Tuesday 29 March 2016

Easters aint what they used to be.......

      Easter would have been a complete washout if it hadn't been for the pheasant and the lamb, the wine and the whisky, some good company and, of course, Easter Eggs. There may have been other things, but I forget....
Ceremony for Best Rural Pub - Lionel Strub 2nd from right (Click to enlarge)
The truly mouthwatering pheasant had been cooked to perfection by Lionel Strub, resident French chef at The Clarendon Hotel in Hebden, which recently beat strong opposition to win the coveted Oliver Award for Best Rural pub at a ceremony sponsored by Evening Post newspapers. If our dining experience was anything to go by the accolade was well deserved, not just for the excellence of our meal but for staff friendliness and cosy all round ambiance. After we'd turned the radio off....
Simply the best.......
Lamb has just got to be on the menu at Easter - hasn't it?  Well, it's traditional according to Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, who appeared on television cooking a Cordon Bleu feast for none other than Mary Berry whose appreciative remarks rang with superlatives. So much so that my wonderful partner was inspired to experiment with her own version of Dr Sentamu's recipe but omitting the half bottle of wine which we preferred to drink separately! Truly delicious.
Al fresco Easter gloom - rain sweeping over Hebden
 It may have been noticed that the above treats, along with the afore mentioned malt whisky, chocolate easter eggs and some limited socialising, all took place indoors. Al fresco, the weather was pretty diabolical and though the wind  and driving rain was fair dinkum for hardy yachtsmen ploughing back and forth across Grimwith reservoir, it was no country for old men. I much preferred the comfort of a rocking chair not too far from a warm stove, and preferably with a glass of something interesting to hand.
Yachtsmen enjoying the choppy water at Grimwith
We did manage to run round Grimwith, again, on Saturday and back to the car before the weather gods actually spotted us. There glee was probably focused too much on the chaos they were inflicting with Storm Katie a bit further south. We could see the rain smirring the hills across the water, moving towards us, so didn't hang about.
Beating the rain round Grimwith
Greylags, perhaps anticipating the coming storm, were taking cover among the reed beds while a raft of Whooper swans, thirteen in number, held centre stage out on the water.  There was a vast number of Oystercatchers too, a solitary pheasant, some interesting twitters high in the treetops, but precious little else in the way of bird life.
Flags across the soggy bits by Scar Top
A shaft of sunlight across the garden on Sunday lured us outdoors for a toddle up the crag and across the sodden moor to Mossy Mere, looking for anything of interest. Gliding majestically across the water were thirteen Whoopers, presumably the same raft we'd photographed at Grimwith the morning before.
Whooper swans - a baker's dozen
We'd no sooner spotted them than it began to rain, heavily, and we began to run, as fast as we could, back down the crag. Predictably, it bated and the sun came out  as we staggered into the village, breathless, knackered and very wet. "Yeh, got you that time" I suspect the weather gods were shouting.
Breaking into a run to beat the rain - but failed
      On Monday my wonderful partner was anxious to record the first wood anemones and suggested we run to Appletreewick where we might find some. I had a better suggestion - that she should go on her own while I kept the stove well stoked and the coffee pot ready so the cottage would be nice and warm when she got back. The plan worked admirably. She found her anemones while I enjoyed a gentle snooze!
Peter squinting through his snowy windscreen.   Easter's grand finale
The morning after, as I travelled home, the weather gods played their trump card. "I think it's time we took the winter tyres off the car" my wonderful partner had said at breakfast time. As my bus left Grassington we were hit by a snowstorm of blizzard proportions. In little more than ten minutes the landscape was transformed into a white wonderland with contrasting clumps of Easter daffodils in roadside gardens. Windscreen wipers were struggling as the driver, Peter, squinted through the snow.  I'd a very short email when I got home. "Forget about winter tyres" is all it said.
      I hope everyone had a Very Happy Easter.....

Monday 21 March 2016

Things just get better.....

