Birthday Hangovers, Walking in Historic Hackfall

Tractor on Road in the Yorkshire Dales

Now, I already know Mrs B (CB and I were Wed in Dec 2012!)  is pretty awesome...  But back in autumn, for my birthday, she set a new awesomeness record! A surprise weekend in the stunning Yorkshire Dales village of Masham and a tour of the Black Sheep Brewery served as an awesome reminder that I was a very lucky husband to be indeed!

After a brilliant day and night  eating and drinking Masham's finest, I was in need of some fresh air and open space. Luckily, the remedy lay just round the corner!

Hackfall is just down the road from Masham, Thorpe road, to be precise, just outside of Grewelthorpe. It's rather gentle walking, which was perfect for someone of my rather 'cloudy' disposition.  The woods and surrounding area are a joy to walk through and full of little hidden surprises.  This maze of wonders is largely thanks to John Aislabie who bought and landscaped the grounds in the 1700s.

Hackfall has everything, every turn and corner reveals something new and exciting, waterfalls, ruins, viewpoints, and a working fountain that is going on three hundred years old! You can not escape the sense of history in this place. After investigating a rather unusual and old looking tree a passing dog walker stopped and chatted for a minute. "Beautiful tree isn't it..." she said and continued to explain how she had found a 18th century coin embedded in the bark years ago. Tales like this only add to the magic and intrigue of the place. It wasn't just me in my foggy state that was bewitched: many artists including Turner have painted here and writers too, Wordsworth himself reflected on the beauty of the surrounding area. If you don't enjoy walking Hack Fall you might as well lock yourself away and see out the rest of your days playing FIFA and eating Nandos!

After we had almost too casually walked the grounds, taken in the the views and explored the ruins, we headed into Grewelthorpe. At the Crown Inn's beer garden we were greeted by some friendly Morris dancers who were just finishing their liquid rewards. A pint of Marstons' EPA in the sunshine and the metaphorical clouds lifted as we reflected on a delightfully original day's walking!

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The Dark Earth and the Light Sky, (Play about Walking Poet)

The Dark Earth and The Light Sky, play programme
Something that regularly frustrates me is the fact I will never have time to get through all the books, articles, web links, plays and films that I've noted down at various times on whatever media has come to hand. Even if I had one comprehensive list stored in one memorable location, the list would always grow a hundred times faster than it would ever decrease.

Take one of my current reads for example: 'The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot', Robert Macfarlane. I'm half way through and there is already an impossible number of authors to look into, poets to read, artists to explore and places to visit!

One of the more significant references in this book is the poet Edward Thomas. I'd just made a note to find out more about him when I heard an interview on the radio with Sir Richard Eyre. He was talking about a play based on Edward Thomas that he (Sir Richard Eyre) was directing . Yet another scribble on another notepad was made, along with a determined promise to actually follow up this scribbled notelet and not to let it simply vanish in the ether like so many others before!

It was the weekend before Christmas, CB and I were back in London to have Christmas at my folks. It was the best opportunity we had, and we decided to catch the matinee performance of The Dark Earth and the Light Sky at the Almeida Theatre in Angel. I admit that a play about Edward Thomas, a poet who loved to walk but suffered from severe depression, had a troubled marriage and died in the trenches of World War One isn't the most 'Christmassy' thing we could've done, but we made up for it with a festive pint of Rosey Nosey (Batemans brewery) in a pub full of Christmas jumper wearers afterwards!

While it isn't the most light-hearted of plays, it's not as heavy as you might expect either. There's plenty of humour and I was totally fascinated and gripped by all the characters and their stories throughout. It's a really strong, emotive and intriguing performance from the small cast and I came away with a new list of authors and poets!

Put simply, it's a 9 out of 10 for me and an absolute must see for anyone into the countryside and walking!

A Walk from a New Home for New Boxers

Photo from the Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits Nature Reserve

Nearly a year ago, we were supping our pints and sharing a packet of roast beef Monster Munch in the Red Lion following an awesome Burley in Wharfedale walk. I couldn’t have imagined that by November 2012 we’d actually be making our home there! Well, actually, I probably did imagine that; we tend to envisage ourselves living in every place we walk through. Nevertheless, to find ourselves living in the location of one of our first Yorkshire walks following our move from London is both a little surprising and really cool!

On the second weekend in our new place, CB was away on her Hen weekend and the two weeks of numerous trips to hardware stores, assembling flat pack furniture, moving all our stuff room to room, day by day in accordance with the work being carried out, was starting to take it’s toll! I was desperate to be outdoors!

