A very English afternoon tea.

What could be more quintessentially English than tea and cake?  What could be more quintessentially English than fundraising with tea and cake?

Hire the village hall.  Get the Good Ladies of the Parish to closet themselves in their kitchens, dig out their favourite recipes, don their aprons and get stuck into a couple of hours combining butter, flour, sugar and eggs with favoured additions such as chocolate (got to have a chocolate cake), lemon (got to  have lemon drizzle cake), coffee, walnuts (got to have a coffee and walnut cake), dried fruit (it would probably be a criminal offence not to offer scones), and any other pièce de résistance that the accomplished home baker can offer.

And on the day itself, friends, family, passers-by, readers of the Parish magazine will all be tempted to drop in and cheerfully while away a half hour or so with a slice or two of cake, or even the makings of a light lunch, all in pleasant, light-hearted company.  All talk of calories and healthy options is banned.  This is waistline expansion in a very good cause.

On Saturday, we gallantly took ourselves over to Fewston Village Hall to support our sporty friends Barbara and Tim. The cause? Almscliffe Tennis and Bowling Club.  Now what could be more English than bowls?

All the home bakers ready for action in the Village Hall.
… and overlooking the proceedings at Fewston Village Institute ……

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Ragtag Saturday: A Red Kite.

Ah, could I see a spinney nigh,
A paddock riding in the sky, 

Above the oaks, in easy sail, 
On stilly wings and forked tail.

John Clare (c. 1820)
Paddock is an old English name for the Red Kite

Red kite (Wikimedia Commons, Arturo de Frias Marques )

Red kites, coasting lazily across the skies on gentle thermals – floating, free-wheeling, gliding – command our instant attention.  When we spot them as we’re walking, we can’t help but stand and stare, and relish their easy command of an immense sky.  It’s that forked tail that gives them away.

And yet these noble-seeming creatures exist mainly on carrion.  They’ll swoop quickly down to snatch roadkill – after the crows have helped themselves – and take it off to perch on some quiet tree to dismember and eat.  Sometimes we’ll watch numbers of them wheeling above just-ploughed fields, questing for worms and small mammals.

Young red kite perching in a tree (Wikimedia Commons)

They used to be a very rare sight indeed.  But about twenty years ago, and thirty miles from here, some red kites were released onto the Harewood Estate as part of a conservation initiative.  We lived in Harrogate at the time, and got so excited if we were near Harewood, by very occasional sighting.

Fast forward a few years, and the kites reached the outskirts of Harrogate: we’d even spot them above the town centre.  Later still, they spread onwards and outwards  – north, south, east and west.

Yorkshire red kite sightings 2018
(www.yorkshireredkites.net)

And this week, just this week, for the very first time, this is what I saw, above the house, keeping an eye on me as I hung out the washing.  I’m very excited by our new neighbour.

A bit blurred, this image. But this red kite was very high above me.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘kite’.

Ragtag Saturday: A Tracery of Twigs

It’s equinox season: that blessed time of year when day equals night, and when, for us, the days are getting longer.

The full moon. The equinox.

It’s transition time in so many ways. Those wonderful winter trees, their tracery of twigs and branches transcribed against the sky are skeletal still: but only just.

This morning, on my way out, I noticed tightly furled leaf buds, glossy and taut on shrubs in the garden. Two hours later, coming back, the tender leaves had burst out, tiny and delicate, waiting to be toughened up and to grow in the mild spring air. It was very windy too – hence no photos.

Has spring sprung?

A late afternoon sky over the River Ure, just before the equinox.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is Tracery.https://wp.me/p9YcOU-1ll

All photos apart from the first and the last one were taken walking through the parkland of Studley Royal, Fountains Abbey.

A winter walk: footprints, snowy sheep – and just one robin.

A field near North Stainley.

I think I like this kind of wintry day best of all. We’ve had a carpet of snow on the ground, blanking out grass, pavements and drifts of snowdrops. But today, it’s just a little warmer, and the snow is softly melting into the ground. But still here. We go out for a walk, before the cold descends once more. Winter footprints are visible now, because the impacted snow has dissolved away, leaving a silhouette of – what? Is that a crow print? A pheasant? Oh look, those are rabbits – look at how they land, four square and neatly as they run. And here’s a dog of course.

The landscape assembles itself into broad strata of austere colours: raw umber earth; no-longer pristine snow, almost dappled in places; perhaps some olive-shaded grass, and behind all these, a line of winter trees, their skeletons highlighted against the grey sombre skyline.

We see this robin on a fence post.

