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

A Snowy Sunrise

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Snow came to Silverdale, an unusual occurrence.

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I’d been up for a while, catching up on some red-ink dispersion, but was now heading for those woods on the skyline, to catch the sunrise.  I should really have set off earlier; twenty minutes before the sun came up the clouds were suffused with a pink glow which I didn’t have a decent vantage point to photograph.

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When the sun did finally rise, it was obscured by the clouds on the eastern horizon. I suppose I could have waited, but my toes were cold, I had places to be (well a place – Cartmell – to collect B from a night away with his team-mates), and if I had stayed put, I would have missed the spectacle of the sun appearing through the snow-rimmed trees…

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As I’ve noted before, coming back down the hill creates an illusion of a second sunrise…

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And with that, astonishingly, I’m up to date.

Feels a bit weird.

A Snowy Sunrise

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

Christmas at Home

 And The Strange Case of the Topless Toposcope

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So – the title says it all really: we spent Christmas at home.

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Well, there’s a little bit more to it than that: my brother and his family joined us from Switzerland and my Mum and Dad came to stay too. Short local rambles were very much the order of the day.

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Our kids seem to have forgotten loom bands, but this years other big craze (for them at least) of whittling sticks is still be going strong. I’m more in to ‘whittling on’….

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Eagle-eyed patrons of this blog may have noticed, in a recent post ,that next to the Pepper Pot, which is really a monument built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, a smaller structure has appeared….

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…. which is a toposcope, similarly erected in honour of the sixtieth year of the reign of our present monarch….

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On Christmas Eve, B and I were up and about whilst everyone else was still sound in their beds, so we decided to catch the sunrise from the Pepper Pot…

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…and we discovered that the scope, from the toposcope, had disappeared already.

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I don’t know why. I’m no Royalist, but I hope it wasn’t vandalism.

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I’ve done quite a few sunrise and sunset walks of late; I have a feeling that they may be a bit of a feature of 2015.

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And, with the help of my new camera, I think that photos of Robins may also be a feature of this year. Here’s one from the tail-end of last year…

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Me made several visits to the Cove and its little cave. It was different every time, from calm and sunny with the tide well out, to wild and windy with very high tides and and proper waves (which is a bit unusual on the Bay).

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The boys love ice. They get very excited whenever the local ponds (in this case Banks Well) freeze over. Their thought process seems to be something like: “Fantastic: ice! I wonder if I can smash it?”

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A Merry Christmas to all our readers!

(I know, I know – think of it as a really early goodwill message for next Christmas)

Christmas at Home

The Wise Thrush

Eaves Wood primroses

Spring has arrived, hand-in-hand with a heatwave and drought conditions in many parts of England (not here however). I woke up early on Saturday morning, and peering out of the bedroom window found a bleary-eyed sun rising behind trees and and a low layer of mist, but cloudless skies overhead. Too good to waste. I dressed, tiptoed downstairs, drank a glass of water and left the rest of the household asleep as I set-off for the Pepper Pot. On the ginnel path down to Cove Road I passed a blackbird making small, soft sounds somewhere between a pop and a caw. Each vocalisation was proceeded by a rising lump, like an Adam’s-apple, in his throat. Strangely, he seemed quite unfazed by my scrutiny. Sparrows in the same hedgerow were quite tolerant of my presence too, and once I was in the wood, the same could be said of the many chaffinches, great tits, robins, marsh tits, blue tits and coal tits which were singing and bouncing in the trees and clearings. The roe deer I startled was less sanguine and shot away before I even had my camera in my hand.

My original intention had been a quick, pre-breakfast blast to the Pepper Pot and then home again, but now that I was out I was in no hurry to return. I wandered along the broad back of the hill on which Eaves Wood stands, with no clear destination in mind, but with a plan coalescing: I would head to Haweswater. In Sixteen Buoys Field I encountered another roe deer. This one a buck. He was too quick for me and my camera, but I was so close when he bolted that I could see the fur on his antlers.

