Tag Archives: autumn

Autumn Symphony – Slack Top to the Crags

View pano 2

We managed one more walk before the end of October.  I had suggested a trip to Hardcastle Crags which strangely, we had rarely visited in autumn. Following some route-finding, we embarked on what we hoped would be less of a slog to get to Gibson Mill.  This entailed catching the 596.  Due to roadworks, the bus shelter had disappeared to be replaced by a temporary sign.  As we waited, a chilly wind made me cold and I worried I might not be warm enough.

Greenwood Lea 1We rode up enjoying the scenery in the beautiful sunshine.  We got off at Slack Top, immediately crossed and began walking up Widdop Road.  To our left, a different aspect of Popples Common revealed its true size.  A cobbled lane suggested an old packhorse trail.   To the right, large gardens housed annoying yappy dogs. Farmhouses revealed ancient horse steps, auxiliary servant’s quarters. multiple chimneys and peafowl – the latter populating the grounds of Greenwood Lea (a historic Yeoman’s house dating from circa 1712).  A few sheep and ridiculously cute Shetland ponies grazed in the fields.  Across the valley, trees displayed a plethora of colours with emerald evergreens interspersing a variety of deciduous hues.

Clough trees 1The road dipped slightly and after a small bend we espied Clough Holes carpark.  As work was underway, a sign announced ‘footpath closed’.  “Oh no!” I exclaimed, then realised it meant the path to the carpark.  Alongside, a tiny step stile led down to a picturesque path following the line of a small brook, punctuated with idyllic cascades.  A second stepped stile marked meadows giving way to woodland.

Looking back, sunlight glinted on leaves of orange, yellow and green with branches stretching towards a pale blue sky.  The path became a mix of rough cobble and hardcore as it continued to wind down.  Just before the stone bridge, a tree stump resembled a teddy bear.

Like a teddyA couple of families had followed us down; a reminder it was half-term.  I hoped we would not be overwhelmed with school kids at Gibson Mill.  In spite of the family-friendly activities and several groups making use of the café facilities, I managed to find a vacant table.  We had brought our own butties.   Phil wanted a brew to go with them and disappeared inside the Weaving Shed for what seemed like an age!  Eventually emerging, he said it had taken so long because of the umpteen variations on offer including flake in coffee – is that a thing now?

Both the walk down and lunch had taken considerably longer than anticipated.  Having originally planned to go quite a bit further up, we figured there was insufficient daylight remaining.  We agreed to at least walk a little way beyond the mill.

Among the mill ponds, impressive fungi were the size of dinner plates.  The brook we had walked alongside on our descent culminated in a torrent teeming down the rocks.  A large party of elderly hikers came towards us, necessitating a precarious step off the path at the water’s edge.

Mill ponds 4A few ducks pootled about on the pond surface amidst floating oak leaves.  Below the water line, bare branches created black reflections while frondy pond weeds of bright green swayed gently.  At the actual crags, I remarked that I had only recently realised  that this exact spot had been the focus of Victorian jaunts.  Lovely as they are, I was somewhat bemused by its specific popularity; the whole Calder Valley is characterised by such features.

We continued a little further where the scene took on a more forested aspect.  Assorted mushrooms brought renewed life to dead wood.  Soft russets reflected in the silvery steam.  I lingered on the edge of Hebden Water to take in the gorgeous symphony of colours and sounds.

The Crags 1Returning, we took the top track for a faster walk home, edged with fading ferns, spindly saplings and older majestic trees marching up the slope.  On the last stretch of the riverside path, we stayed on the left side to laugh anew at the swamp.

At the end of Valley Road, Phil detoured to the shop while I headed home, stopping briefly to chat with a friend.  I slumped on the sofa, recovered slightly with a drink of water but felt in need of a proper lie down.

 

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Upstream 8

 

Lifting the Blues (Lumb Bank)

Dappled lane 4

Amidst an early autumn dominated by rain, frost and fog, the penultimate Wednesday of October dawned  dazzlingly bright.  The trees across the valley zinged orange beneath the glowing sun.  Keen to be amongst them after a bout of ‘flu, we had a few things to attend to first.  Predictably it was lunchtime by the time we left the house.  We bought pies from the bakers and went up the road past the Fox and Goose, then right at the first turning.

