From the Pennines to the Pyrenees

You’d have to have been following me a long time to know why I call my blog ‘From Pyrenees to Pennines‘. I began writing it in 2007, to record our big adventure in moving to the foothills of the French Pyrenees, to a small town, Laroque d’Olmes whose glory days as a textile manufacturing centre were long over, and where we were (almost) the only English . There we stayed till 2014, involving ourselves in local life from politics to choirs to walking groups, and falling ever deeper in love with the Pyrenees which formed the background to our lives.

Through the walking groups we came to know the mountains in every season. The abundance of meadow flowers and orchids in the spring: the relief from lowland heat in the summer: rich autumn colours that could compete with any on the planet, and deep snow in winter. We welcomed the physical challenge of yomping upwards to some high peak or plateau, and earning our panoramic picnic, and learnt to respect the mountains’ moods.

Here’s a selection of virtual postcards, which may help explain why the Pyrenees will always remain for us our Special Place.

And finally …

The view from our roof terrace. Going up to hang out the washing was no hardship.

For Karina’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #188: A Special Place

An odd outdoor picture frame

How odd. Out walking recently, I found a circular picture frame at the edge of a field. It hadn’t chosen its view with care. Look.

Who wants a landscape with a tatty old fence post in the foreground? If it had chosen the previous field, it could have had a portrait of an odd number of cows filling the frame.

If it had re-sited itself only slightly, it could have had part of the view shown in the header photo.

If it had applied itself, it could have taken a lesson from the frame near Brimham Rocks. That’s chosen its view with advantage.

Frankly, the frame I found hadn’t made an effort. It had taken no care with its appearance either. It was just an odd-ball.

For Becky’s Square Odds.

A Sunset Walk

I didn’t take my camera. I’ve done that walk from home, along the river to West Tanfield dozens and dozens of times. Late the other afternoon, I was just scurrying along to collect our car, being serviced at the garage there.

Then on my left, I saw this:

And I knew that my walk would be a dramatic one. I stopped scurrying as I watched the sun falling gently behind the clouds, behind the trees, as I changed my vantage point with every step. It wasn’t a spectacular sunset, but it was special, as every sunset invariably is. Come with me.

The sheep appeared to have wandered away: the fields were empty.

To the right of me, the river was more delicately tinted:

At every step, a different view: sometimes the vivid fiery tones of the setting sun: at others, the gentler, prettier powdered pinks and blues of the more distant clouds.

My walk was almost over: I crossed the bridge and arriving in the village. The river continued its journey towards the Ouse, then the Humber, without me, and the sun finally disappeared behind the trees.

For Jo’s Monday Walk and Hammad Rais’ Weekend Sky

Tracks, trails and paths

In my last post, we took a walk through my village. Over lockdown, and the weeks and months afterwards, I came to know our local paths more intimately than I would ever have imagined. But I came to see them through fresh eyes, enjoying the changes of season: the difference between a walk taken at dawn, at midday, at sunset. A sunny walk: a snowy walk: a rainy walk: a windy walk. Walks with bluebells: walks with poppies: walks in mud.

Here, for the Which Way Challenge, are some local paths and byways.

Following last week’s Lens-Artists Challenge, when we were encouraged to dip into a new challenge or two, I think I’ll give Monday over to just that – for a while anyway. I’ll revisit the challenges that were new-to-me then, as well as revisiting older favourites.

A January Haiga

This year, no route march.

Instead I’ll wander, breathe, gaze …

Enjoy the moment.

I should explain. For some time now, I’ve joined in Rebecca of Fake Flamenco’s monthly poetry challenge. It’s a challenge indeed, especially for strict amateurs like me, because every month she invites us to try a different poetic form on the announced theme. This month, it’s a haiga. It’s new to me, and perhaps to you. Here’s what Aha Poetry says: ‘Haiga is a Japanese concept for simple pictures combined with poetry, usually meaning haiku‘.