But apart from him, sheep are the only living creatures we spot on our walk today. Against the snow, they aren’t white at all, but a slightly dirty cream. They scratch an unsatisfactory meal from the less snowy parts of the fields. They come to look at us. We look at them.

Then we look for snowdrops instead, and for wood. It’s forbidden to go out at this time of year without coming back with an armful of kindling for the log burner.

And how glad we are to get back to our log burner! We enjoyed seeing our familiar landscape clothed in its skimpy veil of whiteness. But we appreciated getting back to warmth, a fireside, and a nice cup of tea even more.

Here’s a contribution to Jo’s Monday Walk (Jo’s own walks tend to be in Portugal these days. That’s where she lives. Feeling chilly Jo, reading this?)

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Ragtag Saturday: Frosted fields

It was -3 degrees in the night. It was still -3 degrees, at nearly nine o’clock in the morning. But I started my walk anyway. Right here in the garden, next to this hellebore.

Here were the pleasures of scrunching through crisp, frosty grass.  Through small puddles, frozen solid.  Watching long shadows extend the trunks of trees across the width of a field.  Sheep doing their best to scratch a breakfast from the hoary grass.  Bracken with delicately rimed edges.  A car on the roadside, blinded by Jack Frost’s artwork.

The sun rose and despite the cold, quickly burnt off the chilly white from the fields. The newborn lambs, which I’d hoped to spot in West Tanfield had been kept indoors – I could hear their plaintive bleating in  barn.  Instead – winter blossom, catkins, and a sky-blue sky.

This is my contribution to Ragtag Daily Prompt: Frosted.  And though I walked on a Wednesday, posted on a Saturday, to Jo’s Monday Walk.

As ever, to view any image full size, simply click on it.

Bevies of birds

On my way to yoga last Friday I was stopped in my tracks.  There, high above me was that unmistakeable raucous calling that only flying geese can deliver.  I watched, as ever transfixed by the cooperative and graceful weaving flight of these birds.  They maintained their traditional V shape as they journeyed on, but I realised they weren’t constantly following the same Top Goose.  First one, then another would fly forwards, only to be succeeded by another, only moments later.  Always, however, they remained connected, a purposeful team.

 

 

I saw these geese at Marfield Wetlands exactly this time last year. Disobligingly, they did not formed perfect Vs for me.

Later, lying on my back in the yoga group, I glimpsed a red kite, wheeling and diving directly above the skylight.

Red kite (Wikimedia Commons)

A Good Morning.

These photos were taken this time last year.  I still have no camera….

Ragtag Tuesday.  It’s  still there.  As is Ragtag-every-other-day-of-the-week. Have a look.  But I’ve moved to Saturday’s Ragtag Daily Prompt.  

Ragtag Tuesday: Wet walking

Near the Ripon Canal.

It was my turn to lead our walking group on a hike on Saturday.  When I was planning what to put in the programme a few months ago, I had an idea of taking the group on a pleasant wintry walk along frost-rimed canal paths with delicate fine sheets of ice coating any puddles we met.  A weak sun would glimpse through downy dove-grey cloud, and we’d walk briskly in the cold clear air.

Well, that didn’t work.  Last week,  we’d had four days of largely non-stop rain.  And Saturday was no different.  Anybody with any sense would have rolled over in bed that morning and gone back to sleep.  I got up, and took myself off to our rendezvous, completely confident that nobody would be there waiting for me.  I’d come home and toast my toes by the fire.

Five would-be walkers greeted me.  Yes, they did want to walk.  No, they didn’t think it was too wet.  We’re here now.  Let’s get on with it.

The Ripon Canal was still looking inviting as we began our walk.

So we did.  We’re an amiable bunch who like one another so the conversation flowed.  We got in our several-thousand-steps for the day.  But we also couldn’t see much as our glasses got wetter and wetter.  Our rain gear kept the rain out and the sweat in.  Our over trousers dripped and sulked.  Our boots got damper and damper. The canal tow path, normally a fine surface for a winter’s walk, slipped and oozed.  The trees dumped giant water drops on our heads to add to the rain’s constant spillage

Those umbrellas were a mighty fine idea.

We got to our half-way point in record time.  We got back to base in an even more record time.

‘Now honestly,’  I said to my fellow-martyrs as the end drew nigh.’If you had your time over again, knowing what you know now, would you have come?”Of course!’ they all said.  And they meant it.  Not me. I scuttled off home to my fireside, and stayed there for the rest of the day.

This bridge by the River Skell provided much needed shelter as we said our goodbyes at the edge of Ripon.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘Rain’.