Clints Crags. An intermittent diary of a limestone pavement

This blogpost is part of my ‘limestone lockdown’ project. For an Introduction to the project, and a guide to the growing list of related posts, see Limestone in the Lake District: an Introduction – and the ‘categories’ list in the right-hand bar.

Clints Crags are part of a limestone complex not far from where I live (see elsewhere on this blog). The complex has three disused quarries, limestone outcrops, sinkholes, drystone walls in various levels of disrepair, and limestone pavement.

The pavement itself is divided into the three very different areas:

Area 1. To the North and in view of the Solway Firth, are narrow rough clints, only sparsely vegetated, with deep narrow grikes, amongst which sheep and sometimes cattle graze. The trees, predominantly hawthorns, are gnarled and bent, but nevertheless exist. There are interesting lichens on the rocks, with large patches of nearly-white Aspicilia in the light, unshaded areas.

Area 2. The second section is heavily shaded in summer by ashes (many of which are dying) and hawthorns; the clints are almost obscured – walking over them becomes an exercise in concentration – by vegetation, especially mosses; rotten dead wood is a magnet for insects and woodpeckers, and luscious growths of fungi.

Area 3. A more open area to the South, looking towards Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite Lake, where the clints are smooth and clean, intersected by deep shady grikes.

I have visited intermittently throughout the year, for several years. I was surprised to find I have no autumnal photos, and that must be remedied this year. Nor, strangely, did I visit in the snow: unfortunately, that’s not so simple to remedy.

The photos below are categorized by month, and show the changing seasons, and the plants and lichens on and around the rocks. Each time I visit, something different will catch my attention and provide enjoyment, whether it be the empty snail shells of a ‘thrush’s anvil’ or the holes hammered in dead wood by a woodpecker.

JANUARY

(Click on the images above, from Area 2, to see the captions)

FEBRUARY

A clear day in February 2021, in Area 2.

The photo at the bottom is of the view towards the Caldbeck fells, with their sprinkling of snow, to the South-East.

APRIL

The greening begins.

Area 3 pavement 2021

Hunters. Area 1. 2020

MAY

The hawthorns are in leaf but the ashes, as always, are slow. The wild garlic fills the grikes with clusters of stars.

JUNE

The lushness of early summer. Hawthorns in flower, ashes coming into leaf, and grasses and mosses vibrant with colour. Seeing that thick carpet of green, who would guess that Area 2 is a limestone pavement?

AUGUST

In August 2021 I failed to reach the crags: the field was busy with excitable stirkies, rushing around with tails held high.

The alternative route …

No caption needed …

OCTOBER

The ash trees have already lost their leaves (and some are showing signs of die-back). Haws are red and ripe. But there is a sense of ‘fading’ here, and a lack of the colours of autumn.

And in Area 1, the trunks of the trees seem to meld with the stone…

The indistinct separation of the animate and the inanimate

NOVEMBER

Bare twigs, grey days, dead grasses … But fungi are proliferating and a few small flowers species still show their colours.

Area 1: hawthorn hanging on

DECEMBER

Late afternoon light, at the edge of Area 2, 2016

And finally, a quick comparison of how the seasons affected that extraordinary middle section of the limestone pavement, Area 2:

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