Posted in Thoughts on life and spirituality

Why I’m pro-choice (and cash is still king)

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Increasingly I feel that cash – the tangible coins and notes we hold in our hands – is on its way out. I use a mixture of both cash and card. Using my debit card is much more convenient, especially when it’s just tap and go. Using cash, however, makes me think more about what I’m buying, do I want to spend my money on this service, have I got enough bank notes or coins on me to purchase this product? Less handy but it does also help me feel more in control of my spending.

During the pandemic, there were fears that cash spread the virus. Yes, coins have been touched by other people, but so has the supermarket trolley and basket, and all the groceries in the supermarket you’re selecting from. And if you’re buying a cup of tea and cake in a cafe, how do you know the food hasn’t been touched by dirty hands?

Regardless, cash was seen as ‘dirty’ and there became an emphasis on using other means. Now some customers rely solely on their credit card or smartphone and there have been some reports of certain businesses not even allowing the traditional means of payment.

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I went to a burger restaurant in Newbury this summer. After eating my burger I was surprised to hear they didn’t take cash. After paying and leaving the premises, it occurred to me how I always forget to leave a tip when paying by card.

There were also reports of an individual branch of Starbucks going cashless – and tweets from customers saying they will boycott the store.

On the other hand, I went to get my hair cut recently and had to pay by cash as their card reader failed. What will happen when technology fails in the cashless venues such as that particular Starbucks branch or that burger restaurant? Will it be a case of no choice, no custom?

There are people who rely on cash and these people tend to be older or on low incomes.

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According to Age Concern Scotland: “Many older people would be lost without cash, which allows them to confidently and safely budget, spend and feel in control of their finances.

“As the cost of living rises, it is more important than ever that older people can access their money in cash form for free whenever they need to. 

“This is particularly important for people on low and fixed incomes, as well as the hundreds of thousands of over 60s in Scotland who do not have access to the internet.”

It could also be said that a cashless society is discriminatory as some people, such as homeless individuals and financial abuse victims, ‘also lack access to the banking system or technological tools needed to fully participate in a cashless economy’ (Huffington Post). Going cashless ‘would essentially allow retailers and restaurants to discriminate against segments of the population by upcharging or denying service.’

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There are those who make comments on social media about ‘luddities’ who should ‘get with the times’ and how ‘it’s progress’ (why do some people insist we blindly follow ‘progress’?). But why force people to do something they would prefer not to? Or maybe not even have the means of doing? For centuries we’ve had cash, and for decades the combination of cash and card have worked well, why not continue this, albeit with an increase in digital choices of paying?

Freedom of choice… is it such a bad thing really?

If we want to live in a dystopian society, cashless is certainly the way to go. Conspiracies abound on the internet of the ‘Great Reset’ which focuses on the ‘elite’s supposed wish to control the 99 per cent of us and a cashless society is part of this supposed vision. Hopefully this conspiracy is just that, a conspiracy, and not a grim prediction of the future. But even the supposed ‘great reset’ aside, cash does give us more power over our lives.

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Even if we have benign politicians now, if in the future we had leaders who were sociopaths, the less control we have, the better for them. A cashless society would give more control to banks. How easy it would be for the state to freeze bank accounts for whatever reason (and no cash would mean no other option for the individual) or record all our transactions allowing no privacy (and maybe using it to control us even more). Financial surveillance ‘can be used to censor and restrict the freedoms of people who express dissenting opinions against the state’ (Huffington Post).

Already one financial organisation, Paypal, has closed the accounts of various organisations including one called the Free Speech Union.

I worry that the choice is gradually being taken away from us – bank branches and ATMs have been closing steadily in Britain. Two thirds of the bank network have closed over the last 30 years. And, of course, if the number of businesses which choose not to serve cash customers increase, it is the start of a slippery slope. Needless to say, it will be the more vulnerable of us who will suffer the most.

In Britain, we now have a new King which means the notes and coins will have to change their appearance and replace the Queen with the new King. It’s a new era for money but I hope the choice will remain.

