Friday 31 October 2008

A Day out in Coverdale and Wharfedale.

The dramatic scenery at the top of Coverdale.
This place can be very bleak in Winter but the view
is spectacular.
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The first snow of Winter lies on the tops at the topmost
point in Coverdale.
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The limestone escarpment above Kettlewell.
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The village of Kettlewell lies at the foot of Little Whernside,
nestled into the hillside. The photograph is taken from the
1 in 4 gradient hill.
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A flower stall on Skipton Market
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Kilnsey Trout Farm with Kilnsey Crag (a climber's paradise)
in the centre of the picture.
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A Hallowe'en Birthday "Jolly".

Today being my birthday, a friend took me out for lunch. We chose to go down to Skipton which lies at the Southern end of Wharfedale, about an hour's drive from our house.

We set off on a cold, wintry day with sun and showers, two dogs languishing in the back of the fourtrack. Being in her fourtrack meant that we could go by the scenic route - over the tops of Coverdale and down the 1 in 4 gradient into the village of Kettlewell.

Up on the tops there was the first snow of winter. The sky was pale blue with puffy white clouds and the air was bitterly, damply cold. We kept getting out to take a photograph as the scenery was stunning. A herd of Highland cattle was grazing in the fields on the tops, their thick winter woolly coats seemed good protection as they didn't appear to be feeling the cold!

Down into Kettlewell, which lies at the foot of Little Whernside, over the River Wharfe, along through Threshfield, over the River Skirfare and on into Skipton.

It was only when we hit Skipton that we realised the lethal combination of Market Day and Half Term Holiday. It was heaving. There was nowhere to park. After a search we finally selected a side road, left the vehicle there and legged it into town.

Our first call was The Bargain Bookshop where it was "Buy one, get one Free!" - I bought a book and got a new Atlas for nothing (my old one was seriously out of date, particularly in The Balkans). Then it was on to a vegetarian restaurant for a super lunch. Then we set off back home, unable to cope with the crowds.

We called at Kilnsey Trout Farm for a mocha - you will see Kilnsey Crag in my photographs above - then back up the 1 in 4 and home again. Glenn thought she saw a short eared owl hunting in the valley at the road side - gliding along like a giant moth she said - but it was gone before we could really identify it.

A really lovely day - not least the journeys there and back. We both arrived home saying what we always say on these occasions - aren't we lucky to live in such glorious surroundings.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

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Return to down memory lane!

After my deja vu post I thought the subject was closed. But yesterday I had two such amazing memory flashes that I have to share them with you.
David and I are fanatical jig-saw doers (we are not fans of TV apart from Strictly!!) and a friend lent us a pile. They are our favourites - 500 pieces - which we can do in an evening (and still leave time for the odd game of Rummikub). Last night we got one from the pile and it was one of The Flying Scotsman. As I put pieces on the table I had this amazing flashback -
I am seven and have gone to visit my Aunt Kate who lives in The Dukeries, that part of Nottinghamshire around the towns of Retford and Tuxford. We have gone to gather in the hay. Going to the field I rode on the wide, sweaty back of the cart horse pulling the empty hay cart.
I watched the men load on hay with their pitchforks, and when the cart was full they hoisted me up on to the top of the hay for the journey home. The L.N.E.R. (now East coast mainline) line ran in a cutting through the middle of the field and as we trundled across the cry went up "The Flying Scotsman's coming through!" And I sat on the hay and looked down as the flashy blue engine sped past tooting its horn.
When I returned to school I must have told our teacher (one of those wonderful wartime callback teachers that Dave King talks about so well in his MacTavish poem) because she taught us all a poem, As I did the jig-saw last night that poem came into my head - maybe for the first time in seventy years!
Chariots of gold, said Timothy!
Silvery wings said Elaine!
But - a bumpety ride on a wagon of hay
for me! said Jane.
The other story concerns our neighbouring farmer, who popped in for a chat yesterday morning and told us about one of the farm cats. His dad was driving a tractor and trailer and he was behind it driving another tractor. A farm cat was sitting by the side of the lane. As he watched, the cat ran across under the trailer and out the other side, unscathed.
And that reminded me of a story my father used to tell us of when he was six (1903). He lived in Lincoln and there had been a heavy snowfall and a hard frost. He and his pals took a sledge up to the top of Milman Road, a very steep road with a main road at the bottom. My dad always said that they came down at such a crack they couldn't stop. As they reached the main road a horse drawn cart was passing and they shot under the horse, between its front and back legs!
We always laughed at his story and thought he had made it up. I thought of it yesterday after the cat episode - and now I am not so sure. Maybe it really did happen!