Enigma 2Behind Eaves Mount, the undulating path made our legs ache.  But it was worth the pain to reach the spectacular ‘avenue’, glorious this time of year.  A carpet of fallen red leaves crunched underfoot, contrasting with yellow and green still clinging onto higher branches.  Passing through an iron gate, the lane became dappled in light.  Felled trees allowed crops of fungi to explode in the shadows. A bizarre arrangement atop a stump bewildered us; art or accident?

On reaching the final stretch up to Lumb Bank , large cobbles paved the way.  We squatted on a moss-clad stone wall near the old stone gatepost.

As we ate our pies, cows in the adjacent field stared in our direction.  I hoped they could not escape to attack us.  We dusted crumbs off and continued, sneaking through the garden of the big house to avoid an even harder climb and take in panoramic views up the valley.  The two Lumb Mill chimneys stood starkly grey amidst a cacophony of colour.

Lumb Mill chimney from the back 3As light faded, air cooled.  We headed down towards Lumb Mill and discovered a couple of paths leading behind the second chimney.  The first looked decidedly dicey; the second a safer prospect. I later compared my photos to that in ‘Remains of Elmet’ to conclude Fay’s shot would be impossible now.i

Winding down to the site of the long-gone mills, we lingered awhile among the archaeology. Impossibly tiny mushrooms populated my favourite sycamore tree.  I wondered if this was another stage of its imminent demise following the blight that afflicted the leaves this year.  Nearby, a ladybird navigated round large Ivory caps.

We returned via the fast track, pausing to gather small bright maple leaves. Back home, we felt very tired and achy but glad we had got out for some much-needed fresh air and sunshine.

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Reference:

i. Remains of Elmet; Hughes, Ted (poems) and Godwin, Fay (photographs) (1979) Faber & Faber (1979)

Lumb valley chimney view 1

Mud and Mushrooms (Autumn in Crow Nest)

Valley view 6

Early October, we both had flu.  On the second Saturday, sunlight glimpsed through leaden clouds after overnight rain.  We agreed a short walk in the fresh air would do us good.  After two weeks of inactivity I thought it judicious to put a bandage on my foot and wear proper walking boots before venturing  up to Crow Nest Wood.  Almost immediately on hitting the first steep part of the path, my bad foot gave way, with a sharp pain – not in my ankle but on the top part.  I hobbled on to reach a low wall where I could squat to tighten the bandage.  I was able to proceed, with care, but I rued the decision to wear the boots which I suspected had caused the problem.  A little further up, we found a gap in the large garden hedges allowing us to admire trees across the valley displaying autumnal splendour.

Fungi of black 1At the corner we took the left-hand path, remembering this was usually the quickest route to the top of the wood.  But the stony surface and wet leaves compounded by several days’ worth of overnight rain, made it arduous and extremely slippy at times.  Soon, our noses were assaulted by the stink of sulfur from rotten trees.  Disgusting-looking black fungi resembling tyres sprouted from one decayed trunk.  Phil slid dangerously off the path to investigate.   I had to laugh when he asked “How do I get back up now?”  “That’s your problem!”

Elsewhere, fungi appeared in more appealing shades of ochre and white.  Small caps topped slender stems sprouting among sodden leaves at the edge of the path.  An ivory puffball had become covered in green mould –  Fungi on fungi as it were.

Quarry 1

Among the twisty trees on the top path, green faded slowly from leaves to be replaced by a spectrum of yellows and russets.  We continued to the babbling brook and perched on a rock to listen to the gushing waterfall.  In search of more we continued towards the old quarry.  Here, large patches of deep, squelching mud at last made me glad I had my proper boots on.  As predicted,  a cascade plummeted down the cliff-face of the quarry creating new streams and yet more deep mud patches.  We zig-zagged up and down small paths to avoid them and return to the main route.

Mushrooms grew from a felled birch.  White flecked with black, they almost merged with the monochrome stripes of the tree trunk.  We mused on the weirdness of the woodland where things appeared dead and alive at the same time.  I wondered why it was not a popular spot for witches!

