A winter walk: footprints, snowy sheep – and just one robin.

A field near North Stainley.

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?)

Click on any image to view it full size.

Who’d be a sheep dog?

A fortnight ago, I showed you something of the sheepdog trials at Wensleydale Show.  It reminded me of Masham Sheep Fair, three years ago.  Sheepdogs were demonstrating their skills there too – of course they were.  But not with sheep.  The creatures they were herding were – geese….

Geese being kept in order by a skillful sheep dog. What a come down.

And here is the post I wrote four years ago about Masham’s annual sheep show:

A sheep is a sheep is a sheep…..

… or not.

The splendid horns of a Swaledale sheep.
The splendid horns of a Swaledale sheep.

On Saturday we called in, far too briefly, at the annual Masham Sheep Fair. This is the place to go if you believe a sheep looks just like this.

549---Sheep

Saturday was the day a whole lot of sheep judging was going on in the market square.  Here are a few of the not-at-all identical candidates. And yet they are only a few of the many breeds in England, and in the world. There are 32 distinct breeds commonly seen in different parts of the UK, and many more half-breeds.  I was going to identify the ones I’m showing you, but have decided that with one or two exceptions (I know a Swaledale, a Blue-faced Leicester or a Jacobs when I see one), I’d get them wrong. So this is simply a Beauty Pageant for Masham and District sheep.

And if you thought wool was just wool, these pictures may be even more surprising.  Who knew that sheep are not simply…. just sheep?

 

Judgment day at Masham Sheep Fair
Judgment day at Masham Sheep Fair

Ragtag Tuesday: Clouds

I’ve had a black cloud sitting over my head for weeks. Brexit; the parlous state of British politics; the recent visit of a certain Head of State; the current hostile environment for immigrants – you name it. I’m not sure that there has ever been a time when external events over which I have little control have so got me down.

So thank goodness for white clouds: the ones that accompany long sunny days, blue skies and outdoor pursuits. Stratus, cumulus, cirrus, cumulonimbus …. the very names are rhythmic and poetic, and watching them as they drift, mass, diminish and dissolve is the perfect way to calm a troubled, anxious mind. Hooray for actual, rather than metaphorical clouds.

Clouds above Reeth, North Yorkshire on a walk last week.

Click on any image to see full size.

Clouds‘ is this week’s Ragtag challenge.

England’s green and pleasant land: also available in brown

The Yorkshire Dales, summer 2018 style.

Followers of this blog will be familiar with images of verdant meadows, of rolling green hillsides studded with sheep, of grasses swaying in the breeze – all illustrating our walks round Yorkshire.

Today though, I’m going to show you the same Yorkshire scenery, as it looks after a fortnight’s heatwave: the kind of consistently sunny weather that I can’t remember enjoying since I was pregnant with my son, back in 1976. We’re not used to this. Meals are taken in the garden. Our yoga class happens on the cricket pitch. Evenings are spent out of doors.

And the grumbling has started. ‘Eeh, it’s too ‘ot. It’s not natural, is it? I’ve ‘ad enough, me’ Not me. I’ll gladly lug watering cans about to water the flowerpots round the door. Though it might keep everyone happy if we could have nightly rainfall, strictly between the hours of 11.00 p.m. and 5.00 a.m.

Click on any image to view full size.

Snapshot Saturday: an unlikely pie

We’d never heard of Coniston Pie before. Best head over that way then, and find out all about it.

Coniston’s a tiny village in North Yorkshire, wedged into the glorious limestone scenery between Kettlewell and Grassington. We couldn’t go there without exploring a bit and working up an appetite for that pie.

The rocky path lies between those two trees.

We began with a bit of a scramble, a bit of a climb before hitting a steadily climbing path leading us upwards between dry stone walls and statuesque and wind-shaped trees. Sheep were our constant companions as we continued to plod ever upwards, 1000 feet in all.

Wind-stunted trees tucked behind dry stone walls.
Sheep. Always sheep.

We rested at the top. We had a snack (just a biscuit, no pie for us), before taking the winding turfy track downwards towards the valley bottom, then turning sharp left to join the Dales Way back to Coniston.

Our view as we trecked downwards.

And that’s when we saw it. Coniston Pie. It’s not hearty fare to be tucked into after a hard day’s lambing apparently, but this: the view the shepherd sees as he does his daily round.

Coniston Pie.
Coniston Pie.

Still, it does look exactly like a pie, filled with good things and topped off with a thick pastry crust, doesn’t it?

This week’s WordPress challenge asks us to post something unlikely.

Snapshot Saturday: lines of stone

We were walking on Thursday, near West Witton, Swinithwaite and Redmire.  Because it was April in Yorkshire, it was bitterly windy and cold with occasional hail: that was after we’d confidently started off in deceptively warm sunshine with a light breeze.

The final slog was along a long ridge, with a just-as-long line of dry stone wall keeping us on the straight and narrow every step of the way.  Here it is.

 

Earlier though, while the sun was still managing to shine, we passed a different sort of line.  Solid stepping stones crossed the river in a gentle curve, inviting two of our number to take the challenge and leap from boulder to boulder to the other side, then back again.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is ‘Lines’.

Spring: red, yellow, white or green?

I’m now on Day Nine of The Great British Coughing Virus, and as you may be unlucky enough to know, it ain’t fun. I’ve done nothing worth writing about, and my creativity quotient is at an all-time-low.  Instead, I thought I’d share with you the piece I wrote for my U3A Writing Group the other week, following the prompt ‘red’.

Spring: Red, yellow, white or green?

Spring is not red.  Spring is white, as the late snowdrops poke their heads above the frosty soil.  It’s yellow with primroses, daffodils and aconites: and later, laburnum and dandelions.  It’s fresh citrus green, with young tender grass and unfurling leaves.

 

 

Summer is red.  Summer is scarlet strawberries, velvet raspberries and glossy cherries.  It’s poppies among fields of wheat. It’s glowing noses and peeling shoulders on a crowded beach.  It’s roses and nasturtiums and salvia and geranium vying for space in the summer flower bed.

Autumn is red.  In autumn, leaves drop from the trees, turning from green to yellow and then to russet red as they reach the ground.  Crab apples glow on trees, and foragers like me gather them, and tumble them into a pan to simmer with sugar and spices to make a translucent ruby jelly for spreading on toast through the bleak winter months.  

Winter is red.  Bright berries poke out from beneath the sleek green leaves of the holly. Vermilion rose hips stand starkly on black branches, cheerfully  transforming barren twigs and colouring the winter landscape. There’s little Robin Redbreast, perching on a scarlet pillar box, and all those gaudy Christmas decorations.

Spring is not red.  Or at least I didn’t think so, not until last week.  Here’s what I found on a walk across a Daleside farmland: a ewe, with two only-just-born lambs. Her babies were stained bright red with her blood, as she licked them clean.  Spring that day was a Red Letter Day, celebrating new life.

A ewe and her new lambs near West Witton, Wensleydale.