Sunday, 12 February 2012

11th February 2012, A cold and frosty moorland expedition.

Reports of a rough legged buzzard and short eared owls in the vicinity of Bradup high on the moors above Keighley, everything is covered in a hard frost and a day on the moors beckons! Continuing joint problems mean days like this are rare for me now, it will hurt a lot for a few days, but once in while conditions dictate what I feel able to push myself through.

Well gritted roads meant I was able to be dropped off near the junction for Ilkley Road, part tarmac and turning into a moorland track. Ice was much on evidence up here, wildlife was not though and there was little of interest for the camera.

Sheep farming is popular around here, winter vegetable feed to supplement the sparse grass on offer keeps the woolly beasts well fed.

While packing my gear for the day I had considered adding my Yaktrax, eager to keep my pack as light as possible I had left them out...mistake! As I gained height the ice patches became larger the snow compacted became extremely slippery and the extra grip would have been welcome.

The eery light on days like this is well summed up by the view eastwards as some watery sunlight shows briefly through the enveloping dense clouds.

I had no plan for a route and no map to consult, just trusting my local knowledge and instincts normally serves me well on the moors and there is one bird that never lets the wildlife watcher down up here.

"Fancy a grouse m'dear?"

I took a route towards a plantation hoping there might be a few creatures to observe in the shelter of the woods, the gamekeepers up here go to some lengths to protect the birds from predators and I found this trap, probably designed to capture weasels and not operable shortly after the photograph was taken!

The woodland has been partially cleared with single trunks being left to provide roosting points for birds, a good idea but unfortunately there were no roosters of any kind as I passed through.

Time to take to the frozen moor again now and as I was near the summit of High Edge I visited the trig point, a cold and desolate spot but it was here I had my first and only greeting of the day. A lady approached as I was taking a warming drink from my thermos, she sought some confirmation as to her route onwards to Ilkley which I was able to give. Proudly announcing she was seventy and recce'ing a fourteen mile route for her walking group she strode onward, made of stern stuff obviously!

The dearth of wildlife was a little disheartening and I headed back towards Silsden, as I mentioned earlier though the red grouse rarely disappoint:-)

The last stile of the day was a problem, earlier ones had been icy but negotiated slowly and carefully no great obstacle, this one about six feet high was dreadful! Clinging on to the surrounding icy rocks as best as I could it seemed to take an eternity before I reached the ground safely at the other side.

Descending through farmland now there were a few different birds to see, first a lapwing then a single fieldfare.

Tired and aching limbs were relieved to reach Silsden, not the sort of day I can do as comfortably as I would like but worth it nevertheless. Testing oneself against the elements is satisfying when all goes well, carrying the few ounces extra the Yaktrax weigh would have cost me nothing, lesson learned!!!


  1. Good to see you out for a proper walk again Dave, although I know you will probably pay for it :( It looked very icy, we took our spikes out with us but didn't need them. Pity we couldn't have sent a bit of sunshine up to you :) Nice to see the Grouse, I encountered them all the time in the Peaks, a sight I miss. Not nice to see the trap, very pleased to hear of it's fate!

  2. As Angela has said, it's nice to see you doing a walk again, such a shame that you will suffer for it. Lovely pictures of the Grouse, we should have sent some of our sunshine up to you yesterday :)

  3. As Angie and Sherran said it's good to see you managing a longer walk albeit with perhaps somewhat painful consequences, hopefully some warmer weather will bring you some relief.

    I too have Yaktrax in addition to my microspikes, I find the Yaktrax much better on mixed ground.

    Enjoyed your account as I love moorland walks and grouse are one of the birds I can still hear, they always make me jump when they fly up out of the heather.

  4. Lovely frosty walk Dave, sorry it's so painful afterwards. Pleased you managed to cross the icy stile safely. We were surprised to hear that we had had more snow over here last week. Jill

  5. Thanks everyone, can't resist doing something like that when the frost is on the moors but should have taken the Yaktrax! It is great to find somewhere to sit in the heather and just watch and listen to the grouse.