The Insect Glade

Or: Fleeting Moments of Wonder V

Looking over Leighton Moss.

For Father’s Day TBH and the kids bought me ‘The Butterfly Isles’ by Patrick Barkham. I haven’t read much of it yet, but I’m fairly confident that I’ll enjoy it. It details an attempt to see in one year all of the British butterfly species. There’s a map and a list showing all of the places visited where butterflies were seen. Of the 35 sites listed 3 are in this immediate area: Latterbarrow, Meathop Moss and Arnside Knott.

Meanwhile I also read:

If you ask anybody where is the best place to watch butterflies in Britain, they will probably say ‘down south’ somewhere. Those really in the know would say that there are a few areas in the north that are pretty good too! East of the Pennines, the North York Moors have some excellent butterfly habitat and there are several good areas in Scotland, too. But to my mind, there is no doubt that the limestone hills on both sides of Morecambe Bay constitute the butterfly watching capital of the north.*

And yet I know that I have only ever seen a small fraction of the 35 species which live in this area. Reading Patrick Barkham, in the introduction to ‘The Butterfly Isles’ describing himself, aged 8, and his father scanning for butterflies with binoculars and then haring after them with their cameras has given me a new resolve to try to catch up with at least a few more of that elusive 35.

It was in part for that reason that I had changed my mind about following my usual route over the crag and was now heading into Yealand Allotment. And at the first opportunity I turned up one of the rides through the trees, kept open to provide a habitat for butterflies.

And before long I saw a butterfly, off to the side of the path, something orange, I thought perhaps a skipper. I left the path to try to get a closer look, but lost sight of it, partly because I was distracted by the great numbers of damselfly and grasshoppers which my every step was sending into the air.

I think that these are blue-tailed damselflies.

I think that this is… an azure damselfly. Apparently, the key to differentiating this from numerous similar species is the mark on the second abdominal section.

A common green grasshopper. Perhaps.

Something large and blue whirred past – a male broad-bodied chaser, but was gone too quickly. Then another butterfly, orange and brown, which disappeared into the trees, but led me to these busy hoverflies…

I decided to sit down and eat a banana. Perhaps the wildlife would come to me. It didn’t quite happen that way, but I did see another butterfly on the path below me. I followed. It led me on a merry dance, but eventually I got some photos…

A fritillary!

It kept moving on – sunning itself, but off again if I got at all close. But then, as shade crept across the glade, it found itself a grass stalk, folded its wings and apparently settled down for the night. Do butterflies do that? It was quite happy for me to get as close as I liked…

I struggled, from my books, to work out whether it was a pearl bordered fritillary or a small pearl bordered fritillary, but it’s the latter – the patchwork of white on the undersides of the wings is the clincher. (Find an excellent identification guide here.)

I took lots of photos, since the spbf was being so obliging, but then caught another movement in the corner of my eye…

…a small skipper (I think).

One of the same hoverflies I saw before? Possibly helophilus pendulus.

The spbf hadn’t moved. I took no end of photos – I’ve never got close enough to any of the many fritillary species which are resident here to get photos before.

More grasshoppers…

A final word to Patrick Barkham:

A journey in search of every species of butterfly is about our need to celebrate and capture fleeting moments of wonder as we fly through our lives.

Leighton Moss again. (Like the top photo, taken from further up the hill than where I saw all the insects).

*Sam Ellis in ‘The Best Butterfly-Watching in the North’ collected in ‘The Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ edited by Terry Keefe

The Insect Glade

In The Woods

Last Saturday we had a short walk in Eaves Wood. There was much tree climbing – one of my cousin’s daughters is even more fearless than our kids. There was also a spot of den building – or more accurately den restoration.

On Thursday I was once again commuting home from Carnforth on foot. I suppose that may be the last one for quite some time – the clock’s go back, for a couple of Thursday’s I have to go back to Lancaster before going home and in the spring it seems I may no longer be spending my Thursday afternoons working in Carnforth – I shall certainly miss my walk home.

I didn’t take many photos – the afternoon began dingy and just got progressively more gloomy until I finished the walk in near darkness. The field path from Millhead to Warton wasn’t as flooded as it can be, but there was still a large area of water in one of the fields. I counted eleven swans in all on and around the water.

Much as I’ve enjoyed climbing Warton Crag I decided to ring the changes and instead walked through Hynning Scout Wood.  Almost immediately I found a couple of prickly sweet chestnut cases each of which had some green but good sized nuts. This was an unfortunate fluke because I then spent quite some time looking for more and after that I only found small thin nuts with no real substance to them. Besides which, when I tried one of the green nuts it had that distinctive chestnut taste (which I love) but was not sweet at all – quite the opposite in fact.

Beyond Hynning Scout I went on into the woods on Cringlebarrow. I couldn’t resist the diversion down into Deepdale – a steep–sided hollow which someone once told me is actually a crater resulting from a meteorite impact – I have absolutely no idea how true this is but I like the idea. There’s a pond at the bottom of the hollow – or at least there was – it’s green over and seems to be more of a bog than a pond now. There’s also a badger sett here – or what I have convinced myself is a badger sett: I’ve never seen the badgers.

I climbed back up to the main path. A signpost directed me to Yealand Storrs and Round Top. I don’t really know what the latter is – I’ve never found a top on Cringlebarrow, but when the path dropped off to the left I followed the fainter path which carried straight on. It didn’t take me to a top, but it did take me to a lovely route down the end of the ridge which eventually met a good path which doubled back to the right of way. Whilst I dropped through the trees here the sun must have dropped below the level of the clouds – I couldn’t see it, but the tree tops were suddenly lit a lovely honeyed gold.

The rest of my walk took me through Yealand Allotment, around Haweswater and finally through Eaves Wood. I walked for over three hours, almost all of which, after I entered Hynning Scout, was in woodland. Can’t be bad.

In The Woods

Yealand Allotment and Thrang Brow

Fields and their shape record ancient and less ancient history, and a map marking field boundaries will reveal very different patterns, including quite a few of the old open fields, each of hundreds of acres, which were particularly the rule in the Midlands. These great fields (two or three to a village, to allow for fallowing, i.e. for resting a field so that it regained its fertility) were frequently identified in name after the village they belonged to – ‘Yatesbury Field’, ‘Wootton Fields’ etc.

The Shell Country Book Geoffrey Grigson

Or ‘Yealand Allotment’. TBH had dropped me off on the road beyond Yealand Storrs, where the path through the allotment begins. I followed the right of way for a while, but then turned up hill on a permission path in an open ride through this mostly wooded area. The ride is kept open in order to encourage butterflies. I didn’t see any of those, but did see…

…this, which I assume is a crane fly.

On the train in the morning I had been speaking to two American ladies, who asked whether what we were experiencing was typical September weather: on Monday we had heavy rain and fierce gales and the weather hadn’t improved a great deal since then. Of course, that is typical weather for this area at any time – predictably unpredictable. By the afternoon the skies had cleared and the sun shone. From the top of the ride there’s a good view over the meres of Leighton Moss. From there the path climbs to Thrang Brow which has an excellent vantage of the Lakeland Fells.


My onward route took me across meadows to the open area by Haweswater where I recently photographed devil’s-bit scabious and grass of Parnassus. With the sun beaming low across the lake, I decided to have another go…


I finished my walk along Moss Lane and through Eaves Wood. When I reached home the sun was almost setting…

Yealand Allotment and Thrang Brow