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Grubbing Around: Grubbins Wood

Posted: Sunday 9th September 2012 by Steve_and_Beth_Pipe

Wood Ant NestWood Ant Nest

Many of the CWT sites are small but all of them are perfectly formed. Grubbins Wood sits right next to the beach in Arnside

Many of the CWT sites are small but all of them are perfectly formed. Grubbins Wood sits right next to the beach in Arnside and there's a couple of options for parking; you could find and follow Red Hills Road and park at the far end of the wood, which is generally quieter than trying to find a space on the prom, but the benefit of a prom parking space is that you can treat yourself to fish and chips after you've enjoyed a walk through the woods. I don't think I need to tell you where we parked do I?

BeetleFrom the prom follow the path out of Arnside along the water's edge and after about ½ a mile, just past the boat club (easily identified by the number of boats in the yard), you'll spot a small gate underneath a giant Yew Tree (see, another species of tree learned!). This gate reminded me of the secret garden, you creep out from underneath the Yew Tree and are suddenly in the large, open and occasionally sunny, Sands Meadow. I should imagine that through the summer this meadow is a hive of activity with butterflies flitting around the many wildflowers and it's always a welcome oasis of peace and quiet sitting, as it does, right to next the main walking routes out from Arnside.

We decided on a lap of the site so made our way along parallel to the shore until we reached the woodland. Grubbins Wood is a site of 2 halves; you're either in dense woodland or you're in open meadows and there aren't really any transition zones. The path drops out of the woods and along the shore before re-entering the site at the delightfully named Pickles Meadow which, when we visited, was full of Blackberry bushes; I wasn't sure if this was an SSSI site so I resisted the urge to pick a crop for a crumble, but they looked so good I could almost taste the custard.

As we made our way up along the higher path into the woods we spotted some old friends. Well, I say old friends, I don't suppose Wood Ants are often referred to as being friendly but we know them well from where we previously lived. Prior to moving back to Steve's homeland we lived in deepest darkest Hampshire and our home was near to Fleet Pond Nature Reserve which was choc full of Wood Ants, and they have always fascinated me. Their nests, at first sight, appear nothing more than a pile of dead twigs but as you look closer you notice that all of the twigs are moving as each ant scurries around doing his (or her?) duty. There you go, there's my first question – are there male and female Wood Ants or are they like bees with just the one queen in charge?

You certainly need to watch where you're standing when trying to get a closer look at the nest as they're quite territorial and, if they crawl up your leg, will give you a sharp nip. It's also a good idea to make sure you're not standing under a nearby tree as they feed on the "milk" from aphids and have a nasty habit of dropping out of trees and falling down the neck of your shirt, inducing much leaping about and shouting. If you're lucky you'll spot a "motorway" of ants headed to and from a nearby food source where you'll get some nice views of them carrying improbably large leaf chunks back to the colony. I've also always been deeply impressed by their "have a go" attitude; if you get in close to take a picture of an individual ant it will rear up on its back legs ready to pounce. Considering how much bigger I am than your average ant I'd say that was definitely punching above their weight. Call me a coward but, faced with a similar scenario, if a giant creature loomed over me I'm pretty sure I'd run like mad.Knobbly Tree

Leaving the ants behind we wandered into an idyllic world of ferns and trees lit by the late afternoon sun. The damp and shady conditions are ideal for ferns and there are plenty of varieties around, most of which we're familiar with from our own back garden, especially the Hart's Tongue, which I'm guessing means Deer's Tongue. (We used to live within the bounds of Hart District Council so I learned all about that bit of history.) Not sure how many deer have green tongues though, must be all the shrubbery they eat.

As we wound our way down the path towards the shore we spotted a tree covered in strange knobbly growths, some of them pretty huge. It all looked very dramatic but I've no idea if it's a good thing or a bad thing – we managed to get a shot of it so if anyone can shed any light we'd be really interested to learn more about it.

Pretty soon we were back where we started at the gate behind the yew tree and another mini learning adventure over. As we made our back towards the car/ fish and chip shop the tide siren sounded reminding anyone daft enough to have ventured out onto the sands that they've only 20 mins or so before the main tidal bore comes through. If you've not heard it before it's pretty startling and I'm sure many a tourist has wondered if Heysham was about to blow, but at least no-one can claim they can't hear it. All that remained for us to do now was to defend our chip supper from the marauding seagulls and suddenly I figured out what drove the Wood Ants to be so feisty – if it's worth defending you'll stand up to pretty much any interloper, and my fish supper was most certainly worth defending!


You can read more blogs about Life & Hiking in Cumbria by Steve & Beth on their Cumbrian Rambler web page.

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