Perhaps I sound like a luddite but I’m actually pro-card, pro-internet and pro-other means of buying products and services. However, more than that, I’m pro-choice.

Posted in Chickens, Pets

Tribute to Dottie

Dottie
Everyone’s friend – Dottie

Jemima had been leader of Cosy Cottage Coop for four years before her sad passing earlier this year. Dottie, despite not being obvious leadership material, dutifully took over, gaining confidence and respect, until one morning I went outside to let the hens out and found her motionless.

It was a sad and unexpected shock and it took me a while for it to sink in. She had died peacefully in her sleep at the age of five.

The last of the original trio I had adopted back in 2017, she was a hen full of character and boasted a beautiful brunette speckled plumage.

Dottie

It was her colouring that led to her name but it suited her persona too. She could be changeable in her outlook. Friendly at times, she would squat for us human friends to pick her up. Often she was demanding, vocally calling out for mealworms or other titbits. Her loud voice often sounded as if she was grumbling, a lack of worms , perhaps? During her stint as leader, she would lead her little flock of two to my back door. “What do we want? Mealworms!” She would loudly insist. But then there were times when she was much quieter, or if I would pick her up she would flap her wings, shrieking: “Let me down!”

Dottie with all her friends

Dottie was a hen’s hen. She loved the company of other chickens, especially Jemima. Along with Jemima and Florence, Dottie arrived at Cosy Cottage in September 2017. On the first couple of days, Dottie made a few attempts of being leader by being very vocal, claiming the first egg on the first night of arriving, and being bossy and pecking the younger (by two weeks) Flo. But it was the calmer, wiser Jemima who eventually took over as top hen.

Jemima was her best friend. I remember they had a spa day in their garden, when a large bag of woodchip was scattered on the ground. While Jemima enjoyed her dust baths, Dottie would insist on pushing underneath her.

Ava wonders just what exactly is Dottie doing?

A few years ago, in 2018, Dottie was ill. She wasn’t moving, eating or drinking and so we took her to the vet who gave her high energy food. A few days of keeping her inside my living room and giving her this food via a syringe, she seemed to start getting a bit perkier. From sad experience since then I realise that Dottie was one of the luckier hens to recover from an illness and it’s not always inevitable that they’ll survive. I do not know what the reason was behind the illness. I had wondered if it was because she was eggbound but the vet examined her with his hands and didn’t think she was. Although she made a full recovery, she was never a prolific layer of eggs, certainly not of edible eggs.

Dottie and eggs were never a perfect match. Often her eggs were soft and this led to the undesirable trait of egg eating, helped by her friends who, no doubt, thought this a grand treat.

When she was laying (soft eggs or otherwise), her comb was red and she was assertive and vocal. But there were times when she seemed perturbed about the softness or the lack of eggs and this seemed to diminish her confidence. I tried to encourage her to eat more grit in case this was the issue. Thankfully, for the most part, she was more often happy, pottering about with her pals.

Dottie with Jemima and Florence

In the early days, when it was just the three of them and Jemima and Florence went through their broody phase, poor Dottie would be wandering the garden by herself while the others would be queuing up at the coop door, waiting to be let in to continue their brooding.

When Mabel and Ava arrived, she found herself a faithful companion in Ava (although sometimes the independent Ava did her own thing). Ava didn’t lay eggs, except for a couple of tiny ones at the beginning. But Ava didn’t care about this, she didn’t let it worry her. Ava also didn’t take part in the brooding season so when Mabel joined in the broodiness, Dottie and Ava could often be found together.

She may have been bossy and liked to peck her friends (Ava, Florence and Mabel, never Jemima, who was top hen), but Dottie was pals with everyone. There was no malice behind her pecks. While Jemima and (surprisingly) the usually mild-mannered Florence showed aggression towards Mabel and Ava when they first arrived, Dottie was mild in her approach. She saved her pecks as friendly reminders – Jemima is boss and I am second-in-command.