So what you see above is my first effort, on Rebecca’s chosen theme of time, personal development and change. Many of you know that last year I challenged myself to walk every day, and get the miles in – 1500 miles to be exact. It was fun, and helped keep me fit. This year though, I don’t want to do it again. I still want to walk every day (said she, looking out at a grey and rain-sodden garden). But instead of getting my head down and pounding the tracks and pathways, I want to slow my pace and savour the moment: take pleasure in discovering the new in views that have perhaps become over-familiar in these all-but lockdown days.

My Year in Walking … and in Books

We’re almost at the end of 2021. Christmas has come, but not yet gone (the Twelve Days of Christmas), though Team Spain departed yesterday, leaving a big hole in the lives of two very debilitated grandparents who had long forgotten how exhausting a delightfully energetic eleven month old could be.

It’s time to review the year- two bits of it anyway.

I kept my resolution to walk every single day, whatever the weather – a promise that will not impress the dog owners among you, who have no choice in the matter. I reached one target, then another, and have finished the year with more than 1536 miles (2473 km) under my belt and still one walking day to go. I’m quite pleased.

I walked, sometimes in company…

… or alone …

This isn’t me. I don’t do selfies.

… at times accompanied by a Virtual Dog ..

… or other curious onlookers …

Back at home, I kept my promise to myself not to let Lockdown Lassitude interfere with my reading, as it had in 2020. I didn’t precisely set goals, but I aimed to read far more literature in translation, and more non-fiction that wasn’t Nature related. I managed that too. Here are the 101 books I read, as recorded in Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2021?ref=yyib21_strip

My top reads of the year?

Cal Flyn: Islands of Abandonment; Nadifa Mohamed: The Fortune Men; Javier Marias: Berta Isla; Ingrid Persaud: Love after Love; Douglas Stuart: Shuggie Bain

My header photo illustrates walking and reading combined: a stroll along the Regents Canal, where you’ll find a floating bookstore with, if you’re very lucky, a musical interlude as well. This isn’t a photo from 2021. Perhaps such treats with be part of my life again in 2022.

A morning walk with the rangers at Studley Royal

It’s 7.45. Here’s the sunrise on our way to Studley Royal.

And having met the rangers and our fellow walkers – volunteers on the site, here’s who we’d come to see.

Red deer, but ancient trees too. Cherry trees aren’t meant to last 400 years, but somehow this one is clinging on. Whereas the oak nearby is thought to be more than 800 years old, and dating from the days when the monastic community was at its height in nearby Fountains Abbey.

Come with us as we walk past the entrance to the park, framing the view down towards Ripon Cathedral, before we climb uphill to less frequented parts of the parkland, where deer usually roam free and we could enjoy open views across to Ripon and the North York Moors beyond.

And by 10.00, the rest of the day’s our own.

For Jo’s Monday Walk, because I know Jo would love this walk too.

A walk in the grey dawn

Since clock change, I’ve been unable to wake up later than 5 o’clock. So inspired by Becky’s walk at sunrise, and by the clear sky last night, I was out by 6.00 to catch the sun’s first rays. But it was cloudy – thick cross-patch grey. And my phone doesn’t do low light levels. But here’s my early morning photo-diary. With not a sunrise in sight.

These images may be grey and black enough for Jude’s Life in Colour. And can multi-task for Jo’s Monday Walk too. AND Six Word Saturday as well

A Castle Fit for a Captive Queen Revisited

We seem to have been to Castle Bolton quite often recently. It reminded me that shortly after we came back from France, one of our early walks was here. Maybe it’s time to revisit my blog post about it, to remind myself, if nobody else, about its history.

A CASTLE FIT FOR A CAPTIVE QUEEN

October 2014

We travelled the road in thick white mist, fearing a dank and gloomy day.  But the higher we climbed, the more the mist fell away, and the brighter the sun shone.

Looking down over Wensleydale from Castle Bolton

As we began walking, Daphne shared some of the castle’s history with us.  It has belonged to the Scrope family since the time it was built in the 14th century, and has always been admired for its high walls.  It’s a proper castle, looking exactly like the ones you will have drawn when you were eight years old.

