August 24, 2008

The Yorkshire Dales

Filed under: England — sensel @ 2:36 pm

A shot of Windemere from the end of the Dales Way (give or take 1/4 mile, since the way technically ends on the shore. And a boots update!


Filed under: England — sensel @ 2:30 pm


Near the start of the Dales Way…                                      …and a dale midway


Filed under: England — sensel @ 1:54 pm


Moss Tarn in the area between the dales and the Lakes district; a viaduct whose name I’d have to look up



Filed under: England — sensel @ 6:46 am

Spent hours last night and this morning before breakfast writing — man, there is nothing like being possessed by a story. (Some of you know, I know.)

I was asking myself a few days ago why I was doing this (not in a bad, “what the heck am I doing here?” way, just a “hmm, what’s with this wandering around England to nowhere in particular for no particular reason?” way), and I think it’s how I touch the Divine. And spend time doing nothing but appreciating. I’m pretty interested in monks, but I would have to be one of the peregrinato (peregrinata? I might have that suffix wrong either way), who just wandered wherever the spirit/Spirit took them.

And when I’m lucky, like now, I get touched back (in all senses of the word, including the “she’s a bit teched in the haid, ain’t she?” way). Six hours of nature walking and six hours of writing is basically nirvana for me.

You may never hear from me again…. :-)


August 23, 2008

Fun around Keswick

Filed under: England — sensel @ 8:06 am

In Keswick for a couple of days, having taken the bus from Bowness. I’ve discovered that the key to enjoying tourist towns like this is to wander the streets as shops at 7 a.m. before anyone else is up. Can enjoy the shop windows and architecture and morning sun then without all the crowds! (I know, I am anti-social.) Have had a couple of great hikes here, yesterday to Catbells (up a steep ridge to a great view of the neon green dale on one side and Derwentwater (lake) on the other, with russet brown and moss green and grass green and heather purple fells towering around on all sides)… and today along past Castle Crag to Stonethwaite, where I’ve been before, but you can’t really get too much of stone cottages and green valleys and tumbling becks. Need to find a good hike for tomorrow. Cumulatirve mileage is in the 175 miles neighborhood; I’m sort of amazed that nothing really hurts (much, considering); I am a hiking machine at this point. Which is good, because my next week has some pretty hefty days. And some ferry rides! And the ocean, which is always a good thing.

My next Farwalker book, The Windmaster’s Apprentice, started unfurling in my head during my hike today and I don’t really want to write it, since the second one is not sold yet and thus the third may never be, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to help it. It’ll be great fun in the process, anyway, and I can have the consolation that if no. 2 doesn’t sell, I won’t have to do any revision on 3; I can just enjoy it taking shape. Right?

Cheers! I may be out of touch for a week or so, but we’ll see. Hope you’re all getting some sun! (And I’m dying to know if Sara E’s had her baby yet; somebody e-mail me when she does, will ya?)

August 21, 2008

River speak

Filed under: England — sensel @ 5:26 am

8/21 — Today’s the last day of my Dales Way walk, and as every morning, it began very misty with very low clouds. (They’ve been rising as the day wears on.) Alongside a river again, this time the Kent. The air was still this morning, listening, and the trees were still, listening for the passage of something, so I spent a long while trying to understand the speech of the river. Here it complains about things in its path, and there it growls at the rocks to get out of its way, or shoves them away forcefully with a clunk. Yet another place it only laughs and skits past them with ease. It’s surprised by a weir — oops! slipped right over! — and it murmurs thanks to the oaks for their shade. It draws silent and thoughtful, but not for long, for the river’s nature is chatty, and soon it’s calling to itself around a bend and urging its tail to hurry and follow.

I’m at Windemere. Lost my pedometer today — darn! — and am wondering if I should look up an outdoor shop to buy another or assume the universe is telling me to quit counting. (But it’s fun!) Better pay for my I-net time and go look for my B&B. Only the largest places have public internet access here; I’ll be in Keswick for three days so should be online then, but then probably in radio silence again for a week or thereabouts. If I can get some photos to Mom Jean for posting, I will (but so far I haven’t been anywhere I could use my laptop or access a USB jack. How do other people do this?)


