticing. I found a list of tributaries on Wikipedia; even a cursory glance at a map revealed that list to be far from comprehensive, but there’s intrigue and poetry in some of the names: Peggymarsh Pool, Whitespout Gutter, Sweet Beck, Traitor’s Gill, Aygill, Wrestle Gill. There are some familiar names which surprised me a little: the waterfalls on the River Rawthey which drains Baugh Fell and Widboar Fell and the Mare’s Tail on Whernside both ultimately feed into the Lune, as does Fell Beck which tumbles into the yawning chasm of Gaping Gill and resurges from Ingleborough Cave. On the other hand, there are many more unfamiliar areas: Birk Beck up near Shap, the many becks and gills which run down the northern valleys of the Howgills into the infant Lune, the River Wenning and it’s valley.

I’ve begun to pore over maps even more than I usually do; tracing wriggling blue lines back up away from the Lune through steepening contours. Of course, not even obsession is original: while looking for a map of the Lune watershed I came across ‘The Land of the Lune’ by John Self. I’ve a strong feeling that I’ve seen this book before, made a mental note that I ought to buy it in future, and then promptly forgotten. Fortunately for me, the second addition is available free online. I suspect I shall be consulting it a lot in the coming months.

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Swilla Glen.

Anyway, after two days of heavy rain, when the opportunity of an after work walk presented itself, something with waterfalls seemed appropriate. I opted for the Rivers Twiss and Doe, which join to form the River Greta and then flow into the Lune. Of course, this is better known as the Ingleton Waterfalls walk, and has appeared on this blog once before. According to the leaflet I was handed when I paid my fee for parking and for the walk, the route is roughly 4½ miles and should take between 2½ and 4 hours. I had already decided that, having paid for the privilege, I was going to do the leisurely version and get value for money. (I had thought about parking elsewhere in the village and walking the route in reverse, thus circumventing the charge, but…£6 well spent I thought, you can judge for yourself at the end of the post!)

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There were still quite a few other people embarking on the route even though it was quite late, but they’d soon left me behind because I spent so long taking numerous blurred photos of the juvenile Dipper and the parent who was in attendance. The interactions between the adult bird and the youngster were momentary and purposeful and often involved the fledgling moving before receiving its snack, so that the only photo I managed to get of them together involves a lot of moving feathers and smudged wings.

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Taking my time like this, I was pleasantly surprised by how rocky and steep-sided the Swilla Glen is. I also don’t recall ever noticing this cave before.

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Grey Wagtail.

When I finally left behind the distraction of the Dippers, I found I moved into the territories of several Grey Wagtails. I took a lot more photos, and some of them even came out reasonably sharp.

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Early Bumblebee on Water Avens.

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Pecca Falls.

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Thornton Force.

Near Thornton Force I sat on a bench to eat a snack and watched a group of hard-hatted, hammer-toting geology students, the latest in a series of such encounters along the Glen.

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Pied Wagtail.

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Above the Force, it was the turn of a Pied Wagtail to pose for many photos.

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Another male Reed Bunting.

I tried, in vain, to get photos of the Sand Martins which were streaming along above the river.

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A Meadow Pipit (perhaps).

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Looking towards the Forest of Bowland.

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Ingleborough.

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Beezley Falls.

There are many waterfalls on both the Twiss and the Doe and I haven’t included photos of them all. This may be one of the smallest…

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…but look for the little speck of white on the mossy rock on the far bank. It’s another…

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Dipper.

It was preening itself. I was standing with my back to the trunk of the tree on the left of the photo below and the Dipper didn’t seem to be aware of my presence. I was able to take lots of photos, but unfortunately most of them are blurred.

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Baxenghyll Gorge,

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Throughout almost all of the walk, I could hear woodland birds on all sides, but generally couldn’t see them. Towards the end of the outing I heard Woodpeckers on more than one occasion. Eventually I managed to pick out one of them in the canopy above…

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Great-spotted Woodpecker.

I do realise that not all of the Lune’s tributaries are this spectacular; still, this has hardly dampened my enthusiasm for the scheme!

