Sunday, 29 June 2014

Bolton Priory to Simon's Seat

Click on any picture to get a full screen version.

I'm thinking I shouldn't have walked so far yesterday, cos today I've set meself up for an 11 mile walk in Wharfedale. And I can't back out of it, cos I posted the walk on the Walkers Forum and agreed that a guy called Ed was gonna join me on the walk. I hope I've got the energy!

Today's walk was a mix of two I've walked with Peter.  I have good memories of them both, and it seemed a brilliant idea to work out a route to combine them.  Ed was in for a treat.

So we met at the Bolton Abbey car park, and we started the day with a good old chunter.  It was £8 to park for the day! I mean......  EIGHT POUNDS!

After we calmed down, we sort of supposed the money for the parking paid for the upkeep of area, so mebbe it wasn't that bad after all. So, chuntering completed, feet booted and backs packed, we set off.  The first port of call was Bolton Priory
Bolton Priory.  Doesn't it look good in the sunlight.  As you can see, we had brilliant weather for the walk. 
From there, we crossed the bridge headed North along the Dales Way and alongside the River Wharfe.  At Posforth Bridge, we turned away from the river and headed up to the Valley of Desolation, so called because of the damage caused by a storm in 1826. As you can guess, Nature has more or less repaired it now, and it's not very desolate at all.  In fact, it's quite pretty.

There's a waterfall on Posforth Gill here. It's not named on the map, but it's well worth the diversion off the main track to go down and have a look.  You have to keep an eye out for the path leading down from the left though.  Don't be too busy chatting to notice you've walked past it, (like I did!)
Posforth Gill waterfall.  Awesome considering it's unnamed on the map.  Shame about the tourist getting into the photo! 
From the waterfall, the path leads on through bracken and mare's tail into a tree plantation before you break out onto the moor.
I love it out here.  The sun and the wind and all this expanse of space.  
The track is easy to follow, Ed and I chatted, enjoying the surroundings and the various little animals that made themselves known to us.

This is the caterpillar of the Oak Eggar Moth.  We saw quite a few of them as we walked.
There were a few grouse hens and their chicks about.  The chicks would pop up and then disappear in the heather as they followed mum.  It was fun watching them.  How many chicks in this picture?  (Answer at the bottom of the blog)
The wide clear track took us across the moor, a fantastic place to be - all open and windswept.  Nice on a sunny day, not sure I'd like just how windswept it could be on a miserable wet winter one.  The rock formations around added interest.
I think this is Truckle Crags

Funny enough, even though we were heading for Simon's Seat, I never took a picture of the pile of rocks that make up the landmark.  Doh!

I did however take a couple of pictures of the view from the top.  This was our lunchtime view.
View from Simon's Seat
The wind was biting cold, and by the end of lunch we were both well wrapped up against it.  Time to move on though (and go the wrong way).  We set off for Flask Brow and our route down the hill back to the River Wharfe, but ended up walking back to Truckle Crags?  We had to turn around and retrace our steps. In my defence your honour, it was easy to miss the path going the other way..... despite it being about 10 foot wide!
Anyway, we reached the lovely wide track going down through the woods to Howgill.

Once we'd reached the little village, we followed a lane past a little cottage type house with a glorious garden overflowing with flowers.  And it really did overflow.  We think the gardener must have planted up the lane too - it was full of all sorts of colours and smells.  Really really lovely.  There were even gooseberries growing!  It's a shame we don't have more people who do that sort of thing.......  and less people who'll trash it.

We reached the Wharfe and turned to back along the river and the Dales Way towards our cars.  Some of the path is narrow, single file only.  But when it opens out - it's beautiful.
The River Wharfe.
Sand Martins skimmed the river after insects, and the sun was bright and warm.  What more can you ask for?

Further along, a little way past Barden bridge is another, unnamed bridge that has always puzzled me.  As well as it's dramatic appearance, it's really quite big for a pedestrian bridge.  How come?

Well, I Googled it.  It's not a bridge really.  It's an aquaduct, with the added bonus of a footpath. Class eh?
The Strid

The next landmark for our walk is The Strid.  A place where the all of the water from the River Wharfe is confined into a gulley so narrow it looks like you could get across it with one big stride.
The Strid

The water bubbles and  boils through the gap.  How deep is it I wonder, to be able to take the flow of the river into such a narrow space?

It looks so innocent here.
Not a good place to fall into though, I'm sure. 