Bolton Castle

Tudor history is largely about the constant religious and temporal battles between the Catholic  and the Protestant church, which Henry VIII had made the Established Church, with the king as its head: the Fidei Defensor – Defender of the Faith (unbelievably, Henry hung onto this title, awarded him in his pre-Protestant days by Pope Leo X, in recognition of his book  Assertio Septem Sactramentorum which defends the supremacy of the pope).  His son Edward briefly succeeded him, and then his daughter Elizabeth, and both were Protestants.

But Elizabeth’s rule was threatened by the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, and she was held captive first at Carlisle Castle, then at Bolton.  Here she was attended by 51 knights, servants and ladies-in-waiting, not all of whom could be accommodated in the castle itself.  She also had cooks, grooms, a hairdresser, an embroiderer, an apothecary, a physician and a surgeon, while furnishings fit for a queen were borrowed from nearby Barnard Castle.  She went hunting, learnt English – for she spoke only French, Scots and Latin – and spent time with local Catholics.  She made an unsuccessful bid to escape from captivity.  It’s said she climbed from an upstairs window in the castle, and fled on horseback past the nearby market town of Leyburn.  It’s here she dropped her shawl and so was discovered and recaptured.  And that is why, so they say, the long escarpment above the town, nowadays a playground for walkers and sightseers, is still called ‘The Shawl’.

As we enjoyed our history lesson, we passed a field of Wensleydale sheep.  We very much admired their sultry fringes.

Wensleydale Sheep

And onwards. Autumn colours.

A completely pointless stile in the middle of a meadow.

Then Aysgarth Falls.  What a wonderful lunch spot.  The crashing waters made conversation quite impossible, but we sat enjoying the surging waters, the coppery leaves above our heads, and the all-encompassing percussion of the tumbling River Ure.

And then it was time to turn round and head back by a different route.  Another great day’s walking, with an added history lesson.

But wait! This post was all for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, when we’re invited to dig up a Post From the Past. But Becky’s Past Squares demands a look at the past too: here’s Bolton Castle, square style:

Then there’s always Jo’s Monday Walk

From Bolton Castle to ancient lead mines and back

The landscape in the featured photo shows the bucolic beauty of Wensleydale, still green and welcoming at this time of year. And look! Here’s Bolton Castle, one time prison of Mary Queen of Scots: where she was obliged to stay for six months with a retinue of 30 servants, permitted to go hunting, and receive English lessons This is where we began and ended our walk last week.

Most of our hike wasn’t in such favoured countryside. We slogged up to the bleaker moorland where once lead was mined, and no farmer could make any kind of living, unless he kept sheep. Here there are no villages, no houses or farms, and few roads.

We’d hardly been going more than a mile when we came upon a shooting lodge, now set up as a resting place for the weary traveller. Here’s the view through one of the windows:

There was buffeting wind, and the smallest hint of rain, so we were glad to shelter for a few moments, and look at the view from inside, through that welcome window . But then out we went again, to the windswept landscape. It’s easy to see traces of the old lead mining industry: the grassed over spoil heaps, the ruined stone sheds, the pits where once a mine was sunk.

Lead was found here long before the Romans came. By the Middle Ages, blocks of land known as meers – roughly the size of a cricket pitch – were leased out to the miners who, if they were lucky, could find lead almost at the surface: or by running shafts below ground. The process only became industrialised, and mining companies developed in the 18th century. The last mine in the Dales closed in 1912, and for the first time in hundreds and hundreds of years, no one quarried for lead.

This is a bleak landscape, austere and unforgiving: open to winds coursing across the Dales, and to lashing rain. I love its ascetic grimness and the beauty to be found in its treeless simplicity. The time of year when the hillsides are cloaked in purple heather – August – is not to be missed. We caught the end of this glorious display.

Though our day had been one of grey skies, at the end the sun came out, as was fitting for the gentler Wensleydale landscape near Bolton Castle

Here’s a video of our twelve mile walk: https://www.relive.cc/view/v8qkk45PxKq

Monday Window