The Last Walk Before Lock Down

You didn’t need a crystal ball to know that my walk yesterday, reached by car rather than directly from home, might be my last for a while.  The thought of impending Lock Down made my hours alone near Masham, walking by the River Ure and through the nature reserve of Marfield Wetlands, special, memorable and something to be savoured, even if it’s not actually a Great Yorkshire Walk.

After a couple of miles there’s some pasture land.  Some trees there are dead or dying.  Ancient trunks have actually fallen.  They were demanding to be centre stage for Jude’s Photo Challenge this week, mixing textures with other colours and patterns.

See?  Lichens have cunningly introduced themselves into the regular fissures of a fallen log.  Lush young nettles complement the bleached dry bark of a different trunk.  Peep though knotted holes to spot the greenery beyond.  Wisps of white wool wander across the surface of moss encrusted ancient branches.

Then I met stones, originally smoothed and polished by the River Ure as it hurried and bustled noisily along. Now they’re covered again: not by water, but by springy mosses and young creeping plants, and pert little celandine squeezing between them.

Then though it was time for sheep.  Not just sheep, but their lambs, endearingly new-born, in their two-sizes too big overcoats.  Who could resist?

Keen not to abandon Jude’s assignment, I found two last shots.  A row of fat cattle, chewing away in their barn, contrasted with the diagonal and vertical lines of their shelter.  And then a rusted old bit of farming machinery provided a perfect picture frame for a view.  A fine use for a bit of tackle that’ll probably be on the scrap heap any day now.

The Wetlands were surprisingly quiet (lunchtime…). But I had a bit of fun with a teasel, getting up close to get a shot of its spiny plump body.

A good walk. Lots of memories to store up for a long, odd summer ahead.

 

2020 Photo Challenge #12: Texture: ‘mix your texture with other colours and patterns.’

Jo’s Monday Walk.

Snowshoeing x Two

I’m continuing my monthly habit of re-blogging a post from our days in France.  Now that daily life is on hold to a large extent, new material may be in short supply quite soon.

This time I’m more or less amalgamating two posts from February and March 2013, my early experiences of snow-shoeing.  I had a love-hate relationship with this sport.  I loved the peace, and the opportunity to explore pristine snowscapes.  But my goodness, it’s taxing.

Here I am in February – the 17th to be exact….

Snow shoes at Scaramus

It’s 7 o’clock.  I can’t see me having a late night.  We’ve had a day of ‘raquettes’ – snow shoes.  Gosh it’s exhausting.  You strap great oval saucers of plastic, webbing, and toothed metal to your feet and spend some minutes feeling like an ungainly baby taking its first uncertain footsteps across the endless wastes of the living room carpet.

Here I am, modelling my raquettes – snowshoes.

But equilibrium returns, and without these cumbersome contraptions, how else would you walk across the undulating white snowfields of the Plateau de Sault, with views of snow-sculpted hillsides nearby, jagged snow-crusted peaks beyond?  How else could you enjoy the sound of the satisfying crunch and crack as feet break through the crisp crust of the surface snow.  Thank goodness for that icy layer.  We found our 5’ long batons, plunged deep below the surface, wouldn’t touch the frozen ground beneath.

And with a bright blue sky, a hot sun enabling us to walk wearing T shirts and summer hats, what better way to spend a February Sunday?

But by March 4th, I had a surprisingly different story to report….

Snow Shoes II, The Sequel

We walkers of Laroque got our snowshoes out again today (well, in my case, I borrowed some), and went for a much more local sortie, just above Montferrier and en route for the local skiers’ playground, Mont d’Olmes.

How different from our last walk.  Instead of wide open snowfields with distant views, we had woodland walking and bright sunlight casting blue shadows across our path.

Instead of gentle slopes rising and falling before us, we had an upward slog; unremitting, tough.  Micheline and I, discouraged and tired, failed to reach the top, and missed the prize: a frozen lake with snow-clad views in every direction.  Most of the party stayed with us and kept us company.  Though our views were less exciting than those of the intrepid climbers, our picnic was the better one.  We low-achievers had wine, home-made cakes and hot coffee with us to supplement our bread and cheese.