The Strid gets its name from the Anglo Saxon 'Stryth' meaning Turmoil or Tumult; corrupted into Strid, from the possibility of striding across the channel.
Later, the river opens out again.  This lovely spot is equipped with a hide.
A little more walking and we reached "the Cavendish Pavilion, Riverside Cafe Restuarant".  Well that's what the Bolton Priory blurb calls it.   For us it was a convenient loo stop and the place for Ed to buy his compulsory ice cream.  Of course I couldn't let him eat one by himself, now could I?

Now we were on the final stretch, alongside the river a little way, up to the road and our last photo stop of Bolton Priory

We'd done 12 1/2 miles, about 2000ft of up, and taken all day about it.  I really enjoyed the walk and the company.  (Cheers Ed.  You can come again)

Oh, and by the way, I managed to find three grouse chicks in that picture.  If you found more, then you have better eyesight than me. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Finding the way......... or not!

You know how you get an idea which you dismiss.  Well, it doesn't go away does it?  It sits there, skulking around the corners of your mind.  You might brush it away every time it seems like it's going to be a positive thought, but it never really goes anywhere.  It just lingers............

Well this was one of them idea's.  I'd sort of looked at it as a maybe several times, and dismissed it nearly as many because I didn't think I could do it.  Except the last time.  The last time I looked at this idea, I decided it might be possible after all.  

Hmmmmmmm.  Mebbe I should have left it in the "not possible" pile!
Looking back over the meadow and the River Swale 
The idea was to walk to Marske from Richmond and back, but I wanted a circular route.  There aren't any easy or obvious rights of way to make this possible.  But this last time, I really looked at the OS map, I studied it for some time and finally thought I'd worked it out.  I managed to fill in a missing piece of the route using old quarry tracks and a short dash across some MOD land

And you never know, the route I'd planned might have been perfectly acceptable, legal and interesting.  Except I sort of went wrong in the middle - at the missing piece part - so I have no idea if my carefully planned route was a good idea or not.  What I can say is that the route I actually walked was a bad idea.  So there you go, at least I learnt something. 

Actually, I learnt a lot.  I don't usually follow the coast to coast route west from Richmond, so I learnt what I'd been missing.  The meadows and scrubby land are absolutely gorgeous, and full of plants and flowers I'd never seen, so I had to learn the names of them all.  I also learnt that my camera needs changing.  It's never been quite the same since I dropped it into a load of water (the LCD screen sloshed!), and then dropped it onto the pavement, oh and then dropped it onto the pavement again.  (Crunchy plastic bits!).  I learnt that I really ought to take more care of my navigational aids, (losing the map and then having the batteries die on the GPS is not helpful), and I learnt that some hills are just too steep.

So......  A brilliant day then.

Actually, it was.  I really enjoyed my meander.  And this is how it went.......

Leaving Richmond and heading west along the Coast to Coast route following the farm track past Whitcliffe Farm and High Leases, there are loads of flowers in the hedgerows.  Brightest of all is the Meadow Cranesbill. It's parent to many garden varieties of hardy geranium.

I love how prolific it is, and how you can see it in all the hedges and roadsides across the north.  Such a gorgeous colour.

Once past High Leases you're into Whitecliffe Wood.  Full of birds and squirrels and buzzing, busy flying insects.  I have to admit I'm not a great fan of things that buzz close to your ear and around your head.  I was pleased to see this though, since I've never seen one before.
Speckled Wood Butterfly - so called cos it's speckly, and likes the woods. 
It's not that common in the North it seems, so perhaps that's the reason I've not seen one before, or maybe I've just not been looking.

Out of Whitecliffe Wood and on towards East Applegarth you are surrounded by rough meadows on the banks under Whitcliff Scar.  And the flowers were amazing, with many that I haven't seen before.  Not least the Common Rock Rose.  I would have posted a picture, 'cept my camera doesn't handle yellow very well.  In fact, the white balance on it is really poor.  I've learnt to compensate when I get the pictures on the computer....  But I can't fix the yellow!

I did manage to get a picture of this St John's Wort though.  Actually, it's a Hairy St John's Wort.  Who would have guessed there were so many types of St John's Wort?

Apparently people used to hang pieces of the plant over religous icons to ward of evil on St John's day.   See, another thing I've learnt.
Looking up to Williance's Leap from Low Applegarth.  You can read the story here Williance's Leap
As I walked east, past all the Applegarths I continued taking pictures of all the flowers.  One of my favourites has to be the Musk Thistle.  The first time I every saw one was on a walk toWilliance's Leap.  I was amazed at the beautiful spikiness of it.

Musk Thistle. 

It's big, and colourful and spiky and has this curious spider web effect on the flower.

I really like this plant, but apparently it's an invasive species in other countries, even declared a "noxious weed" in some US states.