The Twiss and the Doe.

Leck Beck and Ease Gill Kirk from Cowan Bridge.

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Another Wednesday night and another after-work outing, this time starting at Cowan Bridge which is between Kirkby Lonsdale and Ingleton. This row of cottages is the village’s claim to fame. It once housed the Clergy Daughters’ School, once attended by the Bronte sisters…

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…and the model for the Lowood Institution in Jane Eyre, although apparently the reality was even more brutal than the fictionalised version. Maria and Elizabeth both died of tuberculosis after an outbreak of typhoid at the school.

Fortunately, the walk along Leck Beck from Cowan Bridge is a much more cheery prospect.

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There were great swathes of flowers. An under-storey of Ramsons…

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…the subtle yellow tinge of Crosswort…

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…spikes of Bugle…

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…a really dense patch of Stitchwort…

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…lots of Bluebells and Hawthorn…

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…and another Wild Privet tree, which was heavily infested with webs full of caterpillars…

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The village of Leck.

I’m currently reading ‘Counting Sheep’ by Philip Walling and realising just how variable the sheep I pass on my strolls are. By Leck there was a flock of quite long-wooled sheep, very different from the hill-sheep you might expect to see in this area. Apparently, there are thought to be more breeds of sheep in the UK than in any other country in the world. Although, as usual, I really don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m going to stick my neck out and hazard a guess that this lamb…

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…is a South Down.

Leaving Leck I crossed a couple of fields and then entered Springs Wood…

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A substantial footbridge over the beck was leaning at an alarming angle…

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I suspect that after rain this can be a raging torrent.

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Just short of the boundary to open access land, I was intrigued by this lonely wooden cabin…

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…but can’t find any information about it on the interweb.

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I’ve walked this way at least a couple of times before, once with my Dad shortly after he retired, when he brought a caravan up and camped behind the Whoop Hall Inn near Kirkby Lonsdale and we had a very good week’s walking together. That must have been back in the early nineties and we had to stick to the footpath which follows the hillside somewhat above the beck. This time I decided to more closely shadow the watercourse, where possible. That immediately brought me onto some very soggy ground, an ideal place to find Marsh Valerian…

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Early Purple Orchid.

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Leck Beck.

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Cream-spot Ladybird.

I found three broken eggs on the ground, all around the same size (quite large) but all slightly different in colour.

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I had to climb away from the stream a little here to find a stile. I descended toward the stream again, but realised that the bank was too steep, so had to climb again to the path.

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I didn’t find Leck Beck Head, the resurgence where all this water flows from, but the path brought me to the edge of a steep sided ravine. I found a way into it, but, although no water was flowing through it, there were large pools and also rocky, dry ‘falls’, so that I was unable to make progress along the bottom of the ravine. I climbed out and then found another way in, further uphill which brought me to Ease Gill Kirk…

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…a really atmospheric spot where the walls of the ravine are absolutely peppered with caves, many of them, presumably, entrances into the The Three Counties System, “the longest and most complex system in Britain” (source) with around 89km of passages.

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I climbed out of the ravine yet again, then dropped down into it again a little further ‘upstream’. It was more open here and must have been very close to where I joined Ease Gill when I came this way last. (I’m a bit taken aback to find that was three years ago.)

A group of four Ravens were apparently very vexed by my intrusion and circled around ronking noisily. What I’m pretty sure was a Cuckoo dashed across the empty stream bed and into a tree above on the hillside. I followed, climbing away from Ease Gill, this time for the last time, and finding an outcrop of limestone to sit beside for a quick bite to eat.

The nature of the terrain changed from here on, as I crossed mostly pathless, heathery moorland, passing numerous sinkholes and quite a few potholes, usually marked out by the trees protruding from them.

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Smokey Hole or Peterson Pot, not sure which.

They have sonorous names – Smokey Hole, Peterson Pot, Death’s Head Hole, Eyeholes, Long Drop Cave, Rumbling Cave, Rumbling Hole and Short Drop Cave – but are not particularly exciting to look at, at least from above. Rumbling Hole does at least have the sound of running water to enliven it.

