Field Studies #07

Wensleydale | I am reading Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartley’s 1936 book Wensleydale, a delightful and pioneering combination of guide, history and wistful descriptions of fleeting moments in the life of the valley. Wensleydale is a special place for me; my dad took me camping at Hawes when I was 11, introducing me to the Pennines – so very different to our Essex home – for the first time. This book beautifully captures the essence of the place and its people, and Marie Hartley’s wood engravings are little bygone worlds into which one longs to fall.

Roe Buck | Our garden has always been a ‘pick your own’ for local wildlife, but the way this roe buck was going at the not-yet-ripe blackcurrants was more like ‘strip your own’. I let him browse for a short time before disturbing him, but a few days later my son and his friend easily matched the buck’s blackcurrant zeal. Remarkably, though, some remain for jam-making.

Unclassified: An Ambient Ramble | Elizabeth Alker’s ever-excellent BBC Radio 3 music programme Unclassified is always a must-listen for me, but I was delighted that, having recently moved to the Calder Valley, she devoted this episode to taking her listeners on an ambient ramble around her new home, with my personal highlight among the local offerings from the experimental music scene being the monolithic drones of Spaceship’s track, Gorpley Clough, from his new album, Ravines.

Spring Reminders | The school run woodland paths were dry and dusty at the end of last week. We scuffed through spring reminders, long spent and waiting to mulch in warm summer rain – the tiny white confetti of holly flowers, furred willow catkin caterpillars, the bleached raffia of bluebell leaves.

Farming Through the Seasons – Summer | I have been researching the old traditions and techniques of the hay harvest in the Calder Valley, in preparation for the meadows activity day at High Hirst Woodmeadow on 9th July. In contrast, the mowing and baling seen in this charming little film produced by the Yorkshire Dales National Park are incredibly efficient, but it is good to hear dairy farmer Stephen Bostock speak of farming and conservation going hand in hand.

Landscape Stories | After a birthday party of one of my son’s school friends at Heptonstall Bowling Club, I found myself decompressing from the noise of 25 sugar-fuelled children sitting on a bench at the nearby playground while he had a play, looking out at the scene of last week’s guided walk for Hebden Bridge Arts. Called ‘Past and Future Landscape Stories‘, it took in Nutclough Mill (bottom right), Nutclough Woods (centre left), High Hirst Woodmeadow (centre), and the burial ground of the original Birchcliffe Chapel (hidden in the woods, centre right).

Helvellyn | We made a return trip to our friends’ caravan at Windermere. A bus over the Kirkstone Pass brought us to Patterdale for our son’s third Lakeland fell, Helvellyn. We had a blast on Striding Edge; after the heart-thumping exposure of Jack’s Rake a few weeks back, eschewing the walkers’ path and sticking to the spiny crest of this celebrated arête was nothing but pure pleasure, and he garnered compliments for his adventurousness all the way along.

Gallery |

Field Head, an abandoned farmhouse in Luddenden Dean, seen from a walk my son and I did over the moors to visit a friend.
The Langdale Pikes, seen on the first evening from the caravan at Windermere.
Happy with his first traversal of Striding Edge.
Sun setting over Crinkle Crags, from Rulbuts Hill.
Light pouring over The Band, Langdale.

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