A winter walk: footprints, snowy sheep – and just one robin.

A field near North Stainley.

I think I like this kind of wintry day best of all. We’ve had a carpet of snow on the ground, blanking out grass, pavements and drifts of snowdrops. But today, it’s just a little warmer, and the snow is softly melting into the ground. But still here. We go out for a walk, before the cold descends once more. Winter footprints are visible now, because the impacted snow has dissolved away, leaving a silhouette of – what? Is that a crow print? A pheasant? Oh look, those are rabbits – look at how they land, four square and neatly as they run. And here’s a dog of course.

The landscape assembles itself into broad strata of austere colours: raw umber earth; no-longer pristine snow, almost dappled in places; perhaps some olive-shaded grass, and behind all these, a line of winter trees, their skeletons highlighted against the grey sombre skyline.

We see this robin on a fence post.

But apart from him, sheep are the only living creatures we spot on our walk today. Against the snow, they aren’t white at all, but a slightly dirty cream. They scratch an unsatisfactory meal from the less snowy parts of the fields. They come to look at us. We look at them.

Then we look for snowdrops instead, and for wood. It’s forbidden to go out at this time of year without coming back with an armful of kindling for the log burner.

And how glad we are to get back to our log burner! We enjoyed seeing our familiar landscape clothed in its skimpy veil of whiteness. But we appreciated getting back to warmth, a fireside, and a nice cup of tea even more.

Here’s a contribution to Jo’s Monday Walk (Jo’s own walks tend to be in Portugal these days. That’s where she lives. Feeling chilly Jo, reading this?)

Click on any image to view it full size.

Ragtag Saturday: Frosted fields

It was -3 degrees in the night. It was still -3 degrees, at nearly nine o’clock in the morning. But I started my walk anyway. Right here in the garden, next to this hellebore.

Here were the pleasures of scrunching through crisp, frosty grass.  Through small puddles, frozen solid.  Watching long shadows extend the trunks of trees across the width of a field.  Sheep doing their best to scratch a breakfast from the hoary grass.  Bracken with delicately rimed edges.  A car on the roadside, blinded by Jack Frost’s artwork.

The sun rose and despite the cold, quickly burnt off the chilly white from the fields. The newborn lambs, which I’d hoped to spot in West Tanfield had been kept indoors – I could hear their plaintive bleating in  barn.  Instead – winter blossom, catkins, and a sky-blue sky.

This is my contribution to Ragtag Daily Prompt: Frosted.  And though I walked on a Wednesday, posted on a Saturday, to Jo’s Monday Walk.

As ever, to view any image full size, simply click on it.

Bevies of birds

On my way to yoga last Friday I was stopped in my tracks.  There, high above me was that unmistakeable raucous calling that only flying geese can deliver.  I watched, as ever transfixed by the cooperative and graceful weaving flight of these birds.  They maintained their traditional V shape as they journeyed on, but I realised they weren’t constantly following the same Top Goose.  First one, then another would fly forwards, only to be succeeded by another, only moments later.  Always, however, they remained connected, a purposeful team.

 

 

I saw these geese at Marfield Wetlands exactly this time last year. Disobligingly, they did not formed perfect Vs for me.

Later, lying on my back in the yoga group, I glimpsed a red kite, wheeling and diving directly above the skylight.

Red kite (Wikimedia Commons)

A Good Morning.

These photos were taken this time last year.  I still have no camera….

Ragtag Tuesday.  It’s  still there.  As is Ragtag-every-other-day-of-the-week. Have a look.  But I’ve moved to Saturday’s Ragtag Daily Prompt.  

Ragtag Tuesday: Wet walking

Near the Ripon Canal.

It was my turn to lead our walking group on a hike on Saturday.  When I was planning what to put in the programme a few months ago, I had an idea of taking the group on a pleasant wintry walk along frost-rimed canal paths with delicate fine sheets of ice coating any puddles we met.  A weak sun would glimpse through downy dove-grey cloud, and we’d walk briskly in the cold clear air.

Well, that didn’t work.  Last week,  we’d had four days of largely non-stop rain.  And Saturday was no different.  Anybody with any sense would have rolled over in bed that morning and gone back to sleep.  I got up, and took myself off to our rendezvous, completely confident that nobody would be there waiting for me.  I’d come home and toast my toes by the fire.