And the journey down was completed in record time.  We arrived home as our gardens were gently baking in the last of the hot afternoon sun.  More of the same is forecast for several days: there won’t be much snow left this time next week.

 

Roughly the Same Walk as Last Week …

… except the same walk is never the same walk.  Last week, Chris and I walked from Lofthouse to Ramsgill to Middlesmoor and back to Lofthouse.  On Sunday, we did the route again, joined by eight friends from our walking group.

It was less sunny. It was more muddy.  The intervening week had been largely dry and breezy: but before the walk, it had rained all night. It was a day to pick our way carefully through mud, artfully stamped with the outlines of sheep hooves, tractor tyres and farmers’ boots.

It was a day to notice dry stone walks, scabbed with moss and lichen.

Discarded bits of farmyard furniture and buildings.

Swollen streams, tumbling and scurrying.

All of these were subjects for Jude’s 2020 Photo Challenge, requiring us this week to look for texture – rough texture.

But it was  a day too for moody landscape.  Look!  I didn’t take this view over Gouthwaite Reservoir in black and white.  But where’s the colour?

View over Gouthwaite Reservoir.

And here – this rainbow appeared more than once on our walk that day, always elusive, always vanishing as we approached.

Join us.  It’s a virtual walk.  You won’t need to clean your boots at the end.

2020 Photo Challenge #10

Winter Walking in Nidderdale – with Added Mud

Mud. I can’t be doing with it. Viscous, squelchy, squishy, sticky, over-the-top-of-your-boots kind of mud. We’ve had ground slick with treacly mud here for weeks and weeks. But then there’s also Cabin Fever, and the need to plan a walk for our walking group in a fortnight’s time, when spring might have sprung. Walking won out over yet another day indoors.

Just outside Lofthouse, our walk begins.

My friend Chris and I set forth for the Yorkshire Dales, parked up in Lofthouse, and set off. Really, it could have been worse. It was a full twenty minutes before we came upon our first serious mudbath: prior to that we’d only had water-on-the-path to deal with.

Chris paddles across the path previously trodden only by sheep.

But climbing now, we saw what the fields were like: yes, those are fields you’re looking at. Gouthwaite Reservoir’s not here: it’s over there in the distance.

The path between Lofthouse and Ramsgill, with flooded fields down below and Gouthwaite Reservoir in the distance.

We had our rewards though. The views: the remnants of a snowscape: sheep – and oh look! Our very first lambs of the season – a little huddle of black ones, and just one snowy specimen with its mum.

This sheep inspected us as we sat on a log for a snack.

Swaledale sheep make the logo of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

And then, a pleasant surprise. The café at How Stean Gorge was open – on a weekday in February! Coffee and home-made cake while enjoying the view of the stream jostling and hurrying through its narrow ravine. I forgot to take a photo for Jo, but the website shows the Yorkshire Slice Chris and I shared.

How Stean Gorge seen from the café .
The view of Nidderdale and Gouthwaite Reservoir from Middlesmoor.

We were on the home straights now. All we had to do was struggle up a steepish hill to the now barely-populated village of Middlesmoor. Just outside its church, on the path that plunges down to our starting point are thoughtfully-provided seats. This is one of the best views in England, and despite the wind, we wanted to appreciate it.

And then, half way down the hill- a traffic jam. This herd of cattle blocked our path. The farmer asked us if we’d mind waiting five minutes. He turned out to have a countryman’s clock, but no matter: we weren’t going to argue with all those cows.

Cows make themselves at home.

Finally, the cows moved on, and so did we. We got back to the car just as the rain, and then the sleet, started once more.

It was good to be out walking again.

An entry for Jo’s Monday Walk.

A Line of Trees

I don’t know about you, but I need a break from the world and its vicissitudes.  And I’ve got just the thing.  One of our favourite walks, near Masham, near home.  It offers wetlands with waterbirds, calming pastures of sheep, woodland, a stretch along the riverside – all available in a four mile stroll.

