The Arctic North in March

My brothers backyard in snow
My brothers backyard in snow

To celebrate my 50th birthday we are meeting up with my family at my brothers house near Huddersfield. We took the Friday off with the aim of taking our time driving north. He weather promised to be unusually winter like for the time of the year, snow was predicted in the North East, but would only last till Saturday.

We were up fairly early, and left the house a 09:30, the aim was to get right up to Wakefield way where there was a National Trust property we have never visited. As we got further north there was evidence of some snow on the fields surrounding the M1 but nothing significant, and the temperatures were just above freezing so nothing was freezing. As we got to Meadow Hell Hall we decided to stop off and see if we could get a thank you gift for my brother and his wife for hosting my birthday weekend.

Helen and I were like fish out of water, in the shopping centre, there was not much on offer for us, just the usual chains of shops that you see on the high street, there did not seem to be any independent shops, or ones with anything others than household goods, clothes and shoes. There was a couple of department stores. We soon realised we were not going to find anything worth buying so headed back to the car, to decide what to do next. We put the NT house into the sat nav but on rote we decided that because there was a bit more snow about perhaps we would go some where more local, to my brothers to find a gift.

Front of house

Helen found a vineyard near Holmfirth we we put into the sat nav, and followed. The route took us over the tops of the hills where we found that every so often we came across snow drifting across the road where there was a gate in the stone wall, but on the whole the roads were clear, even if there was some slush on the road. We headed down towards the valley that Holmfirth is in when the sat nav told us to take a smaller lane which had a bit more snow on it. We followed the directions for a while, but eventually had to turn around as the lane got narrower and narrower, then steeper, and more covered in snow.

My brother would have to have a box of wine from he Cooperative supermarket instead of from a local wine merchant. Down in Holmfirth the supermarket car park was covered in about 3 inches of slushy snow, so we parked up and grabbed some decent bottles of wine. Suitably stocked up we drove to my brothers house, where we had to park in the lane because the last 50 yards was covered in the snow drifts. It is surprising how just a small rise in altitude can make such a difference to he temperature.

We got into the house about 5 minutes before my brother got in form a meeting, it was just after 14:00 so we had a late lunch, then let him get on with the rest of his days work, while we relaxed and drank tea and coffee. Not long after the rest of the family got back from a shopping trip, by which time the snow seemed to have settled in, and the wind was really starting to blow the stuff about. So we went out and cleared the paths again.

Snowy Yorkshire landscape

For dinner we had homemade pizzas which always go down well, much better than shop bought. We relaxed in the kitchen with some wine whilst the snow continued to fall, and the drifts just out side the windows got higher. Both the back and the front door seemed to be just in the right spots to accumulate snow up against them, opening them in the morning was going to have to be a delicate operation.

We were in bed quite early which was probably a good thing because my brothers kids are early risers not helped by the excitement of snow and the anticipate of spending the day with their favourite uncle. For breakfast we had waffles, with which ever choice of topping we wanted, I had Nutella which went down well with expresso coffee. The first job of the day was to clear the paths again so that the olds could get to and from the house, and we also cleared a space for their car. Many of the locals have tractors and were busy trying to clear the tracks so they could get to the sheep who are lambing, and needed food and attention. It was not small task clearing the snow in places we found extensive drifts where we sunk well over our waits and still didn’t think we had reached the under lying ground.

My brothers next door neighbour did a grand job clearing the snow from his drive but it would not be till the next day that the drive could be used because further up the track towards the road where it goes between some houses, that form a wind tunnel the volume of snow was a job to be left till the animals had been seen to. We did not spend too much time outside be sue the wind combined with the sub zero temperatures made a warm drink by the fire far more inviting.

Foret Noire Gateau

Next on the list was to make my birthday cake, which would be a Black Forest Gateau, which we hoped would be as good if not better than our all time favourite that they make and sell in the Swiss supermarkets called Migros. We rejected the French cookery book recipe for one by Herve Cuisine on his Youtube Channel, he appeared to know what he was talking about and had a Swiss accent.