We continued to Wood Top, turned left down to the  station and into town for lunchtime pies.  I stopped to chat to an old schoolfriend on the way.  Back home, I had to immediately take off my muddy boots and jeans…

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Fungi of stripes 4

 

Birchcliffe to Nutclough

Nutclough descent 3

A Heritage open day offered the rare opportunity of gaining access to parts of the Birchcliffe Centre normally out-of-bounds.  On the cusp of autumn but still summery, we avoided a steep climb in the heat by walking via Hangingroyd, Foster Lane and Eiffel Street.  On reaching Birchcliffe, we first investigated Chapel Avenue. Lines of washing extended across the small cul-de-sac.  A wall plaque on the side wall of the centre commemorated transfer of school activities to the chapel building in the 19th century.  A stone gateway at the end of the street led to a dark path. I wondered if it would descend to Nutclough.

Chapel Avenue 1Entering the building via the impressive front entrance complete with granite pillars, the walls of the reception area displayed newly printed photos by Alice Longstaff.  A fellow photographer responsible for the collection  explained the context of the never-before seen images and related stories of some of the people shown.  It felt a real privilege and I was fascinated to note the differences between Alice’s commercial work and shots taken for personal reasons or just for the hell of it.

On the corridor running the length of the centre a young woman accosted me, asking if I would like to join a pilates class.  “No thanks.  Tried it once. Hated it”.  I said, politely.  Right at the back, the old Baptists pool was specially uncovered for the open day.  A guide approached from the opposite direction with a family group.  We stopped to listen as she explained how it was used.  In the boardroom we took part in a consultation on the future of the centre (ran by a neighbour of ours as it turned out).  From the ground plans we learnt that the path at the back did indeed lead to Nutclough and the centre actually owned that section of the clough.

RestingIntrigued by the discovery of yet another path in the tiny but endlessly fascinating Nutclough, we had to explore. We returned to the end of Chapel Avenue.  Through the gateway, spindly silver birch strove for light. their trunks casting shadows like palimpsests criss-crossing the path.

Further down, leaf detritus blocked the weir.  Speckled wood butterfly flitted about on the islands while dayflies danced like fairies.  Mainly shady now in the late afternoon sun, we stepped over the shallow stream to the firepit, bathed in a patch of sunlight. Birch replaced by beech, nuts and shells littered the ground.  I had fun arranging them artily on the hewn benches.

We walked back in full sun down Keighley Road, in search of lunch.  The town centre was absolutely rammed as people spilled out of the pub on the square; a last gasp on the last proper end-of-summer day. We scanned cafes on Bridge Gate and at the other end of the square but all were full or about to shut.  We spotted a couple of friends and stopped to say hello.  They both had sorry tales of redundancy to tell and conversations went on quite a long time .  By then, Phil  appeared about to fall over for want of food.  I suggested we go home to eat.  He did not sound keen.  We started homeward past more populous pubs, until discovering  that Tibetan Kitchen was an oasis of calm.  Friendly staff guided us through the choice of mouth-watering dishes and served us chai while we waited for our food.  I heard a guy say the food was better than the Manchester branch.  I made a mental note to take a friend who knows the original place well so she can compare.

Salad 2 crop

It seemed as though winter arrived early in November.  Often elusive, the sun appeared intermittently on a late Wednesday.  Although lifting the temperature slightly, it was still cold.  We discussed a few ideas involving a short walk to somewhere offering lunch.  I suggested Heptonstall, Mytholmroyd and Stubbings.  As we stepped out, a chilly wind made it feel even colder.  We decided to stay near town with a short trip to Nutclough.

Taking the picturesque route  via The Buttress and Hangingroyd Lane to Foster Lane, we remarked it had been a long time since we climbed the ginnel up to Unity Street.  Always evocative of the Victorian industrial heydays, parked cars hampered efforts to capture the mood on camera.  We scanned the rooftops of the town centre below, noticing for the first time how many turrets there are.

Far out 2At the end of the street,  we crossed the main road and headed into Nutclough. In spite of recent assaults by wind, rain and frost, autumnal colours still bedecked the trees.  Fallen leaves scattered the paths.  Jade-like lichen covered large grey boulders, resembling textured wallpaper.  Glistening moss swathed drystone walls.  Speckled brown oak leaves contrasted with the bright emerald.