Tuesday 28 October 2008


The nearest village to our farm is a typical English village. The houses are built of the
indigenous limestone which has been used and reused through the ages. When one cottage fell down the stone would be used to build another one. When an old workshop was demolished some years ago a carved stone head dating back to the Iron Age was found amongst the stones.

This is the village church, built in 1874 and surrounded by
a lovely, peaceful graveyard. It stands at the heart of the village.

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One beck sallies out at the bottom of the village ,here
just above the sandbags (it is a village prone to flooding and
sandbags have to be at the ready). Here the beck goes under
the road and then goes down the side of the aptly named Mill
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The village lies at the foot of the moor between Swaledale and Wensleydale.
The whole village is built on water; the beck rises on the moor, goes under-
ground and then comes out at the top end of the village. A mill race is
channelled off so that there are two becks flowing through - one goes along
the top between the houses and the green in the picture, then under the
road at the end and down to where there used to be a mill.
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Monday 27 October 2008

A Diary does not have to begin on January 1st.

The Writers' Group to which I belong set this title as our exercise for the November meeting. It has not been as easy one to do. But I have done it and set it out below for you to read.

November 23rd 1831. "This has been a very important day in the annals of the Beagle; at one o'clock she was loosed from her mooring and sailed about a mile to Barnet pool." So wrote Charles Darwin at the start of his momentous journey which was to shake Victorian society to its core.
20th August 1933. Robert Byron who wrote"The Road to Oxiana" started his diary of the journey through the Middle East with the words, "Venice - went to the Lido this morning." Not an inspiring entry but it did get better as he trecked through Iran and Syria.
George Orwell most probably began his diary on Wednesday 30th July 1938 - although many of his early entries are very pedestrian (cool and misty day here).
February 7th 1796 "Today has John and I bin wed this 3 yere." This first entry in "Diary of a Farmer's Wife 1796 - 7".
Of course some famous diaries did begin on January 1st. Samuel Pepys began his on a cheerful note "Blessed be God at the end of last year, I was in very good health."
I can quite see why Edith Holden began her Edwardian Diary in January - she was a superb sketcher and how exciting to start with bare branches, ploughed fields, fallen leaves.
For most of us New Year's Day suggests a new beginning. We can clear our minds, clear the decks, make a new start. Most of us have had diaries in our Christmas stockings so why not start to catalogue our daily doings - we usually stop before February.
Luckily the people I have mentioned wrote diaries which have stayed the course and made fascinating reading down the years. I think it is as well that our stocking diaries rarely get past the end of the month. For a diary needs to be started on the day when the writer has something to say.


This is really an announcement between blogs and is really in the hopes that Annie and Dave read this. Although I read your blogs every time you put a new one on - and really enjoy them - when I comment the comments are rejected and returned to me. My computer skills are pretty limited (haven't even learned how to put a picture in text yet) and I can't think what to do to rectify this. So, Annie and Dave, I love your blogs and will keep reading them although I have to use this space to tell you so at the moment.

Friday 24 October 2008

This beech tree in Forty Acre is absolutely glowing in the Autumn sun.
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The lane, as it wanders through Forty Acre wood - the haunt of
pheasant and deer.
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The Fieldfares are back!!

Today is a perfect Autumn day. There is a breeze from the South West; the sky is blue with plenty of scudding white clouds; the air is clear and full of the smells of Autumn; AND the fieldfares and redwings are back!
I had my usual walk down the lane with Tess after lunch and there they were, swooping across the lane from one tree to another, making their tak-tal-tak noise and sussing out where the ripest berries were. At present our hedges are full of hawthorn berries, there are rose hips here and there and still some elderberries and blackberries around. Not for long. Once these chaps get going the branches are soon bare. It is such a joy to see them. They always arrive on or about the same date every year - they are the wild birds of Autumn here in North Yorkshire.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Deja Vu