This month, Jude of Travel Words invites us to consider Pattern.  This walk has plenty, starting with the skeins of geese often to be seen designing sinuous flight lines across the sky.

Marfield Wetlands.

I’m going to show you a particular line of trees that I’m fond of, towards the end of the walk.  A repeated pattern, tree after tree after tree.  Sometimes, especially in high summer, these are enough to fill my mental screen.  At other times, I notice the pattern echoed.  A line of sheep, maybe.  A different line – of fencing.  Even – and I never manage to catch this in the same shot – a line of snagged sheep’s wool caught on nearby barbed wire.

Stark winter trees.  Fencing edges the nearby field.
Winter again.  I like the shadowy trees lower down echoing the crisper line above.
Another much longer view of those trees. With sheep below following the same horizontal line. It’s still winter.
That line again. It’s summer now, and other stands of trees draw the eye down to the lower edge of the shot.
Sheep again. They just left their wool behind.

I’ve chosen in many cases to echo the linear nature of the pattern by a spot of judicious cropping.

There.  Did you forget the headlines just for a few moments?

A Sunday Walk, Accompanied by Thirteen Dogs

Our good friends Gill and Dave host a mid-winter walk for all their friends after Christmas every year.  We’re invited, and we’re never sure why.  We’re not known for showing much interest in horses, and we don’t own a dog.  As you can see from this shot taken just as we set forth, fortified by bacon sandwiches and coffee, having a dog in tow is pretty much expected.

Boots, wellies and dogs organised.

We love this post-Christmas event, and this year I was especially keen.  I’ve not been able to go on a decent hike for six months now because of a knee condition, but today was the day to begin to put all that behind me.

So here we all are.  Here are the dogs, here is the mud, here are the woods and the local views – understated, pleasant good old rolling English countryside.  I’ve deliberately overstated the mud for dramatic effect – it really wasn’t bad at all, and with enjoyable company we didn’t notice it anyway.

Back home with Gill and Dave, we ate and drank, laughed and talked for most of the afternoon.

The human friends are all inside eating, drinking and making merry. It’s a dog’s life.

And on the way home, this was the sunset.

Another entry for Jo’s Monday Walk.  It’s been such a long time since I’ve had the chance…

Sunday Rando – French style

It’s time for my monthly trip to the archives.  And an opportunity for me to remember, as I stare out at the rain sodden garden, that the grass isn’t always greener…..

November 14th 2014

Sunday Rando

7.00 a.m. Sunday.  22 Ariègeois radios were switched on for the day’s weather forecast.  ‘It’ll be an exceptionally sunny and hot day for the time of year, throughout France.  Temperatures in the south will reach 23 degrees in some places.’  22 satisfied listeners, members of the Rando del’Aubo, switched off their radios…. without bothering to listen to the end of the forecast.  Instead they turned to the more important business of packing their rucksacks for a rather heavy-duty walk an hour and a half’s drive from Mirepoix, la Forêt d’en Malo.

François talks us through the walk. This is it, in cross section.

With a stiff climb of 700 metres in prospect, a 14 km. walk isn’t a stroll in the park.  But the payoff as you emerge from the forest is an extraordinary panorama of the Pyrénées, jagged teeth of rock emerging from the thickly forested mountainsides: especially lovely in autumn as the trees turn from yellow, through ochre, to magenta and crimson.

As we drove eastwards, the cloud and mist descended. We parked, we walked, we climbed, we scrambled and we struggled for three hours as the mists became ever damper and more clinging, and an unexpected cold wind whipped across the mountain side.  And at the top, this was our view.

We hadn’t listened to the end of the forecast you see.  What we should have known that our little patch of south eastern France was a little bad-weather cold spot.  There we were bang in the middle of it.

As we finished our walk, the weather lifted a bit, and gave us a small taste of what we should have enjoyed.

Later, back at home, our smug families and friends recounted how they’d spent the day in shorts and tee shirts.  Maybe they’d had a little bike ride, a gentle stroll in the sunshine, a drink on the terrace in the hot sun……