Wild-ish Walking in Wensleydale

Blogging challenges, North Yorkshire, Walking, Weather, Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales

The red tops blazed next week’s news: ‘A September Scorcher! 30º!

Anyone living north of Watford Gap, or west of Slough knew better than to believe it, because only south-east England counts if you’re a London-based hack.  We Yorkshire types needed to read the small print to discover that northerners could merely expect pleasant warmth, a gentle breeze and no rain whatsoever.  Which was fine for a Sunday walk in Wensleydale.

On the way over there, it rained.  Getting ready for the walk, it rained.  The wind snatched urgently at our waterproofs and blew our hair in our eyes.  Mist rose from the valley bottom.  Grey cloud descended and thickened.

We didn’t mind.  The rain soon stopped: it was warm, and those grey skies made for moody, atmospheric scenery.  But our friend Gillian, who’d planned the walk, doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘stroll’ and had us battling boggy paths, and huffing up rough pastureland on semi-vertical hillsides.  We took it in good part.

But what rewards.  We had the constant backdrop of the Wensleydale hills.  Semerwater glittered at us from a distance: but close up, insistent waves rushed constantly towards our toes.

We had a march along a Roman road.  And at the end, blue skies, sunshine, and a relaxing cup of tea on the village green at Bainbridge.

 

This week’s photo challenge is to make use of empty, unoccupied space in our pictures : to make it part of the story.  As I walked yesterday, I tried to use negative space: in this case, mainly the sky.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge  #114 – Negative Space

And another walk for Jo …

Jo’s Monday Walk

 

 

A Nice Day Out .. or Six Months Inside

Blogging challenges, Heritage, North Yorkshire, Wensleydale

Ah, how idyllic … Bolton Castle in Wensleydale.  Perfect for a summer’s day out.

Not if you were Mary Queen of Scots though. She spent six months imprisoned here in 1568.  Although even that incarceration was relative.  She was attended by 30 of her household, which included  knights, servants, ladies-in-waiting, cooks, grooms, a hairdresser, an embroiderer, an apothecary, a physician and a surgeon.  The remaining 20 or so lodged in the nearby village of Castle Bolton.  She went hunting.  She had her hair done.  She learnt English, since up to this point she could speak only Scots, French and Latin.

Imprisonment.  It’s all relative.

Square Perspectives

The View from the Train Window

Blogging challenges, North Yorkshire, Wensleydale

These days, weeks and weeks into Life-with-Covid 19, I crave a nice quiet dinner with people I know, tea parties with friends, or a chinwag in town over a good cup of coffee and a fresh-from-the-oven buttered scone.  And I can’t have any of them.

Instead, I’ll settle for memories of a tea party from a few years ago, when we met with good friends to celebrate a couple of birthdays.  No tea shop for us, but instead a jaunt on the Wensleydale Railway, a Heritage Railway which runs in normal times through the heart of the Yorkshire Dales .

As we rattled along, enjoying countryside views, smart serving staff plied up with elegant little sandwiches, properly fattening cakes, and the all-important scones served with jam and cream.  And tea, of course.  And prosecco.

It’s not often that afternoon tea with all the trimmings includes an ever-changing bucolic view through the window.

Read the whole story here.

Monday Window.

The Tree House. Just One Window, Just One Door.

Blogging challenges, North Yorkshire, Wensleydale

If you go walking in Wensleydale: if you go for a walk from Jervaulx to Jervaulx via Thornton Steward, you’ll come across this tree home, at the edge of a field, commanding views over the valley.  It has just one door and, importantly for Monday Window, just one window.

It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but I always like to imagine a doting grandfather, tall and rangy from a tough life’s farming and probably reminiscent of the BFG, lovingly creating a little refuge for his grandchild in this hollow tree.

I couldn’t fit in it, neither could you.  Perhaps the grandchild is too big now.  But I know a couple of young people who’d love to play there.  Perhaps you do too.

Ragtag Tuesday: Wensleydale Show

Blogging challenges, North Yorkshire, Wensleydale

The show at Wensleydale in full swing.

Summer in the countryside is show time. Here in Yorkshire, Harrogate kicks it off in July with The Great Yorkshire Show.  Then week after week until the end of September, villages, towns and whole Dales follow on with theirs.

This is when farmers, breeders, stock men, makers of agricultural machinery and equipment and The Great British Public all get together to celebrate all things rural, and in the case of farmers, normally so isolated in their day-to-day working lives, simply to meet and have a chin-wag.

Emily wanted to take City Boy Miquel to a proper country fair.  So the Wensleydale Show in Leyburn it was.  He saw more sheep and cattle in a single day than he’s probably seen in a lifetime.

We began with the sheep dog trials.  One expert dog, guided by the whistles and calls of its master, has to encourage a small group of sheep down the hill, through a gate, up the hill again and through another gate, round and back again to finish up closeted in a small wooden pen. Those dogs and their shepherds were pretty good.  But from the sheep’s point of view, why go through a gate which has no fence on either side of it?  Why not just go round?  And certainly, why go into a small pen when there’s all that hillside to enjoy?  Fun was had by all but the frustrated shepherds, none of whom completed the course with a full scorecard.  But that didn’t stop them being pretty damn’ good.

Off to inspect the sheep themselves.  Some had dense clouds of thick warm wool, others rangy dreadlocks.  Some had squat round faces, others magisterial aquiline profiles.  Miquel was astonished to find that sheep weren’t simply, well, sheep.

Swaledale sheep.

Poultry.  Large hens and ducks, small hens and ducks, sleek hens and ducks, messily-feathered hens and ducks, long scaly legs, short feather-trousered legs. White eggs, brown eggs, blue eggs, speckled eggs …..

