The weather had changed. A cold snap had dropped snow on the east of the country, plummeting temperatures to 5/6 C degrees, but giving us big blue sunny skies and an urge to go walking.
We headed out past Leathley and towards Norwood. We parked up at Stainburn Moor and instead of walking through the woods there, we strolled down the main road towards Beckwithshaw, dicing with traffic until we came to the entrance of Yorkshire Water’s Scargill Reservoir.
As we went through the gate, there was a vast panoramic view across the Vale of York and to the Hambleton Hills and North York Moors. We walked down the tarmacked road like a pair of Michelin Men, with several layers on, hats, muffled scarves and gloves. The east wind cut across the vale with nothing to stop it apart from two puny humans and a black dog. Then at the most exposed bit, it started to rain, from where I don’t know. It was sunny for heavens sake and I looked at the clouds which didn’t seem that particularly threatening. Of course, I didn’t have a waterproof coat and I hoped it would soon scoot past and not give me a drenching.
We past some derelict wooden huts, stood isolated in a vast empty space and followed the vanishing point of the road. Eventually we came across large sheds and a Victorian house converted into offices for Yorkshire Water. Opposite was the Reservoir, surrounded by ornate stone bridges, parapets and channels. We stood admiring the beautiful stonework, the hard work and thoughtfulness that had gone into creating such an environment, but where nobody really came. So typically Victorian. Today, it would be built quickly and efficiently with brutal concrete and total blandness.
We dropped down into a wooded valley, where The Dog got rather excited as a grouse leapt out of the undergrowth, startling her and not doing much for us either. She went straight into pheasant alert and pounced into the bracken, flushing out more birds. Luckily she was on her lead and didn’t get very far, but her ears were pricked and her nose was firmly sniffing the ground as she excitedly zigzagged across the path.
Finally, a barred gate with stern warnings of “No Public Access” made us turn right and up through a sheep field, where The Dog tried to round up the grazing sheep, but again thwarted by her leash. We wandered through a farm yard, down a lane and across a cow field. Another pretty footpath through woodland and past the Beaver Dyke Reservoir and further along to the smaller John O’Groats Reservoir.
We wandered up another field and then got a little bit lost. A clearly marked footpath would lead us further away from the car and a lengthy road walk which we didn’t fancy. We tried to find another path, but it seemed to go through a bog. We did contemplate crossing a field and hoping to get out the other side, but there was no guarantee of a gate to clamber over. Reluctantly we turned around and retraced our steps the way we came. It was pleasant to see the walk the other way round.
As we walked up the long track back to the road, we admired the huge skies with amazing clouds. Huge billowing clouds, building up tall with anvil tops. They hung over the North York Moors, disgorging rain. Above us, the skies are deep blue, but with their own grey/white clouds as far as you can see and a dark threatening one hung over Leeds.
We get back to the car. It’s past 2pm and our stomachs are letting us know that we have failed to nourish them. With nothing tempting back home, we decided to seek out food. Then we had a lightbulb moment. Near Swinsty Reservoir, there’s a little village hall which opens its doors occasionally and has coffee mornings. So we drive a couple of miles to the Fewston Parochial Hall, hoping it would be open. To our delight, it was, but everybody else had the same idea as us and it looked busy. We abandoned the car on the lane and wandered up. We had been to this place before after stumbling across it one day while walking around Swinsty a few years ago. We went inside – it was heaving -and dithered as the choice was quite extensive considering it was just the locals homebaking from a small kitchen. Eventually we chose jacket potato with beans which, when it arrived was adorned with crisps and a little salad which was fresh (how many times has a salad appeared as a side and looked like an afterthought?). We washed it down with a cuppa, as young teenaged boys wearing ties, delivered the food and fussed over our well being. We shared the trestle table with another couple, who nodded their appreciation of the food. The cakes were particularly inviting and needed to be tasted, so a huge chunk of lemon drizzle cake (made that very morning by a woman who arrived from holiday in early hours and had sacrificed her extra hours with the clocks going back to bake it) and a generous slab of marble cake was ordered and consumed with relish.
Apparently, as we found out, the Hall is turned into a cafe every last Sunday of the month. The hall seems to sit on its own on a hill with lovely views across to Swinsty, surrounded by scattered cottages and the little hamlet of Fewston. It’s just wonderful – proceeds go to local charities and organisations, and the local people prepare all the food, the youngsters run the front of house and its very popular. Simple plain, but delicious food served in a English village hall. Just so quintessentially British. Just love it.
And as we waddled back to the car, our bellies more than satisfied, I spotted this road sign. I don’t why I took a photo of it, but I just love the detail of the cow – the inclusion of both horns and udders. It’s just brilliant, a little bit of that Victorian detail and thoughtfulness on a modern invention. That just made me smile.