Ever since our friend Micheline had a nasty fall on a walk, three and a half years ago, and had to be air-lifted to hospital, I’ve been slightly wary of walking alone in the countryside.
But sometimes, only solitary will do. Never more than 4 miles from a village, always with a farm somewhere not too far away, I set off for a solo walk this morning, even before all the Grammar School pupils had got on their bus to whisk them off to school in Ripon.
From your point of view, as you look at these photos, you may feel it was all just a repeat of my Sunday morning stroll. But it wasn’t at all, not for me. My path drew me in a big eight mile circle to the west of our village. It took me past a working quarry: always good to watch men at work. It took me past ancient trees: our home patch is particularly good at oak trees which are very old indeed. As I was passing through a wood, an anxious Wensleydale sheep cantered up to greet me. I saw why she was worried. There wasn’t another sheep like her in sight anywhere – she was lost. But I never found anyone I could report her to. I hope she’s alright. There were fungi. There were delicate and skeletal winter seed heads. I saw a pint of milk delivered to someone’s gate, and took a picture of it. Home milk delivery’s getting scarcer here now than it was in my childhood, but I’ve never seen milkmen in other countries I’ve visited. I saw Autumn leaves still clinging to the trees, and plenty more in vibrantly coloured heaps at the base of trees.
Best of all – and I have no photo to prove it – shortly before the end of my walk, as I was climbing steeply through woods with the River Ure below me, three white-rumped deer leapt out of a clearing, and with three rapid yet elegant and beautifully choreographed bounds, disappeared from view, only to re-appear and disappear for good, moments later.
All in all, a pretty good use of a Friday morning, I thought.