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.
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’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.
*Alfred Wainwright MBE was a British fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator and something of a National Treasure to keen walkers.
We’d never heard of Coniston Pie before. Best head over that way then, and find out all about it.
Coniston’s a tiny village in North Yorkshire, wedged into the glorious limestone scenery between Kettlewell and Grassington. We couldn’t go there without exploring a bit and working up an appetite for that pie.
We began with a bit of a scramble, a bit of a climb before hitting a steadily climbing path leading us upwards between dry stone walls and statuesque and wind-shaped trees. Sheep were our constant companions as we continued to plod ever upwards, 1000 feet in all.
We rested at the top. We had a snack (just a biscuit, no pie for us), before taking the winding turfy track downwards towards the valley bottom, then turning sharp left to join the Dales Way back to Coniston.
And that’s when we saw it. Coniston Pie. It’s not hearty fare to be tucked into after a hard day’s lambing apparently, but this: the view the shepherd sees as he does his daily round.
Still, it does look exactly like a pie, filled with good things and topped off with a thick pastry crust, doesn’t it?
This week’s WordPress challenge asks us to post something unlikely.
This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge invites us to show images of where we’d rather be at the moment. Well, I’ll tell you where I’d rather not be, and that’s here, in North Yorkshire.
I love Yorkshire, and I’m happy to agree that it’s ‘God’s own country’. But frankly, life here is a little trying just now. Like most of England, we had The Beast from the East a couple of weeks ago bearing snow, blizzard and fierce wind. And much of the rest of the time it’s been raining. This photo was taken a couple of months ago: since then, things have only got worse.
So how about a little trip back to the Ariège, where we lived from 2007 to 2014? Here’s a selection of photos, all taken there in March or very early April. Down in the foothills of the Pyrenees where we lived, blossoms were out, and wild daffodils carpeted the more out-of-the-way hills. At the weekend we would head off for Montségur and higher land to enjoy the snow that was still thick there. We were never fans of snow-shoeing, but now I’d be more than happy to exchange their crisp deep snow for our thick deep mud.
Nature has had the upper hand lately. Snow, and plenty of it, disrupted our daily rhythms a few times in recent weeks. Rain, and plenty of it, has swamped fields and tracks, making a walk in the country an utterly unreasonable pastime.
The other day though, cabin fever got the better of us, and we made a break for the countryside near West Witton, reasoning that some of the tracks there would be more or less passable. They were. More or less.
But Nature made its presence felt in full force. Here was almost our very first sight on our walk – a mother ewe with twin lambs so very newly born that she was still calmly licking them clean as they tottered beside her, looking for their very first feed of milk.
The weather was mild. Surely the snow would be long gone? Not up here. Bitter howling winds a week ago had snatched the snow into deep drifts at the edges of fields, or pounded it into hillside crevices.
Redmire Force lived up to its name. Look at the waters swirling, frothing and plunging over the boulders in the River Ure. Look at the tree torn from its cliff side, now hanging precariously over the river.
And as we came to the end of our walk – look! Is this a river, or is this a field, unusable by the sheep who normally graze here, but forming a stopping off point for the occasional passing water bird?
I don’t think the humans in my life whom I love would be happy for me to plaster their images all over the blogosphere. I have no pets, beloved or otherwise. So I’ll have to look a little further.
Here’s a little miscellany of images, beloved images:
The Yorkshire Dales, whose rolling hills, bisected by ancient drystone walls I missed so much during our years in France.
The Pyrenees, from their richly flowered springtime meadows through to winter, when their rocky slopes are covered in deep snow, and which I now miss every single day. I’ll miss the shared picnics on our walks together, when our French friends pooled resources, and we ate everybody’s offerings of home-cured sausage, local cheeses, bread, home-baked cakes together with wine and somebody’s grandfather’s very special eau de vie.
Springtime daffodils. Every year I go into deep mourning when they wither, die and finally become untidy heaps of dying leaves. I’m happier now as they thrust their sheathed stems through the hard soil, promising to flower soon- but not quite yet.
There are books: I need a pile beside my bed to get me through the night.
A single, perfect cup of coffee from Bean and Bud in Harrogate.
Skeins of geese flying overhead mark the seasons here, and I love their haunting, raucous cries.
And so on….
The Pyrenees seen from St. Julien de Gras Capou in summertime.
A shared picnic near Montaillou, in March.
The Nidderdale Way.
Near Pateley Bridge.
We’ve already seen our first daffodils in North Stainley this year.
Just a random pile of books. I don’t think I’ve read most of these.
Our beloved Bean and Bud,
Geese flying uncharacteristically untidily over Marfield Wetlands.
I’ll end though with this. I wasn’t beloved of this elephant in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, who was only doing his job when I visited him ten years ago on my Indian Adventure. But I felt beloved and very special when he raised his trunk and brought it down upon my shoulder – his very distinctive way of blessing me.
Click on any image to see a slideshow of the photos, full-size.