Once Upon

Once Upon

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Yew Wood Too....

I took into my head to look for another wood to walk in....a wood that I had not yet been to...a wood that was nearby and easily accessible....a wood that was deciduous, mixed and hosted a river of some sort....a wood on the doorstep, as it were....but different to the wood that was already on my doorstep...er.... as it were.
So, after a quick glance at the local map, I tootled off in the car heading for the deduced arboriality. (good word..suspect it doesn't exist though).
The ten minute or so drive that took me to my intended location was a pleasure itself to be honest. I left home and was soon sedately pottering along  the quiet leaf-dappled back-roads, window down, relishing the slowly rolling views of greenery through the summer-thickened hedges and tree-arched avenues that were starting to hint at changing their hues into this year's autumn colours.
As I passed, I acknowledged the welcome presence of the usual suspects of Rook, Crow and Magpie going about the business of being Rooks, Crows and Magpies....

and also, along the way, noticed a constant blurring of Swallows constantly dotting the sky in their ceaselessly deft flight patterns as they, too, went about doing what Swallows do......
On the outskirts of the small but perfectly formed village that was, according to the map, the starting point of my little excursion, I parked the car verge-bound and after closing the car door behind me, paused for a few moments as I attuned to the instant quiet of a country silence after the constant car-rumble of my drive. I say a country silence, because it rarely is a complete silence.....my ears began to pick out the subtle tapestry of characteristic sounds....wood-pigeon cooing...
.the occasional craark of a Rook....a distant sheep bleat..a very distant buzz of a chain-saw....a couple of barks from a field-far dog.....the silly clatter and squark of a near-by Pheasant....the underscore of haphazard delicate tweets and twitterings of guessed at Blue Tits....etc etc...
The air was still and mild and had a feel of gentle dampness to it, and just like the start of the changing leaf-colour, the air itself seemed to be hinting at the autumnal change of season...
I wandered on along the roadside for a short while looking at the thick Hawthorn hedge alongside, ably supported by multi-stemmed Hazel and coppiced Ash, (the hedge that is..not me) and presently came across the almost un-seen niche in the hedge that offered entry into the wood. Nearly smothered by an old Yew tree, a very weathered and bramble-wrapped wooden signpost kindly pointed the way in....I obeyed.
The overgrown leaf strewn pathway led me steeply down away from the roadside hedge and down the thickly wooded slopes, across an ornate stone bridge,
into a 'secret' winding valley. Within a few minutes of leaving the road, I was completely enfolded into the woodland.... and it was clear that anything that had ever happened outside this ancient and peaceful habitat was unknown by it, was irrelevant and would ever remain so. I continued to follow the faint course of the pathway down amongst the arching Beech, Sycamore, Oak and Birch whose overhead leaves were jointly embroidered into a canopy of a graded greens and browns, throwing dancing shades of light and shade onto the soft ground beneath.  
The promised, and hoped for river within this wooded sanctuary quietly began to whisper its song, and as I approached, the bracken-ish water glistened in a reflective, sparkling dance and it's tune of pebble-splash and gentle gurgle became a little louder, and its tinkling refrain became a constant gentle tune to the quiet wooded chorus.

I continued to walk along the tree-sloped gentle riverside... the slow, shallow course of the water interrupted by a smattering of lushly mossed rocks....and the occasional fallen branch....each causing a silver line of eddy and lazy swirl as the flow rounded and moved on....
I wandered on...
I rounded a bend, and set a little back from the pathway and nestled well in to the wooded slope behind it, a curious stone archway was revealed.... and on closer inspection it became obvious that some sort of 'folly' or grotto had been imaginatively constructed, long ago, out of the rock...with a short low tunnel leading under the path to the river.....

An unseen flight of geese honked its way noisily overhead, the sound of their passing intruding like a very slow doppler effect through the trees..... I startled a Robin
into bad tempered admonishment of my presence and a rather insistent Pheasant
barked its stupidity at me from the other side of the  river.
In the middle of the path was a colony of mushroom-like fungus that had quite clearly decided to flourish copiously in that one specific spot..and no other, as far as I could see.
I momentarily left the far end of the wood, to emerge into an open meadow of gorse-lined pasture and stood still for a moment, and as I stood, a large Buzzard
airily took off from high up in the trees in front of me, circled a while, and floated off out of sight over the distant tree-tops.......The edge of the field was bordered by a couple of houses with a paddock that was home to two clearly contented horses setting a scene of rural idyll...
and alongside me in the hedge, I noticed the seasonal berries were almost ready for the picking...

A 'single-seater' aeroplane then passed over.....somewhat more noisily and far more intrusively.
I turned, and as I made my way back through the water-side trees, I once again became absorbed into the special quiet atmosphere of the ancient, shrouded woodland....enjoying and sensing that indefinable feeling I get from being within that specific environment...
I slowly made my way back to the car,  rising out of the deep valley and emerging from the half-hidden exit point the way I had come...the vale disappearing behind the hedgerow behind me. As I leaned on the bonnet taking a drink of water from my flask before heading off,  a couple of motor-bikes turned the bend half a mile or so up the quiet lane I was parked beside, and approached quickly, very quickly, obviously making an increasing amount of noise as they did so.....they roared passed me in a cacophony, all day-glow leathers and exhaust,  leaving a wake of fleeing, squawking and panicking fauna behind them....
I totally appreciate the genuine pleasure and thrill one must get from riding a motor bike along a winding country road, but can't help thinking.....well, y'know..