Despite my overwhelming urge (which I had been repressing for two weeks) to head straight out onto the moor, I had one obstacle. We still had no kitchen or washing machine and as of Monday (this was Sunday) I was going to be out of clean undies.

The obvious solution was to head into Leeds, where there was more chance of finding an open launderette, but my heart sat heavy at the thought of this. So I decided to take the less economical path, walk to Ilkley via Rombald’s moor, buy some new boxers and visit the launderette on Monday! Decision made, soul appeased, I headed out at a quickened pace up the road and towards the moor.

It was Remembrance Sunday and I had the idea that I would observe the customary 2 minutes silence from one of the peaks on the moor that overlook Burley in Wharfedale. This rather sentimental notion failed to materialise as I hadn’t realised that the walk leading to the moor (despite nearly jogging in excitement), was in fact longer than I had remembered. I compromised for two minutes of quiet thoughtfulness, on foot. Thinking of Grandparents and other inspirational people I’ve met and then into wider pools of thought, of people far and near who still experience extreme violence on a daily basis, which turns to prayer, that I will never become desensitized or neglectful to such thoughts and that I will have courage and wisdom to act on them when needed.

I wasn’t too disappointed at not reaching a viewpoint for the customary show of silence, I contemplate best on foot with a camera in my hand. I documented my two minutes of silence, automatically shooting from the hip; no composing, no construction, just a continuous finger on the shutter as I walked in thought.

11:00 - 11:02 11/11/2012 fine art photograph by photographer rich bunce
11:00 - 11:02 11/11/2012, Rich Bunce

I continued to walk the moor, aimlessly meandering towards Ilkley, generally moving and turning away from any sign of human activity. Embracing the solitude with the moor and selfishly attempting to keep the moments for myself. As I approached Ilkley the paths and tracks got busier and I conceded it was time to head into town and purchase those boxers!

At this point I had thought I might grab a pint, a sandwich and 45 minutes of Premier League football but the light was glorious and the air so fresh that I decided to press on. I walked on towards the River Wharfe.

It's hard describe the walk along the River Wharfe to Burley in Wharfedale. It's not the sort of walk you jump out of bed for, but there were certainly moments of interest that made it worthwhile. The walk is a little broken in places meaning there are stretches of walking along the A65. One particular point of interest was the Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits Nature Reserve which, despite the continuous noise of cars, is paradoxically peaceful and worth exploring.

After the Nature Reserve I crossed the A65 and made my way back to Burley in Wharfedale via several country tracks, crisscrossing the various areas marked "Private Land". As I did this I stumbled upon a beautiful Red Kite and true to form, before I could lift my camera, it had flown over some trees. Though unrecorded, it was a great moment that I enjoyed reflecting on as I supped on a pint of Landlord (Timothy Taylor Brewery) in The Red Lion, almost a year after my previous pint there!

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Walking Photographer Wades Through Bangor

Underwater photograph, walking photographer taken in Bangor esplanade, Northern Ireland

The increasing struggle to get out of bed in the mornings. The reluctance to turn on the heating while shivering at my desk. The increased consumption of hot drinks coupled with more regular trips to the 'little boys room'. These are all sure fire signs that autumn is here and winter's not far behind!

Don't get me wrong, I love winter and I'm looking forward to my winter walks out in the crisp, fresh air. But it's always a little sad letting go of the summer, especially when it hasn't produced much summer weather! A recent train journey gave me some time to reminisce about a weekend not too long ago. It was one of the few weekends in 2012 when the UK enjoyed blue skies and warm sunshine. CB and I were visiting friends in Bangor, Northern Ireland and they had just moved to a house a stone's throw from the beach.

Not knowing when or if we'd get some hot weather again we dumped our bags and headed straight for the beach! The girls were into their cossies and out into the sea before Dermot and I could raise sufficient excuses that didn't compromise our machismo. However, it wasn't too long before I was tentatively wading out with my camera in it's underwater housing.

If you're not up for wading in Bangor there are also some lovely walks to be had over the beach and along the coastal path. Our favourite local pub there is, and always will be, the friendly and lively Jamaica Inn!

I almost forgot to mention, we were accompanied by Bangor Esplanade's most famous (or infamous) Jack Russell - Smudge, and very photogenic she was too!

