Tag Archives: Flora and Fauna

“STOP GROUSE SHOOTING’S WAR ON WILDLIFE”

I hope this will be my last post for now on the ills of the grouse moor. I’ve recently tried to highlight raptor persecution and today want to bring to your attention the vast losses of other wild life occuring on grouse moors. The more the public become aware of these killings the more the pressure on politicians. So read the article, spread the news and sign the petition.

Hundreds of thousands of innocent animals – foxes, stoats, weasels, and hedgehogs, as well as birds are killed in traps and snares on Scottish grouse moors every year. This is having a massive environmental impact as these moors cover a fifth of the land in Scotland. The same is happening in the rest of the UK.

The League Against Cruel Sports have just published an article  with a link to the full report.

There is a petition to sign here.

A recent article in The Yorkshire Times by David Goff is worth reading. https://yorkshiretimes.co.uk/nature

It’s time I got out to do some some walking…

43 HEN HARRIERS MISSING SINCE 2018.

There is a petition for you to sign at the end of this post.

I wrote a few days ago about Hen Harrier Day and I hope some of you may have had a chance to watch part of the virtual presentation on YouTube. There were some excellent videos of Hen Harriers in flight and their courting display. Amongst the many features of the programme, several respected environmentalists added to a balanced debate on Raptor Persecution over grouse moors. I would imagine there will be footage available on YouTube if you missed it.

Moving on, I received a post today from Raptor Persecution UK, a rather polarised group, from which I have extracted the following factual information which I present without comment. It is a list of Hen Harriers, mainly tagged, that have disappeared or been confirmed killed since the beginning of 2018.  Other Raptor deaths have not been included.  

It makes a depressing read.

***

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false”.

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham.

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales.

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park.

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland.

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating the death as suspicious.

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland.

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland.

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park.

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland.

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales.

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland.

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland.

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lancashire.

23 October 2018: Hen harrier Tom ‘disappeared’ in South Wales.

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park.

1 November 2018: Hen harrier Barney ‘disappeared’ on Bodmin Moor.

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland. Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap.

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB. Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot.

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site.

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire.

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park.

26 April 2019: Hen harrier Rain ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Nairnshire.

11 May 2019: An untagged male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive.

7 June 2019: An untagged hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot.

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park.

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park.

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines.

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines.

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld in the Cairngorms National Park.

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB.

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland.

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of an untagged male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire.

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland.

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in an unnamed location, tag intermittent.

5 April 2020: Hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park.

8 April 2020: Hen harrier Marlin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park.

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France.

27 May 2020: Hen harrier Silver ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on Leadhills Estate, Scotland.

Nobody has been prosecuted for any of these cases.

***

 

If you’re are concerned by the illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors please send a pre-written letter to your MP urging action. All you need to do is add in your postcode.

Launched on Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 29,000 people have signed up so far, meaning that 29,000 e-letters are on their way to our parliamentary representatives. Please join in HERE

https://wildjustice.eaction.org.uk/saveourskydancers

https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/

Thank you.           PS  It is the 12th August tomorrow, the start of the grouse shooting season.

 

RAPTOR ON THE LAWN.

Most days I see a Sparrow Hawk flying through my garden scattering the smaller birds and sometimes disappearing with a tit or sparrow. Yesterday as if on cue, it was Hen Harrier Day celebrating our raptors – https://www.henharrierday.uk/ I noticed out of the corner of my eye a pile of feathers on the lawn and a Sparrow Hawk devouring its prey. I hastily gathered my phone and took a few shots through the kitchen window and then it was away. The feathers, there was nothing else left, were possibly from one of the collared doves that frequent the garden.

Longridge is being built up with many green spaces, hedges and trees disappearing. This will have a marked effect upon the local wildlife. Within a couple of weeks, as well as the usual birdlife I’ve watched a hedgehog walking across the lawn and now a Sparrow Hawk. I wonder for how much longer will I witness these events?

HEN HARRIER DAY Saturday 8th August 2020

 

 I would like to draw your attention to the event below.

