Walking Leeds suburbs

What a foul day.

High winds, lashing rain and a pretty miserable start to the day. Yuk.

The Dog, Youngest Daughter and me had some errands to run and squeezed a dog walk up in Hunger Hills woods in north Leeds during a break in the stormy weather. The Dog chased the odd squirrel that was doing some late foraging as we followed the paths, the clouds ominous above us, the wind bending the tree branches and making the fallen leaves chase each other. As we crossed a field, the weather closed in, the rain horizontal, coming in waves. We scuttled back into the woods and sheltered behind holly bushes and tree trunks. The wind picked up and we lost sight of trees across the way. We looked at each other with the same question – let’s abandon this walk and head back for a warm cuppa.

Of course, as always happens, we had several seasons in a matter of hours. The dark clouds, with their drenching rain gave way to clear blue skies, the sun shone and the wind dropped. Youngest Daughter needed to be somewhere a couple of miles away. The Dog and I jumped into the car with her with the intention of walking back.

We parked up in a street of terrace housing and I found the footpath at the end of the road. The Dog and I strolled up over a cobble path, into a back road surrounded by trees. One of those many hidden paths that criss cross Leeds that needs to be followed and checked out. We followed the tarmacked path up, discovering a large house with high fencing and imposing gates. It took us by surprise – just an odd place to build a lovely house. We twisted and turned slightly and followed a path on the edge of a small housing estate, their gardens backing onto the path so I enjoyed my favourite hobby of having a good look. It was a real hotch potch of gardens, pockets of land and people’s extensions to their properties. Soon the path bent and we found ourselves on the outer Leeds ring road.

We crossed it with ease and cut through more suburbia before dropping down towards Clayton Woods. We followed the lane down to the dog kennels and into the wood proper. Well defined paths took us south, past the horse pastures and under the railway bridge. A little sprinter train rattled above us, getting The Dog excited. She has a thing about trains. At railway stations, as they approach, she starts barking at trains as if they’re going to run away from her, startling fellow passengers. I smile wanly as I can’t stop her and people are hoping we’re not going to board. But once on, she sits next to me, not exactly happy, but tolerating it, watching in silence. At Hest Bank, she chases the trains that hurtle through the junction there and today her ears pricked up, she looked up with excitement and ran around trying to catch a glimpse of it.

In the centre of Clayton Woods is a huge disused quarry, surrounded by woodland. Apparently sandstone was extracted from here from about the 1930’s, it’s peak between the 1950’s and 1980’s when it was abandoned for no apparent reason. The quarry became very overgrown and was happily being reclaimed by nature, when a development company bought the land in the mid 2000’s with big plans for residential and commercial use and the development of a brand new railway station and parking. There was initial stripping back of the overgrowth in preparation for building, but for the last 13 years nothing has happened. The flowers, plants, trees and creatures are gradually, once again taking it back and now it’s becoming an important site for newts, interesting flora and fauna and archaeological interest. The link below gives a fascinating insight to the area.

https://katatrepsis.com/2014/01/13/clayton-woods-and-woodside-quarry/

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1018814

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We wandered past the two big ponds, apparently very deep at 18 feet deep and stocked with mainly with carp. There’s usually a fisherman or two there. They were also part of the quarry work too.

The Dog and I clambered up the steep path, the trees devoid of their leaves – silver birch and beeches are dominant here. We walked to the edge of the quarry and peered down. It is still quite bare from the stripping back revealing old collapsed buildings and foundations. It’s used by bikers and dog walkers mainly and is quite desolate, an alien landscape though as I said, nature is steadily stealing it back.

It would be great if it was left to nature and become a nature reserve. Travelling from the west, the quarry is a big ugly scar in the middle of the woodland. It sounds like that it could be developed at any time, though there are several factors against that happening. There were plans to build a new railway station with parking as the original station, just half a mile up the road is inadequate. The station itself is perfectly fine, but with it just being in the metropolitan area, the rail fares into Leeds are considerably cheaper. Therefore commuters drive their cars from outside the area, park up and continue their journey into the city. But there’s only a little station car park, so all the local residential roads end up being clogged with parked cars all day and it’s causes mayhem. Even the pub next door has had to fit car parking machines charging £10 to park to put off workers from dumping their vehicles there all day, taking up car spaces for the pub’s patrons. The quarry would be a perfect solution, but to what detriment. It’s a difficult one and one that Leeds City Council still contemplates.

