Step Right Up!

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Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

And blow, blow they certainly did. We’re well acquainted with Atlantic storms up here in the North Wet, but we don’t often get really severe winds in the summer when the trees are in their summery finery. TBH warned me not to go down to the beach, so, of course, curiosity got the better of me and I had to go and take a look. And after I’d had a look, I abandoned any thought I’d entertained of heading out onto the sands, turned tail and sort the shelter of the woods. The woodland floor was carpeted with leaves and twigs, but it was still relatively sheltered in there.

Which begs the question, why did I venture out of the woods and across the fields by Black Dyke? I don’t remember, but I do remember that it was more than a bit draughty, was spitting with rain and that dark clouds seemed to be threatening worse to come.

Goldfinches seem to be almost ubiquitous these days; I watched a family of half a dozen flitting back and forth between an ash tree on the edge of the woods and the electric fence. I guess they were impervious because they weren’t earthed?

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Black Dyke.

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The footbridge over Leighton Beck – not much water running under it.

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Middlebarrow and Arnside Tower from the far side of Silverdale Moss.

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I’ve made many visits to Lambert’s Meadow this year. It seems to be a very fruitful spot for insect photos, particularly in the vicinity of this sprawling guelder rose hedge.

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Green-veined white butterfly.

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Marsh thistle. I think.

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The first I’d seen flowering this year.

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I thought they looked rather fine and this early bumblebee liked them too.

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Red campion. Is pink. Why not pink campion?

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Sorrel.

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The Jubilee Wood car-park on the edge of Eaves Wood. Until a day or two before this photo was taken, the car park had been closed and roped off, but here it is open and fairly busy again, reflecting the beginning of the easing of the lockdown restrictions. (This is from about a week before the end of May.)


Tunes – today amusing songs which are also great to listen too in their own right. First up…

‘Here Come the Judge’ by Pigmeat Markham

Allegedly, the first rap record, from 1968.

Then, ‘Werewolves of London’ by Warren Zevon. This one brings back happy memories of howling along with the kids in the car. This was before the boys started laughing at my musical tastes, listening to grime and opening conversations with barely articulated Caribbean slang like, ‘Wagwan fam?’

The next is a song I’ve only recently come across, ‘Sharon’ by David Bromberg.

What those three all have in common, is that they are the only songs I know by each of the artists. To finish, here’s a song by someone who, by contrast, I’ve followed since discovering great songs like this when I was at school, way back when…

That’s so clever.

Can’t help thinking I’m spoiling you here! What else should I have included? ‘Funky Gibbon’? ‘The Streak’? ‘Shut Up’ by Madness? These are all pretty old songs, I’m obviously missing some more recent possibilities.

Step Right Up!

Showers and Flours

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The final two days of April, as clearly as I can remember, and judging from my photos, brought the kind of changeable weather which is more what we expect in these parts. Often sunny, but with plenty of clouds and showers evident, although I remember more smugly watching showers in the distance rather than being caught in them.

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Farleton Fell – so near and yet so far.

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Stratocumulus (?) clouds over the Bay.

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Dark skies behind Hagg Wood.

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Even though the sun was still shining on the crab apple blossom.

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After many attempts, I managed to track down some bread flour in the form of a Doves farm ‘lucky dip’ with a selection of organic flours, some yeast and a recipe booklet. Result!

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Showers over the Bay seen from Castlebarrow.

Have bread flour, will bake…

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My attempts to bring a taste of the warm south to Lancashire.

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Focaccia. (Surprisingly easy to make)

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And pain de campagne.

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More versions of ‘Watermelon Man’ to follow.

Showers and Flours

Allt Coire Thoraidh – Cry Me a River

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Eas Urchaidh waterfall on the River Orchy.

Early March, time for our annual get together in the Highlands. This started many years ago as a ‘boys’ weekend, to get as many of us as possible on one place to meet an old friend who was visiting from Denmark. He still comes over from Denmark for the weekend, but we long since abandoned the idea of it being a for ‘boys’ only, so the group has, if anything, swelled over the years. In addition, as our kids have grown up, this has been a good opportunity to introduce them to the delights of winter hill-walking. This year we were joined by A and her friend, the Tower Captain’s daughter S. Imperative then, that we had some decent weather so as not to put them off.

