Devils Hole and the Lost Resort.

Last week I stayed local, just venturing a few miles up the coast to Ravenmeols Nature Reserve close to Formby.

My objective was Devils Hole where I intended to photograph some of the wild flowers but I ended up  following two waymarked trails.

01 Devils Hole Trail09 Lost resort

We parked close to St Luke’s Church and headed south following the Sefton Coastal Footpath. After about a mile we turned right and soon spotted the waymarks for the Devils Hole Trail. It was hard going walking through the soft sand as we approached the dunes. The trail seems to loop round the ‘hole’ and we had to make a small diversion to reach it.

01 Devils Hole

It is a dune blow-out but it is huge covering an area of about 200 x 100 yards.  Most dune-blow-outs are naturally occurring features but it is thought that this one was the result of bombs being dropped during WWII. The target was probably the ‘Starfish Decoy’ a lighting system that was set up to act as a decoy and draw bombs away from Bootle and Seaforth Docks.

It has been an unusually dry winter and Spring and the water table is abnormally low. There was no water at all in the ‘hole’. Bad news for the Natterjack Toads that breed here. However it gave us the chance to walk out into the hole and see what we could find.

I spotted some Dune Helleborine. Epipactis dunesis. This member of the Orchid family is quite rare and only found in a few locations in the UK. It was a bit early in the season and for most of the plants only the leaves were visible but I did find a few that were in flower.

999 Dune Helleborine995 Dune Helleborine

02 Dune Helleborine

The flower stalks are made up of small cream coloured flowers which have dark crimson centres.

Returning to the trail we headed north and met a couple a walkers. They said they were heading for the mine!. I did not know of any mines in the area. We parted company but then met up again 10 minutes later at some concrete and brick ruins.

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07 ROC

There was a bit of a shaft, but it was not a mine. It was a Royal Observer Corp Nuclear Monitoring Bunker opened in 1962 during the cold war. It was abandoned due to erosion between 1966 and 1968. The base of a former Royal Navy observation tower stands nearby.

Heading back towards our car we saw a waymark for the ‘Lost Resort Trail’ This was new to me. We just had to follow it. In the late 19th century the idea was to build a resort here on the coast to rival nearby Southport. It was to be named ‘Formby-by-the-Sea.’Located at the end of Alexandra Road, an unmade road leading to the sea. In the dunes at the end of the road are the remains of the first hotel, the Stella Maris. The flat roofed building faced the sea but was only used as a hotel for a short period of time. It later became a convalescent home for priests, a holiday home for Catholic children and later a radar station during World War II.

Just before Alexandra Road and Albert Road converge there is an area of open land. This was once an asparagus farm and at the beginning of the 20th century it was selected as the proposed site of a railway station which was to be built to service the resort of Formby-by-the-Sea. However due to a downturn in the economic climate it was never built and the idea of the resort fell away.

There is now little to see but I enjoyed finding some orchids amongst the dunes.

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Returning to the beach we passed the remains of Formby Lifeboat Station. Built at Formby Point it was Britain’s first Lifeboat Station.

Wandering along the beach we found a skeleton. Was it a fish or was it a monster.

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Turning up Lifeboat Road we made our way back to our car. We had only covered 3.8 miles but the walk had been full of interest.

I had first visited Devils Hole in April 2016 when it had looked completely different with up to three feet of water in the basin.

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702 Devil's Hole

Posted in Local History, Natural History, Photography, Sefton Coastline, Wild Flowers | 1 Comment

Church Stoke to Bishops Castle.

Yesterday I was out with Crosby Rambling Club on a walk in the border country spanning Shropshire and Wales.

01. Climbing Todleth Hill

We started our walk from the outskirts of Church Stoke and almost immediately began the climb up Todleth Hill. This is one of the volcanic hills in the area and was very steep.

02. Todleth Hill

Our next objective was Roundton Hill which is a National Nature Reserve.

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04. It's all uphill

So far it had been straightforward but then things began to go wrong. A mixture of padlocked gates, signposts obscured by ivy and missing waymarks led to some unplanned diversions. Perhaps no one had walked this way for some time for there was no sign on the ground of paths marked on the map.

