Notes and Evasions

A while ago in Lancaster’s Oxfam bookshop, I picked up a sumptuous edition of A Natural History of Selborne edited by Richard Mabey with engravings from several previous editions. I’ve coveted a copy since I borrowed the same edition from the library last year. Leafing through it again the epigraph caught my eye:

Men that undertake only one district are much more likely to advance natural knowledge than those that grasp at more then they can possibly be acquainted with: every kingdom, every province, should have its own monographer.

Gilbert White

Not because I have any pretensions to ‘advance natural knowledge’, or that I’m deluding myself by thinking that I’m well qualified to be the monographer for this province or this parish, but because it chimes with the very limited, localised brief that I generally stick to in my blog, and in my outings.

I’ve also been dipping into Birders by Mark Cocker and found this passage about note-taking:

…I think that note-taking has a number of major benefits. First, it gives you an opportunity as you formulate the narrative, however rudimentary, to reflect on what you’re seeing. More importantly, it often makes you reflect, as you scribble something down, on what you omitted to see. This resulting sense of failure eventually works through to affect the moment of observation itself. Since you know you’re going to write it later, it concentrates the mind to observe the details you’ll want to recall. In short, it makes you observe more closely.

A continuous feedback loop: recording informs observation and vice-versa. For me that’s a key thing, perhaps the key thing, about Blogging. I’ve been thinking about those the many things that I see whilst I’m out that I don’t record in any way – if I started a list now I might be here all night. The most obvious thing that springs to mind is road traffic and all the associated paraphernalia of signs, lights, road-markings, parking etc. Also – it’s a rare walk when I don’t see either rabbits, squirrels or both, but I don’t think that I’ve ever mentioned them. What else – buildings, people, litter – essentially all human traces in the landscape.

Early on Friday morning I took Ben and Sam out in the double-buggy for a pre-breakfast amble and for once, Amy decided to come with us. We were pushed for time because Sam had an appointment with the Health Visitor for his eight month check and because I was taking the other two to the Grand Theatre in Lancaster to see an adaptation of on of their favourite books – The Gruffalo. We went ’round the block’: up Spring Bank and down Bottoms Lane. On Bottoms Lane Amy took great interest in the old Lime Kiln:

Lime Kilns are common in this area. The kiln would be filled with limestone from above and a charcoal fire was built at the bottom (behind where Amy is standing). The end product is an alkaline crystal known as quicklime or burnt lime. It was slaked (water added I think) and then used in mortar and plaster, but chiefly to ‘sweeten’ unproductive land – apparently it helps to release nitrates form manure.

When I had a chance to get out again yesterday morning for Sam’s mid-morning nap, I made a bee-line for Jack Scout, where there is another well preserved kiln:

And then for today’s mid-morning nap, without making a conscious decision to follow up on the production of lime, I took Sam to Trowbarrow an old quarry which also used to have a limeworks. (There’s little sign of its existence now.)

The quarry is now a nature reserve, much frequented by climbers.

The huge boulder is known as the Shelter Stone because it was used by the quarrymen to shield themselves from blasting.

Notes and Evasions