Otley Chevin

The Dog needed a walk and we visited one of my favourite places – Otley Chevin.

The Chevin rears up from the little market town of Otley where at the top, you can view the most panoramic views up and down Wharfedale. On good days, you can see York Minster, some 30 miles away or peer into the Yorkshire Dales.

Yesterday’s early morning dumping of snow still remains up here.

A huge swathe of the Chevin is covered in woodland with sturdy paths criss crossing through the trees. Every now and again you come across old foundations of building that once stood and now long gone, all with their own little piece of history. It’s great for The Dog who spends a majority of her time chasing imaginary squirrels or sometimes, real ones. She’s not exactly a stealth dog and crashes through the undergrowth giving the squirrel ample time to scamper up the nearest tree and then blow raspberries back at her in triumph.

A glorious sunny day and relatively warm, the views are pretty good today. Dotted around are information boards which tell you a little bit about the Chevin. Here we’re looking over towards Harrogate.

The view looking west with Otley nestling in the valley beside the River Wharfedale. To the left of the photo is Ilkley Moor (of “On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at” fame – the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire. Translated it means On Ilkley Moor without a hat). In the distance is Beamsley Beacon and beyond that, the town of Ilkley itself.

One of the information boards dotted around the Chevin. Here it describes the deer park and Keeper’s Cottage which no longer survives.

Around the Chevin are these signs, naming the different parts of the site. It also dates them too so you can admire the trees and go “wow, they’re 58 years old”. It’s saves you hauling in a chainsaw, cutting one down and counting its rings, which is rather convenient. They always remind me, for some strange reason, of the Winnie the Pooh stories and signs for the Hundred Acre Wood. Wouldn’t it that be great to have such a sign on the Chevin?

There’s a lot more about the Chevin, that I’ve hardly touched upon. Watch this space for more stories on my dog walking escapades on this lovely little area.

Aargh!

Kicking myself today as I was so busy yesterday,I forgot to take photos and then forgot to blog! But here’s a quick update.

Travelled to Leeds today, but as I got up this morning, listening to the radio, I tuned into the weather reports. Initially it was snow on the higher ground of Wales, the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales, but then Leeds kept being mentioned with the M62 and A1. I checked in with a friend who sent me a photo of a street in North Leeds at 8am, showing deep snow that had fallen within a 2 hour window. Hells Bells.

I left at lunchtime with a couple of warnings of being careful around Skipton ringing in my ears. There’s wasn’t a single flake in my little corner of England except trapped piles of old snow from last week’s “Beast from the East” episode, caught behind dry stone walls and shady cols. I swept past Skipton and through Ilkley with vast green fields and dry roads, passing grubby heaps of unmelted drifted snow on the roadside. I was beginning to scoff when just west of Otley, the fields were suddenly covered in the white stuff, the roads were slushy and the hills blanketed. Wow. It was almost if a solitary cloud had dumped it just on Leeds and this cloud had its own parameters.

The sun was out and it was a balmy 6 degrees, so the snow as rapidly melting and soaking everything. By teatime it was a different world with only a hint of the chaos of that morning. The only thing that stuck out was the haphazard parking of the early morning commuters who had abandoned any attempt to park their car parallel with the kerb that morning and had left a trail of cars with their backends sticking out, the front ends in danger of being clipped or just left in the middle of the carriageway, about three foot from the kerb. It looked like the zombie apocalypse had arrived. No, just commuters who can’t deal with 3cm of snow on the road! That’s why I love this crazy country of mine.

8am this morning on a main road in Leeds. At 6am there hadn’t been a flake of snow. The red faced weather forecasters hadn’t expected it to fall on lower levels and definitely not on Leeds.

Little hidden gems

Came across this fantastic piece of history on my travels today. A plague stone. To prevent the spread of the disease, the villagers were quarantined in their own community – voluntary or enforced, I’m not sure and unable to travel beyond its boundaries. The locals from other villages would bring food to the stricken hamlet in return for payment, pushing it through this small hole in the boundary wall for collection. What great community spirit too – not abandoning them to their fate in fear of contracting the disease themselves.

And I love the idea that they disinfected everything with vinegar……….

Soapbox Corner

Okay, I’m starting to add little things to my blog and as I’ve said in my profile I will observe and comment on almost anything that catches my eye. Most of it, hopefully will be positive, but there will be negative points too. Here goes with one of my observations today………

Potholes in the roads have always been a perennial problem here in the UK, but the Beast from the East weather “phenomenon” of last week, has highlighted the massive issue of road maintenance.

Driving through certain towns yesterday was very interesting as I steered my car in and out of ever deepening crevasses in the tarmac, fearing either to clip the kerb or veer onto the other side of the white lines. Gritting my teeth, I decided to just drive over them, but it was bone jarring and I dread what that experience has done to my tracking and suspension. There weren’t a lot of options.

And here’s the crux. For years, successive governments have failed to tackle the problem. Local councils can only patch the holes which, in the long run, is a false economy. Within weeks, the fresh tarmac is disintegrating and falling apart. Bad weather causes further damage and makes smaller cracks into full blown potholes. It’s a never ending cycle. Roads need to be stripped back and the job done properly, but the funds are just not there.

