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Walk on the Whernside

A week of annual leave has afforded me a good opportunity to get outside and take a proper break from working at home. Today I walked up Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales - the highest of the Yorkshire "3 peaks".

The walk started alongside the awe-inspiring Ribblehead Viaduct, a monumental engineering achievement spanning the Valley and carrying trains on the Settle-Carlisle route for 125 years.

One of the first things I noticed, as I got out of the car, was the silence. Striking, as you turn off the engine, switch off the radio and open the door, to nothing. Feels like a great start to the day - escaping the noise and the bustle of each day.

The view ahead to the summit of Whernside was, wasn't much of a view, shrouded in low cloud. Undaunted, I set off up the path, alongside the railway, following along until Force Gill, where you cross the railway line and the climb becomes more challenging.

The further I walked, the more the cloud descended, obscuring the view of the valley below, and somehow deepening the silence. From time to time, I'd seen a hovering Kestrel on the way up, surveying the landscape for a furry little snack. Now, my only company was the occasional chuckle of a red grouse, which some say sounds like "Go back! Go back!" An ominous sign perhaps...

Not being unduly superstitious, I carried on, following the path to the trig point. Sadly, no view to speak of today, as the cloud persisted, like a giant invisibility cloak, between me and the countryside. But nevertheless a feeling of achievement, reaching the top and contemplating the route down.

As I began to descend, following a circular route back towards the viaduct, the clouds cleared a little, offering a glimpse of the beauty of this part of the world. Ever changing light cast shadows and golden highlights on the surrounding farms and the lower reaches of Ingleborough (its own peak, masked by cloud).

The lower I got, the more it came to life. A glance back, and the peak of Whernside revealed itself for the first time, and up ahead the sounds of birdsong, punctuating the quiet morning.

In the trees ahead, groups of blue and great tits, twittered between the trees, the tinkling of goldfinch, high up in the bare branches.

Along the drystone walls, robins ticking at each other warning each other of danger perhaps, although most likely from each other as they defend their patch.

The occasional buzzard soared on the thermals, looking out for carrion to plunder, while chattering flocks of starlings sat in the fields, taking off and landing in iridescent clouds while seemingly arguing - should they stay or should they go?

This brings me back round to Ribblehead Viaduct, strolling through the iconic fields of green and gold, under spectacular skies that so beautifully describe Yorkshire to the world.

There's nothing better right now than getting away from the noise and the stresses of work, immersed in the sounds and sights of nature. Go outside. Listen carefully to what surrounds you. The music of the countryside is succour for the soul.

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