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Eas Urchaidh waterfall on the River Orchy.

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Eas Urchaidh video – click on the image to open it and play it on flickr

Unfortunately, on the Saturday, we had one of the wettest days I can remember. We tried to get out for a walk – thinking that staying down in the forestry might be a good idea. We’d spotted a Caledonian Forest Reserve in Coire Thoraidh and thought we would go and have a look, then continue up to Lochan Coire Thoraidh and possibly down the other side beyond the Lochan.

But it really was chucking it down. The Allt Broighleachan was a raging torrent, which I didn’t recall from our previous visit to these woods. We crossed a slightly awkward ford and had just reached the reserve when we encountered…

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Ford (!) through Allt Coire Thoraidh.

…a ford too far!

I seem to remember that there was some discussion of ‘practising river-crossings’ in threes, or some such lunacy. Andy went off to look for somewhere to jump across.

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Drowned Rats.

But ultimately, sense prevailed, and we turned back.

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Allt Coire Thoraidh ford video.

Watch to the end to see how put-out Andy was by the situation. Doesn’t seem too bothered does he?

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Waterfall – Allt Broighleachan.

When we retraced our steps it was to find that the ford we had already crossed had become more of an extended pool and were forced to divert across a very wet boggy area, guaranteeing wet feet for all.

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Waterfall – Allt Broighleachan – video.

After we got back and hung up all of our drenched gear to dry, it actually briefly stopped raining. It didn’t last too long, but it was sufficient to entice me out again, for a wander towards Inverveigh.

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River Orchy at Bridge of Orchy – looking north.

The map shows another ford there, so I ought to have known how that outing would end.

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River Orchy at Bridge of Orchy – looking south.

I didn’t get far, but the views of the river were worth it.

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River Orchy

Later, the girls played Ticket to Ride in their room, whilst the Tower Captain and I watched England beat Wales at Twickenham on the little telly in ours. Then to the bar where we were staying, the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, for a slap up meal, a few bevvies and the usual mix of silliness, rehashed stories, daft gags and such like.

Not a bad day, considering.

Andy’s account of the day is here.

My own account of our previous visit, when both the river and the waterfalls at the top of this post were frozen over and we climbed Beinn Mhic Mhondaidh in testing conditions, is here.

Now,  a tune in different guises:

I’m presuming that everybody knows the original Julie London version. I’m very fond of that. There’s a great version by Dinah Washington too. The song was originally written for Ella Fitzgerald, but she didn’t actually record it until well after it had already been a hit. Unusually, I’m not overly-struck by her take on the tune. Too lush an arrangement, I think. Having said that, I really love this live rendition, which throws in everything but the kitchen sink and couldn’t be further from the spare, melancholy original…

It’s my favourite tune from Joe Cocker’s brilliant live album ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’.

Allt Coire Thoraidh – Cry Me a River

Walk, Eat, Sleep Repeat.

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Daffodils on the bank on Cove Road.

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Primroses in the same spot.

February half-term brought lots more rain. I know it did, because I remember the flooding…

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View from by Arnside Tower of the flooding by Black Dyke.

…and how it steadily got worse. But I have lots of photos showing blue skies and sunshine.

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Arnside Knott.

The explanation for that apparent contradiction is simple: because the weather was poor it seemed a bit pointless to drive anywhere to walk, but there were pleasant interludes between the storms and, being at home, I was poised to take advantage of them.

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The flooding extends into the woods.

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Scarlet Elf Cup.

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Eaves Wood.

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Because of the extensive flooding of Silverdale Moss and the adjoining fields between the railway line and Arnside Tower Farm, the circuit around Middlebarrow and Eaves Wood became a bit of a favourite – and has remained so actually.

Not that I neglected my other favourite local wanders…

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Sunset from the Cove.

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Chickens!

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Woodwell.

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The path near Woodwell, flowing well.

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Lambert’s Meadow. You can just about make out the new bridge in the foreground – it was thoroughly submerged.

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Arnside Tower.

But I kept coming back past the tower to see the expanding lake below its slightly elevated position.

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The flooding again – it was getting wider every day.

Until, this day, when I met a former colleague who was out walking her dog and chuckling to herself as I approached.

“You’ll need wellies”, she explained, glancing at my shoes.

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Flooded woodland.

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Including over the path.

