Juice and Joy

Eaves Wood – Middlebarrow – Arnside Tower – Along the edge of the Caravan park – Far Arnside – Arnside Point – White Creek – New Barns – Arnside Knott – Hollins Farm – Holgates

What is all this juice and all this joy?   

Spring is here, and with it a flurry of local walks, followed by (hopefully) a flurry of posts about those local walks containing, it being spring, a smattering of quoted poetry, and lots of photos of birds and flowers and such like.

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In the immediate aftermath of our walk, A and I both wallowed in a couple of lazy days to recuperate. The day before I took these photos was my Birthday. The weather was pretty dire but we did get out. Well, TBH and I did: a very heavy downpour just before we set off put a dampener on A’s enthusiasm and she stayed at home. TBH and I walked around Hawes Water. We were lucky and didn’t get caught in another shower, although it stayed drab and damp and I didn’t take any photos. It was well worth getting out though – there were quite a number of swallows feeding over the lake, my first of the year. I often see my first swallow on my birthday, although I suspect that has at least as much to do with my insistence on going out for a walk on my birthday as it does with the date of the arrival of swallows. Usually I’ll see the odd one or two, but this time there was at least a gulp and possibly enough for a flight (the collective nouns for swallows).

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Marsh Tit.

This is my favourite time of year for bird-watching. To be in the woods is to be surrounded by a cacophony of songs and calls, the thrum and whirr of wings and the drumming of woodpeckers. And with no leaves on the trees, it’s the best chance to see the small, common birds of woods and gardens.

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My sporadic attempts to get to grips with identifying bird songs have been largely unsuccessful, but not in vain – I have added one or two birds to my limited repertoire. One song which is very readily learned is that of the Chiffchaff, a warbler named for its song. Since the Chiffchaff is a summer migrant, hearing it anew each year is another welcome confirmation of the arrival of spring. As I dropped down from Middlebarrow towards Arnside Tower I could hear one in the trees above. My confidence is hardly unshakable though and I scanned the crown of the woods, hoping for a sighting to confirm my suspicions.

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And there it is! An LBJ with more than a hint of yellow to liven things up a little.

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Later, at Far Arnside, I realised that I can recognise the contact calls of Nuthatches too, and spent a frustrating few minutes trying to photograph one which, whilst it was surprisingly close, just overhead in fact, wouldn’t sit still long enough for the camera’s autofocus to catch up. Later still the same sort of thing happened with a Goldcrest which swung around on a hanging twig almost within reach, but which I completely failed to photograph.

The principal reason for my choice of route was to catch the wild Daffodils at Far Arnside, but I bent my steps along the scrappy woods by Holgates on the off chance that another early flower would be in evidence. I thought that I was probably too early, but no…

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Green Hellebore.

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –         

   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;         

   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush         

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring         

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;

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TBH bought me ‘Claxton’ by Mark Cocker for my birthday and I’ve just finished reading it. It’s marvellous, I can’t recommend it enough. Essentially it’s a nature diary, but with entries from several years, mostly based in and around Cocker’s home village of Claxton in Norfolk. The book is full of telling details and apposite similes, but it’s also packed with interesting ideas. For example: we’re often ready to ascribe great age to certain trees, but it never occurs to us to think in that way about shrubs or flowers. These hellebore come up in the same area each year. When the perimeter of the caravan park was bulldozed recently, they survived (although probably not unscathed I suspect). I’m wondering, in retrospect, how long they’ve been flowering here.

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The Daffodils at Far Arnside were well worth a visit. Much more spectacular than I’ve managed to make them look in fact. And in amongst them…

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…more Green Hellebore.

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It seems likely that Hellebores can be found elsewhere in the area, but these are the two spots I know of, leaving aside the many gardens which have cultivated varieties.

Overhead, this Coal Tit was pecking furiously at the moss, pulling lumps off the branch and tossing them aside.