With the sun sitting low in the sky, we continue our wandering around the periphery of the quarry, peeking occasionally over its edge. It’s been a glorious afternoon, the wind has dropped and there’s a little warmth. A vast contrast from this morning’s dismal weather. We walk through the woodland where the trees are more spaced out, the floor carpeted with their leaf debris, The Dog on alert for the scampering squirrel, so much easier to spot here. The sun is setting, the downside of winter. Dark gloomy mornings, a beautiful brief respite before being lost to the encroaching twilight at 4 o’clock. The days are so short now, no time for leisurely strolls, of investigating and studying or watching. Soon The Dog and I are back, as the dark creeps in, curtains are closed, fires lit, the heating cranked up and we curl up for the evening………..

Bramhope, near Leeds,

The day was bright and blustery and needed our full attention.

The Dog and I headed out to the village of Bramhope, just north of Leeds with the intention of walking out east into the countryside. We parked the car on a road on the outskirts, full of detached handsome houses and prim hedges and with a Ordnance Survey map in hand, strolled off down an adjacent street.

It was relatively mild, but the wind was strong. The sun shone between the big clouds, some threatening rain. We had already seen rainbows. We walked down a quiet lane, lined with houses, me indulging in my favourite hobby of having a good gawp into each property, wondering who lived there and their tastes in decoration. It’s amazing my neck isn’t at a permanent 90 degree angle. Most houses were quite modest, but suddenly in between a house and a bungalow, set back in its own vast acreage was house more suited on a country estate. It was monolithic in size and totally at odds with its surroundings. I walked many yards with my neck twisted and mouth agape, wondering how much furniture you would need to fill it and how you would call your family for dinner, as scattered as they would be in such vastness, when suddenly we were back to modest detached houses and gardens. It was such surprising interlude that I spent many minutes shaking my head in amazement.

The lane and houses now came to an end and narrowed into a small footpath towards a stile. Now we were out in the country and fields of sheep. We followed the well marked paths, admiring the big sky and the last of the autumn colours. A red kite – a bird of prey rather than an actual kite – hovered over us, looking for food. A breeding programme at nearby Harewood House has consolidated their presence in Leeds and further afield and its very common to see them flying and swooping low over residential areas, their forked tails making them easily identifiable. They are scavenger birds, so spend their time looking for dead creatures to eat. Smaller birds like crows will gang up on them and chase them off in competition for resources so there are some fascinating aerial dog fights. They are very beautiful graceful birds and I just love observing them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harewood_House

https://harewood.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_kite

We were now following a ridge, overlooking the Wharfe Valley. There were amazing views to be had along its length – from the west at Ilkley and down to the east towards York. We stopped many times to admire the stunning scenery which I never tire of.

It was here we came across this lovely bench, making me wish I had bough some sandwiches and a warming flask of tea. It was definitely a lovely spot for lunch. A few feet away, was a small personally made memorial, a circle of stones, to a local farmer, obviously still cared for. Here it was, down this tiny footpath, isolated and totally unexpected – a bench and a memorial. Perhaps it was the farmer’s favourite view and he had spent many hours here. It was certainly the only bench on the entire walk. It was just very sweet.

We continued on, the Leeds Harrogate railway viaduct looming into view across the valley and in the sunshine, was very striking. A beautiful piece of architecture in a beautiful part of the world. Today it just stood out, its arches majestically striding across the valley. Lovely.

We finally dropped onto a road, crossed it and continued down a wide driveway opposite, past a large group of buildings. I let The Dog off lead with the path enclosed which she was grateful for. We contoured along the ridge, then the path dropped down towards a scruffy farmyard, full of old rusting cars, farm machinery and other abandoned implements. God bless farmers and all the hard work and hours they put in, but why are their farmyards more akin to scrap metal yards? Farmers seem to have this obsession to hoard almost anything in the belief that one day, it will come in handy. I think it could be a man thing. Hubby can be a bit like that – there’s bits that I would happily chuck, but he prevents me with “one day, that might come in useful” and on occasion, it does (much to my despair) and I get a smug and timely reminder from a very happy hubby. But I have to scratch my head sometimes to when a dilapidated old tractor with its wheels missing and taken over by weeds will ever become useful again………..