We were never lost. Thanks to our GPS we always knew exactly where we were. It was just not always where we wanted to be.

Eventually we reached Hyssington where we stopped for lunch, sitting at tables in a recreation area. What luxury, except for the rain.

05. Flat fields

We now headed south crossing farmland where paths had been cut alongside the crops.

07 Path through the crops

The sun had finally come out and we were able to appreciate the views.

08 Border country

We climbed over Alston Hill back into England making new friends along the way.

06. Hello

We crossed over The Wintles to drop down into Bishops Castle and some well earned refreshments.

09 Roadside flowers

Time for a pint in the Six Bells.

Posted in Crosby Rambling Club, Shropshire, Wales, Walks | 2 Comments

White Satin Moths at Ainsdale.

The past few days has seen the emergence of hundreds of White Satin moths at Ainsdale. This event, known as ‘an irruption’ is very localised and occurs over an area not much bigger than a football pitch.

A. Caterpillar

From Mid-May onwards the caterpillars can be seen munching on the young leaves of the scrub willow. When fully grown they spin a loose web and prepare to pupate,

C, Preparing to PupateB. Preparing to pupate

The pupa are black and shiny with tufts of yellow hair.

D. Pupa

A few weeks later the moths begin to emerge from the pupa.

E. Newly emerged moth

They then begin to pump up their wings, the wing expansion phase.

G. Wing expansionF Wing expansion phase

During this phase the wings are a lovely buttery yellow colour. They are also not going anywhere and it is a chance to get in close with your camera. When fully expanded the wings have the beautiful satin look from where the moth gets its name.

I. Adult moth

As soon as they are able to fly they are off in search of a mate.

j. Mating pairK. Mated Pair

Shortly afterwards the female lays her eggs and the cycle starts all over again,

L. Female laying eggsM. Female moth laying eggs

An unforgettable experience.

Posted in Ainsdale Local Nature Reserve, Insects, Macro, Moths, Natural History, Photography | Leave a comment

Moel Famau from Cilcain

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We started our walk from the beautiful village of Cilcain in Flintshire, a pub, church, village hall and a shop. What more could you want? We headed south to skirt round the eastern slopes of Ffrith Mountain. The path was well signed as it crossed fields and climbed up through woodland.

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We headed west and climbed over a stile to begin the ascent of Moel Famau. The track led through woods and then over open moorland directly to the summit of Moel Famau at 1822 ft. I have been up Moel Famau several times but never before by this route. It is definitely the hardest way. We crossed several forest tracks where we could have a well deserved rest.

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Moel Famau (moil va-my) means “Mother Hill” and at the summit there is Jubilee tower, built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of George III in 1810.The tower now looks rather squat but it used to be higher but it was partially destroyed by a storm in 1862.

43 Moel Famau

From the summit there are extensive views over the Vale of Clwyd. Visibility was excellent and we could see over the Dee Estuary and the Mersey as far as the sand dunes at Formby.

The next section of our walk followed the Offa’s Dyke Path.

46 Offa's Dyke

48 Offa's Dyke Path

This long distance footpath 178 miles,287 km. runs from Prestatyn on the North Wales coast to Sebury cliffs in Gloucestershire. We headed WNW to descend across a bwlch and then climb up to the summit of Moel Dywyll ( moil dee-will ) which means Dark Hill.

49 Moel Dywyll

We continued along the Offa’s Dyke path heading for Moel Llys-y-coed.

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We did not reach the true summit as it it on private land but from our high spot we could look back at Moel Famau, it seemed a long way off.

52 Looking back to Moel Famau

We now had a steep and rough descent down to a minor road. Directly ahead of us was Moel Arthur. Perhaps-s we will leave that for another day.

55 Moel Arthur

The final leg of our walk was along tracks and a minor road back into Cilcain. We then had time to visit ‘The Shop’ The village shop also houses the ‘Post Office’ and the cafe. Time for a mug of tea before our journey home.

