Tag Archives: Flora and Fauna

HOW NOT TO ISOLATE.

I don’t think I’m going to be very good at this. I don’t have a regular routine at the best of times – get up when I feel like it, eat at odd hours, read and listen to the radio through a lot of the night. Should I keep to my non-routine or change to the ones recommended everywhere at the moment?  The best I’ve seen was a video from an ex submarine captain who was used to months underwater in very confined conditions.  Worth a look…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-hampshire-52085862/coronavirus-submarine-captain-s-advice-on-social-isolation

It may work for you but a couple of weeks in and I haven’t changed so it looks likely that I’ll plod on as I am.

I wake at maybe 8 o’clock, come downstairs to make coffee and feed the cat. Now I have an extra job – bring in the milk from the doorstep and wash the bottles in soapy water. Don’t believe I’m writing this, what hope for people with OCD? My hands are already getting chapped with all this soapy water washing. I never thought when I started this humble blog site about rock climbing and walking that I would be posting a picture of milk bottles.

I take my coffee back to bed and have a look at what’s happening in the world and in my Emails on the computer. I get distracted by some climbing videos on youtube, you know how it is. One often links into another and another, better make another coffee.

Once up and about I go into the garden. I’m slowly working my way around the beds weeding and clearing up. I tend to do about 2-3 hours until my back has had enough, there are plenty of days left for more. I’ve a good selection of all the common weeds as well as some plants I introduced and wish I hadn’t. This is the first year for a while to have the time to do a thorough job and try and catch the weeds before they become established.

Common weeds…

Bittercress. Seeds early and everywhere.

Cleavers. Sticks to everything.

Dandelion. Deep tap root, worse in lawns.

…Herb Bennet, Nettle, Buttercup, Rosebay Willowherb, Chickweed, Ivy, Bramble  – the list goes on.

Plants I introduced by mistake…

Dog Violet. Tenacious little b…..

Cuckoo Pint. Bulblets and seeds proliferate out of control.

Welsh Poppy. Orange variety has a deep taproot.

Yellow Variegated Dead Nettle. I wish it was dead, suckers everywhere. I was a sucker to plant it.

And then there is my lawn in amongst the moss. Need to buy some lawn sand, I will have to look online.

Lawn in my moss.

I could write a whole post on weeds, I almost have. When is a weed a flower?  Catch them early before they flower. They’ll all be back tomorrow.

The cherry blossom I pictured in my last post a week ago is shedding petals like snow in today’s breeze, it’s such a shame they only last a short time, rather sad really.

The fields opposite my house are earmarked for development and in the last few weeks the bulldozers have been in and stripped the hedges and destroyed most of the trees. They had started on the drainage and access roads but now the site is closed down leaving the whole place in a mess. I used to see deer and hares in those fields and the hedges were full of birds, what now for wildlife? Anyhow, I’m straying off the subject but this has prompted me to build a few more bird nest boxes which are now in place around my garden.  The sound of bird song is very noticeable this spring as there is little traffic noise.

The day passes quickly and cooking my evening meal is something to look forward to. Normally I shop up in the village every day and buy what takes my fancy for that evening’s meal. That’s all changed of course and now I delve into my store cupboard for inspiration, tonight I used rice and lentils to make dal bhat. Dal bhat is a traditional popular meal from Nepal consisting of rice and spiced lentils.  It is a staple food in these countries so as I have a good supply of rice and lentils I should be able to see out many weeks of isolation. I learnt to cook it fairly authentically whilst travelling in Nepal and I still have some spices bought there which are difficult to get in the UK.

What I’ll miss most are fresh fruit and vegetables. I’ve tried to book supermarket deliveries but all the slots are taken so I’ve turned to a local fruit and vegetable firm who normally supply to the catering trade. I’ve just phoned them and they couldn’t have been more helpful, I’ve a box being delivered tomorrow. Maybe picture then and give a plug if they are up to scratch.

