Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Monday, 4 February 2008

Tristram Shandy

Can't help thinking that Laurence Sterne would appreciate the absurdity of going out for a half-an-hour stroll and then spending two or three hours trying to get to grips with the technology required to blog about it afterwards.

Over a busy few days I've been struggling to find the time to do all the things that need to be done, without trying to write about the experience as well.

Managed to get out today for half-an-hour after work, notable because it was light when I set off, and when I returned, and also because it was Sam's first trip in a back-pack (as opposed to a front-carrier).

Did an out and back across to Stankelt road and a circuit of Clark's Lot. The latter is National Trust property, a mixture of meadow and woodland. Whilst some parts are evidently meadow and others clearly woodland, the boundaries are pleasantly vague since the meadows are dotted with trees and the woodland broken by clearings. Some areas of the woodland have been felled, revealing more extensive areas of limestone pavement than I was aware of.

Heading back across the field gives one of my favourite  local views: some trick of topography suggests that woodland stretches for miles to the east, up and over Beetham Fell to Farleton Fell, Hutton Roof and, on a clear day, the Howgills. Today however, it was the sky that captured my attention with predominantly blue sky to the east, and a ragged black line overhead and to the west. Ahead I could see high white stacks of building cumulonimbus. Fantastic - and completely free.

I found this photo in Ray's Picasa web album. Click on the photo to see more. I'm not sure on the nettiquette of 'borrowing' a photo. Is it allowed?

 

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

An Unexpected Bonus

I was in Ambleside today. Unfortunately, it was for work. I've had  three days there over the last few months and every time it has chucked it down. I suppose that it would be even more frustrating to be amongst mountains but stuck indoors on a perfect day.

Anyway, the bonus was that the course finished earlier than expected. On the way home, I made  a diversion down Windermere so that I could get up Gummer How in what remained of the daylight.

It was still raining and I wasn't really suitably dressed or shod, but the cloud had noticeably lifted and beggars can't be choosers....

I didn't even get as far as the top - I'd promised to be home to take nipper number 3 for his late afternoon pushchair ride/nap - but I enjoyed being out none the less. I got high enough to have a view of Morecambe Bay, Whitbarrow Scar and across the Kent estuary to Arnside Knot, which from there looks like a small hill nestled in amongst much bigger ones. (Which it sort of is - but the bigger hills are quite distant from it.) On reflection, it's probably slightly odd that whenever I walk slightly further from home than usual, it always gives me great satisfaction to look back and see Arnside Knot (from the North) or Warton Crag (from the South) - the little hills that bracket home.

As I neared the road and the car park I could see that the cloud was continuing to lift - the Langdale Pikes were clear, the Coniston Fells were clearing and Caw just had a final cap of cloud that looked like it might lift at any moment.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

An Unexpected Bonus

I was in Ambleside today. Unfortunately, it was for work. I've had  three days there over the last few months and every time it has chucked it down. I suppose that it would be even more frustrating to be amongst mountains but stuck indoors on a perfect day.

Anyway, the bonus was that the course finished earlier than expected. On the way home, I made  a diversion down Windermere so that I could get up Gummer How in what remained of the daylight.

It was still raining and I wasn't really suitably dressed or shod, but the cloud had noticeably lifted and beggars can't be choosers....

I didn't even get as far as the top - I'd promised to be home to take nipper number 3 for his late afternoon pushchair ride/nap - but I enjoyed being out none the less. I got high enough to have a view of Morecambe Bay, Whitbarrow Scar and across the Kent estuary to Arnside Knot, which from there looks like a small hill nestled in amongst much bigger ones. (Which it sort of is - but the bigger hills are quite distant from it.) On reflection, it's probably slightly odd that whenever I walk slightly further from home than usual, it always gives me great satisfaction to look back and see Arnside Knot (from the North) or Warton Crag (from the South) - the little hills that bracket home.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Eaves Wood

 

Out twice today, both for about an hour and both in Eaves wood.

In the first instance, headed up to the Pepperpot. The views weren't as good as they can be, but it was just nice to be out.

Having not seen the Roe deer yesterday, I wanted to maximise my chances today, and there is a clearing in Eaves wood where they can often be seen. Sure enough as I came out of the trees I saw two white rumps bouncing away. At first I lost them, but then I saw that they had stopped away to my left. As I watched them, two more deer emerged from the trees ahead. They ran across to join the others, watched me for a while, and then the four of them turned and trotted away. I've often seen Roe deer in pairs or threes, but I don't think that I've often seen four together.

Eaves wood is a mixed wood with oak, hazel, birch, yew, scot's pine etc, but the trees that stood out for me today were the beeches. When the trees are all bare, the smooth grey bark of the Beech becomes very prominent.

When I first moved to the area, this tree was huge. And unlike most of the beeches in the wood, which are tall and slender, it was broad, with many large wide-spread branches. Even then it had a bracket fungus growing on it. Subsequently, it was felled, but the timber has been left in situ, and it's all now growing these huge bracket fungus.