Violet 

Violet

Haweswater 

Haweswater

Song thrush 

I’d heard and seen a few song thrushes by the time I encountered this one down by Haweswater, but none of the others were as loud or as eloquent as this one.

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,

Lest you should think he never could recapture

The first fine careless rapture!

There were chiff-chaffs singing here too – returning visitors whose distinctive song is a sure sign that spring has truly begun. I also watched a tiny bird hopping about shyly on a tree, always just out of sight, but eventually had a good enough view to see that it was a goldcrest, the first I’d seen for quite some time.

Toothwort 

Toothwort grows in two spots that I know of locally. I usually look to find it flowering in early April, but this year, like last, it’s been a little earlier.

Toothwort too 

It’s an entirely parasitical plant with no leaves and it’s hairy pale pinky-white flowers look….well, a bit creepy.

White violet 

White violet.

Wheelbarrow 

Whilst I was priding myself on having snuck in a good stroll before breakfast, other villagers were up and about and going about their business – feeding the ponies and such like.

Lambs 

This year’s lambs have been with us for a while now.

Sparrow 

Sparrow.

Cheeky blackbird

My walk ended, as it had begun – with a meeting with a blackbird. Like the first, and unlike the thrushes I had seen, it wasn’t singing, just muttering quietly to itself. Probably had garden furniture to paint…..

The Wise Thrush

Never So Fair

Come a Thursday night and thoughts turn to the possibilities for getting out and about over the forthcoming weekend. Forecasts are checked, maps mental and actual are perused, plans are hatched. Last week, the local forecast for Sunday looked particularly promising and my half-baked plans centred around a Sunday morning jaunt.

On the day, I was awake fairly early, and might, I suppose, have made an early start in the car and headed off to do a bit of exploring, within the limits of what my dodgy ankle would allow. But no, after a quick internal consultation, I discovered that a local walk was unanimously favoured. In fact, ‘a local walk’ eventually became three very short excursions interspersed with brief breaks at home to rest the ankle, pick-up batteries for the camera, brew-up, eat lunch etc. All very civilized actually.

Hazel catkins

Every year, when a sunny early-spring opportunity presents itself, I like to take a photo of hazel catkins, now long and yellow and opened and presumably spreading pollen with abandon, and post the photo here. In my mind it means: the fuse of spring has been lit. But on this occasion, whilst I was taking the photo, I found that I was distracted by misplaced sea anemones, waving their tiny tentacles in search of hedgerow minnows.

Hazel flower - female

How have I taken so many catkin photos in the last few years and always missed these? In my defence, they are very small, but once I noticed one, it was like the scales had been lifted – they were everywhere. These are the Hazel’s female flowers, whilst the catkins are male flowers. Next spring expect more lamb’s-tail catkins, but also more waving red tentacles.

Robin 

It wasn’t just me enjoying a taste of spring, whilst the curlews and oyster-catchers in the fields were working diligently, the smaller birds in the wood and the hedges were singing and hopping about and generally strutting their funky stuff. With no leaves on the trees this is a brilliant time to watch those birds. Over the three trips I saw robins, great tits, blue tits, marsh tits, long-tailed tits, a nuthatch, bullfinches, chaffinches, thrushes and blackbirds. Nothing out of the ordinary, but marvellous none-the-less.

Backlit beech leaf 

My first stroll took me into Eaves Wood. I’d thought: “Winter sun = backlit leaves”, but actually few opportunities presented themselves. Fortunately, there were many more things to point my camera at.

Snowdrops 

Including this crow, rather brazenly sunning itself over our neighbours chicken-coop.

Crow

My second stroll, a lollipop route up across the fields to Stanklet Lane, into Pointer Wood, along Hollins Lane to the cliff-top path, which took me back to Stankelt Lane and the path across the fields to home. A hollow in the limestone pavement in Pointer Wood seems to provide a perfect environment for primroses, which thrive there. Later in the spring there will be a stunning display, but already a few flowers are showing…

First roses 

Primroses.

Hazel flowers 

Male and female Hazel flowers.

Blue tit investigates nesting hole. 

