The Wells of Silverdale

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There’s something very satisfying about a hand drawn map, don’t you think? This one is from a leaflet; one from my collection of leaflets detailing local walks, which I have acquired over the years and keep filed away on a shelf. I dug it out because I wanted to compare it with this map…

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Which is from ‘Old Silverdale’ by Rod J. Ireland, which I bought last week, a little birthday present to myself, and which I’ve been poring over ever since. This map shows more wells than the first. At some point, I shall have to see if I can find any trace of the additional wells shown. But on this occasion I contented myself with following the route shown in the leaflet.

 

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Cheery Dandelions.

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Cheery Celandines.

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Elmslack Well.

Yes, I realise that it’s actually a bin. But I’m told that it’s on the site of the old well.

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Inman’s Road.

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Not wells, I know, but these tanks formerly collected and supplied water to Hill House, now the Woodlands pub, so they seem relevant. Mains water arrived in the area in 1938 (there’s still no mains sewers). Until then the wells would obviously have been important. Also many houses had tanks on the roof which collected rain water.

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This photo is the best I managed from a satisfyingly close encounter with ‘the British bird of paradise‘, or more prosaically, a Jay. The Jay moved from branch to branch, but unusually, stayed in sight and not too far away. Sadly, never long enough for me to get any half decent photos.

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This squirrel was more obliging.

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Wood Anemones.

The Toothwort beside Inman’s Road is much taller than it was, but already beginning to look a bit tatty and past its best.

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More Wood Anemones.

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Chaffinch.

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Dogslack Well.

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Comma butterfly.

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Bank Well.

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The light was stunning and making everything look gorgeous.

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Coot chick.

Well, almost everything. This is the kind of face that only a mother could love, surely?

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Lambert’s Meadow.

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I like to think that this is a Raven, sitting atop a very tall tree, regally surveying the meadow and the surrounding woodland. But none of the photos show the shaggy throat which is supposed to make it easy to distinguish between Ravens and Crows. So, I’m not sure.

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Burton Well

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The pond at Woodwell.

There are newts at Woodwell. We hardly ever see them. But today, not only did I see one, but I managed to train my camera on it…

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Blast!

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Golden Saxifrage.

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Woodwell.

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The Ramsons in Bottom’s Wood are looking particularly verdant, but no sign yet of any flowers. On the verge of Cove Road, near to the Cove, the flowers are already on display. The flowers always seem to appear there first.

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Cherry blossom.

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Jackdaw.

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Song Thrush.

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Nuthatch.

On the Lots there were Starlings and Pied Wagtails foraging on the ground.

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Crow – the second evening in a row when a crow has been perched on this branch.

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Pied Wagtail.

It was one of those magical days when lots of birds seemed content to sit still and be photographed. Lots, but not all. The Buzzards were flying above the small copse above the Cove. I watched them through the trees as, once again, they both flew in to perch on a tree at the far side of the wood. This time it was the same tree in which a Tawny Owl obligingly posed for a photo one evening some years ago. They were tantalisingly close, maybe I could get some good photos?

But when I switched on my camera, what did I notice, much closer to hand…

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…a pair of Nuthatches.

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Since I learned to recognise the slightly monotonous song of Nuthatches, I’ve come to realise how very common they are in this area. And I spot them much more often than I used to. As a boy, these were an exotic rarity to me, and fortunately their ubiquity has done nothing to reduce the thrill I still feel when I see them.

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One of the pair sat and pruned itself for quite some time and I took lots of photos before eventually turning my attention back to the tree where the Buzzards…

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…were no longer perched.

I scanned other trees for a while, and then, just as I reluctantly gave up on the idea of seeing the Buzzards again, there they were, not in a tree, but in the adjacent field, one on the ground and the other sat on a dry-stone wall, and showing to much better advantage than before. But before I took any photos, they were off again.

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Starling.

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Bullfinch.

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Morecambe Bay.

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Blackbird – in almost the same spot as the night before.

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Five for silver.

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It was getting a bit dark for bird photos at this point, but this Goldfinch was behaving in a way which I’ve noticed a couple of times recently; it was singing, swivelling sharply through ninety degrees singing again, then back and so on. The precision of it seemed quite aggressive, but at the same time, pretty comical.

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The leaflet says that this walk is ‘about four miles’, but although I’d skipped the out and back to Bard’s Well on the shore, The Move App was telling me that I’d walked five miles. And despite the Jay, the Newt and the Buzzards all evading my camera, this had been a very satisfying five miles.