The evening is passed with maybe an hour trying one of the cryptic crosswords from my bumper book of TheTimes Crosswords. Then tonight I’m going to watch some films from the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Every year they normally host an adventure film festival and the organisers have selected a series of films to view free every Wednesday throughout this isolation period. Very good of them, thank you, my own little film festival – I’d get out the popcorn if I had any! Fell asleep halfway through the last film – just like the real cinema.

  Times moved on quickly and I don’t have much to show for it. That just about sums up my day. So don’t take any advice from me regarding isolation strategies as I don’t really have any except…

“Take one day at a time”

SOCIAL DISTANCING TO SELF-ISOLATION. Reasons to be cheerful.

It’s a wonderful time of the year with some exceptional weather, the blossoms are appearing and we’ve just gone onto British Summertime which I always look upon as a turning point.

My cat manages to sleep from dawn to dusk finding warm sunshine throughout the day. I’m jealous.

Last week I was going out for short walks from home Social Distancing as I went. Then this week I developed a sore throat, fever and headaches;  I’m sure, or almost sure, that this isn’t the coronavirus but the rules say if you have symptoms then Self Isolation is necessary for 7 days.

That’s no great hardship as I’m pretty self-reliant but I think I misread the rules and thought I was not to leave my house at all  [that is Shielding – we all have to get accustomed to these new terms]  So I’ve stopped going out altogether which is probably wise in any case. Hence no walking in this post.

I’m fine for food and medicines and have been pleasantly surprised by the offers of help in that direction. Thanks to those concerned.

My telephone line has never been so busy as I catch up with friends near and far.

And there is the bonus of a new friend who is almost hand tame after a couple of days gardening. On a larger scale, the night skies have been clear with a bright crescent moon and an even brighter Venus.

Lots of positives there.

 

RAPTOR PERSECUTON.

The Hen Harrier is an iconic bird of the Bowland  Fells, one I saw regularly in Croasdale but now, rare indeed. It even features as a logo on the roadsigns for the Forest of Bowland. [Some wit has suggested replacing it with a grouse.}

On the Radio Lancashire news yesterday there was an appeal to the public regarding the shooting of a Hen Harrier on the Bowland Fells between Slaidburn and Clapham. The unusual nature of this appeal from the police is that the shooting took place in October 2019. I wondered how seriously the police take these criminal acts if they are only now asking for information.

A little research comes up with the following post. As well as questioning the police response to this incident they publish a depressing list of about 30 Hen Harriers believed to have been illegally killed since 2018.

No further comment. Please read.

https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2020/03/05/hen-harrier-shot-in-north-yorkshire-police-appeal-for-info-5-months-later/

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 4. DUNSOP BRIDGE TO HORNBY.

The heart of Bowland.

I knew this would be a long arduous day so I did it out of sequence in the good weather mid-September. I used devious tactics to complete the walk but I’m happy to write it up as it should be.

Head of Whitendale. A Wainwright. 1981.

Following a coffee at Puddleducks Cafe,  I set off along the lane out of Dunsop Bridge heading into the fells. A gentle stroll, alongside the Dunsop River, leads to the prominent Middle Knoll where the water board roads divide, one going left into the Brennand Valley the other going right into Whitendale. Wainwright’s Way follows the latter but I know a better way.  Cross the river and follow a path up the right bank before climbing into Costy Cough and picking up a level path all the way to Whitendale Farm.

Middle Knoll.

Costy Clough.

Whitendale Farm.

There is lots of interest along this path but today the highlight was seeing a Hen Harrier rising from the valley and fluttering up the fell. This is a rare sight these days as their population over grouse moors has been drastically reduced by foul means. Bowland should have a decent population of Hen Harriers, a book well worth seeking out is Bowland Beth by David Cobham which highlights major issues in UK conservation.

At Whitendale Farm, part of the Duchy of Lancaster, paths go in several directions. WW goes up the valley following the Whitendale River. The dogs in the kennels give you a good send-off. This is shooting country and bred pheasants are everywhere. The grouse shooting this year has been restricted due to the Heather Beetle devastating large areas. It is usually a squelchy route up the valley and today is no different. A few random boardwalks don’t really help but the waymark posts keep one in the right direction. I plod upwards in the heat with the occasional submerged leg.