 Hen Harriers and other raptors have been persecuted for years and our local Bowland Hen Harriers have all but disappeared when once they were a regular sight. Grouse moor [mis]management has been implicated in their demise.

  Several organisations have been trying to highlight this problem and seek some better legal protection for our magnificent birds of prey. One such group, Hen Harrier Action, have staged events in the last few years to bring this to greater public attention.  This year due to Covid they have had to change plans and go virtual online. The details for their YouTube presentation is included below – it sounds an interesting and informative agenda and I think many of you could fruitfully dip into it.

 

It’s Hen Harrier Day this Saturday (8th August 2020) and this year it’s going online. Although we’ll miss the physical annual gathering at venues up and down the country, this year there’s actually far more scope to reach a huge audience, many of whom may previously have been unaware of the scandalous mismanagement of the UK uplands.

https://henharrierday.uk/online
https://www.youtube.com/HenHarrierDayUK

IS THERE LIFE ON MARS?

Today or was it yesterday, accompanied by the appropriate fanfares, a space mission has been launched from Cape Canaveral due to reach Mars in February 2021. Onboard is the Perseverance Rover.

According to NASA, the Perseverance Rover has four objectives supporting the program’s science goals:

Looking for Habitability: Identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life
Seeking Biosignatures: Seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time
Caching Samples: Collect core rock and “soil” samples and store them on the Martian surface
Preparing for Humans: Test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere

That all sounds wonderful and I’m the first to support scientific research to help mankind into the next century and beyond. None of us knows where these experiments may lead.

However, we may not get the results until halfway through the present century. The cost is billions.

So let us not lose sight of the fact we are in the middle of a viral pandemic which may yet destroy our civilisation. Earth is, again let’s not forget, experiencing global climate changes threatening to destroy our civilisation. Where is the resolve and expediency to solve those two problems? Politically we have failed to heed the medical evidence for the former and internationally we have all but given up, despite the diminutive Greta Thunberg, on the latter. Depressing thoughts I know.

So today’s news of the Mars probe doesn’t fill me with joy as it should. I’m not certain how the possible advances in science in 40 to 50 years will bring us back from the present catastrophe of our own making.

*

 

This morning a hedgehog wandered across my lawn, the first I’ve seen this year. Apparently, they are in serious decline. If we can’t protect this wonderful creature what is the point of going to Mars. 

So I’d like to re-phrase that question.  Is there life on earth?

*

And obliviously I can’t resist the girl with mousy hair but maybe we will never know.

MY LIMESTONE NATURE RESERVE.

Not far away in Clitheroe are several nature reserves based on old limestone quarries. I have been jealous recently of the walks and discoveries of a fellow blogger in those reserves, especially the sight of a Bee Orchid!

Normally at this time of year I’m out in France at a friend’s house in the Lot area, The garden there and the surrounding countryside have provided me with lots of different orchids and other flora as well as interesting birdlife. Not to be this year.

I’ve not been driving far in lockdown and I keep on exploring places local to Longridge. Just down the road from me limestone comes to the surface in the Vale of Chipping and Whitewell area. Quite possibly the same series as over at Clitheroe when the whole area was under the sea, I’m no geologist. This set me thinking, plenty of time for that, why don’t I investigate further and see what I can discover. Of course, the weather has taken a turn for the worse but I manage a short initial visit to a nearby limestone quarry.

I have a little book Limekilns and Limeburning Around the Valleys of Hodder and Loud [a snazzy title]

Many farms burnt limestone, the lime being used to improve the land and in building mortar. So small limestone outcrops and kilns are commonplace. Later commercial activity developed [18 -19th century] and the book describes this at Arbour Quarry in Thornley. An early photograph shows a limekiln as a substantial structure within the quarry. Work probably stopped in the early 1900s.

I have vague memories of wandering through this quarry 30-40 years ago and there was a  limekiln in evidence. The book suggests there were two. Time to have another look.

