We found ourselves tussling with the fag-end of Storm Hector on Thursday, as it exhausted itself gusting round the neighbourhood. It closed the market early as stallholders gave up the battle to keep their goods and stands in one place, and dumped leafy branches in the path of unwary motorists.
It reminded me of a more than breezy walk last February. Look! Here are the grasses edging the wetlands at Staveley Nature Reserve.
We don’t often go walking in the evening. But yesterday we did, and found ……. orchids – I only know the last one, the bee orchid, by name…..
…… trees stalking the skyline……
…… inquisitive young calves huddled together: they thought we were scary ..
….. and best of all, this sheep. Naughty thing, she’d escaped from her field, and was having a high old time eating the contents of this wheat field. We told the farmer when we saw him later. Was he bothered? Not a lot.
I’ve always been a fair weather walker. I never see the point of trudging through mud as dripping waist-high grasses lash at my already sodden trousers. In heavy rain, my waterproof anorak proves powerless to stop rivulets of rainwater trickling down my neck. And since windscreen wipers for glasses have not yet been invented, I have no view of the path ahead, much less the landscape. Really, why bother?
Then last week, watching ‘Springwatch’, I saw the wonderfully evocative nature writer Melissa Harrison, encased head-to-toe in a black, heavy-duty oilskin. She was tramping across a rain-drenched landscape as she explained the peculiar pleasures of a wet walk, on camera.
So when Saturday arrived with murky skies, I stuffed my best all weather gear into my rucksack, and set forth with my friends on our planned walk. And the rains came. We strode through woodland, protected by all those newly-leafed trees canopied overhead. We relished the fresh sweet earthy smell of the rain as it reached our leaf-mould path. We remarked on the leaves, glistening with raindrops. Even the birds seemed happy and continued to trill and chatter above us.
We hit meadowland. How subtle the tones of green and grey in the misty landscape! How muted the colours! Let’s watch the rain as it soothingly patterns the surface of that pond, a thousand concentric circles at a time! Yes, walking in the rain, we agreed, brought pleasures well worth seeking out.
The rain continued. Our weather proof gear kept the rain out, but perspiration in. Our legs got soggy from walking down narrow paths marshalled by soaking nettles and grasses. Someone’s boots began to leak. Someone else commented we still had six or seven miles to go. Yet another of us was hungry, but didn’t fancy a squishy sandwich. The plastic-encased map revealed that in a mile or two, we could make our escape to the nearest bus route. Let’s do it! Heads down, we traipsed on, only wanting to get it over with now. Every now and then, one of us would get in touch with our inner four year old – ‘Are we nearly there yet?’
Finally, we were. We dripped onto the bus, at which point it (briefly) stopped raining.
*Alfred Wainwright MBE was a British fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator and something of a National Treasure to keen walkers.
We’d never heard of Coniston Pie before. Best head over that way then, and find out all about it.
Coniston’s a tiny village in North Yorkshire, wedged into the glorious limestone scenery between Kettlewell and Grassington. We couldn’t go there without exploring a bit and working up an appetite for that pie.
We began with a bit of a scramble, a bit of a climb before hitting a steadily climbing path leading us upwards between dry stone walls and statuesque and wind-shaped trees. Sheep were our constant companions as we continued to plod ever upwards, 1000 feet in all.
We rested at the top. We had a snack (just a biscuit, no pie for us), before taking the winding turfy track downwards towards the valley bottom, then turning sharp left to join the Dales Way back to Coniston.
And that’s when we saw it. Coniston Pie. It’s not hearty fare to be tucked into after a hard day’s lambing apparently, but this: the view the shepherd sees as he does his daily round.
Still, it does look exactly like a pie, filled with good things and topped off with a thick pastry crust, doesn’t it?
This week’s WordPress challenge asks us to post something unlikely.
Last year, my son Tom and Team London came to Yorkshire to enjoy Easter In The Country. They saw lambs and ducklings and chickens and rabbits – all the kinds of creatures that the average London park is a little short of.