Posted in Flintshire, Photography, Wales, Walks | Leave a comment

Beacon Fell and the River Brock

01 Summit of Beacon Fell

We picked the hottest day of the year to visit the south western edge of the Forest of Bowland to do our walk. It was graded as easy/moderate so we did not anticipate any problems. We left our car at the Bowland Visitors Centre at Beacon Fell Country Park and quickly made our way up to the trig point to take in the views.

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We dropped down to follow several field paths to head for the River Brock at Gill Barn Wood. So far it had been easy walking with great views of the Bowland Fells ahead of us and the fields were full of flowers.

03 Flower Meadow

We descended through the woods along a clear path flanked by bluebells to reach a footbridge.

04 Bluebell Woods

We now had to follow the river downstream on what our route description said was a clear path. It did mention that the section through ‘Boggy Wood’ lived up to its name. We had to divert round some of the worst bits and ended up a little ‘off piste’. We found a bridle way and decided to follow it. The horses hooves had really churned up the ground and we were ankle deep in mud. Even worse, my sense of direction told me that we were going astray. A glance at my GPS confirmed it. The bridle way led us in a big circle. Time for a bit of old fashioned map reading to get us back on track at Brockmill where we could pause for lunch at the picnic area.

05 River Brock

Having crossed the bridge we now followed the River Brock downstream on a good path to Walmsley Bridge. Leaving the river we now had just a couple of miles of field paths to take us back to our car. Our route notes stated that the paths could be confusing but the instructions looked comprehensive and we had our map.

06 Field Path

Initially it was easy but then things started to go wrong. We encountered several gates that were padlocked and a barbed wire fence not shown on the map. All of which called for big diversions.  I was wondering if I had enough water.

We arrived back at the visitors centre just as it was about to close. I managed to get a can of ice cold Fanta. I did not know weather to drink it or hold the can against my forehead.

Les kept up his reputation of giving value for money on his walks. I call him Mr 110%, but today must have been Super Thursday. He added on 33%. Our 9 mile walk ended up being 11.3 miles.

Another adventure with Les.

Posted in Adventures with Les, Lancashire, Photography, Walks | Leave a comment

Crosby Rambling Club visits Staveley.

67 The Weir at Staveley

I’m back in England and its time to get my boots on and go for a walk. I also needed long trousers and a fleece. It felt quite cold compared to Mallorca. I went up the Lake District with Crosby Rambling Club where we visited Staveley.

My legs were still tired so I decided on the B party walk led by David. A steady 9 miles. Leaving the village we crossed the river and headed north to Barley Bridge. From here we began a steep climb up the hillside

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The gradient soon eased and we could enjoy walking through the flower meadows.

71 Walking in the flower meadow

We passed Littlewoods Farm and after crossing several fields we began the climb over moorland towards Potters Tarn.

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Continuing past the tarn we headed up to Gurnal Dubs where we paused for lunch. It was good to relax here and watch the Swifts skimming the water as they sought their lunch.

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The two tarns are reservoirs but not for drinking water. Their purpose was to supply water power to the mills at Bowston and Cowan Head.

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We retraced our route back to Potters Tarn before heading south towards Bowston through some attractive scenery.

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From Bowston we followed the footpath alongside the River Kent back to Staveley. This path is part of the Dales Way which runs from Ilkley in Wharfedale to Bowness on Windermere.

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A pleasant days walking with ample time for a pint before boarding the coach for the journey back home.

It was good to be back in England. I had forgotten how green it was.

Posted in Crosby Rambling Club, Lake District, Photography, Walks | Leave a comment

El Firo 2017

May 15th. It’s the first Monday after the second Sunday in May. In Soller that can only mean one thing – It’s Fiesta Day, El Firo.

A chance to celebrate the victory by the Christians over the Moors in 1561.

This year I decided not to get involved. My plan was to just sit outside the hotel with a pint in my hand and watch the parade pass by.

Enjoying life

Of course I had my camera with me and took a few images. Here’s what was going on.

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This year there seemed to be more people involved. It was very good natured, but noisy. I kept out of it.Well, almost.

In the thick of it

Happy days

Posted in Mallorca, Photography, Travel | 2 Comments