Nosterfield-on-the-water

Nosterfield

We don’t live near the sea: 61 miles, to be exact.  But sometimes, on a hot day, only a wide expanse of water will fit the bill.  And that’s what Nosterfield, fewer than four miles away can provide. It was – and still is – a gravel quarry.  On any day of the week, you’ll see great yellow trucks lumbering down the road, laden with gravel.  Back before the 1980s, this area was a lunar landscape: sand and gravel pits, gargantuan earthmovers,spoilheaps.  Some of it still is.

Mid afternoon’s not a busy time for birds: the water level’s low too.

But in the 1990s, a professional landscape architect, Simon Warwick, spotted its potential.  He’d noticed how even as an industrial site, the area attracted thousands of migrating ducks and geese each autumn.  Parts of the site were no longer economically viable and no longer being worked.  Not without considerable difficulty, he established the Lower Ure Conservation Trust, and focused on creating an area of wet grassland, with water attached – sometimes extensive lakes, and at other times drying out into muddy scrapes.  Native flora were allowed to regenerate naturally.

The lakes can be full …..
….. or empty.

Wildfowl are delighted.  Wading birds are enchanted.  200 species of bird make use of this service station for birds, halfway between the important migratory staging posts of the Dee Estuary and Teesmouth.  Birdspotters and nature lovers generally love this place, and the well-appointed hides that are a feature of the site are rarely out of use.

If, like us, you’re strictly amateur in your knowledge of birds, you might love it too.  It’s a tranquil place, except when the birds are having spirited and raucous exchanges, and a perfect place to spend an hour or two at any time of year.  But especially on a hot day in summer, with a cooling breeze drifting from the waterside. With wild cherries, apples, plums and blackberries on offer, you’ll even have a snack provided.

Early blackberries near the path.

Happy Yorkshire Day!

I’ve got lots of readers with Yorkshire connections.  With addresses in Australia, southern France, London, Northumbria, Spain and East Sussex, among other places, I bet not one of them has celebrated Yorkshire Day.

Apparently it all began on August 1st 1975, in Beverley, as a protest movement against the local government re-organisation of 1974′

Who knew?  Not me.  Not anyone I know.  We all bumbled through life in the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and though the early years of the twenty first century, blissfully unaware until about five years ago that we were supposed to be partying for Yorkshire.

Two Ripon shops take Yorkshire Day seriously.

Now Yorkshire cities take it in turn to host Yorkshire Day, and this year it is Ripon’s turn.  This meant a fairground in the Market Square, a procession with a band and civic dignitaries, a service in the cathedral, picnicking in the Park, and all manner of stalls in the town centre, mainly celebrating Yorkshire charities and institutions.

Such as The National Trust’s stall celebrating Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal.  I was there.  I was one of a small team encouraging mainly families to have fun.  A few punters dressed up as monks from the Abbey, or as fine Georgian ladies who might have enjoyed the Studley Royal Water Gardens.  Most children – boys and girls – got enthusiastic about using the kind of wool which was produced in abundance at Fountains Abbey to get stuck into simple weaving.  They chose their colours with care, threaded their shuttles, and wove, wove, wove.  They ended up with nothing more elaborate than a bookmark, but goodness, they treasured them, and handed them carefully to mums, grandads – anyone who would put them safely away till they arrived home.

And we all ate Wilfra Cakes.  That’s a sort of apple pie cooked with Wensleydale cheese, and a long-forgotten Ripon delicacy, produced thanks to the Workhouse Museum.

If we go back this evening, there are bands playing, and a big firework display.  Well, any excuse for a party in God’s Own Country.  Why not?

The Market Square at midday.

England’s green and pleasant land: also available in brown

The Yorkshire Dales, summer 2018 style.

Followers of this blog will be familiar with images of verdant meadows, of rolling green hillsides studded with sheep, of grasses swaying in the breeze – all illustrating our walks round Yorkshire.

Today though, I’m going to show you the same Yorkshire scenery, as it looks after a fortnight’s heatwave: the kind of consistently sunny weather that I can’t remember enjoying since I was pregnant with my son, back in 1976. We’re not used to this. Meals are taken in the garden. Our yoga class happens on the cricket pitch. Evenings are spent out of doors.

And the grumbling has started. ‘Eeh, it’s too ‘ot. It’s not natural, is it? I’ve ‘ad enough, me’ Not me. I’ll gladly lug watering cans about to water the flowerpots round the door. Though it might keep everyone happy if we could have nightly rainfall, strictly between the hours of 11.00 p.m. and 5.00 a.m.

Click on any image to view full size.

Castle Howard

The weather is far too glorious to sit inside reading and writing blog posts. Let’s just go for a walk round the grounds of Castle Howard, which everyone of my generation knows as the star of  the 1981 production of Brideshead Revisited on ITV. If you want to know more about the building’s real history, just look here.

For a closer look at any photo, click on the image.

Snapshot Saturday is being replaced by Ragtag Tuesday: watch this space.

Snapshot Saturday: Walking and vertical

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.

But some of us, and some plants, are made of tougher stuff.  Perhaps we knew that there might be a starring role in Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge:  columns and vertical lines.

Here’s a telegraph pole, a battered shed door on a local farm and – it is  a nature reserve after all – grasses and bullrushes standing (nearly) to attention.

In the absence of the popular WordPress Challenges, Cee Neuner has generously offered to compile and maintain lists of challenges and the bloggers who host them.  You can find them here.

Finds on an evening walk

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 wonder if she left this wool behind?

‘There’s no such thing as bad weather only unsuitable clothing’*

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.

The cows thought we were barmy. By then, so did we.

 

*Alfred Wainwright MBE was a British fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator and something of a National Treasure to keen walkers.