Tag Archives: Flora and Fauna

FARTHER AND FURTHER AROUND LONGRIDGE WALK.

Monday 5th April.   7 miles.      Longridge.

I wrote about the ‘The Round Longridge Walk’ back in February…

THE ROUND LONGRIDGE WALK.

Today I went out to try and improve the route by avoiding too many main roads and keeping outside the circle of ever-increasing hosing developments. I also had a new camera which I wanted to play with, it has far too many features for me to come to terms with quickly.

What a beautiful Easter Monday, blue skies, lots of sunshine and a cold wind. Perfect. Well not quite – they have taken out all the hedges on a new development. Our slate artist has summed it up nicely on a Hedge Sparrow triptych. [Richard Price – see transcript at end of post.]

 I linked up with the route on Pinfold Lane where several parties were scanning the wetlands with binoculars.

I had a brief look, there is a digger in the background, and carried on my way down towards Bury’s Farm. A farmer was rolling his field – a picture from the past.

I found a better, more rural, route around Alston and on across the main road. I found my way through peoples drives and gardens back into fields before picking up the old rail Preston – Longridge line and onto home ground. The blackthorn and cherries were blossoming.

It has been a walk of contrasts – trying to balance the rural with the creeping urbanisation. It’s time for the hills.

*****

 *****

You don’t see many hedges these days, and the hedges you do see they’re not that thorny, it’s a shame, and when I say a hedge I’m not talking about a row of twigs between two lines of rusty barbed wire, or more likely just a big prairie where there were whole cities of hedges not fifty years ago, a big desert more like, and I mean thick hedges, with trees nearby for a bit of shade and a field not a road not too far off so you can nip out for an insect or two when you or the youngsters feel like a snack, a whole hedgerow system, as it says in the book, and seven out of ten sparrows say the same, and that’s an underestimate, we want a place you can feel safe in again, we’re social animals, we want our social life back, and the sooner the better, because in a good hedge you can always talk things over, make decisions, have a laugh if you want to, sing, even with a voice like mine!


DIY BIRD FEEDERS.

This post from last year mysteriously disappeared and has suddenly popped up as a draft. I thought I might as well repost it.

https://community.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/b/scotland/posts/do-it-yourself-bird-feeders

In the meantime I find just throwing bird food on the ground or bird table is effective. I know there are reasons not to do so but at least I get this fine chap coming to dine most days.

ANNIVERSARY BIRTHDAY PICNIC.

Tuesday,  March 23rd.     9 miles.    Longridge.

My birthday happens to coincide with the date Lockdown commenced last year. There seemed quite a fuss about this [not my birthday], whilst I have every sympathy with the thousands of families affected by Covid deaths and they should not be forgotten, I am not one for lighting candles or creating memorial days for an event we have not dealt with very satisfactorily. I would almost go so far as to say they are devious attempts by the government to distract our attention from the failings and flag wave for our vaccine successes. Dangerous tactics.

Back to today’s walk, which I have completed many times recently, to make an occasion of it I took a picnic with me to enjoy higher up. Last year I visited the limestone quarry  opposite Arbour Farm occasionally for its wildlife so as I pass today I have a look in. There are a couple of roe deer scampering away and a hare following. It’s too soon for any significant flowers but there a few mallards on the water and pheasants taking cover. In the past this area has been used as a shoot and the birds fed in the season. All around are spent shotgun cartridges. I take particular note as I’ve just been reading a DEFRA report of the latest attempts to ban lead ammunition.   Lead ammunition could be phased out under government plans to help protect wildlife and nature, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow announced today (23 March).  There has been a wealth of evidence that lead is damaging to humans, wildlife and the environment and yet a large amount of lead ammunition is discharged every year. Apart from the yearly slaughter of birds there is research showing wild fowl ingest lead pellets, mistaken for food, causing considerable deaths from poisoning.   The Government have been slow to do anything about it and a voluntary transition by the shooting industry has not worked. A recent review showed the majority of game birds sold to the public had been killed using lead shot. So all change then – well not quite – the Government is proposing a two-year review of the evidence and then public consideration. A typical fudge when the hunting and shooting brigade are involved. Why don’t we just get on and ban it now.  [In Denmark, hunters have had to use alternatives since 1996, when lead shot was banned]

Spring display.

Arbour Quarry.

Moving on I made my way up onto the fell and found a sheltered spot for my simple Birthday picnic in a little quarry nearby.  I have recently started climbing in here again after many years, there is a small wall suitable for bouldering away from the Covid crowds that are making themselves unwelcome at the usual bouldering spot, Craig Y Longridge. It is up here that I have been regularly seeing Barn Owls flying around at dusk. Today a kestrel was hovering not far from me and a pair of Buzzards were wheeling high in the sky. Nice place for a picnic in the sun.

I wander home down the switchback lane. I had various texts etc appear on my phone from absent friends and family and in my porch a box of beer and a single malt. Not such a bad birthday after all.

*****

THE BEST OF LAST WEEK.

Tuesday. 16th March.    6miles.    Chipping.

