All Beer and Skittles?

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Just in case I’ve given the false impression that we had an endless of succession of bright and sunny days here over Christmas and New Year, I’m posting a few photos from a turn around Eaves Wood which TBH and I enjoyed on one of the two foggy, final days.

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We’d had some considerably more grotty weather than that previously too.

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Actually, if I don’t have to drive, and if it doesn’t last too long, I quite like a bit of fog for a change. The woods are quite atmospheric when full of mist.

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When the weather was poor, we managed to find other things to keep us occupied. Games are always popular. We played several old favourites over the holiday period, but we also acquired some new ones.

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Here, A and I have just finished playing my favourite of those – Carcassonne – which has quite simple rules, but really makes you think as you play.

I also picked up, second hand, this old favourite…

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…which I first played when I was in the sixth-form and which later became the fall back activity for some of our group of hill-walking friends if prolonged diabolical weather dampened our enthusiasm for being outdoors during trips to Scotland. I’m very excited about playing it again, although I’m uncertain whether I’ll ever find the twelve hours of free time needed, or six other players willing and able to join me.

All Beer and Skittles?

Handing Over The Reins

Eaves Wood – Climbing Tree – Ring O’Beeches – Jubilee Wood – The Row – Hagg Wood

Little S and I out for a stroll (I can’t remember why nobody else came along). I put him in charge of the route. He told me we were going to the Ring O’Beeches, then amused me by apparently turning the wrong way at every path junction in Eaves Wood. Rather predictably we visited the climbing tree…

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Little S had the last laugh as his zig-zagging route took us all around the wood, but eventually to his intended destination and the long Beech branch he wanted to balance on.

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Some of the Inman’s Oaks and Eaves Wood behind.

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TBH tells me that Little S was very chuffed to be designated navigator; I might try that tactic again.

Handing Over The Reins

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.

New Year’s Day 2017

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New Year’s Day was another bright, clear, sunny day. I’m not sure that I believe in omens, but I hope that this was one none-the-less.

We weren’t out very early, a consequence of the usual faffing, but also of a late night. A had abandoned us to stay at a friend’s house, a foretaste of things to come I suppose, but the boys joined us for the New Year’s Eve festivities at the Silverdale Hotel. The pub was packed with many of our friends from the village, the food was extremely tasty, the beer was good, the music was terrific. When midnight came the boys were dancing on the tables, along with most of the other children present and some of the adults. A storming party.

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Our walk took us around the coast to New Barns for a very late lunch at the Bob-In Cafe. We had to hurry and still only just managed to order lunch before they stopped taking orders.

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Then we had to get back quickly before we lost the last of the daylight.

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Good to start the year with a family walk though, and the late sunshine painted Arnside Tower in a very fetching pink.

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New Year’s Day 2017

Ice Fishing.

Bottom’s Lane – The Row – Bank Well – Lambert’s Meadow – Burtonwell Wood – Silverdale Green.

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It’s not always easy to persuade the boys that they want to go out for a walk. They aren’t always keen to leave their various electronic devices. But to be fair to them, once they are out, they can be relied upon to embrace the opportunity and invariably seem to enjoy themselves.

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On this occasion, I lured them out of the house with the possibility of ice at Bank Well.

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I have to confess that the boys surprised me with how many ways they managed to engage with the ice. Violently striking it with their sticks was their first idea, obviously. (How Little S didn’t fall in in the process is beyond me.) But then pressing on the ice to listen to the sounds of protest it made – quite eerie. Creating bubbles under the ice and then trying to manoeuvre the bubbles around the pond.

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Bank Well – the pond had been silting up and filling with reeds for some time, it looks like somebody had done some work clearing it.

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Finally, lifting big shards of ice out of the pond and then dropping them onto parts which were still frozen over to view the resulting carnage.

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Can’t do that on your Xbox.

Ice Fishing.

All’s Right With The World

Park Road – Eaves Wood – Middlebarrow – Arnside Tower – Saul’s Road – Arnside Knott – Shilla Slope – Black Dyke – Middlebarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood.

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Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gull.

The day after Boxing Day was the kind of bright sunny day which always makes me feel cheerful.

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in His heaven—

All’s right with the world!

Which is apparently a passage from Browning, although I know it because Wodehouse’s characters are apt to quote it when all is going well (which is to say, just before everything goes horribly, comically wrong).