The Wells of Silverdale

Jenny Brown’s Two Times

Walk The First: Silverdale Green – Woodwell Clifftop – Hazelwood Hall Grounds – Heald Brow – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Bottom’s Wood – The Lots – The Cove

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Last Saturday. When this post is published I will be up to date; a dizzying prospect.

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Chaffinch.

As the title suggests this was a two walk day and both walks took me to Jenny Brown’s Point, although by different routes, the first on my own and the second in company.

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It was another good day for bird-watching: just before I took this photo, which looks down an avenue of trees towards Hazelwood Hall, I spotted a woodpecker in a nearby Beech, and as I took it, two Buzzards lifted from one of the trees ahead and circled, the smaller male bird stooping toward the female as they do in their spring display flights.

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Warton Crag and the salt marsh from Heald Brow.

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The tide was very high and the channels of Quicksand Pool were brim full.

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I’ve posted before about the old wharf at Jenny Brown’s Point; boats must once have landed there, but it’s not all that often that I’ve seen the tide high enough to reach it.

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Here’s the Robin (again?) which hopped along the path into Jack Scout ahead of me.

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Hazel Catkins.

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I usually assume that a bird which looks as scruffy as this Blue Tit is a juvenile, but it must be too early in the year for that. Is it moulting?

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Near Woodwell, two Roe Deer came pelting over a garden wall and raced across the road with a greyhound in half-hearted pursuit.

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Walk The Second: Silverdale Green – Clarke’s Lot – Fleagarth Wood – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Bottom’s Wood – Spring Bank

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The Howgill Fells – the dusting of snow (just about visible in the first photo at the top of the post) has almost gone.

Arriving home from my first walk, I found that TBH had arranged with some friends a family walk to Jenny Brown’s Point.

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It had clouded over considerably since the morning, but it was still a very fine walk.

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There’s a way around this mudbath, but the DBs chose to ignore that fact, naturally.

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The tide had receded, but left some pools in its wake.

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Unlike the Howgills, the Bowland Fells still retained a dusting of snow.

So that’s it – I’m completely up to date. What’s next?

Jenny Brown’s Two Times

The Call of Nature.

Clark’s Lot – Fleagarth Wood – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Woodwell – Clifftop Path – Silverdale Green – Hagg Wood.

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Perhaps the weather on New Year’s Day was a portent of the weather to come after all – at least for the next day anyway, which also dawned frosty, clear and bright.

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Everywhere I went the trees, bushes and hedgerows were busy with birds, not really singing, but flitting about, jinking from branch to branch and keeping up a constant chatter as they did so. At various points during the walk I tried, and failed, to photograph Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Chaffinches, and maybe a solitary Bullfinch. Only Robins can be relied upon to pose, so they will have to stand in for all of the rest. This one…

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…was on a branch by the path through Fleagarth Wood.

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Warton Crag across the salt marsh.

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The foreshore by the chimney near Jenny Brown’s Cottages is eroding fast…

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And exposing more remnants of the area’s industrial heritage…

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Two views of Quicksand Pool.

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In the field beside the road between Jenny Brown’s Cottages and Jenny Brown’s Point there’s a line of hawthorns. Both the trees and the area around them were busy with Blackbirds. Blackbirds are quite territorial I think, and not always tolerant of each other, but I’ve noticed on the Rowans in our garden that they will happily feed together where there’s an abundant harvest of berries.

In amongst the Blackbirds, there was one paler bird…

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Surely that’s a…

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…Fieldfare!

There was another Fieldfare being very elusive on the other side of the road, but I was surprised not to see still more since they seem to be a very gregarious bird.

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Haws.

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Traveller’s Joy.

This Robin…

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…hopped along in front of me on the path into Jack Scout. I’ve been back to Jack Scout twice today and exactly the same thing happened both times. Presumably, that was the same Robin each time. What advantage can be gained by such strange behaviour I wonder?

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Jack Scout, the Bay and Humphrey Head.

At Woodwell I stopped to answer a call of nature and a Robin landed on a fence post right behind me.

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What chance flowers in January?

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Actually, I think that, strictly speaking, these aren’t flowers. The flowers will have been small and white and cradled by these bracts, followed by small, dark berries.

