Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Quiet Walk.........




I imagine most nature bloggers have their favorite, regular paths on their 'home patch.' There are plenty to choose from in Weardale but for me one of the best is a circular walk that follows the path uphill from St. John's Chapel, alongside Harthope burn. It's  the subject of today's Guardian Country Diary. The burn descends in  series of cascading steps, cutting a ravine that's flanked by a larch plantation, where we recently watched what may well be one of the last red squirrels in Weardale. 



The path emerges through the trees onto the flanks of Chapel Fell, where .....


.... the view westwards towards the upper dale continues to improve as you climb further up the fellside. I'm always struck by how quiet it is up here, once you leave the sound of tumbling water behind. You suddenly become aware of the sound of your own breathing as you labour higher up the hill, and the sound of the wind in your ears. Quietness - or at least freedom from mechanical noise - is a rare commodity these days. There are, of course, plenty of  natural sounds here - the mournful calls of golden plover in spring (especially spooky if its a misty day and you can't see them), wild calls of lapwing and curlew in April, and last weekend...
























... our attention was drawn skywards by the mewing of buzzards. No less than eight were circling overhead at one point, drifting slowly down the dale until they disappeared into the blue ....


Sometimes there are shepherds and border collies up here, rounding up sheep, and even falconers that bring their birds up here to train. 


There are other native raptors here too - last weekend, we watched a wandering hen harrier, slowly quartering the rough pastures. 


It's a tough place to farm, a weathered landscape ....


... bearing the traces of earlier generations of farmers ....




































The view northwards across the dale reveals farms that are aligned with the natural springs that flow down into the river Wear ....

























.... and when you get back down to the bottom of the valley at Daddry Shield you follow the river, through the hay meadows, until you reach the ford and turn back into St. John's Chapel. A perfect Sunday morning walk, in any season of the year.


More pictures of the same walk in another season  here and here.

6 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about the absence of mechanical sound- it is almost nowhere to be found in a semi- urban place like mine:( I enjoyed the walk you took us through!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful, Phil, just beautiful. I think the thing I miss most about the North East is the energy and spectacle of its youthful waterways, as they sprint from the Pennines on their journey to the coast. For many reasons, I've been away too long. Thanks again for reminding me of the sights and sounds in my memories. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks lotusleaf - I guess noise pollution is something we get used to living with and when you find yourself in a place with only natural sounds it comes as a bit of a shock...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I know what you mean about the sound of flowing water Graeme, it was one of the first things we noticed when we moved up here from the flatlands of the midlands...

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's very easy to see why this would become a favourite walk.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Though the hill seems to be getting steeper with every passing year, Mark!

    ReplyDelete