Monday, 18 February 2013
Another burst of Spring.
Yes, I know, the temperature is set to plummet later this week, frosts throughout the night - but dry. That is a blessing because everywhere is still sodden and every dry day means a little less waterlogging.
But yesterday (and today actually) the temperature 'soared' to 7 degrees, the sun shone, there was little or no wind and the farmer and I, with Tess in the back, set off after lunch for a 'ride out'.
On the moors leading up into Swaledale they were burning the heather. This is done every year to keep the heather short - it is a kind of pruning really. These are grouse moors and grouse (and moorland sheep) feed on heather. If it wasn't burnt back it would become leggy and die out. The air was filled with the aromatic smell, which was not unpleasant.
Up on the tops we could see the little town of Reeth in the sun; we made for there and then turned North up into Arkengarthdale (named after the Arkle beck - all dales are named after their watercourses). Once up on the really high moor we looked down on the village of Langthwaite with its church and typical grey stone cottages - a lovely little village which featured often in the James Herriot series (particularly The Red Lion pub).
Higher up still there is no vestige of Spring anywhere. Patches of snow lie and the watercourses look cold. We stopped at a track to have a walk with Tess only to find that after a short distance it was a ford across a beck and too deep to cross. So we carried on climbing until we came to the Tan Hill pub - the highest pub in England, on the edges of Swaledale and Teesdale. In the distance the higher hills of Teesdale were swathed in snow and even at the Tan Hill pub there was enough snow lying around for children to be snowballing.
And so we tootled back through Swaledale until we came to Ivelet - one of my favourite packhorse bridges over the River Swale. Here we stopped, walking down the hill and over the bridge and into the field to walk by the river. The river was in gentle mood and how Tess enjoyed the new smells.
We were out for three hours - one of them spent in the fresh air and goodness me, how much better one feels for that. Coming home past plenty of churchyards, gardens and roadsides awash with snowdrops in bloom did the soul good too.