We branch off here and head up the hill across more fields of sheep and negotiating stiles. The Dog is fairly nifty, jumping over them despite her advancing age, though sometimes she misjudges it and makes a real dog’s dinner of it. She sort of lands as if that was her intention and ignores my laughter and snide remarks. A few years ago, we went on a big group walk with friends and their four legged companions and all of them admired our dog’s agility over various stiles, including ladder stiles. The other hounds were a motley collection of terriers, spaniels and a particularly large, boisterous Golden Retriever and not one of them could jump over a stile (apart from one Collie who learnt over the course of the walk, how to jump stiles by watching our pooch). They just stood there looking baffled. All of them had to be lifted over by their owners, including the enormous Retriever who was like a sack of potatoes. Very heavy and awkward to handle. He was also extremely wet and muddy and nobody really wanted to deal with him. It took at least four people to manhandle him over, while he just looked serene and majestic, as if he was royalty. The humans dropped their shaggy cargo, staggering away, blathered and dishevelled. The Retriever remained indifferent to our encouragement to at least show some interest in negotiating the stiles and was lifted many times. I think we banned him from any later walks or chose stile-less expeditions…..

The hill flattened out as we continued. We dropped down to another road and through another farmyard. There were two farm dogs wandering around, which make me a bit nervous. They can be guard dogs and not appreciate strangers and other dogs entering their property. These two seemed friendly enough and the farmer was around, so I was happy. It was here we needed to find another path to get us back to Bramhope, which I initially couldn’t find, only realising that it was probably back in the farmyard after I had ventured onto a narrow lane looking for a sign. We returned sheepishly back to the farm, hoping that we’d find the new path quickly before the farmer saw us blundering around on his land and we wouldn’t have the embarrassment of asking him for directions.

Luckily two other walkers were coming towards us to confirm our bearings and we set off confidently. The Dog who usually has to be first to stiles, started to hang back, letting me clamber over first. I was a bit baffled by this. She then loitered behind the adjacent gate. It then suddenly struck me that she was probably hankering for me to open the gate for her, saving her leaping over the stile. The Little Madam! I told her in no uncertain terms that I refused to bend to her demands and stalked off. She soon followed me. Honestly, the cheek of it!

We entered another field full of sheep, who scattered as we neared them. The Dog was pretty good ignoring them and walked by my side, on her lead, but still the sheep scampered causing little stampedes as they spooked their neighbours. Then, one particular sheep looked up, stood its ground, stamping its forelegs belligerently. I was quite surprised at its audacity. It remained there, watching us pass with its beady eyes, it’s feet still drumming on the grass, refusing to gallop off. I hadn’t come across a sheep with such bravado and was half expecting it to charge at us and butt us (thankfully it didn’t have horns). I sort of adopted a funny sideways trot to protect my backside from a possible attack. What a wuss, but this animal looked like it meant business. Thankfully, it just followed us with its eyes with a look of “and don’t come through my field again!”

The last remaining piece of a dry stone wall. That’s all that’s left!

We came back to our first original road, but further down as I was following a circular walk on the map. I turned left towards a little lane that led to a group of buildings as per the map. I was a little baffled as there wasn’t the usual footpath sign at the entrance, so I double checked my map, which confirmed it to be a footpath. So I followed it down, pausing to take a photo of the edge of Leeds and Leeds Bradford airport with its planes all lined up ready for passengers in the distance, and then looked for any little signs or clues for the path as we headed to the cluster of buildings. To cut a long story short, the group of buildings turned out to be private houses, converted from a farm and its associated outbuildings and we must of spent at least 10 minutes stalking around, looking more and more suspicious, as we failed to locate the path. We traipsed up and down, peering at walls and fences, down the sides of the houses looking for an obvious continuation of our walk. We followed one track which just led to an electric gate and a private garden beyond. Frustrated, I studied the map, I even googled it. We did another investigation, inadvertently crossing a private lawn and blundering into a garden looking for a stile. By now, I was seriously thinking it looked like I was casing the joint for a burglary, I was probably appearing on various CCTVs and expected the wail of police sirens to be bearing down on us at any moment. Vexed, I declared to The Dog that we would have to give up and walk up the road to join the first path we had walked, something I didn’t really relish as it was a road with no pavements, and cars hurtled down it. We retraced our steps back to the busy lane, still looking for the reclusive signs and even did a brief trot down the road to check if there was another possible path I has missed. Thwarted, we started our road walk, when at the entrance of the track we had just left, pinned to a tree and very faded and definitely not very prominent, was a little sign declaring the footpath had been diverted, but lacked any further information as to exactly where. Muttering under my breath, frustrated with the residents there for having the footpath diverted and not advertising it very well, we stomped off. About 100 yards down the road, a well marked footpath sign stood, tall and proud, marking the new diverted route. Pleased not to have to walk down the road anymore, we happily strolled down it, when I suddenly started to realise that my map was pretty old and dog eared, and therefore not very up to date (which was proved later back home). Oops. I suddenly felt rather foolish and embarrassed at my hissy fit as I quickened my step, head hung in shame, making a mental note to choose my navigational aids more carefully next time……

