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Walkabout Blog

This could be the shorest walk ever.

sunset (1 of 1)

A chippy 4 degrees and stair rod rain in down town Holmfirth all day Sunday. We headed up Holme Moss just before dusk in the car for what we expected would be the shorest walk ever. The rain turned to snow flakes with height and as we stepped onto the moor big dollops of it landed on us from a still windless sky.

The magic of  the unexpected cast it’s spell on us and off we walked into the silent white peak hags of Holme Moss. An inch of winter covered the highest moorland.  Golden Plovers were heard but couldn’t be seen. A grey traffic cone in the distance turned out to be a hare on hind legs which became invisible as it slipped off silently into the snowy landscape.

An hours walk slipped by  in a moment.

 

Snow on Northern Hills

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Ramsden Sycamore

The weather forecasters prediction of “snow on Northern Hills” heard between October and April  always evokes images of rolling snow capped Yorksire hills and greenish dales in my imagination. If heard after the evening news it’ll get me out early next day.

Crossley's Plantation
Crossley’s Plantation

And so this morning the wind blew horizontal snow showers past the dark kitchen window as predicted and I headed out up onto Ramsden Road to grab some rare wintry weather.

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Passing shower

Only the highest ground had been caught by snow which was being laid down by a stream of  brief but brutal showers.

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Holme
Crossley's3 (1 of 1)
Ramsden Road

 

 

 

Five Hares & A Golden Plover

Mountain Hare
Mountain Hare

A walk amongst the peat hags of Holme Moss yielded some close encounters with five different mountain hares. The first  sat with back to wind on top of a hag. It skipped off as we approached and we walked to it’s little perch to find some lovely soft white fur amongst the heather. The hares are still in white winter coats and despite this can be difficult to spot amongst the heather as they lie still and close to the ground like a rock.

We walked on following our  grough and began bumping into hares as we twisted our way along it’s peaty course. As we watched a small hare having a serious wash and brush up a golden plover took to the wing ahead of us. It’s call, unheard since last summer, rang out on the wind. A magic moment.

Hare! (1 of 1) (800x473)

 Our last hare lay rock like close to the ground. The only movement a blink from it’s peaty black eye. We stood  just a few metres away in a silent stand off before it took off with a leap into the heather.

Bothy

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Druim Garbh

A week of nights by a crackling stove,whisky and dad jokes. The darkness of the woods outside splashed with a little candle light. The silence hardly broken at all.

The bothy
The bothy

 Each morning coffee, fry up  and wood cutting. An hours work to keep us warm all night.

An hours work
An hours work

   The glen, deep and dark with forestry, lacked a clear path out onto the hills. Our only option was a slog up steep contours between pines and deer fencing towards the snowy ridges above.

Bothy (1 of 1)
On the tops

    Frozen lochans,patchy snow and clear winter skies held sway over the West coast hills at first.

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Winter hills

Paddy and Loch Shiel
Paddy and Loch Shiel
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Ardgour

A strong cold wind made walking up high hard work but dropping back into the sunny woods felt like stepping into spring.

Glen Hurich
Glen Hurich

It had to rain. We could hear it falling on the tin sheet roof in the night. By morning the burns outside were roaring white with water off the hills above.

Weather on the hills
Weather on the hills
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Meall Daimh

Days of mist and stillness followed. The wood seemed darker and quieter. The fire in the stove brighter.

 

 

Easterly

By the fire
By the fire

The dogs were contentedly stewing by our stove while little flurries of snow danced past the kitchen window. There wasn’t much enthusiasm for a walk it has to be said.

Old shooting cabin
Old shooting cabin

Within an hour they’d swapped cosy fire side for an Easterly wind blowing up thier rears on a walk up West Nab. The temperature was a steady minus one with a cheeky wind making it feel much fresher. Every East facing surface was caked in frost. Little beads of dry snow dusted the ground. Winters black and white hand had returned to redraw the Pennine landscape .

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West Nab

 The tractor seats up on top  were filled with a deep frost which had the look of being hand painted .

