Saturday 3rd June – North York Moors – We are off to Hutton-Le-Hole for the weekend. The route takes us up the impressive Sutton Bank, a steep winding hill that leads up to the the Hambleton Hills and the moors. From the bottom of the hill, the large white faces of limestone, Whitestonecliff (which gives its name to the village at the foot of the hill, Sutton-under-Whitestonecliff) and Roulston Scar are shining out across the Vale of York. We head into the market town of Helmsley. As always, it is very busy. We pick up supplies from the two excellent food shops and then head off for Hutton-Le-Hole. The village straddles a small stream that has cut a deep channel through its centre. The area around the stream is grassed and kept trim by the numerous sheep wandering around. Most of the cottages were built in the 1750s for coal miners. We set up our tent, at which we are becoming pretty adept. Ken and Brigid join us shortly and we are about to settle down to a lazy afternoon when there is the sound of humming. A large swarm of bees is drifting slowly down the slope towards the village. It passes without incident. We read and drink cold beer in the sunshine. Rabbits are feeding in the field next to the camp site, but there is little risk that Dill the Dog will notice. By evening we are ready for a few beers and a meal at the pub to which the camp site is attached.
Sunday 4th June – North York Moors – It is a strange night. A group of campers are noisy rather later than they should be. Once they quieten the Tawny Owls start. Then it is the turn of a Cuckoo – it is still dark! As dawn approaches the chorus of song birds begins. A Common Pheasant croaks loudly which sets off the cockerels in the Ryedale Folk Museum next door. A little later I give up trying to sleep and take Dill the Dog off for a wander. Sheep are standing on the doorstep of the pub. Just beyond the village are the moors. Mistle Thrushes and Meadow Pipits abound, along with numerous rabbits. After breakfast, we dismantle the tent and drive up to Rosedale Chimney Bank. The valley in which Rosedale Abbey (the name of the village, there is no abbey now, it was dissolved in 1535 but remained intact until 1850 when its stone was used to build cottages for miners) lies is below us down a 1 in 3 hill. It is peaceful just looking out over the verdant scene.
Saturday 10th June – Robin Hoods Bay – The annual Folk Festival is being held this weekend. We camp, as last year, at Middlewood Farm in Fylingthorpe. After everyone arrives we seek out a pub – it is England’s opening match in the World Cup in Germany. The Fylingdales Inn provides us with a good crowd, reasonable television and fine beer. The match, unfortunately, was a pretty poor affair. Ken and Brigid have no interest in the match and take Dill the Dog off for a walk. After a couple more pints in the pub garden we head off for Robin Hoods Bay. After fish and chips, we get ourselves ensconced in The Bay Hotel and do not emerge until midnight. There are several sing-a-rounds, the finale being guitars, accordion, mandolin, washboard (a particularly demonic performance by, I learn some time later, Digby of The Flivvers) and one chap rapping a stick on an empty pop bottle. It was a magical experience.
Sunday 11th June – Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve – After breakfast we pack up and head off for Bempton. The sun is blazing down as we head for the cliff edges. Below are thousands of nesting birds on the cliffs, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Gannets. A Fulmar is nesting in a small crack in the cliff face. On the sea there are rafts of auks, including a few Puffins. The air is full of cries as birds fly in and out of the nests. The last few years have not been good here. The problem is a combination of sudden bad weather and a substantial drop in the numbers of sand eels, the main food source, probably due to both over-fishing and global warming pushing the sand eels northwards as the sea warms up. Up on the meadow back from the cliff edge a male Reed Bunting sits in a bush sporting his dashing black head and a Sedge Warbler sings his scratchy song.
Wednesday 13th June – Hemsworth – The sides of the bypass are a riot of coloured spots on a verdant background. Pink Dog Roses, white Ox-eye Daisies and cream Elderflower.
Friday 23rd June – M62 Motorway – I have to respond to a telephone call so I head up the Rothwell junction slip road. On the roundabout at the top of the slip road, in the middle of the lane a rabbit is sitting, apparently musing on life. At the last minute, as I brake sharply having expected it to move somewhat beforehand, it lopes off, into the next lane and into the path of traffic coming round the motorway bridge. The rabbit finally realises its predicament and panics, jinking this way and that before racing in front of me again and off into the undergrowth on the edge of the road.
Saturday 24th June – Barnsley Canal – It is an overcast morning with a slight breeze. Down Willowbank to the song of a Blackcap. A Little Grebe cries from the canal below. Foxgloves are in flower, varying shades of pink and even some pure white ones. Blackberry brambles are in flower. Large clumps of briars are covered in pink Dog Roses. A Wren darts through bushes pausing for a burst of song. The canal has a slightly foetid odour due to the lack of rain. A bloated dead frog lies in the water. A Whitethroat sings by the footbridge, soaring and looping in the air in display. A Bullfinch flies across the rough meadow into the Hawthorn hedge. Buttercups have begun to lose their petals leaving little knobbly green seed heads. Common Water Plantain has a large flower spike rising about the leaves in the almost still water into which the stream down the valley drains. Burdock is about to flower. Cranesbill has its lovely purple flowers. Near the River Dearne, grasshoppers are calling loudly. Along at the end of the canal is a broad open pasture. Above Sky Larks sing. Back along the other side of the canal, the area remain marshy despite the lack of rain recently. Purple Tufted Vetch and yellow Birdsfoot Trefoil are abundant beside the track and on the edge of the marsh. Reddish pink Ragged Robin flowers in the marsh. A path climbs gently beside the pond and wood towards the hillside. Grasses are covered in “Cuckoo Spit”, the foamy home for froghopper larvae. On the hillside, Birdsfoot Trefoil is everywhere, along with Red and White Clover, Thyme and thistles. Up towards the railway, Bladder Campion and Poppies flower by the path. House Martins sweep overhead. In the dank path below Greenfoot Lane School, Woody Nightshade flowers, bright yellow centres on purple petals, shine in the gloom. By the school is a row of Hazel trees with cobnuts well formed. A Speckled Wood flies by, the first and only butterfly of the day. House Sparrows chatter around the school gate.