Walking on the radio

Looking across Nidderdale from the Nidderdale Way.

I’ve been out for the day with Clare Balding again, for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ programme.  Last time, her producer Lucy was looking for a local rambler to lead the Ripon to Ripley section of the Jarrow March, and she ended up with me.  Last time, as the walk finished we fell to talking about local long distance walks, such as The Nidderdale Way.

And lo!  Now they have a six-programme series in the bag, waiting to be transmitted in May and June, on …… the Nidderdale Way, all 53 miles of it.  She invited me to be part of the last leg, together with Chris and John.

Let me tell you how it works.  We walk.  We chat.  Lucy walks beside us with her muff-on-a-stick, recording little and often.  Clare stops from time to time and paints evocative word pictures of the scenery, the sights, smells and sounds, the passers by.  She chats to us about everything from geology, to history, to walking, to long-lost industries, to living near Nidderdale.

Lucy records Clare describing the countryside.

We see our local landscape through fresh eyes.  Instead of its being the backdrop to our daily lives, it becomes vivid again, and we remember the wonder and the intense pleasure we experienced when it was new to us too.

Lucy pursues John for a soundbite at Brimham Rocks.

Clare loves people.  At Brimham Rocks, where we insisted she take a detour, she chatted to children with their families and took part in their photos.  Later, she hung over a drystone walls and talked to a farmer.  She patted dogs and enjoyed a few moments with their owners.

Clare even interviewed this pig. Well, she grunted for her, anyway.

Just as well she’s good at this sort of thing.  When we arrived at Pateley Bridge, she became a sort of stand-in for the Queen.  She was whisked from shop to shop, always leaving with a little local speciality -a pork pie, some home-made fudge.  With Lucy, she was given a newly-minted badge for completing the entire Nidderdale Way.  They got flowers, a book by a local historian, hugs and handshakes galore, and repaid all this attention with genuine interest and friendship.  Pateley Bridge by the way is in the thick of preparing for the Tour de Yorkshire 2017, which goes through the town – and past our front door – on Saturday 29th April.

Flowers, badges, and a round of applause for Lucy and Clare.

Please listen to this series when it comes out: it’s available as a podcast even if you don’t live in the UK.  The first programme will be on BBC Radio 4 on  18th May, and the programme featuring our team will be transmitted on Thursday 22nd June.  You’ll make immediate plans for a holiday in Nidderdale after you’ve listened.

The shadow of a drystone wall on a stretch of road near Blazefield.

Snapshot Saturday: Brimham Rocks – securely unchanging in inconstant times

Once, three hundred and twenty million years ago, a Norwegian river tumbled its way across the landmass then connecting it to Scotland and turned towards Yorkshire, pushing sand and grit before it.  Over the millennia, those sands aggregated to become millstone grit.

More millennia passed. Temperatures in Northern Europe tumbled: an Ice Age.  Glaciers ground and eroded the relatively soft stone which had been dumped so many centuries before. Seeping water froze, thawed, froze again, splitting the rocks.  Cold strong winds buffeted away at rough edges. Those rocks assumed strange shapes, balancing improbably in the landscape.

Time moved on.  Man arrived, farming too, and industry.  But this little patch of Yorkshire, known as Brimham Rocks remains itself, untamable, unchanging, offering a feeling of security that some things remain constant for those of us lucky enough to live nearby this weird and fantastical playground.

This is my contribution to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Security

Project Exhaust-a-twin at Easter

Easter holidays.  Time to have those ten-years-old grandsons over.  Time to keep them so busy they don’t have a chance to realise that ours is not a home stuffed with devices.  Not a smart phone in sight.

Let’s get them back to the past straight away, even before we get them back to our house.  Are they too old for an Easter Bunny hunt at Fountains Abbey?  Apparently not.  Not when there’s a chocolate bunny to eat at the end.  Are they too cool for egg and spoon races and egg-rolling down the hill?  Apparently not.

 

 

Would they like to visit ‘Forbidden Corner’?  They agreed they would, even though we failed to provide a description of what to expect.  We couldn’t.  It’s been described as ‘The Strangest Place in the World’.  Perhaps it is.  It’s a folly.  It’s a fantastical collection of follies.  It’s woodlands, walled gardens, mazes, tunnels, grottoes, built in the manner of a topsy-turvy collection of fairy tale castles in enchanted grounds.   Every stone putto is liable to pee on you as you walk past.  Every passage is too narrow, too low, too dark, and may lead nowhere.  You just want to try to get along it anyway, because at the end there may be another secret door, with halls of mirrors, or ever-changing fountains, or grotesque stone gremlins, or stepping-stones ….  And beyond, in every direction, the glorious countryside of North Yorkshire.

 

 

Next day, off to Brimham Rocks.  No child can resist the opportunity to climb and jump among these extraordinary tottering towers of balanced rock formations.  A visit there is a regular fixture for Alex and Ben.

 

 

And finally – yet more rocks.  Underground this time.  Stump Cross Caverns: limestone caves set about with stalactites and stalagmites, tinted in all kinds of shades from the iron and lead seams that also penetrate the area.  Gloomy, dark and mysterious, and guaranteed to fire the imagination.  Photographs courtesy of Ben.

 

 

In the evenings we sat round the kitchen table and played board games.  The London Game brought out everybody’s inner mean streak as we blocked other players in, or despatched them to the end of the line at Wembley Central.  Stone Soup gave us the opportunity to lie and lie again in an effort to get rid of all our cards.  All very satisfactory. A good time was had by all.

But Granny and Grandad would quite like a rest now.  Please.