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Looking towards Morecambe Bay and Warton Crag – there’s a hot-air balloon flying in the distance.

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Great Coum and Crag Hill.

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Another largish egg, but clearly of a different species.

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Leck Fell House and Gragareth.

The moor was extremely busy with small birds.

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Meadow Pipit?

I heard lots of calls which had me thinking ‘Stonechat’, although why I felt so sure of myself I don’t know, because they aren’t birds I encounter very often. I was right though, for once; on a fencepost by Eyeholes I managed to photograph a male, though it wasn’t a very sharp image. Then a female regaled me from a perch on a Mountain Ash growing out of Long Drop cave…

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Leck Fell House again.

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This large, and slightly grisly, nest was in a tree growing from Rumbling Cave. I don’t think it was occupied. I’m not sure what the bone was, but it was quite substantial.

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Leck Fell Road, looking toward The Forest of Bowland.

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A parhelion, or sundog.

For the walk back to Cowan Bridge I stuck to the Leck Fell Road – I don’t usually choose to walk on roads, but it certainly makes navigation easy and this is a very minor road, although there was a bit of traffic, much to my surprise.

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As well as the sunset, I was entertained by a Roe Deer racing away from me across a field and by a pair of partridges comically running away, apparently petrified by my presence, but inexplicably unwilling to fly to escape.

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Leck Beck and Ease Gill Kirk from Cowan Bridge.

Teesdale – an Embarrassment of Riches

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Low Force.

Make a cup of tea, maybe grab a biscuit to dunk or an apple to crunch: this is a long one with a lot of pictures, but I think it’s worth a few moments of your time. OK, settled, ready? Then we’ll begin.

I’ve mentioned before that when I read John Fisher’s ‘Wild Flowers in Danger’ last year, and realised that many of the flowers in the book grow reasonably nearby, I resolved to make an effort to see some of those flowers this year. This trip was planned to, hopefully, find one of those rarities. Once I’d decided to drive up to Teesdale, I searched my bookshelves, wondering whether I might have a book with a suitable route to follow. I found one in Christopher Somerville’s ‘Somerville’s 100 Best British Walks’. (It is, I realise now, an anthology of walks from The Torygraph – you can find the Teesdale one here.) Somerville’s description made me all the more determined to come this way, but I really wanted to incorporate High Force and so devised a longer version. Then I decided I couldn’t omit Low Force, so extended the walk again. The trouble was, I already had things to do in the early evening, so an early start was necessary. I was walking just after seven (after a drive of about an hour and a half, mostly through rain, wondering what I was playing at.)

I parked in the picnic area near the visitor centre at Bowlees. They have a ‘donate and display’ scheme, an excellent idea I thought. As I arrived, the rain cleared and the sun began to shine, just as the forecast had predicted, although a little earlier than I had anticipated.

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This is Wynch Bridge, just below Low Force. I have a picture of my Dad here (well actually he has it) taken in April 1985 when we walked the Pennine Way together. He was a little younger then than I am now, a sobering thought, and like me, he had a white beard, although his was temporary, tolerated only until we returned home from Kirk Yetholm.

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Because I had a relatively long walk planned, and wanted to get home reasonably early, I knew that I couldn’t afford to hang around taking lots of photographs.

Some chance! There were just too many distractions.

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Low Force again.

In the first instance, the falls and the river. Low Force and High Force are the consequences of volcanic activity:

“High Force is a great place to see the famous Whin Sill. This is a layer of a hard, dark rock called dolerite, known locally as ‘whinstone’. The Whin Sill formed about 295 million years ago, when molten rock at over 1000°C rose up from within the Earth and spread out between layers of limestone, sandstone and shale. The molten rock cooled and solidified underground to form a flat sheet of rock, known as a ‘sill’. After millions of years of erosion the Whin Sill is now exposed at the Earth’s surface, forming dramatic landscape features such as High Force”

Source

Then, there was an absolute abundance of wild flowers. Some familiar: Bluebells, Wood Anemones, Primroses, Marsh Marigolds, Pignut, Early Purple Orchids…

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White-lipped Banded Snail.

