The Lens-Artists Challenge, this week offered by Sofia, invites us to looks at mood. It’s been a very busy week for me, with time in short supply, so perhaps I need a spot of local walking to induce a mood of peace and calm.
… and just take a stroll down a woodland path …
Or perhaps a spot of merriment and street theatre is what’s required …
Or a seaside sunrise: even on a grey day.
Mind you, it’s as well to avoid nesting birds. They can get in a very bad mood, as this arctic tern can confirm …
He’s dive-bombing me. He thinks I’m possibly egg-collecting.
Best burn off a bit of energy and settle my mood …
… before returning home to be simultaneously awed and calmed by a local sunset …
Sunday. A day that promised sunshine, maybe showers. A day to get out of the house somewhere a little more distant and explore.
My friend Sandra and I picked Boltby. It’s on the edge of the North York Moors, but fertile farming country, transected by rippling streams and glades of trees. Before setting out, we found a wonky-lozenge-shaped network of paths that would take us to another village – Felixkirk – in time for lunch before returning us, wonkily – to Boltby on the other side of the lozenge.
The feature photo shows how the walk started. Honestly, it wasn’t as grey as it appears. Just moodily misty: a warning that it might – just might – rain. It didn’t.
Instead, we enjoyed noticing how the gnarled and characterful trees were at last springing into leaf: bright and sappy.
Our feet bounced along on the springy (though wet) turf, and we made good progress until we hit a series of stream-crossings. I should have taken photos of the battered little bridges, in once case so falling-apart that we forded the waters instead. We should have recorded evidence of stiles so past their use-by date that they swivelled and see-sawed as we tried to use them. We soldiered on. By now the mists were gone, the sun was out, and this was the scene.
Then Felixkirk. We sat with our sandwiches on the village green and enjoyed watching the villagers strolling towards the village hall with offerings of scones, sausage rolls and cakes of all kinds ahead of an afternoon dedicated to celebrating Saturday’s Coronation.
After lunch, the walk became more open, with long-distance views. We were on the home straits, with one more village – Thirlby – in our sights.
Then finally – back to Boltby, with a spot of bad planning: a hill at the very end, just after crossing its ancient pack-horse bridge.
But Boltby has no teashop. To Thirsk then – after four o’clock. All tea shops closed. So instead, we bought ginger beer, and sat on the market square enjoying the Coronation yarn bombing. At least King Charles had his cup of tea. And cake.
Here’s the walk we did. In our opinion (that of Sandra’s app anyway) it was just shy of 10 miles. A good day out.
This amateur snapshot-ist has just joined a photographic club, and it’s been a smart move. Although the group has got its share of real talent, members are just as welcoming to those of us who bumble about in the shallow end. There are talks from well-travelled and accomplished photographers: but in between, there are workshops. Last week, a member shared his enthusiasm and lots of tips for monochrome photography, and left me with the resolve to keep my camera strictly on black and white for at least a week or two.
So now I’ve got a bit of a job: This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge is all about Spring. Spring – that season when colour returns after the sombre tones of winter, with bright yellow daffodils, celandines and marsh marigolds; the soft pink of blossoms; vivid grassy greens from leaves that push through the ground or from the swelling buds on twiggy branches, and newly-blue skies. And I’ve gone and made monochrome my rule-of-the-day.
It didn’t help that Sunday was a bit cold, rather grey, somewhat windy and really not very spring like. But rules are rules, even if they’re totally self-imposed. Here we go …
Out of the back door, guarded by spring-time pots, along the lane, edged with tree-blossom, still-wintry trees, and passing a bank of white violets .
The sheep know it’s too early to lamb here. They’re still relying on winter feed.
I wander through the grounds of Old Sleningford Hall, and then along the river bank. There’s twisted hazel thinking of bursting its buds, young wild garlic.
Nearly home. How does this ancient tree, almost completely hollow, continue to live, to sprout new growth?
Back in the garden. The hellebores are – apart from the daffodils – making the best showing. We’ll end our walk by enjoying those.
