Where the Wild Things Are

P1010473 

Nothing to do with Maurice Sendak’s evocative book I’m afraid, apart from the fact that I’ve appropriated his title. I have been thinking of launching into another of my occasional polemics, but I’ve decided that I enjoyed this walk too much to turn the account of it into an intemperate rant. So lets suffice to say that ‘where the wild things are’ is not in some distant, untouched, inviolate wilderness, but is on our doorstep, all around us. Nature lives cheek by jowl with manunkind: it doesn’t have much choice.

P1010478 

Leaving aside the downsides of that fact – since I’ve decided not to rant – one happy consequence is that the wildness and wet, the weeds and the wilderness, can still be appreciated by anybody prepared to step outside their doors.

All through the winter months the fields around the village are full of birds probing the soil for food. Rooks and jackdaws, sometimes curlews, but most noticeably flocks of oystercatchers.

P1010479 

My attempts to take photographs of them have not generally been very successful, and once again, the presence of me and my camera spooked the oystercatchers, along with a couple of stray black-headed gulls, but at least I caught them sweeping away this time.

It was E.E.Cummings again who provoked my pondering the relationship between man and nature:

when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage –
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age

when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
– and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close

when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn – valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude – and march
denounces april as a saboteur

then we’ll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind (and not until)

Not the hymn to spring I keep promising I know, but it’s another new addition to my growing list of favourites.

Anyway, this was half-term’s final Saturday afternoon and a meandering beating of the bounds, a glorious final fling for the holiday. (I did briefly get out on Sunday, but it was drizzling when I set-off and it went downhill weatherwise from there, so we’ll draw a veil over that.) The rest of the crew were furiously stitching Little S’s new teddy bear so I was once again on my own.

P1010484 

Looking into Lambert’s Meadow.

P1010485 

In Burtonwell Wood there were more snowdrops to enjoy and a shy pair of roe deer who escaped through the trees long before I could even retrieve my camera from its case.

P1010487 

Larches and beeches. The right-most of the two beeches has a holly growing out of a hollow in its trunk. (The holly doesn’t have too many leaves though – I wonder whether it is struggling.)

P1010494 

New leaves! Honeysuckle always makes an early showing.

I was improvising a trajectory which busily went nowhere. On Heald Brow, which I haven’t visited for a while, there’s a loop of permission path which perfectly suited the circuitous curlicues of my route. Whilst wandering I encountered…

P1010496 

…what I assume is another of the village’s many wells.

P1010500 

Heald Brow is dimpled with meadow ant mounds.

P1010502 

Some of which have been got at….

P1010503 

…I presume either by badgers or by green woodpeckers.

A supermoon had brought unusually high tides which had left the salt marshes flooded…

P1010505 

This departure from the norm was too much to resist and so I took the steep path which headed down in that direction.

P1010508 

The raised bank which has held back the flooding here is Quaker’s Stang – an old sea defence.

P1010513 

This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,

Generally there’s a small trickle of water here, a tributary of Quicksand Pool, which drains Leighton Moss. On this occasion it was flowing with quite some volume, power and noise.

P1010517 

This ash tree was still carrying buds –  I suspect it was left here by the receding waters and I think the same probably applies to the shingle ‘beach’ beneath it.

P1010527 

I’m pretty shaky when identifying wading birds, but I’m hoping that the new camera will help with that. This is a redshank.

P1010528 

P1010536 

P1010539 

Quicksand Pool.

P1010542 

The old quay at Jenny Brown’s Point.

P1010544 

I had intended to head up onto Jack Scout, but rounding the corner I found that the sand was firm and decided to continue round back to the village. ( It wouldn’t have worked without wellies; I had to wade an ankle deep channel.)

P1010552 

The sun was heading towards the horizon; the wind was blowing cold and fresh; the views were expansive. Sometimes the ‘wildness and wet’ are not too hard to find.

P1010558 

P1010588 

Arnside Knott.

P1010609 

Noisy creatures gulls, but I’ve often noticed that, around sunset, they can been observed ghosting silently out into The Bay, drifting by overhead.

P1010612 

Fish eggs.

Once again I was stalking oystercatchers. This time they let me get a bit closer.

P1010614 

I took a few pictures of the birds. Then a picture of the sunset, or two. Then moved slowly a little closer to the oystercatchers.

Finally, the birds patience with me ran out and I almost got the birds and the sunset together….

P1010626 

This was only an afternoon stroll….

P1010633

…but it was a real corker!

Roll on the next staycation.

Where the Wild Things Are

Back To Jenny Brown’s

P9210921

A Sunday stroll. One of our favourite routes: down through Fleagarth wood to the salt marsh, round to Jenny Brown’s, Jack Scout and home again via Woodwell.

The kids are posing here on the remnants of the bridge which, when I first moved to the area, used to cross Quicksand Pool, but which was laid low by the moving channels hereabouts.