In yesterday's Times, Robert Crampton mentioned taking his son on a tandem and how it made him realise that you need a degree of trust regarding the person on the back! Robert comes from Hull originally and the two things together struck a chord with me as I remembered riding through Hull, aged 17, on the back of a tandem with my feet off the pedals and my eyes closed as I was scared of the traffic.
So I began thinking about what sparks of that "deja vu" moment. I think all of our senses keep us in touch with the past. Often a sight, or a smell, or a taste - or as above - even reading something, one is instantly transported back to the past.
Apples are evocative for me. I pick up an apple in the supermarket, walk past apples on a fruit stall, stew a few windfalls - I am instantly back in The Dukeries in Nottinghamshire, at my Aunt Kate's, where boxes of keepers were laid out in the attic every Autumn. We would sneak up the stairs and pinch an apple (usually an Ellison's Orange Pippin, the sweetest)
The first primrose or lesser celandine I see in Spring under a hedgerow bank takes me straight back to my Lincolnshire childhood and walking in our local lane, Allaballa. My father and I would walk looking for the first sign of Spring. The lane has long given way to houses (the best reason I know for never going back to where one spent one's childhood) but one small flower brings it back to me in glorious technicolour.
I always remember the first time i heard Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis". The Kyrie opens with a crashing burst of "Kyrie" from the full orchestra and choir - both at full volume - then fades away to leave one single voice holding on the note. Whenever I hear it I am back on the lawn at Bath University (where I went for Summer school on an Open University course) with a glass of white wine in my hand.
Sometimes I buy a packet of Sherbet in a sweetshop, so that I can open it and experience again the fizz as the sherbet hits the tongue. Then I am back in Mrs Applewhite's shop in her front room, handing over a penny for a sucker and dab.
We (well, I) marvel at the complexity of the computer - its ability, at our command, to bring up information; in fact IT is now a very important subject in the curriculum of our schools. But I hope we never forget that our brains got there first.
I wonder what deja vu experiences readers of my blog have encountered. I would love to know.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

York Minster

Yesterday I went to York and for the first time (I am ashamed to say) visited the Minster.
Initially I was quite shocked to find that paying to enter was compulsory (although there was a notice to say that if one wished to go in for worship it was free!) There were two "box offices" and we had to queue to get in.
But once inside this magnificent building we were overwhelmed by its beauty. I have mixed feelings about the paying but I do appreciate that these buildings take such an enormous amount of money to heat and maintain and I must say that everything was in superb order.
I took quite a few photographs and have posted some of them below. I thought readers of my blog might like a short tour.
It is the largest medieval gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. I quote from the brochure we were given:-
"A cathedral is the mother church of a diocese. It is where a bishop has his cathedra or "seat'".
York is also a minster, which was the Anglo Saxon name for a missionary church - a church built as a new centre for Christian worship. The first Minster in York was built as such a centre in 627AD"
I hope you enjoy looking at the photographs.

The Dean and Chapter have met here since the thirteenth
century. This shows the beautiful ceiling.
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This is the exquisite ceiling above the nave.
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This photo of the nave shows the screen clearly
and the organ sitting above it. There is a very
beautiful altar cloth. This nave is one of the
widest Gothic naves in Europe.
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This exquisite screen is fifteenth century and depicts fifteen
kings of England from William 1 to Henry 6. The organconsole
is above, as you will see from the photograph of the nave.
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The atmosphere in The Quire is very peaceful. The
architecture is late fourteenth century (Perpendicular)
but the beautiful wooden stalls were restored after a fire
in 1829.
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Sunday 19 October 2008


Farmers all over the world face the same hazards - the weather, the failure of crops, disease in their livestock, sudden failure of market for their products. In a way that links us all together. I do think farmers on the whole are stoics - they know about all the vicissitudes of the job and soldier on regardless - they are pragmatic creatures!
Sorting through my old photographs I realised that I had a lot concerned with farming. I must say that wherever we go we tend to be looking at what is growing or walking about in the fields.
So I thought that now and again I would put four photographs on from different parts of the world. My blogging skills are such that I have not yet learned to put them all in one blog - so they have come on as different posts. I hope you find them interesting.
Strip farming in Malta, where tomatoes, onions, garlic and
potatoes are harvested twice a year because of the good
Mediterranean weather. This was taken in October, so that
the land would be left fallow until December. Just the
potatoes remain to be lifted.
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Farming cork oak in Evora, Portugal. The cork is stacked
to mature. I understand that these days many bottles have
screw-on tops, so this is a dying industry. The trees are all
cork oak trees and the bark is stripped off every ten years.
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David could not resist smelling the hay on this farm in
Vermont, U.S.A. The time is early May and the sight
of such a large field of perfect hay so early in the year
makes him very envious. In the UK there has been very
little hay-making weather in the North of England for the
last few years.
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This farm is on the edge of a fjord in Norway in June, around
mid-summer's day. You can see the farmer working one field
in his tractor. Down by the lakeside there seems to be a
saw mill. As there is a lot of woodland behind the farm I would
guess he farms both crops and wood.
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Friday 17 October 2008

The Farming Week.

