Tuesday, 31 March 2009

ABC Wednesday - K

K is for Kerry

A beautiful part of Ireland. There are sandy bays, wild cliffs, craggy islands, mountains and moorland. Busy towns and sleepy villages. Here you are on the Atlantic's edge, next stop America (where so may Irish travelled in the past to escape poverty and famine).

We were lucky with warm sunny weather in a year where rain predominated over sun. The couple whose cottage we stayed in said we had brought the good weather with us. The Irish have a way with words.

The photo at the top is Bantry and the one below Bantry Bay (famous for its mussels)

Near the Kerry Way

Macgillycuddy's Reeks

There are a lot of rare plants here due to the moderate oceanic climate. On our way up Corran Tuathail or Carrauntoohil (whichever way you spell it's Ireland's highest mountain) we fell in with a climber who pointed out some of these plants. I also fell in a bog, that t-shirt was never the same afterwards.

I have few photographs of this holiday as my camera got rather smashed up in the first week so no pictures of the Devil's Staircase, Hag's Tooth or the Dingle and Iveragh coast. It is a place I would love to go back to so maybe I'll get another chance. The scenery will live in my memory as well as the scrumptious food, ice cream and afternoon teas. Ah the dozens of different pancakes at Strawberry Field, the apple and blackberry pie at Skelligs Mist bakery and coffeshop, Valentia Island, apple crumble and ice cream at Molly Gallivan's Cottage on Moll's Gap. Oh no I'm starting to hallucinate.

Here is the last picture I took with my ex-camera in the Gearhanagour valley (well I did take some with my mobile phone but have never worked out how to get them on to my computer).

Katch more K's at Mrs Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday

Monday, 30 March 2009

Daffodils in the Duddon

As the clocks change on Sunday we know that the wild daffodils in the Duddon Valley will be at their peak and the blue skies promise a good day. Set off for Whistling Green near Ulpha and park the car walking over the bridge and turning left past the house on the corner and on past the scattering of other houses in this hamlet and our first spectacular view of banks of daffodils. I have never ever been able to take a picture of this that does it justice and Sunday is not exception. On we walk down the road until coming to what was the Bobbin Mill (above) which is now a house and holiday cottages but the chimney is still there. Opposite here is the gate to the woods first following the stream on our left but leading to the woods.
These are not the sort of wood you will get lost in as the path is wide and a popular walk for people in the area.

Two thirds of the way through the woods when a gate is reached, the daffodils disappear and the path today is very muddy because this part is still harvested for its crop and the tractors have been in however after this bare patch daffodils appear at the other end just before the hamlet. The path leads out on to the Corney Fell road. Turn right up this nice steep road which gets the breathing going. Looking down to the stream below there a lots more daffodils.
Eventually we come to the cattle grid and walk some yards before turning right and over the bridge to head towards Frith Hall (below). This was originally a hunting lodge but later was a stopping point for travellers and smugglers. It is now in ruins and partly used by the local farmer. I took the photograph, below, because I liked the triangular cloud formation, that's Frith Hall on the right.
We are now on our return journey where I always look at this tree which was blown over in March 2005 when there was a great storm in the area with winds reaching 100 mph and half a million trees were uprooted. Despite its roots only being attached at one end it still manges to leaf.
We eventually come back to Bobbin bridge and back to the car. A beautiful day with a rather cool north westerly wind but warm in the sheltered woods.
Boots off we head for the Manor Arms in Broughton in Furness a "mini beer festival each day" and drink Stringers Old School Porter (a local seasonal beer) and Copper Dragon which always reminds us of a holiday we had in the Ribble Valley where there was lots of it.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Sweet Violet - Viola Odarata

"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows
Where oxslips and the nodding violet grows"
Will Shakespeare

Provider of nectar for the early flying insects and a welcome early flower living on the woodland margins and shady hedgerows.