Funny enough, despite the thistle being the national flower of Scotland, this one doesn't grow there.
White Musk Thistle.  I think they're quite lovely.  I don't want to pick them though!
I also got to see a hare.  The first I've seen around here.  I was made up.

A little further along a cairn marks the path leading off the track and heading towards Marske.  I nearly missed the path tho' because someone was camping alongside the cairn.  It turned out to be an American from Tennessee called Israel.
Looking towards Marske from path under Applegarth Scar. 
Dyer's Greenweed.  Dyer's used the plant to get yellow, which they mixed with Woad to get green.  Methinks that might be why it's called Dyer's Greenweed.

This is wild basil.  I nearly overlooked it completely, it's quite unassuming.

Just after taking these pictures, I realised I'd lost my map. Frustrated, I turned back to walk across several fields to see if I could find it.  I didn't, but what I did find was Israel. 
I'd said a brief Hello when we'd met at his tent at the top of the path.  It turned out that Israel was heading for Reeth, with the aim of watching World Cup in one of the pubs there.  We walked together towards Marske, chatting along the way, he asked me about the route to Reeth from Marske and I managed to give some directions which turned out to be right. (Get me!).  

At Marske we parted as I turned south east down Cat Bank heading for  Downholme Bridge. 
Red Scar cliff below Downholme Moor. 
Turning onto the footpath across the fields, I was delighted to see my second hare of the day.  And this one posed for photographs. 

Downholme Bridge
I've lost my map, but I still have Gizmo, the GPS, and a good sense of where I am.  I can also sort of remember my planned route.  Once across Downholme Bridge I turned left for a little bit of road walking, heading for the disused quarry alongside.  Just past the quarry, there should be a bit of a track heading up the sides of the cliff.

And this is where I went wrong because I turned off the road too early.  I found the quarry all right, but had real difficulty getting up the side of it, because there wasn't a track. It was excessively steep, and took me a couple of attempts to get up the near vertical path.  All good fun eh?  It certainly got the blood pumping that's for sure. 
Exactly what it sez on the map.  A disused quarry. 
I couldn't help noticing the flowers though, despite the noise of the blood pumping in my ears.  
Dog Rose.  I love how these smell. 
Common Spotted Orchid.
Presumably because it's commonly spotted  

Once at the top of the quarry, I had a bit of difficulty finding my way to the road between Downholme and Hudswell.  I knew which direction I should be heading, but I got confused with a permissive right of way, and the road just didn't seem close enough.  I was using Gizmo to keep me right, and then I heard the battery warning noise.  O oh!  I had to turn the GPS off, and rely on my sense of direction.

I found a couple of tracks not marked on the OS map and followed them to the road.  Now it was a simple case of getting to Hudswell, and from Hudswell to Richmond.

As usual I was all eyes and ears as I walked along the road.  Because this is MoD land used for training, there isn't much human activity across it.  The wildlife is left alone to do whatever wildlife does.  This means you get to see all sorts if you're quiet.  And lucky. 

There were a few plants in the roadside ditches that surprised me.  It looked like someone had just chucked their garden plants out the car window, and they'd taken route.  The most dramatic of these that I found is the Monkshood plant. Despite being very lovely to look at, it's also highly toxic and can be used as a poison. Even handling it can cause problems: Killer Plant - Monkshood 

So there it is, loads of it, growing beside the road. Scary eh?

I reached Hudswell and turned off the road following a footpath that would eventually take me down to the River Swale.  It was well overgrown along here, but it didn't take long to get to the 400 steps that lead down to Lownethwaite Bridge, and eventually the river itself. 
The River Swale at Hudswell Bank.  Lovely. 
Nearly home, I followed the river until I reached Richmond Bridge, also known as Green Bridge to the locals.  I crossed and took my favourite route up the hill which is a set of steps underneath the castle.  And guess what?  More strange flowers for me to photograph.

Common Mallow.  What a nice name. It makes me think of marsh mallows, and I love eating them.  The flower is very pretty too. 

And then I was home.  Footsore but satisfied.  OK, I didn't quite do the route I intended, but lessons have been learnt and I know where I have to go next time.  Here's the map. I did 12 miles in the end.  

Tomorrow I've got a walk planned from Bolton Priory.  I'm really looking forward to it.  

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Fabulous Farne Islands

I've wanted to go visit as soon as I realised you could.  Peter on the other hand, did not have quite my enthusiasm. "You want to go on a boat, to see birds?" was his comment.

Me of course, I love the birds, and studying them.  I love their colours and shapes, their patterns and their noise. I want to learn everything about them, understand them and watch them.  In fact, I could watch them for hours.