I stood for a while and watched and listened to the birds. I particularly enjoyed a nuthatch edging down a branch head first, bullfinches very high in the trees, and a pair of blue tits exploring a promising hole in a tree trunk.

The third time I went out the kids tagged along. Well, there may actually have been an element of me dragging them along. But once we were out they were more than happy. They have their own agenda of course: I tinkered with our route to it, but inevitably we had to incorporate a visit to the many-limbed ‘climbing tree’ early in the walk. This time nobody fell out of it, which was a relief.

Posing in the 'climbing tree'. 

Castlebarrow was busy, with various groups assembled by the Pepper Pot enjoying the sunshine and the view. The kids had more trees to climb and a complicated game to play in which they were shape-shifters metamorphosing into myriad animal forms. I left them flapping and crawling and roaring their way around the hill and found a sheltered grassy spot, out of the niggley wind, where I could indulge in a little cloud watching.

Cloud watching 

Or to put it another way: lying down. The cloud had been building through the day. Until I lay down and observed for a while, I had it down as archetypal fluffy cumulus. Maybe it was cumulus, but on a fairly still day it moved quite quickly, rolling and tearing – fascinating to watch and decidedly not cotton wool white lumps. The sky directly overhead cleared completely and was then divided by the contrail of a transatlantic jet. I was surprised how quickly that contrail dispersed. My eyes may even have closed for a moment or two. Then I watched, high above, a large bird of prey effortlessly circling, probably a buzzard.

 Backlit birch bark

Backlit, peeling, papery birch bark.

Running in the woods 

Running in the woods.

Eaves Wood

Bare trees.

Unfurling cuckoo pint leaf

And a final photo of the day – I’d come looking for backlit leaf-litter, but much more appropriately, was presented with this glowing, unfurling cuckoo pint leaf, Arum maculatum, another symbol of early spring.

And the evenings are lengthening. Magic.

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Another effect that bright fresh spring days have on me, is to send me back to the poetry of e.e. cummings, and on this occasion I found this…

The Eagle

1

It was one of those clear,sharp.mustless days
        That summer and man delight in.
Never had Heaven seemed quite so high,
Never had earth seemed quite so green,
Never had the world seemed quite so clean
Or sky so nigh.
        And I heard the Deity’s voice in
            The sun’s warm rays,
        And the white cloud’s intricate maze,
And the blue sky’s beautiful sheen. 
2

I looked to the heavens and saw him there,–
        A black speck downward drifting,
Nearer and nearer he steadily sailed,
Nearer and nearer he slid through space,
In an unending aerial race,
       This sailor who hailed
       From the Clime of the Clouds.–Ever shifting,
            On billows of air
        And the blue sky seemed never so fair,
And the rest of the world kept pace. 
3

On the white of his head the sun flashed bright;
        And he battled the wind with wide pinions,
Clearer and clearer the gale whistled loud,
Clearer and clearer he came into view,–
Bigger and blacker against the blue.
        Then a dragon of cloud
        Gathering all its minions
            Rushed to the fight,
        And swallowed him up in a bite;
And the sky lay empty clear through.
4

Long I watched.   And at last afar
        Caught sight of a speck in the vastness;
Ever smaller,ever decreasing,
Ever drifting,drifting awayInto the endless realms of day;
        Finally ceasing.
        So into Heaven’s vast fastness
           Vanished that bar
Of black,as a fluttering star
Goes out while still on its way.
5

So I lost him.   But I shall always see
            In my mind
The warm,yellow sun,and the ether free;
The vista’s sky,and the white cloud trailing,
        Trailing behind,–
And below the young earth’s summer-green arbors,
And on high the eagle,–sailing,sailing
        Into far skies and unknown harbors

Which, if not a perfect fit, chimed with my day sufficiently to make it glow again in retrospect.

Never So Fair

Another, and another, and another…

The Climbing Tree

Another weekend in January and the sun is shining again. Generally, the weather has been foul – on Thursday night we had lightening and one of the heaviest and most prolonged hail showers I’ve ever seen. But if it all comes good at the weekend then I’m a happy man.

