From a bird’s point of view, though not from a human’s, our local patch is a watery world. Our nearby town of Ripon has three rivers and one canal. The River Ure passes our house. Gravel extraction is a local industry, and once exhausted, these sites are made over to wetland nature reserves. Geese flock here. Autumn and spring are the times when large V-shaped formations pass noisily over the house, honking and calling. The feature photo shows just two – are they greylags? I don’t know. Herons are here – yesterday we watched as one heaved itself from the river, and, battling against the prevailing wind, launched itself towards a distant stand of trees, where it circled, circled, before finally finding its perch. Black-headed gulls follow the farmers as they plough and harvest. I was going to go on a trip to look at coastal birds too, but no – let’s stay local.
On the last day of April, I took myself for a short walk, from country house to country house near me. They’re all called Sleningford-something-or-other – Old Hall, Hall, Grange – in memory of the village of the same name that was ravaged by marauding Scots in the Middle Ages, never to be seen again. Though they had older antecedents, all these buildings are from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and they all mark pleasant pauses in our walking routines. Here’s the gatehouse to the first, Sleningford Old Hall, its window enabling the gatehouse keeper to keep his eye on all the comings and goings into the estate. Well, the last actually. I’m showing my last photo first, and working back towards home.
Only the upstairs windows of the house itself were visible over the high wall which maintains the owners’ privacy.
A mile or so beforehand, I’d already passed Sleningford Park and Hall. You can see the house set in its parkland in the feature photo. The conservatory has glass enough, and the gatehouse too has windows pointing in every direction to help the gatekeeper do his job.
I’d started from home of course, less than a mile before that. Not that we live in the house you see here. But we’re lucky enough to live in its grounds, in a rather simpler dwelling, which has its own long history – that’s for another day.
A thoroughly British day at the seaside – Filey to be exact. On a brisk and bright day in September.
… in the Valley Gardens, Harrogate.
If you’re from the UK, you’ll recognise the person in my featured photo. It’s Clare Balding, presenter of sports programmes, stories featuring animals, and as far as I’m concerned, BBC Radio 4’s Ramblings, and today, my One Person from Around the World. I’ve been lucky enough to be in two of Clare’s programmes, walking with her first on the route of the Jarrow March, and then, exactly four years ago, on the Nidderdale Way. Let’s revisit my post from that day, especially for Fandango’s Flashback Friday. There are even four Bright Squares. I’m multi-tasking today.
Walking on the radio
26th April 2017
I’ve been out for the day with Clare Balding again, for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ programme. Last time, her producer Lucy was looking for a local rambler to lead the Ripon to Ripley section of the Jarrow March, and she ended up with me. Last time, as the walk finished we fell to talking about local long distance walks, such as The Nidderdale Way.
And lo! Now they have a six-programme series in the bag, waiting to be transmitted in May and June, on …… the Nidderdale Way, all 53 miles of it. She invited me to be part of the last leg, together with my friends Chris and John.
Let me tell you how it works. We walk. We chat. Lucy walks beside us with her muff-on-a-stick, recording little and often. Clare stops from time to time and paints evocative word pictures of the scenery, the sights, smells and sounds, the passers by. She chats to us about everything from geology, to history, to walking, to long-lost industries, to living near Nidderdale.
We see our local landscape through fresh eyes. Instead of its being the backdrop to our daily lives, it becomes vivid again, and we remember the wonder and the intense pleasure we experienced when it was new to us too.
Clare loves people. At Brimham Rocks, where we insisted she take a detour, she chatted to children with their families and took part in their photos. Later, she hung over a drystone wall and talked to a farmer. She patted dogs and enjoyed a few moments with their owners.
Just as well she’s good at this sort of thing. When we arrived at Pateley Bridge, she became a sort of stand-in for the Queen. She was whisked from shop to shop, always leaving with a little local speciality -a pork pie, some home-made fudge. With Lucy, she was given a newly-minted badge for completing the entire Nidderdale Way. They got flowers, a book by a local historian, hugs and handshakes galore, and repaid all this attention with genuine interest and friendship. Pateley Bridge by the way is in the thick of preparing for the Tour de Yorkshire 2017, which goes through the town – and past our front door – on Saturday 29th April.
