This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge invites us to stay local. After a bumper month of travelling, that’s not at all a bad idea. But how local is local? I decided I’d confine myself to the sights we see just a few metres from our house: or as Boris Johnson might say, a few yards.
When we came back from France eight years ago, we needed a base from which to hunt for our Forever Home. We found something interesting to rent at the edge of a village just beyond Ripon. It ticked not a single box: it wasn’t within walking distance of shops and amenities; it had no garage (for junk-storage, not the car), and it had no garden of its own. Still, for a few months, it would be fine. We’re still here, and have no plans whatsoever to move on. And one of the reasons we love it so much here is that we share the use of this walled garden with our landlords.
We’re asked to celebrate celebrating this week, in the Lens-Artists Challenge. I’ve decided not to focus on Christmas, but instead take us to a small town in France, in the Pyrenees – to Seix – in June, where every year, like so many other mountain settlements, they celebrate Transhumance. Here’s what I wrote in June 2011:
CELEBRATING TRANSHUMANCE IN THE HAUT-SALAT
Transhumance. It’s that time of year where here in the Pyrénées, the cattle and sheep are moved from their winter quarters down on their lowland(ish) farms up to the lush summer pastures in the mountains. They’ll stay there till Autumn, and then be brought down again. And each time, it’s the excuse for a party.
On Saturday, we joined in, and went over to Seix to meet friends who live there. The Transhumance celebrations in Haut Salat last three days, but we made do with Saturday morning. We nearly arrived late – very late – because we found ourselves behind a herd of cattle making their steady way along the road. Overtaking’s not an option: the cows commandeered this route hundreds of years ago. But we managed to zip down a side road and make a detour. A whole hour later, after coffee with our friends, the herd reached the edge of Seix and passed their door….
…and finished their long walk into town. We went too, and arrived just as the last flocks of sheep were arriving, to be corralled like the cattle, at the edge of the town square. For a while, and probably much to their relief, they were no longer centre stage.
Instead it was jollity of the traditional kind. There were processions of large solemn plaster effigies, local bands. Dancers from Gascony, the Basque country, the Landes made sure we all had fun, and Malcolm and I even joined in some Basque dancing. Stars of the show for us were the shepherds from the Landes. Theirs is flat, marshy country, and they used to keep their eyes on their roving flocks by ranging round on stilts. But this was a day for dancing, and that’s just what they did, up high on those stilts. Have a look at the photos.
We went off for lunch at the end of the morning. But there was more celebrating, more meals to be shared, particularly by those farmers and country people who over the centuries have welcomed the fellowship of Transhumance as a break from the routines of an often lonely life.
But there’s no need to take framing so literally. There are other ways of a picture inviting you in.
The Pennine Way, near Gargrave North Yorkshire.
Those fields of rape plot the path we may take over the hills.
Near Semer Water, North Yorkshire.
The Strid, near Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire.
While these two suggest the limitless landscape lying beyond the dry stone walls.
And these sheep, this cormorant, highlight the vastness beyond them, just as the tree below, utterly unframed, suggests the famous bleakness of the Top Withens moorland near Hawarth, home of the Brontë sisters
Sheep near Conistone, Grassington, North Yorkshire.
A cormorant on railings at the end of the pier, Whitby, North Yorkshire.
Let’s finish with typical Yorkshire weather. A view taken in the Crimple Valley one very dismal day in May.