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I’ve always known this plant as Flowering Nutmeg. Apparently it’s also known as Himalayan Honeysuckle, Pheasant Berry, Himalayan Nutmeg or Chocolate Berry. It’s not an endemic plant, as some of the names suggest. It grows in several places that I know of across the area. I used to have some in my garden when I lived in Arnside. I took cuttings from a plant on a roadside verge, dipped them in rooting powder and stuck them in pots on my windowsill, before transplanting them to the garden. Now that I know that they are good to eat

“The fully ripened fruit are faintly figgy in flavour with hints of bitter chocolate and burnt caramel.”

Maybe I’ll have another go at taking some cuttings this year.

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I couldn’t identify a flock of birds in the woods – they didn’t seem like tits or finches, but seemed too small to be anything else – but one of them landed briefly on a distant branch and a photograph revealed them to be more Fieldfares.

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From Silverdale Green to Hagg Wood the path follows a field wall, on the far side of which is a line of tall Oaks (probably planted by the Inman family I believe). Each of these trees had it’s own population of chattering, restless birds, which I enjoyed failing to photograph.

I was admiring the shape and stature of the final tree before the wood, when I realised that this one isn’t an Oak.

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But, although I’m confident that it isn’t an Oak, I’m not sure what it actually is. Never mind, I shall come back when it has some leaves, to see whether I can figure it out.

The Call of Nature.

Winging in the Blossoming

Clark’s Lot – Woodwell – Jack Scout.

If you go down to Woodwell today be sure of a big surprise. The pond has silted up quite considerably, and at one end the water is very shallow, and in that shallow water there must be thousands of tiny fish…

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Every attempted photo of a fish was later revealed to be a group shot. It was teeming. My best guess is that these are Three-Spined Sticklebacks, like the ones I used to catch in the brook with a bucket when I was a boy.

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Great tit (and emerging ash flowers).

The wind was in the North, and pretty icy, but the sun was shining and if you could find a sheltered spot it actually felt warm for a change.

– it’s april(yes, april;my darling)it’s spring!
yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly
yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be

The agility of Blue Tits never ceases to amaze; this one…

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…was acrobatically hanging upside down whilst worrying the edge of a decaying piece of bark. Apparently they eat mostly caterpillars. I don’t know whether there were any beneath that flake of bark. I hope so.

Chiff-chaffs are generally much easier to hear than to see, as they often sing their distinctive song from the very tops of tall trees. But Jack Scout doesn’t have many tall trees, specialising instead in thickets of prickly things like gorse, brambles, holly, hawthorn and blackthorn. So this chap was chanting his name from a prominent, but relatively low, branch…

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…before dropping down into the brambles…

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…to play hide-and-seek in the way that two-year-old children do: ‘I can’t see you therefore I’m hidden’.

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This Bullfinch looks like it’s escaped from the set of the Angry Birds movie.

A brief glimpse of two butterflies circling, spiralling, dancing together, took me over towards the boundary wall, away from the cliff, the bay and the cold wind. Of course, when I reached the spot where the butterflies had been, they were long gone. I did eventually see one again…

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But here beneath the wall it was like I’d walked in from a winter’s day to a centrally-heated room. The contrast in temperature was quite astonishing. And, almost immediately, there were other things to look at.

I’ve been puzzled this spring by the behaviour of Bumblebees. There are lots of them about and they are all very busy, but none of them seem ever to be feeding. What are they up to?

This one…

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…buzzed over, landed on some moss, and then apparently did nothing.

I was photographing the Primroses, when I became peripherally aware of something strange flying across the clump.

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It was a tawny orange and looked something like a bee, but clearly wasn’t a bee. What’s more, it had thin, black, scalloped-edge wings which were perpetually in rapid motion, flickering back and forth and giving the impression of some bizarre bee/bat hybrid hovering over the primroses.

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Some moths imitate bees in appearance. So do many hoverflies. Even some bees impersonate other bee species. But this didn’t look even remotely like a hoverfly. Nor particularly like a moth. A second appeared…

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The curious, black, improbably thin, bat-like wings were revealed to be actually just the top edge of larger wings. And the hovering was an illusion created by the constant trembling palpitation of those wings.

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These are Bee-Flies.

The furry brown body and the long proboscis, together with the dark brown front edges of the wings make this fly very easy to recognise…Although appearing to hover while feeding, it usually clings to the flowers with its spindly legs. The larvae live as parasitoids in the nests of mining bees.

from Collins Complete British Insects by Michael Chinery

A parasitoid, I learn, differs from a parasite in that it will eventually kill or paralyse its host and then eat it. A slightly gruesome creature then, but fascinating just the same. What’s more, the presence of these flies surely indicates that their hosts can’t be too far away, and after being captivated by a Tawny Mining Bee last year, I’d love to find them closer to home. Actually, I have seen one closer to home, feeding on Blackthorn blossom…

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last spring.