P9210923 

The channels are continuing to shift, and the old wharf is now under threat of being undermined.

P9210924 

It may not last much longer. Soon afterwards we heard that moves are afoot, sponsored by local charity Morecambe Bay Partnership, to get an archaeological survey organised, involving local people. I put my name down as a volunteer, but couldn’t think in what capacity I might be qualified to assist, apart from perhaps as a hod-carrier, or chief cook and bottle washer.

P9210925 

The wharf is already damaged.

P9210926 

I wonder what will be turned up, and whether a bit of sleuthing will reveal the purpose of these mysterious odds and ends.

P9210927 

Close by, to the north, low tide shows the remains of a long stone embankment stretching a mile into the sea, the remains of a controversial land reclamation scheme. An Act of Parliament (1874) permitted the Warton Land Company to enclose an area stretching from Jenny Brown’s Point to Hest Bank. Work began in 1875, building the embankment from limestone extracted from the quarry at Jenny Brown’s Point, but proved much more difficult than had been expected by the surveyors and engineers. In 1885 the company was declared bankrupt.

from the website of the Mourholme Local History Society

P9210928

Just a couple of weeks later there was a local history weekend in the village (of which more anon). I attended a talk about the Matchless disaster, subject of a new book.

P9270956

Here we are in the Gaskell Hall, just after the talk. It was absolutely fascinating, setting the accident in context. I have to confess, I hadn’t previously heard of the ill-fated Matchless.

Just beyond the remains of the embankment is the site of a boating disaster – the sinking of the Matchless in 1894. A pleasure boat sailed from Morecambe with 33 passengers, taking the much-travelled route to Grange, and carrying a cargo of millworkers holidaying in Morecambe. A sudden squall caught the boat broadside, rolled the boat over, and resulted in 25 passengers drowning. 8 others, together with the boat’s skipper, were saved by other pleasure boats. The inquest that followed was brief and hurried, and seemed to be something of a whitewash.

from the website of the Mourholme Local History Society

Matchless Sketch

Many of the victims were from Burnley. I think I shall always think of this tragedy when I visit Jenny Brown’s from now on. And also of the image of Barnum and Bailey’s circus crossing the sands with elephants amongst their company, which was another story we heard that weekend. What a sight that must have been!

We searched for, and found, fossils in the cliffs below Jack Scout.

S also found…

P9210935

….a sponge.

P9210930 

Crepuscular Rays

P9210940 

Jack Scout seat.

P9210941 

Traveller’s Joy.

P9210942 

The Bay from Jack Scout.

P9210943 

This is the Wolfhouse, named for this crest and its motto: Homo homini lupus.

P9210944

A bit of lazy internet research reveals that this is (or maybe) a quote from the comic play Asinaria by Titus Maccius Plautus from 194BC. It’s more normally quoted as ‘Homo homini lupus est’ – Man is a wolf to man. Not the cheeriest thought, but in light of the total disregard for safety which led to the loss of life in the Matchless disaster, or in Morecambe Bay’s other great tragedy 110 years later, when the cockle-pickers were drowned, perhaps depressingly accurate at least some of the time.

That’s a very sombre note on which to end an account of what had been a most enjoyable saunter!

Back To Jenny Brown’s

An Autumn Ramble

PA130135

Little S, who isn’t that little anymore, but is probably always destined to be Little S in my mind even when he’s towering over me, has often been the family’s reluctant walker. Pleasing to report then, that last autumn he began to suggest, even to demand, that we take him out on walks.

These photos are from one of several local walks we did together, this one will stick in my mind because it was just the two of us, with the rest of the family being busy elsewhere.

PA130136 

We discovered a superabundance of fungi and ferns, and in one spot a woodland windfall of surprisingly sweet and tasty apples (these were decidedly not crab-apples). I’ve made a mental note of the place for future reference.

PA130141

This, I think,…..

PA130148

…is a Harlequin ladybird. It’s not native to the UK, but was introduced in 2004, is extremely invasive and represents a threat to our indigenous species.

We’d walked through Pointer Wood and Clark’s Lot, through Fleagarth Wood, past the old chimney to Jenny Brown’s Point (near where, S insisted I take this picture)….

PA130153 

At Jack Scout we stopped to do a spot of birding, having, for once, remembered to bring some binoculars along for that purpose. Memorably, we watched a black-backed gull catch a crab – we could clearly see the crab frantically wriggling its legs whilst pinned in the gull’s beak. A pair of crows then harried the much larger gull, with, I think, some partial success – I’m fairly certain that they gained possession of part of the crab.

Later the same day, we all had a wander down to Leighton Moss. From Lillian’s Hide, we spent quite some time watching a pair of snipe in the reeds at the near edge of the mere. They were incredibly difficult to spy, their camouflage is so effective. This photo was taken at maximum zoom and has then been heavily cropped:

PA130164

It was only today, six months later, that I realised that both of the birds are in this shot. Can you pick them both out?