The quarry is fenced off but a public footpath passes close by. I find a gate and walk in, a couple of roe deer disappear into the distance [a good start]. The quarry floor is a well-grassed over and there are mounds all around. At one end is a large pond with resident ducks. So where do I start? I can not see any obvious limekiln so I decide to wander about and look at the vegetation. Everywhere is very reedy and boggy, not like a limestone quarry at all. There are buttercups, hawkweeds, ragged robins and vetch in profusion and then I start to notice the orchids on the drier areas.

There are the, now obvious to me, Common Spotted Orchids but there are also some paler flowered ones with less distinctive markings. Take a picture and try and identify later. Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were everywhere.

Nothing else dramatic was obvious, my feet were getting wet, black clouds were zooming in – time to go. I had found some orchids but was no wiser as to the Limekilns. I need to do some research on the latter and return tomorrow.

Back home I look at some old OS maps –The limekiln appears to be in the NW corner of the quarry near the entrance. So this afternoon I  return to seek it out. I enter the quarry as before but now as I pass between mounds I look back up to the right and there is masonry. I scramble up and find a few rows of dressed stones which must have formed the top of the kiln as seen in the old picture. The top opening has been filled in.  I cannot find the apex stone depicted in the book, a lot of the stones will have been removed and used elsewhere. There are some remnants of a paved track going up the banking. What a shame this magnificent kiln wasn’t preserved.

I attempt to encircle the quarry looking for the kiln on the far side but end up in some very boggy ground and every mound is grassed over. Anyhow, I’m pleased to have found the main kiln.

I will come back on a dry, sunny day when it is less windy and the butterflies are on the wing. You never know I might find some other species of orchids.

 

CARR SIDE CATCHUP.

My last post looking at Carr Side Fishing Lakes left an unanswered question which some of you were concerned about. Does the public footpath continue past the lakes?

True to my word I was back there today to find out. Nobody had used the footpath down the field and with all the rain the little beck was overflowing, I managed to get my feet wet trying to jump it. I pushed through the gate as before and this time with jeans on battled through the nettles with indifference. The water’s edge seemed devoid of birds, perhaps they had heard me coming.

The map shows the FP going straight through the lakes, something I wasn’t prepared to do. So I followed the fishermen’s trail to the right past their little wooden hut. There was nobody about. I now came across a couple of green painted waymarks which I had missed before so I knew I was probably OK. Some rough ground was traversed above the first lake before dropping onto the trail around the second lake. Another waymark guided me to the exit gate through the boundary fence and out of the private property.

I was now in a small paddock which led to a conspicuous stile, another swollen stream was difficult to cross but then I could complete a short circular walk with no trouble. I passed the two Carr Side Farms and walked back along the road.

So I have to report there is no obstruction to the FP and in fact it is well waymarked and easy to follow. All the minor difficulties are in the adjoining fields where I ended up with wet feet!

Full marks to Carr Side Fishing Lakes.

 

Since I was last out the frothy heads of Meadowsweet seems to have come into bloom and there fragrance was noticeable in the hedgerows. I can still smell it now.

WORTH A LOOK – Carr Side Lakes.

When I was up on Longridge Fell the other day I looked down onto the farms and fields of Thornley in the Vale of Chipping. Near Thornley Hall, two lakes in wooded surroundings took my notice and I identified them on the map for further exploration. There seemed to be a public footpath heading to them, in fact going right through them. I’ll call them Carr Side Lakes.

By afternoon today, most of the thundery weather had passed and the sun came out. I debated whether to cycle along but feared a soaking so I drove there and parked in a handy layby. A footpath sign pointed into the field but the stile looked unused. The ponds couldn’t be seen from the road as there was a good tree cover but the backdrop of the Bowland Fells was impressive.   I wandered down, there was no sign of a path whereas most paths have been well walked during the lockdown. I was regretting wearing zip-off shorts when I had to push through a patch of nettles and brambles to reach a gate in a wire fence. There seemed to be a continuous Stalag type fence, was it electrified, encircling the ponds. The gate wasn’t locked but was difficult to open because of lack of use and a heavy counterweight. I looked around for any gun towers and pushed through.