I managed to get dry-shod past the flooded section of path, but it was surprisingly difficult to do so.

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Flotsam at the Cove.

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Eaves Wood.

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My first attempt at Pain de Campagne. Sadly, it didn’t taste like the wonderful bread we bought in France, but it was still very palatable.

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Daffodil at Far Arnside.

I had a stroll over to Far Arnside to check on the wild daffodils there, but only a few were  open.

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Green Hellebore at Far Arnside.

The Green Hellebore was all flowering though, in several patches on both sides of the path – I can’t decide if it has spread or if I just missed all but the largest patch on previous visits.

I’ve been racking my brains trying to remember what else we did during half-term, aside from me making bread and getting out for local walks. I’m sure we did do other things, but if I didn’t photograph it…..Oh – we decorated B’s room, that occupied a fair deal of time. In the process, I discovered the Radiolab podcast which does science, history, human nature, all of it in a very engaging way. Perfect for when we have time on our hands, you’d think, which makes it all the more inexplicable that I haven’t listened to any episodes for a few weeks. Actually, I think that’s because I got into the habit of listening to it when I was doing boring quotidian tasks – ironing, painting, etc none of which I’ve been doing much of over the last few weeks.

This pattern of frequent local walks over ground which is very familiar, to both myself and regular visitors to this blog, has continued after half-term, particularly since schools were closed and I have been working from home. Which gives me a bit of a dilemma as to how to organise forthcoming posts. I can’t write a post per walk, since then I will never catch up. I don’t think I have the mental capacity to organise the posts thematically, so I shall probably just amalgamate several walks into a single post as I have done here. Anyway, I’ve taken an awful lot of photos, so there will have be some sort of selection process. Gird yourselves.

Lady Love, Robin Trower. The British Jimi Hendrix apparently. I thought we’d adopted Hendrix anyway. Great tune regardless – dig that Cow Bell!

One upside of working from home is that I can listen to music whilst I’m working. I’ve been listening to things I only have on vinyl and haven’t played for years. This one dates back to a compilation album my parents bought me for Christmas when I was a nipper. I remembered how much I liked the compilation, but had forgotten how magnificent this song is.

Walk, Eat, Sleep Repeat.

Solmōnaþ

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The Pepper Pot.

Apparently the old, Anglo-Saxon name for February was Solmōnaþ, or Sol-monath. Which has been interpreted as ‘Mud Month’, but which Bede defined, happily, as Cake-Month. I can’t show you any cakes, but here’s yet more bread pictures…

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Pain de Mie

This has butter and milk in it, so I made…

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Olive Bread

To keep the vegans happy too.

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Post sunset, from the Cove. I’d been at the Pepper Pot for sunset, which was obscured by cloud, but the sky cleared quickly once the sun had set.

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Mud-month was definitely more appropriate this year. I’ve read that February 2020 was the wettest on record, in England at least.

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Man of the Match.

Astonishingly, B’s game at Garstang went ahead, played in a quagmire. They lost, trying to play flowing rugby when conditions dictated otherwise. B enjoyed it though – lots of tackles to make, rucks to hit and opportunities to steal ball.

This was a wet winter generally, and I had hard things to say about November, but I was happier in Solmōnaþ, because the afternoons were lengthening rather than drawing in.

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During the first week of February, I kept just missing the sunset. But I was just glad to be out in some sort of light.

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One day, I was meeting A for her Parents’ Evening, so had a chance for a wander around Williamson’s Park in Lancaster first.

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The following weekend, I had a pleasant enough wander round to Arnside, despite a poor forecast and then an even more pleasant afternoon in The Fighting Cocks watching the Calcutta Cup with some of the other dads from B’s rugby team. After the match, I walked home in the dark, with the added delights of a howling gale and torrential rain and hail. For once, I had reason to regret my habitual adherence to short trousers through the winter.

The following day brought some blue skies…

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…but more rain too…

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A taste of what was to come.

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Solmōnaþ

Sussed

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Eaves Wood from the Coronation Path.

I don’t know if you’ve played the card game Sussed? It’s like the old TV quiz show ‘Mr and Mrs’, if you’re old enough to remember that: on your card are various multi-choice questions on a wide-range of subjects (and there are numerous editions available), the other players score points for correctly guessing what your answers will be. I’ll never win it, not when I’m playing my family anyway, because they are entirely too good at anticipating what I will say. Apparently, I’m completely predictable, or so they tell me.

