I’m a fan of fog. Not the yellowish throat-catching, grimy sooty pall that that I remember from a 1950s London childhood, which dirtied our clothing and made us cough while we waited in vain for buses, delayed by their headlights’ inability to pierce the gloom with their faint orange glow. Sometimes the conductor, carrying a torch, had to walk in front, picking out a path through the murk. No, now I enjoy peeking through the windows at a landscape softened in a mantle of greyish white. Or walking in the Dales, barely able to distinguish the path ahead, as sheep suddenly loom before us, concealed behind frozen grassy clumps.
These are all from the Yorkshire Dales, in Wharfedale near Burnsall. Here are just a few more – three taken near our house, and one, like the header photo, at Fountains Abbey.
I’ve only been a walker – a proper walker, yomping over moor and mountain, hill and dale – for the last fifteen years or so. It happened when we went to live in France. What better way to discover the secret paths of the Pyrenees, and get to know our French neighbours, and improve our French too, than join the local walking group?
So we did. At first it was les Randos de’Aubo in nearby Mirepoix. We explored the foothills and higher slopes of the Pyrenees, we investigated the nearby Aude, and enjoyed the fellowship of scouting new paths together. What I remember most was the achievement of climbing, climbing, often through seven or eight hundred metres before lunch, while constantly rewarded by mountain views, colourful plant life and changing vistas. Because of these calorie-busting achievements, we might walk as few at five or six miles. But it was harder – much harder – than walking ten to twelve miles round here, and I know I couldn’t do it now. But after the effort, there was a shared picnic lunch with a splendid view thrown in, a downhill walk back to base, and a convivial drink, in whatever bar was to hand near the end of our walk.
On Thursdays I went walking with a smaller group – mainly women – who’d got to know each other either through walking or singing together – I ticked both boxes.
Then we were among the founders of the walking group that developed in our own community, Laroque d’Olmes. We had the confidence by then to offer to reconnoitre and lead walks ourselves. And this group had even better picnic ideas than the last one. Marcel, our local butcher brought sausage to share, as did a local amateur charcuterie enthusiast Michel. Sylvie’s daughter was a sheep farmer, so she’d bring along sheep’s cheese. Someone brought a few baguettes, Yvette and I always had homemade cake. Jean-Charles had a bottomless bottle of wine in his rucksack. And everyone brought sugar lumps. Sugar lumps? Well, yes. Someone or other would bring a bottle of grandfather’s home-made digestif, heavy on alcohol and locally harvested fruit, and would dribble just a few drops of it onto your sugar lump for you to finish off your feast in style. And we would sit for an hour or more, chatting and relaxing before continuing our hike. I miss those moments as much as I miss the countryside and mountain views we shared together.
Now we’re in our local walking group here in Yorkshire. Again, we wanted to discover Yorkshire better by walking its footpaths. At midday, we eat our own pack of sandwiches and that’s that. But the comradeship is as good as it was in France.
Since lockdown, I’ve appreciated the pleasures of walking alone. Undistracted by companions, I notice the sounds around me – the calling birds, the running water, the sighing wind, and observe more closely the changing seasons. While I’ll always enjoy a walk with a friend, I suspect that my love of solitary walking will continue.
Since the Yorkshire Dales – or other popular destinations – are understandably still not keen on receiving hordes of visitors, we’ll have another Virtual Walk, and revisit a post written in May 2014, shortly after we returned to England.It’s for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, and for Jo’s Monday walk.
ANOTHER DAY IN THE DALES
Burnsall – Howgill – Middle Skyrehome – Gill’s Laithe – Troller’s Gill – Appletreewick (often pronounced Aptrick locally) – Kail Lane – and Burnsall again
What’s not to like in a walk that passes through places with such enticing names? It was Rosemary who led the Ripon Ramblers yesterday and she’d organised not only a splendid walk with varied Dales scenery, but a warm sunny day too. Here are my picture postcards from the day. Click on the images you’d like to see enlarged, or to have a slideshow.
Weather forecast. Cold, but bright and sunny. That sounded perfect for a walk in Wharfedale. Starting and finishing at the forbiddingly-named Grimwith Reservoir, and taking a fine circular route to and from Burnsall would give us extensive panoramas over the hills of the Yorkshire Dales.
Except that on the way there, an impenetrable curtain of fog descended. To walk? Or not to walk? My friend and I had both made the effort to get there. So we’d walk.
And for nearly an hour, this was our landscape. No hills, no dales, but just the occasional gate, or tussocky grass, or – sometimes – sheep.
Then – suddenly it seemed – this.
The sky lightened and brightened, and the countryside we’d come to see developed before our eyes like those Polaroid photos that once seemed so exciting.
Soon we were at Burnsall, our half-way mark. A hearty yomp up hill brought us to a bench, where we saw in turn black skies, grey skies, blue skies: and views, always with the village below us.
After lunch, a further climb, and then level walking back to where we’d begun our day. But this time we had the views we’d come to see, and at the end, the quiet tints of the reservoir.
You can’t live near the Yorkshire Dales and not love a drystone wall, carving up the landscape into pasture-sized segments. But are they better photographed in black and white or colour? They are after all, fairly monochrome themselves, Only you can decide …
Near Grassington, Wharfedale
Near Hebden, Wharfedale
Enough of decisions. Here are a couple in good old-fashioned black and white.
This one’s for Monday Window. It’s not often you see a window above a dry stone wall. And this one’s not quite in the right place. The view could have been better framed. And a bit of double glazing wouldn’t come amiss.