Monday Portraits of Dozens of Sheep

It’s Sheep Central round here. More than can ever – surely – enter the food chain. Far more than the wool trade requires. At shearing time, you’ll pass barns full of discarded fleeces, not worth the effort of gathering up and attempting to sell them. The sheep are well-fenced here – usually – so they don’t get out and browse the grass to the very ground, or maraud in any woodland they find. All the same, I do rather wonder – why so very, very many?

But here are two handsome enough specimens –

And here are some hungry sheep, requiring a top-up of food.

And here’s one on the moor above Dallowgill. Monarch of all she surveys.

Flashback Friday Looks Skywards

Eight years ago, none of us knew that five years later, our local tracks – the only ones permitted to us during our Lockdown Daily Exercise – would become almost as familiar to us as our own garden path. This is a post I wrote about a nearby walk on January 27th 2015, when I thought that I’d seen all there was to be seen locally. I was wrong as it happened, and later realised how very much more there was to discover when Lockdown provided the incentive. For Fandango’s Flashback Friday.

Only Sky

The days are short
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.


John Updike, 'January', A Child’s Calendar

A bright winter’s afternoon.  Just time, before the evening cold sets in, to get out for a couple of hours of brisk walking: 5 miles or so along familiar paths.  So familiar that this time, I focus on the sky: changeable, unpredictable.

Sometimes it’s moody, sometimes cheerful, sometimes simply rather grey and colourless: at other times dramatic, particularly towards sunset.  Come and walk with me to watch the clouds.

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!

The Heavens – and all their water supplies – on his shoulders

Atlas bears the weight of the heavens on his shoulders as he gazes at Castle Howard. Who knew that the heavens constantly gush babbling geysers of water which then fall to earth? Those of us who live in England might not be surprised: this statue shows us that it must be so.

In Ancient Greek mythology, Atlas was one of a race of giants, the Titans, waging war on Zeus, King of the Gods. In defeat, his punishment was to spend eternity holding up the heavens.

As on Saturday, I’m taking refuge from the cold by posting pictures of sunnier times.

For Jez’s Water, Water Everywhere

What have diagonal lines ever done for me?

That is the question posed by Patti, for this week’s Lens Artists’ Challenge #228. Well, not done for me exactly, but done for my photos. Have a photos diagonal lines invited us in, encouraged us to explore the picture, or to focus on some detail?

Let’s have a look, and have a bit of a trip out too.

We’ll start off close to home, one cold wintry morning as I went to get the paper. Those rays of sunshine enlivened the scene, and my mood.

Here are two more, from just down the road. A tree which instead of reaching skywards, leans across the woods to demand a place centre-stage for the whole shot. And ox-eye daisies splicing the image in half, showing us there’s countryside, not a garden beyond.

A trip to the seaside? Alnmouth in Northumbria?

This quiet beach looks dramatic when the tide’s out.

Brussels now. A bank of plate glass windows reflects the opposite side of the road to dramatic effect. Monochrome too, for Bren’s Mid-Week Monochrome.

Off to Spain now. All those dizzy hairpin bends in Cantabria invite us to explore.

Then two more scenes – one from Cádiz, the other from Valencia. Those diagonals pull us in to explore the cathedral in one, the reflections in the other.

This shot, from Alicante, uses the ropes on a yacht as a frame for the scene beyond.

Alicante

I’ve hesitated over whether to include this last shot in what is essentially a light-hearted post. But this photo – not a particularly original one as so many others have taken similar shots – has stayed with me. It’s Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. These are the railway lines that brought so many thousands of Jews on their very last journey. I wrote about it here.

I decided on balance to include it, as the relative optimism I felt when I wrote that post five years ago has disappeared in the light of world events over the last couple of years: and we shouldn’t forget.

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.

The Way through the Woods

Not far from here is a wood. And in this wood, there is a lake, Eavestone Lake. It’s always quiet here, because there is no road nearby. Simply quiet, leaf-mould paths. The trees look ancient, but in the main, they’re not. We met an old forester recently, who told us he remembered when these woods were cut down for timber when he was a boy. The trees have simply regenerated.

Some of the older trees were left. And they tend to twist characterfully and lean over into the lake. Like this one, of which I show two images, one for Becky’s Walking Squares, while the header photo is for Jez’s Water, Water Everywhere.

This place always puts me in mind of Rudyard Kipling’s The Way through the Woods, which, if you’re so minded, you can read here.

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