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Are there potentially good things to eat hiding beneath the moss?

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The tide was in, and, unusually, there were small waves breaking against the cliffs.

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Across the Kent Estuary to Meathop Fell.

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And with a zoom…snowy Lakeland hills beyond.

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Obligatory Robin.

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I have so many out-of-focus photos of Long-Tailed Tits that I’m beginning to think that it’s them and not me or the camera; perhaps they are naturally a bit blurred. If so, I sympathise with them – I often feel a bit blurred myself.

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At New Barns the tide was so high that the road was flooded.

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Arnside Knott from New Barns.

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Kent Estuary.

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Kent Estuary from Arnside Knott.

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A shower hits Carnforth.

The quotes are from ‘Spring’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Juice and Joy

An Early Start to the Post-Work Walk Season

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What I remember about this walk is how pleased I was to be out walking after work and it not yet the end of February.

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Admittedly, I did escape from work unusually early, but, having done so, I was busy making resolutions – this would be the first of many and I would make this a bumper year for evening wanders.

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The other thing which sticks in my mind is that, after I had strolled to Far Arnside and then around the coast to White Creek ,how much like hard work I found the climb up over Heathwaite and up Arnside Knott and, therefore, how much I was in need of lots of recreational evening jaunts.

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Actually, I stopped some way short of the summit thinking I was running short of daylight. That was the excuse I told myself, anyway.

Haven’t managed a longish evening walk since then. Must try harder!

An Early Start to the Post-Work Walk Season

Corvids, a Buzzard and Bumbarrels on Arnside Knott

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A fortnight after my last brief nature-fix on Arnside Knott and I was back, once again sneaking in a few minutes peace and solitude whilst A was busy tinkling the ivories. This time I was barely out of my car when a commotion in the trees just to my left heralded the emergence of three corvids and a buzzard.

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I wasn’t fast enough to get them all together, but did manage to get some photos as one of the crows continued to harry the retreating buzzard.

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Meanwhile the other two landed in a tree not too far from where I stood. Last time I was convinced that I had seen three ravens, but this time I couldn’t decide whether they were ravens or crows.

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I’ve consulted my AA Book of British Birds on how to distinguish ravens from crows – a wider tail, splayed wing-feathers, a heavier beak, and greater size – about the size of a buzzard.

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My feeling is that these probably were ravens. But they weren’t as big as the buzzard they were harrying. Then again, buzzards vary considerably in size, so maybe I shouldn’t read too much into that. Any opinions?

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I climbed a little higher up the slope, but was almost immediately diverted again, this time by a small troop of bumbarrels – it’s one of the regional names for long-tailed tits, probably from Northamptonshire, since it’s what the poet John Clare called them.

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Two weeks before I had set-off after the sun had set in the last of the gloaming, now I was returning to my car with the sun still dipping towards the horizon. The evenings are lengthening!

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The Coniston Fells across the estuary: Caw extreme left rising to Dow Crag (partially obscured by cloud) the significant v is Goat Hause then Coniston Old Man above it to the right. More about the Old Man soon(ish).

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Corvids, a Buzzard and Bumbarrels on Arnside Knott

Nature Cure

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We have photovoltaic panels on our roof. Yesterday they generated 6 kilowatt hours of electricity. Today they did the same. Not bad for this time of year, so the sun must have been shining. Sadly I was working too long and too late to enjoy it. What I needed was a nature cure. An apple a day is a very fine thing, but what I think my GP should prescribe is a daily dose of fresh air, a leg stretcher and an encounter with nature. I’m trying to fit one in when I can.

One evening last week, on a child’s-music-lesson-parental-taxi trip to Arnside, I used a half hour window to have a wander up the Knott. The sun had already set, but there was still some pastel shades in the western sky. I’d come out in a hurry, as usual, and was inappropriately attired for the surprisingly cold wind blowing – the difference a little elevation can make often catches me out.

