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.
We’re less than a week into the month of May. Let’s mark the arrival of this lovely month by celebrating Beltane.
BELTANE AT THE ‘STONEHENGE OF THE NORTH’
May 1st 2016
Not much further than a mile from us as the crow flies, lies Thornborough Henge. It’s a prehistoric monument consisting of three giant circular earthworks. Constructed 5000 years ago by the first Neolithic (New Stone Age) farmers, it was probably an enclosure for their ritual gatherings. The Henge became an important centre in Britain for pilgrimage and trade, although its exact purpose still remains a mystery.
It sends shivers down my spine to think that this ancient piece of our history lies just a short walk from our home.
We can visit it any time we choose, simply to tramp round and try to imagine it in its heyday, and we’ll have the place to ourselves. Not on May Day though. Today is the Gaelic feast of Beltane, half way between the spring and summer solstices. It’s a day to mark the beginning of summer. Sadly, today is very cold, rather windy and a bit wet.
Back in pre-historic times, rituals were held on this day to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Bonfires, deemed to have protective powers, were lit. For many centuries these practices died out. But nowadays, at sites like Thornborough, pagans, Wiccans, New-Agers and lovers of history and tradition gather once more to celebrate the renewal of life and growth.
Today I was there too. For an hour at least, for the opening ceremony. Brrr! It was cold.
I was strangely moved. The Green Man, representing rebirth and the cycle of growth was our Master of Ceremonies. He invited us all to join hands, whether friends or strangers, in fellowship, and shout out three times the invocation to new life. We hailed Brigantia, Celtic goddess of Northern England. Then at his bidding and as he sounded his horn, we turned to the east and welcomed the summer rains. We turned south to welcome the sun (who was coyly absent today), to the west to welcome summer winds, and to the north where the wolves apparently are.
Then a man, naked from the waist upwards save for his covering of woad-coloured paint, leapt among us bearing the flaming torches which would offer us all protection over the coming months.
And that was the ceremony over. Dancers entertained us. They seemed to me to owe much to flamenco and to middle-eastern belly dancing traditions, but we all cheered them on with enthusiasm.
I shan’t be there this year for the closing ceremony. I’m still thawing out. But weather permitting, I’ll certainly go along next year. Will you come along too?
I’m sorry to say I’ve not been since. I would have gone this year, but … cancelled … Covid.
We’re going back eleven years today: not to Malcolm’s actual birthday, which is In The Bleak Midwinter, but to an April day when we were still living in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and when a bunch of amateurs – the friends and family of Malcolm – formed an impromptu production company to deliver, for one day only – Malcolm and the Microlight – to celebrate his birthday.
Shot on location in the Ariège by Jacques, Malcolm & Margaret.
A Lawrenson-Hamilton-Clift Production MMX
‘Curiously, I had no feelings of fear or apprehension, perhaps because of what our friends had told us about Jacques, the pilot, and his machine – it’s his pride and joy, and he takes great care of it.
There was a sharp feeling of exposure after take-off – we were not in a cabin, there was no protection from wind, we were just vulnerable beings in a powered shell under a giant wing – it reminded me of riding pillion on a motorbike, but this was in the air.
The various destinations came up quickly – not like travelling on the ground, even though our speed was only about 80-85 kph.
Over the mountain peaks, it was very cold – temperature had fallen from 13 or so on take-off to minus 1 over the snowfields and the flat white surfaces of isolated frozen lakes were still clearly to be seen. And suddenly, directly underneath, a herd of Pyrenean chamois, running and leaping, disturbed by the engine’s sudden sound in their snow-quiet world
A few minutes more and we were at 2600 metres, when the mountains seemed so empty and cold, even in the lovely morning sunlight. We could see long distances in the clear air at this altitude – 200 km away, we could see the Pic du Midi
The warmth after we left the mountains behind and lost altitude was welcome, and I could concentrate on the views of walks we had previously done, and which had sometimes seemed long and meandering, but were now clearly visible with their beginnings and ends.
Then back to the field and the short grass runway. As we flew over, I could see Margaret far below, waving. Then it was down, very smoothly, and a turn, and back to rest. What an experience! And how kind of my family to make this possible.‘
If you’re from the UK, you’ll recognise the person in my featured photo. It’s Clare Balding, presenter of sports programmes, stories featuring animals, and as far as I’m concerned, BBC Radio 4’s Ramblings, and today, my One Person from Around the World. I’ve been lucky enough to be in two of Clare’s programmes, walking with her first on the route of the Jarrow March, and then, exactly four years ago, on the Nidderdale Way. Let’s revisit my post from that day, especially for Fandango’s Flashback Friday. There are even four Bright Squares. I’m multi-tasking today.
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 my friends 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.
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.
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 wall and talked to a farmer. She patted dogs and enjoyed a few moments with their owners.
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.
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.