On reaching the ‘islands’ I noticed some of the stepping-stones had been washed away by heavy downpours.  Phil strode over the shimmying stream regardless but I deemed it impassable.  I casted around for replacement stones and threw a promising square lump into the water.  It settled in the right place but was insufficient to breach the gap.  I had no luck finding the right shape and size to improve the situation. He tried to help by lobbing a stones from the other side but it was useless.  I gave up and backtracked to the steps near the weir.  At the top, different varieties of moss adorned rocks.  Delicate red stalks supported their tiny blooms.

Moss close up 2

Finding ourselves on the path belonging to the Birchcliffe Centre, copper beech, dark green in September, now lived up to their name.  We took the straight-forward route down into town.  This time, we had lunch options aplenty, with only a smattering of punters in the fading light of mid-afternoon.  Rendezvous supplied us with tasty, warming and filling meals.  I nipped outside for a smoke.  A juvenile jackdaw perched on the back of the adjacent chair to mine. He kept looking towards the café window as though waiting for something.  When I returned back inside, one of the staff told her colleague “Scruffy’s here.” Consequently, a young woman appeared with a crust of bread.  “Ah!  I wondered why he was hanging around.” “Yes,” she told me, “he comes every day to be fed.” Crafty!

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View back 1

 

A Mystery Solved? (Heptonstall and Northwell Lane)

Northwell Panorama

In the heat of July, Marisa and I took the bus up to Heptonstall for lunch at The Towngate Tearooms.  We discussed options for walking back to Hebden and I asked her to confirm for me which path was Tinker Bank Lane and see if I could determine if there was another path between that and Northwell Lane.

FleecedShe led me through the old co-op yard into a carpark and up a grassy path parallel to Northgate.  I noted a washing line being used to hang sheep fleeces and the pinfold.  Now a picnic area, this little enclave was once used communally to house livestock.  At the end of the path we turned immediately right, onto Tinker Bank Lane.   With no apparent right of way ahead of us, I still wondered if I had imagined the middle path and resolved to clear up the mystery at some future date.  We descended to Draper Lane and crossed into the wood, through Hollins and into town.

The days leading up to the autumn equinox brought a resurgence of summer.  Still tired from an outing earlier in the week, I consented to a short hike through Eaves Wood.  We walked along the ridge slowly, pausing to examine details close up.  Tall grassed framed the hamlet below.  Fat spiders lay in wait on delicate webs.  Baby oak trees sprouted from the ground, their tiny red leaves bright amidst the grass.

At Hell Hole Rock, we waited as a dorky-looking couple descended the steep stone staircase, carrying mattresses on their backs.  I joked they planned on camping but obviously they were climbers.  Steps clear,  we went up to ‘photographer’s corner’ and clambered onto the dodgy ledge overlooking the rock, the climbing couple hampering attempts to take good shots.

Lit ruin 1Back on the proper path, we turned right to Southfield.  Loud bellringing emanated from the church where the afternoon sun glinted yellow on the stonework.  We had the ruin to ourselves for a spell, enjoying seeing it in a different light, until a few other walkers appeared.  A woman with young boy in tow enquired as to the location of ‘King David’s’ grave (aka David Hartley of the Cragg Vale coiners).  She was horrified that we had never made a point of seeking it out.  Phil commented it made a change from women asking about Sylvia Plath’s resting place.  I suggested she may well end up there but was probably trying to make the visit more engaging for her son.

Normally we would tarry awhile in  the churchyard but the persistent bell-ringing played havoc with my tinnitus.  We retreated onto West Laithe and walked down the road to a snicket into the old co-op yard.  Dismayed at the apparent lack of maintenance , I joked  they should get the stocks back out.  A man stood in front of the adjacent garage.  Imposingly large, with a bushy beard and arms crossed, he regarded us suspiciously. Unperturbed, I bade him a cheery “hello!”.  He reluctantly returned the greeting.  At a side door, an even surlier-looking fellow eyed us warily.

Tinker Bank chickensWe stifled sniggers as we continued up the small path to the pinfold which I had wanted to explore since discovering in July.  Through the small square doorway, worn picnic tables inhabited an oasis of dappled shade.  We agreed it was a good spot for a rest although we ended up covered in particles raining down on us from the nearby trees.  As we chatted, I expressed amazement that in spite of  gentrification,  real yokels still existed in little enclaves.  Phil said he was not in the least bit surprised.  He regaled me with tales of Dick the ‘beech nut god’ and the ‘bramble spirit’, claiming people round here still believed in these pagan deities.