We drive the 4 miles to Chipping and meet up in the village hall car park. I had promised Mike it would be sunny for him to have a morning away from the builders working on his garage. He is pitching the roof, adding solar panels, electric charge point and enlarging his drive with stone sets etc. etc. I think it is a larger job than he had first envisaged, though he should know. Anyhow there was no sign of the sun, in fact it was grey and cold when we set off at 9.30.

This is a walk we have done many times, but it makes use of, on the whole, well surfaced farm tracks in the foothills of the Bowland Hills. The snowdrops in the grounds of Leagram Hall had finished flowering which was a shame though there were primroses on the lane banks. From Laund sheep farm we cut across to renovated Park Gate where the only field of the day linked up with tracks at the empty Park Style. This whole area is rough upland and the Lapwings and Curlews were in good evidence today. They get a chance to breed up here as the fields don’t get cut until later in the year, if ever. A pair of Buzzards are soaring high above. Down one of the tracks we see a stoat in its white winter coat running ahead of us, quite exciting. At Lickhurst  we meet up with the bridleway coming from Saddle Side, not taken today because it is very boggy in parts. There were notices on the gate warning people not to take vehicles along it. This is the first time I’ve seen this but apparently during lockdown 4X4s have been coming out in the night on these lanes. Of course most of them have been registered in Manchester/Liverpool, often with no tax or insurance. There  are a group of people who think they can do what they like and escape notice during lockdown.  The track has been severely damaged by these morons.

We walk on down the road and over three bridges which have replaced fords in the time I’ve lived in the area,  Lickhurst could be impossible to reach after heavy winter rain in the past. I show Mike the long single span clapper bridge, 6 metres of solid grit stone, and we wonder how they handled it here. It must have been brought here from some distance as all is limestone in the vicinity. Upstream is a fish ladder I’ve not noticed before.

We walk on past that isolated iconic red phone box…

We have friends living in the next group of houses and we have a chat and an illicit coffee over the garden wall. Sheila has a heavenly glow in the photo. The bridleway leading onwards crosses the beck encountered  before at a ford, fortunately there is a footbridge just up stream, [Greystoneley Brook which soon joins the Hodder at Stakes Farm near the stepping stones] This whole area has had its trees harvested last year and looks very bare, but thousands of new trees have been planted so it will be interesting to see how it matures.

The lane passes close to a large almost intact lime kiln in an extensive quarry, another detour. At the end of the lane we meet a chatty horse rider.

On the road back Mike met a retired school teacher who was responsible for getting his children off to a good start. More catching up chat ensues. With all the ‘delays’ we don’t get back to the car till nearly 2pm by which time the sun has come out.

*****

*****

Whilst mentioning the birds we saw today I should also like to report that most evenings while I’ve been bouldering up on the fell a pair of barn owls have been quartering the open areas, a majestic sight as they fly past close by without a sound. The days are getting noticeably longer and there have been some beautiful sunsets to coincide with the Spring equinox.

 

 

National mountain hare day!

Press release from OneKind (1st March 2021)

Protections for mountain hares have come into force from today, in what campaigners are calling National Mountain Hare Day. The new regulations mean that it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take mountain hares without a licence.

The following is worth a read, I’m just spreading the word. We can only cross our fingers and hope the powers that be will enact this regulation on Scottish grouse moors. I always worry when it starts mentioning “a licence”

National mountain hare day! — Raptor Persecution UK

BROCKHOLES NATURE RESERVE – MY WAY.

Friday.  26th February.   4 miles.    Brockholes.

As I lay in the mud at the bottom of the bank, mopping the blood dripping down my forehead and checking my limbs for breakages, my thoughts drifted to casualty departments in the middle of the Covid crisis. Earlier in the day I’d been chatting to friends who were telling me that senior staff at Preston Hospital have stopped cycling whilst casualty is under pressure, they don’t want any broken bones. For the last week I’ve been looking up at Fairsnape Fell wondering about an ascent and then imagining a helicopter rescue and all the recriminations, so I’ve kept to the lanes for relative safety. Yet here I was lucky to get away with grazing and a blow to my ego. The brambles that had ensnared me were still wrapped around my legs. Being covered from head to foot in mud I drew surprised glances as I shuffled back to my car.

The rest of the gentle stroll in the sunshine had gone well. Brockholes is a nature reserve based on flooded gravel pits easily seen from the M6 coming south at J31. The Preston Guild Wheel cycling route goes through the middle of it so I’ve visited it many times but not in any depth. The only time I’ve called at the café/visitor centre was many years ago with Mel on one of his visits up north. My plan for today was to walk around the boundary of the reserve.

I had parked up near the crematorium in Grimsargh after one of those guilt laden 4 mile drives ‘staying local’.  The guild wheel route soon brought me down that steep bank into the reserve, here I turned left to reach the River Ribble thus avoiding the busy central areas. A good track followed the river all the way to the motorway bridge. Apart from the friends I unexpectedly met there were a couple of fishermen and only the occasional birdwatcher – you can tell them by the size of their telescopes. I wonder if there is some unwritten competition for the largest. I saw two Egrets by the river.