Some old friends in the village – empty nesters – had young visitors, nieces and nephews, who joined us for a tour of Eaves Wood. We took them, as we always do in these circumstances, to The Climbing Tree, a large coppiced beech which was once the The Other Climbing Tree, but which seems to have supplanted the original Climbing Tree, a yew, in the children’s affections.

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Our city-dwelling guests’ anxiety about the numerous perceived dangers of the woods, and trees and the ‘mountain’ we were climbing, were hardly assuaged when, shortly after I took this photo, A fell out of the tree and banged her head. She was shaken, and chose to go home (but doesn’t seem to be permanently damaged).

What was left of the party continued to Castlebarrow, where the views were magnificent – the Bowland fells and Ingleborough were white-over with snow.

Castlebarrow view 

And either side of the sun, were sundogs…

Sundog east 

…parhelions.

When I raved to my friend the Painter about seeing this phenomena back in 2010, he was thoroughly underwhelmed – he sees them all the time apparently. It is his job to be out looking at the landscape and sky I suppose.

Sundog west 

Still, I haven’t seen them since then so I was quite happy. By blocking the view of the sun with a hand, you could just about make out a complete halo around the sun.

We were joined near the Pepper Pot by a sizable group of walkers, presumably from a club. I don’t belong to a walking club at present, but having had many formative experiences whilst out on club trips in the distant past (Oadby Hill-Walking Club and Manchester University Hiking Club) I generally regard clubs as A Good Thing. (Especially, when they’re walking where I’m not, heh heh)

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We took a more circuitous route home, taking in a few more Eaves Wood landmarks – the ruined cottage, the giant ant-hill, and the Ring O’Beeches where one beech has a branch which bends down almost to the ground and which the kids like to swing on. B showed-off by climbing up and along said branch and into the bole of the tree – given our families recent propensity for misadventure I had to bite my tongue and look away. Fortunately, there was a great view of Ingleborough to look away at. (And also, B didn’t fall off.)

Snowy Ingleborough

(The rocks in the foreground are the top of the cliffs at Trowbarrow Quarry)

One of our young visitors was really enthused by the view. I told him that if he would come back in a few months, I would take him up there. His uncle, my friend T, wondered whether the invitation extended to him, since he’s never been up Ingleborough – so there’s another plan for this year.

Another sunny day, another stroll, another sighting of a sundog, another scheme for a day on the hill and another accident. I could really do without any more of the latter, but keep the rest rolling on.

Another, and another, and another…

Simple Pleasures

Although the kids were all awake early, it was chucking it down and I first sent Amy and Ben to bed to listen to audiobooks, and then to wake up their grandparents. After a luxurious lie in, I took Sam out for his mid-morning nap. Since he hadn’t slept too well in the night I put him in his buggy. The rain had stopped and the cloud was beginning to break up with odd patches of blue apparent. The cold breeze didn’t deter Sam who soon fell asleep. We crossed the field to Stankelt Road and took Slackwood Lane to the viewpoint over Leighton Moss.

I could hear screeching Jays even before we reached Myer’s Allotment; I briefly saw two white rumps before they disappeared into an ivy covered tree. I could hear one of the birds for quite some time afterwards – it sounded very angry. I remembered today to look for the white violets on the corner of the Row and they were exactly where I remembered them. Two cock pheasants loosed their startled squawks: one had a white band on its collar – the other didn’t. I remember my cousin Paul mentioning this variation in male pheasants – are there two distinct species? In every other respect they appeared to be identical.

The gardens of the Row played host to an orchestral feast of birdsong. I traced a familiar twittering to a blue tit, and then heard two more repeating the same refrain. A bird that I couldn’t identify from either its plumage or its song, sang beautifully from the upper branches of a high tree. Perhaps it was some kind of warbler? We certainly used to get blackcaps in our garden when we lived here. Near the far end of the Row a greenfinch sang a single rasping note repeatedly.