There are only two left now, brooding Mabel and Little Ava, who wanders the garden, looking lost and perturbed by the loss of her friend and leader. They will miss their scatty but kind-hearted friend, as will I.

Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Walks in the Yorkshire Dales – A Short Country Break: Malham

Malham Cove

Malham is a most unusual place, home to Queen of the Fairies and her magical waterfall, a 300 million-year-old pavement (none of this modern tarmac stuff of today) and a scenic tarn. And then there’s the intimidating Gordale Scar…

I can see why Malham has featured in films such as Harry Potter with its magical setting. We set off from Malham village, directions sending us to the way of Janet’s Foss. A nice and easy walk took us to a wooded glen, complete with waterfall and small pool. A woman was wild swimming and I hoped she didn’t think I was taking a photo of her when I was aiming for the waterfall!

We saw a dipper flying to and from a nest under ivy, high up over the waterfall, and bee nests made of books along the trees. One time I came here I followed Simon over the rocks in the pool to a small cave at the other end. Needless to say, I stumbled into the water and got my shoes and socks soaking wet.

Janet’s Foss

So who is or was Janet? It’s believed Janet (sometimes Jennet) is a fairy queen who lives in a cave at the back of the waterfall. (Maybe she was watching me and laughing when I got my feet wet that time?!) The word Foss means waterfall in Nordic and can also appear as the word ‘Force’ in English. It is such a magical setting that it doesn’t surprise me that a fairy queen lives here…

Janet’s Foss
Gordale Scar

We continued on our way to the section I was dreading, the limestone ravine that is Gordale Scar. Gordale Scar is a hidden gorge with two waterfalls that hardy hikers scramble over to get to the top. The first time I came here, I climbed this but not without wanting to turn back mid-way. The gaps between the leg holds seemed too vast for my little legs. But then a small 9-year-old girl bravely climbed past me and I thought if she can do it, so can I. But the last time and this time I gazed at it, wishing I could do it but my legs were tired and the lack of people climbing put me off. Yet when there are several people doing it, it feels safer somehow. The rocks were also wet and looked slippery so that’s my excuse!

We left the limestone ravine behind but rather than taking the long way back to Malham Tarn, we walked up a steep hill. It was steep but no scrambling was needed so an improvement on the 330ft high Gordale Scar! Finally at the top, we travelled on the flat, through moorland to Malham Tarn, a beautiful glacial lake. Here we took a short break, eating our sandwiches.

Malham Cove

From there, we continued to the famous 70 metre (230ft) Malham Cove. A series of steps took us to the famous 300-million-year-old limestone pavement. Except for its colour and being of a different stone (limestone as opposed to volcanic rock), it’s a little like the Giants Causeway, another geological wonder, although Malham Cove doesn’t have any legendary giants, more’s the pity. Most of the rocks are large and flat but there are gaps between each one. Another thing to be aware of is that it does look very steep – and potentially dangerous – when you venture nearer to the edge. Not a place to venture if you haven’t a head for heights. Poignantly we saw notices for The Samaritans on the way here.

Malham Cove

Once you pick your way past all the giant blocks, there’s more steps to climb down and then a long path.

The bottom of Malham Cove

Once back in the village of Malham, we looked for a cafe for a well-earned pot of tea. The first eatery was full but we went back to Beck Hall, a hotel restaurant which we encountered on the way back. In an idyllic setting, overlooking the river, it was the perfect ending for a great walk. And a good place to rest our weary legs!

