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.
If like me you live in the country, the world does look blue and green. To fulfil Tina’s Lens-Artist Challenge, looking at the cool palette of blue and green, today I’ve rarely looked further than a few miles round our house. All I’m doing today is presenting a gallery of quiet images from the natural world. Most are from the gardens of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, and from the Yorkshire Dales. I’ve ventured to the North Sea, and to the Aquarium of the Horniman Museum. That’s about it. I think I qualify for Debbie’s Six Word Saturday too.
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.
With apologies to John Masefield, here’s my take on missing the Yorkshire Dales, just as he missed the swelling seas in Sea Fever. If I’m not allowed to go walking there at the moment, a few pictorial memories will have to do
I must go up to the Dales again, to the lonely hills and sky.
And all I ask is a packed lunch, and a map to steer me by:
and drystone walls and the wind’s song and the curlews shrieking
and a soft mist on the moor’s face, and the grey dawn breaking.
I must go up to the Dales again, for the rippling of the brook
is a glad sound and a clear sound I cannot overlook.
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds fleeting,
and the springy turf and a distant view and the young lambs bleating.
I must go up to the Dales again, to the vagrant hiker’s life:
to the hare’s way and the kite’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
and quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long day’s over.
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.
I don’t know who these two bikers are. But they enjoyed the view too.
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.
The Roman Road.
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.
Just look at that. Twelve words. I have to weave those twelve random words into a single poem.
Our U3A writing group is one of the few things that’s continued throughout lockdown. It’s a positive activity at a somewhat negative time. But what CAN you do with a list like that? This, it turns out. I’m not too displeased. And here too are a few photos to illustrate the day.
I woke up this morning to realise it’s already May: though without the accompanying balmy weather. And I hadn’t yet done Jude’s April Photo Challenge. I wonder if she’ll notice if I squeeze it in today?
She wants us to explore curved lines. I’ve found this the most difficult of her challenges, so let’s see what I’ve come up with.
I’ve begun on one of my daily walks near the house: An oak tree providing a natural arching frame over a field of rape, horizontal as the horizon.
Let’s go on a virtual journey to the Yorkshire Dales where in normal times, we love to walk: streams, rolling hills, drystone walls, snaking ahead of us on our path.
Angram Reservoir, leading the eye to the viaduct at the back of the picture
A drystone wall near Grassington picks out our route.
More scenery on the moors above Grassington.
And at our nearby nature reserve, Nosterfield, brambles frame the local landscape in the autumn.