More nettles followed before I emerged onto a decent track encircling the first lake. There was no clue as to where the public footpath went. Waterbirds, coots and waterhens, were swimming away with some loud alarm calls. Dark shapes were swimming just under the surface, I wondered if they were otters. I regretted forgetting my binoculars along with my zip-off trouser legs sat on the kitchen table at home.

On the far side, I could see a fisherman so I strolled around to ask him about the access situation, I definitely felt that I was in the wrong place. He turned out to be friendly and chatty. His set up consisted of a tent with brew facilities, comfy chair and about five rods. He had been here since 4.30 this morning. The ‘otter shapes’ I’d seen were in fact giant carp which he had been trying to catch all day. Last week he had caught a 24lb carp and he proudly showed me the picture on his phone. The fence enclosure was to keep out fish predators as well as the public. He had no idea about the public footpath but suggested I could walk on to the second lake and have a look. I could find no obvious way out although I suspect there should be one as I was able to get in in the first place.

I spent some time watching Canada Geese with their young, I counter 12, floating about the lake. By my feet I find a lonely orchid, the leaves had spots so I think it is a Common Spotted Orchid.Looking back south there above was Longridge Fell from where I’d first spotted these lakes. I retraced my steps and escaped but determined to return not just with binoculars but wearing trousers so I can explore further this delightful place.

It is certainly worth another look.

…IT’S EXERCISE AFTER ALL.

When I pulled my curtains open this morning at about 7am people were already taking their daily exercise. They were the wise ones as the forecast was for the hottest day of the year by this afternoon. I considered, indeed almost succumbed to a quick breakfast and away. But no my daily sloth had me back in bed with the first coffee of the morning. I seem to be getting through vast amounts of ground coffee, there is another delivery expected tomorrow morning.

A second coffee followed as I sorted through my emails etc. A friend living in France has been in severe lockdown but now because of their diligence is allowed out to live more or less normally. He sent me a recent picture of his 3-month scruffy beard.

My enthusiasm for exercise fluctuates with the day, At the weekend I did a couple of decent walks. Yesterday I could not even summon the effort to drive across to East Lancs to climb with my friends – I’m still not convinced about keeping to 2m social isolation on such escapades.

Today would have been lovely up on Parlick and Fairsnape but I haven’t yet got my head around the risk factors of high moorland walking. Last week a group of people I know, local fell runners, had a simple run up Beacon Fell which ended up with a helicopter rescue of one of them. I know I’m becoming paranoid. All the excitement and hullabaloo of opening shops and pubs passes me by. Note that the medical establishment, which the politicians are casting aside, have issued warnings of progressing out of lockdown too rapidly. So I’ll be keeping to my relative shielding and the 2 metres distancing for a few more weeks until I can see we may have turned a corner.

So where do I go today?

Yes, you have guessed it – Longridge Fell. I opt for a simple circuit around the lanes up and down from Longridge onto the western half of the fell.

My enthusiasm increases with every few hundred feet of climbing. I take a keen interest in the flora on the verges. There is virtually no traffic to disturb me. I watch butterflies flitting over the flowers and marvel at the dedication some photographers must have to produce even the simplest of shots. See https://beatingthebounds.wordpress.com/ for an idea of what can be achieved locally.

At the point where the road went left, I decided to carry on and pick up tracks leading to the trig point. By now I was walking freely and could have continued for miles to the east with no way of getting home. As I climbed higher the heather which a week ago was nondescript was beginning to flower. I suspect this summer with all the moisture and now the heat we should have a good display on the fells. There is nothing finer than a purple hillside. Oh and I noticed a few small bilberries beginning to appear – get out the pie-dish.

Ir was only when I was on the summit ridge that I met anybody. A man with two young girls who had been collecting sheep’s wool, the oldest, about 5, suggested her mother could make a sheep out of it which seemed perfectly reasonable. A young man looking for a different way off the fell, no he didn’t have a map. I sent him on his way with precise directions but I had doubts as to his navigational skills. A young couple, new to the area, taking selfies on the edge of the escarpment with Chipping Vale below and the Bowland Fells in the background.