Beck Hall

FACTS OF THE DAY

  1. Gordale Scar was formed on the Middle Craven Fault. This is a fault line of 22 miles and runs from The Yorkshire Dales to Cumbria.
  2. According to the Yorkshire Dales National Park website: “The torrents of glacial meltwater that flowed over it cut down through faults in the rock. Successive Ice Ages have carved it deeper and deeper over thousands of years to create the deep gorge we see today.”
  3. Over millions of years, Malham Cove was eroded by water and ice. It is believed that the site was once covered with massive sheets of ice. The Yorkshire Dales website explains: “As these glaciers ground their way over the landscape they plucked rock from the face of the Cove and carried it away. Each time the glaciers melted, huge floods of water further eroded the face of the Cove.” (https://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk)

Posted in Environment, Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Walks in the Yorkshire Dales – A Short Country Break

Grass Wood

Deer in Grass Wood, Yorkshire Dales

Grass Wood is one of the largest broadleaved woodlands in the Yorkshire Dales and is managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.  It is mostly an ash woodland with limestone terraces but sadly here, as well as in other areas of the country, ash dieback has meant some of those trees have had to be cut down.

Grass Wood

While on our Yorkshire Dales break, we had a quick look here en route back to Grassington. An information board detailed the beauty spot’s history and nature. Apparently back in the 1700s a convict had been hung not far from the signpost. The rather grisly named ‘Gibbet Hill’ was the site where the body of a local blacksmith and thief was hung. Tom Lee had been executed in York in 1768, ‘as a warning to any potential miscreants’. Two years earlier, he had been convicted of murdering Dr Richard Petty. Tom Lee had hid Dr Petty’s body in the River Wharfe near Burnsall and nearly avoided conviction but, unfortunately for Lee, his apprentice confessed.

A couple of days later, we went back for a longer walk.

Is this Gibbet Hill in Grass Wood?

We parked at a small car park at Grass Wood. It was early evening, about 4pm, so plenty of time before dusk and the path was clearly seen. We saw bluebells, yellow primroses and dog violets, and heard a woodpecker tapping away on a tree. We came across an empty egg, perhaps dropped by jackdaws. We did not know what bird had laid it.

Mystery egg

The path had a surprising incline upwards. Simon, getting hungry, asked: “Shall we carry on, or turn back?” But we decided to continue for a while further. We came across what looked like a large limestone ridge and I wondered if it was one of the two iron age forts located here but there were no signs indicating this was the case.

A dog barked in the distance and I assumed someone was walking their pet in the woodland. Simon was a little further on from me and had stopped.

“Shush,” he said as he pointed towards something. The animal he was looking at was camouflaged by the surrounding trees but when I saw it move, I realised it was a deer. Usually when an animal such as a deer spots you, they run off. But this one was observing us, the trees helping to conceal it. The barks continued in the background and it turned out to be another deer rather than a dog.

Deer in Grass Wood

I had seen fleeting glimpses of deer before but they were always quick glances, before the deer sharply moved on. This time the deer was relaxed and curiously watched us watching her. After a while she moved on as did we.

Bluebells in Grass Wood

We then came across a sign towards Far Gregory Fort, the iron age hillfort, so we veered left up another incline. According to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, its Victorian discoverers supposed it to be a Brigantian Fort established against Roman invasion. There were rocks but it was hard to know for certain – without archeological knowledge – that this was indeed a place where people lived during Iron Age times. We saw an old campfire site but Simon was convinced that it would have been quite recently used. There is another Iron Age settlement site elsewhere in the wood.

Fort Gregory

The path back to the car park was not quite so easy to follow if you change direction, looking for hillforts.

At one point, Simon asked, “What was the name of the film about people being lost in the woods?”

Grass Wood

I had started thinking about the Blair Witch Project too… (And of course, there was always Gibbet Hill with its grisly history at the other side of the wood…)

Still, thankfully it was daylight and many hours to be comfortably lost in the wood before it got dark and the imagination went into overdrive! Up and over and back down and down.

We heard a sudden rustling movement and it turned out we had surprised a deer who was sleeping. This time, the startled deer ran off.

We carried on down the slopes, what goes up must come down after all, and we remembered a river on that side of the wood so we headed in that direction. Eventually we saw a stile out of the wood, climbed up and out, and now we were on the road. The easy part now, I mused.

Or not. We had earlier walked past log piles and on our way back we came across these again. Logically we would presume that our car park must be nearby… Or maybe not.

