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.
Father Christmas came early. Three months without a camera was enough, he reckoned. He lacked a beard and red clothing, and looked remarkably like Malcolm, but he helped me choose, provided the credit card and carried the new camera home for me.
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.
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
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.
When we pop over to Bolton to do an overnight babysit for Ellie (er, not babysitting. Thirteen year old twins require a taxi-service rather than child-minding), dog walking is part of the deal. Here’s Sunday’s walk….
If you live near Studley Royal and its deer park, as we do, you’ll be used to deer. They’re very shy though, and unless you’re there very early, or when poor weather is keeping visitors away, you’ll only get distant views of them.
Yesterday though, we were having a walk, a long walk, just outside the park grounds. Our path had led us upwards, through woodland, and alongside the long stone wall which bounds the estate. And that’s when we noticed them. A stag with his harem of does – some twenty or thirty of them. We stuck our noses over the wall, and watched. The deer watched us, and concluded that since these faces apparently had no bodies attached, they posed no threat.
The stag – and there was only one – was striding around in an assertive manner, aiming to garner respect. The deer weren’t bothered either way, and there were no other males to impress. He realised he was wasting his time, and fell to grazing instead.
I’m still stuck without a camera, so these slightly fuzzy efforts will have to do as a record of a few magic moments shared with a parcel of deer we came across .
Did you know that ‘parcel‘ is a collective noun for deer? Me neither. Try these too.
Dovedale? Yes, it’s in the Peak District, a glorious area of England, part of its Pennine spine. There are old stone-built towns and villages with long histories of hard work in mining, textiles and farming. There are limestone and millstone grit uplands and escarpments, with distant forest and moorland views, and valleys and gorges cut deep into the limestone. There are ancient stone circles and enchanting landscapes. Forget modern life, put on your walking boots and explore.
We had four wonderful days, which for once, we didn’t have to organise. Here’s why.
Autumn was begining to show its colours, but summer temperatures remained. We walked. I didn’t have a camera (Barcelona…..). I had a new mobile phone though. It isn’t the same, but I played with some of its gizmos. Here are my postcards from Dovedale.
Thorpe Cloud. It’s a tough triangular hill, formed of marine skeletons which haven’t easily eroded.
The Nine Ladies, a Bronze Age standing circle.
This fly agaric was an early victim of special effects on my phone.
Views from the heather moorland near the Nine Ladies. We’re by a Bronze Age cairn
Special FX again….
These drystone wall edged fields are reminiscent of the Yorkshire Dales.
The stepping stones across the river in Dovedale…..
… the needle-like crags…..
… the caves…
..the autumn colours near the riverside.
Autumn colour again
And a deliberately impressionistic take on the trees reflected in the water.
Regular readers know I’m a member of a walking group. Regular readers don’t know that one of the features of our summer programme is a series of evening pub walks: walks of only three or four miles, finishing up at a pub for a convivial meal or drink together. Usually about eight to twelve people come along. This time, it was my turn to lead the walk, which had been publicised round the area in a low-key kind of way.
I’d already been messaged by a Chinese woman who asked if, though they weren’t members of ‘rumbles’, a group of nine of them could come along. Three other new-to-us people got in touch, and on the night, two other ‘newbies’ were there. Then there were Emily and Miquel, over from Spain.
The group of nine proved after all to be eleven, and included two small children. They were an extended family, living in various places all over the north of England, who’d snatched a few precious days staying together at a local campsite.
The usual regulars turned up. I did a quick head count. Twenty nine people….
Have you ever tried getting twenty nine people over several stiles, down narrow paths, along the lakeside, through the woods, across the fields, down the road and back through the Nature Reserve without losing anyone en route? Actually, because of the small children, the Chinese team left us at half time, but we had fun making new friends and promising to try out the restaurant that one branch of the family runs, many miles north from here.
The pub coped admirably. In fact only twelve of us chose to eat there, though most of the others stayed for a drink. Here’s free publicity for The Freemason’s Arms, Nosterfield. Great home-cooked food (try the fish and chips if you dare. Massive), provided by a friendly, unflappable team.