1st December. It’s officially winter, meteorologically.
And what a start. Yet another beautiful clear sunny day. A high pressure system was sitting over our little island nation and thus was the third day of sunniness. And the third day of hard overnight frosts, an accumulation that made it looked like there had been a flurry of snow.
We had to take The Dog for her daily exercise – if you don’t, she pesters you until you do. So we had a little walk from the little village of Low Bentham, some 15 miles east of Lancaster.
We were trying to avoid the fields which were sodden and squelchy, so we stuck to the roads. We walked up Mill Lane where many years ago, a thriving silk mill employed the local people. It’s now long gone and replaced by a small attractive development of flats and houses. The road inclined upwards and soon Ingleborough hoved into view – tall, majestic and watching over the little communities around it. The frost was thick up here, hanging off the grass. It felt like Christmas. The road dropped down again and bore left, where water had snaked its way across the road. It had frozen and had become an ice rink. We took it steady, checking where our feet were going and hoping not to do a Bambi. We traversed it without mishap and carried on to the next corner and studied the vista across High Bentham, Ingleborough and the Yorkshire Dales. It was stunning. Not a cloud in the sky.
We walked a little further and then plunged left down a bridle way. The trees were bare and stark against the sky, a few final brown leaves hanging on. Towards the Lake District, the distant fells had little caps of snow on them. It had been a cold few days.
We crossed a couple of fields – any mud had frozen solid and we crunched our way across. There was no fear of sinking knee deep into gloop today, though there were a couple of springy spots. We dropped down towards a terrace of houses and onto another road. Another great view to admire. The road headed downwards towards High Bentham – we stopped to look at a small cemetery and what looked like pigeon lofts. Just love coming across little things like that.
At the bottom by the river, we turned left again and into the entrance of the Riverside Caravan Park, through a little coppice of trees and into the park itself. It’s quite a big caravan park, the vans in regimented rows, empty and silent. It soon would be time for the annual close down for a couple of months. It was quiet and ghostly, only a few residents spending time there. In the summer it’s a hive of activity and bustling. We sauntered through towards the riverside footpath that would take us back to Low Bentham.
The Dog was excited. Water. Her ears drooped as we forbade her to go swimming, telling her that it was far too cold, as if she cared. She compensated by going for a paddle anyway and didn’t seem bothered by the chilly waters. She was now off lead and loving it, trying to chase rabbits who were safely behind fencing and running after a passing train (one of her obsessions – train chasing. Weird). We went over stiles with caution, but the sun had melted the frost here. Again, a huge churned up part of the path had thankfully frozen hard saving our trainers from clagging up.
We followed the river, flowing high and fast. The sun was starting to lose height and its warmth. It was chilly in the shade. We sauntered back under the railway tunnel and back into the village. We walked up a little incline and got a fantastic view of the Forest of Bowland, a vast moorland stretching down to Slaidburn some 12 miles south. Despite the name, there is no forest – it’s an ancient name for hunting grounds – apart from small patches of Forestry Commission woodland. With the sun setting, it was just a dark silhouette with distant wind turbines turning lazily on the tops.
The smell of wood burning smoke hung in the air making it all very atmospheric. Love that smell in the winter. It reminded us to head home ourselves to our own fire, with a warming mug of coffee and a chocolate Digestive and snuggle up on the sofa.
So we did.