Friday 28 February 2020


Our outlook is not clear! Rain has penetrated the seals of some of our double-glazed window units and restricted our view. They will have to be replaced.
Small beer compared to the problems many of our fellow countrymen are having to deal with as one rainstorm follows another. It has been going on for weeks now.
When we first moved into our present home we found water flowing under the front door during an excessive rainfall. The second time it happened Himself went out and bought two long lengths of large plastic piping. He drilled them with holes and then set to work digging troughs in the lawn. The pipes were laid sloping away from the house and the lawn re-established. Problem solved. It's good to be married to a practical man!
I'm at my lowest ebb in February, it is always a miserable month and seems especially so this year, beset as we are with both political and ecological problems. I received a parcel this morning from our elder daughter, a cheer-up gift of roses.
The variety is, 'Avalanche'. We've had wind, floods and hailstones and while I'm delighted to have an avalanche of roses I don't want one of anything else! 
What a cheering sight on a wet and windy February day.
I've put the flowers in the dining room out of the heat of the kitchen so that they will still be looking good when our daughter pops home for a visit at the end of next week.

Friday 14 February 2020

Sunday lunch

Meat is a serious business in the Dales. The media may be full of vegan recipes and the necessity of changing our agriculture to plant-based crops in order to save the planet, but it appears to be falling on deaf ears around these parts. At home we eat mainly our own-grown produce; three large freezers and dry storage keeps us in fruit and veg throughout the year. But when we are in the Dales we go out for Sunday lunch and our eating pattern is different, it's Yorkshire pudding, a generous slab of meat and the most delicious beef gravy! (My smooth fox terrier always waited in eager anticipation for my return from the pub with a doggy bag full of all the meat that I couldn't finish.)
On arrival in the Dales we phoned 'The Queen's Head.' No response. We left a message but no-one got back to us. Phoning is a tricky business here because we don't have a land line and mobile phone signals are erratic. We have to walk to the back garth and stand facing west to have any success. If you absentmindedly move a little to the side while talking the connection fails.
On Sunday we drove to the 'Queen's Head' anyway. No sign of life. Another car pulled up and the occupants jumped out and  peered through the pub windows. Curtains half closed - what's going on?
We drove to 'The Huntsman'. "No food, the chef's done a runner." We drove to yet another of our regular eating places. It was full, obviously with clientele from the other places. It was getting late  now and we were feeling ravenous. Last chance was, 'The Friar's Head'. Well, good for the friar, he had a table for us. We were so hungry that could hardly make a choice from what was on offer. Okay then, why not just plump for the three roast option? Enormous plates of meat arrived. Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, crackling, assorted sauces, gravy, every sort of veg. It looked overwhelming.
But, Dear Reader, we ate it all!

It's just as well that we do a bit of walking to offset all this feasting. The weather was far from brilliant during our stay so our walks on this trip were short. It's been a wet year, as the mossy walls testify.

What's the saying? There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!

Snowdrops and forsythia on my wall.
And it's always a beautiful day when it's time to leave!

Friday 7 February 2020


The weather is 'wuthering', wind howling through the trees and making the telephone wires dance erratically. Yesterday, just after lunch the electricity failed. We checked our fuse box but nothing had tripped. As darkness fell it became evident that the whole dale was without power. Candles were lit. When it was time to eat I let the wood in the sitting room stove burn down to red embers and knocked up a meal in the frying pan. "Very Emily Bronte" said Himself. It tasted delicious - those girl guide skills come in handy!
Today the wind is still blowing. We avoided the tops, walking instead across the field paths down to the river.

Our old ordnance survey map,  two and a half inches to the mile, is falling to bits and in need of replacement. We've highlighted the footpaths in green and the bridleways in red. The green lines radiate out from the village, old walkways that link the nearby hamlets. These paths serve different needs. One goes straight up the hill to the peat moor. All the villagers have rights to cut peat for their fires, although none do so now.

As we near the river the walls contain rounded stones, taken, I imagine, from the river bed.
The council have been at work repairing the bridge. But what vandalism! The flat stones that used to cap the bridge have been removed and replaced with new.

The old stones were carved with the names and dates of local folk. We would study them with interest, running our fingers in the shallow, mossy indentations. No marks remaining of these Dales folk now, another bit of history gone.
We walk up by the road, heads bent against the wind and my body starts to ache. It isn't a stitch, it's my gall bladder complaining. Last nights fry-up, that crispy slice of fried bread - there's a price for everything!

Thursday 6 February 2020


We're in North Yorkshire, back 'home' for a couple of weeks. It's a six hour journey door to door and I no longer spring out of the car when we arrive. The bones and muscles of my body respond very grudgingly and I hobble, stiff and bent to open the garden gate. But it's good to be here. We set to work lighting the wood burner and turn on the water supply to fill the tank. While we wait for the stove to build up some heat we put on our hiking boots and head out of the village and along the road that becomes a track leading on to the moor tops. My family have walked this path for many years, it was my father's daily stroll, always with a dog by his side, Tess, our much-loved Dobermann, then an assortment of terriers and lastly Meg, the faithful old spaniel who outlived him.
It is wonderful walking country, the Yorkshire Dales are criss-crossed with roads and trackways. The paths have a long history, some dating from when prehistoric man first settled on these limestone uplands. The entire area bears the marks of previous generations, from Roman roads to the tracks and pathways that were the communication lines between settlements of Angles, Danes and Norseman. The Normans introduced castles and monasteries to the area and routes were created to link their estates.  Packhorse tracks and drover's roads were followed by routes for the new industries of lead and coal mining and of lime burning. It is hard to imagine how busy these paths once were as we walk alone on the moor tops.
From medieval times up until the eighteenth century long trains of packhorses were common sight in the Dales. The ponies were Galloways, originating from SW Scotland, small and strong, usually brown with black legs. Their load was about 100kg, carried in straw baskets balanced either side of their body. They traveled in a pack of between twenty and forty ponies, the lead pony wearing a bell to announce their approach. The packhorse bridges over the steams and waterways have low sides so that they don't obstruct the side-slung panniers.
The drover's roads were used for driving herds of livestock from one area to another and this took several days. These herds were large, with up to 200 cattle and 2,000 sheep. One drover, with the help of his dogs, would be responsible for no more than 50 cattle and 500 sheep. The dogs must have been characters because when they had ferried their herd to its destination the drover stayed to complete the sales while the dogs took themselves home, stopping at the same places overnight en route!
The droving roads were wider than the packhorse tracks and cattle driven down from Scotland were able to walk three abreast. With the enclosure act from the late 1700's these roads were walled and now survive as green lanes. They are a joy to walk along.
Flocks of geese were also driven, but not far, only from one dale to the next on their way to market.
Apart from a local farmer we have seen no-one on our walk, although someone on horseback has been before us. No sign of the rider, only the marks of hoof prints pressed crisply into the turf underfoot.