Very wet, Easter

Last year, my son Tom and Team London came to Yorkshire to enjoy Easter In The Country.  They saw lambs and ducklings and chickens and rabbits – all the kinds of creatures that the average London park is a little short of.

This year, they asked for more of the same.  Easter was early, so we knew that the ducklings probably wouldn’t appear.  We weren’t to know though that this year Easter would be very cold and extremely wet with hail slashing our cheeks, then sleet.

Tom and I did manage a walk up the lane to let William see the lambs.  That was when we got caught in a vicious hail storm.

Lambing time at Sleningford Hall.

As last year though, it was our friends Gill and Dave and their family who saved the season.  William stroked their dogs and cuddled their cat Marmite (who used to be ours, before we went to France).  Grandson Jack came round, and the two little boys bonded immediately, hunting for the eggs and chocolate treats the Easter Bunny had left (inside: no self-respecting Easter Bunny wants to get chilled to the bone hiding eggs in the garden).

Hunting for a final few eggs.

Then it was time to visit Reggie the Shetland pony and his new friend Maple.  They were saddled up, the boys were equipped with riding helmets, and off they went for a ride.  Well, Jack did.  He had first mounted a horse when he was six weeks old so now he’s a pro, trotting and everything.  William lasted about two minutes.  Sitting on Maple’s back was one thing: wobbling about when she moved off quite another.  William preferred walking alongside.

Then it was pay-back time.  William was put to work barrowing horse manure from stable to manure heap.  There were eggs to be collected – he only smashed one.  Finally, he had to feed the hens.  And he got to keep the eggs he’d found – scrambled eggs for tea!

Memorable moments for a city child.  Thank you Gill, Dave, Becky, Andrew and Carly … and of course Jack … for a very special morning.

Click on any image to see full size.

 

How not to run a half marathon

Daughter Ellie’s London Marathon training is on target: just as well, because the race is now only just over a month away.

She thought a useful test would be to run the Wilmslow Half Marathon along in the next county.  Malcolm and I were pressed into service as childminders (for ‘childminders’, read ‘providers of lifts’) and dog walkers.

The Pennines near Skipton.

As we drove over the Pennines to Bolton, the temperature dropped to -2.5 degrees, the windchill factor took it well below that, and the wind swirled something of a blizzard round the car.

A drive in the snow.

The race was still on though.  Once we’d arrived in Bolton, we sat around the kitchen table carb-loading (otherwise known as eating cake) and planning strategy. We had a quiet evening, packing Ellie off to bed at 9 o’clock for her before-6.00 a.m.-start.

But in the middle of the night, when Ellie checked on-line, the inevitable had happened.  For safety reasons, the run had been cancelled.

Brian takes Ellie for a walk.

So no race, no excitement, no challenge.  Ellie and I took Brian-the-dalmation for a long walk in the snow.  And that, dear reader, was that.

More Pennines near Skipton.

Very special and heartfelt thanks to those of you who have sponsored Ellie for running the London Marathon.  Because of people like you, she has raised nearly 150% of her target.  All the money raised will go towards research into osophageal cancer, a disease that is still little understood compared with better-resourced breast cancer. Thank you.  Thank you.

Even more Pennines near Skipton.

Snapshot Saturday: I’d rather not be in a mudslick

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge invites us to show images of where we’d rather be at the moment.  Well, I’ll tell you where I’d rather not be, and that’s here, in North Yorkshire.

I love Yorkshire, and I’m happy to agree that it’s ‘God’s own country’.  But frankly, life here is a little trying just now.  Like most of England, we had The Beast from the East a couple of weeks ago bearing snow, blizzard and fierce wind.  And much of the rest of the time it’s been raining.  This photo was taken a couple of months ago: since then, things have only got worse.

This is what our country walks have become: Nutwith Common in January

So how about a little trip back to the Ariège, where we lived from 2007 to 2014?  Here’s a selection of photos, all taken there in March or very early April.  Down in the foothills of the Pyrenees where we lived, blossoms were out, and wild daffodils carpeted the more out-of-the-way hills.  At the weekend we would head off for Montségur and higher land to enjoy the snow that was still thick there.  We were never fans of snow-shoeing, but now I’d be more than happy to exchange their crisp deep snow for our thick deep mud.

 

Click on any photo to see it full size.

Forces of Nature

Nature has had the upper hand lately. Snow, and plenty of it, disrupted our daily rhythms a few times in recent weeks. Rain, and plenty of it, has swamped fields and tracks, making a walk in the country an utterly unreasonable pastime.

The other day though, cabin fever got the better of us, and we made a break for the countryside near West Witton, reasoning that some of the tracks there would be more or less passable. They were. More or less.

But Nature made its presence felt in full force. Here was almost our very first sight on our walk – a mother ewe with twin lambs so very newly born that she was still calmly licking them clean as they tottered beside her, looking for their very first feed of milk.

The weather was mild. Surely the snow would be long gone? Not up here. Bitter howling winds a week ago had snatched the snow into deep drifts at the edges of fields, or pounded it into hillside crevices.

Redmire Force lived up to its name. Look at the waters swirling, frothing and plunging over the boulders in the River Ure. Look at the tree torn from its cliff side, now hanging precariously over the river.

And as we came to the end of our walk – look! Is this a river, or is this a field, unusable by the sheep who normally graze here, but forming a stopping off point for the occasional passing water bird?

We’re not quite as in charge as we like to think.

Click on any image to view it full size.

Snapshot Saturday: Snow fun in the dark

For comparison purposes, here is the garden by day. In a moment, you and the rabbit will see it by night.

At Christmas, Tom & Sarah gave us a night camera, so we could see what went on in the garden after dark. So far no bears, wolves or lynx have revealed themselves. Sadly, no foxes, badgers or deer either, though we know they’re there: we just have to find the right spot.

This week however, with all the snow, the garden took on an other-worldly aspect. And the rabbits came out as little as possible. But here’s one who braved the cold. Please note the temperature.

Rabbit in a hurry.

And in the morning, as short periods of sunshine briefly melted the snow, we spotted, apart from rabbit prints…

…. and pheasant prints …..

….. human bootprints too.

Although I rather liked these ghostly negative image prints. I thought they looked out of this world.

Chili is the new carrot

If you’ve got snow, and a toddler in tow, you’ve got to have a snowman. If the day is cold, and the snow hard and crisp, best make it a small one.

Tom made William a mini-snowman on Sunday. How to finish him off though? Beech mast for eyes, sticks for arms, with the almost-final touch of William’s spurned mittens – so far so good.

But our dwarf snowman was far too diminutive to have a stonking great carrot for a nose. We used a chili instead.

Which lasted exactly two minutes. Poppy, the dog next door, came to remove it. Dog lovers everywhere will be relieved to read that she decided not to eat it.

Later that day, the rain came and washed everything away. By then, William and his mum and dad were back in London. Our snowman hadn’t lasted long enough to set a trend.