Reaching the car park I was admiring a modern smart fourth-generation Mazda MX 5, [I have a 15-year-old Second Generation convertible.] It turned out to belong to the young couple so we had an extended conversation on a wide variety of topics before they sped off down to Chipping with the wind in their hair.

I was now on my homeward stretch down past the golf course with hazy Longridge ahead. I reached the little reservoir at the top of Longridge where I was on the lookout for grebes which often nest here. Some youngsters had climbed over the wall and were settling into a picnic above the water’s edge, all strictly private water board land. I jokingly admonished them for trespassing and said they didn’t want to be caught there when the water bailiff came around. I’d only walked about 50 yards when round the corner came the Waterboard van which stopped and gave a severe telling off to the youths who slinked away looking rather crestfallen.

By the time I reached home, it was far too hot to contemplate gardening.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be away with the larks.

*****

 

 

 

OUT WITH THE LARK.

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,                                                                                                     George Meredith.

It was that sort of morning. I wasn’t exactly up with the lark but they were singing on high as I set off up the fell. The sky hanging above the heather was blue with a few wisps of white cloud, a lark sky if ever I saw one.

I strolled up the slope, my breathing has been laboured recently. My mood lifted with every step. The Vale of Chipping has taken on a new life as fields are cut and the patchwork of colours intensifies. It is good to see the progress of agriculture down there from up here.

The trig point is reached with little effort. How many times have I been up here? How many times have I photographed the pillar against the background of the Bowland Fells? The Yorkshire three peaks are in haze.

I wander on and dive into the dark forest on a track I know brings me out above the Ribble Valley. The warm scent of the new pine needles is intoxicating. Memories of Alpine days drift by.

I forget to look at Pendle as my gaze is down to the little reservoir where I saw the Canada Goose chicks the other day. The same cuckoo is calling somewhere in the trees and the same Stonechat singing on his wall perch.

Is this next bird a Meadow Pipit or a Skylark?  [no obvious crest] I’m back at the car after a magic hour and a half. I used to run that stretch in about 20minutes. Today I was happy to take in the skies and the larks.

*****

BROADENED HORIZONS.

Covid-19 Bank holiday beach Bournemouth.

My horizon for the last two months has been the fields at the back of my house with the Bowland  Fells in the background. I stayed in completely for the first four weeks or so and then only ventured out at quiet times on circumscribed local footpaths and lanes. The advice on lockdown changed for all of us, not just Dominic Cummings, a week or so ago. Hence the rush to the tourist hotspots and what looked to me like civil disorder. I was in no rush to follow.

Today I had a little job to do on the edge of the village, pin up a notice from the BMC relating to Covid19 risks on the gate leading into Craig Y Longridge, the local bouldering crag. So out came the car for the first time in weeks for a trip up there. The notice was in place but I for one won’t be going there to climb for some time as it is just like an indoor climbing wall with social distancing difficult and repeated use of the same holds by one and all.

Anyhow as I was out I thought I would drive further up the fell to a quiet parking spot, away from the bank holiday crowds, for a short walk with a change of scenery.

I parked by the temporarily closed New Drop Inn and for awhile watched the house martins flying back and forth to their nests under the eaves. I’m not sure whether I managed a photo or not with my snap and shoot camera.

The best I could do.

A little way down the road a footpath sign pointed into a field. From the map, the path crosses the field diagonally but the grass was very long and nobody had ventured across. I decided instead to follow the top boundary where there had been a tractor. All went well and gates gave access to more fields until I was stopped by barbed wire which was easily circumvented to put me onto the right of way.  This was no clearer but I kept finding broken stiles and gates leading to the industrial/agricultural buildings of Hougher Fall Farm, now restyled romantically as Bowland Forest Eggs. I made my escape to the Old Clitheroe Road. it had taken me over half an hour to walk half a mile but I’d enjoyed the exploration.

No obvious path.

Make your own way.

Back on track?

 

Escape.

I remembered a track going off left from near here past an old reservoir. The gate was just down the road and propped up next to it a slate with a lovely handwritten poem by a Kathleen Jamie which I rather liked.

