A Winter’s Tale by Dennis Hardingham

By Dennis Hardingham

My car had been marooned on the drive for almost two weeks due to a combination of heavy snow and a reluctance on the part of the local authority to plough the side streets, so I was cheered by a bout of warm weather which heralded the arrival of Spring. In the resulting uncharacteristic fog of good fellowship I offered to escort Barry and Alan, two club members, on a photo-shoot to upper Teesdale. I had second thoughts when I awoke on the day of the trip to a blanket of snow with more forecast, but I swallowed my concerns about hazardous driving and off we went.

There had been quite a heavy snowfall on the hills although the roads were pretty clear, with about six inches of snow in the Bowlees car park. Apparently failing to see the signs warning us that the path to Gibson’s Cave was blocked by a landslide, we soldiered on upstream (literally in my case as I had come prepared with wellies) until . . . we found the path blocked by a landslide . . . doh! My comrades made free with their tripods while I scrambled up the side of the gorge in the hope of finding a high level route past the slide. None inspired much enthusiasm but I did get a chance to admire the views across the valley when I wasn’t sheltering from the ice storms lashing the exposed hilltop. When I rejoined my chums it was snowing steadily and we returned to the car and moved further up the valley to explore the area around Low Force. Thickening snow made photography (and keeping cameras dry) increasingly difficult but no-one wanted to appear a big girl’s blouse and confess their anxieties about my chances of keeping the car between the kerbs on the way home. Eventually I called time and we wallowed back to the car. The first couple of miles were entertaining but as we moved further down the valley the road reappeared and by the time we arrived back in Durham there was little sign of the arctic conditions we had experienced.

Having anticipated a day of slimy black rocks, liquid mud and rank vegetation I was pleasantly surprised by the whiter, fresher landscapes, even though the brightness did make my attempts at slow shutter speeds an object lesson in futility. I became quite jealous of the aperture ‘stoppers’ flaunted by my smug colleagues. Even though we had to postpone our close encounter with Gibson’s waterfall I (we?) really enjoyed the opportunity of seeing the familiar landscapes in a new light. Plus I caught my first fleeting sight of a Red Kite: that alone  made my trip worthwhile.

Dennis Hardingham

February 2013

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