A death on the walk, birds galore and an encounter with the SAS

Post 10: After dragging Gary from his newspaper, we continued along the delightful River Wharfe reaching the ‘Strid’, where the river narrows through the gritstone rock. Legend has it that the Boy of Egremont was killed here in the 12th century trying to jump across the river. Having had one unsuccessful attempt at ending his walk, Gary immediately thought about another try but, when I pointed out the path continued along the river, for once he followed my directions.

Gary is a retired ‘twitcher’ (a keen bird watcher) and his suicidal tendencies evaporated when he saw a dipper. To be a twitcher you normally have to have endless patience, something Gary definitely doesn’t have; hence his early retirement from the activity. Like walkers, cyclists, anglers and runners, twitchers are the only people you see out and about at 7.30am on a Sunday morning. All other sane people are still tucked up in bed waiting for their paper to come through the door; they then amble downstairs to pick it up before returning to the warmth and comfort of their bed. Twitchers are so keen they will leave the house in fog, cold, rain, dark, frost and even snow to pursue their obsession of seeing a Siberian yellow-billed tit or such like.

Blackbird
Blackbird

I haven’t the patience to sit for hours with binoculars waiting for a bird that, when it comes along, I can never recognise. However, on the Dales Way we did encounter a lot of birds including: wren, dunnock, tree sparrow, house sparrow, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, robin, chaffinch, greenfinch, bullfinch, stonechat, wheatear, skylark, meadow pipit, tree pipit, grey wagtail, yellow wagtail, pied wagtail, song thrush, mistle thrush, blackbird, starling, collared dove, wood pigeon, stock dove, great-spotted woodpecker, magpie, carrion crow (waiting for fallen Dales Way walkers?), partridge, pheasant, kestrel, peregrine falcon, buzzard, little owl, dunlin, lapwing, oyster catcher, curlew, grey heron, moorhen, mallard, swan, herring gull, and black-headed gull. To name but a few!

Blackbird
Blackbird

After about fourteen miles we adopted a fast pace, such that we became a risk to other walkers; had there been a speed limit we would have broken it. I can only think that Gary decided that, in order to opt out of the walk, he might be able to feign injury by ‘crashing’ into other walkers. He succeeded in wacking three walkers with his rucksack as he sped past. He bounced off them as they were carrying huge packs and appeared to be former paras or SAS; they gave Gary a mean look. We eventually came to a grinding halt for lunch at Linton Falls, some 16 miles into the walk. It was full of tourists and day-trippers, out for a quiet day in the country but herding together as though walking down Oxford Street in London. We left Linton Falls, glad to get away from the crowds, then, after a couple of hundred yards along the River Wharfe, re-captured the quiet and beauty of Wharfedale. It is a blessing that most visitors to the countryside will walk no more than a couple of hundred yards from their car and so leave hundreds of acres for the rest of us to wander about in peace and relative solitude.

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