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A familiar and very welcome ronk alerted me to the presence of a raven – in fact three when I turned to look. For five magical minutes I watched them sweeping and tumbling above the hillside. The apparent glee with which ravens fly in turbulent blustery conditions is a wonder to behold.

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When I lost sight of the ravens a buzzard skimmed into view as a second act. The effortless speed of the buzzard in the low light conditions defeated me and my camera. Not to worry, it all made for a very enjoyable interlude.

What do you say? A new direction for the NHS – a Natural Health Service?

Nature Cure

Arnside Knott with the Boys

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So, lets get the obligatory photo of a robin out of the way first. Did you know that a robin’s heart beats something like a 1000 times a second? I can tell that you’re impressed. I intend to store up a lot more trivia about robins and then drip-feed it onto the blog, because robins are so obliging when it comes to posing for photos.

Other birds are available, but they will insist on keeping their distance.

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I don’t know how fast a blue tit’s heart beats. I’ll look in to it and get back to you. Don’t hold your breath.

This was another Saturday afternoon, post-child-to-sport-ferrying stroll. I persuaded both boys to join me. Actually, if I remember correctly, TBH and A had gone off shopping together (a mother daughter bonding ritual) so the persuading went something like: “You’re coming for a walk.”

Not that they were particularly upset by the idea. You can see…

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…that they were entirely inappropriately dressed for a walk in early February. But the sun was shining and although the wind was cool, it didn’t feel too bad, so long as we kept moving. And the boys did keep moving. By the time we reached Arnside Tower we’d already had a wander around Eaves Wood, visiting and clambering up some favourite trees, and crossed Middlebarrow where the boys startled a rabbit and then cornered it under a fallen tree trunk – they were fascinated and wanted me to take a photo. The rabbit was understandably shy.

In the woods on Arnside Knott we found a huge den…

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….which the boys thoroughly approved of. They also found several new climbing frames on which to practice their gymnastic routines.

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As B explored another tree I was astonished to hear S imploring him to come down. Since S doesn’t generally seem to have much of a radar for danger, I hate to think what B was doing to bring this on. I didn’t look: I daren’t. Fortunately, just as there had been on the rest of the walk, there were numerous small birds darting about in the trees to divert me.

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I took a close interest in this nuthatch, and pretty soon B was running up behind me and telling me it was time to move on.

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Only as far as the next enticing tree obviously.

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From the top of the Knott the views were not what they might have been. Although the skies were clear, there was a murky haze, of a sort which I generally associate with warm spring days when, it seems to me, the landscape is drying out after the winter and creating a sort of warm fug.

At the bench near to the top of the Knott, I finally gave in to S’s demands and we stopped for a snack. Now that we’d stopped, the wind put paid to any notion we might have harboured about spring having arrived. We piled on all of our spare clothes, but we were soon chilled to the marrow regardless.

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S was all for phoning home and begging a lift from his mum. But since there were several flaws in that plan, we just got on the move again.

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S didn’t believe that would be effective, but it soon was, and the boys drifted into one of their endless discussions about Minecraft or Lego Batman 3 or some such.

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I think if we could have waited another 15 minutes or so, the sunset would have been really spectacular, but S had only just warmed up again, and it didn’t seem wise to wait in those circumstances.

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There’ll be other sunsets.

Arnside Knott with the Boys

Woozles on Arnside Knott

As usual, I’d been monitoring the forecast as the weekend approached and it was pretty unequivocal: snow first followed by rain, rain and more rain. I’d just about resigned myself to a lazy weekend indoors, but late on Friday night, decided to check the forecast one more time. And lo and behold, between the two weather fronts, it seemed that there would be a few hours of much brighter weather. I hastily chucked some gear into my rucksack and retired to bed with the Ordnance Survey’s Lake District South East sheet.