Friday, 6 September 2013

Get yer Rocks off...

Undeniably compelled today to go somewhere.
Couldn't be bothered to drive across to the 'Lakes'.
Toyed with the notion of wandering the usual walks on my doorstep.....
Then.....light-bulb over the head moment....The Wanneys....that's where I'll go ..... The Wanneys.
The Wannys are a bunch of small friendly rocky escarpments upon which I used to clamber about on, and occasionally fall off from, in my crag-rat climbing days...er, a while ago.
Magically placed mid open moorland, but accessible by a pleasant 'walk-in'.
So off I went.
I fired up the jalopy and tootled along the back roads in the sunshine...
In just a few short miles, the route took me through some of the most appealing and beautiful countryside so typical of Northumberland.
Lushly wooded, pastoral meadow...
High-hedged lane, branch-domed and worn..
Olden-spired, warm-stoned villages.....
Leaf-dappled, blue-brown, stone-sparkled rivers...
Open-viewed, farm-placed greenery, stocked, lowing and bleating...
En-route, I casually noted a whole bunch of houses and locations where I would blissfully surrender my remaining eye teeth to live in.

Presently, relying on my memory of the locale, I parked the car in a conveniently placed county council roadside gravel heap, and ambled off across the once way-marked er, way...over tussocked moorland in the sunshine, in the general direction of a pine wood leading to the rising horizon of The Wanneys.
Half an hour or so later, after not a little stumbling about in what turned out to be an inpenetrable quagmire under face-lashing brushwood,
I retraced my steps to the car-mounted gravel mound, and decided upon alternative approach. Clearly, the topography had been changed by someone in my absence...
Happily I came across the correct spot a little further on, and
a very pleasant and easy sloped moorland walk led me up to the mid-distant Wanneys.
On reaching one end of the top of the ridge, I took an off-piste stumbling shuffle down through the glorious, but ankle grabbing purple heather,
and wandered along the base of the crag, and gazed rememberingly at the rock formations.....in my minds eye seeing a teen-aged me spidering about on its stony monoliths.
Absolutely on cue, I heard a sound I had not heard for years.
A Curlew.
Northumbria in a feathered nutshell.
As chance would have it, a couple of climbers were preparing to ascend 'Foxes Hole' (remarkably, I remembered and recognized the route!), so I lingered and watched their endeavors.
I am sure they were enjoying themselves, but they appeared to make rather clumsy hard work of it.
Festooned with gear, helmeted and loudly going through the format of vocal exchanges.........
Hmmm, get me.
I wandered off further along the base of this lofty, isolated and moor-lonely crag, enjoying the now quiet solitude, eventually to again take an off-piste foray up through the dense heather and gorse to reach the top the 'easy way'. Pah!...easy way indeed.
After 20mins of sweat-drenched, shin-scraping, face-planting crashing about, I hauled myself up on hands and knees through the undergrowth to collapse exhausted at the top.....to be met with a family outing, complete with Grandma, all sandals and sun-hats, holding their cameras out and asking if I would  "take their photies pleez".
I of course did.
Once the Giles group had gaggled off the way they came, I sat a while and looked out over the broad horizoned landscape of the open moor. A real pleasure.
As I walked back to return to the car, I was surrounded by a swooping squadron of swallows glutting on the insects in the warmth of the sun, and a single mew of the Curlew sounded out once more.

Sweethope Lough came into view as I descended the kindly sloped back of The Wanneys, its blue shimmering water cradled in wooded perimeter
....and just to complete the picture, a lone boat of two fly fishermen drifted into silhouette....lazily casting over the water.

A magical impromptu few hours really. ( unabashed prompt for famed Northumberland based image!)

Monday, 2 September 2013


Not in in my backyard, mate.
No birds that is....
No birds in my backyard.
I little expect to view vast gathering flocks of flamingo, soaring sea eagles, swirling vultures or flittering humming-birds,

but the occasional sighting of a single feathered visitor would be nice.
Our house, in the middle of our street......has a pleasantly bijou walled backyard.
It has been well-stocked with potted greenery....plants, shrubs, heathers,  and assorted flower tubs. It even plays host to a giant wild budleia that roots outside the yard but prefers to reside within the shelter of our enclave. We have ivy trellises and hanging baskets of growing things abound. Insects of every variety love us.
We have receptacles holding fresh rainwater and bird feeders of every possible design....perches and protected nooks and crannies. A veritable oasis of an attractive birdy habitat for safe visitation.
You'd think.
In the four years of our residency, I am yet to see a single bird in our backyard. It appears to be an avian no go zone.
I am on close speaking terms with a pair of Jackdaws who live in the chimney-pots on my neighbour's roof,
and am on nodding terms with the occasional chittering house-sparrows who flit about neighbouring front garden privet hedges.
I would even consider myself an acquaintance of Mr and Mrs Blackbird who live at the end of the road (as previously blog-mentioned).
Yet not one bloody ornithological critter ever graces our backyard, not even for a moment.
Perhaps the presence of large areas of natural woodland, river-bank and hedge-rowed meadows a mere hundred yards away makes our little patch of pretend countryside a tad less attractive.

The wealth of local bird life that I regularly see whilst ambling around this local natural habitat nearby, have clearly all conspired to shun my welcoming few square yards of square yard, in favour of more expansive locales..and who can blame them....I myself  prefer it too.....