Saturday, 31 October 2009

Sloe Walk

Had a lovely walk in the Rusland Valley yesterday with the additional treat of coming across this blackthorn bush which was laded with sloes. It looks a very old bush as it is covered with moss and abundant grey lichen, which I think is the shrubby Ramalina farinacea. The lichen indicates good air quality round here and as it is near a place called Windy Hall this certainly indicates a lot of fresh air. I don't think last year was a good year for sloes as the ones we can across were poor specimens. This year they are plump. Plastic bag out and we gathered about a pound, which left loads left on the tree for anyone else with a desire to make Sloe Gin.

The temperature this week can only be described a balmy, a wonderfully warm autumn. (This time last year it had snowed). The air was still and the breeze crackled the dry leaves on the trees as we walk through the woods. The birds sang and the sparse late flowers felt as though they were wishing us goodbye for the year.
A profusion of Scarlet Hood (Hygrophorus coccineus) greeted us as we walked through the fields towards the end of the walk. These fungi like to grow in grass and the cap fades to yellow as it ages. You can just see the yellow edges on these ones.
What of the sloes we picked. Today I bought a bottle of gin, pricked the juicy sloes, put them in the gin and added the sugar. Now I turn the bottle every day and wait. I knew someone who used to put the bottle under her bed and the last thing she did before she went to bed was turn it. One way of remembering to keep turning the bottle.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

ABC Wednesday - O is for Overcast

The first photograph is the sunniest its going to get on today's post. Imagine how overexcited I was when I seeing the compass points laid out in a garden. If only I had remembered last week for the N, guess I will wait until the next round for that. O is for west, or, as it is from my French holiday, ouest.

I live on the west coast of England where the Atlantic sometimes likes to bring us rain laden clouds which makes it rather overcast at times.

A beach is not just for summer it is for life. One of my favourite local beaches is Silecroft, here it is on a March day. It is quite a length and a mixture of shingle, rock and sand so you can enjoy a good walk whatever the weather. The people in the distance are doing just that. If beachcombing is your thing then sometimes there are sometimes interesting, and occasionally useful, finds after a stormy period of weather.
Some of the larger stones as the tide retreats, this is the stonier end. I have a picture of the sand dunes but the day was far too sunny. Now that's not something I have said before.

Another overcast day but this is on the south east coast of England in Kent. The yachts don't look they are in any danger of being taken out, protected against the weather with their little coats. The shingle is a lovely colour. This is Whitstable which is famous for
its oysters and oyster restaurants, the remains of their shells are everywhere. The ultimate beach recycling. I'll end with a poem, by the late Gavin Ewart, which may resonate more with those living or having holidayed, in countries and regions with unpredictable summers.

"Celestial Double Haiku of the Rising Sun" by Gavin Ewart

What makes our summer
so bloody annoying (air
travellers know well)

is that up above
those blasted clouds the sun is
shining hot as hell!

Jump Over to ABC Wednesday for more meanings of the Letter O

Monday, 26 October 2009

Strangers by Taichi Yamada

Hideo Harada is recently divorced, never sees his son, and his TV script writing partner is avoiding him. He is retreating from the world and living in a building that although located in a busy part of Tokyo, is almost deserted, apart from the other inhabitant, a mysterious young woman.

Buying his own birthday present on his 48th birthday (after his writing partner breaks the news that he wants to marry Harada’s ex wife) he convinces himself he has a new independence, and with little else to do decides to travel on the Ginza subway to visit Asukusa, the part of Tokyo where he grew up. His last childhood memory of the area was the blood stained pavement where his parents were killed in a hit and run accident.

Visiting the area temple and then wandering down various streets eventually leads to visiting the Variety Hall where he meets a man, who looks exactly like his father, and is invited back to this familiar faced strangers home where there is a woman waiting who resembles his dead mother.

We are not sure at the beginning of the novel if Harada’s parents’ appearance is just wish fulfilment, ghosts or he is having a mental breakdown. The couple look the same, are at the same age as at their deaths but live with modern possessions. Harada finds emotions to be troublesome so always tries to separate himself from them. Losing his parents at the age of 12 and then his grandfather not long after has given him certain emotional scars.

The first chapters of the book are very slow but as Harada returns to visit his parents the story gathers pace; his emotions vary between terror and yearning when taking the train to Asukusa to visit the couple. He forms an attachment with Kei, the young woman in his apartment building, but she has her own secret.