By the time we reached Eaves Wood large patches of blue dominated the sky and the sun was beginning to mitigate the effect of the cold wind. I saw a woodpecker in almost the same spot as yesterday. This time I saw it bouncing up a branch before I heard it and when it did give voice it was with a strident Pip pip pip rather than the chuckling I heard yesterday. The wood ants were busy again, but not in such large numbers. A second woodpecker caught my attention and as I stopped to watch it, I noticed first some long-tail tits and then on a tree trunk immediately in front of me – a treecreeper. I haven’t seen that distinctive profile for quite some time.

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Shortly after arriving home I was sitting here at the computer transferring my photos when a blackbird decided to use the birdbath just beyond the window.

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We had to do some shopping, which wouldn’t normally make it into my blog, be we were all impressed by the Austin 7 we parked next to:

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After the supermarket we’d promised the kids a walk up Warton Crag. Sam wanted some milk and a clean nappy first, so while Angela dealt with that, I took Amy and Ben to have a look at Warton Rectory.

It’s the ruins of a medieval manor house, early fourteenth century I think the information board said.

Ben decided that it was a ‘Dragon House’ and went hunting dragons. Amy pointed out that the windows are like church windows.

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The children have not been up Warton Crag before, although it’s only a couple of miles from home. It’s another modest hill, a little higher than Castlebarrow, but like many small hills it has views out of all proportion to its size. Even as you begin to climb you have fantastic views of the Forest of Bowland and across the Lune Valley to Ingleborough:

The views across the salt marshes to the bay can also be breathtaking.

Sometimes the sky makes the view. (For a brilliant photographic essay – a beautiful and informative lesson on clouds and meteorology see Alistair’s post here.)

The path follows a limestone edge – this meant a little scrambling for the kids which they loved. Soon it skirts the top of a large quarry. A substantial flock of jackdaws were wheeling and diving below us. The quarry is now a car park and a fair sized flock of birdwatchers had congregated there. Even from high above we could see the tripods, scopes and cameras. Hopefully they appreciated the noisy jackdaws, but I’m reliably informed that this is a birding hotspot at the moment because ravens, peregrines and (I think most importantly) a chough are all roosting here.

Turning away from the quarry we had to contend with short climbs up limestone bluffs and with prickly thickets of blackthorn. A bullfinch’s crimson breast stood out dramatically against the bold blue sky.

At the top a little rocky perch provides great views northward.

To the Lakeland fells:

The water below the woods is Leighton Moss again. Beyond is the Kent estuary. In the very centre of the picture it’s possible to pick out the distinctive outline of the Langdale Pikes.

Here’s the Kent estuary again, behind it Whitbarrow Scar and behind that you can just about see some snow on Fairfield and Hellvelyn.

The top of the Crag was a Brigante hill fort (as was Ingleborough) although you wouldn’t know it now. This beacon was built in 1988 as part of a celebration of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Beacons like this were apparently situated and manned in coastal areas all around the country and were lit to warn of invasion.

The kids were less interested in the views than in the cartons of apple juice they had carried in their rucksacks as provisions.

Just beyond the trig point, ground ivy was flowering, the first I’ve seen this year. The woods here were carpeted with the spikes of bluebell leaves: we shall have to come back in a few weeks.

We took the woodland path down.

Which was in places very muddy. Ben took particular delight in this and each new wet sloppy bit of path was met with squeals of delight. I’m sure that he would share e.e.cummings view that the world is ‘puddle-wonderful’.

Amy was very struck by these misplaced Easter island heads:

And we wondered whether Andy Goldsworthy had been at work on this fallen tree:

I enjoyed watching a nuthatch skilfully negotiating the branches of a tree.

We finished the walk with much the same view as we began:

Simple Pleasures

Sap Rising

Ben woke up early again, and once Ben’s awake nobody else can sleep for long. So I was out with Ben and Sam in the double-buggy fairly early this morning. As if to emphasise that fact the first person we passed was the milkman.