      Spring marches on. It wont be long before the lawn mower is dragged from the shed to deal with rampant grass. My pocket handkerchief lawns, already scarified and spiked, should shortly become sunbeds in my annual quest for a healthy tan.
Catkins and half a moon against the boundless blue  (Click to enlarge)
 I'm told the previous occupant of this cottage was a naturist who sported (if that's the right word) an all-over tan. I haven't quite got to that stage though my shorts were recently referred to as 'that loin cloth of yours'.
Same day, same wondrous blue sky, different catkins...
 So far as running is concerned I'm struggling to get going again. Two hours plus under general anaesthetic during that last eye operation knocked hell out of my 83 year old engine and I'm still shaking off the effects. The first thing I heard on recovering consciousness was a nurse saying to a colleague "He's very fit for his age, he's a runner".  I still laugh about that!
Listening to skylarks near Thurstonland, on Thursday's 9 mile jog/walk
Since then runs have been interspersed with walks. Sometimes quite long walks and not very fast runs. But anything is better than nothing, especially on beautiful Spring days under blue skies with larksong tumbling from the air, catkins waving in the breeze, bumble bees buzzing about their business, or the call of a curlew echoing across the moor.
More blue sky on Sunday's run round Grimwith
All those things, and much more, have enriched my forays into the countryside this past week. The sky at times was unbelievably blue, sunshine pleasantly warm on the skin, colours brighter through my new eye, each day offering something new as Spring unfolded. I refrained from shouting Hallelujah as I got strange enough looks in other happy moments when I burst into song!
Reflections - Grimwith reservoir
Something new has happened this year too. I mentioned in an earlier post about greylags in the reeds at Mossy Mere, a place we'd not seen them before. Now, they're all over the place, grazing grassland close to the village, skeins of them flying over at night and a great gaggle of them colonising Grimwith reservoir, formerly a stronghold of Canada geese. Besides being honoured with their presence they're an added interest on our waterside jaunts
Greylag goose, Grimwith reservoir
. They're noisy beggars though....likewise that tiniest of birds, the wren, whose voice is far too loud for his size. Good job he's not as big as a greylag with matching voice or we'd need ear plugs!
Time for reflection - at the end of our Sunday run 
Chaffinches were singing too as we ran round Grimwith. Wherever there are picnic tables there are chaffinches. Strange how they know....
Dandelions are beautiful when they arrive in Spring
So that was the wonderful week that was. I suppose it will rain for Easter!

Monday 14 March 2016

Spring has sprung......

      At long last there was a wee bit of warmth in the sun last weekend, almost shorts weather, except I didn't have them with me. It's time to dig them out, to make sure they still fit before taking them on holiday.  It was still soggy underfoot as we trogged over the moor on Saturday so it wasn't long before socks and feet were soaking wet.
Saturday's route - 7.34 miles/889ft ascent
 The area through which we regularly run is old lead mining country and a glance at the map would frighten many away. Such information as 'Disused Mines', 'Disused Shafts', 'Area of Shake Holes', 'Swallow Hole' and the like can be fairly off-putting. A local lady had the shock of her life when the ground opened up immediately in front of her. Her dog disappeared into the depths never to be seen again. It could so easily have been her.
Dangerous places
We'd barely run a mile when a pair of Curlews flew over us, calling their welcomes - harbingers of Spring. There was total silence from the frog pond but my wonderful partner heard a skylark singing in the distance, way beyond my hearing range. Flappies were performing their aerial acrobatics, as they do, and a Golden Plover was piping away as we approached the Chimney.
Towards the Chimney
 A significant landmark, the Chimney was built to disperse smoke and fumes from the smelt mill to which it was connected by a long flue from some distance away and much lower down.
Crossing the Old Miner's Bridge
We threaded our way through hoardes of people lured from towns and cities with the promise of a fine weekend, crossed the old Miner's Bridge and jogged home, stopping only to photograph Hebden's first lambs of the season.
Hebden's first lambs
Sunday was warmer and even more Spring-like. I'd put a Helly Hansen under my running top but took it off after sniffing the air. One layer was quite enough, and I really wished I'd remembered to bring a pair of shorts.
Mossy Mere overflow
Sunshine had brought frogs to life and there was a heck of a noise going on as I approached their pond. Like trial bikes being revved up. In spite of all the rain nothing is showing but a patch of reeds, but there must be water in there somewhere. Or they're in trouble.
The path by Coalgrove beck below Cupola Corner
Yesterday's skylark had kindly moved to within my range of hearing, stopping me from running (if you could call it that) until he'd poured out his last note. Curlews were my constant companions and as I got nearer to Mossdale Flappies were wheeling around crying pew-wit-pwee-wit-pwee-wit. It sounds far nicer than the red grouse call of go-bak, go-bak, go-bak - but I suppose it means the same thing!
On the Mossdale track
On reaching the bridge at Mossdale a black bird flew up from quite close by. Close enough, in fact, for me to discern a flash of white on its throat. I couldn't believe it. I'd never before spotted a ring ouzel so early in the year. Ian Appleyard, an authority on Ring Ouzels of Hebden Ghyll, gives his first official sighting as March 15th, but that was quite a few years ago, before all the talk of global warming. Last year it was into April when we spotted our first male.
Two bridges at Mossdale - one of them lethal......
I left Mossdale by a rarely used heathery ramp, possibly only known to shepherds, gamekeepers and fell runners for I've never met anyone else on it. It lifted me quickly up to the main track, the homeward trail - and I still had dry feet! The Stone Man came into sight but it looked an awful long way away without my specs, as did everything else. Fortunately, I knew just how far it was and soon reached it.
Breaking into a run - up to the Stone Man
From there on it was a repeat of Saturdays route, past the Chimney, over Coalgrove beck, past the bent tree and down into the ghyll to join the hoardes again making 11.84 miles/1,271ft ascent. Actually, walkers were a bit thin on the ground when I got back. Maybe they were sampling the Clarendon's excellent pub meals before setting off again. 
Lucky beggars!