Five would-be walkers greeted me.  Yes, they did want to walk.  No, they didn’t think it was too wet.  We’re here now.  Let’s get on with it.

The Ripon Canal was still looking inviting as we began our walk.

So we did.  We’re an amiable bunch who like one another so the conversation flowed.  We got in our several-thousand-steps for the day.  But we also couldn’t see much as our glasses got wetter and wetter.  Our rain gear kept the rain out and the sweat in.  Our over trousers dripped and sulked.  Our boots got damper and damper. The canal tow path, normally a fine surface for a winter’s walk, slipped and oozed.  The trees dumped giant water drops on our heads to add to the rain’s constant spillage

Those umbrellas were a mighty fine idea.

We got to our half-way point in record time.  We got back to base in an even more record time.

‘Now honestly,’  I said to my fellow-martyrs as the end drew nigh.’If you had your time over again, knowing what you know now, would you have come?”Of course!’ they all said.  And they meant it.  Not me. I scuttled off home to my fireside, and stayed there for the rest of the day.

This bridge by the River Skell provided much needed shelter as we said our goodbyes at the edge of Ripon.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘Rain’.

Ragtag Tuesday: a parcel of deer

If you live near Studley Royal and its deer park, as we do, you’ll be used to deer.  They’re very shy though, and unless you’re there very early, or when poor weather is keeping visitors away, you’ll only get distant views of them.

Yesterday though, we were having a walk, a long walk, just outside the park grounds.  Our path had led us upwards, through woodland, and alongside the long stone wall which bounds the estate.  And that’s when we noticed them.  A stag with his harem of does – some twenty or thirty of them.  We stuck our noses over the wall, and watched.  The deer watched us, and concluded that since these faces apparently had no bodies attached, they posed no threat.

The stag – and there was only one – was striding around in an assertive manner, aiming to garner respect.  The deer weren’t bothered either way, and there were no other males to impress.  He realised he was wasting his time, and fell to grazing instead.

I’m still stuck without a camera, so these slightly fuzzy efforts will have to do as a record of a few magic moments shared with a parcel of deer we came across .

Did you know that ‘parcel‘ is a collective noun for deer?  Me neither.  Try these too.

Herd – leash – gang – brace – clash – bevy – rangale – bunch – mob.

We’ve seen the deer. Now we can continue our walk.

Today’s Ragtag prompt is ‘parcel’.  And as usual, click on any image to view it full size.

Ragtag Tuesday: a serendipitous sunset

I was dashing out to a meeting yesterday evening when this sight greeted me at the end of the road.

Pure serendipity.  I suddenly realised how early I was.  There were five minutes to spare when I could stand and stare at the black outlines of the newly-skeletal trees.  The sky was transforming from a sappy fresh green and yellow through to a pale teal blue, before bleeding into grey-edged tones of salmon pink cloud.  Why hurry?  I stayed and enjoyed the moment.

Tuesday’s Ragtag Prompt is ‘Serendipity’.

Who’d be a sheep dog?

A fortnight ago, I showed you something of the sheepdog trials at Wensleydale Show.  It reminded me of Masham Sheep Fair, three years ago.  Sheepdogs were demonstrating their skills there too – of course they were.  But not with sheep.  The creatures they were herding were – geese….

Geese being kept in order by a skillful sheep dog. What a come down.

And here is the post I wrote four years ago about Masham’s annual sheep show:

A sheep is a sheep is a sheep…..

… or not.

The splendid horns of a Swaledale sheep.
The splendid horns of a Swaledale sheep.

On Saturday we called in, far too briefly, at the annual Masham Sheep Fair. This is the place to go if you believe a sheep looks just like this.

549---Sheep

Saturday was the day a whole lot of sheep judging was going on in the market square.  Here are a few of the not-at-all identical candidates. And yet they are only a few of the many breeds in England, and in the world. There are 32 distinct breeds commonly seen in different parts of the UK, and many more half-breeds.  I was going to identify the ones I’m showing you, but have decided that with one or two exceptions (I know a Swaledale, a Blue-faced Leicester or a Jacobs when I see one), I’d get them wrong. So this is simply a Beauty Pageant for Masham and District sheep.

And if you thought wool was just wool, these pictures may be even more surprising.  Who knew that sheep are not simply…. just sheep?

 

Judgment day at Masham Sheep Fair
Judgment day at Masham Sheep Fair