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 have shamelessly engineered the last photo on my phone for February to be the one you see below. I wanted to showcase my Virtual Dog for March. Some of you may remember that to make sure I go out walking each and every day, I’m making sure of having a Virtual Dog who needs to be exercised. It’s a big ask of these dogs, so I think a month is enough.
Going out every day with Virtual Dog is definitely working for me. I’m out every single day, whatever the weather, and I now have 252.8 miles (406.84 km) under my belt this year. But I have nine more months after this to fill. I invite applications from interested dog-owners. Your dog will not have to leave your side, whether you live in England, America or Australia, but will join me daily for walks through the Yorkshire countryside, often in woodland, often by the river. There’ll be lots of chances to be off the lead, but especially during lambing season. will have to stay closely to heel across farmland. The only reward, apart from the walks themselves, will be the chance for your dog to feature on this blog.
Last on the Card. Here you are Brian. I know you’ve had a dig at those of us who don’t like to include our less-than-wonderful last images. But to misquote Bill Shankly: ‘Some people think that the last photo is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.’
From time to time, some of you ask me how it was that we came to live in France for about seven years. This post, written on this day eleven years ago, tells the tale.
A WALK IN THE AUDE
February 26th 2010
Last Sunday, we went off as usual with our walking group, Rando de l’Aubo. We went a mere 20 km eastwards into the neighbouring Aude. What a difference a few miles makes. The rugged forests, with hillside pasture for cattle and sheep, fields of maize and feed crops in our own department are exchanged for an almost Tuscan landscape, with little hillside towns overlooking ranks and ranks of vineyards delineating the contours. Both departments are lovely, but we hicks from the Ariège tend to prefer our less manicured and somewhat wilder countryside.
Still, Sunday’s walk was quite a sentimental journey for Malcolm and for me, because we walked through the village, Ferran, that was our first introduction to this part of the world. A few years ago, an old friend of Malcolm’s sent him an email. In his letter, he said that it was February, and he’d been sitting outside in his shirtsleeves, gazing out at his perennial view of the distant Pyrenees, at that time covered with bluish-white snow. Did we fancy a visit to him in Ferran? We did. We were of course seduced by those hillside towns, those vineyards, and especially by those views of the Pyrenees. Not too long after, we came over again, to house hunt, and of course didn’t find that elusive, perfect spot. Only after we’d returned home did our friend’s wife, who’s an estate agent, spot the possibility that we just might like the butcher’s house in Laroque where we now live.
It was crazy really. We bought it without really knowing the first thing about the area. But we’ve never regretted it. We’ll never finish exploring the hillside pathways, always deeply mulched with fallen oak and beech leaves, or the craggier routes up mountainsides, or the gently undulating lower paths through meadowlands, bright with orchids and other flowers, as well as butterflies, throughout the spring and summer.
But that’s the Ariège. Ferran and the other villages we skirted last Sunday are typical of the Aude. Colour washed houses and farms in shades of barley, corn and almond perch high on the hillside, looking down over their vineyards, and beyond – one way to the Montagne Noire, the other to the Pyrenees. The hills roll away into the distance, not so blanketed by forest as our hills are, but at this time of year, green and lush. Though we only walked about 13 km, by the end we were exhausted, because throughout the day we’d been buffeted by the winds for which the Aude is known. But how lucky we are to have two such very different kinds of countryside within such easy reach of our homes.
Virtual Dog has been coming along with me on my Actual Walks for over a month now. She’s been complaining that we have yet to go on a Virtual Walk. She has a point. Let’s go on one today. It’s raining, and there’s mud everywhere. We could do Jude’s challenge while we’re about it, Life in Colour: Brown, and look for brown in anything but mud.
We’ll start off by the village pond. There aren’t usually ducklings at this time of year, but on a Virtual Walk, anything goes. Down the lane towards Sleningford Hall we’ll pass a friendly goat. And a herd of cows. Now I know that this hike is a virtual one. We have no cows at all north of our village, and I’ve never seen a goat either.
We’ll head towards Musterfield, and this involves a walk through the woods, and my favourite ancient oak. Look at the size of it. How many kings and queens, wars and eras of social change has it lived through?
And we’re sure to find some interesting tree fungus too. And butterflies. I’m not good at butterflies. Some kind of skipper? Can anybody help?
There are always a few friendly horses glad enough to wander over and chat. This one has a foal though (Virtual Walk, remember?) and takes no notice of us.
If we’re passing through farmland, we’re near barns. And if there are some (brownish) geese, so much the better.