Iron Age Fort?

Our walk along the road took us to the first entrance, the one we went in on the Sunday. But where was our car park? I was sure we hadn’t passed it and that we had passed the log pile. But as we retraced our steps we finally discovered that our car park – which neither of us had taken much notice of beforehand – was very hidden, secluded and secret, its tiny entrance could be – and was – easily missed.

So our trip to Grass Wood came to an end, and we took home our magical memory of the deer observing us peacefully.

Posted in Chickens, Pets, Self-sufficiency

Queen of the Pecking Order

Dottie is the new leader

Cosy Cottage Garden now has a new boss – her name is Dottie.

The bantams’ previous head of state, Jemima, was an assertive and sensible leader. She took her duties seriously, whether it was telling Mabel off for brooding or alerting the others when a threat, such as a cat, appeared. After her sad illness and death earlier this year, for a while it looked like there was no new Queen of the Pecking Order, or even a pecking order.

The old days – former boss Jemima holds a conference

So the girls did their own thing. Ava would dreamily wander around before perching somewhere to meditate and ponder the mysteries of life, Mabel foraged for tasty greens, destroying honesty and other flowers in the process, Dottie dug away – usually in the tubs where I was trying to grow onions.

“No need for these little things, not sure what they are, but they’re not worms. Keep getting in the way of my worms, toss them out, that’s what I’ll do. They’re only in the way here. Hmm, I’m sure I spotted a worm here… Dig, dig, dig away, merrily into the dirt…”

But hens need someone in charge, so gradually Dottie took control of the situation. She proved a different type of leader to Jemima, more laissez-faire and easygoing. In a different world, she would not have made mother hen with her hands-off approach to the role. But Ava had no interest, Mabel was inclined to be more concerned about food than social affairs and Dottie may be dizzy but she was the eldest of the three.

Dottie complains about a lack of mealworms

She is no natural boss and does suit her name ‘Dottie’ in her character, as well as her appearance. She is not particularly interested in important security issues such as cats and hawks. Instead I see her outside my patio doors, alongside her compatriots, demanding sunflower seeds and mealworms. She will never gain a reputation for wisdom but she has excellent negotiation skills when it comes to titbits. However, unlike Jemima, who would call the others over whenever mealworms were handed out, Dottie keeps news of such treats to herself.

She is no autocrat. Instead of rebuking Mabel, who is starting to go through the broody process again, Dottie sits alongside her companionably, Ava next to her.

When asked about being a leader, Dottie replies: “We all do what we like but I’m the boss of course.”

Posted in Fitness challenges, Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Walks in the Yorkshire Dales – Walk 2: Buckden Pike

At the top of Buckden Pike – looking tired and windswept!

Buckden Pike – 702 metres (2,303 ft)

It had been a while since I had walked up a hill (the 500ft Pendle Hill was the last on a particularly sodden wet and windy day, I didn’t make it to the top on that occasion) and I felt a sense of trepidation at the idea of walking up one of the Dales hills. I love hills and mountains, the views from them en route or on the top, the sense of achievement, having reached the top, the sense of achievement having reached the bottom, the feeling of a well-earned pot of tea afterwards (and maybe a slice of cake?) But the actual journey itself of going up a hill… My lungs protesting at every step: “This is too much, Clare. Take a breath, look at the scenery. Have some water.”

And never does water taste so wonderful as it does while going up a hill!

The start of the journey

We parked in a car park in Buckden, close to the start of our trek. Next to the car park was a wooden gate leading to a path in a field. There was a signpost stating Buckden Pike – two and a quarter miles.

A nice short walk then! Ha! It didn’t feel like that to me – never trust a sign pointing up a hill.

The signpost directing us to Buckden Pike

Apart from the sounds of the skylark and curlew, sightings of wheatears and pippits, it felt like we were the only ones on the Dales. It was so quiet and peaceful. Maybe it was because it was Monday and the week after the Easter holidays. But it did feel like we were the only two inhabitants on the dales. Not a soul or hint of civilisation could be seen.