Through the gate and just off the track is the little reservoir where I watched a pair of Canada Geese paddling across the water with their six chicks.  I was watching them when a female pheasant walked by with a couple of chicks.

Across rough ground were some grassed over quarries, marked on the map as Gannow Quarry. I imagined I’d spotted a climbable rock face but when I’d walked up to investigate it was only six feet high. I assume these small quarries were opened up for the reservoir construction.

Lennox Farm is being knocked about and extended. I’d reached the lane going up to the kennels and onto Longridge Fell, I was feeling breathless, hayfever?  and I almost aborted the walk by turning downhill back to the road. Something made me turn left and carry on up onto the fell, puffing all the way. It was worth it for the hazy views over the Ribble Valley and the mature pines.

I met the first people of the day on the edge of the forest. Three mountain bikers up from Preston who seemed totally oblivious to the present crisis – “nothing  to worry about mate”

Walking down by the fell wall I stopped to listen to my first cuckoo of the year and a finch? landed on the wall in front of me.

Back at the Newdrop I came across another poem slate this time a poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Are there more about?  There seems to be an environmental theme possibly related to our present viral problems. I will keep my eyes open for them.

A strange walk really, I just followed my nose and pottered along taking in whatever came by and more came along than expected.  Yet another Covid-19 local walk of exploration and enlightenment.

*****

 

 

 

TIME IS PASSING BY.

It is probably a week since I last walked any of my regular local routes. The weather was perfect today so I even got going before lunchtime. In the strange days we are living in, time has become warped and I have almost arrived at the position of ignoring it. That’s not all that different from my usual lifestyle. I’ve been setting a bi-weekly quiz for some friends during the lockdown and one of them commented today that if it wasn’t for the regular Thursday and Sunday questions he wouldn’t know which day of the week it was.

Since I was last out the countryside has subtly changed. The lambs have grown fatter, the grass has grown longer and the flowers have moved into another cycle. Gone are the bluebells, sorrel and primroses and more colour is now evident in the hedgerows with stitchwort, buttercups, vetch,  ragged robin and blue speedwells.

Comfrey and Cow Parsley.

Red Campion.

Buttercup.

Stitchwort, chickweed.

 

Speedwell.

The hawthorn has flowered replacing the blackthorn and what is noticeable is the sweet aroma from it. Its blossoming marks the point at which spring turns into summer, and the old saying ‘Cast ne’er a clout ere May is out’ almost certainly refers to the opening of hawthorn flowers rather than the end of the month.

Hawthorn.

The small amounts of road I have to walk on are a nightmare with some of the worst driving I’ve witnessed for a while. I read that the police are out to catch speeding drivers this weekend at the worst hotspots.

With the weather being so good I joined several of my local field paths together and ended up doing about 6 miles without noticing the time. There is no end to lockdown, as far as I’m concerned, so I’ll probably write up the same walk next week and wonder where the time has gone. But nature marches on and there will be changes underfoot to remind me of the passing year, a year I’ve all but written off for getting away.

*****

BIRD OF PREY PERSECUTION CRIMEWAVE DURING THE LOCKDOWN.

I’m being lazy today and sharing a disturbing report from the RSPB’s Investigations Team.

I make no apologies for this as I am sickened by the rising crimes against our birds of prey. Living on the edge of Bowland makes me acutely aware of these as this area has had more than enough incidents. A few years ago Hen Harriers were a relatively common sight if you knew where to look and now they have been virtually wiped out. 

As we possibly make a slow return to the hills our observations of the wildlife, positive and negative, will be important. As Superintendant Lyall says at the bottom of this report  –  If you have any information about birds of prey being killed in your area, call the police on 101 or the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101. 

*****

The RSPB has received a surge in reports of birds of prey being illegally killed since lockdown began.

The majority of incidents have been on or close to sporting estates managed for game bird shooting.

The public are being asked to stay vigilant and report crimes against birds of prey.

