Postcards from 2022

How to summarise 2022 in just a few photos? That’s what the Lens-Artist Challenge demands of us this week. What makes it so hard is that a memory is invested in every photo. My own favourite photos may demonstrate no particular skill, but can transport me – and not you – straight back to a treasured moment. Ah well, let’s give it a go, and see what I can find that we can all enjoy.

Let’s book-end the year with ordinary pleasures: Fountains Abbey in springtime, and in late autumn…

Let’s remember summer with – here – an extraordinary sight: Scar House Reservoir, almost unable to do its job of providing water.

Scar House Reservoir in August 2022.

Let’s have a look at happy moments: Ripon’s first Theatre Festival took to the streets, Masham’s annual Sheep Fair returned after a couple of years’ Covid-hiatus. And my family enjoys one of life’s simpler pleasures: curling up with a good book.

Memorable May: a fantastic few days in the Balkans: North Macedonia, Albania and Greece, to enjoy its wildlife. A very few photos stand in for the whole experience of this area, still in many ways rooted in its traditional past.

Shepherds on the move all day and every day. leading their sheep and goats in quest of pasturage.

… and not forgetting the stars of the show: peacocks at Lake Ohrid.

The header image shows Lake Prespa, and the island of Agios Achillios, where we spent a few days.

In Catalonia with The Barcelona Branch of the family, we had an unforgettable trip to what may be The World’s Best Museum, CosmoCaixa, Barcelona.

We’ll finish off with Christmas lights at Eltham Palace. It was so cold, no wonder my fingers slipped!

Walking in fog

Yesterday was foggy. All day. Yesterday, when I took a photo – the header photo – at Fountains Abbey, it was so murky I thought it could pass for a sepia image. I’m going to chance calling it monochrome anyway. And since we could barely see ahead of us, we focussed on the ground below. And were rewarded. This is rather a fine tree trunk, I think.

And these Giant Funnel Fungi are rather fine too. Regular readers know that I am keen on foraged food, but I’m glad I didn’t bring these home. Here’s what the website Wild Food says: ‘A large chunky mushroom which can be found in fairly large numbers and is edible to most but can cause gastric upsets in some. This doesn’t really matter as the mushrooms are usually infested with maggots, even when young, making them more maggot than flesh. Not so appetising then … but look how huge they are! That’s a bit of my boot at the bottom of the frame.

This is the last day of November, a month in which Becky has been encouraging us to get out walking, whatever the weather. I’m glad I’ve joined her, and everyone who’s participated in Walking Squares. Thank you!

And I’m going to see if my header photo squeezes in as a Mid-Week Monochrome.

I nearly forgot. It’s destined for Jo’s Monday Walk as well.

Ignore the rain and walk anyway

For her Walking Squares challenge, Becky is encouraging us to walk whatever the weather. On Thursday, I had no choice: I was on duty at Fountains Abbey. The rain was so vertical, so clamorously unrelenting that getting out camera or phone would have been foolish. Once I’d faced the fact that that I’d drawn the shortest of short straws, I quite enjoyed the ceaseless drumming of the water, dodging the puddles as they became rivers, and watching the water birds demonstrating by their surly inactivity that even they thought it was all A Bit Much.

Unexpectedly, a quarter of an hour before it was time to go, the rain stopped. The sky lightened, the puddles offered up reflections, and – thank goodness – I turned round, in time to see this rainbow. Probably just past its best, but at least I saw it.

Here are the final minutes of my afternoon.

For Becky’s #Walking Squares

and Debbie’s Six Word Saturday

Yet more ancient trees

But after this I’ll stop. I promise.

Ancient trees aren’t simply defined. That cherry tree I showed you last week, was impossibly, possibly uniquely old at four hundred years. A yew can soldier on for several thousand years. Oaks can march on for a thousand years, though six to eight hundred is more usual. Sweet chestnut? Seven hundred. Lime trees? Three to four hundred. Beech trees? Maybe three hundred – longer if coppiced. Here’s the life-cycle of a tree condensed into two images.

