It's a grey, damp, mild, misty day in Ingleton. Polly the labrador is upside down in her bed in the corner of the study, snoring, legs twitching as she dreams of chasing rabbits on finer days. Outside, the bare branches of the trees sway to the sound of an increasing wind and low clouds scud across an almost featureless grey sky, bringing sheets of drizzle which deposit on the window in tiny drops.
It's a nice day to stay inside, feet on the radiator under the desk, looking back at some photographs from recent walks out in the Yorkshire Dales. One of our favourite locations is Swaledale, just a short car journey away, along the Pennine Way between Muker and Keld.
The Pennine Way is a long distance walk through some of England's spectacular upland landscape. It begins its journey in Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District and finishes 268 miles (430km approx) later near the England Scotland border at Kirk Yetholm.
With weather set to be fine we set off to Keld at the western end of Swaledale where we park.
The air had a cool chill as I remember, but the sun still had a pleasant warmth. A layer of high cloud softened the light nicely, thin enough to still allow the scattered fluffy cumulus clouds to dapple the surrounding countryside with patches of shadow.
The River Swale from KisdonThe River Swale from the Pennine Way high on the slopes of Kisdon. The river runs south here before turning the corner at Muker to head east down the dale.
There's a great circular walk which includes a section of the Pennine Way as it crosses the Face of Kisdon Hill, high up above the river. The route drops down to Muker and a low level route beside the Swale is walked on the return to Keld.
Others have a similar idea, there's a couple of other parties readying themselves as we pull into the car park. There are a number of different variations to the route and many other walks in the area and not long after we set off we found ourselves walking alone.
We decided to walk the higher route on the way to Muker, returning via the lower route. Below, the river flows in a more southerly direction cutting between Kisdon to the west and Ivelet Moor to the east. At Muker, it turns east again on a journey which will, eventually, take its waters to the North Sea.
The rough path was wet and slippery under foot, good walking boots are required here.
It never ceases to amaze me in the Yorkshire Dales how water manages to cling to the side of steep hillsides. Mosses which make up much of the upland vegetation soak up the ample rainfall like a giant sponge, delaying its rush down the slopes to the river.
The path climbs gradually out of Keld, then flattens as it traverses the eastern face of the hill. We're still in sunshine, walking into the low winter sun. It gives form to the landscape, with long shadows highlighting bumps and hollows, trees and rocks, walls and barns.
The colours are beautiful also. Trees, bare of leaves, can be strikingly colourful, on the opposite slope some have a deep purple tint which contrasts with the green of the grass and the orange brown of the bracken. The hawthorn and rowan trees are covered in red berries.
As usual, Marian had packed a picnic, today it's of eggs sandwiches, flap jack, a flask of tea, fruit, just a little something to keep us going. Every time we stop Polly always thinks it's time to get the food out, and today is no exception.
Eventually we found ourselves a nice spot in the sun, sheltered from the cool breeze, with some flattish rocks on which to sit with a view out across the valley.
Why does food always taste better in the outdoors?
Perhaps it's the location or the fresh air. Perhaps it's the reward for reaching this spot, a hark back to our hunter gatherer days where every meal required an investment in time and effort. Perhaps it's all of them, perhaps it's none of them, none the less our picnic still tasted good and Polly is happy to chew on a hide chewy stick and have a small corner piece off our sandwiches.
As we were sitting, I noticed that the rocks, all limestone as is so typical in the dales, are full of fossils. I alway find fascinating to imagine how much this landscape has changed, in fact the fossils indicate that where we sit was not always land, they are shells and corals.
These creatures lived in the Carboniferous Period, approximately between 300 and 350 million years ago at the bottom of a warm shallow sea. Now they sit over a 1000 feet above sea level, exposed to the elements on a North Yorkshire hillside.
The more I looked the more I found, they are definitely worth a photo, and I thought, "I wonder what this landscape will be like in 300 million years from now?"
Will these rocks still be here, or will the geological processes of our planet have moved them to some location far away from here?
Will some race of humans far in the future be sitting eating egg sandwiches looking at our fossilised remains wondering what it must have been like living on earth as we do now.
A romantic notion which will never be answered. Polly wasn't bothered, when she's not thinking of her stomach, she's got her nose poked into a rabbit or mouse hole, much more pressing and important things for a dog to be doing.
Pictures taken, sandwiches and cake eaten, tea drunk, we continue on at our leisurely pace so to take in the most of what this place has to offer. As the path begins its descent towards Muker we pass a barn beside the path.
It has some wonderful weathered wooden doors, a single (top photo) and a double.
Both are held shut by substantial lumps of rock. I like the difference between the wood and the stone and decided on a composition common to both.
We descended on down to Muker, where we picked up the return path beside the river. It is possible to walk both sides of the river, we decided on the far, eastern side, so take the footbridge across the Swale and make our way back up stream towards Keld. We're still in the sun although it has become a little more watery looking now. The opposite side in now falling into the shade of Kisdon hence why we chose this side.
We stop beside a small stream cascading off Ivelet Moor, feeding into the Swale. There's a small waterfall here. There's also a small grove of trees that have caught my eye on a number of occasions when we've been walking here. We have a drink and some pieces of fruit, Polly has a few more doggy treats then lies down for a rest beside Marian while I headed off to investigate the trees up close. Some are quite bent and twisted. All have bark covered in lichens and mosses.
The sunlight had become quite soft and diffuse by this stage and provided a nice side light to the trees as it shone down the dale. I tried various locations before finding one which I find most pleasing, nice side light, bendy interesting trees, foreground grass. Only the orange bracken on the far hillside looked a little overpowering, making me think of finishing the image as a black and white picture.
Sometimes colour can just be too much of a distraction.
One final stop by the old lead mines by Swinner Gill to drain the flask with one last cup of tea before making our way back to the car. The walk is about 5 miles or so and between stopping to eat, drink, take pictures, or just sit and take in the views and the peace and tranquility of the place, it has taken us most of the short winter day. As has writing this blog, the cars are starting to queue across the road which means it must be getting close to home time from school. The sky is still grey and featureless and the drizzle is still blowing in sheets past the windows. Polly is still snoring in the corner, better get her out for her afternoon walk.
It will be dark soon.......reluctantly, I prise my feet of the warm radiator.
Keywords: Swaledale, Yorkshire, Yorkshire Dales, barn, doors, fossils, landscape, limestone, photography, trees
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