The edge of Leeds city.

The telecommunications tower you can see on the horizon is a well known landmark in Leeds and can be seen for miles around. It is probably one of the highest points in Leeds with the nearby airport being the highest in England. The airport can be closed on very windy days and planes do come in sideways, battling with side winds. Pilots usually slam down their planes on normal days, so it’s with trepidation when you hear the captain inform you that it’s a bit breezy in Leeds…..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinshill_BT_Tower

https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/here-s-why-this-bt-tower-in-leeds-is-the-highest-point-until-you-reach-moscow-1-9176808

We finally crossed our final sheep field, happy to find civilisation again, The Dog tried to chase her last sheep before we joined the main road that runs through Bramhope and trek back to the car. We peel off down the road to where the car is parked and I have a final chance of peering into people’s houses. It’s been a great little walk and we’ve been gone a good two hours or more. I think it’s time for some lunch and a hot cup of tea back home!

The Lune Walk

After a couple of days of short walks and lots of loitering, The Dog was demanding a good 2 hour walk. So we did.

We headed to the Bull Beck car park, east of Caton in Lancashire. We’ve done this walk many times, especially during winter as you’re guaranteed not to get blathered in mud and The Dog doesn’t need a shower when we get back.

We crossed the road and dropped down on the Millennium Path which runs into the centre of Lancaster. The path is carpeted with leaves as a gentle breeze relieves the trees of their golden foliage. Many trees still hang on grimly, defying the finger of winter. The Dog and I enjoyed the final beauty of autumn along this pretty path.

It’s a pleasant walk, despite The Dog deciding that she knows better than me and decides to develop Selective Hearing Syndrome. A couple of tracks pass over the path and though I’ve only seen one vehicle on them, I always make The Dog stop. That takes a lot of “wait” “here” and “you bloody dog” for her to finally stop completely (she does slow down, but ambles for you to catch up, rather than wait). However, it’s been a life long unbreakable habit of hers to defy you in very subtle ways. When she eventually waits and you’re beside her, one paw will gradually move forward and then really pushing the boundaries, the other paw will follow. She just can’t help herself. Crossly, I shout at her “Well, don’t complain to me when you get run over” as if she’ll ever take that onboard. We then end up in a battle of wills which to a passing onlooker, looks very hilarious. Me, spluttering and spitting feathers, The Dog watching me with indifference, waiting for me to shut up. She kind of concedes briefly, but the cycle soon repeats.

Finally, we manage to cross these tracks, with me giving The Dog a lengthy lecture on “if only you’d do the first time………..” while she’s more interested in looking out for squirrels. It looks like I’m berating myself. We walk past Woody’s, a little kiosk that serves stonking bacon sarnies and mugs of steaming hot tea if you’re that way inclined and continued to the village of Halton. As we near where we turn right to cross the bridge, we come across the old station building (above). The path lies on the old train line, cruelly lopped by Dr Beeching in the 1960s, when many railways lines were decommissioned and lost. Many have been turned into walking and cycling paths and many of the stations remain standing, usually as private houses. I’ve always fancied buying this one and converting it into a cafe and restaurant, as it’s in a perfect spot, but alas, the lack of funds and no experience in the catering industry keeps it as an outlandish dream. As we walk past, an ancient car with canoes lashed to its roof pulls up and burps out 4 youths. One of them, brandishing keys opens the door of the building and goes inside and I hear a garage door being opened on the side. It’s obviously a storage place. In a way, I’m pleased it’s being used and not being neglected, but I still think it would make a cracking little cafe…….