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Early sun in Eaves Wood.

I can see their point. I’m certainly a creature of habit. Take this weekend back in January.

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On the Saturday I was up early and at the Pepper Pot a little after sunrise…

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The Dale.

I took the boys to their BJJ lesson and had a wander around Lancaster, as I did most Saturdays, when such things were allowed.

Then later, I was back at the Pepper Pot…

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…and down to The Cove for the sunset.

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On the Sunday, I was out and about early and…

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…you guessed it, at the Pepper Pot again…

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The frosty Dale.

Took B and his friend E to their rugby match as I do most Sunday mornings…

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Rugby pitches somewhere in Southport. Note the clear blue sky.

And when we got home? Well, of course, I went out for another walk, this time a circuit of Eaves Wood and Middlebarrow.

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Arnside Knott and Arnside Tower. The Knott, all 150 odd metres of it is partially veiled by clouds.

That’s me. Steady-Eddy, predictable, unswerving, humdrum. The weather, on the other hand, was far from predictable that weekend, particularly on the Sunday. We had sunshine and frost in the morning; dense fog most of the way to Southport; glorious sunshine, clear blue skies and a biting wind in Southport; and finally rotten gloom and low cloud when we got home. Fickle and capricious as it is, I wouldn’t swap our weather for a totally settled climate. How dull that would be!

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.

John Ruskin

I’m not sure I can agree whole-heartedly with this much repeated old saw. Rain gets tedious after a while. I’m much more in agreement with this one…

Bad weather always looks worse through a window.

Tom Lehrer

A tune, which isn’t really about the weather…

And, just in case anybody hasn’t heard this…

Might be useful if you are home-schooling Chemistry? I was tempted to include his song “We’ll All Go Together” but thought it might be too bleak in the circumstances.

Sussed

Schweriner Schloss

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This was the day after our wander around Lübeck. In retrospect, I wonder how we got away with another sight-seeing tour in consecutive days. Not usually the DBs kind of thing.

Somehow in my many visits to northern Germany, I’d never been to Schwerin. Of course, when I was young it was over the border in the DDR and so off-limits, but with hindsight it seems slightly odd that I haven’t visited since given that it’s relatively close to Ratzeburg.

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This time we were a smaller party, with just my Aunt J joining us for the day.

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The castle sits on an island in the lake, but is easily accessed by bridges. The current building is nineteenth century, but this spot has featured a castle for many centuries. Nowadays, it houses both the local parliament building and a museum. We opted to wander around the gardens, which had the massive advantage of being free.

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Hercules and the Cretan Bull?

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A theatre and an art gallery, I think.

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The facade at the front of the castle was wreathed in scaffolding, but that had been rather cleverly covered with a photograph of the building.

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It had been very overcast when we arrived, and while we picnicked by the lake shore, but it really brightened up as we toured the gardens.

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We also had a brief wander into the town, but not too far – J was taking us for Kaffee und Kuchen, which I’ve always regarded as a national obsession in Germany, although my view may be coloured by the preferences of my aunt and uncle and their friends.

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I thought my aunt told us that this was her favourite cafe, but the kids assure me that she actually said that it is one of her favourites. They suspect that she has many favourites. It was certainly very nice.

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Replete, we emerged to discover that the weather had completely changed.

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Dark skies prevailed and pretty soon rain was hammering down.

We were completely unprepared for this eventuality, and sheltered in various shop doorways, occasionally running for another canopy when we thought we’d overstayed our welcome.

The DB’s seemed to find the whole affair highly amusing – particularly when they took cover underneath this sculpture…

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More street sculpture.

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A final view of the Schloss.

Schweriner Schloss

King of the Hill

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Cowslips.

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Looking south along the shore from Heathwaite.

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Mayflower (hawthorn).

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Lancashire Whitebeam.

Whitebeam is a southern species in the UK, except the Morecambe Bay area has its own sub-species.

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Arnside Knott panorama.

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Early Purple Orchids.

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New Ash leaves.

