The Weeds Are Rising!

Spoiler: Dad (and anybody else who doesn’t like rodents) mouse pictures imminent later in this post.

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Peacock butterfly.

There’s a section of Inman’s Road where the sun gets through the canopy and warms the stones of the track. It seems to be a popular spot with butterflies. Strangely, despite their flashy colours, I often don’t see them until I’ve got too close and one of them takes to the wing. And once one lifts off, they all go.

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Another peacock.

There then ensues one of those, for want of a better phrase, butterfly dances, in which the assembled Lepidoptera swirl around each other in a merry waltz. Or is it merry? I can never decide whether the dance is an expression of aggression, curiosity, amour, or sheer joy, perhaps, at the end of lockdown hibernation.

“Where do I live? If I had no address, as many people
do not, I could nevertheless say that I lived in the
same town as the lilies of the field, and the still
waters.”

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“I ask again: if you have not been enchanted by this adventure – your life – what would do for you?”

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There was some doubt, I believe, about the future of these Exmoor ponies who, for years, have been used for conservation grazing at Gait Barrows. Apparently their services are no longer needed, but fortunately a new home has been found for them. You could say that they’ve been put out to grass.

No?

So – what about my so called lockdown aspirations? Lets deal with an easy one – have I caught up with my blog? Well, yes and no: at the outset, I was still writing about last summer’s holiday, so things have definitely moved on.

But since I’m out walking and taking photos just about every day, new material is accruing at much the same rate as I’m posting it. I suppose one way to look at it is that  I’m close to reaching an equilibrium, which doesn’t sound like a bad place to be.

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The Bay post sunset.

“And consider, always, every day, the determination of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles.”

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Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), also know as a Field Mouse. The white belly, large back feet (for jumping) and general cuteness differentiate this from a House Mouse.

The wood mouse is the most common species of mouse in Britain. Very common in our garden judging by the number the cats leave lying around in the house. This one had a lucky escape, I rescued it from the cats and persuaded it to shelter in a cereal packet, before releasing it onto our patio. Understandably, it was terrified and I was able to take some photos before it ran off.

All winter, it’s been evident that something or other was burrowing in our compost heap. The size of the holes had me convinced that it must be rats, but subsequently I’ve found a few bedraggled wood mice corpses near the compost, so maybe they were the culprits.

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A few days after I rescued this little chap, I found another one in the house. (Or perhaps the same one?) B and I tried and failed to catch it. In the end, the whole family were enlisted. It got behind some bookcases – we had to unladen three large bookcases, and move them. The mouse was still too quick for us, but we had it surrounded, and staked out the desk it had nipped behind. B, armed with a feather duster, flushed it out and S dropped an ice-cream tub over it. We re-wilded the perisher and then all we had to do was move all of the furniture back into place and try to work out how to get the contents of the shelves back into place, although it was evident to all that we somehow now had at least four bookcases worth of books, maps, craft items, correspondence, shoe boxes full of who knows what etc to ram back in.

A Sunday evening to remember!

I realise, a little belatedly, that I’ve posted about my birthday, and mentioned my birthday presents, without having said anything about the gifts I received at Christmas. Principally, I got to spend time with family, which now seems even more important than it did at the time. But I also asked for a couple of things. And just to make sure that the message didn’t get garbled, having asked, I ordered them online for good measure. If a thing is worth doing….

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There were just two items: a CD, ‘Doggerel’ by Fontaines DC, of which more at some point I’m sure, and a book, ‘Devotions’ the selected poems of Mary Oliver.

It was a comment on this blog which first alerted me to the poetry of Mary Oliver. It took me a while to track that comment down, but it was on this post. And Moira, I don’t know if you are still reading, but I hope that you are well and coping with the vicissitudes of lockdown, and you should know that I am extremely grateful for the nudge you gave me.

For the purposes of this post, wanting something suitable to quote, I opened a page at random in the book and found the poem ‘Evidence’. All of the quotes, and the title, come from that.

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in
singing, especially when singing is not necessarily
prescribed.”

Which brings me to:

Back in March, I was involved in a marvellous project, ‘These Hills Are Ours’, which involved climbing Clougha Pike from Morecambe seafront, as part of a volunteer choir and singing a specially composed song. I expected today’s blogpost to be about that walking and singing, but the film of the event is still under wraps, so I’m biding my time.

