Snapshot Sunday: It’s not this time of year without ….. a bit of weather.

National Trust, North Yorkshire, Ripon, Walking, Weather, WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Photo challenge: ‘It’s not this time of year without…..’.  It’s holidays and celebrations that WordPress seems to have in mind in setting this challenge, but this is November, and we don’t do Thanksgiving in England.  We do dark nights that begin at four o’clock.  We do gusting rain that snatches the remaining leaves from the trees.  We do fog that rises from the river.  Nothing much to celebrate at all.  Except …. except that it can turn out differently.

Read on.

Sunshine after rain at Studley Royal

Sunshine after rain at Studley Royal

I was in a bad mood when I got up.  My shoulder hurt – a lot.  The sky was steel-grey, the temperature steel-cold, and I was supposed to be leading a walk.  This was going to be No Fun At All, because although no rain was forecast, we’d had two days of full-on deluge.  I just knew that virtually the entire circuit would be a mud-bath.

I trudged off to our rendez-vous with ill grace.  Once there though, I started to cheer up. The prospect of good company for the day is always a positive start.  We set off.  The ground was unexpectedly firm, the clouds started to lift and the sun to shine.  Soon we were making a coffee-stop outside 14th century Markenfield Hall.

Coffee stop in front of Markenfield Hall.

Coffee stop in front of Markenfield Hall.

Then it was through woods and across open fields (still no mud) to find a lunch spot overlooking Fountains Abbey, still framed with russet Autumn leaves.

Sandwiches, sunshine and Fountains Abbey.

Sandwiches, sunshine and Fountains Abbey.

After lunch, a muddy farm, where we attracted the interest of the locals.

Calves closely inspected us as we squelched past. Yes, this farmyard was muddy.

Calves closely inspected us as we squelched past. Yes, this farmyard was very muddy indeed.

And an uplifting final couple of miles, with grazing red deer, light-reflecting ponds and surrounded by a final burst of Autumn colour.

Here is the parkland of Studley Royal. Can you see the red deer in the distance?

Here is the parkland of Studley Royal. Can you see the red deer in the distance?

Am I glad I went?  You bet.

Home straits. Crossing the weir at Studley Royal.

Home straits. Crossing the weir at Studley Royal.

Free cycling

Gardens, National Trust, North Yorkshire, Weather
That's where I spent my evening, near the Temple of Piety. Can't complain at that. (geograph.org.uk)

That’s where I spent my evening, near the Temple of Piety. Can’t complain at that. (geograph.org.uk)

I was volunteering at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal yesterday evening.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there.  It was raining – and how – as I drove there, and the evening looked very unpromising.

A small team of us were there to make an evening’s Family Bike Ride round the Abbey and Studley Royal grounds run smoothly.  Apparently I was going to be stuck near the Temple of Piety and Moon Ponds preventing riders from disappearing up into a woodland path, with only my two-way radio for company.  I hadn’t even got an umbrella.  Anyway, who would bother to turn out with their families, and all the family bikes, to trundle round Fountains Abbey in the rain?

Baby coot (Tim Felce: Airwolfhound)

Baby coot (Tim Felce: Airwolfhound)

I was wrong.  Of course.  The rain stopped.  Families turned up, and lots of them.  At first though, I had many minutes of peace to stand and absorb the views of the very special Georgian water garden.  I spent time enjoying the company of a new family of coots: I suspect the three little spherical balls of fluff I saw with their solicitous parents had hatched that very day.

This was my view for much of teh evening. Those coots are out there somewhere.

This was my view for much of the evening. Those coots are out there somewhere.

And then the bike riders came.  There were confident teenagers relishing the chance to get up speed in this tranquil setting.  There were primary-aged children enjoying family time with their parents.  There were little ones, able to wobble along on their bikes, their parents confident that they were utterly safe from passing traffic.  Open Country, a local charity working to help people with disabilities access the countryside had brought along a team and several tandems.

Some people went round the circuit once, some twice, a few as many as five times.  I took lots of photos with lots of cameras for family souvenirs of the evening.  Sadly, I hadn’t brought my own camera.  These not-at-all impressive photos are taken with my camera phone.

I’ll volunteer again sometime for this event.  But not next time.  Next time I’ll want to be there with my own family, trundling around this very special site with my own grandchilden (first though, I’ll have to learn not to fall off a bike).

One of the last families of the evening finishes the last lap.

One of the last families of the evening finishes the last lap.

 

Project Exhaust-a-twin at Easter

National Trust, North Yorkshire, Ripon, Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales

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.