But how much are councils spending in compensation claims from motorists with cars damaged by hitting the potholes? Nobody wants to tackle the issue here as it’s a hard one to solve.

For many years, UK motorists lament on how much they are taxed through fuel duty and road fund tax and see no benefits. Millions seem to be spent on upgrading the motorways to smart motorways that regulate the flow of traffic. Huge new road/widening schemes seem to be happening everywhere, which on a level is great if our infrastructure boosts the economy, but in our little towns and villages, roads are falling apart before our eyes and there seems no solution.

Blimey, I have got rather serious and I will step off the old soapbox now I’ve got that out of my system, but it does get you thinking as you involuntarily cry “ouch” for both your and your car’s bodies and wince heavily. Now here’s a thought – maybe it is a saving. Instead of installing speed humps to slow us down, they are allowing nature to create speed dips, an inverted speed hump. Saves sending five blokes out with spades to block the road for a week, while four of them lean on their spades watching their mate dig.

So for the rest of you motorists driving on our nation’s roads today, as they say on that American TV series of many moon’s ago – Hill Street Blues – “Be careful out there“.

The Coast

It was only suppose be a shopping trip to the supermarket, but it ended up at the coast in the little town of Arnside.

I love Arnside. So does my dog. It sits on the edge of the River Kent, at the mouth of estuary which flows into Morecambe Bay. We often walk along the edge of the river towards the Bay but today, sans dog, I wandered around at my leisure.

It’s quite overcast today and the colours are very muted. Arnside overlooks the Southern Lake District and on a sunny day, the surrounding countryside is stunning. My photos looked drab and uninspiring and so amused myself looking for other things to photo.

It all started when I spied this sign on the way to Arnside. No wording – just a circle and an arrow. I followed it which took me through some roadworks in a small village (which I thought it would of diverted me from). I thought it was an one off, but they appeared periodically all the way to Arnside. What it was for I don’t know. I have seen these signs before – some have black squares, others triangles and they are, in my world, one of the mysteries of British life.

I parked up overlooking the estuary and walked a short distance to the river front shops. It was here that I noticed a lot of elderly people just sitting in their cars, admiring the view. I don’t blame them on one level, but the weather was positively balmy and tropical at a heady 7 degrees rather than minus 7 of last week and there’s plenty to investigate. I left them to their peering between windscreen, wipers and a steel fence which stops motorists from plunging six foot onto the beach and checked out Arnside on a pleasant March afternoon.

This sign is at the top of a causeway looking towards the mouth of the estuary. Arnside has its very own bore, similar to the Severn Bore in Avon. Only yesterday I learnt that it only happens if the tide is over 9 metres when it comes in or/and there’s a spring tide. Many years ago, I did witness it happening by pure chance and it is quite a spectacle and equally scary as it rushes up the river. It’s just another force of nature to be wary of in these parts. Apparently, if a bore is due, sirens are sounded to alert people to be aware of its coming. It’s quite spooky really with the wailing enveloping the town. There’s usually a half hour warning and then a 10 minute warning. Morecambe Bay is also renowned for its quicksands and many people have lost their lives over the years. It is advised to use a local guide before attempting to cross.

Aren’t some people so clever with words. I’m just hopeless at such things.

I wandered down towards the railway line and bridge that crosses the River Kent, taking those so inclined to let the train take the strain to the Lakes and beyond. Spotting a lone man sporting a camera around his neck and a keen eye studying the far riverside, I wondered if a majestic steam train was heading our way. Hearing a rumble behind me, I turned to see a huge locomotive spewing black diesel smoke out of its roof, tugging what I thought was some form of cargo. It trailed three trailers behind it, each one with a big cream steel crate and as it levelled with me, it dawned on me that it looked very much like containers for nuclear waste. It was fairly non-descript as it hurtled past at speed, giving no sign of its cargo. I shivered as I thought it would most likely come from the Sellafield nuclear plant on the west coast of the Lake District. No wonder it wasn’t hanging around and the grim realisation that this stuff gets moved around on the regular railways and we hardly ever note it. Where was it going (China probably), what was in those containers and what was going to happen to it. It was quite a scary thought the more I pondered, but then a cafe loomed into view and the thought of a hot latte and a sticky bun overtook my thoughts of a railway apocalypse and I headed towards its steamy warmth.

Silly Sign No 2: I don’t know why but this caught my eye and thought it was quite a strange notice. But then, who says that Mr Icecream Van hasn’t driven onto the mudflats to sell his wares and got hideously bogged down in the gloop and needed rescuing while his pride and joy sunk without trace, sucked into the jaws of the murky mud. I’ve watched that Kevin Bacon film, “Tremors” too many times……..

I love reading these kind of signs, giving you a history of that particular monument, trough, stone edifice etc. I liked the way that this little trough is stranded in brick paving and it was originally moved for a pavement . Now it’s stuck on the promenade surrounded by 21st Century gentrification. But I’m pleased that has survived all that trauma.