This is part of the Ring o' Beeches, which is, as it sounds, a perfect ring of mature beech trees. It's a special spot for me, because I almost proposed to the lady who is now my wife here. I had been waiting for the right moment and this felt sufficiently romantic, but then Angela, who was wearing sandals, noticed that the wood ants were walking across her feet, reacted badly, and the moment was gone.

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Sunday, 27 January 2008

Eaves Wood

Out twice today, both for about an hour and both in Eaves wood.

In the first instance, headed up to the Pepperpot. The views weren't as good as they can be, but it was just nice to be out.

Having not seen the Roe deer yesterday, I wanted to maximise my chances today, and there is a clearing in Eaves wood where they can often be seen. Sure enough as I came out of the trees I saw two white rumps bouncing away. At first I lost them, but then I saw that they had stopped away to my left. As I watched them, two more deer emerged from the trees ahead. They ran across to join the others, watched me for a while, and then the four of them turned and trotted away. I've often seen Roe deer in pairs or threes, but I don't think that I've often seen four together.

Eaves wood is a mixed wood with oak, hazel, birch, yew, scot's pine etc, but the trees that stood out for me today were the beeches. When the trees are all bare, the smooth grey bark of the Beech becomes very prominent.

 

When I first moved to the area, this tree was huge. And unlike most of the beeches in the wood, which are tall and slender, it was broad, with many large wide-spread branches. Even then it had a bracket fungus growing on it. Subsequently, it was felled, but the timber has been left in situ, and it's all now growing these huge bracket fungus.

This is part of the Ring o' Beeches, which is, as it sounds, a perfect ring of mature beech trees. It's a special spot for me, because I almost proposed to the lady who is now my wife here. I had been waiting for the right moment and this felt sufficiently romantic, but then Angela, who was wearing sandals, noticed that the wood ants were walking across her feet, reacted badly, and the moment was gone. 

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Saturday, 26 January 2008

Spot The Wildlife

 

Can you see the wildlife in this photo?

Well no. But I can tell you that there are always lots of rabbits in this field. And that both Buzzards and Kestrels frequently hunt here. There were ducks down on Haweswater and just after I took this photo a flock of geese flew overhead. Shortly before I had been watching a heron flying laboriously past. Parts of the field are littered with mole hills. (More of that rich red coloured soil that I've mentioned before.) I've never yet seen one of the moles, but I'm confident that they are there.

In the woodland down by the lake I was crouching to photograph some snowdrops when a dog walker came by.

"Bit special that, finding them here in the woodland. There's loads in the gardens and the lanes, but this is a bit different isn't it."

He was right of course. The snowdrops were the reason that I had come this way today. Just as I do at this season every year. Somehow here amongst the leaf litter in a damp woodland on the edge of a small lake the snowdrops are more valuable than the hundreds flowering on the local roadside verges.

He told me that his dogs had put up two roe deer. I knew that it was unlikely that I would see them myself. But now I knew that they were there.

He volunteers at Leighton Moss and described how a forthcoming job is to assess the size of the Water Rail population. Water Rails are very shy birds, so the wardens row around the meres and channels playing a recording of a male water rail's cry. In the breeding season any nearby males will respond, intending to put off any potential rivals. They rarely see the birds. But they know that they are there.

Haweswater is quite a deep lake, sitting on a layer of volcanic ash deposited when the mountains around its Lake District namesake were active volcanoes. According to local legend it has a Wyrm, though I haven't seen it. It reputedly has otters, but I've never seen them either. On the far side of the lake is a small bridge over an inflowing stream. I have seen otter spraints on the rocks here, and one bank of the stream is always muddy and clear of vegetation. I like to imagine the otters getting in and out of the water here. Today I almost convinced myself that I could identify otter footprints.

Last night, half listening to a television documentary whilst washing-up, I heard something that seems quite shocking to me. Apparently there are more tigers in American zoos than there are in the wild in India. We often take our kids to the South Lakeland Wildlife Park. They have a pair of Amir tigers and a pair of Sumatran tigers. My favourite part of our visit is watching the tigers power up tall posts to grab their meat for the day. It's breathtaking. I don't suppose that I will ever see a tiger in the wild. But like the moles and the otters that I don't see on my walks, it's important to me that they are there. Like the snowdrops, they become more special in their own environment.

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This afternoon we took the kids to Leighton Moss. Our intention was to see the starling roost. Because most of the paths were underwater we didn't get right under the flock to where you can hear the screeching and the woosh of thousands of wings, However, we did see it from a distance. It's breathtaking. And I'm pleased to say that the kids were captivated too. The starlings gather together as the light starts to fade, until a huge flock is wheeling, pulsing, flowing around the sky. It's amazing how they all seem to turn together. Watching this black cloud of birds moving seemingly with one mind, it's easy to imagine how you might think that you were witnessing the flight of some supernatural entity. A wrym for instance.