We continued to Tinker Bank Lane, being chased by chickens as we went back up a short way onto Northgate and turned right to the top of Northwell Lane.  We took in the views and my eyes were drawn to the private garden immediately below us.  A distinctly wide section with stone walls on either side, seemed to solve the mystery of the middle path; seemingly once a lane joining Tinker Bank with Northwell but now repurposed.

Northwell HouseBrightness at the top of the lane gave way dramatically to darkness as we walked down Northwell to Draper Lane.  Crossing, we followed the footpath towards Lee Wood, even darker and decidedly cool.  I picked up the pace as we headed down to a junction.  Of three routes, we chose one leading to Hebden Water in the hope of returning to warmth.  Snaking round bends, we noted the horsey holiday farm had become even bigger, though the military vehicles we had spotted a couple of years ago were no longer in evidence

On the riverside, a woman walking purposefully ahead f us and game of croquet underway at the bowling club were the only signs of life.  Disappointingly still in shade, we finally regained sunlight on Valley Road.  We dawdled into town and considered staying out for a pint to make the most of it.  Inevitably though, hordes of after-work drinkers had descended.  With barely a scrap of outdoor seating to be had. We went for coffee instead.

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Pinfold 2

Woodland Mist

Mistical 1

As the mild weather continued well into November, we enjoyed a mid-week stroll.  We planned to catch a bus up to Colden for lunch at May’s but missed one by minutes.  With a short window of afternoon sun, we bought pasties from the local bakers and strode rapidly towards town.  I remarked we were going at a fair lick considering we had no aim in mind.  I suggested going to Hareshaw Wood and we made our way up to Salem Fields.  After crossing Foster Mill Bridge, we climbed the large cobbled steps and paused by the majestic sycamore to contemplate the glorious sunny scene.

Majestic 2A friend descended the steps towards us and stopped for a chat.  She asked if we were going to Heptonstall.  I replied that we had no definite plans but “’All roads lead to Heptonstall’ (as it says in my book)”.

She laughed, and invited us to call in for a cuppa next time we ended a walk there.

We turned right at the top to pass through Hollins.  A rustling sound near my feet did not alarm me at first, assuming it was my boots treading fallen leaves. However, the noise did not match my pace.  I looked down to find a daft dog sniffing at my heels, threatening to jump onto me.  The owner seemed oblivious: strolling some paces back, busy gassing on her phone.  I shouted repeatedly at the mutt until the owner overheard and called the animal off.

Leaves with drops

We chose to go upwards through the wood which we rarely do.  Interesting colours strew the path, with lichens and fungi dotted amongst the autumn foliage, some sprinkled with perfectly round dewdrops.

At the top, we crossed Lee Wood Road and looked for the gap on the other side.  Having thought we had spotted it, we made our way up worn shallow steps barely discernible beneath a thick carpet of brown leaves, indicating an ancient route.  We crossed the road to continue, where more worn steps and a crumbling waymarker post gave further clues to its history.  Hesitating briefly as it was not Tinker Bank Lane as we had expected, we reasoned that it must be nearby.

Tiny mushroomsI found the last part of steep climb very hard work.  We caught our breath near the top where a fowl enclosure stood to our right.  Disgruntled geese flapped their wings, perturbed by our presence.  Tiny orange mushrooms grew in a clump from a hollow in a tree.  A wooden signpost gave directions to various locales from which I guessed we had somehow come up a parallel path to Tinker Bank Lane.  This assumption was confirmed as we made the last bit of the climb alongside the octagonal chapel.

Yellow sign

Now in Heptonstall (which, as I pointed out to our friend earlier, was inevitable), we continued along Northfield.

An almost blank yellow sign amused us with only the word ‘Please’ discernible, albeit faded.  We guessed it had once warned against parking before the letters had peeled off.

Over in the churchyard we sought a patch of sunlight to sit in and settled on the church steps facing south.  After eating my pasty, I foraged for interesting leaves that had collected round the Victorian gravestones.