Side valleys often have Ring Ousels and Dippers but none today.  A post on the Hornby Road beckons and I’m soon sat on a convenient rock for a snack, I could probably sit here for hours before another person appeared.  This old road over Salter Fell has been described as one of the best moorland walks in England. The Romans came this way en route from Manchester to Carlisle and then the packhorses, bringing salt to Lancashire and wool to the coast. The Lancashire Witches were dragged across to Lancaster Court for sentencing and hanging. I’m surprised that WW comes up Whitendale, a difficult route rather than the easier way from Slaidburn, AW was familiar with both. His Bowland Sketchbook from 1981 illustrates the area well and he had a certain respect for relatively unknown Bowland, not much has changed from his time.

I set off along the good track, below on the left is the head of Whitendale and way above the rocks of Wolfhole Crag. All is wild and remote. the track follows the slopes of Salter Fell for a good way before views open up to the west. The infant Roeburn River gradually gains volume running west, To the north Ingleborough and its neighbours stand out, a little hazily in the afternoon sun. The silence is only disturbed by a couple of motorcyclists making the through trip.

Upper Roeburndale.

A lone cyclist comes the other way. The track goes on and on and slowly loses height towards Higher Salter Farm. There are hazy views of the Lakes, Howgills and the Barbon Fells. The last time I was up here was on The Lancashire Witches Walk which at Higher Salter veers off to Littledale and Caton Moor.

 

 

Higher Salter Farm.

Higher Salter Farm.  A Wainwright. 1981.

Today I carry on past Middle Salter to Lower Salter where there is a small Methodist chapel. Built in 1901 it will have been a meeting place for the far-flung farms in Roeburndale. It was open so I rested a while in its plain interior.                                                                                                                                                                               Looking back up the Salter Fell Road Mallowdale Pike is prominent, described by AW as “one of the few fells in Bowland with a graceful outline”  It is an outlier of the Clougha Pike/ Ward’s  Stone range. The road drops further to cross the Roeburn, a river of hidden delights. WW follows the road for almost a mile with the bonus of good views to the Northeast but I notice concessionary paths possibly by the river, I haven’t time to explore today but make a mental note to return.

Reaching Back Farm the way goes steeply down into the heavily wooded valley on a path that gets little use. There are signs of occupation: yurts, sheds, coppicing, vegetable plots, orchards between the trees. Looks like an organic environmental settlement but there is nobody about. http://www.middlewoodtrust.co.uk/

A narrow wooden bridge crosses the river into more orchards. There is still no sign of anybody about. I suspect that one of those concessionary paths would bring you here without the road walking. Anyhow, I gain a cart track leading up through the woods and fields to arrive at a small road heading back down to a converted mill. Wray Mill started as a woolen mill but adapted to produce silk, cotton a nd bobbins, it closed in the 1930’s.  Kitten Bridge, nice name, crosses the Roeburn and a little track leads straight into Wray.

This bridge was washed away in the August 1967 floods along with cottages at the lower part of Wray. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been in Wray before, it’s off the beaten track. Anyway, the Main Street off the main road is a pleasant collection of cottages with a homely feel to it. There aren’t many buses so I have to continue a further mile through fields to Hornby. Ingleborough is over my right shoulder all the way and ahead is Hornby Castle, its C13 base obliterated by a C19 Gothic building. I join the River Wenning for the last stretch into the village.

A Wainwright 1980.

 

 

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THE LOT. A HOLIDAY DIARY.

Puy L’Eveque on the Lot River.

I’ve just returned from three weeks staying in my friend’s house in the Lot Valley, France.  The weather as you can imagine, in August, was hot and sunny.

The first week was shared with the owners and their family, the second two weeks one of my sons came out with his family.

Here is a snapshot of daily life.

Day 1.  Hot air balloon. Awoke this morning to see across the vineyards a hot air balloon landing through the mist over towards Vire. They must have had a fantastic flight in the clear morning air. I don’t know where they launch from, an unusual start to the holiday.