The same with the little pier. The community spirit to keep it there and resurrect it despite its calamities. Would it be rebuilt today? Would they just let it slip into the river quietly and put a sign up to say “if you squint and peer closely, you might be able to just see a brick sticking out of the mud”. I doubt a council would buy it today like back in 1964 and anyway it would take them years to decide, so it would slip into the mud anyway.

It was time for me to head back, passing the same elderly people staring out into the far distance in their cars. As I drove I lamented this time of year, spring is just around the corner, but yet to show an appearance apart a from the odd clutch of daffodils, awake far too early, by the roadside, slapped in the face by passing vehicles. The roadsides are muddy, dirty and brown from the last week’s melted slush and it needs a good wash. Alas to add to this grubbiness, was the plethora of rubbish as careless drivers and their passengers (and anybody else who uses the roads) lob their unwanted rubbish out of their window. It’s my annual rant – the disgusting state of our verges, clogged with plastic and for a better word, crap. I won’t bore you or put you off my blog with my venting, but lack of cash prevents councils resourcing into clearance and though a few good hearted souls do clean up, why should they risk their lives clearing up after thoughtless people. What’s the problem with keeping your filth within the confines of your vehicle until you a) see a litter bin b) get home and put it in your own dustbin. I can manage that, so why can’t a certain group of humans? A topic we may return to later.

Little parcels of snow still hug roadsides and behind dry stone walls, lying in streaks down the fells and peaks of Yorkshire. Pretty but unable to capture on camera due to the low cloud and mist and also I’m driving on narrow roads without an opportunity to stop. I also spot lambs in fields and utter a squeal of delight at the sight. I love this time of year when everything is so fresh and new life appears. I just wish it would hurry up though!

A lovely afternoon spent wandering and nosing around. Hopefully more tomorrow!

Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria

Kirkby Lonsdale is a pretty little market, just over the border in Cumbria as you make your way up the A65 towards the Lake District. Stone buildings snuggle up together throughout the town as it nestles above the River Lune.

Unfortunately we cannot the escape the car which litter the Main Street of Kirkby Lonsdale whichever angle you stand.

The Main Street is full of interesting independent shops, cafes and pubs. There’s a great variety including hardware shops, bakeries, clothing outlets and butchers. It has a lovely Tourist Information Office with a great selection of local crafts, for the ideal present or momento from Kirkby Lonsdale.

This is Mitchelgate, one of the pretty lanes in Kirkby Lonsdale, though the old phone camera doesn’t do it justice. Note to self: learn to use a proper digital camera and do the job properly! This was taken about 5pm on an early March evening (and a lot warmer than last week!)

This is the River Lune as it meanders past Kirkby Lonsdale. This is Ruskin’s View named after John Ruskin who praised it as “one of the loveliest views in England” and was painted J M W Turner. Today’s photo doesn’t do it justice, but it’s one of those views that is different every time you go there.

These are the Radical Steps leading for the River up to the churchyard and Ruskins View. There are some 86 steps of varying sizes and depths so you have to watch your step unless you’re a dog and can bound up them effortlessly. They were Radical as the good Dr Pearson was a Liberal and radical back in the early 19th century.

St Mary’s church just off the Main Street by the Sun Inn, where you can cross the churchyard to Ruskins View. It’s beautiful in spring with snowdrops and daffodils.

This is a little taster of Kirkby Lonsdale as there’s much more to show like Devils Bridge and the delightful street names. It’s well worth a visit to explore -it needs a morning or afternoon. Park down by Devils Bridge as there’s free unlimited parking, a brilliant little snack van that does great cups, no great mugs of tea and bacon butties. On most days, especially in the summer, the motorbikers gather here in large groups. Most of them are the more mature biker with the greying ponytail or no hair at all, who own Harley Davidsons, vintage bikes and all the ones in between. They are often seen clutching steaming mugs of the aforementioned tea and admiring each other’s bikes. Quite a sight!

More about Kirkby Lonsdale later. Hope you enjoyed this little snippet. I will get more sophisticated once I learn how to customise my new toy here, but please feel welcome to add comments or some feedback.

A Chilly Riverside Walk

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This is my very first blog. My very first post. Scary.

I will write about my thoughts and observations as I wander around my little corner of England. Here’s my first test run – hope you like it.

A quick dog walk around our local river where there’s a lovely circular walk. The snow of the past week has melted, but behind dry stone walls and the shady areas, it still gathers and clings on. The river, though flowing, still had ice covering it, with fallen trees draped in icicles. It is quietly beautiful. The wind is keen, blowing still from the east, though the Beast from the East is losing its bite. Around these parts it’s known as a “Lazy Wind”. It would rather go through you rather than around you. Sums it up nicely.

It’s overcast this morning, with a black cloud gathering which soon catches us up and starts to gently sleet, though it’s more rain. Snowdrops hang in there and a few daffodils have actually bloomed and their sunny flowers bend in the harsh wind. Out of the teeth of the wind, it feels much warmer, but the wind chill sends it back below zero. I’m glad to be back in the warmth of the house, defrosting my frozen hands on a hot mug of steaming tea.