We cross the narrow iron bridge across the River Lune, a third of it marked out for pedestrians and the other two thirds allows a single car to cross it, so you have to take turns crossing it. One car passes us with confidence, but a following car creeps across, making me and The Dog stare. A little old lady, her nose almost touching the windscreen, gingerly steers her vehicle with a terrified look on her face. It’s a touch worrying that she’s still driving – she didn’t fill me with confidence at all. She was driving so slowly that The Dog and I nearly made a race out of it.

Halton is a funny place. Separated from Lancaster by the nearby M6, it’s a commuter village, with a pretty centre of old cottages and houses, but it’s periphery is a complete haphazard of development. It seems to be split in two – the old centre, then a gap of greenery and then a 1960’s housing estate stuck out on the edge. Now the town planners are busy filling in the green middle bit, but badly in my view. There’s a modern housing estate by the river that looks like it’s been plonked there (it’s a very nice estate, don’t get me wrong) but the fields surrounding it, look earmarked (and ideal) for further building. But alas, another development has started, but on the edge of the village instead of the middle. I just despair for Halton and its residents. They seem to be always fighting developments. I imagine from the air, the village looks like a splat. Not compact and tidy, but stretched and messy. You can imagine them inviting the planning bureaucrats of this country to seminars here titled “How not to develop a village” or “How to make a complete dog’s dinner of a pretty hamlet”, it’s so haphazard. The town planners and other faceless governmental penpushers have a lot to answer for here.

Leaving Halton behind, we walk along the rivers edge and enter a woodland before approaching the road again. The Dog is eager for a swim, but it’s cold today and the river is flowing fast. I can imagine her being swept away to Lancaster. She concedes to paddling and wading in up to her chest, under the guise of requiring a drink.

We cross the road and enter the sheep field, where I put The Dog’s lead on. As you know, she’s part Collie so I never let her roam the fields if there’s livestock nearby and with the mood she’s in today, well it’s not worth thinking about. Strangely she chooses to ignore most of them, though she does lunge at a couple who dare to gallop in front of her. In between she contents herself with snacking on their poo, a disgusting habit which many fellow dog owners must frown upon – though better than rolling in it. Apparently I read somewhere that it’s actually good for their digestive systems – something to do with proteins. Personally I prefer snacking on scones with lashings of cream and jam, washed down with a large mug of tea.

We drop down by Woody’s (I didn’t take the opportunity to snack here as I had stupidly left my purse at home) and instead of following the Millennium Path back to the car, dropped back down to the river (much to my dog’s delight) and wandered through the fields. It had been quite overcast and I had my waterproof on. Of course it didn’t rain and the sun weakly tried to push through the clouds, it’s summer power lost for the year. But it was bright and pleasant enough.

Towards the end of the walk, with the car about 10 minutes away, we came across a group of bulls chewing cud by the gate that we needed to walk through. I didn’t fancy retracing my steps to avoid them as it was a very long way back. With The Dog on a very short lead, I boldly walked towards them, hoping that they found grass more interesting than me. My back up plan was to unleash The Dog and leg it if they did. Thankfully they ignored us and let us pass unmolested. Sighing with relief, we then came across a gang of sheep blocking the farm track. Of course, they were all nervous and then one ran past us and then rest followed on masse. The Dog got all excited, I got all flustered and the sheep got all skittish. It was all happening here. With a final defiant bark at their disappearing backsides, The Dog regained her composure and normal service was resumed. We strolled back to the car without incident, except The Dog did her reluctant “I’m not jumping in the boot” act for a couple of minutes before we headed back for a warming cuppa and a blazing fire.

Scargill Reservoir, north of Otley.

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.

Yorkshire Water offices at Scargill Reservoir
Just love the the intricate detail on the bridge

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver_Dyke_Reservoirs

http://myyorkshiredales.co.uk/water/reservoirs/john-o-gaunts-reservoir/

http://myyorkshiredales.co.uk/water/reservoirs/scargill-reservoir/

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.

Wind turbines high on the hill
Scargill Reservoir on our return

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.

Big skies over Yorkshire
The “golf balls” of Menwith Surveillance Station

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Menwith_Hill

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fewston

Fewston Parochial Hall turned into a cafe for the day.

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.

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

Swaledale.