Last week, when posting about the joys of solitude, my header photo came from the afternoon and evening I spent in my own company in ‘l’Albufera, near Valencia. I think of it still as one of the most serene and contented days of my life.
It’s five years since I went in November to spend a fortnight in Valencia to do an intensive Spanish course. All morning I studied at the language school with a motley bunch of fellow students from Saudi Arabia, Germany, Ireland … anywhere but England, apparently. The afternoon was mine to explore Valencia’s city streets, its museums and parks, its churches, its markets. And in the evening I returned to lodge with a Spanish woman who spoke even less English than I did Spanish (I’d gone as a total beginner). So it was a wonderful but intense experience, with my senses always on alert to learn, discover and understand.
I’d heard about the l’Albufera wetlands just outside the city as a natural park to relax and enjoy a stroll among its paths and waterways, wildlife-spotting, and thought this would be just the thing for my last afternoon. I caught one of the infrequent buses, and was on my way.
It really is only just beyond the city boundaries, and very near a rather unlovely social housing development, as you can see here:
But start walking, and you can enjoy paths through Mediterranean coastal forest, probably not meeting another soul.
For the rest, I’ll let my photos do the talking. Several hours of walking, observing, mooching. Sometimes, like Winnie the Pooh, I sat and thought: and sometimes I just sat. As the skies suggested that evening was on its way, I joined a small queue at the waterside of El Perellonet, waiting for a boat trip. And about five of us sat ourselves in a simple boat, which for over an hour puttered about the wetland lakes, inching its way through tall reeds, disturbing herons and other water birds, as the sun slowly started to set. Though we spoke little to each other, it was a companionable, shared occasion which has rarely been bettered in my life. Just once, two years later, I shared the same experience in almost the same way with my husband and the magic was repeated.
PS to WordPress bloggers: though if you’re affected you may not see this. WordPress for smartphones has now migrated to Jetpack. It’s hard to imagine that this was a glitch-free event. That’s the only reason I can think of for my post on Wednesday getting hardly any sightings, with almost all the usual suspects who are kind enough to ‘like’ and/or comment being conspicuous by their absence. Has anyone else had this experience?
Last Thursday night, Storm Otto raged furiously across the northern part of the kingdom. He spent much of his anger in Scotland, and in the far north of England. By the time he reached here, he was wearying, but rallied sufficiently to squall and blast at 65 miles an hour. Trees fell. Branches toppled, ripped away from the fabric of the parent trunk.
When we walked through the deer park at Studley Royal on Monday, we found casualties . Despite the destruction, I found beauty in the ravaged branches.
Click on an image to see it full size.
This ancient tree however, hasn’t suffered at all.
It’ll take more than Storm Otto to fell most of these sturdy residents of the Deer Park.
We’ve had a lot of misty-moisty mornings lately, and I turned this photo up when looking for soft-focus shots for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. This isn’t for that challenge: I just thought this hardy creature deserved her five minutes of fame as a Monday Portrait.
The other day, I wrote about the rather mysterious and enchanting places which are Britain’s temperate rainforests. I’m not sure if France’s Labyrinthe Verte also qualifies, but it’s a very promising candidate.Here’s a post I wrote some eleven years ago, after we’d walked there.
THE PRINCIPALITY OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM: AND STONE SOUP
Sunday. We went to Nébias in the Aude. Just outside the village, you’ll find the Labyrinthe Verte, a natural maze, with winding pathways through a forest, where rocks and plants have created a bewildering array of natural passageways which are both beautiful and fun to explore. These paths are cut deep through limestone, often at shoulder height. Somehow, we’d never visited. But today, thanks to the Rando del’Aubo, our walking group, we did.
It’s been a lovely bright spring day today, but the forested labyrinth is never really sunny. Trees, their trunks and branches bearded with feathery fronds of moss and lichen, crowd the limestone crags and fissured passageways. Deprived of light and space, they assume crippled and fanciful shapes, or else aim straight for the sun, their thin trunks competing with each other for a place to establish their roots. It’s not eerie however. On this warm March day, we wouldn’t have been surprised to meet an ethereal band of fairies whirling through the dampened glades: on a bad night in November, perhaps a gnarled and wicked hag from the tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Every time of year has its own magic apparently. On the coldest days of winter, the mosses and lichens are white and crisp with frost, making the forest fit for a Snow Queen.