The RSPB’s Investigations Unit has been ‘overrun’ with reports of birds of prey being illegally killed in recent weeks. 

Species involved in raptor crime incidents since lockdown began in March 2020

Police have been called out to investigate multiple cases involving the shooting, trapping and suspected poisoning of birds of prey following reports by the public.  

The RSPB is currently aware of many confirmed incidents involving the targeting of birds of prey involving hen harriers, peregrines, buzzards, red kites, goshawks and a barn owl in the last six weeks. Amongst the cases being dealt with by the police are a number of significant ongoing investigations on land managed for grouse shooting.  

On 29 March a buzzard was found shot at Shipton, near York. Its wing was fractured in two places and an x-ray revealed several pieces of shot within the bird’s body. Thanks to the care of a local wildlife expert the buzzard recovered and was released.  

Over the Easter Weekend, a red kite was found shot dead near Leeds. It had 12 shotgun pellets lodged in its body.  

The following weekend, wildlife presenter Iolo Williams recovered a dead red kite in Powys, which had been shot. Reports also came in of a further two shot red kites in the area, which is managed for pheasant shooting. 

Red kite shot in Wales

And in Scotland, the police are following up several raptor persecution cases and multiple reports of illegal trap use on grouse moors. 

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.  

Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations UK, said:  

“Since lockdown began, the RSPB has been overrun with reports of birds of prey being targeted. It is clear that criminals on some sporting estates both in the uplands and lowlands have used the wider closure of the countryside as an opportunity to ramp up their efforts to kill birds of prey. 

“Spring is the time when birds of prey are most visible and therefore vulnerable, as they put on courtship displays, build nests and find food ready to breed. It is clear the criminal actions are targeted and malicious in nature, taking out birds before they have the opportunity to breed, often in areas where they have previously faced persecution. 

“We welcome the fact that the public is remaining vigilant and encourage any suspicious incidents to be reported. But please observe government guidelines at all times.” 

Superintendent Nick Lyall, head of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, said:  

“Over recent weeks, I have been sickened by the number of raptor persecution cases that have come to my attention as chair of the Raptor Persecution Delivery Group. I know that there are officers currently investigating a number of crimes against wild birds of prey which have occurred since lockdown began. 

“It is clear that lockdown has been seen as a green light by those involved in raptor persecution offences to continue committing crimes, presumably in the belief that there are fewer people around to catch them doing so.  

“I remain grateful to everyone involved in investigating these crimes, and thankfully in the vast majority of the cases I am aware of, it looks like some really good lines of enquiry are taking place which should lead to arrests and interviews.”  

If you have any information about birds of prey being killed in your area, call the police on 101 or the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101. 

A BITTER TASTE IN MY MOUTH.

I’ve been avoiding human and potential coronaviral contact for four weeks now. I’m quite good at it. Jobs are getting done slowly [there will be plenty of time] and as my fruit and veg are being delivered there is no need to go to the shops. The weather has been warm enough to sit and relax in the garden.

But it was time to venture out on some short walks. There is a selection of paths to the north of where I live and by taking my ‘permitted exercise’ around six pm I meet virtually no one. More of those later.

It was on my way home this evening that I passed the site earmarked for six more houses on Inglewhite Road. I thought at one-time ribbon development into the countryside [there is no longer a green belt] was to be avoided but now anything goes under this government’s wretched housing policy, or rather lack of policy in our village.

This was the original view walking out of Longridge…

The field in question is behind the hedge and trees on the right.

What had been a field with hedgerows and trees the last time I was out [photo above] was now stripped bare.  They had already stripped back the topsoil a couple of days ago.  Now every vestige of hedging gone. Why do they have to do this? One would have thought that some mature hedging on the borders of the new properties would have been an asset. And as for cutting down mature trees!

The next three pictures are taken looking towards Longridge…

Start of the clearing – trees and hedges hanging on.

 

No trees or hedges.

Barren environment.

I haven’t had time yet to look up the relevant planning permission details but I suspect that some of this vandalism violates their stipulations. No doubt when the houses are finished a ‘hedge’ of that awful Laurel will be planted where the original hedge had been. Or perhaps a large wall will be built around the plot of exclusive houses, no affordable housing here, and a gate put across their entrance. I’m becoming irritated.

