Two Reservoirs: the Back of Beyond

The view from the dam of Scar House Reservoir.

You don’t have to go very far in Yorkshire to feel remote.  You don’t even have to get beyond the reach of the man-made.  Those adjacent reservoirs in Nidderdale for instance, Angram and Scar House, both built to supply the City of Bradford with fresh water: Angram in the 1890s, Scar House in the 1920s.  They’re off the beaten track, isolated.  You’d never guess that when they were being built construction workers had their families with them on site: a shop, a place of worship, a school, all built for their use.

Now the construction workers are long gone, and their community too.  Only the odd foundation stone remains. The area feels remote, reached only after a long drive down a narrow B road and one belonging to Yorkshire Water.  It’s home to a rich variety of wild life.  Walkers love to tramp its walking routes, relishing the emptiness, the silence, the bleak beauty of this spot.

Walking by Angram Reservoir, Even the distant view of the dam doesn’t change the feeling of remoteness.

Debbie from Travel with Intent is responsible for this post.  Because of her, I’ve joined her Six Word Saturday Challenge, and been led to the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Remote.  Thanks, Debbie!

Moors and hills and rugged coast: walking Northumberland

Several of you commented on my coastal pictures from Northumberland, remarking on how relaxing the whole thing must have been. Well …. it recharged the batteries alright … but not by lying down on the beach with a good book. Certainly not.

Only birds sunbathe here……

We were at Nether Grange, an HF hotel, with our walking group. And we were there with other walkers – some in groups, others not. At Nether Grange, walking is what you come for. That and good food eaten in good company. We’d opted for guided walks. Three levels of difficulty are offered each day so there’s no excuse not to get involved. I chose one of each, so finished the week with 15.3 km, 12 km and 17 km. walks under my belt.

Moorland near Etal.

This is hill country. The Pennines, the backbone range that bisects northern England becomes the Cheviots as it marches towards Scotland. In the car you’ll swoop thrillingly up and audaciously down those hillsides. They provide a backdrop to the area which is at once dramatic and bucolic.

On foot, you’ll get to know about those slopes….. actually, we weren’t often faced with gradients that had us gasping, panting and begging for mercy. But we rarely had a long level stretch either. And our leaders were there to encourage, chivvy along, provide good humour and background notes on all kinds of topics … as well as read the maps, so we didn’t have to.

We walked moorland tracks, bouncy with springy turf nibbled short by sheep. We crossed hillsides bright with golden gorse. We tracked through woodland carpeted with bluebells.

A woodland glade … no bluebells this time.

We passed Ford Moss, an extremely ancient raised peat bog where we excited the residents: Exmoor ponies charged with grazing the vegetation and keeping it in trim.

Exmoor ponies going for a gallop.

We passed farms with shire horses and hissy geese.

And on the last day, we walked the local coastal path: St. Oswald’s Way. The section between Alnmouth and Craster-where-the-kippers-come-from is characterised by craggy cliffs, and are home, like the nearby Farne Islands, to many thousands of seabirds such as kittiwakes and fulmars. Here’s what the zoom lens on my new camera can do.

Cliffs and Dunstanburgh Castle seen from afar. The next three shots zoom in ….
Craster: cottages, a safe harbour, and a few tourists.

Our group, the 17 km one (10 1/2 miles to the non-metric) finished just beyond Dunstanburgh Castle. It was built in the 14th Century by the Earl of Lancaster, who was openly hostile to King Edward II – never a good idea, because the king had him executed in 1322. This fortification was built to make a bellicose statement, in an area crowded with castles. Now it’s a ruin, and an impressive one. We slogged to the top of the keep for the views, marvelling at the extra-thick walls as we climbed.

Leaving the castle behind us.

We finished the day, and our three days of walks, with a paddle. Gotta have a paddle. Or ‘plodge’ as the locals call it.

Plodging towards home….

With thanks to our walk leaders Chris, Helen, Paul, Richard: to Reuben and Team Nether Grange, and to our own Mike and Angela for organising the holiday.

And this is also an entry for Jo’s Monday Walk.

