Our journeys are often spent driving from 'shot' to 'shot', always on the look-out for a good view to take for the blog. Yesterday I forgot the camera and in some ways it was an advantage as I could sit back, let the farmer take the strain, and admire the scenery.
The roads on Swaledale are narrow and in Summertime they are usually clogged with tourists; but yesterday it was dull and showery so we risked it - and there was hardly a car on the road.
The bluebells in Bluebell wood are almost over - they have certainly lost their blueness and the undergrowth has grown up round them so that the forest floor is predominantly bright green again.
There are so many blackbirds about and they are so busy. Blackbirds must be one of our most successful birds - there seems to be one every few yards, its beak stuffed with worms, a harried look on its face. Why must they swoop so low when they cross the road? We narrowly miss several and pass one or two dead ones.
On one stretch of road the River Swale runs alongside. When the river is in flood (it can rise twenty feet in an hour) this stretch quickly becomes impassable. Today the river is low. We pull into a lay-by, push through the undergrowth and come out in a small glade on the river bank. Sandmartins are swooping low over the water to collect insects and then dashing into their nests on the sandy cliff bank. They are fascinating little birds to watch - so much of their plumage is sandy coloured and they blend into the bank well. As we stand and watch we become aware of a beautiful smell and see that the glade is full of Hesperis matronalis - Dame's Violet; not a particularly showy plant but with the most beautiful 'violet' smell. It stands tall among clumps of deeper pink silene - campion.
Back in the car we follow the river along the bottom of the Dale and cross it in Gunnerside - most of these villages have Viking names - and on into the village of Muker, usually very busy but today a quiet, sleepy place.
We climb up into the Buttertubs Pass up a very steep road with a sharp drop on the left hand side. On the opposite side of the valley the hillside is littered with stones and sheep - it is hard to see which is which until the sheep move.
As we come down into Wensleydale the heavy dark clouds hide the tops of the hills and the bottom of the Dale is in shadow. Then we reach the buttercup meadows and in the dark light they glow totally golden.
We stop at a little Nature Reserve where there was once a Lead Mine. Lead mining shaped this landscape up to the end of the nineteenth century. Plants which usually grow only on the edge of the sea and sand are well-established here because it was once a spoil heap. The only plant out now (we are a little too early) is Thrift and it is dotted everywhere. As we wander along the side of a little beck the air is full of bird song - but no sound of the cuckoo - we have not heard one this year and time is rapidly running out.
Turning back into our lane we meet a friend coming out and signal to her to turn round and come back. I put the kettle on and we sit and chat for a hour about our holidays. The farmer, meanwhile, takes his tea into the sitting room and watches the Grand Prix - so we are happy all round. My friend has brought a friend's newly published book to show me. It is very beautiful. Maybe I will share it with you one day.