The parkland at Studley Royal is rich in ancient examples of all of them. It’s been a protected space and a deer park for centuries. and as such, it has its own historical curiosities. You can find trees with small square holes in the trunk. It used to be believed that as the trunks of trees gradually become hollowed out, it made sense to fish out the resultant debris, and suitable holes were cut. The practice has long been discredited, and now the holes are scarring over and gradually closing up.

Further proof that trees know what’s what, and we don’t necessarily. See this lime tree and its massive bough? If you could walk round it, you’d see that this branch is cuboid in shape. Any builder will tell you that this shape is far better at load bearing than a cylindrical one. Did the earliest builders learn this important lesson from lime trees?

And some trees can actually ‘walk’ albeit slowly, as part of the root may die off, and stronger root systems further away may haul the whole trunk a small distance. It does take rather a long time though.

Here’s a small gallery of the trees we met on our walk last week:

A mighty oak tree’s last gasp.

Let’s finish off with a haiku celebrating these elderly, magnificent trees.

Venerable trees -
trunk and bark wrangled by time
tell ancient stories.

A multi-tasking post, with elements for Bren’s Mid-Week Monochrome #113, Becky’s Walking Squares, and Rebecca’s November Poetry Challenge

Ancient chestnut trees: some portraits

A walk high above Seven Bridges in Studley Royal. A walk I’ve never done before – a hidden one and not easy to spot. But see what treasures there are here.

Now that’s a characterful face!

For Monday Portraits …

… and Jo’s Monday Walk

… and Becky’s Walking Squares

Younger trees, old tree

Today I’m taking you (again) to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. We’ll walk up the High Ride, through glades of trees, in relatively young maturity …

… before descending to saunter through the parkland of Studley Royal. I’ve got a lot of ancient trees to show you next week, but today I’ll show you just one. A cherry tree, or what’s left of it. It’s about 400 years old, which is unfathomably old for a fruit tree. I must say it looks its age. But isn’t it remarkable?

A newer branch has somehow grown from that ancient trunk.

For Becky’s Walking Squares, and Bren’s Midweek Monochrome.

Music for Monks?

A concert in the cellarium of Fountains Abbey last Saturday.

Pitch black, cold.

The singers gather,

muffled up.

Sing loudly, like long-gone monks -

conquering the dark.

And to lower the tone, that’s the scene once the audience had departed.

For Bren’s Mid-Week Monochrome.


	

We’re going on a Deer Walk …

I went on a bit of a safari yesterday. Only down the road to Studley Royal’s deer park. Here are some snippets from the afternoon.

Autumn is the time of the rut, when stags compete to get the biggest and best harem of does, to secure their own blood like survives to the next generation. They wallow in the mud to leave their sexy scent behind, score trees and trash vegetation- they may even aim to toss leaves and grasses to their antlers to make them look even more imposing. We saw none of these behaviours. But we did hear them roaring and making that strange loud roaring belching noise that can be heard from quite a distance, and which warns other males that They Mean Business.

It doesn’t pay to get too near to deer at this – or indeed at any other – time of year, so all of my photos use zoom at its highest setting, which doesn’t make for the crispest of images. But you’ll know you’re in the deer park when you see trees looking like this. That horizontal finish you can see is the browse line – the highest that a red deer on its hind legs can reach to get a mouthful of leaves.

We saw these fellahs next. They’re young stags. They know they haven’t got a hope this year of attracting the females, so they just sit it out. Maybe a bit of play-fighting to get a bit of practice in, but really … it’s just not their party. That first one posed for Monday Portrait.

On we walked. Over the old bridge where females often give birth and shelter their young, to the crest of a hill where we have far-reaching views over to Ripon and the North York Moors beyond, And below, deer: fallow deer and sika deer, browsing and grazing together, with their stags keeping a proprietorial eye on them. We kept our distance and just enjoyed watching them.

Younger, older, does and stags …

Then onward, past the sweet chestnut trees they love so much at this time of year, for their tasty chestnuts, past a popular wallowing place (oops, forgot to take a photo).

So let’s finish our walk with a few shots of those views I mentioned.

In the shot above, that’s Ripon down below. The eagle-eyed will just be able to spot the cathedral in the centre of the shot, in the distance.

For Monday Portrait and Jo’s Monday Walk.