On the path of Cathar shepherds – revisited

This is the last entry in my re-blogging season.  I’ve enjoyed browsing through my memories: this was why I created my blog in the first place – as a diary and travel journal.  I think that I’ll continue to re-post, maybe once a month, to allow memories to resurface, and perhaps give them a fresh audience.

This particular walk is one we’ll never forget, ever.

2nd April 2012

On the path of Cathar shepherds

Yesterday we walked through Montaillou.  It might seem a tiny and unremarkable village now, but it’s the place that’s maybe done most to contribute to our understanding of turn-of-the-14th century village life in the Languedoc when religious strife between the Catholics and the Cathars was at its height.  This is a big subject: it deserves more than passing mention: a future blog maybe.

I’d read le Roy Ladurie’s book on Montaillou more than 30 years ago,and never dreamed that I might one day live in what the tourist offices are pleased to call ‘Cathar Country’.  So it was the shepherds of Montaillou I was thinking of as we began our Sunday walk.  They would come to the annual fair at Laroque d’Olmes, a good 40 km from where they lived.  They would drive their flocks long distances for good pasture, and as national boundaries meant little in these mountain zones, their fellow shepherds whom they met in their travels would sometimes be Spanish.

First view of Montaillou.

We too were climbing out of Montaillou.  The paths seemed unchanged through the centuries – short springy turf with early spring flowers pushing through. Pale pink and white blossoms busting open.  Narrow streams cutting deep channels through the turf.  Thick forest climbing the slopes.  Patches of snow made the going a bit tough from time to time.  It was warm and sunny, the slopes were steep and sometimes hard-going.

Ever upwards…and the snow’s still on the ground.

Then suddenly…suddenly, and so unexpectedly, we reached the top of our first climb.  Around us, to east, south and west were the snow-covered peaks of the Pyrenees, glistening white against the blue sky.  Above us, skylarks called and swooped.

Later, Danielle remarked that she felt as if at that moment she’d received a special gift: that perfect view, the clean clear air, the singing birds which were the only sounds.  She voiced, I think, what we all felt.

We hadn’t reached our highest point: we climbed onwards, always with those snow-capped mountains at our side.  And then we were on top: handy rocks provided seats and shelves and we unwrapped and shared our lunches, lingering in the sun, drinking in the views for well over an hour.

The perfect picnic spot.

 

Ready to start walking again.

Soon after lunch, we turned our back on the snowy mountains.  As we faced the hotter, drier Pyrénées Orientales, the equally high peaks there weren’t covered in white.  Our path was downwards now, and soon we had to pass the ski station above Camurac.  Built long after those years when snow could be relied upon throughout the winter, it was an area of scalped earth, snow machines and all-but-redundant chair lifts.  My Montaillou shepherds certainly wouldn’t have recognised it.

The walk draws to a close.

But then it was forested paths again, open pasture and spring flowers.  We finished the walk passing a collection of horses, Thelwell style ponies, and appropriately for Palm Sunday, a couple of friendly donkeys.  A good day.

Friendly donkeys.

Omelette de Pâques revisited

It’s Easter weekend.  For my continuing re-blogging festival, an Easter themed post seems in order.  Let’s try this one from 2010…..

April 2010

Omelette de Pâques

Come to the Ariège on Easter Monday, and you won’t be too far from a community omelette. Communes and clubs all over the department seek out their biggest frying pan, get hold of dozens of eggs, sugar and rum, to make this sweet confection to round off, with any luck, the first barbecue of the season. Why? Nobody in our walking group could tell me, and Google wasn’t much help, but it does seem to be an ancient tradition dating back to….ooh, 1973 at least.

Anyway, the Rando del’Aubo have made this an annual event for some years now. For the last couple, it’s been rainy and cold. Not this year though. Down at the bottom of the page, you’ll find a few pictures of our walk between La Pène, an Audois hamlet on a delightful small lake, and Monthaut, which is a hill….higher up. It was a great way to work up an appetite.

Because the weather was warm, sunny and spring-like, we relaxed at the lakeside after our walk, chatting and enjoying those woodsmokey smells of a barbecue coming to life. Apéros first: Muscat, suze, pernod, whisky…all the usual French tipples, with nibbles to stem our hunger. Then grilled pork, grilled Toulouse sausage, bread (and wine of course), Coulommiers cheese, vanilla or chocolate pudding. And then we still had to find room for the all-important omelette.