There has been a theme to this week - "muck". This activity has to wait for several things - the right weather, the meeting of all Government regulations, the availability of a giant muck spreader for hire (so much quicker than our own dinky thing), and - last but not least - the
enthusiasm of the farmer to get on with the job! When I first married into farming I drew the line at calling it "muck" preferring to use Farmyard Manure. But it only takes a few years to get into farming jargon, so "muck" it is. Now it is all done, the loose housing is cleaned out, the water tank has been emptied, cleaned and refilled, straw has been laid and it all awaits the heifers who will over -winter there. They will come in when the fields get too wet for them to stay out any longer. I am always pleased when they come in because it means that when I go to get the car out of the garage they all crowd round to say hello and to see if I have brought them any goodies (potato/apple peelings, cabbage leaves - that kind of thing).
This morning we had to drive to Masham (the home of Black Sheep Ale) to go to our Feed Merchants for hen food and wild bird food. On the way we cross Ulshaw Bridge and go past the end of East Witton village green. I thought you might like to see photographs of them.
The only other development is that Tess "the kapok kid" has now demolished her second bed completely and it has been consigned to the bonfire. She now has a utilitarian plastic bed, bought yesterday and already turned upside down overnight and a frantic amount of chewing done to the feet it stands on. She never does it when we are around - she has lots of chewing toys - and she is such a darling that we forgive her anything!
East Witton village, half a mile South of Ulshaw Bridge.
One of the largest village greens in the U.K. It was here
in feudal times that the Lord of the Manor would survey his
yeomen, check his bow men and see how many supporters he
had that he could rely on it battle.
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The Ure from Ulshaw bridge - peaceful at the moment but
it can become angry when water comes down from the tops
-then it can rise twenty feet in a very short time. The red
on the right of the picture is a spectacular Virginia creeper in
a garden.
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Ulshaw Bridge on the River Ure. It is an old pack-horse bridge
with a sundial on it inscribed RW 1647. In the background is
a lovely little Roman Catholic Church.
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Wednesday 15 October 2008

Critiques of my poetry on National Poetry Day.

Thank you to everybody who took the time to look at my experimental poem "A Recurring Dream" and pass comment on it. It has been a most interesting exercise. I would love to do it again - any chance of forming a group to use the internet as a means of improving our poetry?
Thanks in particular to Dick, Dave, Crafty Green Poet, Tina, Rachel, Arija, Dominic, Reader Wil , Pamela and several others. Here are some of the suggestions:
Title too long: Rhyming Scheme too complicated; too many cliches (is there an acute symbol on this keyboard - it looks such a funny word without an acute sign over the e); beware adjectives; look at the last two lines again - and as somebody said "let the axe fall heavily in those last two lines" (like that comment).
Well - thanks to you all - I have worked long and hard on it. I make the following points:- I agree about the title being too long, although it has been a recurring dream since my early childhood; I also agree about the rhyming scheme. I have been trying to write to a rhyming scheme and find it very hard. It is difficult not to make it appear contrived. However, having started with a rhyming scheme I have found it impossible to break away from it in this particular poem. So much so that last night I had the dream again and this time, in the middle of the dream, I found myself in Rome, with somebody saying "you have to come to Rome because it rhymes with home." That is the absolute truth!! I also agree about the cliches - shimmering trees and sparkling water are not good images, are they? So I tried to rewrite that bit; altering the end I found hard and it did lead me to ask myself what I was writing the poem for. If I am writing it for myself - i.e. in some way to try and exorcise the dream as sometimes it can be quite a scary dream - then the last two lines have to stay the same because that is what I feel - I wake up distressed because I have lost my way, Or, on the other hand, do I alter it to make it a better poem? Well here are the two versions. Have I made it better or have I over worked it and made it worse?
A Recurring Dream

The road was long, and I
would follow it, and see
familiar faces with no name.
And sometimes there would be
a house I'd visited in years gone by.
Tall trees would shimmer in the haze
and sparkling water shine;
and as I walked the road became
another road of mine
I'd known from childhood days.
I'd walk until it came to me
with chilling certainty -
I walked this rambling road alone
and never would it lead me home.


The road was long, and I
would follow it and see
familiar faces with no names.
And sometimes there would be
a house I'd known in years gone by.
Tall poplars then defined a shore,
dark water, still and wide
and as I walked the road became
a narrow pot-holed lane that I'd
climbed many times before.
And, climbing it, it came to me
with chilling certainty.
This road would never lead me home.
I had to journey on alone.

Thanks again!

Tuesday 14 October 2008