Day 2. Men in orange. It turns out that this Thursday is a French Bank Holiday, we get caught out with the shops being closed.  This explains why the hunters are out in the combe, dogs try to flush out deer or wild boar into the open. Not a good time to go walking. Thankfully there were no shots heard this morning.

Day 3. Full moon. I seem to often visit whilst there is a full moon which shines brightly over the back of the house and garden whilst we are finishing supper.

Day 4. In the pool. The two young children make the most of the pool as the temperature sores into the 30s.

Children, father and grandma.

Day 5. BMF training. Saturday back home in Leeds is BMF training session in Roundhay Park so the exercises were recreated on the lawn. It all looked very energetic and powerful from my viewpoint on a lounger.

Day 6. French walkers. Each day I get out for a short walk, often before breakfast. My favourite is up the garden into the woods and then back down The Combe de Filhol. Today I extend my walk around the Orienteering Course in the woods across the way. I come across a group of French walkers, holidaying in the area, marching along with a map. Normally I see no one but today as I zigzag about I bump into the same group several times, they look a little uneasy as I keep appearing from the undergrowth.

Day 7. Hints of autumn.  On my walks I started noticing fungi pushing through the undergrowth. Unfortunately they looked poisonous, On the other hand, the mirabelles, small plums, were prolific and once stewed provided many delicious desserts with yoghurt or ice cream.

Day 8. All change. I take mine hosts back to the airport and await the arrival of my family group. They are quickly through passport control, how will this be next year after Brexit?   I drive them back with a short coffee break in Isseagac, a charming Bastide town.

Day 9. Garden games. A lot of time was taken up with games in the garden. Boules, table tennis, french cricket, croquet etc. The competitive spirit was well demonstrated in croquet where some most unfriendly manoeuvers were taken.

Day 10. On the bike. For some of my longer excursions, I took one of the bikes with me but ended up walking as much as riding due to the terrain and the bike’s gears’ obstinacy. One of my favourite trips which I hadn’t made for some time was over the hills to St. Martin le Redon in the Theze valley. Firstly over to Touzac then over the river Lot on a splendid metal bridge. Near here is a good swimming spot in the slow running river, popular in the heatwave, One of the GR routes is joined to go over another group of hills down into the Theze valley. St. Martin is a sleepy village but has gained a little cafe since I was last here; a welcome addition. In the valley is a string of limestone cliffs which I often climbed on in happier times. Hilly tracks take me over to Duravel and slowly back to the house.

Day 11. More exercise. As if last weeks exercises hadn’t been enough my own family started on more each day. Matthew and Lou’s seemed fairly casual but Sam was into serious workouts in between fast runs.

Day 12. Shush! there’s a deer in the garden. The orchard higher up the garden has numerous apple trees which drop their fruit at this time of year. It is a regular event for deer to visit the garden for this fruit and Alex spotted one tonight, well done; they don’t hang around long.

Day 13. Off to market. Sunday is market day at the nearby town of Montcuq.  There is a market somewhere every day but this one is very popular with locals and tourists. Every sort of stall [produce, clothing, antiques etc.] street entertainment and an interesting village to explore.

Day 14. The Poolman cometh. An ageing hippy drives up in his Morris Minor van, he has a collection of them, and cleans the pool.

Day 15. Snakes and glow worms.

Day16. More pool activities.  The weather was perfect for relaxing in the pool. One of the challenges was to do a length on the banana,

Day 17. Orienteering. In the woods I’ve set up a simple orienteering course. The family were keen to try it and being competitive split into two groups, I’ll call them the tortoises and the hares. They disappeared for an hour or so and needless to say the more careful tortoises came in first. This proved the hardest to find in a pile of stones in the middle of the trees…

Day 18. Eating in and out. We have mainly eaten at the house, two vegans to feed plus two picky ‘enfants’. Despite that, the family have eaten out at several local restaurants. Chips and salad is the best option for vegans in France. For a special occasion, I specifically booked the nearest place we could walk to. Le Caillau is a lovely courtyard restaurant with a reputation for good food. They told me they could cater for Vegans. My family appreciated the atmosphere and the food but I thought they could have been a little more creative with the seasonable vegetables, What have I missed out – wine tasting, Martignac with its Medieval church, lavoir and cazelle, Buzzards, Bastide towns, castles, mosquitos, kayaking and LOTS  more.

