W3C The Nondescript Day  GARN YAM


It was a nondescript sort of morning, a low cloud base hung over the tops and occasional showers of light rain fell from the leaded sky, a wind coming from the north carried the threat of snow to come if the temperature fell much more; it was in all honesty a day for the pub. I stood and looked down into the valley, at the road snaking along the lake shore and followed it to where my car was parked, wishing I was sitting in it with the heater going and the windscreen wipers cleaning the screen. Over to my left hounds were moving across the steep fellside, a mixture of dead bracken and rock; nothing had happened since the hounds were “loosed” three hours earlier and by the way the hounds were moving over the fellside nothing much was going to either, an occasional bark carried over to us as we stood in hope. The guy standing next to me cleared his throat and spat on the grass. “Good to nowt,” he opinionated; no one replied, it was so obvious.

A heavier shower of rain suddenly arrived on the wind bringing with it a mist which within minutes hid the valley below and the hounds from sight. “To hell with this,” the guy said, and turned towards the sheep trod we had ascended from the valley what seemed like hours ago. “I’m for yam (home), ista coming?” He whistled his terrier and disappeared into the murk. It began to get colder as the wind increased in strength and ribbons of mist began to blow in and out of the ghylls nearby. On a trod leading down to the valley floor a line of sheep could be seen descending towards the sheepfold beside the beck in the valley bottom. All the time the hounds continued their fruitless search across the fellside briefly delayed at a well known borran which proved to be empty; unable to see them, we followed their progress by the occasional bark which carried up to us on the heights above. Five fell ponies came into view on the ridge above where we now stood, the wind buffering their tales and manes, shaggy coats thick and muddy, they too began to descend to the valley below, soon lost in the murk.

Suddenly it began to snow, big soft flakes carried on the wind drifted down and began to settle on the sheltered parts of the fellside. The sound of the horn carried up to us from somewhere below. “Blown off, I said ,“let’s be going.” We turned and began to search for the track which would take us down to the comparative shelter of the valley, as we did several hounds appeared from out of no-where and trotted along with us.

It began to snow heavily and soon a light covering lay on the ground, this did not make for good walking as the grass became quite slippery and on several occasions I was glad of my walking stick. Slowly we lost height and finally joined the track which would take us down to the valley floor. Everywhere was now white and it would not be unreasonable to say that above where we had come from a blizzard was in the making. No one had spoken since we began our descent apart from the occasional oath as they slipped on the treacherous grass, but the silence was now broken as a figure loomed up out of the murk and said, “By god, I’m glad to see you lads.” It was our friend from before, who, disorientated by the mist and falling snow had somehow managed to lose the track and had wandered around the hill side for some while looking to regain it. He was lucky, more than a few people have been benighted on the fell, although not be-nighted.

It is difficult to describe the eerie sensation of being on the fell in bad weather however Dorothy Wordsworth’s account of a journey over Grisedale Hause in late January in the early 1800s using the old packhorse route from Ullswater to Grasmere for me is one of the best descriptions of the fell in bad weather.

“We struggled with the wind, and often rested as we went along. A hail shower met us before we reached the Tarn, and the way often was difficult over the snow; but at the Tarn the view closed in. We saw nothing but mists and snow; and at first the ice on the Tarn below us cracked and split, yet without water, a dull grey white. We lost our path, and could see the Tarn no longer. We made our way out with difficulty, guided by a heap of stones which we well remembered. We were afraid of being bewildered by the mists, til the darkness should overtake us. We were long before we knew that we were in the right track, but thanks to William’s skill we knew it long before we could see our way before us. There was no footmark upon the snow of either man or beast. We saw four sheep before we had left the snow region.”

How did the day end you may be wondering, well the simple answer is in the pub, our friend’s terrier fast asleep so close to the roaring fire that he awoke when his coat began to smoulder. We stood at the bar watching beneath oak beams blackened with age and the smoke from many a fire in the big open hearth, betting on the time it would take the terrier to notice, and his master was so relieved at meeting us that for him unusually he bought a round.

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