Some less familiar, like this Globe Flower…

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It’s a kind of buttercup, but is relatively tall and has quite large flowers. It’s found in the north, mainly in wet, upland, limestone meadows.

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There were lots of birds too, many singing from the trees by the river, Lapwings and Curlews in the meadows, Dippers, Oystercatchers and Sandpipers by the river.

I have a strong feeling that this…

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..is a Garden Warbler, but the only thing I can say categorically is that it wasn’t a Chiff-chaff, its song was far too musical.

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Cowslips.

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Curlew.

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More Globe Flowers.

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Water Avens.

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More Cowslips.

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Common Sandpiper.

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I was surprised to see this Scurvy Grass here (the other flower is Cuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock). I thought that Scurvy Grass was a plant confined to coastal locations, but I think that this is Mountain Scurvygrass – the leaves are a slightly different shape from Common Scurvygrass.

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Even more Globe Flowers.

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When I was a boy, Lapwings – or Peewits as we called them – were a common farmland bird. Even then numbers were in decline and sadly that decline has continued. We’re fortunate to still see them close to home, and in the fields and skies around Roeburndale they had been present in great numbers.

But in Teesdale they were not only plentiful, but also less wary about human visitors.

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I took lots of photos of this individual, and as I did so, it moved towards me, not away as I would have expected.

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Rabbits too were both numerous…

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…and less wary than those I usually encounter.

This…

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…I’m hoping, is yet another phenomena which I’ve noticed several times over the years: when I manage to put a name to something, or notice it for the first time close to home, I then find that it is much more common than I previously realised. It happened with Bee Flies, Eyebright, Gatekeeper butterflies and I could probably quote a host of other instances if I put my mind to it. The surprising thing about this is that each of these things was apparently invisible to me for a period before I suddenly cottoned on to its presence. Now I think the same thing may happen with Wild Privet (supposing that is what this is!).

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What’s this ball of fluff?

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A fledgling Lapwing, watched over by a cautious parent.

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Bugle.

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Lady’s Mantle.

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Mountain Pansy.

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I came across Mountain Pansies several times during the day, at various altitudes. They were numerous and very variable in colour. Sadly, many of my photos didn’t come out too sharply.

As I approached High Force, I entered England’s largest Juniper woodland.

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I’ve never thought of an area of Junipers as woodland before, but I suppose it is. This one was rumbustiously alive with bird song, but the songsters were very well hidden on the whole. Only this Song Thrush showed itself for more than a brief moment.

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I’m hoping that somebody can help me with an identification for this tree. It was growing through a Juniper. I suppose it superficially resembles Elder, but I don’t think it is Elder.

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Sadly, the Junipers are under threat from a disease which is killing them off. At either end of the wood there were boot cleaning stations to be used as you exit, to stop the spread of the disease.

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I saw several Junipers with these orange fungal fruiting bodies on them and wondered whether this might be the pathogen.

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It isn’t, but I’m glad I photographed it, because these are telial horns of one of the species of Gymnosporangium. These fungi infect Junipers, produce these fruiting bodies which release spores which go on to infect a different plant: apples, pears, hawthorn, rowans…trees which are all from the same family (and a different species for each different species of Gymnosporangium, I think). There they produce a rust, galls on the leaves and then new fruiting bodies which produce spores which complete the life cycle by infecting Junipers. A parasite with alternating host species – where is the evolutionary advantage there?

Down below the Junipers, this…

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…had me puzzled. But I think it is a white flowered Bugle. Is that possible?

I’d finally reached High Force…

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Ironically, this view was taken from behind a safety barrier, but at the top of the waterfall, I could lean out and take a view straight over the drop…

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Just beyond High Force I witnessed a family meal for four. I actually thought I was watching some sort of territorial dispute, so aggressive were these juvenile Dippers.

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They kept up a constant racket and shook those stubby wings angrily.

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Eventually, one of the adults took some time out to preen itself close to the river bank…

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This was close to the incongruous scar of Dine Holm Quarry.