At the motorway I transferred to the gravel track bordering the west side of the lakes and was surprised as to how quickly I became almost immune to the traffic noise. There was one hide along here from where I saw ducks, grebes and swans – must get one of those big scopes, my equipment isn’t big enough. It was shortly afterwards I dived into the mud.

Just before going back up the steep hill I took a few minutes sat on a log, partly to clean my wounds and partly to watch the wild life feeding on crumbs left by a previous passer-by. Tits, a nuthatch and grey squirrels were my final tally for the day.

Think I’ll stay in the garden tomorrow.

Red Scar Woods high above the Ribble.

*****

 

 

IN SEARCH OF GRIMSARGH WETLANDS.

Sunday 3rd January. 2021.        8 miles.        Grimsargh.

Last year I had a chance meeting with an old acquaintance from many years ago. He has always been a  keen amateur naturalist. I have on a wall in my study a collection of Mountain Butterflies he gave me 40 years ago, when it was still acceptable to stick pins through insects. When I met him last he told me about work he had been doing on some redundant reservoirs in neighbouring Grimsargh. They were being converted into nature wetlands, and he encouraged me to visit. So that was my plan today. I was halfway out of Longridge when I realised, too late, I’d forgotten my pocket binoculars!

There used to be a railway from Longridge to Preston calling at Grimsargh. It served the stone quarries in Longridge from1840 but also provided a passenger service [closed 1930] and a goods service for the cotton mills until 1967. I should write a post one day on what remains of the line in the area.  From Stone Bridge I followed close to the line of the railway down into the Shay Lane Industrial Estate, a fine way to start a country walk. There is a surprising variety of businesses along here hidden away from the rest of the village. Cheeses, timbers, metal shelving, builders’ merchant, fruit and veg supplier, JCB, as well as many smaller units.

There’s more than one way to decorate a tree.

At the end is Shay Lane Farm, always neat and tidy. From there I took to the fields alongside Savick Brook, they were sufficiently frozen to avoid wet feet. The contrast from Industrial to rural was sudden.

I came into Grimsargh at Dixon’s Farm where a branch railway line heading to Whittingham Hospital could be clearly identified. In 1889, a private branch line was opened northwards from Grimsargh to Whittingham Asylum two miles  away. As well as supplies, hospital staff and visitors were carried free of charge in converted goods brake vans. The line continued in use until 1957 connecting with bus services after the main line was closed to passengers.

The Whittingham  Hospital branch line.

J D 1736

The map below shows the railway lines as well as the Reservoirs.

1930map.                                                                                                                                    National Library of Scotland.

 

While I was at Grimsargh Green I visited the large garden of a friend to wish her a distant Happy New Year, strange times. I then took a footpath following the line of the railway towards the reservoirs, but they were securely surrounded by metal fencing and I ended up going a long way round to gain the path through them.

Line to Longridge.

There was no public access to the wetlands themselves and of course today there was no wet – just ice. The smallest reservoir has been developed as a reed bed. I now realise there is a viewing point over the two lakes from a different access point, next time. Not a bird insight except for a curious robin.

I was soon out onto the main road and Elston Lane. My footpath onwards was blocked by new development with a closure notice lasting until Feb 2021, but it looks as though this situation will continue for much longer, I hope the locals insist on the footpath being reinstated once the building work is completed.

Looking at the map I found other paths to circumvent the problem and was soon walking back to Alston and fields over to Longridge.

Next year?

I need to return to spend more time at the wetlands if we are allowed out. I’m hoping Boris will swiftly follow the sensible proactive steps of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies to keep on top of this Covid-19 crisis, and we must all do our part and act responsibly.

*****

2020. A YEAR OF RAPTOR PERSECUTION.

I would like to share with you these episodes of Raptor Persecution from this last year.

 

Here are the top ten most read RPUK blogs over the last 12 months…

  1. Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle found poisoned on grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park (here)
  2. Golden eagle Tom disappears in suspicious circumstances on Scottish grouse moor (here)
  3. Missing eagle’s satellite tag found cut and wrapped in lead, dumped in river at Strathbraan (here)
  4. 45 hen harriers ‘missing’ or confirmed illegally killed since 2018 (here)
  5. The five brood meddled hen harriers from 2019 are all ‘missing’ (here)
  6. Scottish Government commits to develop immediate licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting (here)
  7. The eagle’s satellite tag found in the river: poetic injustice (here)
  8. Licensing scheme for release of pheasants and red-legged partridge in England following Wild Justice legal challenge (here)
  9. Post mortem reveals Welsh golden eagle had suffered gunshot injury (here)
  10. RSPB announces its ‘new’ policy on gamebird shooting (here)

I’m sad and angry at the same time.

Sad because of the cruelty and persecution of our birds of prey.

Angry because I have no confidence that the powers that be, government and law enforcement, will deal with these criminal acts.  I would like you all, in 2021, to spend a little time to keep abreast of the problem and make representations to your elected MPs that this situation cannot be tolerated.

Thanks and all the best. BC

https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/

 

“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 begin?  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, 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.

*****