Along Stankelt Road the rooks were out in force, sitting in pairs on chimney pots and in trees crawing noisily. As we got close to Pointer Wood I could hear a woodpecker drumming, and as we followed the road along the edge of the wood the drumming got very loud, but although it must have been nearby I couldn’t see the woodpecker.

Somewhere close to where Stankelt Road becomes Slackwood Lane, Sam fell asleep. Ben, bless him, had hugged Sam until he dropped off. The road drops down a hill which gives great views over the yellow reed beds and Rorschach blob pools of Leighton Moss.

We turned into The Row, where we lived until a couple of years ago. This corner is another good place to find white violets, but I was so absorbed by Myer’s Allotment that I forgot to look for them. Myer’s Allotment is a field owned by a butterfly conservation group. It has open areas of grass and limestone, some mature trees and lots of scrubby thickets of thorny bushes and brambles. The topmost branches of two tall trees set well back from the road seemed to be festooned with rooks. But they were apparently sitting calmly and silently. Most unrooklike. The allotment was generally busy with birds. I could hear robins, thrushes and blackbirds singing, and probably lots of others too that my untutored ears can’t differentiate. The distinctive squawking of a pair of magpies made me turn to the golf-course on the other side of the road, and as I watched them wing across the fairway a similar, but less harsh call drew me back in time to see a jay coming in to land high in a tree. I waited expecting to see a second jay and very shortly my patience was rewarded. I was only bemoaning the fact that I haven’t seen any jays for ages over on Tom’s Blog last week and here they are! Another example of my desires made flesh? (well feathers).

After the pastel pink of the jays’ bellies, the next birds that caught my attention were a couple of pairs of bullfinches, the brash cerise of the males is quite hard to miss.

Approaching down the lane I saw somebody else with a double buggy. It was Matt with his lads and their spaniels. They live in our old house. Matt told me that he would normally go into Eaves Wood rather then coming down the lane and I immediately decided that I would go that way home, rather than following my intended route along Park Road.

Alongside the Row is Bank Well:

On hot summer days a good place to see exotic looking dragonflies and on balmy summer evenings a top spot for bats. It looks like quite a lot of clearing-up of encroaching vegetation has taken place on the road side. I had been expecting to see Colt’s-foot flowering somewhere soon, and here it was on the verge of the pond:

Entering Eaves Wood through the Jubilee Wood car park – so called I believe because it was purchased by the village and presented to the National Trust in 1977 the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee – I spotted a dead birch which has clearly been used as a drumming post by a woodpecker. It had several large holes in it, one of which went right through the trunk.

I passed another dead birch, the same one as yesterday. It still hasn’t admitted defeat and is still spilling sap from its severed trunk:

This view from the edge of Eaves Wood back towards the village

shows a good view of the route that I often follow along the edge of the last field by the white houses and past the large farmhouse slightly left of centre in the shot.

Yesterday in Eaves Wood I saw two corvids building a large nest and wondered whether they were Ravens. Today, walking below these birches:

I heard a ronk ronk call that makes me think that I may have been right.

Just as we were leaving Eaves Wood Sam woke up. Ben was overjoyed and it was only now when he started to sing and laugh and roar that I realised what a great effort he had been making to keep quiet and let Sam sleep. Normally Ben has just two settings: asleep and very loud, so he did very well.

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Later we all went to….. Woodwell ,where else? This time Amy had a self-appointed mission to collect some water from the waterfall because she has a ‘recipe’ for fairy perfume and three drops of rainwater is the first ingredient.

Yesterday I noticed a number of trees whose branches seemed to be covered in small dark balls. I assumed that it had something to do with buds opening and leaves appearing, but today a fallen branch confirmed my suspicions:

It looks like a half-ripened blackberry with its nodules of black, purple and ruby red, but in fact it’s one of the black buds of Ash which is in the process of coming into leaf.

Walking by gardens and through woods we get serenaded by a succession of territorial robins. This one sat in a bush in the vicarage garden:

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Sam needed a late nap so I was out again, this time accompanied only by Sam in the buggy. I went down to the ‘beach’, and took the following pictures of ominous clouds over the Bay:

Sap Rising