*****

I may have related this episode before but it is relevant…                                                                        Idly looking out of my bedroom window the other morning I was aware of a sudden flash across my vision as a Sparrow Hawk swooped into the hedge opposite. From that apparently empty hedge about 20 or more small birds, minus the one captured by the hawk, flew to safety in all directions. This evidence of so many birds using that stretch of hedge environment brings home the importance, as if you didn’t realise, of our traditional and varied roadside hedges.

You can understand why on a beautiful evening I’ve returned home with a bitter taste in my mouth.

Another spectacular sunset  – so I’m hoping I’ll feel better tomorrow.

 

DIY BIRD FEEDERS.

I had an email from the RSPB today with ideas for feeding the birds. I’m spending a lot of time in the garden these days and the birds are busy feeding and nesting, I can see my feeders from the kitchen window.
I don’t know if it is my imagination but the birds seem to be very vocal, is it because the air is cleaner and the atmosphere quieter?  Maybe nature will make a small comeback even if only temporarily.
A delivery of more bird food came from the RSPB the other day, as I’m unable to shop for it locally.
I thought I would share the RSPB’s post with these ideas for homemade birdfeeders which look simple and fun.
 

RSPB Scotland’s Allie McGregor shares 3 approaches to a DIY bird feeder.

Do it yourself: Bird feeders!

So you’re stuck at home, and you fancy getting your hands dirty, maybe trying some fun new DIY. You also want to get to know the local birdlife better (because everyone does, right? That’s not just me…). I have the perfect project for you; A DIY bird feeder made out of bits and pieces you might already have around the house.

Here are 3 different ways you can make a bird feeder at home…

bird at bottle feeder

With an apple 

Some of us might have got a little overzealous with the fruit shopping, and can’t actually consume quite that many apples between our essential shops. Luckily, the extra apples will now come in handy for our brand new bird feeder!

What you will need is an apple, a corer, sunflower seeds, some thin sticks and string.

apple with seeds and sticks in it
My ‘in progress’ apple feeders

Remove the core of the apple, stick the sunflower seeds in on the top, and push the sticks through the bottom of the apple to make perches for hungry birds. Tie your string to one of the sticks and thread it through the middle so you can hang your feeder!

Recycle a plastic bottle 

This is a super fun way to recycle a plastic bottle, especially if your recycling isn’t being regularly collected at the moment. Be extra careful with this one – it took me a few goes to get cutting the holes just right!

For this feeder you will need an empty plastic bottle, some scissors (like I said, be careful!), string, a pencil and birdseed. If you don’t have birdseed pre-prepared you can find what sorts of seeds and nuts are safe here.

bird seed and bottle
Pouring birdseed into my bottle feeder.

Make sure to make a couple of small pin-size holes in the base of the bottle so any water can drain out. Next, make a couple of holes either side of the bottle that you can fit your pencil through. Cut a small flap above each of these holes so the birds can get to the seeds. Then, most importantly, fill your bottle up with birdseed! (For me this is the moment I realised I might want to use a smaller bottle if I wanted any birdseed left!).

Hang the bottle by tying some string around the top – don’t forget to put the lid back on!


Upcycle your toilet paper roll 

A very on-trend approach for our times – why not bring some new life to your loo roll!

For this one you need a cardboard roll – it can also come from something like a paper towel roll or cling film – a couple of sticks or skewers, some suet, birdseed and string.

seeds and loo roll

Making a mess.

Make four holes around the base of the tube which line up with each other to put your sticks through. Line up two small holes on the other end for your string. Lather up the roll in suet with a knife (be careful!) or a spatula – lard also works.

Then you can roll the tube in birdseed so it’s all covered up, put your sticks through and your string on the other end, and go hang it up!

I hope you have a lot of fun giving these a go, and make less of a mess than I did! 

Allie McGregor

*****

I’m going to try the apple one for a start.

 

 

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?