Monday portrait of a young cow

farming, France

This shot was taken in the Corrèze, a rural part of France where the cow is – er – queen. The header photos shows that within living memory, oxen were still used as tractors. This area still has the feel of somewhere that time has forgotten. Happy souvenirs of a wonderful holiday of walking in gentle countryside with the ancient town of Corrèze as our backdrop.

I dedicate this post to Becky, for her Walking Squares, and to Brian of Bushboy’s World, who’s rather fond of cows.

Ancient chestnut trees: some portraits

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, National Trust, North Yorkshire

A walk high above Seven Bridges in Studley Royal. A walk I’ve never done before – a hidden one and not easy to spot. But see what treasures there are here.

Now that’s a characterful face!

For Monday Portraits …

… and Jo’s Monday Walk

… and Becky’s Walking Squares

We’re going on a Deer Walk …

England, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, National Trust, North Yorkshire, Wildlife

I went on a bit of a safari yesterday. Only down the road to Studley Royal’s deer park. Here are some snippets from the afternoon.

Autumn is the time of the rut, when stags compete to get the biggest and best harem of does, to secure their own blood like survives to the next generation. They wallow in the mud to leave their sexy scent behind, score trees and trash vegetation- they may even aim to toss leaves and grasses to their antlers to make them look even more imposing. We saw none of these behaviours. But we did hear them roaring and making that strange loud roaring belching noise that can be heard from quite a distance, and which warns other males that They Mean Business.

It doesn’t pay to get too near to deer at this – or indeed at any other – time of year, so all of my photos use zoom at its highest setting, which doesn’t make for the crispest of images. But you’ll know you’re in the deer park when you see trees looking like this. That horizontal finish you can see is the browse line – the highest that a red deer on its hind legs can reach to get a mouthful of leaves.

We saw these fellahs next. They’re young stags. They know they haven’t got a hope this year of attracting the females, so they just sit it out. Maybe a bit of play-fighting to get a bit of practice in, but really … it’s just not their party. That first one posed for Monday Portrait.

On we walked. Over the old bridge where females often give birth and shelter their young, to the crest of a hill where we have far-reaching views over to Ripon and the North York Moors beyond, And below, deer: fallow deer and sika deer, browsing and grazing together, with their stags keeping a proprietorial eye on them. We kept our distance and just enjoyed watching them.

Younger, older, does and stags …

Then onward, past the sweet chestnut trees they love so much at this time of year, for their tasty chestnuts, past a popular wallowing place (oops, forgot to take a photo).

So let’s finish our walk with a few shots of those views I mentioned.

In the shot above, that’s Ripon down below. The eagle-eyed will just be able to spot the cathedral in the centre of the shot, in the distance.

For Monday Portrait and Jo’s Monday Walk.

Monday portraits from Masham

farming, Festivals, North Yorkshire

Yesterday, we went to Masham. Here were gathered sheep: dozens of sheep; hundreds of sheep, from every corner of North Yorkshire and beyond. They were all to be put through their paces and judged on whatever esoteric characteristics sheep are judged on, hoping to be awarded rosettes – even cups – as evidence of their good breeding and upbringing. We went early, and talked to owners, many of whom were keen to save rarer breeds from dying out: dying out because their meat is too slow-growing, maybe too flavourful for the mass market. And, as we discover round here every year at shearing time, the wool they provide is no longer a passport to wealth, or at any rate a steady income, but quite simply a drain on the farmer’s budget as there are shearers to be paid. With some exceptions, only traditional spinners, weavers and knitters seek out traditional wool.

Now then, hands up if you thought a sheep was just a sheep.

Or that wool was – quite simply – wool.

Here’s judging taking place ..

And they start ’em young here. There were classes for Young Handlers, and even an Under Fives category …

Wool, anybody?

We had to go to the Sheep Dog Demonstration, of course. But that’s worth a post all on its own. To be continued …

A portrait of a reservoir

Climate, Nidderdale, North Yorkshire

This year has offered proof after proof that the times they are a changin’. Here, harvesting was started in mid-July, and was all done and dusted for early August. Yet schools and churches will probably continue to hold their traditional Harvest Festivals in late September, early October. Blackberries have withered a whole month early, so the Devil must have been along and spat on them. Autumn-ripening apples are already at their best. And, most worryingly of all, the reservoirs are drying up. Here are some shots of Scar House Reservoir in North Yorkshire. The header photo, and the last one of all were taken two years ago. The rest, only last week.

Scar House Reservoir two years ago.