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The path climbed away from the rive for a while, on Bracken Rigg, before dropping down to the farm at Cronkley.

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Green Hill Scar and Cronkley Scar.

The meadows here were resplendent with a yellow wash of Marsh Marigolds.

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I had my first human interaction of the day here, a cheery wave from a very happy looking young lad driving a piece of farm machinery. (It wasn’t big enough to be a tractor, but a bit too big to be a quad bike so…I’m not sure what to call it.)

In the riverside meadows here there were several Redshanks…

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High House and the Scars again.

And lots of Lapwings…

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I also spotted a male Reed Bunting…

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The next long stretch by the river as it curved around Cronkley Fell was every bit as superb for birdwatching as the earlier sections had been, but with a definite change in the kind of birds showing.

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I think this is a Meadow Pippit.

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I would have missed this Frog, but for the fact that it took an extravagant leap into a sidestream as I crossed it, splashing very conspicuously.

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Common Sandpiper again (okay, not all of the birds were different).

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Wheatear.

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I’m even more convinced (i.e. almost convinced) that this is a Meadow Pippit. There were actually two birds which flew along the edge of the river ahead of me.

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More Bird’s-eye Primroses.

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Falcon Clints.

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Raven Scar and Fox Earths.

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Looking back down on Falcom Clints and the River Tees.

I finally left the river for the short climb to Man Gate and onto Cronkley Fell. It was here that I hoped to spot the rare flowers I had set out to find, but I had already enjoyed my walk so much that I decided that if they proved hard to find, I would be none-the-less happy about my decision to come this way.

In the event, I could hardly miss them…

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Spring Gentians.

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On Cronkley Fell several areas are fenced off to protect the flora, presumably from sheep and rabbits.

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The gentians are present here because of the Sugar Limestone…

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A metamorphic rock which has been crystallised by volcanic activity. It produces a fine, granular, almost sandy soil.

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I think that these tiny, delicate flowers…

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…are Spring Sandwort, such a good indicator of the presence of lead that it was also once known as Leadwort.

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More Mountain Pansies.

We are lucky at home, we have Bird’s-eye Primroses flowering nearby, right on the southern limit of their range. But I’ve never seen them growing in such profusion as they were here…

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I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a place sufficiently out of the wind to make it feasible to get my stove lit for a brew. Since I couldn’t, I rattled on, heading back down towards Bracken Rigg.

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Dropping down Birk Rigg I met a couple of walkers, the first I’d spoken to all day. It was around noon – these are lonely moors.

Well, they had been. I was vacillating: should I head back down Bracken Rigg and retrace my steps along the river, or vary the route by continuing along the higher moorland path. I’d enjoyed the riverside path so much that I was very tempted to follow that course, but just as I reached the path junction, a huge party came along the Pennine Way towards me from the river; I changed my mind and stuck with the higher path.

If I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have seen…

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…this, which I think is a Golden Plover. The only reason I’m unsure is that all of my books show that black patch on the belly extending all the way up to the face. But this is summer breeding plumage, so perhaps this is a transition phase.

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An unusual stile.

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Holwick Scars.

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Holwick.

I turned out of Holwick on a minor lane heading back down towards Bowlees. A small, grey raptor landed in a tree ahead. It was gone almost as quickly with a lapwing in hafl-hearted attendance. It had something clutched in its claws. A Lapwing chick? It occurred to me later that this might have been a Merlin?

The hedge bottom by this same lane had a superb display of very tall Water Avens.

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This Common Carder Bee was enjoying the Water Avens too. Moving with great agility from one flower to the next, without flying.

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Lovely colours!

As I arrived back at Low Force…

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I found myself quickly stripping off layers – it had been sunny for much of the morning, but now it was finally warming up.

I had thought at one point that I might struggle to get back for my later engagement, but now found that I unexpectedly had time for a bite of late lunch at the Visitor Centre…

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I ate outside by a busy flowerbed…

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…with bird-feeders just beyond.

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Nuthatch.

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Siskins.

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What a day!