They were pointed out to us by some Proper Birders, who very kindly let us view the snipe through their powerful monocular. They thought, or perhaps hoped, that these might be the more uncommon jack snipe, but I think that they were wrong – some of the many photos I took show the yellow crown stripe which identify them as plain old snipe.

An Autumn Ramble

A Families Weekend at Ours

I haven’t fallen out of love with blogging, I’ve just been preposterously busy; and then, the further one gets behind, the more daunting the prospect of catching up becomes.

So – hopefully on the road to catching-up – a weekend back in September. What has become one of the many regular fixtures in our calendar – a gaggle of friends dropping in for a weekend in the Arnside/Silverdale AONB. We can just about squeeze them all in, although some have to sleep on the drive in their campervan. Two years ago the weather was rotten. Last year it was superb. This year it was….well, neither one nor the other really.

On the Saturday, when we finally dragged ourselves away from copious cups of tea around the kitchen table, we walked down through Fleagarth Wood to Jenny Brown’s Point and then back via Jack Scout and very possibly the Lots and the Cove.

P9210013

Near Jenny Brown’s Cottages there were numerous and varied fossils in the rocks.

P9210039 

P9210014

P9210035

Most impressive (I’m hoping the Andy’s photos do them more justice than mine), but I can’t work out how I’ve walked past them hundreds of times in the 20 years I’ve lived in the area without noticing them before.

As in previous years, we rounded off our Saturday with a very fine sample of dishes from our local Indian take-away. (I’m very fond of the Handi Achar, but the Kursi Chicken was very good too. So much so that it may be my new favourite.)

The weather on Sunday showed much more promise and we were full of hope as we crossed the causeway at Leighton Moss (soon afterward the scene of the BBC’s AutumnWatch).

P9220054 

But when we stopped for some lunch on the benches on Summer House Hill above Leighton Hall, there was a rather cold wind….

P9220059 

…and we watched a curious blanket of low cloud enveloping the view and putting a bit of a damper on the day.

P9220061

We decided to abandon our plan of an ascent of Warton Crag and instead went to explore Cringlebarrow, Deepdale, Yealand Allotment and the environs of Hawes Water – which, according to some younger members of the party, was much too long a walk even without the addition of Warton Crag.

P9220062

Anyway – a very fine weekend. The ankle-biters are firmly of the opinion that we should have two such weekends next year……

A Families Weekend at Ours

The Old Quay Jenny Brown’s Point

Later, on the day of my early wander around Leighton Moss, Trowbarrow and Haweswater, TBH joined me for another stroll as the shadows lengthened. We crossed the fields to the Green, cut through Sharp’s Lot to Hollins Lane and and then walked down through Fleagarth Wood to the salt-marsh. We found that, unusually, the banks of Quicksand Pool, the stream which drains Leighton Moss, were firm and sandy, so rather than taking to the road at Jenny Brown’s Cottages we continued by the stream. I’ve been wanting to come this way for quite some time, because I’ve never had a proper gander at the old quay at Jenny Brown’s Point.

The old quay, Jenny Brown's Point

The quay was associated with a copper smelting works, the chimney of which can still be seen a little way back upstream. The works, and presumably the quay, were built in the 1790’s when copper was in demand to make bronze to be cast as cannons (to be fired at ol’ Boney Part) . The quay is looking pretty worse for wear these days.

The old quay again 

By the end of the quay is the foot of this rubble embankment.

The land reclamation scheme wall

This slice of local history was hidden for many years, until a storm in 1977 cleared the obscuring sands. It’s the initial stage of a land reclamation scheme begun in 1874 and abandoned in 1885 due to financial difficulties. The shifting channels and banks have recently concealed much of what had been visible.

Morecambe Bay sands 

Bowland hills across Morecambe Bay.

I checked the tide tables before we set-off (cheers Danny!), and we were roughly halfway between low tide and high tide, although these must have been close to neap tides and the expected high tide was a relatively small one. The sands were very dry and we were able to walk almost back to the village before we had to leave the beach for the shore.

Walking past Cow's Mouth 

Passing Cow’s Mouth (a cove). Coniston fells in the distance.

A fluke 

I think that this dried-up fish must be a flounder, known locally as a fluke. In the summer at Arnside, when the tide’s out, you might witness an unusual method of fishing for flukes: walking barefoot in the Kent channel and catching flukes by standing on them – I’ve seen a lot of fish taken very quickly in this fashion. I’ve also watched cormorants swallowing flukes whole, with some difficulty, on the Kent at low tide.

Arnside Knott

Arnside Knott.

Once again there were great crowds of wading birds on the fringes of the water by Silverdale Beach. Too far away for my camera on this occasion sadly.

The Old Quay Jenny Brown’s Point