I chose Tuesday as a day to record the changing conditions outside the kitchen window from sunrise to sunset, for Jude’s 2020 Photo Challenge in which she invites us to observe a single view throughout the day. As the day wore on, I wondered why I’d bothered. It was a dull, somewhat gloomy day. Just grey and rather cold, nearly all day. But when I downloaded the pictures and looked at them, I discovered far more had been going on than I had realised. You take a look too.
A favourite? Maybe 8.00 in the evening. The weather’s picked up and the light has softened as the evening draws in. And finally, I’ll show you some of the lilac that features in every shot.
Mud. I can’t be doing with it. Viscous, squelchy, squishy, sticky, over-the-top-of-your-boots kind of mud. We’ve had ground slick with treacly mud here for weeks and weeks. But then there’s also Cabin Fever, and the need to plan a walk for our walking group in a fortnight’s time, when spring might have sprung. Walking won out over yet another day indoors.
My friend Chris and I set forth for the Yorkshire Dales, parked up in Lofthouse, and set off. Really, it could have been worse. It was a full twenty minutes before we came upon our first serious mudbath: prior to that we’d only had water-on-the-path to deal with.
But climbing now, we saw what the fields were like: yes, those are fields you’re looking at. Gouthwaite Reservoir’s not here: it’s over there in the distance.
We had our rewards though. The views: the remnants of a snowscape: sheep – and oh look! Our very first lambs of the season – a little huddle of black ones, and just one snowy specimen with its mum.
The last remnants of the snow.
Nidderdale, between Lofthouse and Ramsgill.
White mums, black lambs.
A single lamb resting near its mother.
Middlesmoor in the distance.
Surveying the scene.
This sheep inspected us as we sat on a log for a snack.
And then, a pleasant surprise. The café at How Stean Gorge was open – on a weekday in February! Coffee and home-made cake while enjoying the view of the stream jostling and hurrying through its narrow ravine. I forgot to take a photo for Jo, but the website shows the Yorkshire Slice Chris and I shared.
We were on the home straights now. All we had to do was struggle up a steepish hill to the now barely-populated village of Middlesmoor. Just outside its church, on the path that plunges down to our starting point are thoughtfully-provided seats. This is one of the best views in England, and despite the wind, we wanted to appreciate it.
And then, half way down the hill- a traffic jam. This herd of cattle blocked our path. The farmer asked us if we’d mind waiting five minutes. He turned out to have a countryman’s clock, but no matter: we weren’t going to argue with all those cows.
More mud …
… and more mud …
Finally, the cows moved on, and so did we. We got back to the car just as the rain, and then the sleet, started once more.
It’s time for my monthly trip to the archives. And an opportunity for me to remember, as I stare out at the rain sodden garden, that the grass isn’t always greener…..
November 14th 2014
7.00 a.m. Sunday. 22 Ariègeois radios were switched on for the day’s weather forecast. ‘It’ll be an exceptionally sunny and hot day for the time of year, throughout France. Temperatures in the south will reach 23 degrees in some places.’ 22 satisfied listeners, members of the Rando del’Aubo, switched off their radios…. without bothering to listen to the end of the forecast. Instead they turned to the more important business of packing their rucksacks for a rather heavy-duty walk an hour and a half’s drive from Mirepoix, la Forêt d’en Malo.
With a stiff climb of 700 metres in prospect, a 14 km. walk isn’t a stroll in the park. But the payoff as you emerge from the forest is an extraordinary panorama of the Pyrénées, jagged teeth of rock emerging from the thickly forested mountainsides: especially lovely in autumn as the trees turn from yellow, through ochre, to magenta and crimson.
As we drove eastwards, the cloud and mist descended. We parked, we walked, we climbed, we scrambled and we struggled for three hours as the mists became ever damper and more clinging, and an unexpected cold wind whipped across the mountain side. And at the top, this was our view.
We hadn’t listened to the end of the forecast you see. What we should have known that our little patch of south eastern France was a little bad-weather cold spot. There we were bang in the middle of it.
Later, back at home, our smug families and friends recounted how they’d spent the day in shorts and tee shirts. Maybe they’d had a little bike ride, a gentle stroll in the sunshine, a drink on the terrace in the hot sun……
I think I like this kind of wintry day best of all. We’ve had a carpet of snow on the ground, blanking out grass, pavements and drifts of snowdrops. But today, it’s just a little warmer, and the snow is softly melting into the ground. But still here. We go out for a walk, before the cold descends once more. Winter footprints are visible now, because the impacted snow has dissolved away, leaving a silhouette of – what? Is that a crow print? A pheasant? Oh look, those are rabbits – look at how they land, four square and neatly as they run. And here’s a dog of course.
The landscape assembles itself into broad strata of austere colours: raw umber earth; no-longer pristine snow, almost dappled in places; perhaps some olive-shaded grass, and behind all these, a line of winter trees, their skeletons highlighted against the grey sombre skyline.
We see this robin on a fence post.
But apart from him, sheep are the only living creatures we spot on our walk today. Against the snow, they aren’t white at all, but a slightly dirty cream. They scratch an unsatisfactory meal from the less snowy parts of the fields. They come to look at us. We look at them.
Then we look for snowdrops instead, and for wood. It’s forbidden to go out at this time of year without coming back with an armful of kindling for the log burner.
And how glad we are to get back to our log burner! We enjoyed seeing our familiar landscape clothed in its skimpy veil of whiteness. But we appreciated getting back to warmth, a fireside, and a nice cup of tea even more.
Here’s a contribution to Jo’s Monday Walk (Jo’s own walks tend to be in Portugal these days. That’s where she lives. Feeling chilly Jo, reading this?)
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.
I didn’t intend to post this evening, but the sunset, even though I couldn’t actually see the sun, seemed cheerful and optimistic despite the whisps of forbidding grey which kept on drifting across the pastel pinks . This is England after all. This is our weather. And our current state of mind.
I whipped out my phone to record the clouds. It seemed a good opportunity to wish you all a happy new year, wherever you are.
Goodbye 2018. We’re driving off and forward to 2019.
Winter childhood meant cold and frosty mornings, barely daring to get out of bed to shiver while washing in an icy bathroom, before returning to an equally icy room to muffle up in a vest, a blouse, a cosy cardigan and a sensible pleated skirt. Little girls didn’t wear trousers in those days and tights didn’t seem to exist, but I don’t remember my legs resenting being bare between sock-top and skirt bottom. But then boys of my age were wearing short trousers too.
I remember Jack Frost too. He had spent the early hours of the day sketching dizzyingly complex and beautiful patterns in luminous white on the inside of my bedroom window. It’s rare to see these intricate motifs on house windows these days. But the other day, arriving early in town, I passed a car park full of vehicles exhibiting examples of his artistry. I had to take a shot or two.