Our bathroom is still being upgraded, so this morning I decided to make myself scarce by visiting Hardcastle Crags and taking a walk along Hebden Water.
Half-way to Gibson Mill, I was delighted to spot a northern hairy wood ants' nest at the side of the path. Believe it or not, this one was very small. I saw one once that so big, from a distance, with all the ants moving across its surface, I mistook it for a woodland pond. Trust me. You had to be there. Continue reading A walk in Hardcastle Crags→
I haven't been on the Moor for a few weeks, so I asked Jen to drop me off at the golf course car park on her way into work. I was on the Moor by 7am!
After a quick visit to the urnfield (which I've blogged about separately here), I made my way up to the trig point and had a brew. Yorkshire Tea, obviously. Then it was along Sheep Stones Edge, down the hill, and back home via Keelam Edge.
I was pleased to see the cotton grass out in abundance:
The local cotton grass is in seed at the moment. It thrives in poor, acidic, boggy soils. Even after it has seeded, its dying, rust-red stalks are easy to spot, warning you of areas best avoided, unless you've brought your wellies.
Because cotton grass thrives in bogs, and bogs mainly tend to form in flat areas (albeit often flat areas high on moors), when the grass comes into seed, you can spot huge, flat swathes of white on the hillsides around here. From a distance, they can look uncannily like limestone pavements:
(Not that we get limestone round here, you understand. That's a different Yorkshire entirely.)
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.
I'm really not bothered what happens to my mortal remains once I go, but I've made it known to my partner, Jen, that the final paragraph of On the Origin of Species would not be at all out of place, were she to arrange any sort of ‘do’ to see me off. Assuming I go first, that is.
A few years ago, some book reviewer in the Times had the temerity to suggest that Charles Darwin's famous tangled bank passage ‘certainly owes its origin to his impressions of tropical forests’. As I said at the time, bollocks to that! (I paraphrase.)
Who needs tropical forests, when there are tangled banks like this to inspire you?
I promised myself a late-afternoon walk yesterday, if I could get through the work I'd set myself. Once again, I headed off down Burlees Lane and and up through the wood.
There were a lot of young birds around, being attended to by their parents. I saw robins, great tits, blue tits and swallows. It's a great time of year for a walk in the countryside. Mind you, when isn't?
I went to stay with my old friend Mike in the south Manchester suburbs on Friday. In the evening, we took his dog, Milly, for a walk through Kenworthy Woods, along the banks of the River Mersey, and around Chorlton Water Park. I had never been there before, and was astonished to find such a large expanse of greenery right next to the M60, so close to Manchester. An area of precious green belt.
As we walked through the woods and along the river, Mike and I demonstrated to each other our general ignorance of trees, hazarding guesses at various species. We agreed on ash, and there were willows of some description, and hawthorns and horse chestnuts and sycamores. I think I impressed Mike at one point by confidently identifying alder, although, to be honest, it was little more than a guess. And there were some trees with heart-shaped leaves. I had no idea what those might have been, so I guessed lime. I really must get my head around trees some time, like Emma Warren is trying to do.
On the bird front, I don't think I've ever seen quite so many swifts in one place before. There were scores, if not hundreds of them, flying low over the river and lake. At one point, one of the swifts flew within touching distance of me. It was quite a thrill. I regretted not bringing my camera, but the light was poor, rain threatened, and the swifts were being true to their name.
Milly wasn't the least bit interested in the stupid swifts. Far more interesting to her were the bait boxes of the anglers fishing in the lake.
I took a walk down the new cyclepath at Burton Marshes to Burton Point yesterday afternoon.
To be honest, I'm in two minds about the cyclepath. I can see the appeal of a bike ride along the edge of the marshes, away from traffic. But it's turned a place of solitude and quiet reflection into something of a thoroughfare. One local dog-walker I met yesterday was extremely vocal about “all these damn bikes!”. (Actually, I paraphrase, he used a different adjective.) Still, at least it's a clearly defined and well-maintained path, which any would-be off-road cyclists will stray off at their peril, thanks to the nearby military firing-range. And I suppose it keeps the cyclists off the hills.
I was pleased to see the yellow flag irises and southern marsh orchids out in abundance. As were the swifts, skimming low overhead.
The Burton Point sandstone outcrop is the location of a disgracefully out-of-bounds Iron Age fort. At the time that the fort was built, it would have been on the banks of the River Dee. But, in the eighteenth century, the river was canalised upstream and its route diverted to allow the navigation of larger vessels to Chester—which is when the marshes began to spread. Had this not happened, I suppose the heavy industrialisation on the Welsh side of the Dee Estuary, where the river now flows, would have taken place on the Wirral side. In which case, Burton would not be such a Mecca for birds. Or cyclists. Or me. So hats-off to those eighteenth-century Dutch engineers who inadvertently enmarshed the English side of the Dee Estuary!