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Rhea at North Scale

I know Walney is an important stopping-off point for migrating birds, but finding four of these flightless latinos in a muddy field at North Scale is getting silly!

In other news...

I've been driving myself into the ground over the last couple of weeks, trying to get to grips with Ruby on Rails - a desirable IT skill, evidently - so I can have it on my CV and talk about it intelligently at a putative interview. And I woke up this morning with the beginnings of a cold (dry throat, rasping cough) and determined not only to let it drive me further into myself but to get a life once more. And furthermorer, to get on with some writing.

So, noting from the tide table that the low tide was nicely timed and it's a glorious day, I set off to Biggar Bank and walked from there up to Earnse Bay. It's only really feasible to do this for half an hour either side of the low tide because otherwise it's necessary to negotiate some difficult rocks rather than firm sand at the water's edge between the coastguard tower and Earnse Point. It was glorious and apart from the car-parky bits at either end I had it all to myself. Well, myself and large numbers of curlews, oystercatchers, dunlin and a small flock of (behave yourselves, umrats reading this) cormorants. I've never seen cormorants on Walney beach before, though they are seen often enough in the docks. Later, after I'd had a cup of coffee and put the world to rights with my friend Lilian, I walked back down the lane to North Scale, which is where I saw the rheas with their friends the donkeys, and then along the Walney Channel as the tide came in. Lots of redshank along the channel.

I feel a lot better than that!
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the Slag Bank

This morning I was overwhelmed by a sense that I wanted to be anywhere but in the house. So I went for a long walk. Although my steps didn't take me quite where I intended.

I was planning to walk up the mainland side of the Channel and see how far I could get, aiming to get up to Roanhead if I could. It looked a little murky when I set out, so I was surprised when I was climbing the first, landscaped, bit of the slag bank (remnant of the long-defunct iron and steel works) to see the Isle of Man appearing, clear as you like, above Walney. From the top I was even more surprised to see that, even though the nearby Lakeland fells were somewhat hazy, the mountains of North Wales could be seen distinctly. Seeing Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) is a rare sight indeed up here. With a bit of imagination one could also make out the Mull of Galloway beetween the IoM and St Bees Head.

I had a wander round the further slag bank - not landscaped and without much evidence that it was open to public access beyond the undoubted fact that there was nothing to stop anybody scrambling up and down the scree. It really is a weird place, one that is a local landmark seen froma distance, but which I had not hitherto visited and explored. YOu can pick up bits of native iron very easily.

From there I made my way up the path by the railway - again no obvious right of way but also no obvious attempt to prevent me - until it petered out and turned sharply to a dead end at the shore. The tide was right out, and I was feeling reckless, so I strode out across the mud and sands for the North End of Walney. I had to wade the last twenty metres - despite what some sceptics might say Walney is an island even at low tide! From there I walked round the dunes at teh North End and back down the beach to West Shore. I good opportunity on what was by now a splendid, warm and sunny day to call in on my friend Lilian for tea and a natter on the deck!


Mar. 7th, 2007 12:01 am
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The spring tides covered the Tummer Hill Marshes by Ocean Road today, and broughtin the sea ducks.

This is an eider. which was diving for food about fifty metres into the marshes. I needed the full digital zoom on the Nikoff to get anything at all, but I thought it worth recording. You don't see them every day after all. And you can't keep a good eider down...
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Out with the tide

Now here's an unusual one.

I don't like using the digital zoom on the Nikoff, but I used it today to supplement the optical zoom to capture the ship leaving Barrow Docks on a very high tide - one of those high enough to have waves over the marshes and lapping up to Ocean Road, where the picture was taken.

The buildings in the background are on Roa Island - not quite a real island as it is connected to the village of Rampside by a raised causeway, but it feels like a small island and is full of boats and nautical (at weekends) folk. On the far right is the Roa Island lifeboat station, which patrols the notorious sands and tides of Morecambe Bay.

Behind is the Forest of Bowland: the uplands of Lancashire, west of the M6 between Lancaster and Preston and north of Blackburn. I think that is Pendle Hill, home of witches, peeking over the shoulder towards the right. But I may be wrong...
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Walney Channel

It was almost spring-like today. A bit chilly by the channel, mind.

I thought we'd do the other side of the island today. The Channel, filled with boats as ever, with the Jubilee Bridge that connects the rest of the world to Walney.
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You're spared the beach today.

Not halfway through February yet, and the gorse is in bloom!
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Do you get the impression that I like the beach? The music playing is entirely conincidental, by the way.
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It's been a while. It's been a difficult time, ok?