However, the week before, a group from Stockton had done much the same thing, climbing Roseberry Topping and that’s them in the film.

Two more walks, in London and Devon, were envisaged, but I suspect the coronavirus may have put a stop to those.

Some links to the creatives…

Daniel Bye who wrote the words.

Boff Whalley who wrote the music.

and Bevis Bowden who made the film.

It’s only now that I’ve realised that Boff was lead guitarist in Chumbawumba, which for most people, I know, means the one-hit wonder Tub-thumping, but I was more than a bit obsessed, for quite some time, with their first album, the snappy title of which should appear below in the video. The phrase “it’s a nice sound, it’s a happy sound and it’s not doing anybody any harm” became a bit of standing joke for me, my brother and our flat mate S.

They did make other records, but there was a long hiatus before the second, and by then I had literally moved on, started teaching and somehow it passed me by. Maybe I’ll delve into their archive now.

Oh, and I almost forgot about yesterday’s quiz question. It was, of course, Rockafeller Skank, by Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim:

It’s a nice sound, it’s a happy sound…..

The Weeds Are Rising!

Roe Deer

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When we got home from our trip to Roa Island it was to discover one more wildlife treat awaiting us – a pair of roe deer in the garden.

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Deer visit from time to time. Sometimes they sleep on our lawn. We’d seen them a few times recently, but it was pleasing that they visited whilst our guests were still with us – putting on a show as it were.

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The slightly scruffy look is because they are shedding their darker, winter coat in anticipation of warmer weather (which we are still anticipating patiently).

Roe Deer

Whitsun Treadings VI: Roa Island

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We went to Roa Island again (after a tip-top picnic on Birkrigg Common – we really must go and explore more thoroughly there). It wasn’t a particularly low tide and the water was pretty cold. Even so, there was, as ever, plenty to be seen.

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Rhizostoma octupus – not an octopus at all, but actually a jellyfish.

As always, there were lots of shore crabs to be found – many were females carrying a clump of eggs. Many others seemed to be at that vulnerable stage where they had recently shed a shell and their new shells were still soft.

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Their markings and colouration vary enormously.

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Lots of the rocks we turned over were smothered with these…..

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…presumably eggs of some sort. Not crabs, I don’t think, but I don’t have an alternative suggestion.

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Not sure at all about this either.

Look carefully into this shallow pool…

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..can you see something snaking across the middle of the picture?

It’s a greater pipefish….

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Every visit seems to deliver something we haven’t seen before. This one was spotted by our friend TJF/

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Brittlestar.

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Starfish.

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We walked farther down the beach than we ever have before, eventually reaching the harbour wall, where judging by the stench, untreated sewage was flowing into the channel. (I’d be pleased to know that my suspicion is wrong about that, if anyone knows better.)

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A whelk?

It’s entirely possible that the huge clusters of eggs we saw were whelk eggs. Whelk roe anyone?

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A shanny.

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Also a shanny, possibly the same one.

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We found quite a number of these large, appealing shells – wrinkled and rippled without, shiny and super-smooth within. Oysters I presume.

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We often see, and catch, prawns and shrimps, but I’ve not had much luck with photographing them before. I think that this is the former – maybe a common prawn.

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Always a grand day out. Hopefully we’ll be there again before the summer is out.

Whitsun Treadings VI: Roa Island

Whitsun Treadings V: Burton Well Cliff Cave, Woodwell Newts, Green-winged Orchids on the Lots

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It’s all there in the title really. Another local walk – we might have gone further afield more often, but the weather forecasts were often pretty poor, so a short wander not too far from home often seemed like a safer bet.

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We were joined for this walk by our friend G and her kids. G grew up here in Silverdale and remembers crawling through the narrow cave which runs through the cliff near Burton Well and which I only discovered a few weeks back. We decided to mosey over that way and let some of the current generation of Silverdale’s youth experience that same thrill. I think they enjoyed it. They certainly wanted to go back and through several times over.

From there we went over to Woodwell. The sun shone, and for once it actually felt quite warm. We were lazing and watching the fish in the shallow, silted pond there, and I was busy telling everyone that I’d often seen newts here, twenty-odd years ago, when I first moved to the area, but not since, when….

‘There’s a newt!’

‘There’s another one!’

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It was newts on parade day. We watched for a while. I took several photos, of which this is probably the sharpest. The UK has three species of newts. And the newts we watched  were…..almost certainly one of those three.

