Monday, 4 November 2013

An autumnal walk on the High Wolds

Autumn woods
On a gloriously sunny but breezy morning we headed up to one of my favorite corners of the Yorkshire Wolds near the small community of Huggate and here we enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the winding and contrasting dales of Tun Dale and Frendal Dale. The temperature was near perfect for walking with the mercury hovering around 9 C (48 F) and I don't know about you but it is nice to feel a chill in the air again after what has been a long summer and very mild autumn thus far. Indeed November is probably one of my favourite months of the whole year and in this part of the world at least it is usually when the autumn colours reach their glorious climax, though sadly it looks like this autumn is not going to be quite as spectacular as last year. However with a few chillier nights recently and the ever dwindling daylight hours things are finally starting to move along and hopefully a few of the photos in this post will convey some of the beautiful colours which are now on show up here on the roof of the Wolds.

A beautiful array of autumnal colours on the woodland floor

Tun Dale wood is very damp most of the year with ferns growing on the north
facing slopes. In February these same slopes are covered in Snowdrops

Beech, Ash and Sycamore woodland

Our walk began above the largely wooded dale of Tun Dale and as we headed down the winding woodland track we entered a beautiful autumnal world with golds, yellows and reds positively glowing in the low November sunshine. Indeed it was like entering a pre-raphaelite painting by the likes of Millais and as we continued ever downwards one began to see the track as a long nave in a cathedral dedicated to the glories of creation and the natural world, the golden leaves acting like stained glass and giving the whole area a beautiful glow.

Descending down into Tun Dale wood

Beech leaves glowing like gold

A group of mountain bikers

Eventually we reached the point where Tun Dale turns sharply to the left and here, near the lowest point of the walk, the woodland track became predictably muddy after all the recent rains. A large group of mountain bikers overtook us at this point, all of them splattered in the aforementioned mud, though they proved a friendly group whom didn't seem to mind me taking a few quick shots as they negotiated the muddy woodland ride.

Larch and Beech looking resplendent in their autumn finery

Trees silhouetted against the sky above Tun Dale

From this point we split away from the main path and headed up the other side of the dale, leaving behind the woodlands of the first part of our walk and entering the very different world of the grass covered and sheep grazed downs which so typify most of England's chalk hills, the Yorkshire Wolds forming the most northern part of a crescent shaped chain of chalk hills which stretch down and along eastern and southern England. My love affair with these gentle hills was initially a slow burner, as having grown up in the Yorkshire Dales and Pentland Hills of Scotland I was used to an altogether wilder and more dramatic landscape, but as is so often the case it is these initially unpromising relationships which in time become the most long lasting and valuable and though I often flirt with other parts of this beautiful island nation it is Yorkshire and the Wolds in particular which I always return too, this part of the region being almost as familiar to me as the back of my hand.

The upper part of Frendal Dale

A view down the dale from the ancient earthworkings of Huggate dykes

After stopping for a pleasant cup of reinvigorating tea we reached the point where Tun Dale meets Frendal Dale, and after what had otherwise been a largely gentle stroll we began to climb upwards once more along this particularly deep and perhaps historically important valley. This valley which faces south-west is a haven for butterflies and wildflowers in the summer months, whereas in winter it is fantastic place to watch birds of prey and a number of mammalian species such as Hare, Stoat and Roe deer, all of which were indeed spotted today with the exception of Stoat. A flock of chattering Fieldfare were also seen in the hawthorn scrub near the top of the dale, the first I've seen this autumn/winter, while a variety of grassland fungi species were noted in and around Huggate dykes.

Lone Ash tree on Huggate Wold

Another shot of the same tree converted into black & white

Huggate dykes itself is a surviving fragment of ancient earthworks which were constructed some 3,000 years ago (probably) the purpose of which is unknown though a number of theories have been put forward over the years. Indeed the Yorkshire Wolds is an area rich in archaeological remains with many finds dating back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods and even today reminders of the past can be found thanks to preserved barrows, the huge standing stone at Rudston (which incidentally is the tallest such megalith in Britain), extensive earth workings and evidence of a large Neolithic ritual complex in the Great Wolds Valley, which together all point to the importance of this area in pre-Roman England.

A couple of Roe deer crossing the road between Huggate and Wayrham

A deceased Pheasant, no doubt killed by a passing car