In the afternoon the diddlies had a birthday party to attend so dads 4×4 was the only option. I went along for the ride and to get some video footage, of the snow down in the valley. Once we were out of the lane the roads although slippery with slush that was not really melting, the going was ok. Much of the road surface was clear but in places the snow had been blown across the road where there was a gate way in the stone wall. Any of the roads off the main road were still pretty much covered, so much care was taken as we turned off into the housing area where the party was. Kids dropped off we headed back to the house. When we picked them up later on the temperature had dropped, the wind was freshening and the slush was starting to freeze. The snow continued the fall, and the kids were all sugared up, after the party food they had consumed.

My brother had arranged for a cheese fondu to celebrate my birthday so we we grated the cheese and prepared all the ingredients into a mine en place, ready for later. We had a bit of trouble getting the mixture to the right consistency we wondered whether the President Emmental cheese was the cause as we think it may be a processed version, of the cheese, and we assume French and not Swiss. The consistency did not detract at all from the taste and fun of dipping bread into the hot wine and cheese mixture. We finished off the meal with a slice each of the Lack Forest Gateaux which was delicious especially when some liquid from a jar of cherries in Kirsch was trickled over the sponge. All in all a great birthday meal. We finished off he evening with a couple of games of Perrudo they let me win the first game as it was my birthday.

We were all up by about 08:00 and had toasted hot cross buns for breakfast, then we went outside to see how the land lied for getting away down the lane. It was clear that without some help it was not going to happen. The lane was exposed to he wind and for about 100 yards it was full right up to the stone walls with snow. We tools some photos and and then went back into he warmth of the house thinking we might need to spend another night. This was especially bad news for my parents as they had bought everything they needed with them except for the bag that contained the stuff they would need for an over night stay.

The snow blocked lane

At about 10:30 we took another look outside the local farmers had been hard at work clearing the road. I decided that it was now or never so we rushed back to the house and grabbed shovels to dig the cars out. It took some time to dig them out by which time the lane had started to fill up again. I got my car out onto the snow covered road with the help of people pushing, but then got stuck again trying to drive to the main road. We quickly said good bye to everyone then, a farmer came down with his tractor and suggested the only way would be a tow to the main road. A young lad was sent to get a chain, which was soon hitched up, then we were dragged down to the main road.

Once on the road all seemed good but in places as we drove to the M1 there were parts of the road where the snow had drifted over, in one place a JCB was being used to dig out snow from a drift that was over 6 feet. We took it steady, and were soon safely in the motorway, which was almost completely clear apart from the off strip of slush every few miles. We made really good headway home and got back in a normal time. Ironically later on after we had left my brother reported the sun shining and the lane clear for all traffic.

That was definitely a birthday weekend to remember, as well as brilliant company some dramatic weather to boot, and I just love a bit of extreme weather.

A walk on Marsden Moor

Marsden Moor view

Helen and I spent the weekend at my brothers up north. We left in good time on Friday after work and had a good journey up the M1 and arrived early evening. Kev and Ron had made a chickpea curry and home made naan, which was lovely accompanied by a couple of glasses of wine.

We were up early with the kids the next day, a walk was planned on Marsden Moor. The weather outside was grey but the BBC and the Met office promised that it would brighten up later in the morning. We put together a pack lunch then headed out all in  one car and parked up at the NT Visitors centre near the railway station in Marsden. After trouble finding 50p for the map vending machine we had map in hand and a planned 4 mile circular route taking in the famous moor.

According to Wikipedia :

The Marsden Moor Estate is a large expanse of moorland situated in the Pennines, between the conurbations of West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester in the north of England. It is named after the adjacent small town of Marsden, and is owned and administered by the National Trust to whom it was conveyed in 1955 by the Radcliffe family in lieu of death duties.