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And yes, I know that the lark isn’t really on the wing at the end of December, well at least not in its characteristic steep display flight, but sunshine and blue skies just make everything look fresh and special and spring like.

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Reading up on the water tanks in Eaves Wood for my previous post, I was reminded that amongst the former owners of Hill House (now the Woodlands pub) were the Inman family  who were responsible for the planting of many of the trees in the woods.

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I think the circle of trees in the Ring o’Beeches must have been planted. I wonder if it was by the Inmans, who owned the wood in the first half of the Nineteenth Century?

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The larches too must have been planted.

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Arnside Tower.

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Arnside Tower Farm.

The hill behind the farm is Arnside Knott and that steep slope is covered in a very loose scree, known locally as shilla. After I’d climbed the Knott I took a route which looped around and recrossed my ascent route, taking me down to a path through those trees at the bottom of the slope.

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Saul’s Road.

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I’d walked out of the front door before I’d decided where to go, but with a host of competing ideas in my head – it’s nice to have so many options. I’d plumped for Arnside Knott because I’d assumed that there would be great views of the Lakes…

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…but in fact everything beyond Whitbarrow Scar and Gummer How was lost in a grey haze. Never mind: plenty to see close at hand.

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Magic.

All’s Right With The World

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Eaves Wood – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Moss Lane – Eaves Wood

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We’ve spent Christmas at home again this year and a very fine Christmas it has been. The weather has been mixed, but we’ve had some very sunny, clear days in amongst the more typical fare. I’ve been out for local walks, beating the bounds, most days, some times two or three short walks in a day, in fair weather and foul, in company and alone, so expect a fair few posts to come, although, when the weather has been poor I’ve often left my camera at home, so not all of the walks will make it onto the blog.

Most of the walks have involved a visit to Eaves Wood, some have been almost entirely within its compass.

One familiar landmark in the wood, which I walk past very regularly, but which I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here before, are these three constructions…

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“…three very large, stone built, water storage tanks on the surface. These were used to store water for the house before a mains supply was available. The source of this water was  a spring some four hundred yards distant, sited remarkably near the summit of the limestone ridge. The water was first directed through a pipe to a large collecting tank. From here it continued its piped journey underground into a second holding tank before finally reaching the large storage tanks referred to above.”

from ‘In and Around Silverdale’ by David Peter

The house referred to is the Woodlands, once Hill House, a pretty grand private property but now an excellent pub, affectionately known in the village as The Woodies.

I was out relatively early that morning because the forecast had predicted sunshine early, but cloud later. The cloud arrived rather sooner than I expected and by the time I had reached Hawes Water it was really quite dull.

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I met some friends on the boardwalk by the lake and they were telling me to listen out for the contact calls of Goldcrests and Nuthatches, that, in fact, there were Goldcrests in the trees around us. I’ve been quite surprised by how busy, and noisy, the birds are in the woods and trees at the moment. I’m not great at recognising bird-song and even less confident with contact calls, but I’ve seen quite a variety of birds over the last fortnight, including several Nuthatches and eventually a solitary Goldcrest.

I haven’t often been very successful in capturing images of the birds however…

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I’ve kept this diabolical, blurred photo because the birds which have surprised me most have been the Woodpeckers. I’ve once heard the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker, and most days I’ve heard several different Great-spotted Woodpeckers drumming. These are both sounds I associate with early spring, not the tail end of December. I’ve seen this bird, or at least, presumably the same bird each time, drumming on the same tree on more than one occasion, with a rival bird responding from somewhere nearby. Standing beneath the tree as the Woodpecker drums, the volume of the sound is astonishing.

I assumed that I must be wrong about this territorial drumming being a portent of spring, but this is what Mabey and Cocker have to say in Birds Britannica:

“Like many arboreal birds it is easiest to see just before leaf burst, when the adults can be located by their mechanical drumming sound, whose dying cadence reverberates through the woodland of early spring and is itself a wonderful statement of seasonal change. Both males and females create the noise and do so by striking their beaks repeatedly against a suitably rotten or hollow branch which acts in turn as a sounding board.”

So if I’m wrong, I am at least in exalted company. Or maybe it’s the Woodpeckers who are confused by the bright sunny days we’ve had? Or perhaps spring is just going to arrive early this year?

 

Twelve Drummers Drumming