Half term began with a camping trip to Askrig in Wensleydale. It really should be called the trip-of-one-walk, because one walk was pretty much all we did, albeit several times.
We had no school on Friday so arrived bright and early to sun in a field inhabited only by a flock of sheep and a brood of hens.
Everyone was much happier once we had worked out an effective deterrant.
Once we were all set up we decided to wander up the stream to a waterfall which we had spotted on the map and the campsite owner had mentioned as a good poddle. It was lovely walking along the stream with the sun falling through the leaves. There was more wild garlic than we had ever seen in one place - fields of it smoothing every contour. It was a wonderful walk.
And we were totally unprepared for the waterfall when we got to it. Mill Gill isn't much mentioned in the lists of Dales waterfalls, so we were expecting a stream trundling over a couple of rocks. We found this:
A cathedralesque space hollowed out of the rock with ferns and mosses dripping down the sides and several levels of falls. Amazing!
That evening, by his request, Nathaniel was in charge of food. He set up his kitchen to his own design and made most of the food!
The next day (after not much sleep, as the lambs never slept (or slept in shifts) and were constantly peckish), we named all the chickens (Findus, Richard the lionheart, Donald, Pecky McPeckface and Lupy), and then took K and D to see the waterfall. The walk was no less wonderful.
Then we set off for the next one. It was a "just over that hill" sort of walk, there was always somethin we wanted to see around the corner. Nathaniel and I took some detours to look at good limestone pavements.
Then the path petered out and we had to climb up the totally dry riverbed. We could hear the falls ahead of us, and knew that the stream was full below us, but here the water was running so far under the surface boulders that we could find no trace of it. Really strange.
Whitfield Gill Force was even more incredible. A tall free fall down some slate-like rock.
D found a route to stand behind it at once.
And then, after the casual comment of "this is the sort of rock that you find fossils in", the kids found fossil after fossil after fossil.
It was only certailed by the fact that we had planned just a little morning bimble and had only bananas and cake with us - not enough to fill the stomachs of kids who had been climbing over rocks all morning! So we reluctantly went back. Thea led the way, and helpfully left a trail of patterans to make sure we didn't get lost (we've just finished reading Swallowdale).
Once more of the party had arrived we walked down to the river proper, to find stepping stones across it. Much fun was had jumping from one to another, and eventually all the kids were in the river in their underwear, trying not to get sucked by the current through the gaps between the stones.
The next day we were ready for more than waterfalls. The hill above the campsite had been beckoning the whole time, and although we quickly realised we weren't going to be able to get the kids to walk the whole way, we still aspired to the top.
So we drove a bit closer and set off up the hill for some lunch in a grassy knoll with the ever-present Dales sheep. It became clear quite quickly that the younger members of our party weren't going to make it, and two adults kindly offered to take them for a less strenuous activity while the rest of us climbed. Quickly we got to Dales-moorland, a totally different sort of moor to my favourite North Yorks/Dartmoor heather.
Nathaniel and D enjoyed the stiles.
We trudged up the last steep slope, stopping to appreciate the view, and admire the antics of a pair of paragliders who were throwing themselves off the top.
And then we were there, and it was great! The view was rather hazy, but wonderful!
That evening the campsite owner encouraged us to pick our own eggs at will and many eggs were chosen! We decided that the least we could do was to feed the hens our scraps.
Day three was never going to involve massive adventures due to the whole packing-away activity, so we decicided that those who had missed the waterfall had better seen it. So, for the third time, off we went through the buttercups and wild garlic (I made a vat of wild garlic pesto when we got home!).
This time we added fire to the adventure and Nathaniel built a fire at the bottom of the top fall and we had toasted hot cross buns and mashmallows as the water cascaded down behind us. It was pretty terrific.
Then Nick slipped (obviously had not been heeding the constant reminders of climbing cautiously that the kids had been subject to), and hit his back pretty hard, which put a bit of a dampner on the occasion, but it was time to go home, so we all scampered (or limped) back to a field, again deserted apart from us.
A heavenly trip!
After that, we didn't need an exciting half term! Ian was away on two different trips, and the weather was cold, so Thea and Nathaniel and I just poddled round the house contentedly day after day. We watched out tadpoles grow legs,
made boat-dens in the living room,
created complicated dwellings in the sandpit (a mix up of Skara Brae and the Mesa Verde),
All very acceptable.