Tractor seats

Over at Raven Rocks the old wire fence had grown frost from it’s galvanised squares.

Boundary fence
Boundary fence

Paddy ran fron rock to rock playing a game of hide and seek with the Easterly wind. Jemma the little Jack Russell is much tougher and even at 11 years old would never let the weather get the better of her.

Raven Rocks
Raven Rocks
Dogs in coats
Dogs in coats

 For a moment the moorland mood lifted with a brief glimpse of sunlight escaping from the dark sky above.

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Sunny spell

 

Cold Comfort

Cold Comfort
Cold Comfort

 

They say the darkest hour is just before dawn and for me the coldest moment follows on when getting out of a snug downy sleeping bag just as daylight arrives on a winter camp. Flysheet crisp with frost. Cold air nipping at my nose. Fighting the urge to  bury myself back inside the dark warmth of that downy bag. It’s a tough one.

Hard Frost
Hard Frost

To make things easier I have my stove and kettle set up the night before so I can lite it from my bag and retreat back inside to watch the purple glow quietly boil the days first brew. I use a trangia so it’s a slow affair with time to get used to the idea of  getting up and out. Sweet black coffee is drunk from the comfort of my bag. Shoulders eased outside  and sitting up it is a slow rebirth on cold winter mornings.

As the coffee slaps me awake the stove goes back on for porridge and as I eat  I let the last of the meths burn off. The dancing flame and light give an illusion of warmth to my cold berth. This waking ritual might take half an hour or sometimes  more. By the end of coffee and porridge the meths splutters out and I’m  half out of my bag thinking of getting boots on,unzipping the door and standing upright like some dazed and wobbley new born beast forced into it’s first day.

Best thing about getting out and upright is the long slash I’ve been putting off for the last 3 hours!

Bull Rocks Camp
Bull Rocks Camp

 

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First Light

 

 

 

Slack Water

Stillness over the Valley
Stillness over the Valley

Last nights wind and rain  slipped away early leaving a quiet day before the weather turns cold from the East. Walking on the moors it was still,calm and almost spring like.  It felt like we were in  slack water  before a turning tide.

John Deere
John Deere

In the calmness I could hear a farm lad pick stone from a John Deere tractor bucket and place it in a wall gap below me.

Holme Moss
Holme Moss

Just along the path a little mountain hare sat with it’s back to a peat bank soaking up the sun. I saw the wind in it’s coat and it’s eyes half closed. It had no idea I was there until some sixth sense nudged it from it’s sunny reverie and instict took it away in a burst of speed across the peat.

WNab (1 of 1)-2
Bilberry

A little further on I caught a glimpse of something fast and white on a peat bank but couldn’t register what it was. Then it reappeared with low quick movements on a large bank of black peat just in front of me. It was a stoat in ermine. It’s beautiful white coat leapt out from the black peat it moved over . Only the black tip on it’s tail matched the surroundings.

Beyond Wrigley’s cabin I headed off into the jig saw of peat hags across the Pennine watershed. I’m up here 3 or 4 times a week at present and probably walked through here 40 or 50 times last year yet I don’t think I’ve covered the same ground twice. Such is the maze of watercourses and groughs.

Paddy
Paddy

 Standing on a peat hag I looked back and saw the little white mountain hare  sat enjoying the sun. Something white and quick leapt out of the heather  jump starting the hare into flight again.  The stoat!

Slack Water
Slack Water

Wessenden and West Nab

Wessenden Head
Wessenden Head

The mini ice age continued with a wintry walk up in the Wessenden Valley and onto West Nab. That bitter wind had taken a weekend off and as a last  band of showery cloud edged away we were left with a crisp winter afternoon.

The Pennine Spine Race was due to come down the Wessenden Valley so we kept an eye out briefly but the afternoon drew us in and we headed off up West Nab and out of the valley.

Mountain biker on the Pennine Way
Mountain biker on the Pennine Way
Wess3 (1 of 1)
Winter Moors

Somewhere in a snowy clough we sat in a sun trap drinking tea and eating biscuits before following some size 12 boot prints off  towards West Nab.