There were quite a few of these flowers in the lane (all white) but not too easy to photograph because the sun's direction and their position meant that my shadow kept falling on them however found this little gem which I managed to twist around and take the shot.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

ABC Wednesday - J

J is for Jubilee

The first Jubilee is Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee of 1898. Above is my grandmother's medal which has the national anthem on the back. It did have pin and red ribbon attached but this has deteriorated over the last hundred plus years.

The second Jubilee is the story of a bridge that was needed to link the town of Barrow to the island of Walney. In 1897 a public meeting was held to discuss a possible bridge being constructed and mark it as a suitable way to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. It did not happen and the ferry continued to carry people across.

The town and the population of Walney was growing but the Furness Railway Company were against any form of bridging Walney Channel , probably because they were the operators of the steam ferry service although their public objection was focused on navigation of the channel to shipping, hence why to this day there is an opening span to the bridge centre.

Eventually Walney Bridge was built at a cost of £175,000 and opened officially in July 1908 but to pay for this it operated as a toll bridge.

When the bridge was released from charge and handed over to the townspeople in 1935 a ceremony was carried out by the Duchess of York (mother of the current Queen Elizabeth). The bridge was officially renamed Jubilee Bridge.Above is the medal struck to commemorate the event with the mayor's name on it.

To bring us up to date here is the bridge today taken with the tide out. It was refurbished for its Centenary Year and its electric blue paint (which I rather liked) has been put back to the original black and grey.

The view from the other side with daffodils
Below you can see the control houses in the middle which operate the rack and pinion system used to swing the bridge open. The large grey building in the background is is Devonshire Dock Hall where the Trident Submarines are constructed. In the past boats would be launched into Walney Channel,which had to be dredged regularly, but these vessels are much too big and are ship lifted by a syncrolift with a lifting capacity of 24,000 tonnes into the dock.
Jubilee Bridge carries a lot of traffic as it is the only link to the island from the mainland unless you want to brave the slippy steps on foot at low tide. I think these are only for true Walneyites because as you see it is a very muddy channel with a tide which runs with great force. There is now a pressure group that wants to build a second bridge but whether that will ever happen who knows.

Join the Jollification of more Js at Mrs Nesbit's ABC Wednesday

Friday, 20 March 2009

First Day of Spring

Today, in common with the rest of the week, after a overcast start a brilliant blue sky and bright sunlight lifted our spirits. Celebrated the first day of spring with a walk through Levens Park and the avenue of oaks, emerging at the end to head towards the old disused canal towpath and Hincaster Tunnel.
Reaching the other side of the tunnel the sound of traffic from the A590 reminded why this canal is no longer. Still we walked away from noise and down the the pathway where we caught a brief sight of a pair of large butterflies.
Heading now for Heversham Head a tempting seat was placed in memory of a couple who loved the view and what a view. The sun was warm, sheltered from the breeze we gazed on the Kent Estuary. The day was very hazy but could see the Kent as sun glinted on it as it snaked its way out to the sea. We stopped here for some time taking in the rays but eventually made our way to the top and looked at the monument. Here is one side of it and its lovely depiction of sheep
We set off down hill to Heversham busy with cars as parents collected their children from school. We walked through and up the road to the bridleway through an avenue of trees emerging from which we could see Leven Hall in the distance. Walking down hill we eventually came down to High Barns Farm and down to where we had started.

The day was still warm so headed for Milnthorpe where looking for tea, nothing doings, so bought a couple of cakes (yellow Easter chicks) from Greggs to take home but were tempted into a glass of Everards in the pub instead. The chicks were eaten later (they were a sort of biscuity marshmallow).

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

ABC Wednesday - I

I is for Inversion.
Above the clouds on Black Combe, a sturdy round hill of 1970 feet on the outlying south west corner of the English Lake District overlooking the Irish Sea.

Here comes the science bit - a temperature inversion occurs when instead of the air being warmer near the Earth's surface a warmer air mass moves over it. Normally occurring in winter these photographs were taken in early February a couple of years ago.