This year, they asked for more of the same. Easter was early, so we knew that the ducklings probably wouldn’t appear. We weren’t to know though that this year Easter would be very cold and extremely wet with hail slashing our cheeks, then sleet.
Tom and I did manage a walk up the lane to let William see the lambs. That was when we got caught in a vicious hail storm.
As last year though, it was our friends Gill and Dave and their family who saved the season. William stroked their dogs and cuddled their cat Marmite (who used to be ours, before we went to France). Grandson Jack came round, and the two little boys bonded immediately, hunting for the eggs and chocolate treats the Easter Bunny had left (inside: no self-respecting Easter Bunny wants to get chilled to the bone hiding eggs in the garden).
Then it was time to visit Reggie the Shetland pony and his new friend Maple. They were saddled up, the boys were equipped with riding helmets, and off they went for a ride. Well, Jack did. He had first mounted a horse when he was six weeks old so now he’s a pro, trotting and everything. William lasted about two minutes. Sitting on Maple’s back was one thing: wobbling about when she moved off quite another. William preferred walking alongside.
Then it was pay-back time. William was put to work barrowing horse manure from stable to manure heap. There were eggs to be collected – he only smashed one. Finally, he had to feed the hens. And he got to keep the eggs he’d found – scrambled eggs for tea!
Memorable moments for a city child. Thank you Gill, Dave, Becky, Andrew and Carly … and of course Jack … for a very special morning.
This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge invites us to show images of where we’d rather be at the moment. Well, I’ll tell you where I’d rather not be, and that’s here, in North Yorkshire.
I love Yorkshire, and I’m happy to agree that it’s ‘God’s own country’. But frankly, life here is a little trying just now. Like most of England, we had The Beast from the East a couple of weeks ago bearing snow, blizzard and fierce wind. And much of the rest of the time it’s been raining. This photo was taken a couple of months ago: since then, things have only got worse.
So how about a little trip back to the Ariège, where we lived from 2007 to 2014? Here’s a selection of photos, all taken there in March or very early April. Down in the foothills of the Pyrenees where we lived, blossoms were out, and wild daffodils carpeted the more out-of-the-way hills. At the weekend we would head off for Montségur and higher land to enjoy the snow that was still thick there. We were never fans of snow-shoeing, but now I’d be more than happy to exchange their crisp deep snow for our thick deep mud.
It was cold the other night. Very cold. And for three hours, I stood outside in the dark. I was happy.
I was volunteering at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal as part of an event that spanned two continents: in Poland; in Denmark; in Germany; in Russia; in France and in China. Do follow the links: you’ll immediately have a clutch of places to add to your ‘must visit’ list.
In all these places, for one dark chilly night in February, there was a Garden of Light. Normally, we can only enjoy the Water Gardens of Studley Royal by daylight. But thanks to this international festival, there was a new opportunity.
As night fell, lighting designed to spotlight the special features of the gardens pierced the darkness, revealing a garden in harmony with the philosophy of the time in which it was conceived: where Nature and Art work hand in hand. 18th century music played in the background.
Visitors were able to stroll round, lanterns or torches in hand, focusing on the Temple of Piety and the classical statuary of the Moon Ponds; or glancing upwards at the Octagon Tower and Temple of Fame, all bathed in golden light. The Moon Ponds themselves were lit by glowing orbs – sometimes silver white, sometimes red or blue, fading in intensity as the evening wore on.
The Abbey too was lit up, though I barely saw this as it wasn’t my role to be available there.
The moon was perfect – exactly half way between waxing and waning, it lit the visitors’ paths and illuminated the night sky. Whenever I looked up there was Orion’s Belt – and so many other stars usually invisible to town-dwellers.
Those of us there relished the chance to enjoy this peaceful yet joyous occasion. And as the event drew to a close, owls reclaimed the night, and their plaintive hooting accompanied us as we walked away, chilly but content.