Sunshine and blue skies have been at a bit of a premium for some time now – summer seems to have been postponed somewhat. Nice to look back then at these images from a Sunday in May when we did have some warmth and brightness. Naturally, I climbed Arnside Knott, my current obsession. The post title is a shameless excuse to squeeze in a song by my all time favourite band:

King of the Hill

Ben A’an

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Ben Venue seen across Loch Achray.

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Ben A’an – a short sharp ascent.

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Ben Venue and Loch Katrine.

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The view along Loch Katrine.

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The Tower Captain and Old Grandfather Sheffield at the top.

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Loch Venachar.

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A surprisingly sheltered spot for lunch. Ben Ledi in the background.

Tired legs and a very dubious forecast dictated a much easier day on the Sunday of our weekend in the highlands. Ben A’an is an up and down, rather steeply, giving superb views from the top. It was chucking it down for most of the drive to the start of the walk, which was a bit off-putting, but in the event we did pretty well with the weather.

It was extremely windy on the top, but, just off the top, a small hollow gave a wonderfully sheltered spot from which to enjoy the view whilst eating a bit of lunch.

After that we went our separate ways home after another great weekend together.

Here‘s my account of our ascent of nearby Ben Ledi from a similar weekend 4 years ago. We climbed Ben Venue 5 years ago, but the weather wasn’t much cop and I didn’t take many photos, so the walk only really got half a mention on the post about the walk from the day before when we climbed Leum an Eireannaich.

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Ben A’an

Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh

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A cast of thousands (well a dozen or so) assembled for our winter gathering, this year held once again at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel and, as ever, superbly organised by Andy. On the Saturday, The Tower Captain and I decided to tackle the two hills which tower over the hotel to the East – Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh.

The route was extremely simple: follow the path beside the Allt Coire an Dothaidh into the slightly forbidding looking Coire an Dothaidh…

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Turn right at the col for the long haul up to Beinn Dorain before returning to the col to nip up Beinn an Dothaidh via a circuit of Coire Reidh.

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Looking down Glen Orchy.

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Looking across Loch Tulla.

Towards the top of Corie an Dothaidh I was really surprised to see, emerging from the snow, the flowers of what I assume to be Purple Saxifrage, familiar to me from the limestone crags high on Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent.

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We stopped for a while, behind a boulder near the top of the corrie, for a drink and a bite to eat.

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Lochan on the ridge, unnamed on the OS map.

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Beinn a Chuirn and Beinn Mhanach, with Beinn Sheasgarnaich behind TC.

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Looking up to the steepest section of the climb on Beinn Dorain.

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Looking back towards Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Across Loch Tulla again. Ben Starav, Stob Coir an Albannaich and Stob Ghabhar.

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Pano. Click on this, or other pictures, to view a larger image on flickr.

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Looking south-west, Ben Oss and Ben Lui prominent.

The weather was pretty changeable and we had a few showers of snow, hail and rain, but on the whole that just added to the drama of the views.

The false summit of Carn Sasunnaich came as a surprise, in mist I can see that it would be very easy to be fooled by it.

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I was feeling in particularly fine fettle along this section of ridge, like I was really in my element.

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In fact, here I am, feeling very pleased with myself. The Tower Captain took the photo, I don’t think he’ll mind that I’ve used it.

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Looking back along the ridge to Carn Sasunnaich.

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Across Loch Tulla again – the weather coming in.

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Looking toward Ben Oss and Ben Lui again.

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Looking South from the top.

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Ice formations on the slopes of Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Looking back to Beinn Dorain.

I was hoping that Beinn an Dothaidh would give us superb views across the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor, but, by the time we had reached the top, the weather had closed in again and our views were a bit limited.

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Looking down to Loch Tulla.

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Beinn Achaladair.

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Large cornices and the summit of Beinn an Dothaidh.

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The Tower Captain on the summit of Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Looking towards the hills around Loch Lyon.

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I’m not sure what kind of rocks the hills we climbed are composed of, but they seemed to glitter in the combination of damp and sunlight we had, with lots of silvers and golds on display. Eventually, it occurred to me to try to photograph them, but I only took one photo, which hasn’t really captured the effect very satisfactorily.

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When we got back down to Coire and Dothaidh the snow had mostly melted and the late afternoon light put a completely different aspect on the views.

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We sat by the same boulder as we had on the way up for one final rest stop…

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…before returning to the pub for food, drink and a convivial evening with old friends.

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Beinn Dorrain

Can’t be bad.

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Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh