Monday, 8 June 2009

In search of Bluebells and blue skies...........

.........................And today, I found both (as you'll see).

Unfortunately, Sue had to go to a funeral, so I walked on my own today. As it was bluebell season, I decided on Shacklow woods. More famous for the wild garlic (ramson) but still a nice walk. The walk was straight from my door, through the churchyard, over to Dirtlow farm, up the Sheldon road but turning down into little Shacklow woods, then left and up and through great Shacklow woods. A short foray into deepdale to see if the cowslips and early purple orchids were flowering yet, then cross the A6, up to Brushfields, lunch on top of Monsal dale, then down to the viaduct, up to Monsal head, turn right and along Pennyunk lane, into Ashford in the water, and back to Bakewell along the river Wye.
Just over 11 miles, with 2,230 feet of up and down.

The weather was just PERFECT for walking. Sunny, but with a chill breeze. I set off with a micro fleece on, expecting to drop it off pretty soon. Truth is, it was a good job I'd worn it, as it was cool and bright all day.
I walked down the lane at the back of our cottage, and saw my first bluebell.

This was an imposter though, as it was the cultivated Spanish bluebell.
Still a nice flower, but I wanted the bluer, more scented English variety, and woods was the place to find those.
The lane also had the ubiquitous cow parsley, and little forget-me-nots.

A nice shot of Bakewell church with a really good sky as a backdrop.

After the churchyard, I was straight into lush meadows. I was glad now that I'd chosen to wear a micro fleece, as the wind chill was quite sharp.
Today really was PERFECT for walking AND photography. As I stepped out, I got a real feeling of wide open space as I looked around me. As far as the eye could see, it was pin sharp and crystal clear. I stood and just sucked it all in. Oh, happy man!

I REALLY love the simple shapes and colours of a day like today. I wish you could hear the; 'peeeee-WIT, peeeee-WIT' bird calling. The call sounds just like their name. They were swooping and diving in that courtship dance that always looks like they're trying to evade something that's chasing them, unseen, in the air.

A stone barn, stark yet beautiful against the skyline.

For some reason, probably after food, these sheep decided to follow me all the way across the meadow above Dirtlow farm.
They made a right row, bleating and 'Baaaaaaa'ing as they came, dutifully followed by their lambs.
Next thing, it was the turn of these young cows.
I made a mental note to check which after shave I'd used this morning :-)
As I looked right, I could see clear across to Longstone edge, and the moors.

Just before I turned to drop into Little Shacklow woods, I got chatting to a farmer at the top of the dale. He told me how he'd lost a ewe and lamb in the small hours of the morning, but that was life, and death, on a farm for you. He then took me to a barn and showed me the ewe he'd only JUST lambed.

I dropped into Little Shacklow, and was a little disappointed to see that the wild garlic wasn't in bloom yet. When it did open though, this wood would be a REAL showpiece for it!

At the bottom of the dale, I turned right and made my way up into Great Shacklow woods. For some reason, probably the way the wood faced, the garlic here was well out and I enjoyed the heavy, pungent smell of it. As I walked on, I saw that the bluebells were there too. They didn't mix, as the garlic ended, the sea of bluebells began. I was in seventh heaven here,
I WISH I could let you smell what I was smelling as I walked through the wood, it really was fantastic!!

REAL English woodland bluebells.
FAR superior in colour and scent to its Spanish counterpart.

Also, there was a lot of Campion about,

And some very nice grass.
It was the only patch of it I saw, and I wondered if it had been planted there, or was natural?

As I left Great Shacklow woods, my route led into Monsal dale and up over the top, but I took a short detour left and into Deep dale. I know this dale to be perfect conditions for the early purple orchid, and also cowslips.

Was I too early??? Would I get any pictures???

God, today was good! I just couldn't believe the conditions and perfect state of the flowers.
I was SO lucky, as I thought I'd got the timing all wrong when I set off.
After getting those shots, I entered Monsal dale and turned up to Brushfield.
A look back showed me Great Shacklow woods.
This is where I decided to eat my lunch.
I MUST have sat in nicer places, but do you know, I just can't remember when!
This was looking down off my lunchtime 'perch'. The wind was still quite chilly, but I wasn't too cold, and just enjoyed sitting, watching the birds performing aerobatics and enjoying the stiff breeze. (I'm SURE they fly like they do for sheer enjoyment on a windy day like today).

After lunch, I followed an old track as it wound down into Monsal dale and on to the viaduct. I crossed it, and looked left across the dale. The sun lit up the limestone escarpments on the far side.

No sooner was I down, than I had to climb back up again, as my route now led to Ashford-in-the-Water, via the quaintly-named 'Pennyunk lane'. A look over my shoulder gave this great and classic view of the viaduct and dale.
You can just see the white track I came down on the far skyline, & the central ridge is where the track is I walked along.

A view of Longstone moors, from the quaintly-named 'Pennyunk lane.'

The long, lush grass was waving in the breeze, as if it was made of liquid. The sun was glinting on each blade as it did, giving a really lovely shimmering effect. This photo can't convey that, but you CAN see the silvery glints. They look like white flowers in the photo, but really they are individual little diamonds of reflected light.

I just LOVE English lanes at this time of the year. There really is NOTHING to compare with the smells and the sights as you walk along. I love to just run my hand through the flower heads as I walk. If you know which plants to smell, you can pick up on loads on lovely, sometimes familiar, smells. Aniseed, pineapple, garlic.....all there for you to enjoy.
Looking over to Cowden.
All too soon, I was in the sleepy village of Ashford-in-the-water.
Being mid-week, it was quiet today, and I sat on a bench by the sheepwash bridge, just to reflect on my day.

After Ashford, I made my way back to Bakewell along the river, where I encountered this group of Llamas!
I have NO idea why they are there, I was just glad they weren't in a spitting mood, preferring to just bask in the sun.

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