Hens, ducks and eggs in the poultry tent.

Cattle with beautiful hides, and bulls looking unusually complacent in this showground setting.

Best of all, a heavy working horse, a Suffolk Punch, just the one, a reminder of what crop farming and ploughing used to involve.  This splendid beast was traditionally tricked up in her party clothes, reminding me of Whit Mondays when I was a child, when the shire horses employed for delivering beer and ale to pubs were dressed in all their finery for this one special day of the year.

And in among, we watched displays in the show ring, sampled local cheeses and pies, bought decadent and wholly nontraditional treats like gooey chocolate brownies, and generally enjoyed All the Fun of the Fair.

Hungry yet?

Not a bad view from the car park.

Today’s Ragtag Prompt is ‘Fair’.  Yesterday’s was ‘Coddiwomple’ – to travel purposefully towards a vague destination.  Well, we – Miquel especially – were a bit vague about how we’d spend the day…… until we got there.

Click on any image to see it full size.

Forces of Nature

Walking, Weather, Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales

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: A house on the hill: only a child need apply

Walking, Wensleydale, WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

If you go walking in Wensleydale: if you go for a walk from Jervaulx to Jervaulx via Thornton Steward, you’ll come across this tree home, at the edge of a field, commanding views over the valley.

It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but I always like to imagine a doting grandfather, tall and rangy from a tough life’s farming and probably reminiscent of the BFG, lovingly creating a little refuge for his grandchild in this hollow tree.

I couldn’t fit in it, neither could you.  Perhaps the grandchild is too big now.  It’s all a question of scale after all.

This post is in response to this week’s WordPress Challenge: ‘Scale’.

 

The multi-tasking Handlebards

Weather, Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales

This is the scenery near Leyburn in Wensleydale. This is Bolton Castle.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale.

Imagine sitting in the grounds of this 14th century castle as evening draws in, a picnic beside you, to watch The Handlebards’ version of Shakespeare’s  ‘As You Like It’.  You know this will be no ordinary performance.  The Handlebards are four female actors who cycle the length and breadth of the kingdom, with all they need for the tour crammed into two bicycle carriers. At each performance, they take every part in Shakespeare’s comedy of bizarre mistaken identity, family breakdown, love and lust.

So far so good.  But this is England in July.  We’d had two days of almost incessant rain.  In a downpour, the Handlebards cycled the 26 (mainly uphill) miles from Ripon, where they’d performed at the Workhouse Museum.

The Castle has a Great Hall.  Performing here rather than on a soggy greensward seemed a better idea in the circumstances.  And it was.  During the evening it rained.  And then rained again.  The audience never noticed a thing.  We were too busy admiring the way four women became twenty or more people.

A simple, but infinitely adaptable stage set.

To become a man, all they had to do was don a codpiece adorned with a tennis or cricket ball.  A selection of hats served to distinguish one character from another.  Bicycle handlebars identified the wearers as sheep. Your character needs to disappear stage right to enter stage left as someone else?  Easy.  Leave the person whom you were addressing in charge of your hat, and s/he will continue to talk to it.  With the flourish of a stick, a youth became faithful, ancient Adam.  Orlando and his family were all twoubled by an inability to pwonounce the letter ‘r’.  And so it went on, as one inventive twist or piece of slapstick followed another.  Shakespeare would have loved it.

This is the only photo I have of the Handlebards, and it’s out of focus at that. They take a bow as we give them a more than enthusiastic standing ovation.

I’m now a Handlebards groupie.  And the fun doesn’t end here.  In other venues, having travelled there on other bicycles, a troupe of male actors is giving similarly irreverent treatment to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.  We’re on the mailing list.

The rain let up a bit in the interval. Here’s the view.

Taking tea on the train

Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales

‘Everything stops for tea’.  Not if you take it on the train it doesn’t.  Just imagine.  You and your fellow guests are seated at an elegantly appointed table covered with a damask cloth.  Here are china cups and saucers, heavy cloth napkins, weighty cutlery. Before you, a Proper Cake Stand, prettily stacked with sandwiches (cucumber, of course, but also egg mayonnaise, ham and chutney and so on), two kinds of scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam on the side, and properly English cakes: chocolate cake, sponge cake, cream-filled meringues, tiny eclairs.  Attentive and charming service.  Unlimited pots of tea, of course too .

This was the scene that greeted us as we climbed aboard. The cucumber sandwiches have yet to arrive.

We were on the Wensleydale Railway, at the invitation of Susie and Pete, old friends from France and currently visiting England.

This is a heritage railway, staffed by volunteer enthusiasts, with engines and rolling stock from earlier times.  Our carriage had been built in about 1913, at the behest of the infamous director of the Titanic who dressed himself as a woman in order to make his escape from the sinking vessel in a lifeboat.  Our tea time experience was masterminded by the Institution at Bedale.

Here we are, enjoying our feast

Our tables were ranged down the middle of the carriage, enabling us all to have views of Wensleydale as we sat enjoying our tea.  The train chugged steadily along the track, offering views quite different from those available to us as we travel by road, or walk along country footpaths.  We were in another less hurried age, and enjoyed passing through little stations, past signal boxes pressed into service once more when trains like ours are on the move.

A level crossing, a signal box: just as I remember from childhood.

At Redmire, we had to dismount as the engine chugged away to turn round and pull us back once more to Bedale.  We had time to admire the rolling stock.

This was afternoon tea at its finest: a leisurely experience enabling us to put present worries aside, just for a couple of hours.