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Anxious not to be left out, a damselfly joined the party by pig-backing on our friend B’s coat. B loves small creatures which he can handle and soon had made a pet of what I think is a female large red damselfly.

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It was surprisingly content to sit on his hand. Perhaps it had only recently emerged? So happy was it, in fact, that B was taking her home with him.

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I persuaded him it might be best to take her back and leave her by the pond.

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We finished with a stroll across the Lots, where the green-winged orchids were looking spectacular.

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Whitsun Treadings V: Burton Well Cliff Cave, Woodwell Newts, Green-winged Orchids on the Lots

Kent Estuary Dolphin

On Arnside Knott

Another half-term stroll, this time for all of the family, which began in Eaves Wood, took us past Arnside Tower and then over the Knott. On the Knott the kids enjoyed the variety of finding some new trees to climb…

Arnside Knott tree climbing 

It was a cloudy day, but the Lakeland fells were mostly clear, and we certainly had better views than on our previous visit with friends a few weeks back. In fact, over Dunmail Raise we could even pick-out Skiddaw in the Northern Lakes.

Big stick 

From the Knott we dropped down to the shores of the Kent estuary where we in for a bit of a surprise. Something floating in the river….

Object in Kent Estuary 

….a dolphin (or porpoise I don’t know which).

A dolphin? 

It must, I think, have been a young one – it was around a metre long. And decidedly dead. Although passers-by were asking whether somebody should be rung to come and attempt a rescue – it was clearly too late for that. I’ve never seen a dolphin or a porpoise in the wild. How sad that my first encounter should be with a prematurely dead youngster.

Evening light on the Row

After tea and cake in the bakery on the promenade, we caught a train back to Silverdale station. From there TBH and the boys used the shuttle bus service to get home, whilst A and I walked across the fields. The sun had sunk below the blanket of cloud and briefly suffused everything with a warm golden glow.

Kent Estuary Dolphin

Towyn Farm – Early Morning Strolls II

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One morning I cycled down to the natural harbour of Porth Ysgaden and walked along the coast to Porth Gwylan, another, larger, natural harbour. Between the two, this rocky inlet, unnamed on the OS map, was home to many cormorants with two obvious, large and untidy nests and birds dotted about the cliffs.

Cormorants 

Cormorant

Six spot burnet moth

Six-spot burnet moth.

Porth Gwylan

Porth Gwylan

You can perhaps see a small speck in the water almost in the centre of the photo. It’s a grey seal. Sometimes one or two other seals would surface for a while, but this one stayed almost stationary, snout pointing upwards, apparently asleep. I went down to the shingle beach to get a closer view.

Grey seal

And even momentarily attracted the attention of the sleepy seal.

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But not for long. I watched the seal for quite some time before heading back to the campsite.

Rock samphire

“This is rock samphire isn’t it?” TBH asked.

“I’m not sure. It could be.”

She tasted it. “Yes, it is. You try it.”

So I did, reluctantly. It was foul – tasted like soap.

“It’s foul – my bit tastes like soap!” I said, between all the spitting and retching.

“Yep – so did mine.”

Unopened centaury

I made a special trip to photograph these tiny flowers, which I had seen several times on my way down to the beach, only to find that in the early-morning shade they weren’t open. I got them again later:

Centaury

I’m pretty certain that it’s centaury, but I’m not sure which one.

Nearby another small pink flower…

Restharrow

…restharrow.

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I think that this is a centaury again, growing much taller on the rocks where the sheep can’t get to crop it short. Judging by the rosette of narrow basal leaves it would say that it is seaside centaury, which I suppose makes sense.

Towyn Farm – Early Morning Strolls II

Butterbur and Excavations

Woefully behind as ever. A week and a half ago: ferrying A to pre-exam ballet lessons in Milnthorpe again, I took the boys too, knowing that they would enjoy the path beside the Bela I had walked earlier in the week. It gave them an opportunity to lob great boulders into the water and me a chance to take photos of the butterbur whilst the sun was shining.

Later in the week I had a short post-work stroll to Pointer Wood and Clarke’s Lot. There were many more violets…

And an ants’-nest mound which had been comprehensively hollowed out.

I know that both green woodpeckers and badgers will dig into these mounds in search of ants to eat. This time the culprit had left footprints….

….which I don’t think belong to either a woodpecker or a badger, but I’m not at all confident of a positive ID.

Butterbur and Excavations