Peter just thinks they're birds.

OK, so it takes nearly two hours to drive there from Richmond.  And OK, the trip to Staple Island that I had wanted for us to go on wasn't available.  But, having just completed the trip to Inner Farne, we can't recommend Billy Shiels Farne Island boat trip highly enough.  And I mean we.  Peter really enjoyed it too.  Definitely value for money, and definitely worth the drive and our time.  We enjoyed it so much, we got off the boat at the end and asked each other "Can we go again?"
I've deleted over 100 photo's and I still have 181 left, which of course made it very difficult to select which ones to put on here.

First there was the little boat trip/tour showing us the islands in general. This is Staple Island, the one that I had hoped we could land on.
The Pinnacles just off Staple Island
I picked this one because of the bird flying.  Looks odd doesn't it.  These are Guillemots and Kittiwakes
You can't even begin to work out how many there are.
Moving on from Staple Island, we were taken to see the grey seal colony.
I was dead chuffed with this picture, cos I didn't even know I'd taken it, and it was quite hard to get a photo of the seals in the water. 
Big mama seals.  The bulls are bigger and black.  
So cute.  This must be a very late pup, as there was only one other that looked like a youngster.  Normally, the pups are born in the Autumn.
From what I can make out, there are tours to see the grey seals available in October, check out the NT site for more info National Trust - Farne Islands

After the seals, a look at the lighthouse from where Grace Darling did her thing.
The Longstone lighthouse from where Grace Darling spotted the wrecked ship and then went with her father in a rowing boat to rescue the survivors.
  For those of you who need reminding of the story, there is a whole website dedicated to her: Grace Darling  
So, after our little tour, we were taken to Inner Farne, where we could get off the boat and have a walk round, we were given an hour and 15 mins. 

Inner Farne is tiny.  People have got bigger back gardens!  But I have to say, for us, an hour and a quarter just wasn't enough time.  We absolutely loved it.  Here are the pictures:

Arctic Terns

Aggressive little beggars - they attack as you walk past.  We were advised to put hats on, but they can still hurt with them sharp little beaks.

They are only protecting their nests, which are right alongside the walkway.  You have to be careful where you put your feet lest you stand on eggs, or chicks, or a sitting bird.
When you see this coming towards you, you duck.
 Beautiful birds though, and this one is in a much happier mood.  He was only a few feet away from my camera.

Black-headed Gulls
Black-headed Gulls have chocolate brown heads.  These seem like nesting in the same area as the Puffins.
I think there might have been more Guillemots than any other type of bird.  There are also Shags and Kittiwakes nesting on these cliffs. 
Unlike the other birds on the island, the Guillemots seemed to keep well away from the visitors.  I managed to get pictures of these chicks using Peter's camera.
Some of the Guillemots have a white ring around their eye, with a line to the back of the head, a bit like they've overdone it with the white eyeliner. These are called Bridled Guillemots, although I don't know why, we saw a few, and there doesn't appear to be any racism amongst the birds, they were quite happy mixing n breeding with the non bridled Guillemots.  

I only got one clear picture of a Kittiwake. They tended to stay away from the people too. Very noisy birds, but pretty too. 
Easy to mix up with Guillemots from a distance.  I really like these, especially with those white go faster stripes on the bill

Sandwich Tern
A noisy group of Sandwich Terns nesting away from the visitors walkway.  I like the black crests, a bit like a loose toupee in the wind.
This bird still has unhatched eggs.  But many Shags had nests of two or three large furry chicks.
Not a pretty bird.  When you see them like this, it's easy to imagine their reptilian ancestry.
I saved the cutest till last (or nearly till last).

I must of taken 50 photo's of empty sky and fuzzy things whizzing past, trying to get this picture.  It was like Kings Cross Station - birds coming in with beaks full of sand eels, and birds flying out to get more. 

All in all a wonderful wonderful trip.  Highly recommended, even if you're like Peter and not that interested in birds. 

And finally, just cos it's my blog and I can, a couple of pictures taken at Seahouses. 

Cormorants and Shags do not have the oils that other sea birds have to make their feathers waterproof.  That's why you often see them stood like this - they're drying out!
Ducks on the sea seemed so wrong, especially with chicks.  I quite like the way I seem to have caught three gents in various stages of dress here.  The white one still has his winter plumage, and you can see two others going through the change to their summer plumage.  
All just fantastically fabulous as far as I'm concerned.  Definitely a trip to do again, and definitely worth the money.  £15 for the boat trip, and £6.80 to the National Trust to go onto the island, (unless you're members of course).