A Sheepish Walk to Harewood

Luscious green leaves on silver grey trees It was a sunny bank holiday Sunday and our only obligation for the day was a BBQ in the early evening. Having wanted to check out Harewood House for quite some time, this the perfect opportunity. Encouraged by a discount for people arriving on foot we decided to walk. Parking in Bramhope we started our Harewood House walk. The walk begins on Breary Lane East, which possesses an eclectic mix of houses, all of which seem to have no linking characteristics other than that they all look like they cost a rather large amount of money! After walking through several large fields with enough sheep to send the hardiest insomniac to the land of nod, we reached a point where we could either continue onto Harewood or make a detour via Eccup Reservoir. I'd heard rumours on twitter that Eccup was a bit of a wildlife hotspot and the fact that we were sandwiched between two large walking groups (clearly taking the direct route to Harewood) made the decision that much easier! When we made it to the reservoir we realised walking round it and making it to Harewood House may be a little too ambitious, so we settled with sitting on the reservoir wall eating our Branston pickle and roast chicken sandwiches before getting back on track to Harewood. For those unfamiliar with the area of Harewood (near Leeds), the Harewood Estate is (to me at least) mahoosive! The grounds (and house) have been in the Lascelles family since it's completion in 1771. The landscape within its expansive borders is both vast and diverse, with many views looking like they've been copied and pasted straight from a Constable painting! Lancelot ""Capability" Brown is the man to take much of the credit (not to mention the contemporary grounds staff, who I'm sure should take a good slice of credit too!) for the stunning scenery. Brown designed these grounds that have undoubtedly influenced many artists including Thomas Girtin. It's a funny realisation that something we now consider to be so natural is, in fact, very manufactured! We appeared to arrive tantalisingly close to the house, yet couldn't find an entrance! It seems (as far as we could tell) you can only enter through the main entrance, which is accessed via the main road. By the time we had walked the boundaries and made it into the village of Harewood we had missed the last entrance to the house. Inevitably, armed with this knowledge, we simply went into the first pub we came across! After a refreshing pint and packet of roasted peanuts in the Harewood Arms Hotel we headed back to Bramhope; via the direct route! By the time we made it back to the car the BBQ was in full swing, and by the time we made it home we were very tired, hungry and feeling particularly unsociable. We opted for some hot food and some bottles of Ilkley Pale on the sofa while watching Swedish crime drama on the internet! While you could be tempted to label this walk a failure, not achieving any of our aims and then missing our only social commitment of the day, it was still a very memorable and enjoyable walk. A pub was frequented, beer and bar snacks were consumed which for many (myself included) constitutes a successful outing! Some people may also be interested to know that on this walk we passed by the set of Emmerdale which lies within the Harewood Estate. The route offers great views of Red Kites who were (introduced to Harewood as part of a very successful conservation initiative). Other wildlife highlights included a Yellow Hammer and spotting two hares bathing in the sun near Weardley. (I know, awesome name for a small village!)

Stood Up at Golden Acre Park, Leeds

5am on a Saturday morning in Leeds (sober) is quite a sight. Driving past the station reveals an eclectic mix of people: party goers, big drinkers, workers, deliverers, travellers and me, a photographer in search of some golden light! I was looking to expand my folio with some garden and flora photographs at Golden Acre Park. Dawn is a great time to photograph plants and flowers, as you get that low, warm coloured light which cuts across the land, casting harsh shadows and exposing patterns normally  invisible when the sun is high. Sunrise can also reveal natural wonders, like dew or a frost, which can make the morning's battle to get out of bed all the more worth while. On this occasion however there was no dramatic sunrise or golden bursts of light. It just got light from behind thick cloud. To say I wasn't slightly miffed by the unrewarding nature of the weather would be a lie! But this was the situation and I had to make do, photographers often dismiss the 'flat' light of a cloudy day, but the soft light can be used just as creatively. I walked around Golden Acre Park and got absorbed in the abundance of beautiful flowers, soon forgetting the disappointment of the sun's no show!

Cow and Calf at Ilkley

Cow Calf Rocks Ilkley Moore An unplanned lazy lie in and poor visabillity meant we weren't able to do the walk we had planned to do last week. We headed up to Ilkley Moor anyway, just to stretch the legs and get some air. Parking as near to the Cow and Calf rocks as we could (this is evidently a popular weekend destination, as this was further than we would have liked), we changed shoes and set off. Neither 'climbed' nor 'walked' would be an accurate description of how we made our ascent, messily and laboriously may be more accurate.  The top of the rocks themselves are not more than a 5 minute walk from the completely full car parks below but there are several places further up the road where you can leave the car if, like us, you leave it all rather late! The rocks were fascinating. A variety of carefully carved etchings, both contemporary and old including many dated in the early 1800s, were scattered over the irregular surfaces of the Cow and Calf rocks. In fact, there are reportedly a number of engravings throughout Ilkley Moor thought to date from either the late Neolithic or the Bronze Age, and Rombald's Moor (of which Ilkley Moor is part) is considered to hold the second highest concentration of ancient carved stones in Europe. After spending a considerable amount of time walking around and examining the rocks we walked back down (disturbing a couple of red grouse on the way) towards the Cow and Calf Hotel where we stopped for a customary pint. I opted for a Black sheep (Black Sheep Brewery, Masham). The busy bar staff were friendly and the slightly crowded pub had a nice atmosphere, despite food clearly being the priority of this establishment. The Ilkley Moor area is an intriguing landscape which clearly holds many points of interest. I will certainly be revisiting, just a little earlier next time, with a dinner table reservation at the pub for our return!