We managed to get in a bit of good walking this week-end, we haven't been far this last couple of weeks with the weather being so bad.
The weather forecast wasn't too good but apart from the strong nithering north wind and squally hailstone showers it wasn't too bad either.
We drove up into the North Yorkshire National Park and parked up at Old Man's Mouth in Forge Valley to walk the banks of the river Derwent.
There's been an awful lot of snow and rain this past year so we were pleasantly surprised to see the flooding had almost receded and the trails weren't too muddy. The river was still high and running at a good lick but nothing like it had been a few weeks before.
The bird feeding station was packed with cars but we saw coal tits, chaffinch, great tits and bluetits on the feeding area. It's usually over run with grey squirrels but this time there were two shy roe deer that ventured quite near before being startled and rushing back into the forest.
The grass banks down to the trail were very squidgy and slippery but holding DH's arm I managed to to get there without falling. I have an arthritic knee which doesn't do downhill very well, it's painful so I always end up doing little stiff legged leaps, going sideways like a crab!
We stood silently at the bottom watching a dipper as she bobbed her little dance on a wet mossy rock, she flew further up stream when she realised we were there.
A tree creeper edged his way up the tree trunk...they only climb up, flying to the bottom to start again when they reach the top...gone in a flash at a sudden movement which turned out to be an inquisitive blackbird, he eyed us warily with his head cocked to one side.
And all the while the river gurgled and chuckled as it ran along the stony river bed.
Patches of droopy headed snowdrops glowed white in amongst the bare trees and shiny green ivy spread her fingers around the tree trunks, ever tightening her grip in the cracks between the bark.
Bright patches of hart's tongue fern adorned the rocky places along the bank sides and small shoots of the wild garlic were beginning to push their way through the wet mud...another couple of months and the same wet mud will be covered in their starry white flowers and their redolent smell will hang in the air.
We crossed the little wooden bridge to a new footpath on the far bank side, some nice kind forestry commission souls have built a wooden walkway complete with seats every now and again, it made for a pleasant and easy stage to our walk.
The little stone trough by the path side was cascading down and overflowing into the woodland floor, it's cataract is usually a gentle flow and a pleasant place for a drink of refreshingly cool water.
Originally a watering place on the medieval pilgrim route as they went up to the monastries at Reivaulx, Fountains and Jervaux it's now just a tourist attraction.
Then we climbed the cut out woodland steps until we were looking down on the tree tops, the canopy bare and fingerlike beneath us before swinging back down towards Throxenby mere looking dull and shineless in the greyness of the day, on through Raincliff wood following the Derwent until she emerged at Wykeham with it's flat fields of elephant grass.
It was a cold, bitter wind, though we were sheltered in the woods, but as we emerged onto the flat field sides of the river at Wykeham a hail storm erupted. Within minutes everything was white over and we stood under the trees as the visibility came down to next to nothing while the pea sized hailstones rattled around our ears.
Then suddenly it was over so we continued on our way, crunching over the little ice spheres.
In a sheltered little valley two red legged partridges emerged from the hedge side and ran at full tilt across the field away from us, two hen pheasants took flight whilst the cock decided to make a run for it too.
I was too late to photograph anything but his disappearing rear end but it does show off the lovely colours of his plumage.
A little further on I spied a couple of hares but they also spied me so no chance of a photo, this happened time and again until I eventually spotted two 'boxing' and so engrossed were they I managed to take up a positon quite near to them. It helped that it was hailstoning again...lol...they saw me, of course, but actually stopped and sniffed the air so I managed to get in one good shot before they were winging it across the fields like they were in the olympics!
The car was a welcome sight as we came full circle.
Out of the wind we poured a steaming mug of hot chocolate from our flask and sitting warming our hands around it we sipped gratefully as yet another hail storm rattled and clattered across the car roof.
Here are a few pictures, they look idyllic but believe me it was nitheringly cold!
The river Derwent at Old Man's Mouth
DH crosses the bridge to the new boardwalk
tree reflection at Wykeham
Hogweed heads against the dark sky just before the hailstorm
Silver birch, it always amazes me how delicate they look
after the hailstorm the sun tried for a breakthrough...this was as good as it got!
the pilgrims refreshment area, usually a gentle trickle into a moss covered stone trough
the disappearing pheasant showing of his plumage
amid the hailstones two brown hares sat still for a minute!