My attempts to get to grips with birdsong have not been a massive success, but sometimes knowing that you don’t know can even pay dividends. (I’m in danger of slipping into Rumsfeldisms here if I’m not careful.) I could hear a bird singing from a very tall ash. I was fairly confident that it wasn’t a Robin, or any kind of Tit or Finch, and obviously not a Thrush or a Blackbird, nor a Nuthatch, which I seem to have recently become reasonably confident about picking out. Quite a musical song, I thought…

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…and there it was, way up in the blue, a Dunnock! I had no idea that they could sing like that.

(The RSPB page on Dunnocks has a handy sound file.)

So, alright, it’s a Dunnock. We get them in the garden, mostly on the ground under the hedges. You could maybe accuse it of being a bit drab. But I was thrilled to spy it way up there in the very tallest tree, proclaiming it’s territory.

(all the merry little birds are
flying in the floating in the
very spirits singing in
are winging in the blossoming)

All of the unattributed quotes are from e.e.cummings. Inevitably. Illimitably.

Winging in the Blossoming

Pond Life

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Most of the time the sea in the Bay is pretty placid. But once in a while we do get some waves. Here’s some evidence from one of our local walks with our American cousins.

On another local walk we visited Burtonwell Wood rift cave…

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The passage runs parallel to the cliff-face, and part way along there’s a spot where it’s possible to climb up to a ‘window’…

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From the cave we walked to Woodwell. We often visit, but this time we came prepared with nets and plastic tubs…

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The kids caught quite a variety of pond life. I think that this…

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…is probably a Three-Spined Stickleback. (But, as always, I stand ready to be corrected.)

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Pond Skaters.

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I’d call that upside down insect a Water Boatman, my field guide tells me that it is a Common Backswimmer (also know as a Water Boatman). The rather splendidly red snail is a Great Ramshorn (I think).

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This must be a Water Beetle, but I’m really not sure which kind.

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Here, the Water Boatman has a silvery sheen due to a trapped air bubble which it uses to enable it to breath.

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We were all fascinated by the contents of our tubs.

Well…almost all…

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Later that day we wandered into Eaves Wood for a bit of tree-climbing. Professor A can never resist joining the kids…

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Once again, B’s busted arm proved to be a great hindrance…

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Here we all are by the Pepper Pot…

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Pond Life

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

Woodwell and Jack Scout – slight return

Crow

Another sunny day for an amble. A was keen to get in on the foraging act, and to walk round the shore from Jack Scout so we decided to visit Woodwell and Jack Scout as I had done a few days before, although in the event, the routes we took were almost entirely different from the paths which I had followed.

Some snow in the Howgills 

We started across the fields towards the Green, in part because that gave us a view of the snow still clinging to some slopes in the Howgill Fells.

Blackthorn 

Because the hawthorns are coming into leaf and everything is arriving so early this spring, I’d been thinking that somehow I’d managed to miss the blackthorn flowering. Fortunately, I was wrong.

Ash buds - a bit further down the line. 

The ash flowers near Woodwell are just that little bit further along. I think that these might be male flowers, but I shall have to go back again to be sure. Ash trees are sometimes male, and sometimes female and sometimes have flowers of both types.

A pointy pond snail 

Another pond snail. A ‘pointy shelled one’.

Ash flowers 

These are definitely female ash flowers.

Near Woodwell we watched a pair of buzzards circling overhead. The smaller of the pair (and therefore probably the male) repeatedly pulled in his wings and went into little dives and swoops. I asked A what she thought he was up to. “He’s trying to impress the female isn’t he?” Even at her tender age she probably recognises this sort of behaviour from the playground!

Cow's Mouth 

Cow’s Mouth with Grange-over-Sands in the distance.

At Jack Scout we discovered that the tide was in and so we couldn’t return by the beach.

Song thrush 

Song thrush again.

A in Bottom's Wood

We went back through Bottom’s Wood instead. Here’s A surrounded by the lush carpet of ramsons. We’d already collected some young leaves to add to sandwiches and salads and to chop into mayonnaise to give a garlicky relish to accompany or Good Friday fish.

Woodwell and Jack Scout – slight return