It wasn’t our best walk. Chris and I set off to ‘do’ part of the Nidderdale Way on Thursday. Thursday was fine. Wednesday hadn’t been. Nor had Tuesday. There’s been an awful lot of rain lately.
Even as we started out, we realised that mud was to be our constant companion. And water, trickling along slippery, sticky oozy paths. We forded streams which according to the map simply didn’t exist. If we wanted to go onwards, we had to wade through running water, or totter across from unsteady stepping stone to unsteadier fallen branch.
It was tiring. Finding not-too-soggy resting places was challenging too. We had our sandwiches in a wood alongside what should have been a babbling brook, but was in fact a raging torrent.
And that’s when I noticed these stones – and trees. I’d expect boulders and branches like these to have a few tendrils of dry ash-grey lichen clinging to their surface. Instead they were thickly carpeted in vivid green. These specimens (and I don’t know what they are, despite a spot of Googling) were healthy, fecund and spreading very nicely thank you. It’s easy being green in such a damp, shaded and sheltered environment.
This week’s WordPress photo assignment challenges us to share a wish.
I have chosen an image of the cheerfully optimistic and colourful prayer lanterns we saw so often suspended from the ceilings in the Buddhist temples of South Korea to illustrate our family’s wish, which will come as no surprise at all to regular readers of this blog.
We’d like my daughter Elinor, aka ‘Fanny, the Champion of the World‘, to be cancer-free by the time her twin boys become twelve. Then they, and we can truly celebrate their birthday, shadowed since they were eight by the cancer firstly of their father, then of their mother. It’s chemo-time at the moment. Not much fun, but all in a good cause.
It’s everything to ask. But surely neither greedy nor unreasonable.
I love Colsterdale. It may be my favourite Yorkshire dale. It’s an isolated area, tucked away, north-west of Masham. Not a single main road goes through it. There are no traffic jams here, just local cars (4x4s are useful), vans and tractors.
There are routes though. Ancient routes forged as long ago as the 14th century, when there was a long-gone coal mine here, or more recently by stockmen driving their flocks over the harsh moorland landscape. These days, it’s hikers and ramblers who are more likely to use these tracks. Perhaps they’re completing the Six Dales Trail, or finding out the history of the Leeds Pals. Perhaps, like us, they’re enjoying a walk from Leighton Reservoir, and enjoying long distance views of Scar House Reservoir.
We were in Newcastle last weekend, and we spent much of our time admiring the fine buildings of the city centre, and mooching about the Quayside. That Millennium Bridge! What a perfect match for its surroundings. It links the proud Victorian architecture of Newcastle with contemporary work housed in the Baltic Centre just on the Gateshead bank of the River Tyne. Its clean soaring parabola provides a perfect complement to the more long established city bridges.
‘The bridges over the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead are justifiably famous. They are not merely bridges, but icons for the North East. Over the years the single (Georgian) bridge existing in the early Victorian period has been joined by six others. First the High Level Bridge, giving the river its first railway crossing, then the Swing Bridge (replacing the Georgian bridge), and the first Redheugh Bridge, replaced twice, to be followed by the King Edward Bridge and the most famous of them all, the new Tyne Bridge. After many decades came the Queen Elizabeth Metro Bridge and finally, in 2001, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge opened to provide a stunning pedestrian and cycle link between the redeveloped quaysides on either side of the river. In the space of less than a mile seven bridges link Newcastle with Gateshead.’
1592 was a terrible year for Korea. The Japanese invaded. They raged through the land destroying all they saw. They burnt ancient temples and state-of-the-art palaces as well as ordinary homes. Little was left.
Imagine an England in which every cultural icon was destroyed in WWII – Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, York Minster, Salisbury Cathedral, Chatsworth….. that’s the kind of morale-destroying disaster Korea faced in 1592.
Rather than accept these losses, Koreans rolled up their sleeves and built everything again, on the same site, and to the same design. Not just once, but in some cases several times, as a consequence of later invasions and revolts. Unlike our own historic buildings, these structures are made not from stone or brick, but from the wood from monumental long-lived trees with statuesque trunks and mighty branches. These palaces and places of worship are carved to traditional patterns and painted in an accepted range of colours with time-honoured designs and images. To our eyes, these palaces and temples look fairly similar. But once we overheard a group talking – ‘Look, anyone can see that’s twelfth century: not a bit like the 15th century style we were looking at earlier’.
Here’s Seoul’s Changdeokgung Palace. It was first built in 1408 for the Joseon royal dynasty and designed with an extensive natural garden in harmony with the topography of its surroundings. The Japanese burnt it down in 1592. It was rebuilt in 1608, burnt down during a political revolt in 1628, and again by the Chinese Manchu-Qing. Each time it was faithfully restored to its original design. The long Japanese occupation of Korea from 1911 to 1945 saw it heavily damaged yet again: once again it’s been restored, though only about 30% of the original buildings remain.
Against the odds, this palace and its grounds together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognised as a fine example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design in harmony with their natural setting. This is a fine and tranquil place.
Back in France, in the Ariège, the very best way of getting out into virgin snow and becoming at one with a pure, glittering white winter landscape was take yourself off to the nearest mountain, strap on your snowshoes and walk through the fresh crisp air as if you were the only person in that particular bit of world. It was hard work though, and after the first hour, I’d had enough.
Three years on, and the memory of the pain, sweat and general exhaustion of the entire procedure has faded. I remember instead the vivid sunlit skies and startlingly white and unspoilt snow. And sometimes there were shadows: clear silhouettes mirroring, yet enhancing the world above the glistering mantle.
This week’s WordPress Photo challenge is ‘shadow’. The challenge is now issued on a Wednesday rather than a Friday. I think I’ll now usually respond on Saturday, not Sunday.