Swaledale has lot to answer for. It was many years ago, that hubby and I holidayed up here for two years running and fell in love with Yorkshire so much, that we moved up to this beautiful county and never looked back. To me, it’s the prettiest dale of them all, though all the Dales are special in their own right. It seems remote and sheltered from the hectic life beyond. I can’t put my finger on it, but it has so many wonderful memories for us. We couldn’t live there – it would spoil the magic – but to visit it from time to time, is such a delight and I enjoy every single minute of it.

This time, we were meeting some friends and agreed to meet at Muker car park. The weather was in a belligerent mood as we drove over the tops – heavy brooding clouds and threatening rain hovered low as we fretted whether we would get a walk in. As we dropped in Swaledale from Hawes, it seemed to brighten and hoped it just wasn’t our imaginations.

We stopped at the junction and looked at the hamlet of Thwaite. We couldn’t resist a quick drive through and to pull up briefly at our old holiday cottage, letting the memories flow. Getting it out of our system, we meandered to Muker and waited for our friends. We were early and hung around, as the sky started to darken again. Oh dear. Checking our weather apps, it claimed it would improve and we would have a window of sunshine before the weather closed in again. And as our friends pulled up in their car and we donned our walking boots, the sun pushed its rays through the lifting cloud and cracks of blue appeared.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thwaite,_North_Yorkshire

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muker

We had the choice of two walks – the first walking up Kisdon Fell, overlooking Thwaite and Muker which would afford us some spectacular views on top or to keep low level and follow the River Swale towards Keld. The low level walk got the vote, so we headed off over the bridge, strolled a few yards towards the village centre before turning right between the cottages and towards our first stile and into the meadows.

In the summer, these meadows are a riot of colour as wild flowers bloom in May and June. It is a truly beautiful spectacle with Lady’s Mantle, Cranesbill and Yellow Rattle being a few of the wildflowers that can be seen. In mid July the meadows are cut, then sheep are allowed to graze on them for the winter. We squeezed through the stone stiles, remarking how narrow they were and how on earth larger people got through. Sometimes we had to shuffle through on tiptoe to clear our rucksacks.

https://www.ydmt.org/muker-meadows-swaledale

We followed the stone paving slabs across the fields, in a single file to prevent damage to the meadows, circumventing sagging barns that have stood for centuries. We came up to the river Swale and bore left, contouring along the edge, following a grassy path.

By this time, the sun had won its battle with the clouds and lit the dale up with a beautiful golden light. The fells shone with greens and browns of dying bracken, the trees with a mixture of greens, yellows and gold – though they were still pretty much in full green leaf for this time of year. The path steadily rose, giving us fantastic views up and down. High up on the fell and in the side valleys, the crumbling buildings of Crackpot, the iron mining industry of the 18th and 19th centuries, stood resolutely by the slag heaps and scarring of that era. It added to the atmosphere of an isolated and untouched dale, where time has stood still.

http://www.outofoblivion.org.uk/swaledale.asp (lead mining reference).

We headed into a more wooded area and looked down onto the gurgling river below, the sun warm on our backs. We stopped to shed layers, take photos and nibble emergency biscuit rations. As we started to drop down as the path made its way down towards the little hamlet of Keld, the clouds had started to gather behind us again. Before we got to Keld, we took a side path that dropped down to the river to allow us to walk back down the other side to Muker. Here we came across the volunteers of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, putting up new fencing. Most of them were sat down eating their packed lunches while a determined colleague hammered nails into posts. We stopped to chat, remembering our time as YDNP volunteers when we first arrived in Yorkshire – mending paths, putting up finger posts, doing guided walks – before the onset of family and other distractions put paid to our volunteering weekends. We continued and came across a couple more working parties, having a quick chat as we passed.

The path went up, affording us a great view back towards Muker, but also a view of bristling clouds poking over Kisdon Fell. It was remarkably warm despite the disappearance of the sun. The clouds hung over us and started to empty their bulging underbellies, making us stop to dig out waterproofs. But they only played with us and the heavy raindrops soon stopped.

We walked the wide gravel path back into Muker and headed to the pub, The Farmers Arms. We have a soft spot for this place too. Many a night, while we holidayed here, we spent drinking Old Peculiar bitter, often one too many and staggering back up the unlit road towards Thwaite, following the white lines in the middle of the road, well past midnight. Sometimes, feeling daring, we would take the footpath across the fields – there was always seemed to be an ethereal glow even late at night, that lit our way. One memorable evening, we fell into conversation with a couple of old guys who drank like fish and at closing time, readily accepted their kind offer of a lift back up the dale in an ageing Fiat Panda. They were very drunk, but somehow guided that ancient vehicle along the winding road, across a vicious left hand bend and over a pack horse bridge, delivering us without incident to our abode. How they did it amazes us to this day and what possess us to join them also amazes us. But we were young, carefree and stupid and who would be horrified if our own kids did it!

