Posts Tagged ‘Boxing Day’

No Longer Dreaming of a White Christmas

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The drive home from the Yorkshire Dales on Boxing Day was a tad hairy as the sky let loose a decent downpour of rain. Sir Pubert made us tune the radio to the Boxing Day football commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and continues to assure me that he was listening to it despite his closed eyes, dropped head and occasional snore.

As the commentary skipped from one football ground to the next, we were informed of the weather conditions throughout the country. Most games were being played in very wet conditions, however Manchester City was playing West Brom in the Midlands where it had started snowing.

As we arrived home and sat in comfort and warmth by the fire, I looked out of the lounge room windows and saw that the usual Manchester drizzle was no longer just heavy rain but had turned into big, floaty snow flakes. It was snowing on Boxing Day – I was counting this as a white Christmas! Sure, the snow melted on impact and it was mostly just sludge, but they were definitely snow flakes and it was definitely still the “Christmas season”.

snow

Eat your heart out, Bing Crosby.

 

As far as white Christmases go, it was a bit disappointing and I will continue to seek a better example of it in the future. However, having spent five winters in Europe, it was about time that snow fell on Christmas. What happens in movies, happens in Manchester.

One Stoat, Two Stoat, Three Stoat, More.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

In an attempt to work off our Christmas bellies, Sir Pubert, Katy, Ken and I headed to Malham in the Yorkshire Dales on Boxing Day for a walk in the hills. Ken, local Yorkshireman, avid explorer and map reader, was our guide and had planned the walking route. Having parked our car in Malham, we wrapped ourselves in multiple layers, grabbed our picnic lunches and headed off. Adventure awaited!

Malham

Off we go!

Ken and Katy sprinted off in front of wheezy–Sir–Pubert and “I’ll catch up in a second, I just want to take a photo”–tourist–me. Every minute or so I needed to stop and say, “Wow.” as the scenery expanded and the Yorkshire Dales showed us what they are made of.

We were in limestone country and our first stop was Malham Cove, an impressive and formidable limestone amphitheatre. We climbed up to the top (via some easy-access steps) and then had a view over the rolling hills of the Dales.

Malham Cove

Malham Cove

The landscape shifted from green hills to rocky outcrops with waterfalls and streams winding through the valleys. It was beautiful. I have generally considered myself a city girl, but having the opportunity to stomp through mud, water streams and climb over rocks was very stimulating. This was helped by the fact that the weather held out and we managed to complete the walk sans pluie.

View from Malham Cove

View from Malham Cove

We stopped for lunch (I don’t think many walkers have stilton and walnut sandwiches, but we picnic in style.) sitting on a small rocky amphitheatre. Enjoying the quiet and the expansive view, I spotted a white object tumbling down the small road in front of us.The pure white stood out clearly against the black bitumen and it soon became clear that it wasn’t just a polystyrene cup blowing in the wind. I nudged Ken and asked him what it was. As they say in the north, Ken got dead excited.

sandwiches

Sir Pubert makes some seriously good sandwiches.

The tumbling white thing was a stoat in ermine – a weasel-like creature whose fur coat changes from brown to pure white during winter months. Apparently it was quite rare to spot one of these little guys and I had just spotted something rather special. Ken whipped out his binoculars and we all had a close look at him as he jumped and tumbled his way over rocks and through shrubs looking for food for his own lunch.

stoat

This isn’t the stoat that I saw but look at him! SO CUTE! www.telegraph.co.uk

His tumbling running action (these guys don’t really run – they look like they are having the BEST TIME EVER jumping and skipping and leaping about like 4 year old girls who have just consumed excessive amounts of sugar at a birthday party) and his adorably cute face fooled me into thinking he was an innocent little thing. Apparently not. These guys are vicious killers who bite and snap the spinal cords of rabbits. Coming from a country where everything kills you, I’m not entirely surprised.

Here is a BBC documentary showing the leaping cuteness. It also shows the less-cute rabbit killing. You’ve been warned.

The stoat eventually disappeared into the rocky landscape and we continued on our walk. We hadn’t walked far when Sir Pubert called for the binoculars and looked down into the valley at a dry stone wall that had some remarkably white stones near the base. Then the stones moved. He had spotted two more stoats living in the stone wall, potentially waiting the lunch that was being collected by the stoat I had spotted earlier.

While it would have been great to stand and watch our new furry friends all day, our fingers and toes were turning numb and the idea of warming cups of tea was too exciting. We walked on, heading back to Malham and to the Buck Inn where we re-heated ourselves by the fire.

As we drove out of Malham the rain started and we drove home in a constant downpour. Perfect timing with the weather, rare animal spotting, fantastic views and delicious blue-cheese sandwiches. It had been a great day.