Below Park Nab

A day spent recovering from the weekend’s exertions so just stayed local from the house. That photo will have to wait for a rainy day. This is from yesterday. Taken from the Baysdale road below Park Nab. A view towards the Cleveland Hills.

Below Park Nab map

Jurassic Sandstone

A sheep finds scant grazing amongst the sandstone boulders below Roseberry Topping. Sandstone which, according to geologists, were laid down at the bottom of a tropical sea 180 million years ago.

Sheep on the move in Bransdale

A day spent in Bransdale volunteering for the National Trust. A brief break when the sheep came past. In spite of an open road the lead sheep were very reluctant to move and only did so when pushed from behind. The lambs were particularly mischievous, scaling walls and trying to get through steel wire fencing.

Bransdale map

Basking in the sunshine on Mothering Sunday

After three years I have finally succumbed to perhaps the most iconic subject of Springtime. And on Mothering Sunday too. Note I say Mothering Sunday and not the American Mothers’ Day.

Mothering Sunday is one of the traditional ‘feast’ days of lent when ‘breaks’ were given on Sundays in the observance of the fast. Carlin Sunday being another. It is thought to have originated from an annual tradition of pilgrimage to the ‘mother church’ of the diocese but it maybe even more ancient having evolved from a Roman feast on the March equinox to Cybele, the Mother of the Gods. By the 17th century the tradition of paying tribute to mothers had become firmly established particularly by those daughters in domestic service. But the advent industrial revelation resulted in the practice dying out.

In the first decade of the 19th century a new secular tradition had been established over in America. Mothers’ Day, the second Sunday in May. Influenced by this new fashion from the States, the Nottingham branch of the Mother’s Union were keen to resurrect the British tradition and set about designing the first Mothering Sunday Cards and establishment of ‘The Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday’ culminating in the publication of a book in 1921. Almost one hundred years later and the tradition has become just another commercial opportunity between St. Valentine’s and Easter.

Anyone got any mint sauce.


Green bottoms

An early morning view of Roseberry from Gribdale. The sheep nearest are showing off their green raddle marks. Not so obvious are others with yellow. The colour comes from an oily paste which is contained in a leaky leather sack called a raddle strapped onto the chest of the tup or ram. This enables the farmer to know which ewe has been serviced.

The tup is usually with the ewes for six weeks. The sheep have a cycle of 16 to 17 days so if she comes back in season then the ewe is not pregnant. After two weeks therefore the colour in the raddle is changed. This enables the farmer to know the likely lambing date for each sheep. Young tups might mate with twenty ewes whereas an older more experienced one might service over a hundred.

Each farm aims for a particular lambing time. A lowland farm might start lambing in January. Upland ones later when the weather is likely to be better and the grass is growing. I am not sure which farm these sheep belong to. Aireyholme Farm lies at the foot of Roseberry to the left in the photo. I remember the late farmer there once telling me that he aims for a lambing date of April 1st so the tup is placed with the ewes on November 5th. So that’s when the fireworks happen.


Hallowe’en, and a trip out on the bike in search of a photo relevant to the occasion. Left the Tees Valley under a haze and found blue skies on Blakey Ridge with mists filling the south running dales of Rosedale and Farndale. Magic; who needs a commercial American import.

I can’t remember making a fuss of Halloween when I was a kid. Sure we had knocky nine doors with black cotton tied to the door knocker but I can’t say for sure if it was carried out on 31 October or the evening before Bonfire Night known as Mischief Night in the North of England. We certainly had no ‘trick or treat’ or carved pumpkins.

And what a waste pumpkins are. A chap on the farming programme this morning reckoned they amounted to 18,000 tonnes of food waste. They aren’t even the best tasting of the squashes.

Hallowe’en is said to have originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain which was actually a three day festival of the end of the summer (the Old Irish word for summer is samh and for end is fuin). The Christian celebration of All Saints Day or All Hallows Day, held on 1st November, sometime became merged with Samhain. The next day, 2nd Novermber was All Souls Day, when the dead was honoured. An Irish tradition told of a man named Jack, who tried to trick the devil. He was condemned to wandering about the moors for eternity with only a burning coal inside a hollowed out turnip. A carved out turnip then is said to ward off Jack o’ lanterns and other evil spirits.

19th century Irish immigrants took the traditions with them to America where they discovered that pumpkins were easier to carve than turnips. The traditions were transformed into the modern commercial festival which have now returned across the Atlantic.

Mostly Herdwicks

Sandwick: sorting the sheep probably for tupping. Mostly Herdwicks with their unique genome that no other bred has. The red smit mark along with the ear clipping identifies the flock, passed down the generations from shepherd to shepherd.