Filed under: England — sensel @ 5:18 am

Much has been written on the nature of English tea, English bobbies, and English WWII pilots. My research has explored the more little-known field of English mud. You have your fellside sheep-dropping mud, which has its own unique fragance and more cling than average, with little pellets that like to stick along the sides of your soles. You have your devious cottongrass meadow mud, which only looks like grass until you step through the cleverly-disguised water surface into mud that flows over your bootlaces. You have your riverside mud, of course, most particularly in the parts of the trail that are completely flooded because it has rained so much more than usual this month and the river is in spate. This riverside mud, although slippery, is more honest than cottongrass meadow mud and is in fact only two or three inches thick, just as it appears. On the other hand, you have your cow pasture mud, best formed when the cows can do a lot of post-holing with their big heavy hoofs. Cow pasture mud looks remarkably dry, and it is, but once you step in you are fortunate indeed if you foot comes out with your boot still attached, because you will sink in at least eight inches. Although boot-sucking, at least your feet stay mostly dry. Last but certainly not least, you have your Sly Mud, which can occur anywhere but most often frequents both sides of gates and stiles. Although Sly Mud looks deceptively like dirt, rocks, or sand with an inch of clear water resting (or even channeling) overtop, don’t be deceived. When you step in, thinking that nice clear water will rinse some of the fellside sheep-dropping mud off of the edge of your boots, you will sink in right up to your boot top, or past. If you find yourself encountering Sly Mud, the best defense is to make lots of “ooh” and “aah!” noises and move along right as quick as you can, because sometimes the mud actually hesitates at your boot top before flowing in. Rest assured, however, that even if you DO move fast enough, Sly Mud has already found its way through the seams, tongue, and lace holes of your boots. Gore-Tex can only do so much.

I’m actually at the end of the Dales way now, so I’ve been through 84 miles of mud — well, some of it wasn’t mud, some of it was grass and paved road. My toes are kind of pruny, but I’m having fun!


Filed under: England — sensel @ 5:08 am

From 8/16: Started my official Dales Way today, with lots of tramping alongside the river (literally). The river’s quite nice, although I’m having a hard time getting used to brown rivers — there’s so much tannin in the water and ground here. Spent about an hour at one of the best historical sites along the whole way, Bolton Priory, which sits on a bend in the river and the nave, which wasn’t destroyed along with the rest of the church, still serves the local parish. Not my favorite abbey of all time, but it is a big one with lots of atmospheric ruins and some GREAT door hardware. Mused over a place called The Strid, where the river charges down through limestone plates that come within about 3 feet of each other — close enough to tempt one to stride over, thus the name — but boy, if you slipped into that water you’d never come up; it looks like a blender on high. (A blender filled with Coke on high, since that’s about the color of the water.) Ended the day in a great little place called Appletreewick, about two dozen stone houses that sit on a hill over another bend in the river. The pub had the best fish chowder I have ever eaten, so even if I had to use my earplugs that night before the riots finally died down, it was worth it!

Ilkley moor

Filed under: England — sensel @ 5:00 am

From Friday 8/15: I tramped all over Ilkley moor today and really enjoyed getting up among the purple heather (never seen it in bloom before) and the lanolin smell of the sheep (droppings). Checked out a tumble of rocks known as the Cow and Calf and came back down through a place called Hebron’s Ghyll. I’m not sure if a ghyll is the creek or the shady ravine it tumbles down through, but it was lovely and must have kept the bridge-builders busy for weeks, as the trail criss-crossed back and forth across the beck at least six times. I don’t know if it’s true that the Otherfolk have left this land, but their echoes still certainly sound in green, mossy hollows like this.

One thing I really love about England is the tangible sense that you’re just one thread in a long tapestry, and the picture on the rest of the tapestry is considerably more clear than the recent weaving that you’re involved in. Everything’s built of stone and feels eternal, and sturdy, and helps makes sure the humans are well integrated into the earth.

Also, the people are SO much more friendly here. Or maybe I just have a weakness for being called, “love.” Had a nice chat over a cider with an older fellow in the pub I’m staying in last night, and we discussed the lousy weather, trains, Scotland’s current rumblings for independence, and websites. Fun!

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