I don’t think the Farmers Arms has changed in 30 years. Untouched by the need for gaming machines, background muzak and themed decor, it retains that old homely rustic feel pubs used to have. The old stone flags on the floor, the low ceilings and the timeless atmosphere, it just goes on about its business which it’s done for years. As usual the food was great – nothing fancy, but good wholesome pub grub. We opted for the giant Yorkshire pud, filled with gravy, vegetables and beef (and sausage) downed with a pint of the local brew. Just perfect way to end a walk in Swaledale.

We headed back to the cars and followed the road back over Buttertubs, down in Hawes. As we crossed the high fell towards Ribblehead Viaduct, it started to rain heavy and that’s how it stayed for the rest of the day. We had got the best of the day. Happy with that, we headed home to put on a blazing fire and hunkered down.

I took too many photos today. As I couldn’t fit them all in the blog, here are the rest of them from our walk from Muker.

A Walk Along Morecambe Bay

It was one of those overcast drizzly mornings that dampen the most of hardened spirits, so I went off and stripped a room of wallpaper.

When I emerged a couple of hours later, the sun had poked its head out and it was pleasantly warm. The Dog cocked her head expectantly – she was wanting a walk. So I tidied and with The Dog leaping excitedly around my feet, we jumped into the car and headed to the coast.

The drive over was glorious. With the sun out, the deepening autumnal colours really shone and it was beautiful. I always find autumn bittersweet – it is beautiful season, the mass of golden colours and hues, but with the knowledge that it is so short lived and winter will soon be upon us. I didn’t dwell on this fact for long and enjoyed this lovely autumn day for as long as I could.

We arrived at Hest Bank – I’ve blogged about this area before. We parked up near the railway level crossing and stood on the grassy foreshore. The Dog galloped around madly while I stood and admired the view. It was a beautiful clear day – the fells of the Lake District were sharp and clearly defined. They were blue, purple and mauve with deep shadows enhancing their shapes. The town of Grange over Sands glinted across the water and everything seemed to sparkle. It was one of those days where you felt you could ping the sky with your fingers like on glass and sing “Zippity Doo Dah”

I had a hoodie on, with a body warmer on top and thought it would be enough. Initially it felt quite warm, but while I stood, the wind started to cut through me. I nipped back to the car and retrieved my coat as another layer.

There was some cloud in the sky but as the afternoon wore on, it evaporated leaving a clear blue sky. It was a cracking day and I was so pleased to be out in it.

We wandered along – the tide was out and had left puddles of water which The Dog gleefully jumped into. She’s easily pleased. The sun highlighted the mud flats and the deep crevices and shadows. It just all really stood out.

We carried on. I had bought a coffee to go and finally finished it. With The Dog ahead of me on the beach, I quickly scuttled to my right to deposit the cup in a bin. On my return, I was expecting an anxious looking dog scampering around, ears pricked with worry, concerned about where her human had gone. I got back on the beach, I had no such welcome and for a nanosecond I worried about her whereabouts.

Suddenly I spotted four black legs waggling in the air, some 50 yards or so further up the beach. Then she leapt up, looked intensely at the ground before crashing her head and shoulders onto the pebbly beach and rolling on her back. She was so engrossed in this activity she hadn’t noticed me missing. The Dog is not one for rolling normally, so I walked up to her, hoping it wasn’t anything horrible. As I got close, I thought it was a piece of seaweed, but alas it seemed to be a body of a sea creature. It was half eaten, its skeleton revealed, but the remaining skin was brown and leathery. It looked like a porpoise – I have seen these animals beached here before – but I couldn’t confirm it. All I knew was my dog had found it very attractive and now smelt disgusting.

I kept The Dog downwind of me and we wandered on the seabed, the worms and other sand creatures buried, leaving thousands of swirls of glistening mud across the beach. A nearby cliff showed recent movement with mini land slips sliding to the pebbles below.

We came up to the big flat grasslands that are covered with pools and ponds and I encouraged The Dog to jump in them, hoping they were deep enough to submerge her and get rid of that wretched stench. Unfortunately, many of them only had water deep enough that went up to her elbows. Others times, she would be happily swimming in them.