Please listen to this series when it comes out: it’s available as a podcast even if you don’t live in the UK. The first programme will be on BBC Radio 4 on 18th May, and the programme featuring our team will be transmitted on Thursday 22nd June. You’ll make immediate plans for a holiday in Nidderdale after you’ve listened.
I didn’t plan to post today, but since I shared my sundown stroll with you last week, it seems selfish not to share the delight of a bright sunrise walk this morning. I left the house at 6.20, going along the River Ure, up the hill to a neighbouring farm, and back through the grounds of Sleningford Hall.
Peaceful? Not at all. The rooks in the rookery were circling their home patch and gossiping loudly. Oyster catchers gathered in groups and screamed and called as they flew high above the river while others skimmed its surface. A single curlew called. The lark ascended. And though the dawn chorus was all but over, blackbirds on every other tree took up their posts to offer an unending programme of melody to the morning sun. Lambs bleated plaintively as I passed, while their mothers’ objections were even more assertive. Only the rabbits, off to bed for the day, were silent as they swished through the dewy grasses.
I haven’t been on an evening walk all year. It’s time to put that right. Will you come too? We’ll go along the woodland path behind our house.
Look! On either side as we walk , there are bright kingcups, primroses, wood anemones.
And here we are in the village, by the pond. Are there any ducklings yet? Apparently not – no ducks either just now.
We’ll turn towards home. Only a short walk. But we can watch as the sun goes down, and have a few quiet words with the horse in the field. Not a bad way to begin the end of the day.
March was a month like every other since last March, in that every day, I walked. March was a month like no other – except perhaps last March – because spring arrived. And that’s what I’ll celebrate here, in a simple photo gallery that shows the last of the snowdrops, the first of the blackthorn: and all stops in between via primroses and first daffodils and clematis (in the featured photo) and wood anemones and kingcups and cherry blossom.
I made a new friend in March, Monty, and he is my Virtual Dog in April. He’ll make sure I’m out whatever the weather. He’ll make sure I work towards my walking goal of 500 miles before June. Actually, ahem, I should make it. I’m on 425 miles now. Which probably means that Monty is on 1000 at least.
Here are some of the landscapes I explored. There’s still a lot of mud around. And we don’t have as many lakes and ponds as you might think. They’re just Super-Puddles.
These images are all taken with my not-so-very-smart phone. Just click on any images that you want to see full size. This March showcase is for Su Leslie’s Changing Seasons. All the flower shots – and indeed Monty – qualify as Bright Squares. Another multi-tasking post.
I was one of those ignorant types who thought ‘gull’ and ‘seagull’ were interchangeable terms. In fact ‘seagull’ is a fairly meaningless word, though often used to describe herring gulls. But not, definitely not black headed gulls. These birds we so commonly see round here, some fifty miles from the sea, are quite at home here in the fields. They’re sociable: they’re quarrelsome: they’re noisy. And they’re happiest snatching a meal when tractors are out and about, sowing seeds or harvesting and generally making free food available. As you can see. These scenes are from exactly this time last year, from a farmer’s field just up the road.
I thought a ditty, a bit of doggerel was called for, helped along by memories of a Harvest Festival hymn.
They plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land. Black-headed gulls will follow - rapacious thieving band! ‘All good gifts around us come from the farmers’ fields We’ll scoff the lot, not care a jot and decimate your yields.’ We’ve had some snow in winter. The gulls have had it rough. Now seeds and rain and sunshine mean life’s no longer tough. ‘All good gifts around us come from the farmers’ fields. We’ll scoff the lot, not care a jot and decimate your yields.’ Six Word Saturday
I am an occasional contributor to the Bird Weekly Photo Challenge: and this week’s appealed. Birds that eat fish as their primary diet. Well, I have images of gannets, gulls and guillemots. I have puffins, though not a single photo features one with a beak crammed with sand eels.
But the fish-eater I love the most is the bird I so often see snaffling goldfish from our landlord’s pond: or as I walk the banks of our neighbourhood River Ure : the one I spot as I hang over the sides of bridges and boats in Spain: the one fishing in among the townhouses of Dordrecht, the Netherlands: the one in my featured photo who was flying down the canal-side in Busan South Korea. It’s the heron, the grey heron.
Click on any image to see it full size