Day 19. Chez mois.  Je suis de retour a la maison maintenant, c’est l’Automne.   Que fait Boris?

 

THE BOWLAND MIDDLE KNOLL.

The Puddleducks cafe was just opening as we parked up in Dunsop Bridge so coffee was taken on their outside terrace. The plan today was to ascend Middle Knoll, a hill above Whitendale that neither JD or myself recollected visiting. On a recent walk here I was surprised to see how rocky the eastern slopes of Middle Knoll appeared and I was keen to investigate closer at hand a feature on the map marked Blue Scar.

After a gentle stroll up the waterboard access road we took the left fork leading to Brennand Farm but immediately branched off on a path through the heather on the slopes of Middle Knoll. As we gained height we herded a few cattle in front of us. At some point we mutually agreed to start the steep climb up pathless ground to the summit, for about 500ft we staggered laboriously upwards trying to to keep to the easiest ground. This was one of those convex hills where you never see the top, you just have to keep going. The summit at 395m was marked with a few stones. The best views were southwards towards the Fylde Plain.

We crossed a nearby wall and ate our lunches in its shelter. Descending we were soon on the top of Blue Scar a steep shaley feature, a few little rock buttresses stood out but it all appeared loose and dangerous.

Curiosity satisfied we descended to the col but failed to find the path coming up from Brennand and stumbled about in high bracken and reeds for some time. Heath Bedstraw was in profusion. Eventually we came steeply down to Whitendale Farm.  From down here Blue Scar was prominent. Those familiar Peak and Northern Footpath Society signs pointed in several directions, we chose the pleasant path leading down above Whitendale River to the luxuriant Costy Clough.

After that we rejoined the outward route on the road alongside the River Dunsop. We thought that the beech trees down the valley had an unusually rich crop of nuts on display this year.

Feeling weary from the heat and the steep trackless terrain on Middle Fell we were glad of a pot of tea at the cafe.

*****

LAZING IN THE LOT.

I had no plans for the holiday at my friend’s house [above] in The Lot Valley, France. This was my first time abroad for nearly a year and I struggled to get insurance. I’m feeling as fit as anything but because of the tablets I’m having to take etc no one wants to know me. The insurance I managed covers walking up to 1000m which is ridiculously low – there are road passes in France double that height. For now it doesn’t matter but I’ll take it up with them later.

As usual, I was ‘chef’ for the house and made use of as much fresh produce as possible, the supermarkets here have a huge choice. Lunches were salads and evening meals featured fish quiet often. The weather was hot so nobody was wanting large meals though large quantities of the local wines were drunk. This is the land of the dark ‘Cahors’ Malbec reds but also good dry rosés. Local restaurants were revisited though on several occasions I was happy to miss out and dine alfresco by the pool.

Most mornings before the house was awake I would do a circuit from the garden up into the woods and then down into the secluded Combe de Filhol. I love this route of a couple of miles, I often see deer and there are masses of flowers in the meadow above the combe. Orchids and poppies were prominent at this time of year.

An extra attraction was kestrels nesting in a wall in the buildings in the combe. One nestling was happy to pose for me.

A couple of days before we left a Jay fledgeling was found on the patio, it didn’t appear to get any food from its parents. As I was having breakfast on our last day suddenly another fledgeling dropped from the maple tree, there must have been a nest up there all the time with the adult Jays coming and going in secret. I wonder what happened to the two Jay fledgelings.

I walked the hills behind the house up to the prominent communication tower and thoroughly enjoyed the rollercoaster of a ridge with views over The Lot valley with the villages of Duravel and Puy L’Eveque down below.

Up here the thyme created a heady summer fragrance and butterflies were making the most of the sunny weather.

A couple of afternoons I enjoyed walks with my host if there was someone to help with his wife. I think he will need new boots before we return,

The longest day passed and there was a Strawberry Moon.

I worked in the garden and picked up a Tick for my troubles.

We were lucky to leave France before a record-breaking heatwave was due to arrive.