And finally, because this is a Virtual Walk, just before we turn for home, we’ll visit this tiny dwelling, a home surely to fairies or elves. It’s actually at Nidd Hall, 15 miles from here. But on a Virtual Walk, we can achieve anything.
PS. It IS a rainy day today. A Virtual Walk would be very welcome. But needs must. I will go out with Virtual Dog for an Actual Walk too. And Jo, do Virtual Walks count on Jo’s Monday Walk?
Some of you may remember my first post this month, when I announced my plan to acquire a Virtual Dog to make sure I went walking every single day, come rain, come ice, come mud. My chosen companion was Dilys, shown in today’s feature photo, but she already walks miles every day with her own family. Much as I love her, I think I really do need a Virtual Dog.
Then I remembered Ai Wei-We’s Circle of Animal Heads at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Surely that featured a dog’s head? Up a pole? It did. Here is my Virtual Dog. Sadly, it’s my least satisfactory photo from there, so I’ll include a small gallery of some of the others to give you a better idea of this circle of mainly Zodiac figures up above your head.
I’ve completed 116 miles this month. I felt this was a decent number – nothing to upbraid myself with here. But then I discovered that Jo of Restless Jo and Jo’s Monday Walk fame has upstaged me. She does eight miles a day. Almost every day. I’ll have to up my game.
Thank you, Becky, for cheering up a particularly long and dismal January: for giving us the opportunity for uplifting friendships in the blogosphere, and for making us crank our brains up a gear as we tried to measure up to the skills, humour and ingenuity of our fellow participants.
Yesterday I showed you soggy France, a few winters ago. Today I’ll show you soggy North Yorkshire, yesterday. Despite often being up to my ankles in mud and water, I found my end-of-day walk had its own particular delights.
I bet you’ve been thinking, in these gloomy rainy days, that a bit of a break somewhere like the south of France might cheer you up. But not necessarily. In honour of Flashback Friday, I’ve found my post from 29th January 2013, written in the corner of Southern France that we used to call home.
RAIN RAIN …
The banner headline on this morning’s regional paper, La Dépêche du Midi, told us what we already knew. There’s been twice as much rain this month as is usual. Of snow, we’ve seen hardly a flake.
Driving back from Foix yesterday, we saw meadows that have become mini- lakes. Even more fields glistened with water as the water table has risen to the very surface of the soil. It’s made the month a somewhat gloomy one, even though the days have been pretty mild. The mountain peaks are snow-capped, as expected, but the white stuff barely creeps down the mountainside and with all the low cloud and zilch visibility, it’s sometimes hard to know where the Pyrenees have disappeared off to.
Our regular yomps into the countryside have been a bit curtailed. Walk after walk has been rained off, and when we do go, we choose our routes with care. If we don’t, we’ll be lugging kilos and kilos of glutinous heavy clay with us as it clings to our boots and the bottom of our trousers.
Roll on the 2nd of February, Chandeleur (Candlemas), the day when Winter decides whether to stick around or push off. Last year, it was icily cold, and Winter stayed and made his presence felt with several weeks of constant snow, ice and bitter cold. This year, he‘s looking much more half-hearted about it all. We blame ourselves. We invested in snow-tyres and snow chains for the car. We clothed our olive tree and a few other plants in white dresses of horticultural fleece.
So Winter laughed in our faces. We daren’t change the tyres or undress the tree though. We all know what will happen if we do.
Well, you were game for a bit of a bet yesterday, and both sunrise and sunset got pretty much equal scores. Shall we go for a walk and see who’s right? Click on any image to see it full size and to get rid of the caption.
I took my puzzle picture, now shown in a different format as my feature photo, shortly after I’d left the lake. But this wasn’t overlooking another lake. It was yet another flooded field. Time? One minute past four. Sunset: the first moments. So I was up to no good, offering you sun down instead of sun up on a challenge featuring All Things Up,
I was up-beat, focused during Lockdown last year. Every day I went out walking – three, four, five, six, seven mile walks: day after day without fail. Now? Not so much. Wind. Rain. Damp. Mud, above all, mud.
Then I had an idea. Our lives have become virtual. Virtual hugs with family and friends, virtual committee meetings, virtual book groups. Though I have no desire to have a real one, I would get myself a Virtual Dog, who would need actual walks every day, come rain, come shine.
My friend Barbara won’t know this till she reads about it here, but I’ve chosen her dog, Dilys. Dilys is always up for a long walk, an explore, a refreshing swim. She’s the best trained dog I know, and is always, like Barbara, an uplifting companion.
And if Dilys is unavailable, I’ll borrow the dog-next-door, Poppy.