(TEN DALES PHOTOS) A few weeks ago the Ribble was as low as I’ve seen it in a long, long time. I walked beside it from Stainforth Force to Langcliffe weir and was surprised at how many places I could easily have crossed the river without getting my feet wet. Since then we’ve had snow, frost, sunshine, storms, thunder and lightning. I might have a small wager on there being a plague of frogs before June.
If you know where to look there are always some larger expanses of water along the river’s course, especially along the section of the Ribble Way between Horton and Helwith Bridge. Above is a favourite spot of mine near Cragg Hill Farm. Here I watched hundreds of tiny fish darting around a pool. If I was clever I’d tell you what they were.
Talking of Horton … I’ve also seen hundreds of humans heading up Penyghent or attempting the Three Peaks in the last few weeks. It’s no wonder I’ve seen the helicopters buzzing overhead so often – either picking up crocked walkers or delivering aggregate for worn-out paths.
As I strolled through this small wood, cold but not unpleasantly so, the setting Sun silently disappeared over a golden horizon. A gust of wind from the moors entered my seclusion and shuffled the jigsaw of fallen bronzed leaves. Slim birch trees swayed briefly but nothing else seemed concerned by this brief, breezy intrusion.
The wood sits several hundred feet high above a flickering distant river and has survived far greater threats from fierce gusts whipping the dale. Debris from past encounters with stormy days and nights is scattered around. Branches lay randomly at my feet. Moss-covered drystone walls surrounding this wooded island stand semi-demolished, crushed by toppled tree trunks.
Roots don’t penetrate far enough into the shallow soil here, they must find strength between the clints and grykes of a limestone bed. Distorted shapes show which way the wind blows round here.
Lower down the hill, nearer home, I would now be enjoying the evening chatter of dozens of smaller birds. Not here. There are rooks, bickering before settling down for the night. Other life in this little oasis are waking for nocturnal foraging, undetected by my weak human senses. Leaving them alone to their nightly chores as the light fades, I take a final sniff of that distinctive earthy odour and thank Nature for allowing me to share in its private beauty.
On my computer, I made the mistake of looking up loan options for someone. Now my Facebook page is awash with adverts from lenders I’d never heard of. Okay, I can click on each one and block them, but that’s not the point is it? Facebook is spying on my computer and it makes me very angry and worried.
I was staring rather aimlessly at the shelves in the food cupboard. My eyes were drawn to a patriotic-looking bottle of HP Sauce. The red, white and blue label featured an illustration of Big Ben… ‘HP Sauces commemorates the 160th anniversary of Big Big’ it states, while the small label around the bottle’s neck is emblazoned with a royal crest and the words ‘By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen’. I imagine some Little Englander brimming with pride while splashing this stuff over a pork pie and singing Land of Hope & Glory. Then I read the small print on the label: Made in The Netherlands.
Ah well, there’s always that tin of Amy’s Hearty Organic Rustic Italian Vegetable Soup. It’s more expensive than your bog-standard tinned soup, but hey, it has ‘plant based’, ‘gluten free’, ‘no GMOs’ and ‘vegan’ printed on the countryside-green label wrapped around the environmentally ‘widely recycled’ tin. It also states ‘non BPA lining’ (whatever that means – but it must be good for me or they wouldn’t put it on the label, would they?). I don’t know who Amy is, but every Amy I’ve met has always been very nice, so I bought the soup. While opening the tin, I spot the small print: ‘Made in USA’. So my green, conscience-saving eco-friendly soup has travelled more miles to get to my kitchen than I’ve covered in several years. It could do with a touch of Tabasco sauce to liven it up … I dare not look at the label.
I received a Covid self-test pack this week … made in China. A box full of un-recyclable plastic. Anyway, I logged on to register my negative result and was informed I had to allow access my medical records. ‘Sod you’ I told my screen. Our NHS is already being taken over by pharmaceutical giants, despite what this government promised. I’m not handing over my details without resistance.
How come when we’re confined for doing something wrong, we’re locked up, but when we’re confined because of a pandemic we’re said to be in lockdown? And when I lose my keys I’m either locked in or locked out?