The Moors and Pinhaw Beacon

One thing that is amazing about where we live is the variety of scenery. Here around our little house, it’s all rolling hills and greenery.

But if we walk less than a mile from here – and about 900 feet up – we can be up on the moors, where all you hear are curlews and all you see is cotton grass, heather, and the occasional rabbit.

I have always loved the moors, so my favorite walk is a 4-mile circuit up to Pinhaw Beacon. This is so-named because it was one of the designated beacons during the Napoleonic wars, when Brits were scared that Napolean might actually invade. If he did, fires were to be set at the sites of each beacon as a warning.

Now it’s just a stone with the immortal word “Dre” carved on it (presumably not done in Napolean’s time unless the rapper Dr. Dre is much older than we think).

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The view from up here is amazing on all sides

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And it’s quite a climb, so I always feel proud when I make the peak.

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The walk back down is much easier (of course) and you start to get views of the green hills and the trees that are missing up on the moors.
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A Day Out in Manchester

After so much blogging about the countryside, I’m pleased to have something different to show you. Last weekend was Phil’s birthday and he decided he wanted to spend it in his home city of Manchester, so off we went to meet some of his oldest and closest friends for lunch and a walk round town.

I don’t have their permission to post their photos, so I’ll just say that we had a lovely lunch (thanks again Dave and Deb!) and enjoyed a good walk round the city.

Here’s me next to the poster for Kenneth Branagh in Macbeth (did I mention I have tickets?!!)

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And here are a series of shots I took as we walked round town.

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Manchester is an amazing and vibrant mix of old and new, commercial and residential, trendy and traditional. There are vast shops the size of a city block that sit shoulder to shoulder with old libraries, theatres and pubs. We walked by the canal, strolled through the hushed vaults of an old library, and enjoyed a drink outside a lovely pub in the sunshine. And most important of all, Phil got to enjoy his birthday with a few of his very best friends.

We thoroughly enjoyed the day and, although we were glad to get back to the peace and quiet of the countryside, we both agreed that a trip back for shopping is in our near future.

Sick!

I vanished recently.

That’s because I got sick.

If you move back home, you soon learn about illness.

You get every bug that ever existed and then some because you have no defences.

So when a friend comes to stay for the weekend and happens to mention over morning coffee ‘I have a sore throat for some reason,’ you are filled with a sense of dread. You can already picture the sore throat and then the cough and the stuffy nose and the aches and pains and finally the exhaustion that takes over every part of your body and makes you think “maybe this is it for me. Maybe my time has come…”

But then slowly you start to feel a little bit better for an hour here and there, and then for a few hours and eventually, after almost two weeks, you manage to walk a little way up the lane and you finally feel like a human again.

(And then your friend redeems himself by giving you the heads up about extra tickets for a production of Macbeth in a small theatre starring Kenneth Branagh, and you get the tickets, and you think ‘well that wasn’t such a bad cold after all’. Love you Dave!)

We went for over a week without going for a walk, and it really sucked, because I hadn’t realized how much those walks meant to me. Finally a few days ago, I was able to get out and walk for a few miles. HEAVEN!

The countryside has changed so much just in the few days since I last got out and walked. Wildflowers are everywhere and they are sublime.

These photos were all taken in the village or on the lane outside our house.

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But if you walk a mile uphill from where we are, you come to a truly breathtaking sight. The fields turn into moorlands up there and at the moment there are just acres and acres of cotton grass. Close up it looks like this:

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To touch, it is soft and fuzzy, a little like the fur on a soft toy.

But as you stand on the moor, this is how it looks:

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I don’t think those photos begin to do justice to it. All I can say is that I stood in the field, all alone, hearing no sounds other than the cry of the curlews, and thought “I will remember this moment for the rest of my life and if my life ended tomorrow, I would feel like the luckiest person who ever lived.”

A truly remarkable experience.

The Magic is in the Light

Listen to any two Brits talk for any length of time and you’ll hear them complaining about the weather.

It’s too grey. It rains too much. It’s not warm enough.

All these things are true – it is grey, it does rain a lot and it’s not hot here.

But if it didn’t rain, if there were blue skies every day, if the temperatures got up into the 90s, then nothing would be the same.

I think this is what the complainers don’t fully comprehend.

The greenness here is so intense that it’s like a spiritual presence. There are no scorched brown lawns, or scrubby fields – there are just different shades of green as far as the eye can see.

Guess what – that’s because it rains a lot and isn’t hot.

Have no rain and intense heat and you can say goodbye to the green.

As for the clouds – yes, there are a lot of grey skies and a lot of clouds. But if it wasn’t for the clouds, we wouldn’t get these shafts of light that break through, ricocheting off the green fields, creating dazzling patterns and ever-shifting colour combinations.

I went for a walk this evening. The day had been grey and dark but towards evening, the clouds began to part and the sun began to sneak through, creating amazing effects – like a painting only better. The photos I took can’t begin to capture how it actually looked but they’re a start.