Accordingly, I was out early the following morning. Our driveway was coated with a thin film of what had clearly fallen as snow, partially thawed and then refrozen into a crackling, slippery surface. But the road through the village was clear – it would be fine! A mile down the road and I was driving on snow. Another mile and I was passing abandoned cars and feeling the wheels spinning as the car struggled to to gain traction on a short, sharp little hill climb. The main road, when I reached it, was only marginally better. In Milnthorpe, I stopped at the petrol station to ask about the road ahead and to weigh up my options. To the North apparently the roads were likely to be bad. To the South I would find no snow at all.

I deliberated for a while and then decided to head home. I took a circuitous route and found that the snow had indeed petered out in just a couple of miles. Silverdale seemed to be on the dividing line, with green fields on the south side of the village but a thin white-over covering on the north.

 Arnside Tower

Arnside Tower

I’d already formulated Plan B: drag the kids out in search of snow. Little S couldn’t be enticed away from the goggle-box, but A and B were both keen to go seeking the white stuff, with the proviso that we must take sledges and find somewhere to use them.

Arnside Knott from the Tower 

Arnside Knott from the Tower.

In Eaves Wood, there was more mud than snow, and a lot of water dripping from the trees, but once north of the wood we found enough snow to sledge. It was as much ice as snow however and the sledges skittered down even a slight slope at an alarming speed.

Once onto the Knott, the snow was still pretty patchy and I began to worry that I had lured A and B out with false promises.

Saul's Road 

Not that I felt too guilty about that – it was fabulous to be out and they were clearly enjoying themselves, although both seemed to be quite tired, or at least, that’s what they told me when they insisted that I should carry the sledges.

Sledging at Heathwaite 

We kept giving the sledges a try, but it was still too icy to commit to anything but the gentlest of slopes.

Approaching the toposcope. 

Near the top of the Knott however, the snow was slightly deeper, although still with an icy crust. The view across the Kent, of Cartmell Fell and Whitbarrow Scar was wonderful, but the higher hills beyond were obscured by cloud, so perhaps it was serendipitous that I had turned back from my planned trip to the Lakes.

Across the estuary to Cartmell Fell and Whitbarrow Scar 

Along the shores of Morecambe Bay to the south we could pick-out green fields where no snow had settled.

Morecambe Bay 

A and B found another place to sledge….

Another icy sledging run 

…and then we paused for hot black-currant cordial with a view.

A pause for hot blackcurrant cordial

We visited the trig pillar…

Approaching the trig pillar. 

…thinking of heading home for some lunch, but decided first to check on the sledging possibilities in the large open field on the north side of the Knott.

At the top of 'the sledging field'. 

Pay dirt! This was the best sledging yet. A tells me the best sledging ever. That’s her…

The sledging field and the river Kent beyond

…slightly right of centre in this photo, on a long sedate run which will take her almost down to the far trees. Two of those, and two reascents of the hill and she declared herself ready to head home. Whilst A made her steady, controlled progress down to the bottom of the hill, B made several wild careering runs down the steep top part of the slope, all ending with him tipping out of the sledge or crashing into a bush or a patch of heather. They’re very different.

Tracking Woozles and Wizzles 

This photo of the two of them, which really belongs a little earlier in our story, made me smile, I think because it reminded me of..

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Well, I know, it’s not very similar. But it was in my mind because we’ve been rereading the stories together. What a delight it is to have an appreciative audience to read them to. All three of the ankle-biters enjoy them and find them funny, despite, or perhaps because of, how many times they’ve heard them before.

Great walk, anyway.

The next day the snow was gone. It’s raining again now, of course.

"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning," he said. "Which I doubt," said he.

"Why, what’s the matter?"

"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it."

"Can’t all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.

"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush."

Woozles on Arnside Knott

A Weekend at Ours I – Golden Time

Steep shingle beach, Far Arnside

Our year revolves around a cycle of regular get-togethers with a group of old friends. A relatively recent addition to the programme is a family weekend in the autumn at our house.