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View Bangor, County Down in a larger map

Panoramic views at Penhill

Landscape Photograph from Penhill Walk

Walk Summary

Start Point: West Witton

Walk Guide /Map references OS Explorer OL30 & Collins Ramblers > Yorkshire Dales, David Leather

Distance: 7.5 miles

Highlights: Awesome Views from Penhill

Wildlife spotted: Shrew, Curlew (plus Chick), Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear, Raven, Kestrel. (Walk is reputed to offer sightings of Peregrine Falcon and Brown Hare too!)

Watering Hole: Fox & Hound - Very quiet on arrival but it's a multi award winning pub with a good range of  local ales and real beers

Tipple Tips: Swinithwaite Silver, Yorkshire Dales Brewery - Light and tasty
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CB stealing Rhys Darby's Dance Moves

Here's CB doing some moves that we'd seen in Rhys Darby's show at Leeds Town Hall the previous night...

CB stealing Rhys Darby's dance moves animation

One Last Walk on Skye (this year anyway!)

Anemone under water photograph in rock pool, walking Skye, Scotland

The last walk in this Skye Walker Series left me with a souvenir. A black and shiny souvenir... on my bottom! This was the best bruise I've achieved since a snowboarding trip in the three valleys too many moons ago. It came about for the usual reasons: overexcitement and lack of concentration. In case you're feeling nervous about flicking through the consequential photos, don't be. You'll be relieved to hear that I failed to document this rather original memento!

The walk along Waterloo beach, near Broadford offers yet another unique landscape to take in.  It's hard to describe as there is such a variety of terrain: patches of grassland full of watery potholes,  strange rock formations and more rock pools you can shake a stick at! Oh, and when the tide is out, a sandy beach is uncovered.

This doesn't appear to be a particularly popular walk. Comparatively, it's not a 'classic' walk either, but it is a fascinating one and offers more than enough to keep any walker intrigued!

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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!

Skye on the road (The Bits in Between)

My last post on our fantastic Skye Walker adventures should be up next week. Here's some photos from the bits in between our walking adventures on the Isle of Skye...

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Skye Serendipity (Last Day, Part One: Loch Coruisk)

Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye

Our last day on the Isle of Skye began with a disappointing voicemail. Well actually the day began with an epic struggle to remove ourselves from bed into the shower and out into the car for 7am. Five days of driving, walking, late night card games and excessive biscuit consumption was starting to take it's toll!

We were driving to Elgol where we were booked on a boat for the Isle of Rum: star location in BBC's Autumnwatch series, as well as many other wildlife programmes. Another contributing factor in the mornings' fatigue was a night of hyperactive anticipation at seeing deer, White Tailed and Golden Eagles, otters, ponies, goats and much more! However the bubble of boyish excitement burst about 5 minutes into the drive when CB picked up a voicemail from the skipper warning that the seas were likely to be too rough to sail (or whatever correct term for a boat without sails is?!)  out to Rum.

After a particularly stunning drive, we arrived at Elgol with low expectations. Just as well as all charters to the Isle of Rum were cancelled for the day. Not wanting to waste our efforts, we decided to jump on a boat headed for Loch Coruisk.

The boat trip on the Bella Jane was great, we saw a couple of Shags (for those with a similar maturity level to myself, I mean Phalacrocorax aristotelis), a Great Northern Diver (this is a bird) which was a real thrill and plenty of Harbour seals which are always a welcome sight to me!

Once we arrived at Loch Coruisk we had one and half hours to scramble/ ramble. With an estimate time of 3 hours to walk the circumference of the Loch, your options for exploration are a wee bit limited. With hindsight we would've done the longer trip. For anyone considering the walk back to Elgol from Loch Coruisk, consider well, because I saw the 'bad step' section of that walk and I would say 'danger of death step' might be a bit more appropriate! But then, I'm not really known  for my love of heights, quite the contrary in fact and apparently in the good ole days herdsmen would walk their sheep and cattle this route.

The area is simply stunning, and it's easy enough to reach some mountaineering-esque viewpoints! After taking it all in and getting over the awesomeness of such rare views (for us anyway) we decided to walk away from the Loch and our rambling shipmates. We happened to stumble upon a beautiful sandy cove (with no footprints!!) it was the most peaceful experience of the holiday by far; until we noticed the time and had to peg it back to the mooring!

Our serendipitous visit to Loch Coruisk was possibly the highlight of the Skye trip and is a real 'must see' for any Skye Walking Jedi!

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