Yorkshire Dales

A steep hill – where we noticed wild pansies – took us to the top where we walked along the ridge to the trig point at 702 metres. Buckden Pike actually narrowly misses out on being the highest peak in this area, it is Great Whernside which earns this title. Instead, Buckden Pike is the seventh highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales and is eight metres higher than Pen-y-ghent itself – one of the ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks’. I had gone up Great Whernside (704 metres) before – or at least most of it as it was a terrible day weather-wise. (You can read that story here: https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2020/05/23/trek-diary-part-1-oct-nov-2017-2/).

From the top of Buckden Pike, on a clear day, one can see the three peaks Pen Y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

Buckden Pike

There is a stone slab pavement at the top. According to the National Trust: ‘The moorland here is important blanket bog and we are creating a path with old mill flagstones. This will protect the delicate peat from erosion.’

On the way back, along the ridge and then over a ladder stile into another field, we came across the Polish War Memorial commemorating a crash from a Second World War plane. Five Polish soldiers died when their plane crashed in 1942. If you look closely at the base of the memorial, you’ll see a fox’s head. That’s because the only survivor reached the village of Cray in the snow by following a fox’s footprints.

The memorial on top of Buckden Pike

We continued along a stone wall, gradually going downhill. There were some boggy areas, considering how the recent weather had been fairly dry I could imagine how soggy it could get if there had been recent rainfall. Some walks turn off at Starbotton, the next village but we carried on until Kettlewell.

Not too far from Kettlewell, we came across an older couple, who looked as tired as I felt and yet they had only really embarked on their journey. Luckily for them, they were heading back to Starbotton, not quite as far as the trek we were on.

The &Then cafe we went to yesterday in Kettlewell was closed so we ventured into the cosy Bluebell Inn for a well deserved pot of tea and glass of lemonade. We noted ‘local wild foraged garlic’ among other tasty items on the menu. The menu was tempting for an evening meal. (And indeed we did return on our last evening). Once refreshed, we continued along the River Wharfe back to Buckden. This time the sign said four miles…

We saw a lamb on the other side of the fence which provoked a dilemma, should we help or would intervention make things worse?

On the first night, Simon had proved to be a successful sheep wrangler, helping to herd a few straggler sheep and lambs away from the road, and then away from the nearby housing estate back into their own field. They had ended up in a neighbour’s garden, munching away at the lawn, at one point! But this was a different scenario and we didn’t want to startle the lamb into running off and getting lost. As it turned out, while we were pondering this, the lamb ducked under the fence and went back into its own field itself. Problem solved!

Lambs in the Yorkshire Dales

On our gentle river stroll back to Buckden, we saw river debris evidence of what looked like recent flooding and a male goosander. We also saw what looked like mandarin or wood ducks. From a steep hill climb to a relaxing river stroll, this walk had plenty of variety.

Posted in Fitness challenges, Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Walks in the Yorkshire Dales – Walk One: Grassington to Kettlewell

Yorkshire Dales

The Dales Way – Grassington to Kettlewell (12 miles)

It was the first full day of our Yorkshire Dales break, we had enjoyed a hearty breakfast and were now all set to explore the surrounding countryside. This ramble, the first of our holiday, would be a village to village walk via The Dales Way in Wharfdale. We took our sticks from the car and started walking away from our dwelling in Grassington to a nearby path leading into a field. Although we didn’t go up any steep hills, the various inclines meant I was glad we had our walking sticks. It was approximately six miles to Kettlewell and another six miles back.

In case you were wondering, the word ‘dale’ means ‘lowland valley’ which gives an idea of the type of terrain we were walking in today. This part of Yorkshire is also noted for its limestone scenery (although nowhere beats Malham for that, more about Malham in another blog post).

On our journey, we also went past Conistone Dib, a dry limestone gorge. We saw an oystercatcher and pipits and heard the call of the curlew. Our walk through the fields gradually took us to our mid-way point, a little hamlet called Conistone.