I would classify this book as a novella and rather like a MR James short ghost story when everyday events, only seem slightly strange at first, gain momentum and turn into something more chilling. Can the dead harm the living? Maybe like the eel meals that are consumed ,the truth is more slippery than that. Enjoyable as a quick read.

(Participating in Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge 3)

Friday, 23 October 2009

We will put summer time behind us this week-end as the clocks go back. It seems moments since the nuts in the hedgerows were just appearing (photo taken in July) but now the squirrels are bouncing around the forest undergrowth, stocking up for the winter ahead.

Winter lays in front of us so at the moment, the nuts and berries are there for the taking, but soon life will not be so easy for our wildlife. Time for us all do our bit to help them to survive.

At the eastern edge of the Lake District near Penrith in Winter a very cute red squirrel is the star of this video.

The small red squirrel has retreated further north as its territory is taken over by the introduced American grey and here in Cumbria we are at the edge of the red's home. Sadly there are only about 211,000 left in the whole country, and half of those are in Scotland. It is always a treat when you spot a fluffy red, but locally I have only, so far, seen the grey this year.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

ABC Wednesday - N

N is for Nibthwaite

A little hamlet surrounded by woods and pasture, a short distance from the side of the southern end of Coniston Water. The woods in the area are predominantly oak but also with small leaved lime, holly, birch and rowan, and in past times were coppiced.
The road which runs along the eastern shore of Coniston Water is delightfully winding and tree lined, with surprise views at every point. The car passenger can take in those views but the driver would be advised to keep alert for cars coming the other way because the widest the road gets is this. It seems the inhabitants prefer small cars for that reason.
Even old Morris Minors, not many of those on the road now. This model was built sometime between 1956-1971.
The village is in touch with the world because it has a phone box and this post box which is an old 19th Century QV (Queen Victoria) one.
But then this has been a settlement a long time. Its name is from the Old Norse 'Ny-burgar-thveit' meaning 'new town in the clearing'. No evidence has been found of a large settlement, so why town. Possibly because it was used as a central market place; the area was rich in wool, wood, charcoal and iron ore.

There are many large old barns. The village notice board is outside this one. We learned, amongst other things, we had missed the cheese and wine tasting by a day. Still that is probably a good thing for the old cholesterol levels.
Steps at the side to the higher level of this barn.
Crossing the field to the lake an enigmatic figure is encountered.

This is one of Antony Gormley's sculptures, based on himself. I love its position in the landscape as it looks over the water to the hills.

High Nibthwaite's other famous visitor spent summer holidays here as a child and learned to sail on the lake. When Arthur Ransome came to write his book "Swallows and Amazons" the lake he describes as "that great lake in the north" is based on amalgam of Coniston Water and Windermere.
Coniston Water
What is this in the reeds.
Perhaps it is the Swallow.

Coniston Water taken from Selside
But this is definitely Ransom's' Wildcat Island'. Its real name is Peel Island.

All these photographs were taken at the weekend on a glorious sunny day. If you wonder if it is still sunny, as the low pressure powers across the Atlantic, then have a look at the Webcam

For more natty Ns go to ABC Wednesday

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Speckled Wood (Pararga aegeria)

Image from Copyright Free Photos

A butterfly of woodland glades, as its name implies, but also found along hedgerows and country lanes.

And this is where I caught sight of it. If I had been walking down this road twenty years ago it would have not seemed possible, its habitat was southern England, Wales and into the midlands. It disappeared early in the 20th century from the north. In the 1990s one was seen in a wood near Witherslack, some people think that they was deliberately introduced, but cannot say by who. I like to think they made their own way here. They like slightly damp areas so Cumbria certainly fulfills that requirement. Since that first sighting they have spread right through Furness and the Morecambe Bay estuary and are still heading north.

It is unique amongst our butterflies because it can overwinter in two totally separated stages either as a chrysalis or a caterpillar, a trait that can, in the southern part of the range, give rise to three overlapping broods on the wing from the end of March to mid October.
Here is the image I took amongst the autumn leaves (right hand corner). If I had been carrying a set of stepladders with me it might have been a better photograph. This particular butterfly was taking in yet another warm sunny day near the top of a hedge. As you can see it is a paler colour than the photograph at the top of the page. There are two types of males and the lighter coloured ones are territorial, chasing and intercepting intruders onto their territory.

