Nine-thirty - post breakfast - still raining - rain forecast all day - shall I shan't I?
Not having walked much in bad weather this winter after knee replacement on 29th November I awoke my Paramo waterproof/windproof/all-in-one trousers from hibernation. The jacket has been in use all winter.
Providing I have effective waterproof gear and have set my mind to making a good job of it I quite enjoy an occasional masochistic excursion in the rain, perhaps to prove to myself, smugly of course, how my experience has been honed to mastering such drama - what modesty !
Half an hour's drive from home took me to Leck, a village I have never before visited. Welcome was provided by the church: they have a huge almost empty car park with an honesty box suggesting a minimum one pound donation. I donated a bit more. I hope they're not supporting Oxfam.
It was still raining sparsely. I was reluctant to get out of the snugly warm car, and had brought my little flask of coffee to give me a pre-walk boost, so I dallied a while.
A public footpath ran out of the back of the car park and right through the middle of the primary school which seemed a bit odd in these days when nobody without MI5 clearance is allowed to mingle with children. Anyway it was half term and the school was closed. In the light of many recent events I have to agree that precautions need to be taken, but as with all of Health and Safety it gets out of hand sometimes.
After a section of Tarmac there was a short link footpath back onto the very minor cul-de-sac road that leads to a track which finishes on the slopes of Gragareth, but I wasn't going right up there today, just a little three mile circular. Just before embarking on the short footpath a farming sort of guy came out of his cottage and we had a chat. He had lived there for five years, but he said he had previously lived in Gayle near Hawes, suggesting that I might not have heard of it. Well, I walked through there last April on my way to the Roman road and then over and down into upper Wharfedale, and we both reeled off the names of Oughtershaw, where he had gone to school, and then Beckermonds, and Raisgill where I had bed and breakfast - he certainly knew that wider remote area well - quite a satisfying little conversation.
It may be interesting for students of countryside navigation to look at the map below. I thought I had followed the path on the map steeply up a cow trodden hillside to a gateway and then down to another decorative iron gate bordering the road which would have convinced most that they were on the continuation of a typical parochial countryside right of way, but the gate was barred and padlocked! Looking more closely at the map (Memory Map GPS on iPhone) I saw I was about 50 yards south of my footpath, and when I marched back onto track there was proper access to the Tarmac road. Countryside navigation is often more tricky than it is in the mountains.
The road deteriorated with many serious potholes and the odd patches of ice. Fellside Barn marked on the map was undergoing extensive renovation, and the wokrmen's Radio One was blaring away from inside. The weather was certainly not viable for outside working with intermittent squalls and strong biting cold wind. After the barn I turned off south on a muddy but sound track. Halfway along, descending through woodland a buzzard flew up from the path fifty yards ahead, and when I arrived at its point of departure there was just shredded remains of a member of the crow family with feathers scattered all around.
When my track re-joined Tarmac I met a lady on the road trundling a wheelbarrow full of logs - she had been to raid her wood store to keep her woodburner going, and as I battled on, head bent into the rain and wind I imagined, with some slight envy, her cosy wood-fire living room, but no bother, I knew I was not far from the car now, and then back home to a hot bath.
|Back to gate Number 2|
|The padlocked gate|
|I can't resist heather.|
And my contribution to the ubiquitous snowdrop photos at this time of year