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.

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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…