With only an hour till dusk, we made a quick return via Eaves Wood.  At ‘photographer’s corner’, the Stoodley Pike monument and wind turbines rose from a blanket of grey, topped by artily-arranged lenticular clouds.  We joked about the ‘mistical valley’ (which became the subject for the next Monday Morning haigai.  Descending the steps at Hell Hole Rocks, a man waited at the bottom and asked us if he was on the right track for Heptonstall.  I confirmed that he was.  Further down, we watched squirrels scampering amidst the tree branches, gathering nuts.  My wildlife photography proved as pathetic as ever!  Back home, I felt pleased that we had got out for some fresh air and exercise, in spite of my extreme tiredness and achy legs necessitating a lie down.

Squirrel 2

Note:

i. https://mondaymorninghaiga.wordpress.com/2018/11/19/mistical-valley/

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Freaky Nutclough

Bright trees 1

Following a week in bed with sinusitis, we managed one more walk before the end of October.  As it was the day the clocks reverted to GMT and as usual, we did not leave the house until mid-afternoon, we agreed on a short jaunt to Nutclough.  We used the shortcut to the buttress and down towards town.  Discordant music could be heard, prompting speculation as to what event might be occurring but concluded it might just be a busker.  We walked the familiar route via Hangingroyd road, up the steps opposite the Little Park onto Foster Lane, turned right and crossed Keighley Road into Nutclough Wood.  Beautiful colours greeted us immediately; many trees still sported green leaves while browns and oranges littered the path.

Evil pixie 2Finding the large iron gate padlocked, we entered via side gate.  It squeaked ominously as I lifted the latch and went through.  I joked about recording the sound to scare young children on Halloween!  The freaky theme continued as Phil cavorted like an evil pixie – obviously influenced by the film we’d watched the night before featuring fantastically crap demons.i

We continued up leaf-strewn steps and through the gap onto the edge of ‘the swamp’.  Braving snagging brambles and biting insects, I ventured further towards the edge than ever before.

Colourful reflections 6The colours reflected in the water were stunning!  A cyan sky provided a backdrop for dark horizontal shadows of tree trunks.  Bright green ferns were reflected beneath curled-up leaves floating gently on the surface.  Ripples produced surreal effects with undulations of red and yellow.  On returning to the gap in the wall I spotted a small swarm of flies glinting in the sunlight; they gave the impression of fairies dancing in a magical woodland.

Continuing down towards the stream, a couple with two small boys strolled around ‘the island’.  The man chatted to us about the local environment and good weather, making comparisons with his home county of Kent.  The elder of the two boys asked Phil if he could use his camera.  Phil understandably said no and I added that he probably wouldn’t even be able to lift it.  In spite of the shallow water, I cautiously used the stepping stones to cross.

Flourish of fungiAt the top end of the island, we clambered over the felled branches.  More cutting had occurred – evidenced by sawdust on the ground – and sadly obliterated the black mushrooms.    However, a flourish of pale pink fungi grew in its stead.  Due to the low water level, the waterfall had become a tinkling trickle.  Above us, the sun glinted on the uppermost leaves of tall beeches, quietly rustling in the softest of breezes.

We rested briefly on the now even more sunken bench, somewhat bemused by the elder boy bashing everything in sight with a stick.  I remarked that he obviously didn’t get out in the countryside much (urban kids being well known for a fear of the great outdoors!)

Proceeding to the other end of the swamp, my attempts to capture a group of paddling ducks on camera were distinctly blurry.  We turned sharp left to climb the steep path up to the treetops looking down on the kaleidoscope of colours.  Behind the terrace of houses, we nosed around and discovered another path leading back down to the clough.   Phil considered it but I felt it would be too much for me.  After my latest illness, I had just wanted an hour or two of sun and exercise which I had achieved.  Instead, we carried on up to Sandy Gate and down to Birchcliffe.

Picturesque chair 1Taking the steep buttress-like ginnel, tall houses framed a narrow slither of sky in front of us was.  Halfway down, a picturesque chair had been left outside a garden gate, while at the bottom., lichen and small ferns created textured wallpaper against grey stone.  On reaching School Street, we proceeded onto Bridge Gate, noting that Calan’s did not seem popular.

Along Market street, we found amusement in a horrifying display of pumpkins accompanied by a terrible painting of Frida Kahlo – which someone obviously considered an appropriate homage to the late artist – probably the freakiest thing we had seen all day!

Pumpkin helli The excellent Basque film, ‘Errementari’ (the Blacksmith and the Devil)

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