And it wasn’t over yet: the reason I wanted to get home early was that The John Verity Band were playing at Five O’Clock in the Silverdale Hotel and we’d promised the kids we would take them. (It’s not often a former member of Argent plays in the pub around the corner – and if you know who Argent were, then you are showing your age). In the event, the kids made us leave at the interval – in some sort of weird role-reversal they complained that it was ‘too loud’. I was really enjoying myself. Fortunately, it seems that the band will be returning to the Lower House later this year, maybe more than once.

Teesdale

Teesdale – an Embarrassment of Riches

Whernside

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Ingleborough and Force Gill.

So, TBH was on holiday at last, the forecast was half decent, although it looked likely to be cold, some good friends were keen to join us, where should we go? You can see the answer from the title of the post – the boys were keen to tick-off the third of the Three Peaks triumvirate. Initially, I thought of an ascent from Dent, which is both quiet and also an excellent way to climb Whernside, but when I considered our party I thought that maybe this shorter route, from Ribblehead, would be a better bet.

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Waterfall in Force Gill.

We followed almost exactly the same route as I did last time I came this way.

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The kids seemed to enjoy hopping back and forth across the gill to find a suitable upstream route, and, like last time, progress was very slow.

In a sluggish side-stream, away from the main flow, I spotted…

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…what I thought was a Crowfoot, a ranunculus or buttercup which specialises in growing in water.

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Round-leaved Crowfoot (Ranunculus omiophyllus).

What I didn’t realise at the time is that there are nine different species of crowfoot (or crowfeet?) which grow in Britain, and that, apparently, they can be difficult to distinguish. But this seems to me to be fairly clearly Round-leaved Crowfoot:

“This plant prefers slow moving streams and ditches on acidic soils. It is very western in its distribution being present throughout Wales, the south west of England and north west England.”

Source

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Once again I saw Dippers and Wrens and Wagtails here by the stream.

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Mutiny was afoot, with growing calls for a lunch stop sooner rather than later. I assured my sceptical companions that I had somewhere in mind, and that it would be worth waiting for.

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And we duly halted when we reached The Mare’s Tail waterfall.

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Grey Wagtail.

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Force Gill.

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Lunch time!

It was after our lunch that we made our only small departure from the route of my previous visit. Remembering the soggy ground of Greensett Moss, I opted to take a line from the top of the waterfall away from the beck and back towards the path, which proved to be an excellent choice because the ground was firm and dry and made for easy-going.

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Greensett Tarn.

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The boys found a hole in the ground which, obviously, made them very happy.

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Ingleborough.

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Ribblehead and Pen-y-ghent.

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Looking back to Whernside.

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Ribblehead Viaduct.

A magnificent day out. The weather had been, if anything, slightly better than forecast, the company was terrific, the route up by the waterfalls is delightful and the boys have now completed the set and can start to put houses and hotels on it next time they pass Go and have some ready cash…..actually, has anyone thought of marketing a ‘Mountains Monopoly’? You heard it here first if not!

Edit: it seems, at least in America that something similar is already on the market.

Whernside

Pen-y-ghent

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The kids and I were on a mission. I like to climb a mountain on my birthday, if at all possible, or failing that, as close to the actual day as can be arranged. I knew that this year I would be recovering from surgery, and so wouldn’t be up to much on the Big Day, but our Easter holidays had begun (although sadly TBH was still working), and the forecast for the Monday and Tuesday before my op were almost perfect. What’s more, I’d remembered that in ‘Walks in Limestone Country’, Wainwright says:

“April visitors will ever afterwards remember Penyghent as the mountain of the purple saxifrage, for in April this beautiful plant decorates the white limestone cliffs on the 1900′ contour with vivid splashes of colour, especially being rampant along the western cliffs.”

Purple Saxifrage, Saxifraga Oppositifolia, is one of the flowers which appear in ‘Wild Flowers in Danger’ which don’t grow in the immediate vicinity of home, but which can be found within striking distance, and which I’ve therefore decided to seek out.