I think it is unusual being over the sea rather than land however all I really know is whenever and wherever it happens it is quite magical.
Looking out over the Irish Sea and Duddon Estuary

Now it has almost disappeared.
The last time I experienced one was more dramatic as it was in the middle of a mountain range so you could see miles of clouds with just the peaks of the hills showing through. Rather like the following clip of 'Paragliding Above An Inversion' however my feet were firmly on the ground. Looks like fun

To Indulge in more I go to ABC Wednesday

Monday, 16 March 2009

Q & A by Vikas Swarup

A darker story than its film spin off 'Slumdog Millionaire' but with a similar structure of the question asked and then the story. The experiences Ram Mohammad Thomas has had in life enables him to be able to answer the questions as he takes part in the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Arrested by the police he has to prove he is innocent of cheating by recounting how he knows the answers to the questions because, as an orphan slum dweller, how could he know. As he says "The brain is not an organ we are authorised to use. We are supposed to use only our hands and legs"

Modern India as experienced from he bottom of the pile travelling from Mumbai, Delhi and Agra backwards and forwards in Ram's life. (differing from the film which is a linear story). Confronted by dacoits, employed by aging Bollywood stars, exploited, shown kindness and friendship, discovering love and tragedy. All these things make Ram the person he becomes, an extraordinary everyman.

This is a pacey book with a compelling narrative looking at the underside of society but ultimately it is that old fashioned thing a fable of good triumphing over evil.

Verdict - Good read

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Cherry Blossom

The cherry blossom has arrived this week. Hurray. The world is spinning towards the sun and spring is starting to arrive. If I lived in Japan perhaps I would be getting ready to go blossom watching and light paper lanterns at night but as this is the north of England it will not be such an event. Perhaps a haiku from the Zen master Basho will do instead

Spring night
cherry -
blossom dawn

Lets hope for another sunny day to see the fragile beauty of this flower at its best although it does brighten a rainy day.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

ABC Wednesday - H

H is for Herdwick Sheep -

a hardy breed, native of the Lake District whose oily wool waterproofs it against the wind and rain in the wettest part of England. The name is derived from 'Herdwyck' meaning sheep pasture. When they arrived is not know but it is thought possibly somewhere in the 10-12th century.

Wherever you walk on the fells whether it is at 1000 or 3000 ft you will come across them steadily munching the grass or whatever else takes there interest. I have know some of the bolder ones taking an interest in sandwiches. In the following picture taken on Wetside Edge on the Coniston fells the farmer has supplemented their feed (although they don't seem too interested) so my sandwiches were safe.

Bred for hundreds of years to be territorial they are 'hefted' to the fell this means they will not wander off their traditional patch and stick to a particular territory. Hefted flocks are seen once a year when they are brought down to lamb.

Beatrix Potter won prizes for her Herdwick sheep (she bought farms with money from her Peter Rabbit stories) and in her will stated that they must always be stocked with this breed.

Alfred Wainwright dedicated one of his fell walking guides to "the hardiest of all fell walkers, the sheep of Lakeland, the truest lovers of mountains, their natural homes and providers of their food and shelter"

H is also for Hat
sometimes made of wool but not taken from Herdwick sheep as that is usually used in carpets. Here is Ron refusing to have his picture taken by hiding in his hat.
For a host of Hs go to and enjoy ABC Wednesday

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

ABC Wednesday - G

G is for Groyne. Used to prevent longshore drift and coastal erosion. The wooden groynes are the cheapest but only last for 15-20 years. These are the remnants of the ones on my local bay where more robust measures involving big rocks have had to be put in place.

Some pristine ones below at Whitstable in Kent in the more benign south. Good for sheltering from the wind in the British summer while pretending it is warm.

Here the waves coming in.

I have always lived on the coast and love the sea in all its moods.

I think John Masefield must have felt the same:-

"I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and brown spume, and the sea-gulls crying."

For a galaxy of Gs go and take a look at ABC Wednesday