Today the temperature rose slightly, and the sun came out after a week of bitter winds, rain and snow. And people came out onto the beach - albeit wrapped up warm. It was glorious!
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Lonely Boats!

I took a wander up towards North Scale this morning, although I didn't stay out long as it was drizzly and misty.

Many of the boats littering the channel, and theitr associated landing craft, seem under-used. Maybe I should set one free one day!

In my dreams...
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Gone Fishin'

After another grey start the sun broke through for another glorious winter day (although 11 degrees is ridiculous for January.) And you know how I can't keep away from that beach. Neither could these two, it seems. Fresh mackerel for tea - yummy!
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Ridge and furrow

Barrow has existed as a town only since about 1840. Before that was nothing but a few scattered farming communities.

Walney has been settled much longer than that. The huddled village of Biggar and the little fishing community of North Scale have some old buildings to show for it. Much more eloquent, however, are these relics of mediaeval farming, right on the Furness Golf Club's course and close to the beach at Sandy Gap. The corduroy undulations of ridge and furrow were formed by generations of strip farmers, turning the furrows with teams of oxen. Nobody knows for sure why these humps and hollows were made the way they were, but one plausible theory is that it was a form of insurance against the vagaries of the weather - in a dry season the furrows would retain water to save some of the crop, and conversely in a wet season the raised ridges would be well drained.

Ridge and furrow is common all round the country where this method of farming prevailed, but is generally only seen where the land has not been put to the plough, so the sheep-lands of Furness are a good place to see it. Strip farming was common up to the Enclosure Acts of the eighteenth century; it seems likely that Enclosure was late coming to this wild corner of England where growing crops can only ever have been a marginal activity.
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You never see anything like this in London...


Dec. 20th, 2006 01:35 pm
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Walney Channel 20 Dec 2006

After what seems like weeks of almost constant wind and rain, the wind has dropped, the sun has broken through in patches, the air is suffused with winter mist and the Walney Channel is looking gorgeous.

It was looking even more gorgeous half an hour earlier, because the water was perfectly still, but I didn't have my camera with me. By the time I got back, a couple of fishing boats had passed by and rumpled the water.
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A Blustery Day

A high tide and a high wind mean that the sea is in tune with the state of my brain. We just had to get together didn't we!

Mor pictures here.
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Walney Channel in Winter

After yesterday, the kind of wild and woolly day that reminds me that I don't think we're in Berkshire any more, Tosca, I woke today to a gloriously clear and sunny morning, and snow on the mountains. That's Coniston Old Man peeking over the industrial estate.

It didn't last. Not the snow, and not the clear blueness. It's raining now, as it gets dark.


Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:00 pm
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The Isle of Man

It was very cold when I got up this morning, and cold for most of the day. But it was so glorious I just had to take a break from NaNoWriMo writing (I'm using the project to discipline myself into finishing A Voice Less Loud) and walk down to the beach.

It was still and bright, the beach is taking on its winter aspect, and the air was very, very clear. So clear that the Isle of Man stood out gloriously on the horizon, 80 km away. I could even see the Calf of Man. Of course, I cursed the camera because I can't put at skylight filter on it, so you can't see it a fraction as well in the picture as you could in real life. Grrr!
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I found these fungi growing in the grass verge in Strathaird Avenue, Walney - almost opposite the house where I lived as a baby.

Does anybody know what species they are? They look rather beautiful.
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I had a call at 9.40 this morning. As a result, tomorrow morning I'm off to see somebody who may well be my first paying client.

To mark the occasion I felt entitled to unchain myself from my desk and go down to the beach. It was a real wild, woolly, windy Walney day and the sea was doing just what the sea does best - sending the spume flying and the waves crashing on the sea defences.

No photo because it was hard enough to stay upright, but it's impossible to feel depressed in such magnificent conditions!
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Across the last bit of marshes

It being as perfect a day as one could wish for in the middle of October (and if the weather is right there is no better month for it), I walked the eight kilometres down the beach to the bird reserve at the south end. When I got there I chatted with the warden for a while and then walked back up the beach, with the tide coming in. It was a four-and-a-half hour outing and it was exhilarating.

I'm no twitcher but without binoculars I recognised with certainty the following birds:

Herring gull
Ringed plover

PS - I forgot to mention that there are more pictures here!
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Walney Bridge and Channel

By way of contrast, here we are just a few hours after that high tide, looking across to the Ferry Hotel from the other side of the channel.


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