Oh to be in England: Yorkshire Wolds and Ways. Botany and Barn Owls.

There surely is no better time to be in England than Springtime. And the  Robert Browning poem resonates with me as there is such beauty in the English countryside and I do sometimes long for the green, vibrant and cool UK spring. But I don’t long for the tensions of countryside politics and various interest groups pitted against each other. I was also frustrated with a General Election Campaign that seemed to constantly avoid the environmental challenges we should be talking about and dealing with.

For various reasons we had spent longer than expected in the UK but this also meant we could travel further afield through the fields and discover some of the delights of Spring and meet up more with friends and family. I was also able to familiarise myself with more of the wild flowers here in the UK at this time of year.

The May in May. Hawthorn blossom
The May in May. Hawthorn blossom.
Wild Garlic
Wild Garlic
Jack in the Hedge, Garlic Mustard
Jack in the Hedge, Garlic Mustard. another blog helped me identify this and had not heard the Jack name before.

The Yorkshire Wolds might not seem so dramatic as the moorlands of Bronte and Railway children fame but David Hockney captured their beauty on his return to the UK and during his stay in his home town of Bridlington. When I saw his exhibition in London I also had thought of retracing his ways through the Yorkshire wolds and we did this about two years ago. It is an area of Yorkshire I love and lived near for a while. http://www.yocc.co.uk

Cowslips by Skidby Mill.
Cowslips by Skidby Mill.
Skidby Mill and playing with new found contrasts on the iPad!
Skidby Mill and playing with new found contrasts on the iPad!

We managed a trip into the past of Skidby Mill and Beverley and then to see Zara the horse in her grand estate. There’s an old fashioned stable block and then woodland and parkland all around. For early May this was filled with wild garlic which stretched deep into the woods. At Skidby Mill there was an insight into the past and some milling of flour still goes on. The cowslips were out in the field by the mill and I had also learnt how to adjust contrast on the iPad!I had left the camera behind again as had done a lot of traveling by train. http://www.museums.eastriding.gov.uk

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Zara in the stable.
Zara in the stable.
Wild garlic in the woods, Dalton
Wild garlic in the woods, Dalton

Barn Owl Beauty

There are some shots though that can never be captured but can be etched into the memory. As we were returning along one of the high roads across the gentle wolds from Scarborough I saw my first wild barn owl in flight along the hedgerow. As there were gulls galore in Scarborough I was transfixed by the strange shape in the distance. Just all wrong for a gull! As I drove nearer the Barn Owl it was very clear and it was flying along the hedgerow towards us and we passed quite close. It certainly wasn’t bothered by the car or was more intent on prey. I wanted to pull over and stop and glancing in the rear mirror saw the car close behind. When I glanced again the Barn Owl had turned around and was as flying back after the car. In my rear view window I had such a good glimpse of the wide face. Thankfully there was no one in front of me as I did linger a little too long looking backwards until the Barn Owl suddenly swooped down behind the hedge and into the field. Hopefully it had a good meal.

My own Barn Owl taken and on the screen of my iphone 2 years ago!
My own Barn Owl  photo taken and on the screen of my iphone about two years ago!

Barn Owl numbers in the UK were in rapid decline but there has been a great effort to reverse this and there have been successes as farmers, landowners, conservationists and many others have invested in ensuring there are nest boxes and suitable habitats. It seems so essential that party politics are set aside and all work together to ensure species survive and our planet maintains its glorious diversity. There have also been surveys and monitoring since 1932 but by the late 1980s numbers were reported to have dropped from between 5 to 9000 down to 1.400. There is now a national survey called Project Barn Owl and over many more nest sites that are monitored.  Numbers have recovered but changes in climate and very wet weather can adversely affect the Barn Owl as rain does impair flight and the ability to hunt. 2013/14 and all the flooding was not a good time for them.  http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/

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However I carry around with me on my iphone one of the first photos I took with it and edited for the screen. So everyday I have the face of a Barn Owl looking out on me!  So I come full circle with my close encounters with the wild. This was taken at a British Wildlife Centre where rescued wildlife from these shores are kept and it does allow us to get up close to the secretive animals who try to live with us on this densely populated island.

Close encounters at The British Wildlife Centre
Close encounters at The British Wildlife Centre
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24 thoughts on “Oh to be in England: Yorkshire Wolds and Ways. Botany and Barn Owls.”

  1. We’re enjoying the late Soring flowers of Rhodes and beautiful weather. Also the acrobatics of the house martins are always delightful.
    Enjoying the rest after a very busy few weeks. Hope all is well with both of you. M xx

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      1. We’re at a place on the Rio Grande where the hot springs seep up along the western shore of the river. The Apaches used to come here to heal in the bubbling mud. There are two big reservoirs, also. A strange mix, desert lakes – soft fresh water and barren, stony shores. It makes me think of images of Greece I’ve seen, but I haven’t been there yet.

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  2. Sounds amazing and really interesting about your place and the Apaches. Mrose has made a comment here from being in Rhodes about the flowers there. Greece can be pretty varied but like so much of the Med the summers are dry and then scrubby desert but in spring there can be an abundance of flowers. She also read out the Apache blessing and have put that on my recent wedding post! Hope you get to Greece one day.

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    1. I hope so, as well. I could get ‘lost’ in the antiquities. Before I met my husband, I had my eye on three acres near Sparta, with an old stone house on a hill. I worked in Biodynamic Viticulture and wine-making on the west coast of the U.S., and hope to have my own small vineyard some day. It could be done here, but this arid climate is new to me. I’ve got lots to learn before I set in grapes.

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  3. I’m a big fan of David Hockney and was fortunate to see an exhibit of his Yorkshire paintings a few years ago. A beautiful part of the country.

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  4. I live in South Yorkshire. It’s a gorgeous part of the country, and the dales and the Moors are definitely worth a visit. I love owls so I hope they get their act together to ensure they don’t disappear. I also saw David Hockney’s exhibition in London. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

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    1. Indeed it was a wonderful experience for me being in a painted cathedral of trees. And the landscape so familiar as I lived in York and then Sheffield and often visited the wolds. It’s where I began teaching too and supporting youngsters with library books! Barn Owls are doing well on the Wolds but not so in other places.

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