The sun was shining, the kids were all on fine form, and we made rapid progress up to the south ridge and to the lower line of cliffs seen above. And there just a short, steep climb above the path, we found…

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Purple Saxifrage.

It was almost an anticlimax, but only in as much as I’d been expecting a bit of a hunt to find it. I’m not sure how patient the children would have been with any lengthy deviations anyway, so it was probably for the best that we came across it so easily.

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We climbed part way up the steep nose of the ridge, but by now, Little S, always the first to crack, was demanding a lunch stop. When we reached the second steepening of the ridge we found a relatively sheltered spot, out of the wind, behind a wall.

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For the first time in quite a while, I’d brought a stove and the makings of a brew. I really enjoyed my hot drink, doubly so since the boys, who had made their own lunches and seriously miscalculated on quantities, were soon eating my lunch as well as their own.

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The second, gritstone line of cliffs. “It’s so wrinkled, it looks like an old man,” opined Little S.

From our lunch stop it was quick work to make the summit.

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You can probably tell that it was very windy. There is a clever S-shaped shelter there in the wall and we sat for a few minutes. I think the kids would have quite liked to stop for another lunch, had it not come so soon after our previous halt.

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Ingleborough and huge flags for repairing the Pennine Way path.

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Our descent brought us to the western cliffs, where, just as AW predicts, the Purple Saxifrage is ‘rampant’.

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“Traces of the Purple Saxifrage have been found in Britain in deposits that were laid down 20,000 years ago, that is before the end of the last Ice Age. As each of the glaciers retreated north towards the Pole, the Arctic alpine plants – of which the Purple Saxifrage is one – followed up, going ever northward. The Arctic alpines were in turn followed by plants that could live at higher temperatures and, when the ice finally vanished for good, the Saxifrages and other Arctic alpines had to find refuge wherever they could on high mountains, cliffs and the like.”

“At first the plant looks as though it had been showered with white dust, but a close examination of the leaves reveals that each is flattened and truncated near the tip, and that, in the flattened area, is a pore from which small nuggets of limestone are expelled. One would hardly have expected this to happen, as the Purple Saxifrage favours sites that are rich in lime. But the plant also likes constant running water and perhaps this sometimes contains more lime than was bargained for. At any rate most Purple Saxifrages seem to have lime to spare.”

Wild Flowers in Danger by John Fisher

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Only Little S joined me for a short exploration of the base of the cliffs, A and B opting to sunbathe (and bicker) back down by the path. Wainwright has a drawing of a limestone pinnacle. I suspect that there may be a few such pillars along the entire length of the cliffs, but this one does look quite like the one in his drawing.

P1100194This is only a short walk – Wainwright gives it as 6 miles – but there are plenty of points of interest along the way. The next one being Hunt Pot.

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200 feet deep apparently. For us it provided another place out of the wind for lunch stop number two. Or in my case, another cup of tea and the privilege of watching the Gannets demolish the remainder of my lunch. To be fair, they did magnanimously share some of it with me.

The rocky cracks and ledges here, sheltered and protected to a certain extent from sheep,  were decorated with Primroses and Coltsfoot…

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Dark clouds were hurling in from the west now, but we had one more landmark to locate. Due to a bit of navigational muppetry, we came at it from above, following Hull Pot Beck…

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Where there were both Pied and Grey Wagtails flitting about.

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The beck becomes a dry stream bed when the water disappears underground…

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…and leads to…

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…Hull Pot…

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…an enormous collapsed cavern.

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The missing water emerges part way down the cliffs…

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But apparently, after heavy rain a waterfall flows directly into the top of the pot, which, on occasion, can actually fill with water. I can see myself making a return visit to witness that.

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In all, a great day out, in marvellous company. Certainly on a par with some of my favourite previous birthday hill-days. But, being greedy, I was determined to try again on the Tuesday and see if we could go one better. (More to follow!)

The kids meanwhile are quite taken with the idea of ‘The Three Peaks’. The boys, having done two of them in quick succession, would like to knock off Whernside, in fact were angling to do it the next day, and all three of them are keen to have a crack at the Three Peaks walk. I need to get into training!

Pen-y-ghent