After weeks of Easterly winds the weather has turned itself off and back on again. Default South West winds have returned bringing sweeping grey skies and a grim mood to the Pennines. It even rained yesterday.
The fresh greens of Spring look awkward and out of place beneath these sour skies. I walked out hoping to hear a first cuckoo but felt as if I’d arrived early and uninvited at the wrong party.
There’s an extensive patch of gorse on Castle Hill which has developed nicely over the years. I’d noticed it’s yellow splash come into bloom over the past week or so and wished for some sun and a bit of blue sky to set it off for photographs. The weather had been cool and grey from the East for days but after delivering cards to Scholes Post Office I got the feeling that the blanket of cloud would thin and let that May sun in.
I guessed right and spent an afternoon wandering sunny meadows with sweeping swallows and the warm sun on my back. I could smell the gorse flowers scent in the warming afternoon air.
Bluebells and Cow parsley lined the field edges and I walked most of the network of paths on the West side of Castle Hill where the stone walls,stiles and scattered trees give an ever changing forground to the scene below Victoria Tower.
The young lambs above Digley are like coat hangers with a fleece on them at the moment. There’s nothing to them at all. On a warm bank holiday evening we stepped into a pastoral scene of lush green fields and motherly ewes.
The trees of Digley Wood and sky above were caught in the stillness of wind free water. We spoke with two characters sat arms crossed on a bench by a 60 year old motorbike. Despite the warm afternoon one remained helmeted and his voice echoed slightly when he spoke of miles per gallon,cuckoos and medieval farmers. I kept a straight face.
Along the lane a bit I wandered off and saw a pair of Ring Ouzels flitting about a field quarry as Lapwings combed the air with diving wings.
Late getting organised so caught the bus up to Holme and headed out along Issues Road for the moors. Overhead a blustry sky thick with curlew babblings and possibile precipitation played out the last track of March’s classic album. Picking up the Pennine Way I pretty much followed it’s flagged way through the bogs over Black Moss, Standedge and White Hill to Blackstone Edge.
One hefty shower nailed us in Blakely Clough but otherwise the weather’s bark was mostly louder than it’s bite. It was a joy to be tramping purposefully over rolling moors with the aim of knocking off 15 miles by dusk and then camping somewhere in the boulders at the back of Blackstone Edge.
The wind died away with dusk and I found a lovely spot facing East to camp. I had a snipe drumming overhead as I pitched the tent and I was in that contented place of tiredness, hunger and satisfaction that walking like this brings about. It is a rich place to be!
The M62 grumbled away through the night and occassional showers tapped the flysheet but otherwise all was still until the dawn curlews began warming up for the day.
It was some 18 miles to Haworth from where I’d camped so an early start was taken to be sure of some time at the pub before heading home. The morning was windy and threatening on the West side of Blackstone Edge but nothing other than wonderfully dramatic skies developed on the walk by the chain of reservoirs and conduits which link to Stoodley Pike.
High above Todmorden early April showers cast fast moving light and shadow over Calderdale. It rained on the wind but missed me thankfully! For once I enjoyed the drama without a soaking.
Stoodley Pike seems to be a bit of a diva weatherwise and usually puts on a meteorological tantrum of some kind when I walk up here.
Paddy was particularly pleased to reach the oblisk and get out of the wind for a while before the rambling descent to Hebden Bridge and a spot of lunch. There was a real feel of Spring down in the valley and this developed through the brightening afternoon into a glorious tramp over sunny moors to Haworth.
It is a long haul through the woods on intricate paths and lanes up into the open country above Hebden Bridge and by the ruined farmstead at Nook I was feeling it. The soul soaked up the dog- eared South Pennine landscape which lay before my feet and felt somewhat lighter that my late in the day legs.
After a paddle and a snooze at Grain Water Bridge I headed up the old unmade road for Haworth and that pint. Coming off the moors above Haworth I had some cracking views North to the Wharfedale hills and enjoyed meadows teeming with curlew as I threaded a way on quiet paths into the village. Not having the legs to walk up the cobbled high street I partook of some ale at the fine Old Hall Hotel before stumbling along the road for a bus to Keighley.
Wild West winds, snow clipping the tops and a rather vague weather forcast gave a rewarding and mildly challenging walk up Kirkby Stephen way. In my rush to get on the road I left my camera at home and was reduced to taking photos with the phone! My maps were in the camera case too so I was navigating from my somewhat unreliable memory banks! All good stuff.
Nine Standards Rigg was a glorious tramp from spring back up into winter. The Westerly winds were rattling in bringing heavy cloud laden with hail and snow. Lady Luck was on my side and these showers were nothing more than wintry passers by who never quite bumped into me.
I do love this time of year and in particular this kind of weather with Spring and Winter all mixed up like a dogs dinner of warm valley sun,bitter winds on the fells,flocks of curlew and golden plover,snow falling and longer days. Heady stuff to be out in and savoured.
I seemed to be in good form and tramped on over High Seat and Hugh Seat at what passess for a fair old lick these days. Too cold to stop anyway. I walked into some beautiful late light which caught the fells twists,turns and pale colours as daylight coppered up and began to fade. As ever on these walks there was only me and the dog about to enjoy it.
As dusk settled I dropped into Red Gill thinking it best to get below 2,000 foot for the night. It wasn’t something conscious just a sixth sense pointing me down hill. I found a spot in a flurry of snow and it was tent up and brew on.
There’s a noticable population of Black Grouse in this area and a great deal of work has gone on to improve thier chances by creating a patch work of trees amongst these cloughs and gills. Real pleasure to see and hear them.
In the early hours I woke to that silence that comes with snow fall. The wind had swung from West to East and was now plastering the tent door with thick wet snow flakes. So much so that I had to declare an “ok to pee in the tent porch” event. The fly sheet sagged badly and I knocked it clear every time I turned over for the rest of the night.
I had a very laid back breakfast using the stove to warm up the tent before packing up inside , gearing up,tipping the dog out and then stepping outside to drop the tent and head off with the wind and snow at my back for Kirkby Stephen.
There’s been some good ones this year. I’ve enjoyed the sweeping skies and longer days as spring cleans winter away. The earlier starts to catch misty moorland and shadowed cloughs before breakast. Most of all the moorland sky is now rich with golden plover,curlew,skylark and oyster catcher.
The land itself is washed out and almost colourless but the warming sun and wet days will soon change that.
Up in Ramsden Clough I heard the first curlew call over the peat grounds and found it impossible to take another step as her burbling song held me and gently topped up a dark winters soul with spring! Later that day I sat out of the wind watching a couple of nibbling mountain hares as showery clouds crept across Woodhead pass. A sky lark was swept up on the wind to fill the moor with song.
I spent a breezy afternoon walking from Holmfirth up to West Nab. Paddy panted in the sun like it was a summers day as we trod drying fields upwards and out of the valley to windy moors. Reaching Leyzing Clough at sunset I pitched the tent while a pair of wrens danced and called amongst the gritty boulders of the stream. The night was moonlight and still. Curlew calls promted a clear dawn and a full days walking.
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 peat 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.
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.
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.
Only the highest ground had been caught by snow which was being laid down by a stream of brief but brutal showers.
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.
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.