We met a lovely man walking his Beagle and we stood and chatted. He sighed as he recounted his dog rolling on a dead porpoise a couple of weeks ago and so he confirmed my suspicions, though it was much fresher then. We admired the view together and felt incredibly lucky to live in such a great place.

The fells of the Lake District

There were quite a few people around, making the most of the day. Out of the wind, it was quite warm and I was regretting my layers. But where it was exposed, the wind caused the temperature to tumble and I was glad I had my coat.

We wandered back, strolling between the pools, leaping across the channels and dropping down onto the pebbles and the beach. As the sun tracked across the sky, the scenery had changed and the sharpness of the surrounding scenery had faded slightly, looking more hazy and muted. It was still glorious.

Then I got all artistic and started taking unusual shots to catch the patterns in the sand. I hadn’t brought my proper camera, but was surprised by the photos and my ability to bend down so low and get up again without assistance or toppling over. There were all sorts of footprints – humans, dogs, birds, big, small, minute, deep and light footed, all criss crossing each other mixed with the tide patterns, the worm holes and many other fascinating marks.

We got back to where we had left the car. I sat on one of the numerous benches with a little plaque on it, dedicated to someone “who loved this view“. I loved it too and sat for a long while just watching. The Dog, exhausted by her exertions, sat facing the other way, watching the railway line and briefly chasing Virgin trains as they swept through the junction, before returning and resuming her position.

With the afternoon drawing to a close, I wandered back to the car and opened the boot for the dog and began to pull off coats and body warmers. I then noticed The Dog had stopped halfway to the car and had sat down in the middle of the grass, about twenty feet away, looking at me with a depressed expression. I called her to come, but she just sat and stared. I continued my organising, glancing at her and sniggering. It was a definite message of “I don’t want to go home”. Nor do I, I thought, but tea needs to be made and you need a bath, you stinky hound. Finally, after many minutes and cajoling, with people giggling at her antics, she slowly sauntered without enthusiasm around the back of the car and jumped in with a heavy thud.

I drove slowly home, probably annoying many motorists with my dawdling, but it was such a gorgeous late afternoon and with the sun behind us, the countryside just glowed. It was just wonderful. You just had to make the most of it. Tomorrow would probably be piddling down with rain.

Linacre Reservoir, Derbyshire

Okay, it’s not quite north west England, but it is a path to somewhere and today I’m in Derbyshire.

I was hanging out with relatives and with the dogs requiring a walk, we headed to the west side of Chesterfield and onto the edge of the Peak District.

We parked up in the designated car park, paid £3 to park for as long as we wanted and wandered down some steps on the start of our walk. It was a bit overcast, one of those days, where the weather is not sure to be cloudy or to brighten up with wall to wall sunshine. It kept tantalising us with bursts of autumn sunshine that lit up the surrounding trees with their tints of greens, golds and yellows.

http://www.peakdistrictonline.co.uk/linacre-reservoir-c101121.html

There’s a main path that follows the edge of the reservoirs – there are three that cascade down – through green tunnels of trees. There are other paths that lead off from here, but we didn’t have the time or inclination to investigate them. The dogs were in heaven with water to swim in and woods with squirrels. Luckily, the water held more fascination for them today and the squirrels were left in peace.

Linacre Reservoirs were built between 1855 and 1904 and together hold about 240 million gallons of water (don’t ask me what’s that in litres – it’s just a helluva lot of water).

Just love these ornate Victorian pump rooms rather than an utilitarian square box.

Linacre seemed to have clues that it had an industrial past with stone gate posts and bricks poking through the paths. We did a bit of Googling and discovered that it was once a site for lead smelting back in 1596. Again, nature has taken it all back and there’s little evidence of this industry ever being there.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1009707

We continued our walk, with the dogs swimming after sticks, admiring how lovely it all was. There were other people exercising their four legged friends, but they were few and far between. (I can’t vouch for any other days especially weekends). It was just lovely and tranquil.

Now I will just shut up and let you admire the rest of the photos I took.

I just love these carved out information boards – they are so different from the standardised plastic cheap boards. There’s a lot of work been put in on this one (can you imagine making a spelling mistake anywhere????).

And finally a long distance view across towards Chesterfield nestling in the valley.