Last year, the weekend was a complete wash-out, with wall-to-wall cloud and rain. So it was pleasing last week to look at the forecast and see, sandwiched between two bouts of foul wet weather, a fine weekend predicted, cold but dry.

In the event, after a hard frost early on, Saturday wasn’t cold at all. We opted for a walk to Arnside. Our daughter A asked for, and received (thanks G!), a local OS map for her birthday and happily took charge of the route planning and navigation. She managed to find a circuit which incorporated four playgrounds, so very child friendly.

How many on the zip wire? 

Here are some of the assembled ankle-biters, stress-testing the zip-wire at the first of those parks, which is just a few hundred yards from home.

From there we ambled through Holgates Caravan Park to the coast at Far Arnside (see the top photo). There are many fossilised corals on display in the rocks there.

Far Arnside Coral Fossil I 

I always forget to put something in the shot to give scale. This one above is quite large, perhaps almost a foot long. This…

Far Arnside Coral Fossil II 

…is a roughly football sized patch of these…

Far Arnside Coral Fossil III - detail 

This tessellation of irregular polygons…

Far Arnside Coral Fossil IV 

…was tiny.

(There’s a bit more about the fossils in this post.)

We took an early, and leisurely lunch on the rocks here, chiefly because it looked such an inviting place to sit in the sun.

Lunch Stop 

At Far Arnside we’d passed ivy absolutely thronging with bees. On the cliff path the scabious flowers were attracting hover-flies…

Hoverfly on Scabious 

A convenient rocky ramp….

Down to the beach 

…leads down from the cliff-top to…

 

…the wide open spaces of the sands. This has long been a favourite spot of mine and I was pleased that our friend D, the Junior Sherpa, was impressed. He isn’t easily impressed. The playgrounds were ‘mundane’. And I think he found our general lack of pace and ambition frustrating. After-all, he’s a seasoned mountain man these days. He was also keen to get back to the house for some ‘Golden Time’ with his friends. (No, I’m not sure what he meant either).

I couldn’t persuade D, or indeed anybody else, to taste the samphire which was thrusting up through the beach. I was pretty tentative myself, bit I did nibble a small piece. Salty. And reminiscent of something……,which I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

 Samphire

The first part of the river-bank walk into Arnside, on estuarine mud, was a sloppy, slip-sliding affair. Some of the children, well principally my boys, were coated, seemingly from head to foot.

There’s a spot on the bank where deadly night-shade grows every year, and we admired the smooth, shiny black berries from a respectful distance.

The tide warning siren at the Coastguard station was sounded a couple of times. We enjoyed an ice-cream on the promenade and watched the tidal bore shoot down past the viaduct.

From there, after a brief visit to another playground, we climbed up on to Arnside Knott.

Arnside Knott panorama 

The air was very clear and the views were stunning. A high-effort-to-view-ratio according to the Shandy Sherpa and the Adopted Yorkshireman.

A spot of tree climbing 

The kids were more interested in a bit of tree climbing.

Group photo 

The Next Generation.

I’d been boasting that the hills of North Wales could be seen from the Knott in the right conditions. It was certainly a clear day. We could see Skiddaw over Dunmail Raise, a ferry arriving from Ireland at Heysham, and Blackpool Tower down the coast. And also, apparently, the afore-mentioned hills of North Wales, which I missed, being too busy gabbing.

Our route home took us past Arnside Tower…

Arnside Tower

…and through Eaves Wood.

With sixteen to serve for tea, we settled on two sittings: simple pasta based fare for the kids and a fabulous take-away from our local Indian Restaurant, Cinnamon Spice, for the greying brigade. Heartily recommended by the way. I always go for the mixed kebab and Chicken Handi Achar. Everybody else seemed to enjoy their meals too. The onion bahjis were superb.

A lazy walk. Sunshine. Good company. Curry. A few beers. Loads of blather.

Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

A Weekend at Ours I – Golden Time