Here's hoping for lots more warm sunny days because in a good year they can last longer than mid October, and who does not want to see more butterflies.

The Cumbrian Wildlife website has more information on their occupation of the area.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Bethecar Moor

Setting off this morning from the east side of Coniston Water and walking up through Dodgson Wood, arrived at Low Parkamoor to head south
onto Bethecar Moor. The day was warm and sunny, but the views were hazy.
We watched the ferry boat chugging up the lake heading to the landing stage near Brantwood (John Ruskin's house, now a museum). There were very few yachts out on the lake, possibly because there was hardly any breeze.
By the time we reached High Light Haw in the early afternoon the views were clearing. It was a wonderfully still day as we continued the walk along the top of the moor, through the dying russet coloured bracken, and trying to avoiding the rich green moss that warned of bog beneath.

Reaching the end of the moor we started our descent towards Allen Tarn
and down to the village which may make an appearance in ABC Wednesday this coming week.
Down by the roadside we took a slight diversion to look at the River Crake. Here it is as it exits Allen Tarn at the start of its journey to the sea.
Dow Crag (left) and Coniston Old Man (right)

We returned over the fields to continue our route

along the rough track back to our start. The Coniston Range dominates the lake and surrounding areas. This is the most southerly of the mountain ranges of the Lake District.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

ABC Wednesday - M

M is for Machinery

I loved the colour and shape of this part of the machine, and the fact that it is dated 1869. What is it? Look through the gaps for a clue.
La Richardais Marina, Rance Basin, Brittany
Here is the best shot I could get of the full thing, as I squeezed between all the parked cars. I would have liked to see it working
but we were entertained on this very windy day by the chase down, and rescue, of a yacht that had broken its moorings.

From the sea to the land. There is a surprising amount of old farm machinery in fields and I can never resist taking a photograph, especially if it is rusty. This is June when the fields in the Yorkshire Dales were full of yellow flowers. A little subdued in this photograph as the mist was rolling down the hills. (Click for full size and the Ribblehead Viaduct is in the background).

June is also a time for mowing the fields,( same day, and the same mist).
And here is some modern day farm machinery arriving in the field.

St Piere-de-Plesguen
Back to a sunny France where you can see the machinery of government in every town and village in the outward sign of the Mairie building. This one is festooned with flowers, as was the 11th century church grounds, from where this was taken.

Now these have all been still photographs but wouldn't it be nice to see some machinery working.

Its quite mesmerising, or is that just me. This 1945 German coil spring machine is apparently still producing left springs for saddles at the Brooks England Ltd factory. Brooks has been in existence since 1866 and make nice and comfortable bike saddles, amongst other things. People like them so much they send pictures into the website.

Move over to ABC Wednesday where you can enjoy more interpretations of the letter M

Monday, 12 October 2009

By River and Canal

The field have been harvested, the nights have turned cool and touches of colour are appearing in the trees.
River Kent, Levens Bridge
I went to see if the row of oaks at Levens were turning colour. The answer was, no, they were almost as green as summer with the leaf edges just starting to turn. Being English oaks they no doubt think it is still summer as the warmth is still in the air.
The sunny day tempted me on through woods, and along the Lancaster Canal near Hincaster where the water was so still that the reflections and trees almost merge.
You can walk a long way along this part of the canal so it is very popular with dog walkers. Both they and their dogs comes in all shapes and sizes.

On the way back the long haired goats were by the river bank. There were a couple of young kids of which this was one with its mother keeping her eye on it, or maybe not, they are not as skittish as sheep.
These are the Bagot goats, a rare breed brought into England around in the time of Richard the Lionheart, 12th century.
Reaching the end of my amble fell into conversation with someone I had seen on the other side of the river earlier in the day with a camera in hand. She was doing a photographic project on the River Kent from its source onwards. (Its a very short river, only about 20 miles long). The stillness of the day was a delight for her and was about to dash to Kendal to photograph the Kent as it cuts through that grey stoned town.

What and interesting project. This set me thinking which river I would choose. My favourite local river is the pretty Crake which runs from Coniston Water to the sea but is even shorter than the Kent. Perhaps this is something to do in those short winter days to come, brrr, what am I doing thinking of winter in October.