Since the beginning of time, it’s been Marie-Therèse’s ‘job’ (good French word, that) to make the omelette, and of course it all ended in noisy recriminations because there were too many cooks all muscling in, breaking eggs, beating eggs, heating the pan, greasing the pan, measuring the rum. Half the raw egg mixture tipped out onto the grass, and Etienne and Danielle dashed off to every farm they could find to buy another….. 4 dozen.

Finally, it was done. Really, this omelette is scrambled egg with lots of sugar chucked in at the end, and flambéed with rum. Once a year is quite enough.

It wasn’t the end of the party though. Oh no. We couldn’t go before downing glasses of Blanquette de Limoux, an Alpine eau-de-vie, then cups of coffee (with madeleines, in case we were still hungry). And as a final touch, Easter eggs.

We came away suntanned and rather full, at the end of an Easter Monday that was one of the first really hot and sunny days of the year. A taste of things to come?

 

My contribution to today’s Ragtag Challenge: egg.

And a Malcolm update:  He’s out of hospital now with lots of medication and check-up appointments.  Looking good!

Ragtag Saturday: The Cleveland Coast

Older people like coach trips.  Allegedly.  They sit in a coach, gossip, have a nice cup of tea when they reach their destination, then they go home again.

On Thursday, fifteen people from Ripon U3A (Walkers’ Division) did exactly that.  Except that in between the gossip in the coach and the nice cup of tea, they fitted in an eight and a half mile walk along a section of the Cleveland Way.

Staithes seen from the cliffs.

We started at Staithes, once a busy fishing port, now a picture-postcard-pretty holiday destination.  It nestles at the foot of imposing cliffs, and our walk began with a good hard yomp to get from sea-level to cliff top.  This was the first of several yomps up steep paths cut into the hillside at an unforgivingly steep gradient.

The first of several climbs – and not the hardest.

And what goes up must come down, as we discovered towards lunchtime at Runswick Bay, and later still at journey’s end in Sandsend.

Runswick Bay at low tide.

All this would have been arduous enough.  But there was a stiff breeze.  This developed, as the day wore on, into a searching wind: the sort that blows any attempt at conversation far out to sea, turns pockets inside out, and rips scarves from shoulders.  A few forays past farms offered slight shelter.

By the time we arrived in Sandsend, the wind was arguing with the sea too, which rose up, roaring and seething and hurling itself against the breakwaters.

Stormy seas at Sandsend.
The view across to Sandsend and Whitby.

Did we complain?  We did not.  This was scenic walking at its best.  Violets and primroses scattered our path, and striking barriers of yellow gorse imposed themselves between us and the cliff edge.

Eight and a half miles of this kind of treatment was just about enough though.  We were good and ready for tea and home-made cake at Wits End Cafe, and continued our gossip in the coach on the way home.

The sea: our constant companion for the day.

Here is my entry for today’s Ragtag prompt: Coast, and for Jo’s Monday Walk.  As ever, click on any image to see it full size.

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.

The foothills of the Sierra Nevada

Today we went to a poor man’s Alhambra. We sought jaw-dropping beauty, tumbling cascading water, refreshing cool…. and peace. Javi delivered us a day in which, only some 12 km from Granada, we experienced soul-soothing quiet, dramatic views – and just a touch of adventure. And not a tourist in sight.

We started our day climbing from Monachil, a village set among arid yellow and red tinted slopes. As we went on, dramatic rock formations scrambled high above us.

Our path narrowed. We were obliged to hang onto nearly sheer rock and manoeuvre ourselves along a route whose path followed a stream. Swaying bridges too.

As our gorge widened, there were different views, and a grassy plain for a mid-morning rest. We watched choughs wheeling high above us, preparing to nest high on the mountainside.

There were Mediterranean herbs, gorse, butterflies. And suddenly, over there in the distance, Granada.

Our circuit was almost complete. We’re refreshed, invigorated and renewed. Especially after our tapas, eaten sitting in a sunny riverside bar in Monachil. Don’t choose. Get what you’re given. Perfect.

Here we are. One of Jo’s Monday Walks on a Tuesday…https://restlessjo.me/jos-monday-walk/