Conistone

There appeared to be a maypole in the middle of the village. I wonder if it was used for maypole dancing back in the day, or maybe even nowadays?

Back on the dales, we spotted a curious rocky ‘hill’ which we nicknamed the ‘castle’. I later learned that it’s a limestone outcrop and its real name is Conistone Pie not Conistone Castle! I suppose it does look a little like a pie to a hungry rambler from a distance …

Off the dales and onto a quiet road nearing Kettlewell, we went past Scargill House, a Christian holiday and conference centre founded in 1959.

We also came across two unusual ‘locals’. We were used to seeing white fluffy animals grazing grass – but these two ‘sheep’ looked rather different!

Alpacas grazing in the Yorkshire Dales

After our six-mile walk, a refreshing pot of tea was enjoyed at the little &then cafe in Kettlewell.

&then cafe in Kettlewell

We then explored St Mary’s church and churchyard. According to the church’s website, it’s situated beneath the slopes of Great Whernside.

Kettlewell Church

The beautiful churchyard is home to various wildflowers and limestone gravestones. There is also a meadow labyrinth, made of limestone and created in 2020. It’s no surprise that, in 2021, it won North Yorkshire’s Best Churchyard Competition.

Rather than going back via the dales, we headed back along the quiet country single road. Normally we would avoid roads but apart from a long convoy of MG sports cars (I felt sorry for the motorist who was heading in their direction and had to reverse some way to let them pass), this was very quiet and more like a country lane.

We took a quick detour into Grass Wood on the way back, but it was much bigger than expected so we decided to explore it another day. If we looked over to the right, we could see the River Wharf flowing beside us.

River Wharfe

It was a very pleasant walk, with ups and downs (on the Dales Way towards Kettlewell rather than the flat road going back) but nothing too strenuous. Even so, I was certainly ready for my pizza meal that evening at The Foresters Arms in Grassington!

  • Facts of the Day
  • 1. The word ‘Dale’ ‘probably shares a common root with the Welsh ‘dol‘, meaning meadow, pasture, valley’ (Country Walking Magazine).
  • 2.  The Dales Way is a long distance footpath of about 80 miles. It runs from Ilkley to Bowness-on-Windermere.

Posted in Environment

A curious discovery

Picture by Simon Hunter

One day Simon sent me a photo of a curious discovery he had made at a landfill site where he works. Side by side amongst the leaves were a smooth-skinned common frog and a darker warty-skinned common toad. These two amphibian companions seemed to be happy sitting side by side despite being of different species. They’re both amphibians so, although they live on land, they still require water or a moist environment. This is definitely the case during breeding season when they produce spawn in water. As youngsters, they lived in water as tadpoles.

Outside the breeding season, both frogs and toads are solitary creatures so it would be unusual to see two frogs together, let alone a frog and a toad. Frogs prefer wet or damp habitats (your garden may have a resident frog if you have a pond) while toads generally like drier land such as hedgerows, woodland, gardens, and grassland.

Frog and toad next to each other Picture by Simon Hunter

Other differences are in the way they move, frogs have longer legs and hop while toads slowly walk or crawl. The frog has smooth skin while the toad has dry, warty skin. This type of skin has an advantage for the toad. While the frog’s long legs means it can hop away from danger, the toad’s bumbling movement could make it more of a target. How can it protect itself? By making itself unpalatable… and threatening.

According to the Woodland Trust: “The common toad has foul tasting skin to put predators off eating them. They also puff up when threatened.”

So be warned!

Marianne Taylor’s The Nature Book describes the differences as:

The common frog has ‘smooth skin, usually a distinctive dark bandit mask and a bouncy demeanour’. The common toad is a ‘slower, more bumbling creature, with a blunter nose, warty skin and more inclined to stand up tall and hiss at you when threatened’.

For more information on frogs and toads, visit: https://www.froglife.org/