Caterpillar on Dock Leaf on Marsden Moor

The estate covers some 2,429 ha (5,685 acres) of unenclosed common moorland and almost surrounds Marsden. It forms the most northerly section of the Peak District National Park. The landscape is made up of valleys, peaks and crags and has long been modified by man. The fact that Marsden forms the eastern gateway to the important Standedge crossing of the moors has resulted in the presence of transport related archaeological remains dating from pre-Roman times to the great engineering structures of the canal and railway ages. The moors have also been used as a water catchment area since the Victorian era, and several reservoirs are present, along with their associated catchwaters.

The landscape supports large numbers of moorland birds such as the Golden Plover, Red Grouse, Curlew and Twite. The estate is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, forms part of an Special Protection Area and is a candidate Special Area of Conservation.

The estate is managed from a base in the old goods yard, adjacent to Marsden railway station, and the old goods shed has been converted into a public exhibition, entitled Welcome to Marsden, which gives an overview of the estate and its history.

House on Marsden Moor

From the car park we headed up Marsden high street, then through a park where there was a memorial to the poet Samuel Laycock who was born and lived in Marsden. Once out of the park we headed up a steep path towards the moor. After a hard slog we were glad to be out on the moor and away from the dog poo you find on foot paths near towns. The sun was shining but there was a strong wind luckily from the south so the not unpleasant. The kids were soon whining about being hungry so we found a few rocks on which to eat our sandwiches.

Up  the moor are quite a few channels which serve as water courses transferring water between the local reservoirs, we played Pooh stocks with one where a bridge went over. We soon got to the zenith of the walk and started our descent, and had great views over the valley and reservoir there in. We were soon back in the town and stopped off for supplies for pizza topping later.

We got back to the house late after noon and after a cup of tea went for a swim, where I was able to test out the new GoPro Hero2 video camera, and perform well it did.

For dinner we had home made pizza followed by an excellent sticky toffee pudding. This was followed by a Wii session and then bed.

The next day we were up early again, and headed home after a coffee and a smoothie video, which involved a carpet race round the kitchen.

Traffic on the way home was light.

Have dongle will travel

Flooded footpath
Off to Holmfirth for the weekend. The M1 was unexpectedly kind and it only took us 3 hours, in spite of wild winds and rain. The roadworks near Nottingham are now complete and the extra lane makes a big difference. I tested out my netbook and dongle, and that whiled away the journey very nicely, although I should apologise for the excessive number of Facebook comments. Neil was able to enjoy the news quiz and the Archers in relative peace. Lots of warning signs about the high winds and the Sheffield bridge stretch was restricted to 40mph. Got up Norf at 7.30pm and K cooked some lovely tomato n spinach pasta.
The “interesting” weather continued on Saturday. The smalls went to drama and afterwards the menfolk went hunter gathering in Holmfirth. In the afternoon we braved the weather and went for a walk on the Dearne Valley Way. It rained and rained but it was a lovely spot, with towering beech trees. To reach the woods, we had to traverse a set of what were normally stone steps but the continual rain had turned into a small waterfall. The woods were a popular spot for the birds, we saw several treecreepers and a nuthatch. Many of the sloping paths had temporarily turned into streams. We had hoped to cross the river to get to an impressive rope swing, however the stepping stones had disappeared under the deluge and we could not find a safe place to ford it, although the smalls took some convincing.
Swollen river
Back home to de damp and hot drinks all round. Then we watched Toy Story 3 in front of the fire. K had cannily prepared chilli in the morning and left it slow cook. With wraps, home made salsa and guacamole, grated cheese and sour cream, it made a delicious dinner. Followed by some lovely Co-op yogurt and strawberry ice cream. When the smalls went off to bed, we tried out Rummikub, a number game which seems to be based on cards and enjoyed several rounds. Us wimmin stayed up to put the world to rights, although I am glad I said no to the slow gin.
Still very windy on Sunday although thankfully the rain had stopped. We did some cottage research for Bath, for a rather delayed birthday celebration. It will be lovely to do it in the Spring, with the lighter days and plants waking up again. We have found a fantastic looking house in central Bath, which fulfills our detailed requirements list and even has a couple of parking spaces! We had an early lunch of beans/cheese on toast and then headed off down the M1, which is where I am currently typing this. 16 miles to Northampton so have passed the half way point.