Tuesday 8 March 2016

A snowy weekend......

It snowed heavily last Friday morning. I'd climbed out of bed before 6am and got dressed ready for a run. Whilst enjoying a cup of coffee I happened to switch on the security light to view the weather. It was blizzarding! The surrounding fields were white and it looked like it was snowing heavier by the minute. My running clothes didn't stay on very long!
Looking out my window at 6.30am Friday  (Click to enlarge)
I put mealy worms out for the birds but they soon disappeared under the snow, confusing robins and blackbirds who stomped around peering through the window, begging for more. They'd have to wait. I wasn't going out again in that stuff!
Where have my mealy worms gone?
By Saturday morning most of the snow had cleared and, to our surprise, back in Hebden the sun was shining and fields were green again. A group of people gearing up as we arrived were runners from the Ripon area about to set off on their own version of the Trollers Trot, a 25 mile trail run, the official version of which was cancelled this year.
Getting wet feet
After lighting the stove and downing a much needed mug of coffee we set off in a different direction to that theTrollers group had taken, following a lively Hebden beck up towards the moor. We got wet feet crossing the partially submerged stepping stones, so no point in avoiding any future wet stuff.
At the parting of the ways
We parted company at a higher stream crossing below Cupola Corner, my wonderful partner bound for Yarnbury and a fast run down Moor Lane, me heading for Blea Ghyll and a steady trog down Backstone Edge.
"Look, a flappy"
We'd no sooner parted than a black and white bird with floppy wings flew over and I shouted across excitedly - "Look, a flappy!!!" Some call them Lapwings, others Pewits, some Green Plovers, but to us they're always Flappies. Excitement over, we went our different ways.
Past old lead mine workings, into the snow dappled landscape
Higher up the moor much of the trail was covered with snow and some ankle deep water.  Not every runner's cup of tea.
Not every runner's cup of tea...
 Elsewhere vast pools had formed from rain and meltwater, transforming the landscape, making it a different and more dramatic place to run.
That gathering storm - and pools where no pools used to be...
 I'd been taking photographs of such things without taking notice of the weather. Suddenly it dawned on me a nasty looking storm was brewing in the North East. The sky looked full of snow, and it was blowing my way. At 1,300ft I suddenly felt rather exposed and vulnerable. I turned tail and ran, back the way I'd come. The safer option, I reasoned.
Running back the way I'd come, the storm following behind
  Most was downhill and it wasn't until I reached the bent tree 2 miles from home that the storm caught up, snow highlighting my hair and eyebrows, invoking visions of The Snowman - and Tarja - that soon had me 'Walking in the Air'. Music is never out of my mind, and I love singing, but a hooded couple trogging uphill with their trekking poles obviously didn't.
Back in Hebden, the stove had been stoked and the kettle boiling as I wiped my feet by the door, looking forward to a hot drink - and that half a pork pie!