At lunch time, since we were in France and eating’s important, the darkened passages unexpectedly cleared. Suddenly, beneath blue skies and bright sunshine there was a fissured limestone pavement, providing surfaces and seating for our lunchtime picnic. Which Malcolm had somehow left behind. The members of the group magicked their very own version of Stone Soup for him. Do you know this tale?
Once upon a time, there was great famine throughout the land. Villagers squirrelled away any tiny amounts of food that they had. One day, a soldier came by, asking for a place to sleep for the night, and perhaps a meal. The villagers explained there was no food. ‘That’s alright, I have plenty. I have a magic stone that cooks delicious soup for me every night’. And he hauled a great cauldron from his pack, set a fire, filled his pot with water, and reverently placed a stone – also in his pack – into the water. Eventually the water simmered. The soldier tasted it. ‘Delicious!’ he pronounced. ‘Now, if anyone happened to have a carrot to add, it would be even better’. A woman in the crowd hurried home and found – two. The soldier declared the soup even tastier, but if anyone had some cabbage…? Then …. an onion? …some celery? … potato? The butcher found some scraps of pork and everything went into the pot. Before long, the soup was delicious indeed, and everyone filled their bellies. But the soldier wouldn’t sell his stone: no, not for any money.
On this occasion, within half a minute Malcolm had more food then the rest of the group put together. A mustardy ham baguette, some home cured sausage, a chunk of bread, a chocolate pudding, and apple…. The power of working together!
The afternoon was different. Walking away from the enchanting and enchanted labyrinth, we came to more open country, where we passed first farmland, then the edges of forest with tracks showing where wild boar and deer had recently passed. Finally, we climbed, and had views across to the mountains and the walks we’ve enjoyed there on other Sunday rambles, finishing up listening to the lively splashing of a waterfall.
7th March 2011
The featured image is from the archive of La Dépêche du Midi, our local paper when we lived in France.
I have just been reading a book about rainforests. In Britain. Not the exotic tropical rainforests seen on television through which, drenched in sweat, you hack your way, attacked by insects and snakes as you wield your machete: but the gentler British version, temperate rainforest. These increasingly rare woods now occupy under 1% of the earth’s surface. No wonder they’re a best-kept secret.
Guy Shrubsole‘s The Lost Rainforests of Britain is an engaging and thoroughly absorbing account of a National Treasure of which most of us in Britain are completely unaware. Our temperate rainforests are spectacular woodlands with ancient, often stunted gnarled trees, draped and and bearded with mosses and lichens, and once marched across the British Isles from Dartmoor in the south to the north of Scotland – most particularly on the more sodden western seaboard. These days this unique habitat is increasingly under threat, and tiny pockets of such forest are now hard to find, and increasingly isolated and encroached upon.
Guy Shrubsole is the evangelist who seeks to protect and save them. To tell the story of this once widespread forest, he discusses geology, farming history, climate, Celtic Druids, the Romantic poets, JRR Tolkein – even Arthur Conan Doyle. He maps the eco-system in detail and calls for immediate political and public support: Shrubsole is a campaigner as well as a writer. This book may sound worthy, and therefore possibly dull. But it’s very readable, elegiac, amusing, entrancing and shocking by turn. It may turn out to be 2023’s Must Read.
None of these images is from a temperate rainforest: I haven’t – yet – visited one. But the picture shows somewhere I have been: the so-called Lud’s Church, a ferny gorge near Gradbach in Staffordshire, where the cool damp microclimate qualifies it as the very tiniest of rainforests.
It fired my imagination, and reminded me that I may already have explored such a dim, green and shady place, crowded with trees clothed in soft green mosses, and draped with tangles of lichen, evocative of a spirit life with wraiths, witches and goblins. It wasn’t here in England, but in southern France, where even in the foothills of the Pyrenees it’s hot and often dry. I’ll post about that next …
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