Neptune is probably used to playing host to coastal residents. He seemed kindly disposed towards this gull alighting on his head, as he strode purposefully through the Moon Ponds at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal earlier this week.
It’s time for our weekly day out. We’ll stay in the UK this time, but I’m going to whisk you from destination to destination – ones that aren’t at all crowded, and where there are all kinds of shells and stones and rocks and seaweed and birdlife to enjoy, whatever the weather turns out to be.
Here are just a few among dozens of apple varieties displayed at last year’s Apple Day at Ripon’s Walled Garden. It’s where adults and young people with learning disabilities are supported into employment through the skills they learn in this wonderful garden environment.
In her Photo Challenge this week, Jude asks us to look upwards, and shoot our subject from below.
Somehow this instruction reminded me of the first period of lockdown, when staying isolated and close to home was fresh and new: when we country-dwellers had the small pleasures of watching the spring unfold. Each day’s main event was watching the subtle changes in the nearby verges and fields, and in the trees and clouds.
With no job-plus-childcare to juggle, no worries about actually losing an income, this simple period, when the spring weather was almost unfailingly sunny and warm, was a time of some happiness.
Since then, things have fallen apart somewhat. Compliance, and confidence in the government’s competence and probity plummets, and nobody regards the prospect of a long hard winter ahead with anything better than disaffected resignation if they’re lucky, real fear if they’re not.
For one day only then, let’s look upwards – and backwards – to the spring 0f 2020.
The red tops blazed next week’s news: ‘A September Scorcher! 30º!’
Anyone living north of Watford Gap, or west of Slough knew better than to believe it, because only south-east England counts if you’re a London-based hack. We Yorkshire types needed to read the small print to discover that northerners could merely expect pleasant warmth, a gentle breeze and no rain whatsoever. Which was fine for a Sunday walk in Wensleydale.
On the way over there, it rained. Getting ready for the walk, it rained. The wind snatched urgently at our waterproofs and blew our hair in our eyes. Mist rose from the valley bottom. Grey cloud descended and thickened.
We didn’t mind. The rain soon stopped: it was warm, and those grey skies made for moody, atmospheric scenery. But our friend Gillian, who’d planned the walk, doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘stroll’ and had us battling boggy paths, and huffing up rough pastureland on semi-vertical hillsides. We took it in good part.
But what rewards. We had the constant backdrop of the Wensleydale hills. Semerwater glittered at us from a distance: but close up, insistent waves rushed constantly towards our toes.
We had a march along a Roman road. And at the end, blue skies, sunshine, and a relaxing cup of tea on the village green at Bainbridge.
This week’s photo challenge is to make use of empty, unoccupied space in our pictures : to make it part of the story. As I walked yesterday, I tried to use negative space: in this case, mainly the sky.
And another walk for Jo …
Way back in what we no longer call the Dark Ages, this part of the world – north east England – was overrun by Vikings. They came, they saw, they settled. They left their mark on the language: villages such as Thirn, Thrintoft, Skeldale, Kirkby, Slingsby, Ainsty all betray their Norse ancestry. Vikings have a reputation for ravaging and plundering, but in fact many of them and their families made their lives here.
And settlers need some down-time in among the hard work of clearing and working the land and looking after stock: pursuits like this forerunner of the board game, which was played throughout what is now Scandinavia. We found one while walking the Howardian Hills last weekend. It looks like a maze, and it’s called City of Troy.
It’s one of only eight still left in England, and this one is the smallest- barely bigger than a large picnic blanket. There used to be one near Ripon apparently, but it was ploughed up in 1827. Nobody any longer knows how to play this game. Why City of Troy? Well, it’s thought that it refers to the walls of that city, which were apparently built in such a way as to prevent unwanted intruders finding their way out. I’m astonished by the idea that the average Norseman (or woman) was up to speed with Ancient Greek history and myth, but what do I know?
It’s related though to labyrinths found all over Europe. Every ancient culture: Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Indian, Native American – had their own take on this one-way-in and one-way-out puzzle. The labyrinth made its way into mediaeval churches. There was even one in the cathedral local to us in France, in Mirepoix.
To Christians of those days, it may have been a symbol of wholeness, and an aid to reflection and prayer. That spiral path within a circle may represent a meandering path, leading us to our very centre, then back out into the world.
The maze game probably doesn’t run so deep. But what its rules were, and when and how it was played, out on a hillside some distance from any known settlement is a mystery that will almost certainly never be solved.
For farmers, it’s a wealthy little corner of the county, with fertile fields offering a steady income in return for careful husbandry. Well-constructed farm gates at the end of tidy tracks are handsomely buttressed by smart stone gate posts. Crops stand to attention and weeds show their faces only at field margins. Agricultural labourers are no longer tenants in those postcard-perfect villages.
Our late August break was not accompanied by late summer weather. Although it didn’t rain, skies remained sulky and black. Wind bustled and gusted fiercely against our faces. The temperature hovered at 11 degrees all weekend. Perfect for this week’s Photo Challenge, for which brightly luminous blue skies contrasting with the golden hues of harvest simply Would Not Do.
This month's final assignment - Experiment with using two or three Complementary colours. Try to make one or two colours the focus of the image, and use the other colour to enhance the overall image.
I’ve taken images from fields, from distant vistas, and from the one abandoned ruined grange we came across, where farm animals still grazed in the grassy yard. I’ve played around with colour contrast: aiming to make my results what my eyes thought they saw, rather than what my camera knew it saw.