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To the moaners I say, if you want to exchange all that for parched earth and dull green/browns and light that is the same no matter which direction you look, you should emigrate to one of the more extreme climates. Me, I’m staying here, watching the play of light across the fields and admiring the way the clouds shift and change, constantly creating new versions of what was there before, what has has existed for millennia. Me, I’m just appreciating what we have.

The View from Our Skylight

lothersdale-england-954amOur house has 4 bedrooms on 2 floors. The top floor is built into the eaves, so the only windows are skylights. When we first thought about buying the house I worried about this (“it doesn’t even have real windows in some of the rooms and I’ll have to stand on tip toes to see out”). I don’t worry about it anymore.

Because the view from one of the skylights is my salvation. You can see it in the photo above, snapped a few weeks ago before the trees had come out, but after the grass had started to turn green. I took this photo in the morning, and the view is lovely then. I look out first thing every morning and take deep breaths and let the sounds of the breeze and the sheep and the curlews wash over me.

But that’s not the magical time. That comes much later when, at the end of a stressful day, mind teeming with work and personal responsibilities, thoughts dancing and flitting, wondering how on earth I am going to cram everything into tomorrow, I go upstairs and open the skylight again.

It’s much quieter at night. The surrounding hills have become dark, barely discernible shapes broken up by the occasional light from a distant house. The sheep have stopped their incessant chatter and laid down to sleep. The birds are silent.

And every night I stand there looking out into that vast darkness, feeling the breeze on my face – or sometimes the wind whipping rain against my skin – and I know that whatever beefs I have with the day, whatever lingering stressors are waiting for me tomorrow, and no matter that it has rained for 3 days solid, that wind against my skin is my wind. Those dark shapes in the distance are my fields. That village down the hill is my village. I am finally home.

I don’t know how long I will have in this house, but however long it is, I don’t think a single night will go by when I don’t stand at that window and count my blessings.

Littondale

We’ve been busy lately with our business and with getting the house sorted out, but we’ve also been taking opportunities to get out into the Dales as often as we can (I really would love to be retired so I had time for all I want to do!)

We’re now about 10 minutes drive from the south end of the Yorkshire Dales national park, which is just amazing to me.

If you’ve never been here, I hope that the photos I share will persuade you that it’s a good idea to change all that.

First Littondale, which was a complete surprise to us. We drove from Settle to Arncliffe on a road we had read was beautiful, and boy was that the truth! Here are some of my photos. (If it looks this good in foul weather, imagine how nice it will look if we ever get a sunny day.)

The first two photos were taken in Settle.

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The next two were on the road from Settle to Arncliffe.

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And here is Arncliffe, original home of Emmerdale Farm.

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Next time, I’ll share my favorite dale with you as we just spent a very happy Sunday there.

Let’s Talk About the Rain

It has to be said.

It rains a lot here.

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It probably rains more than it does wherever you live. Which means that if you’re thinking about moving back to England, you need to factor in the rain.

I’m a little bit weird. I don’t mind the rain and I don’t mind cold weather. I look better in winter clothes. I feel more comfortable in big jumpers and coats and wellies than I do in summer blouses or frocks. And I like going out for a walk and being buffeted by the wind and then coming home to a cosy warm house and dry clothes. Something about that makes me feel very safe and contented.

But I freely admit that this is not normal.

I understand that some people love to sit out in hot weather, roasting their skin and cracking open another cold beer. I may not understand you people, but I know you exist.

And here’s the thing. If that’s you, you’re going to have a really hard time here. We get very few days where you can sit outside in such heat that your skin changes colour. In fact most of our days out are more of an adjustment than anything. (“Yes, I know we planned to go for a long walk but it’s raining really heavily so let’s do X instead.”)

Phil and I have spent several weekends like that recently and I admit it: last weekend, the weather even started to get me down a little bit. We had gone to Littondale, which is just an incredibly beautiful place. We should have been out of the car walking through the hills, but the rain was torrential and we just didn’t have the clothing. So we were trapped inside the car, only able to look out without participating.

And yet now that I look back on that day trip, I don’t remember that feeling of annoyance. I only remember the stark beauty of the scenery, and the lamb who wandered into the middle of the road, and the lane so remote that I had to get out and open a gate so we could pass, and the sweeping vista that suddenly opened up before us through the mist.

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It was a fantastic day and I don’t know why I let the weather get to me. But I did and that’s my point. I am a person who doesn’t even like warm sunny weather and even I got a bit cheesed off with the rain.

Now tonight we went out for a 3 mile walk and one mile in, the heavens opened up. We walked the other 2 miles with rain lashing against our faces and slowly drenching our clothes, so that by the time we got home, we had to peel our jeans off and our supposedly waterproof coats were wet on the inside. This time I didn’t get cheesed off because we had plans for the evening. After a quick change, we headed off to a local pub to sit in front of a roaring fire and have a few drinks and some food. The contrast between the bracing walk and the cosy pub was heaven.

As I write this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table and the rain is gently tapping on the windows and I have a glass of wine and honestly I don’t think I could be any more content.

But I’ll say again. This evening was heaven to me, a person who hates warm temperatures and who locks herself indoors the minute the thermostat goes above 75 degrees F. Would it really be heaven to you?

Only you can say.