Paddy
Paddy

The Spine Racers caught up with us as we completed our snowy circuit. Flailing walking poles and tracksuit legs gave them  an Edward Scissorhands quality.  They clicked and slithered past us into the coming night on a long stretch to Hebden Bridge .

Spine Racers
Spine Racers

 

 

Snow Day

Snowy Wall
Snowy Wall

Dunford Road outside our house was white with snow when I got up and that wind was not just rattling down the chimney but sat next to me on the sofa. It was early  and dark and going back to bed held some attraction I have to say.

I put on my armour of thermals,fleeces and windproofs and trusted  the Met Office prediction of showers dying out by dawn and a day of wind and sunshine.

I passed a bloke with 2 dogs up on Cartworth Moor . His hi vis work coat bright in the predawn gloom. We communicated our ” Mornings” with a nod each. Both aware that any words word be torn from us by the wind never to be heard.

It really wasn’t nice out and I mentally scaled back my planned walk from an over ambitious 18 miles to just getting to Holme for a bus back down the valley.

Ewes in the snow
Ewes in the snow

I looked out for some ewes I’ve photographed before up on Ramsden Road but struggled to see  in the poor light. Looking hard at a snow splattered wall I began to see sheep shapes breaking up the courses of drystone wall. A line of snow covered ewes were sheltering behind this wall from the gale which blew across the valley. Some were stood,some lay and some were still asleep. The wall offering a few feet of sanctuary from the winter.

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Penistone Ewes

I took refuge down in Yateholme Woods rather than walking the exposed pony track around Ramsden Clough and below Holme Moss  found a sheltered spot to sit and have a brew. Spindrift blew off the moors above but those showers had gone and cold blue skies were moving in. I decided to at least get up onto Holme Moss.

Yateholme Woods
Yateholme Woods

Whilst I plodded steadily upwards Paddy was full of snowy excitment and must have run 3 or 4 times the distance I walked up the hill. I kept stopping as we walked out of the cold shadows into a bright morning sun to look below at the unfolding view.

Unfolding View
Unfolding View
Holme Moss
Holme Moss

A hefty yellow gritter and plough had just about cleared the road as we crossed but there was no access to the transmitter except on foot. Walking behind the station we hit some very deep drifts which slowed even Paddy down.

Gritter Holme Moss
Gritter Holme Moss

A hare looking more grey than white appeared from one of the drifts and glided off into the snowy hags. The world is new and slightly strange under snow,it even sounds different.  I’m glad to still have that child like excitement at it’s arrival and want to enjoy the world it creates at every opportunity. Days like this aren’t to be wasted.

Paddy Hayden Clough
Paddy Hayden Clough
Hayden Clough
Hayden Clough

By Black Hill I decided to take the Pennine Way back down into the valley but the snow had taken it beneath shifting drifts and it’s reassuring flagstone line was gone. I headed for Issues Clough to keep out of the spindrift before turning into it briefly and then off the hill altogether much to paddy’s relief!

Black Hill Cairn
Black Hill Cairn

We walked home through a thaw in the valley. Happy to have done 15 miles in the snow. Glad I hadn’t go back to bed.

Captains Wood
Captains Wood
Branches
Branches
Flush House
Flush House

World turned black and white

Soft rush
Soft rush

Love what snow did in the valley today. Turning my world  black and white.

Snow shower
Snow shower

Above Holme it caught wall sides,fence posts and heather as if a white winter highlighter had brushed across the landscape.

Ewe
Ewe

Redrawing soft rush closer to the ground and adding a bit more of a lean to old stone gateposts

Ewes
Ewes

And an extra curve to the Holme Moss Road.

Footprints
Footprints

It was late afternoon and my boots were the only ones to come up this way all day.

Gate
Gate

I walked as far as the last gate then turned back homewards with the wind.

Flock (1 of 1)
Winter flock
Wrong side of the fence
Wrong side of the fence